Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week Six: Brady Bombs While Kaepernick Delivers A Dud

Two weeks ago fourteen NFL teams were 1-3 or 0-4.    Two weeks later we suddenly have signs some of these teams have begun a turnaround from what is almost always the kiss of death for making the playoffs.

The first sign this weekend was going to be a little upside down was San Diego's upset of the Broncos on Thursday Night.   Despite a lack of scoring and some bafflingly conservative playcalling in the fourth quarter, the Chargers took down the Broncos, who no longer look as powerful as advertised, plus the Chargers look like a completely different defense with Joey Bosa now up and running.

A team with little worry about making the playoffs welcomed its Hall Of Famer for his first home game of the year.   Tom Brady responded with another F4 Phantom sortie - Brady delivered the bombs and shot down the Cincinnati Bengals, this amid some cheap hitting by the Bengals, who made a game of it until Andy Dalton got sacked for a safety and the Patriots erupted from there on - continuing the reputation of the Patriots as the machine of the NFL and continuing Cincinnati's reputation for lack of leadership, cheap hitting, lack of discipline, and insistence on winning with athleticism and talent instead of focused, smart play.

Contrast this with the other big story entering Week Six's slate of games - Colin Kaepernick's return to the starting job of the 49ers.   Kaepernick's spark lasted all of one half as the Niners clawed to a 14-13 halftime gap, then the Bills outscored the Niners 31-6.   Kaepernick finished showing his flaws as a quarterback are still there - he completed just thirteen of 29 passes and ran more than competent quarterbacks are supposed to run.    Fitting that T-shirts showing Kaepernick in a gunsight were sold before the game.

The sickest catch of the year so far was Jaelen Strong's catch of Brock Osweiler's bomb, a bomb worthy of Warren Moon and a dagger to the Indianapolis Colts.   The Houston comeback - from down two touchdowns - has suddenly made the AFC South a legitimate division race.

Easily the game of the day was another rip-roaring affair between the Panthers and the Saints, who fought to a 41-38 thriller last season and this time the result was reversed.   Though they fell to 1-5 the Panthers actually showed some reason for salvaging a decent season as they kept coming back and Cam Newton appeared to begin getting some rhythm back.

Marcus Mariota authored the first two-game winning streak of his career and authored the Tennessee Titans to their first win over the Cleveland Browns in the last three meetings.    Cody Kessler returned under center for the Browns and the Browns made a taut game of it despite falling to 0-6.   Kessler has played well overall even without a win, and the Browns may not get much of a record this year but I'm not seeing them going 0-16 now; Kessler has too much upside for that.   For that matter Mariota is also giving the league reason to believe the Titans will build to a playoff power down the road.

In addition to genuine promise from Cody Kessler the Browns are seeing play to be proud of from ex-Raiders ex-quarterback Terrell Pryor.    League fans should want the Browns to turn it around with the genuine talent we're seeing from Kessler and Pryor.

The AFC West just got a lot more curious as the Kansas City Chiefs shot down the rising Raiders and thus began to claw back into the playoff race.   It ended a bad week for Oakland fans with the Las Vegas Stadium now a fait accompli despite no credible evidence of any actual fanbase in Vegas.

Odell Beckham's sideline meltdowns have become the story for the NY Giants but against the slumping Baltimore Ravens Beckham erupted.   It was a taut finish as the Ravens scored around the 2-minute warning only to see Eli Manning explode with some 1:20 to go.    Combined with the Redskins' win over the Eagles the win puts the Giants back into the NFC East conversation.

But staying well out front in the NFC East is the Cowboys, whose rookie class of Dakota Prescott and Zeke Elliott is leading the Pokes on a rampage reminiscent of the glory days of Troy, Emmitt, Irvin, etc.   The Cowboys also continued the career trend for Aaron Rodgers, once again in over his head when he has to lead a comeback, perhaps best illustrated by his late-game fumble on 2nd and 6 before the follow-up fumble that effectively ended the game.  

Trouble in Pittsburgh?   One of my sources indicates a budding feud within the team involving coach Mike Tomlin; nobody did themselves well in getting humiliated by the struggling Dolphins.

Giving nightmares to the Steelers was Jay Ajayi, whose 204 yards further exposed the Steelers to be a dubious challenger.  

The Detroit Lions are making a case they're becoming a genuine challenger in a terrific game with the Rams, who've faltered after their early-season winning streak.    Matthew Stafford has struggled to string together consistent winning play over the years but Jim Caldwell, given up for dead by a lot of railbirds before the season, may be what Stafford has needed to go along with his talent.   Case Keenum meanwhile has also put together some encouraging play.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have quietly begun stringing together wins and erasing a two-touchdown gap in the fourth quarter at Chicago showed there's some fight in this squad.   

Oddly unnoticed have been the Seattle Seahawks, but they've surged ahead in the NFC West by edging a surging Falcons squad.   The Seahawks benefitted from a questionable non-call on Richard Sherman on Atlanta's last-gasp bomb.

So what does it all mean?   The Patriots, the Vikings, and - perhaps - the Cowboys and Seahawks appear to be the only sure thing in this season.   Six teams that were 1-3 won Thursday or Sunday and I suspect a number of formerly 1-3 teams will surprise people by December.

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