We are tumbling towards the midpoint of this unique 2020 NFL season. Although some things look different, there are others that remain the same. The New York Jets are still terrible, the league is divided by the elite and the bottom of the barrels, and our NFL Week 6 Recap continues to churn out all the news and notes you need. What stood out from this week’s slate of games, and what can we take away from some of the performances we saw on Sunday?
They’re brash. They’re rugged. They’re full of surprises. They’re Brady’s Heroes, and they just delivered a 38-10 Week 6 jolly-stomping of the Green Bay Packers which proved that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers truly belong on the shortlist of NFC Super Bowl contenders. NFL Recap invites you to get to know the mix of veterans and youngsters across the Bucs roster who are making life easy for Tom Brady in 2020.
Meet Brady’s Heroes
You know all about Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. You also know that Chris Godwin has been hurt most of the year. But Brady has plenty of role players in his arsenal: Scott Miller (a Julian Edelman surrogate with better deep wheels), O.J. Howard (was having a breakout season before he got hurt), Cameron Brate (the best #3 tight end in NFL history), and others like rookie Tyler Johnson (who somehow looks better than any receiver the Patriots drafted for Brady since Edelman).
Running backs Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, and LeSean McCoy don’t contribute much in the passing game — Jones could drop a ball covered in Stickum that hit him between the numbers — but they thump out enough yardage on the ground to keep Brady out of 3rd-and-long.
The defensive line
Ndamukong Suh suddenly appeared in the spotlight on Sunday to settle a decade-old WWE heel-versus-heel beef with Aaron Rodgers. Suh isn’t the All-Pro he used to be, but he can still eat up blockers and deliver the occasional sack, while Vita Vea has emerged as one of the NFL’s premier interior pass rushers.
On the edge, Shaq Barrett is still capable of taking over a game (see the Denver Broncos game) in the wake of his 19.5 sack breakout in 2019. And Jason Pierre-Paul now has 25 sacks in three seasons with the Bucs: not bad for a guy the New York Giants couldn’t wait to get rid of a few years ago.
In a league where linebackers are undervalued, the Bucs have two of the best.
Lavonte David has been the NFL’s most underrated defender for years. NFL Recap isn’t going to start praising him now, because then he wouldn’t be the NFL’s most underrated defender anymore, and that would leave him with nothing. David does the dirty work in pass coverage and pursuit while the younger, faster Devin White causes havoc attacking the line of scrimmage.
On paper, this is the Bucs’ weakest unit. And while the Bucs secondary may need a significant boost from the front seven, the unit still delivers when it matters.
Speedy Jamel Dean, who got Sunday’s romp rolling with a pick-6, is developing into one of the NFL’s best cover corners. And rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. already looks like a chip off the old block: like his father (who starred for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings), Winfield is a quick, versatile, wily, and an aggressive little missile who can play anywhere from slot corner to deep safety.
The offensive line
We saved the best for last. Where would Brady be without Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa and Donovan Smith? On the ground all the time, that’s where. Wirfs became a meme when Khalil Mack suplexed him on Thursday night in Week 4, but he would be an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate if linemen were considered for such awards.
The Bucs line commits more penalties than the most lines, but holding is often preferable to a hit on Brady. And when Brady has a clean pocket, which is often this year, he looks like he’s still in his late 30s.
Oh, and a quick shoutout to Bradley Pinion, who has recorded touchbacks on 91.7% of kickoffs and is having a solid year as a punter. Field position matters!
What the Buccaneers success means
The Bucs could easily be 6-2 after their upcoming two-game road trip against the Raiders and Giants. After that, it’s time for them to spruce up their playoff tiebreaker portfolio. Sunday’s win was huge, of course, but losses to the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears could spell trouble if they finish the season in a 10-6 Wild Card logjam. November matchups with the Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Los Angeles Rams could position them to either win the NFC South outright or pick up tiebreaker advantages against conference foes.
But Sunday’s win was about more than tiebreaker scenarios. The Rams looked ordinary on Sunday night against non-NFC East competition. The Panthers are nothing more than a pesky rebuilding team. The Bears are a strong defense with some wishful thinking at quarterback. The Saints look very vulnerable.
