39 thoughts on “2020-2021 NFL: Week 5

  1. Sun
    Bills-Titans
    Jaguars-Texans
    Bengals-Ravens
    Panthers-Falcons
    Raiders-Chiefs
    Cardinals-Jets
    Eagles-Steelers
    Rams-Washington
    Dolphins-49ers
    Giants-Cowboys
    Broncos-Patriots
    Colts-Browns
    Vikings-Seahawks

    Mon
    Chargers-Saints

    Power Rankings

    1st Tier
    Chiefs
    Packers, Seahawks, Ravens, Rams, Patriots

    I doubt teams below the Chiefs will be able to replicate the Patriot’s defensive performance on Monday, which is one reason the Chiefs I put the Chiefs ahead of all the other teams, but the order I have them in seems decent. The Seahawks defense improved significantly, and I’m hoping the trend continues, but the Packers defense seems better, so I got them slightly ahead of the Seahawks. I really liked the Rams, but now I’m wondering if they looked good because of weak opponents. With the Ravens, their run game is not as dominant as last year. Their defense doesn’t seem dominant, either, and I still have lingering questions about Jackson. The Patriots with their performances against the Seahawks and Chiefs deserve this spot. Again, Belichick is amazing.

    2nd Tier
    Saints, Bills, Buccaneers, Steelers, Titans, Colts, Vikings
    49ers

    I have to believe the return of Michael Thomas will be a huge boost to the team, and may move them into the first tier. The Bills have coaches and a roster (a top 5 roster) that should put them in the first tier. Allen’s recklessness is the primary reason they’re not there. I’ve compared him to a young Cam, but I heard someone mention Favre. I don’t think his arm is as good, but the playmaking and recklessness fits, though. The Bucs probably have a top 5 roster, too, but I think I’m hesitant because of Brady, who looks old at times. Same could be said about Roethlisberger and Rivers. Titans could move into the first tier, but they’ve got bigger problems with COVID-19. I thought the Vikings might have been in trouble because of their passing game—and I was skeptical they could turn things around. Against the Titans, they provided evidence I was wrong. That guy Jefferson looked good, although I don’t know if that’s due to the Texans or if the guy is that good. If he is, I’ll move them up. Their defense looked like it was returning to form as well. The 49ers need to get healthy.

  2. Buccaneers-Bears

    Man, the Bucs were in complete control of this game for most of the first half (helped by Arians going for it on 4th down on their own twenty, something I don’t think I’ve seen before in a similar situation). Because the Bucs had long, clock-eating drives, and settle for two FGs, they only have 13 points.

    Foles and the Bears offense got into a nice groove, and then the Bucs fumbled in their own territory, and by the end of the half it was 14-13. Foles pretty much played solidly for the rest of the game. (The thought that came to mind while watching this: the Bears might be a playoff team that could make a deep run if they had picked up Cam Newton. Also, they have squandered a good roster for the last few years.)

    Did Brady lose track of the downs at the end of the game? Man, that’s kinda surprising if true.

    1. I enjoyed this game. The Bears look like one of those teams that could accidentally go 10-6 and be worse than their record, or go 7-9 and be better. It’s not going to surprise me if they get the third wildcard slot (dang it — I forgot there were going to be three wildcards this year when I made my season predictions).

      I don’t like the way Tampa Bay’s season is playing out. They’re so loaded with talent but they’re so banged up. I get the feeling they’re going to be like last year’s Eagles, injury-wise.

    2. The Bears look like one of those teams that could accidentally go 10-6 and be worse than their record, or go 7-9 and be better.

      I agree with this. It all depends on the play of their QB, which is hard to predict. Again, I can’t help but think about their decision not to go after Cam Newton.

      Somehow I think the Bucs will be OK with regard to injuries, although I don’t know why I think that. I guess I think the Eagles were snakebit in a way that is somewhat rare? The bigger question I have is with Brady. I feel like he might make a huge mistake or fail on a few passes that could really hurt, and I suspect this is an age thing.

