It might only be the preliminary phase of the term but the report cards are in and we need to have a chat with a few of the students. 5 weeks into the NFL campaign of 2016 and their is a lot of football to digest, some of it good, some a bit unusual and the rest is just a big pile of Jay Cutler.
First off with the AFC and 4 teams sit on a record of 4-1: the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. The latter of that trio are enjoying something of a renaissance and hopefully this return to form for the franchise will stave off a move to Las Vegas, although that plea will likely fall on deaf ears.
The strugglers in the AFC are there for all to see. The poor old Browns are 0-5 to anchor down the division while the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and somewhat surprisingly the New York Jets are languishing at 1-4.
More surprises are found on the NFC side of the fence, leading with the 5-0 Minnesota Vikings. Following their lead are the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys on 4-1 to make for an intriguing trio of leaders for the National Football Conference.
The same can not be said for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and last season’s Super Bowl players the Carolina Panthers at 1-4. More on them later.
The sacking season is not far off and with the regular season already 30% concluded, time is running out. For some of these heavyweights they are approaching make-or-break moments and October is a crucial month to build momentum for any potential playoff run.
Check out Episode 11 from our friends at In The Pocket where they look at Helmet Gate and find out who *not to* pick for week 6.
Here is what we’ve learned so far.
The Dallas Cowboys Are Onto Something With Prescott
This 23-year old plays with no fear and is leading around the impressive Dallas Cowboys like it is the most natural thing in the world. This Tony Romo-less franchise is 4-1 thanks to a man that has thrown for 4 touchdowns, 1,239 yards and ZERO interceptions. It is precision like that in a rookie year that gets people to notice and contracts to get signed quick smart. Long may it continue for Cowboy Nation.
The Carolina Panthers Are Living A Nightmare
Many thought that the franchise who were going to experience a Super Bowl hangover would be the Denver Broncos – losing their champion quarterback and all. But no, the Carolina Panthers have lost their hunger at the scrimmage line and are leaking yards and fill-in QB Derek Anderson is always a mistake away from undoing all his achievements. If Ron Rivera wants to salvage the 2016 campaign for #KeepPounding then he needs to find a solution at 1-4 and quick because they are in must-win territory now.
Kickers Decide Games
The story of Roberto Aguayo during Monday Night Football this week was a case study into NFL kickers – how we look at them, how coaches use them, how fans react to them and what is at stake when they take the field. His two misses not only had the game on the ropes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but many believed that if he missed the decisive 38-yard kick against the Panthers on the road his career was over, talk about pressure! Those 3-point conversions are always taken for granted yet you go the cheap option at your peril.
Week 1 Was A False Alarm For The Rams
The Los Angeles Rams week 1 defeat on the road to the San Francisco 49ers should have been put into the Hall of Shame. That 28-0 shut out was depressingly poor and while the prime time fixtures have not been blockbusters this season, the Rams have quietly gone about their business since to make Los Angeles home again. They don’t excite, they rarely take risks and since their Hard Knocks documentary came out they don’t have many redeemable characters either, but they’re winning football games and that is all that matters to the fans.
Time To Believe In The Atlanta Falcons
This could be it – the Atlanta Falcons flying in from nowhere to steal a march on the entire competition. With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones carving NFL teams up for fun to lead the league in offensive yards per game (457.4) and passing yards per game (333.4) there is no telling how far this team can go if they maintain this run. Pundits are expecting the Falcons to have their wings clipped but you cannot overturn the Denver Broncos in a clutch fixture without having something about you.
Vikings Already Making Their New Home A Fortress
Move away from a ground that offered so much home advantage, lose your number one quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a season ending injury, see your star running back Adrian Peterson sit out through knee surgery and bring in Sam Bradford. Disaster right? Wrong! Off the back of a stingy defensive line that lets in only 287.6 yards a game (4th overall) and playing percentage football, the Minnesota Vikings are a well rounded outfit and they look a tough nut to crack in 2016. Who would have seen that coming?
The Oakland Raiders Should Be Feared Again
It is likely premature to start thinking of the Oakland Raiders as the powerhouse of the National Football League they were once upon a time, but that rebuild that has felt like a long time coming is starting to come to fruition. Overcoming a stubborn Chargers team in week 5, the California franchise are 5th overall in the league for average points scored (28.4) and 4th for yards gained (391.6). In an AFC West Division with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs to deal with, just a divisional title alone would put down a marker for the next 5 years to come.
Kaepernick Can’t Stay Out Of The Headlines
As we looked at last month here on AmericanSportsNews.com.au, the Colin Kaepernick national anthem protest has driven a wedge between fans and stakeholders in the game and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. But as those that angrily for or against the movement started by the QB, he can’t stay out of the headlines. News that he has usurped the much maligned Blaine Gabbert will delight those 49ers diehards keen to see what he can do on the field for a change come week 6. It’s certainly never boring in Kap’s world right now.
Jets Have Buyers Remorse With Ryan Fitzpatrick
Why the organisation that is the New York Jets saw it in their divine wisdom to give their quarterback a reported $12m contract extension is beyond belief – if only their fans got as animated as the Giants supporters across the road! Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t hide behind that facial hair after he has thrown 10 picks so far this season, 6 of which coming against the Kansas City Chiefs alone, and only contributing 5 touchdowns. In this league you cannot afford to have the quarterback throwing 2 picks per TD.
Never Assume Anything – It’s The NFL, Stupid!
What is it they say about people who assume? That’s right, they make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” In 5 short but incredibly eventful weeks of the National Football League season we’ve seen Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills come to New England Patriots and not only defeat Bill Belichick on his home turf, but shut them out. That alone made Ben Affleck halt a press junket for The Accountant and it took the new Batman some time to compose himself thereafter.
We bared witness to a highly rated Kansas City Chiefs lose their rag and everything that made them a powerhouse last season. The Seattle Seahawks and their imposing Legion of Boom took 3 games of football before their managed to score a touchdown. The Arizona Cardinals are experiencing the decline of Carson Palmer before our very eyes. And to make this game of football even crazier, the Philadelphia Eagles and their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz beat a team tipped for the Super Bowl in the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3. Nothing makes sense in this sport, other than the Cleveland Browns being, well, you know – Cleveland.
Until next week.