There are lots of playoff slots up for grabs, and the Bucs are a complete team that can beat opponents in many different ways that don’t require Brady magic, including contributions from youngsters (Wirfs, Winfield) Recap didn’t think would be ready so soon and old-timers (Gronk, Suh) Recap thought were gassed.
Put it all together and Brady’s Heroes are as dangerous as any team in the NFC.
And then, of course, there’s still Brady.
Tua Tagovailoa made his NFL debut. Joe Flacco set a new benchmark for New York Jets comic ineptitude. And Odell Beckham Jr. took another cosmic journey to the mood swing galaxy. All that and more in the Week 6 edition of NFL Recap’s Studs ‘n’ Duds!
Stud: D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
Swift rushed 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, demonstrating the mix of power, jump-cut ability, and decisiveness that made him a second-round pick. Fantasy owners beware, however: Adrian Peterson received 15 carries (for 40 old-timey yards), Kerryon Johnson still gets some touches, and Matt Patricia’s coaching staff is probably incapable of creating a running back rotation which makes any sense whatsoever.
Dud: Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
For all of his multitude of shortcomings, Kirk Cousins could usually be counted upon in past seasons for a four-touchdown afternoon and a win against a defense so terrible that it just got a coach and general manager fired. Instead, Cousins threw three ugly interceptions in a 40-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, adding two garbage-time touchdowns in vintage Cousins fashion to make his stats look good.
Speaking of meaningless late stat-padding, some members of the NFL Recap team took the over of 279.5 passing yards for Cousins. Cousins was at 253 passing yards when the Vikings got the ball back trailing 40-15 just before the two-minute warning. So let’s just say that Cousins’ meaningless final drive made some folks some money. But not as much as Cousins makes to stink against the NFL’s worst defenses.
Stud: Mike Vrabel, Head Coach, Tennessee Titans
Trailing 30-29 with just over three minutes to play with the Houston Texans facing 2nd-and-1 in field goal range, Vrabel appeared to take a penalty on purpose to conserve the clock. Here’s the sequence as captured by Titans analyst Mike Herndon: Vrabel sends a 12th defender onto the field, appears to reassure veteran CB Johnathan Joseph that he knows what he is doing, and makes a little too elaborate a show of pointing to the defense and getting angry about the penalty.
The foul stopped the clock, preventing the Texans from running off 35 more seconds after what would probably have been an easy conversion. The Texans scored a touchdown to take a 7-point lead, but the Titans got the ball back with 1:50 to play and one timeout left, and they tied the game with just seven seconds left.
Dan Quinn probably watched that sequence from his couch and thought, Oh sure, when Vrabel does it, he’s a genius, but when MY defenses committed penalties and let opponents score quickly late in the fourth quarter it got me fired!
Dud: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
NFL Recap has no time or patience for angry uncles who hate everything Beckham says, does, or wears. But we also can’t pretend that Beckham’s semi-regular trips to Planet OBJ are not a problem. Beckham spent the fourth quarter of the loss to the Steelers walking the sidelines in his socks, jawing with both teammates and Steelers fans.
Kevin Stefanski and the Browns brain trust can’t over-react to Beckham’s frustration (Stefanski worked hard to downplay it in the postgame press conference), but they need to be proactive about bringing him back into Earth’s orbit. Beckham can help a playoff team when he’s with the program, but he can ruin one when he’s not.
Stud: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
Tagovailoa made his NFL debut in mop-up duty in the Dolphins 24-0 victory over the Hofstra Flying Dutchman, completing 2-of-2 passes for nine yards. It wasn’t much — in fact, it was almost literally nothing — but fans greeted Tua with a roar. And with the Dolphins at 3-3 and playing most opponents tough with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, that may be all we see of Tua for a long while.
Stud: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
It wasn’t perfect, but Garoppolo’s three-touchdown effort on Sunday night was good enough to beat a Los Angeles Rams team that entered the game 4-1.
So, can we stop talking about the 49ers trading for Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Sam Darnold, Jameis Winston, and Dwayne Haskins? Can we refrain from dumping on Garoppolo every time he throws a wobbler? Can we just accept that even the best quarterbacks (hello, Aaron Rodgers) have wild week-to-week fluctuation performances?
On second thought, NFL Week 6 Recap would be out of a job if folks began thinking rationally about quarterbacks. So do your thing, folks!