      Brees and Rivers do not look good, too. I think they should both retire at the end of the season.

  3. RBs I really like right now

    I love Chris Carson. If he could stay healthy, I feel like he could be one of the top backs, or very close to it. Like many great RBs, he has a combination of power and moves. He’s one of my favorite Seahawks (and I feel bad because he may not get a big contract).

    I like the physical RBs, the hammers, and that would include Ezekiel Elliot (although his ball security hasn’t been great this year; Carson’s wasn’t very good last year, too), Leonard Fournette, and Derrick Henry. (Carlos Hyde is a kind of poor man’s Elliot.)

    Maybe not a hammer per se, but I really like Dalvin Cook, too. He is arguably the best back in the league. Nick Chubb looks like the real deal, too. I think Rashaad Penny could still be good, but I think Chubb is better. (I’m not a huge fan of Penny’s style, too.)

    I really love the way Josh Jacobs runs, but I’m not sure how long he’ll last.

    I like what I’ve seen from Joe Mixon, but he’s not necessarily a hammer.

    1. I like Jacobs a lot, but he seems to be a little fragile.

      Lately I’ve really enjoyed James White and Rex Burkhead. Christian McCaffrey’s got to be my favorite to watch, though.

    2. Re: Jacobs’s fragility

      Do you feel this way because of his relatively small size? If so, I’m concerned about this, too. Guys like MJD and the Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin come to mind. In a way, Emmitt Smith, being as durable as he was, seems like the exception.

      1. No, it doesn’t have to do with his size. It’s just that he missed three games last season and he’s been listed as questionable almost every week this season so far (I think). Small sample size, I know, and I hope I’m wrong!

    3. Three games doesn’t seem so bad. I guess I’m comparing that to Chris Carson, who missed huge chunks of the season, getting injuries that ended all of his seasons. (Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I’m pretty sure that’s correct.)

  4. Raiders-Chiefs

    Carr’s INT was horrid and I thought it was going to be one of those days. But happily not. I thought the key was that long 3rd quarter drive the Raiders had. Not only was it long with a lot of plays, but I think they beat up the Chiefs. I can’t help but feel like the defense was refreshed and energized, as the Chiefs OL seemed to struggle after that.

    Dolphins-49ers

    Jimmy G struggled. Fitzmagic worked he’s you know what. The Dolphins looked good on D, except against the run, especially with the QB under center. But once the Dolphins got a big lead and kept scoring, the run game wasn’t a factor.

    1. I been pretty impressed with the Raider’s offense. They have a good run game and a good enough passing game. I think that Carr may not always be great, but if he can get coached up and if he is willing to take shots down the field like he did against the Chiefs, the Raiders can get beat guys. I agree with Reid in his previous posts though, the Raiders defense can be porous at times, but I would say that true with a lot of defenses.

    2. This is Carr’s sixth season, third under Gruden. The chances that he can significantly improve via coaching seems really low to me. In a way, I feel like he fits the typical great backup–a QB that has talent and can play well for relatively long stretches, but won’t be able to do this consistently, and/or will make big mistakes. Besides INTs, mishandling of the ball, his accuracy can be shaky at times. But then he can throw really nice passes, too. To me, the Raiders are not going to do well if they have to rely a lot on him.

      1. By “coached up”, I didn’t necessarily mean to make Carr a better QB, but more put him in better place to make plays. For example, I think with these weapons, the Raiders should emphasize throwing long passes, and that could make the offense better overall even if he doesn’t complete a lot of them.

        1. I agree. Waller, Ruggs, and Jacobs are better than solid, but I’m really concerned about Ruggs and Jacobs, health-wise.

          On Carr’s long pass to Ruggs, he didn’t even have to be that accurate. The window on the receiver’s inside was huge; in fact, Carr could have led Ruggs a little more to the inside for less of a chance the pass could be defended, but I guess Ruggs didn’t need that much separation.