And now for this week’s NFL Week 6 Recap Awards …
Defender of the Week: Calais Campbell, DE, Baltimore Ravens
Campbell recorded three sacks in the 30-28 Ravens victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. This year’s Ravens are winning with an outstanding defense and some good-not-spectacular performances from Lamar Jackson. Campbell, acquired in the Jacksonville Jaguars offseason fire sale, is a key reason why the Ravens defense is so dominant.
Offensive Line of the Week: Tennessee Titans
Weeks of interrupted, nonexistent, and unsanctioned/clandestine/inadvisable/seriously-don’t-do-that-again practices. Then, two games in five days. The Titans offensive line should have been an out-of-kilter mess on Sunday.
Instead, Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, Dennis Kelly, and Ty Sambrailo (who replaced Lewin at left tackle; Lewan may have a torn ACL) helped Derrick Henry thump out 212 rushing yards while holding J.J. Watt and company to just two sacks of Ryan Tannehill in a 42-36 overtime win over the Houston Texans.
Special Teamer of the Week: Brandon McManus, K, Denver Broncos
Six field goals, including 52 and 54-yarders, to account for all the scoring in an 18-12 win over the New England Patriots. ‘Nuff said.
Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else’s Highlight: Joe Flacco, QB, Jets
Eric Rowe made Emmanuel Ogbah’s 28-yard sack of Flacco possible by blasting through La’Mical Perine’s block and forcing the Jets quarterback to get on his turnip buggy and skedaddle out of the back of the pocket.
But Flacco delivered the comic performance of a lifetime in his attempt to juke Rowe. He looks like an extra slipping on a banana peel in a Marx Brothers movie. It was as if his upper body was completely surprised by what his lower body was attempting to do. And no matter what happened, he just could … not … stop … backpedaling.
That 28-yard sack was the crowning achievement of Jets failure. Tune in next week when the Jets find a way to top it.
The New England Patriots have a 2-3 record after Sunday’s 18-12 upset loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos. What’s worse, their offense looks like something Adam Gase threw together after mainlining crushed espresso beans and watching footage of zone-read plays from 2013. NFL Week 6 Recap has the skinny on just why Cam Newton and the Patriots offense is so feeble, and what that means for the AFC balance of power.
NFL Week 6 Recap of the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos
With the help of all-purpose back Phillip Lindsay (back from injury to rush for 101 yards) and unheralded receiver Tim Patrick (four catches for 101 yards), Drew Lock and the Broncos manufactured six drives which ended in Brandon McManus field goals. Meanwhile, the Patriots offense consisted of the following in Week 6:
Lots of ’em. Patriots running backs rushed 15 times into a stacked defense for a whopping 41 yards.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels must draw up three new screen concepts per week at this point to hide the deficiencies in his downfield passing game. Unfortunately, defenders Shelby Harris and DeShawn Williams sniffed an early one out and turned it into a tip-drill interception.
Doomed Cam Newton dropbacks
Sometimes, Newton found Damiere Byrd or Ryan Izzo (not to be confused with Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski, or even Brandin Cooks and Benjamin Watson) for short completions over the middle, one of which Izzo fumbled into the hands of Justin Simmons. Mostly, he found no one open and was forced to improvise.
Meanwhile, the Broncos sent free rushers to body slam Newton or dropped extra defenders into underneath zones to tip passes because there was no need for any defender to play deep or double-cover anyone.
Eventually, the Patriots strung together enough Newton scrambles and Julian Edelman-to-Newton trickeration to score a touchdown to cut the Broncos lead to 18-9. A pair of Lock interceptions gave the Patriots the ball twice late in the fourth quarter, once deep in Broncos territory. But the Patriots’ offense managed just 53 yards on 16 plays and three points in their final drives.
The struggles with the Patriots offense
So far this season, the Patriots offense has looked good for about one-and-a-quarter games: most of the win over the Las Vegas Raiders (though they started very slowly in that game) and in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. For the rest of the season, they have wavered between looking like a grinding-but-effective 1970s I-formation college offense and being as hard to watch as the Jets and Giants.
There are plenty of reasons for the downfall of the Patriots offense, starting (duh) with the departure of Tom Brady. The Patriots lost starters on both sides of the ball to opt-outs, lost Sony Michel and others to the inactive list this week, and battled through two weeks of disrupted schedules.
When we last saw them, Brian Hoyer was stumbling around at quarterback in a Monday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re also dealing with some injuries under the hood: Center David Andrews is on IR with an injury to his snapping hand, and while Joe Thuney has performed rather well in Andrews’ place, he whizzed a snap past Newton’s head to ruin a scoring drive.
All of those reasons are valid, yet they don’t excuse what is happening to the Patriots offense this season. The team has spent years making it’s receiving corps this bad by experimenting in the draft and playing galactic chess with Antonio Brown-types instead of just drafting and developing solid weapons. McDaniels’ plan for adjusting the offense to suit Newton appears to involve nothing more than calling some speed options now and then, plus lots of Newton short-yardage plunges.
Bill Belichick and company were hailed as geniuses when they signed Newton off the scrap heap, but that move is looking more and more like an act of desperate necessity (this team would be 0-5 with Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham) than part of some Belichickian master plan.
We may have to get used to the idea that the Patriots are a bad team. Their defense will keep them in a lot of games, but the team that lost on Sunday was a notch below playoff contenders like the Tennessee Titans or Indianapolis Colts (or Buffalo Bills), and not even in the same category as the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Maybe the Patriots will add A.J. Green and Zach Ertz at the trade deadline. Maybe McDaniels is still figuring out the best ways to use Newton. But as of Week 6, we’re seeing something we haven’t seen in 20 years: a Patriots team that’s barely worth watching or talking about.
What’s next for the New England Patriots and their offense?
Jimmy Garoppolo’s revenge! The Patriots host the San Francisco 49ers, followed by a two-game road trip against the Bills and Jets that is sure to produce one win.
Are you confused about what’s going on with the Jacksonville Jaguars kickers? No? You say you don’t care at all about a team that lost 34-16 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday? In that case, NFL Week 6 Recap applauds your life choices. But we still need to explain to you why the Jaguars cycled through five different kickers this year because it’s a very Jaguars sort of story. Let’s meet all five Jaguars kickers, in order.
Jaguars Kicker #1: Josh Lambo
Lambo was the Jaguars kicker from 2017 through the start of this season. You probably remember him as the kicker you pick up in the 25th round of your fantasy draft because, hey, he’s a veteran kicker, and the Jaguars will probably settle for a bunch of field goals. And that fantasy strategy paid off for you last season when Lambo went 33 of 34 on field goals and scored 118 points! But, Lambo suffered a hip injury in Game 2 and was placed on the injured reserve on September 23rd.
Jaguars Kicker #2: Brandon Wright
Give the Jaguars some credit for thinking outside the box during a pandemic. They signed Wright, a combination kicker-punter from Georgia State, as an undrafted rookie whom they stashed on their practice squad in case of an emergency at either specialist position. Wright was called up from the practice squad on September 23rd to replace Lambo, went 1-of-2 on extra point conversions in Week 3, and suffered a hip injury that landed him on the IR on September 29th.
Jaguars Kicker #3: Aldrick Rosas
Rosas, who was impressive as a rookie for the New York Giants in 2018 but regressed last season, became available when the Giants released him before the start of training camp in the wake of a June hit-and-run arrest. Rosas went 4-of-5 on field goals in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals but suffered both hip and groin injuries. He reverted to the practice squad injured list on October 4th.
Jaguars Kicker #4: Stephen Hauschka
The 35-year old Hauschka has had a long career as a good-enough-to-not-kill-you kicker for the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. (He was the kicker your college roommate selected in your fantasy league three slots after you drafted Lambo).
The Jaguars signed him on September 28th, one day before Rosas, but Hauschka immediately began appearing on injury reports with a knee injury. He replaced Rosas for Week 5, missed two field goals (including a 24-yarder), and left the Jaguars with little choice but to resort to silly trick plays near the goal line in their loss to the Houston Texans.
Hauschka was released on Monday.
Jaguars Kicker #5: Jon Brown
ESPN’s Michael DiRocco published Brown’s origin story earlier in the week: He was a Kentucky soccer player who walked on for the Louisville football team but never attempted a field goal or PAT in college. Brown has had stints on the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers extended rosters since going undrafted in 2016. Brown went 6-of-6 on field goals (including a 55-yarder) and 4-of-5 on PATs in the 2018 preseason for the Bengals.