          On the porousness of the Raiders D: It really struck me how well the defense covered KC’s receivers but also how a lot of Mahomes’s incompletes were broken-up plays the KC receivers got their hands on. Mahomes was finding them open enough, but the defenders made up for it by breaking up the catches. This seems exciting to me as a fan but a dicey way to live.

          The Chiefs still scored a ton, but I think Mahomes found his receivers covered better than he’s used to. What a cool thing to be able to write on Monday evening.

      2. I do think pairing deep passes with their run game is a good idea for the offense, and while that can help the offense even if they don’t always hit on these passes, I think Carr needs to do a better job of throwing them. I feel like he’s average to below average as a deep passer, in terms of accuracy.

        Mitchell,

        I agree the Raiders coverage was pretty good at least at a certain points in the game. I think the pass rush was good, too. My understanding is that the Chiefs had some injuries on the OL, though.

    3. I just want to say that my prediction about Miami making the playoffs doesn’t look as out-there as it might have a couple of months ago.

      Also, for most of my life I never liked pastel colors on football unis (I always thought the Chargers powder blue was ugly as heck), but the light, shiny teal pants the Dolphins are wearing now with the white jerseys is sharp. I love this look.

  5. Colts-Browns

    Both QBs were competing to see who would lose the game for their teams. To wit, Rivers throws a pick six. (Colts return a TD on the kickoff.) Mayfield throws an INT. Both had two INTs on the day.

    Colts defense looked good, containing the run, although the Browns run game started getting going in the second half.

    Rams-Washington

    If Washington is supposed to be a really good defense, Rams offense is legit. On the other side of the ball, the Washington OL seemed overwhelmed by the the Rams defensive front.

  6. Vikings-Seahawks

    That was BS football by the Seahawks. Pass-first, one-dimensional, no time of possession, no balance–we’re just going to beat you by the pass. The Vikings almost beat the Seahawks with Carroll’s formula–except the part about protecting the football. This is the kind of game where the Seahawks, if they play someone like the Vikings, will lose.

    Don,

    Re: Cousins not playing well in big games.

    This one qualifies as evidence for that claim.

    On a side note, Wilson’s INT was horrid decision/throw. I haven’t been this annoyed for a win in a long, long time. The Vikings were overwhelming the Seahawk offense in the first half. That’s when you need to turn to the run game–and your run game has to be good enough to get bail out the offense and get the pass game going again. The fact that they didn’t do that makes me wonder if Russ has more control–cause a QB won’t want to run–they’ll want to keep forcing it. This is the kind of thing that’s going to get them knocked out of the playoffs.

    1. Rex Ryan trashed analytics by citing Mike Zimmer’s 4th down decision near the end of the game. I think he’s wrong on two counts–a) this isn’t about analytics and b) I disagree that Zimmer made the wrong move. Ryan’s reasoning argument is solid, though. He basically felt that the best Seattle could do was tie the game, if the Vikings kicked the FG. Because of this, Ryan said he would take more chances, which would help his defense play better.

      On the other hand, the Vikings executed the classic “body blows” strategy–wearing down the Seahawks defense with the running game. (The Hawks D ended up playing 80 snaps, 15 snaps over the breaking point.) Not going for it on 4th and less than a yard would be like a boxer not going for the knockout when his opponent’s knees buckle. Seattle just made a great stop.

      Now, none of these arguments have very little to do with analytics, as far as I know–and the arguments are critical for making the decision in my view. To me, the value of analytics with regard to 4th down decisions is that coaches should be a lot more open to going for it. But it seems less helpful in making specific decisions.

      1. For the most part I think going for it on fourth down is the right move, and I agree with this decision for the most part as well. Yet this one is closer than others just because of the circumstance. They couldn’t lose the game in regulation with a made field goal. Is the decision different if the Wilson isn’t on the other side or if it wasn’t raining? I think all should come into play, but note that Seattle didn’t complete the two-point conversion which would have lost them the game if the Vikings made the field goal.