Jon Brown went 1-of-2 on field goals in the loss to the Lions, hitting a 31-yarder but doinking a 32-yarder off the right upright. So kicker #6 might be coming soon. Maybe the Jaguars will continue in their effort to sign Buffalo Bills sound-alikes (Jon/John Brown, Josh Allen) and find a kicker named Stefon Diggs.
What the Jaguars Spinal Tap Drummer Kicker dilemma means
Per Elias Sports data (as reported by DiRocca), the Jaguars are just the fifth team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to have five different players attempt a field goal or PAT in one season: the 2017 Los Angeles Chargers, the 2000 and 1987 Washington teams, and the 1978 New Orleans Saints.
Since 1987 was the replacement season, we won’t dig too deeply into what happened in Washington that year (even though your humble host here at NFL Recap starred in a documentary about it). In 2000, Washington called upon 44-year old Lions kicking legend Eddie Murray to rescue them after they went on a spree of cutting kickers after every bad miss.
The 1978 Saints ran through so many kickers that running back Tony Galbreath attempted a field goal at one point; the Saints then selected kicker/punter Russell Erxleben 11th overall in the 1979 Draft, a choice which only made slightly more sense then than it does now.
The 2017 Chargers had four kickers (plus punter Drew Kaser) kick so badly that they went 3-of-11 from beyond 40-yards, probably costing the 9-7 team a playoff berth. The kicker the Chargers were trying to replace that year? Josh Lambo.
Hmmm, maybe NFL Recap should become a true-crime podcast. Josh Lambo: Backup Kicker Serial Slayer.
Eventually, Lambo will return and quell the Jaguars kicker emergency. Until then, all of his wacky replacements have helped the Jaguars make history. Bad history, mind you. But that’s the only kind the 2020 Jaguars have any chance to make.
The Chicago Bears grunted out another low-scoring win. The Cleveland Browns got a reality check from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts won seesaw battles against bad opponents. It’s getting hard to tell the pretenders from the contenders among the NFL’s second-tier Super Bowl challengers after Week 6. Luckily, NFL Week 6 Recap is here to break down the action and answer the all-important questions: Which of these teams should you actually believe in, and are they NFL playoff contenders?
Are the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL playoff contenders?
Hell yes. Next question.
Can you believe in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
NFL Recap had our doubts entering Week 6, but after that team-effort curb-stomping of the Green Bay Packers, the Buccaneers also get a “Hell yes.” This team is one of the NFL playoff contenders.
Can you believe in the Tennessee Titans?
Yes. The Houston Texans threw a late scare into the Titans in Sunday’s 42-36 overtime Titans victory. But the Titans are undefeated and fresh off a convincing Tuesday night win over the Buffalo Bills, and they took a 21-7 lead on Sunday before things got a little loose.
NFL Recap isn’t ready to put the Titans on a tier with the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs just yet. But just imagine how good they will be after a week of actual practices!
Are the Chicago Bears NFL playoff contenders, and can you believe in them?
It depends on your definition of “belief.” Nick Foles showed us a tiny bonsai-tree microcosm of his career in Sunday’s 23-16 win over the Carolina Panthers. He started the game hot, leading a short touchdown drive and a pair of methodical longer drives. Then, he went into deep freeze, bottoming out with a third-quarter interception. Then, as if the Bears benched Mediocre Starter Foles in favor of Ace Reliever Foles, he capped a scoring drive with a sneak and moved the ball well when the Bears were protecting the lead.
The Bears face the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers over the next six games. Even if they go 2-3 in that tough span of games with a few narrow, low-scoring victories and weekly episodes of The Many Faces of Foles performances, it will leave them at 7-4 and in a great position for a Wild Card push.
So believe in the Bears for what they are: a messy team with experience slopping together playoff runs with a mucky offense. NFL playoff contenders? Maybe.
Can you believe in the Cleveland Browns?
Sorta. After their 38-7 beating at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6 and their season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns have clearly found their level: good enough to beat weaklings and fellow playoff welterweights, not nearly good enough to hang with the top contenders.