        1. I heard people like Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon ripping Zimmer for going for it, but I’m interested in hearing what Mina Kimes thinks. I think there are good arguments on both sides, but I lean toward Reid’s going for the KO. Conventional wisdom (which we’ve discussed but never really settled) says you play for the win on the road.

          I don’t know why, but I tried to watch this game and just wasn’t interested, even though these are two teams I usually enjoy. I took a nap in the second quarter and then turned the game off in the third.

    2. Don,

      For the most part I think going for it on fourth down is the right move,…

      What do you mean by this? Do you mean, when going for it is a legitimate question, you believe teams should almost always go for it? For example, say the team is at the 50 yard line. Do you think they should go for it a high percentage of the time?

      I don’t really believe you can generalize like this. As you alluded to, you have to take in all the relevant variables. And I would say that in the vast majority of cases, there are arguments on both sides. That is, there is rarely a clear cut answer. This is what annoyed me about the analytics advocates. The guys I knew would criticize coaches for not going for it. I would ask if coaches shouldn’t literally always go for it, how do they decide when they should and shouldn’t. I never really got an answer for this. And, to me, if you can’t answer that, I’m not sure how you can criticize a specific decision to not go for it.

      One general guide I’d use is how well your offense is playing. For example, last year, I think the Ravens went for it a lot on 4th down. Their run game was so dominant, that made sense. The other night the Seahawk offense struggled at times, so Carroll opted to punt. Heavily factoring in the way your offense is playing–or, alternately, how the opposing defense is playing–seems like a key to making this decision. But I think it’s often not a slam dunk.

      1. Yes variables need to be accounted for, for sure, and I mentioned some of those variables in my post. But which way do you tend to lean is the question. For example, all variables being equal, should I then go for it or should I not, I would lean go for it.

        In the Viking’s scenario, the variables would lean against the Vikings going for it, in my opinion. If the field goal was successful, the chances that Seattle scores and converts a two-point conversion seems pretty low. Maybe not lower than then converting a fourth and inches, but even if the Vikings converted the fourth and inches, didn’t mean they could run out the clock with Seattle having two time outs. I didn’t hear any analytics mentioned with all the variables, so I don’t know for sure if the analytics would have said go for it on this one. It would be closer than most, I would think based on score. But I still think I would chose to go for it, because that would be my tendency.

    3. I’m skeptical that all the pros and cons would be neutral. Each person will weigh the variables differently. For example, Rex Ryan puts a lot of faith in his ability to stop Wilson, with an eight point lead. For me, I weigh put a lot of weight on the momentum the Vikings defense had. The Seahawks ended up playing 80 snaps, so they were way past the average breaking point. If the Vikings convert, they could be up by 12, which would seal the game, or up 8 giving Seattle a lot less time.

      So as not to be too difficult, if I had to answer the question, I guess I would lean more towards punting, in a close call decision. I think the way both teams are playing, offensively and defensively, would be the biggest factors for me, although I guess that’s obvious.

      1. That’s not as obvious as you think. I would think more importantly is score, where the offense is on the field, and time on the clock, even excluding super obvious scenarios as down 7 with two minutes left in the game.

    4. You’re right, but there are other factors besides the way the teams are playing that are more important, or maybe equally important. I feel like the way the teams are playing are often the decisive factor though. I would guess that the time remaining, score, and field position alone are almost never sufficient to make the final call.

    5. I think analytics has value, but doesn’t seem like a poor use of it?

      Tell me if you guys agree or not:

      1. This ignores variables like the way the team is playing. Or suppose your FG was really struggling or the they weren’t healthy. That has to factor in, right?

      2. I don’t know if this correct, but I’m assuming the percentages are based on similar situations in the past. In any event, the teams involved could have unique players that could change the odds. For example, instead of the Vikings, suppose Joe Gibbs Redskins, with the Hoggs and John Riggins were in this situation. How can that not change the probability?

    6. Oops. I actually didn’t read the tweet carefully I thought he was talking about the Vikings game. I think that was a joke, but here’s the first tweet in the thread, and I think my questions/points still apply:

      Actually, this seems a bit gutsy, too–although I think if you’re defense was breaking and their offense was on fire, that’s when you’d consider going for it. If your defense was dominating, I would think you’d definitely punt.