Baker Mayfield was forced out of Sunday’s game with the rib injury he suffered in Week 5, but the Steelers exposed Mayfield’s shortcomings before he got hurt. Most notably, Mayfield still thinks the seven-step drop is merely a suggestion, meaning that he’ll take sacks because when he sets up his offensive line up with poor blocking angles.
Overall, the Browns look great when they can remain balanced on offense and rely on their pass rush on defense. If things aren’t going their way, mistakes snowball on them.
The good news for the Browns is that they don’t face a major challenge again until they take on the Tennessee Titans and Ravens back-to-back in Weeks 12 and 13. They should beat up on enough Bengals and Jaguars in the meantime to remain in the playoff conversation.
Are the Indianapolis Colts playoff contenders?
No. The Colts came back from a 21-7 deficit and needed some late-game breaks (a missed field goal and a Joe Burrow interception to kill a final drive) to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 31-27 in Week 6. Even the comeback wasn’t “clean.” Philip Rivers threw yet another fourth-quarter interception, a sign that the team’s weaknesses will return to haunt them when facing better competition.
The Colts have the makings of typical AFC South also-rans who ride a soft schedule into a Wild Card berth (see: the 2018 Colts or 2019 Titans). The only problem is that their upcoming schedule, after a Week 7 bye, is full of Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, and other stiff competition. So think of the Colts as the Browns, though not quite as talented and with a much tougher schedule.
Can you believe in the Carolina Panthers?
No. The Panthers are built to play hard, generate fantasy points for Mike Davis (52 rushing yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Ignore the fumble!) and look really thirsty and gritty while settling for field goals, but they are not NFL playoff contenders. They’re a rebuilding team that manufactured some close wins against weak opponents.
Are the New England Patriots NFL playoff contenders?
No, they are not NFL playoff contenders. The Patriots will get their own NFL Recap segment this week, likely on Monday morning. The short version: the Patriots are the Chicago Bears with less talent, better coaching, and a mystique which makes them very easy to overrate.
As the trade deadline approaches, NFL Recap is keeping its eye on players like A.J. Green, Zach Ertz, Justin Simmons, and others whose names have been bubbling up in trade rumors. A few of the veterans listed below could be wearing new uniforms after November 4th.
All of them could use a change of scenery. But some of them did a better job than others of showcasing what they have to offer (and of helping their struggling teams try to win) during Week 6.
NFL Trade Deadline News/Rumors: Who might be in a different uniform this year?
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Trade Likelihood: High. Green would be worth more to a contender than to the rebuilding Bengals at this point. He’s been spotted in past weeks putting forth as much effort as a port authority tunnel sweeper three days from retirement, so he isn’t doing Joe Burrow much good. And veteran wide receivers (like Emmanuel Sanders and Mohamed Sanu last year) tend to move at the trade deadline.
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: The Bengals went out of their way to get Green involved by tossing him some short early passes, and he came through with a tough catch on a 4th-down conversion on the Bengals’ doomed final drive in their 31-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Green finished with eight catches for 96 yards, but rookie Tee Higgins (six catches, 125 yards) had a bigger game, and Burrow often looks more comfortable throwing to his other targets.
Were the Bengals mollifying Green by getting him the ball or showing him off to would-be suitors? There’s no reason why a team can’t do both.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Trade Likelihood: Moderate. Ertz has wanted a new contract since the offseason and played like someone who is no longer thrilled to be in Philly throughout the early season. That said, Jason LaConfora of CBSSports reported on Sunday that Eagles GM Howie Roseman wants to be a trade deadline buyer, not a seller, and that fits Roseman’s aggressive team-building approach.
Adding a veteran to the Eagles’ sagging, expensive roster would be like buying a Porsche when your credit cards are maxed and your roof is collapsing, but it’s possible that the Eagles could liberate Ertz and try to add a piece at one of their positions of need (dealer’s choice).
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Ertz caught four passes on 10 targets for 33 yards while shuttling into and out of the game with injuries. If the Eagles hope to move him before the NFL trade deadline, they had better do so before the rest of the league sees any more of him hobbling around, waving at overthrows, and tripping over his own feet while trying to turn upfield.
David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
Trade Likelihood: Moderate. Njoku squabbled with the previous coaching staff (which, admittedly, loved a good squabble), requested a trade in the offseason, missed three early-season games with a knee injury, and has backed up Austin Hooper when healthy. Njoku would be worth far more to some other team than he is to the Browns at this point, and he could appeal to shoppers seeking a younger, more affordable alternative to Ertz.
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Njoku had one catch for seven yards on three targets in Sunday’s 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns coaching staff appears ready to move forward with rookie Harrison Bryant as their second tight end. There is no reason for the team to keep Njoku.
Ryan Kerrigan, Edge Rusher, Washington Football Team
Trade Likelihood: Low-to-Moderate. Kerrigan is the sort of player a rebuilding team should trade: a 32-year old still-effective role player at a position of depth. Washington is loaded with young pass rushers, led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat, and Kerrigan could easily fetch as much as a second-round pick from a contender in need of an edge rush boost (the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks both leap to mind).
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Kerrigan recorded his third sack of the season in Sunday’s 20-19 loss to the New York Giants. Ron Rivera may be reluctant to part with veteran leadership right now, but Kerrigan would look much better playing 20-25 snaps per game for a team that’s going somewhere.
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Trade Likelihood: Moderate. Ross, the former combine superstar and ninth overall pick in the 2017 Draft, is like that jet ski you bought before you had kids: It leaks gas, is a hassle to hitch and haul to the lake, and isn’t even all that much fun, but you refuse to sell it because that would be admitting defeat. He has just two receptions this season and missed several weeks with an illness
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Ross played a few snaps on Sunday but was not targeted. But don’t worry: The Patriots are just waiting for his asking price to come down to a conditional seventh-round pick in 2029 so they can scoop him up before the NFL trade deadline and turn him into Cam Newton’s favorite deep target.
Justin Simmons, Safety Denver Broncos
Trade Likelihood: Low. Simmons’ name is being bandied about a lot in articles like this one, but the Broncos shouldn’t be considered deadline sellers: they have lots of young talent and would be in the playoff chase if not for catastrophic injuries, so they should be reluctant to part with a quality starter in his prime.
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Simmons recorded eight solo tackles and scooped up a fumble after a completion over the middle of the field in Sunday’s 18-12 win over the New England Patriots. He’s worth more to the Broncos as a leader and tone-setter than as trade bait.
Various Houston Texans
Trade Likelihood: High. Jason LaConfora of CBS Sports reported on Sunday that trade deadline shoppers are sizing up just about everyone on the Texans roster not named J.J. Watt or Deshaun Watson: WRs Will Fuller or Brandin Cooks, LB Zach Cunningham, CB Bradley Roby, TE Darren Fells, edge rusher Whitney Mercilus, and possibly some folks in the ticket sales and weight-room sanitation departments.
While some of the targets appear less likely than others (the organization loves Fuller, for example), the Texans desperately need future draft picks after Bill O’Brien traded them all for a timeshare in Ebola Swamp Meadows over the last few years, so they will certainly entertain offers.
NFL Week 6 Sunday Showcase: Fuller, Cooks, and Fells all caught touchdown passes in Sunday’s 42-36 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. Fells may attract a trade partner put off by Ertz’s injuries and Njoku’s reputation. Cunningham recorded eight total tackles, while Roby picked off a pass. It was a perfect commercial for what the Texans have to offer. So pick up that phone, interim GM Jack Easterby, and sell-sell-sell while the Texans market is hot. Everything must go! No reasonable offer refused!
NFL Recap spent the Week 6 early games searching for the latest news and watching the New York Giants narrowly defeat the Washington Football Team 20-19 for their first win of the season, while the Philadelphia Eagles fell to the Baltimore Ravens by a 30-28 final, which was not nearly as close as the score. All that miserable football left NFL Week 6 Recap with time to wonder which team is really the worst in the NFC East, aka the Metro Atlantic Pathetic Conference.
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t up for consideration because they are the NFC East team that plays on Monday Night, and also because their 2-3 record makes them look like the Steel Curtain Steelers in comparison to the filter feeders at the bottom of the division. So let’s break down the Eagles, Giants, and Washington, three teams with a combined 3-14-1 record (including two wins against one another) to determine who really belongs on the bottom.
What’s going right for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East?