  7. Chargers-Saints

    OK, Herbert looked good in this. That rollout, to avoid the pass rush, ending in a TD throw was impressive. He kinda reminds me of a better version of Josh Allen.

    The Saints struggled, especially on offense, until the end. I feel like the Saints OL made adjustments, or the Charger pass rush was gassed, and then Brees and the passing game got into a nice groove–and that was the big difference.

  8. Bills-Titans

    The Titans were more balanced offensively, while the Bills were too one-dimensional. I’d argue this contributes to the 2 INTS–an offense passes more, when the run game is not a threat, and INTs are more likely to happen, unless you’re Aaron Rodgers.

    I also thought the Titans OL did a good job, although the Bills pass rush may not be that great.

    Overall, the Titans dominated, and looked good doing it.

    (This game reminded me a little of the Vikings-Seahawks game, except the Titans won the turnover battle.)

    1. Josh Allen is definitely more talented than Tannehill. The last TD that Allen threw was remarkable. But Tannehill was much more steady. I may have to move him up a little from being the average QB or my benchmark of being below average or above average. He has definitely looked above average in Tennessee.

    2. Tannehill is more steady than Allen, but, to be fair, you could say that about a lot of QBs. Allen is kinda like Favre in his recklessness in my view.

      And Tannehill is playing well. If you tell me he’ll play this way in the playoffs–particularly on key moments–I think the Titans would shoot up my list.

      1. I saw maybe half or a little more than half of the game. From what I saw this year of the Bills, that is how they play. I don’t think they were any different. Maybe when they fell behind a lot, they gave up on the run entirely. I was more surprised with the Titans. They passed a whole lot in this one.

        In terms of Allen being Favre-like, for the most part I agree. He has been like that, but I don’t see that as much this year, well so far anyway. I didn’t think his two interceptions in this game was him being brazen. The first one was either an inaccurate pass or the receiver slipped or a combination of both and the second interception, I think Allen didn’t see the guy. He didn’t even try to zip it in and it went straight to Butler.

      2. Yeah, the way the Bills played against the Titans isn’t different from how they’ve been playing. (Had I known this, I might not have drafted their defense.) But would you say they’re too one-dimensional? I think they are, and I’m trying to see if you or others share that impression (because maybe I’m wrong).

        Allen’s INTs aren’t always a product of recklessness, inaccuracy or a bad read are other possibilities. If he can just tone things down and not force things, like Cam did, he could be a Super Bowl QB in my view. He wasn’t super reckless in the Titans game, though.

        1. Everyone makes the Favre comparison, but people don’t mention that, given Allen’s build and athleticism, his unpredictability and wildness can be an asset when things are clicking. He hasn’t run nearly as much this year as last, and this is a good sign because they were undefeated until this week, and have a good shot of strolling into the AFC East title. But the fact that he can and might adds something to his game Favre just didn’t have. Favre was a good scrambler and could get the first down on his legs if he had to, but he couldn’t stiff-arm a DB and run the ball 40 yards.

    3. I think the recklessness is where the Favre comparison comes in for me. But the better comparison is a young Cam Newton. I think people forget how reckless he was early on, as well as having accuracy issues, similar to Allen. And the change occurred pretty dramatically, at one point in either the 2012 or 2013 season. This was the season where there was a lot of talk of firing Rivera. But by the middle of the season, Cam dramatically cut down the recklessness/forced plays. I believe it was reported that Cam realized that he didn’t have to win the game by himself–that the offense could punt and the defense could contribute to the win. It seemed he really embraced that, because since that time, those type of plays greatly diminished. It should be noted that he still scrambled and attempted to extend plays at that point.

      If Allen could have the same epiphany, I think he could be a Super Bowl QB. Whether he can limit crazy plays and still play in the sandlot style at the same time, that remains to be seen, though

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