Carson Wentz doesn’t look as bad lately as he looked in the first month of the season (Nathan Peterman on PCP would not look as bad as Wentz looked at times in the first half of the season). The Eagles have picked up a habit over the last two weeks of throwing a late-game scare into top-tier opponents (Ravens on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5) after looking like freshmen scrimmaging against the varsity early in the game.
What’s going wrong for the Philadelphia Eagles?
They look like freshmen scrimmaging against the varsity early in games, and linebacker Nate Gerry looks like the sixth-grader who got called up to the freshman team because he has a really pushy dad. Opponents can convert third-and-medium-to-long almost at will.
The Eagles are also dealing with so many injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver that they have resorted to goofy Wentz-Jalen Hurts single-wing type plays. At one point, Wentz and Hurts stood side-by-side in the backfield with their hands out to take the shotgun snap, a tactic that really baffled the Staten Island Stapletons back in 1931.
Worst of all, the Eagles keep pretending that receivers Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson are going to get healthy and rescue their offense. They’ve been waiting for two seasons.
The bottom line for this NFC East team: The Eagles are the second-best team in the NFC East. And they will be even better when Jeffery and Jackson return against the Giants on Thursday night! Ha-ha, just kidding, they’ll both be scratched by Wednesday afternoon.
What’s going right for the Washington Football Team?
Their Chase Young/Montez Sweat/Ryan Kerrigan pass rush is strong. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson would look great in a functional offense.
What’s going wrong for the Washington Football Team?
Quarterback Kyle Allen is a weak-tea version of Mike Glennon. He’s an absolute disaster in the pocket who misses open receivers and chucks the ball into tight coverage, but he obviously tries very hard, so Ron Rivera keeps giving him opportunities.
The Washington secondary is nothing special, their run defense is vulnerable up the middle, and McLaurin and Gibson are the offense’s only quality weapons.
Personal Note: NFL Week 6 Recap took over at 42.5 in the Giants-Washington game, hoping to clear the number with gobs of points off turnovers. So we were initially excited when Allen found Cam Sims for a touchdown with 36 seconds to play, then outraged when Rivera opted for a two-point conversion instead of an extra point to force overtime and a likely minimum final total score of 43 (though the Eagles taught us against the Cincinnati Bengals to take nothing for granted in the NFC East).
So we may be a little biased against Washington for costing us a few bucks this week. Going for two may be the better percentage play on paper, but trusting Kyle Allen to do something right is never the right percentage play in real life.
The bottom line for this NFC East team: Sunday’s loss aside, Washington can point to their victory over the Eagles in Week 1 as evidence that they are the third-best team in the NFC. NFL Recap will explain in more detail after we visit the Giants.
What’s going right for the New York Giants?
When everything is blocked up perfectly, Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton can look like Tom Brady and Randy Moss. This happens on roughly two throws per month.
What’s going wrong for the New York Giants?
Let’s start with Sunday’s injuries: C.J. Board was taken off on a stretcher after a scary neck injury, Jabrill Peppers left the game for a while with an ankle injury, and Slayton, LB Blake Martinez, and others were in and out of the game with bumps and bruises.
The Giants defense cannot tackle even when it is at nearly full strength, their offensive line is putrid, and Jones produces at least one gut-punch of a turnover per game (Sunday’s was a drive-killing interception in the end zone). Their win on Sunday was a function of two ugly Kyle Allen turnovers and a failed two-point conversion.
The Giants special teams can also be counted upon for a big mistake every week. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, they nullified a touchdown on a fake field goal with an illegal shift. This week, Austin Johnson ran into Washington punter Tress Way on 4th-and-9, setting up an opportunity for Washington to convert on 4th-and-4, then drive for a second-quarter touchdown.
Head coach Joe Judge used to be special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots, so you better believe that the punt block unit will be running laps this week. In the rain if possible.
The bottom line for this NFC East team: Washington has a quality pass rush. The Eagles have lots of veterans with Super Bowl rings. What do the Giants really have? Jones is likely to max out as a lower-tier starter based on what we have seen so far. The best players on their defense are veteran journeymen like James Bradberry. And while Rivera offers hope for a brighter future, the Giants are saddled with Dave Gettleman mismanaging their roster.
The Giants are the weakest team in the NFC East until proven otherwise. They’ll get a chance to prove otherwise on Thursday night against the Eagles.