Monday, October 10, 2016

NFL Week 5 Review

New England 33, Cleveland 13 - Well, Tom Brady was his typical self in his return to the lineup as the starting QB for the Pats. He threw for three touchdowns, with no picks. Cleveland, quite typically, was overwhelmed and simply not up for this challenge. Gronkowski also returned, and did some damage with a touchdown catch. The Browns simply could not contain the big guy, and the lethal Brady-Gronkowski combination is back. New England got back on track after a relatively shocking home shutout loss last week to the Bills, while this loss forced the Browns to remain with the dubious distinction as the sole winless team remaining in the league.

Pittsburgh 31, NY Jets 13 - The Jets were keeping up early on, and looking like they were making a game of it. However, the Steelers proved to be too much later on in the game, as they took over. Pittsburgh's offense just looked solid, and the New York defense simply could not contain them as the game wore on, and the game just kept getting worse, more lopsided over time. New York's offense sputtered as the game wore on, unable to keep up with the amount of points that Pittsburgh kept scoring. Perhaps more worrisome for the Jets was the knee injury to Nick Mangold, who is one of their prime players on the offensive line. On a positive note, the Jets did not commit the costly turnovers that killed them in the last couple of weeks. Still, they made silly mistakes that still proved costly, and they lost their cool towards the end. On a positive note, this game marked the last time that Pittsburgh was to don their "bumblebee" throwback 1934 uniforms, which I think is a positive, as they really are butt ugly.

Minnesota 31, Houston 13 - Who would have believed, back in the preseason when Minnesota lost their starting QB, that the Vikings would remain as the only remaining undefeated team following Week 5? Yet, with the losses by Denver and Philly, the only other two remaining unbeaten teams, the Vikings secured their status as the sole remaining team with a perfect record. Plus, they now have a bye week, so that they can be well rested two weeks from now, when they go to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. That will obviously present a tough challenge, although Minnesota has proven to be up for every challenge presented them so far. They certainly did what they needed to yesterday against the Texans, dominating more than the final score would suggest. As for Houston, they have shown remarkable consistency, as they beat the opponents they are expected to beat, but lose (and usually, pretty badly) to the teams that everyone expects them to lose to. True, they lost their biggest talent on defense, and they are still reeling. However, they will need to elevate their game and beat some more serious teams at some point, if they want to establish themselves as serious contenders. 

Indianapolis 29, Chicago 23 - The Bears seemed to feel rejuvenated by their first victory of the season against Detroit last week, and they entered this game seemingly ready to compete and win. Of course, both of these teams are struggling, and entered this game with identical 1-3 records, making this a virtual must win situation for both teams. Ultimately, the Colts held off the Bears and pulled out only their second win of the season, and barely doing so, at that. They needed everything that they had to defeat Chicago at home, which might not be a good sign for the remainder of the season. Still, a win is a win, and in a weak division like the AFC South, that should count for something. As for the Bears, despite this good effort, they once again find themselves in sole possession of last place in the NFC North. 

Tennessee 30, Miami 17 - Miami is in serious trouble. They lost to the Titans, a team that came in with only one win on the year. The Titans have had their share of problems this season, including inconsistent play by their emerging star quarterback, Marcus Mariota. However, they put together a solid game plan yesterday, and executed very well, pulling off what seemed an unlikely road win at the expense of the Dolphins, a team that seemed to be better than their poor record indicates. For Miami, this sinks them still further from the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots, making the AFC East a de facto two team race already, despite how early in the season it is. Unless their is a miracle coming to Florida soon, the Dolphins already look done.

Washington 16, Baltimore 10 - Washington received a bit of help from a bad call, although they played a tough, defensive style that stymied the Ravens. Baltimore got off to a 3-0 start, but already, that is looking like a long time ago, after they suffered their second straight home loss to drop to 3-2 on the season, and fall fully a game behind Pittsburgh. For Washington, on the other hand, an impressive three straight wins has them right back in the NFC East race, fully a game ahead of the Giants, a half game behind Philadelphia, and a full game behind Dallas. They have a real chance at defending their division championship now, if they keep playing at this level. 

Dallas 28, Cincinnati 14 - The Cowboys won this one primarily off the strength of a nearly flawless first half. The Dallas offense was thorough, marching down the field and ultimately scoring at will against an overwhelmed looking Bengals defense. That while Cincy's offense looked flustered and frustrated by the Big-D defense, which kept getting to Andy Dalton, or at least forcing him to throw too quickly or, in a couple of instances, to take off scrambling. Dalton is not known as a scrambler, of course, and it showed. Dalton was making his first professional return to his home, but it was not a happy one, as Dallas built a 21-0 lead by halftime, and upped that to 28-0 in the third quarter, as these same trends continued. The Bengals only really managed to look halfway decent in the fourth quarter, when they had fallen hopelessly behind and were quickly running out of time. Two more or less garbage time touchdowns simply made the score look more respectable, but not more interesting. A solid win for the 'Boys, their fourth straight, while the Bengals continue their up and down season.

Atlanta 23, Denver 16 - Okay, it looks like people bette start paying attention to the Falcons, who have now beaten last year's two Super Bowl participants in back to back weeks. The Falcons jumped ahead early, and showed that they were capable even against Denver's notoriously tough defense, while Atlanta's own defense looked like an elite unit, containing Denver's limited and injury-plagued offense to pedestrian results. The results put both teams at 4-1 on the year, although for Denver, that means a sudden first place tie with the Raiders in the AFC West, while for the Falcons, they at least appear to be in complete control in the NFC South.

Buffalo 30, LA Rams 19 - Man, watch out for those Bills! Buffalo suddenly has beaten the highly regarded Arizona Cardinals, shut out the Patriots in New England, and ended the Rams three game winning streak, all in consecutive weeks. Buffalo's defense was stifling when it needed to be yesterday, as they wore down the Rams, en route to a third straight victory of their own, raising their record to 3-2. The Bills are right on the heels of the first place Patriots, and for now, own the tiebreaker, having beaten New England at Foxboro. Buffalo is looking like this year's team might finally end that dreadful playoff drought, if they keep playing like this. As for the Rams, this was a disappointing loss, but not the end of the world, as they are still in second place in the NFC West, still ahead of Arizona and San Francisco, although they cannot allow the Seahawks any more cushion than they now have. 

Oakland 34, San Diego 31 - How many ways can San Diego find to lose games in the fourth quarter? Well, San Diego certainly appears to be testing out all new and interesting ways to lose games in that final quarter. They did it again yesterday in a back and forth contest that the Chargers certainly had a chance to win. But on fourth down very late in the game, with a chance for a field goal to tie it and send it into overtime, the snap was mishandled, and the play was botched, essentially handing Oakland the chance to hang on for the all-important divisional victory. It was not pretty, but the Raiders got it done, and this win, coupled with Denver's loss, moves those two teams into a first place tie in the AFC West. 

Green Bay 23, NY Giants 16 - Remember when the G-Men were one of the undefeated teams, and looked like they were on the verge of beating Washington to raise their record to 3-0? Instead, they lost that game and have not won another since. Of course, all three of their opponents were playoff teams last season, and are looking solid again this season, as well. Still, the way that the Giants lost to Washington, and then got blow out in Minnesota, left a bad taste in the mouths of us fans. It helped a little bit that New York really seemed to fight for this game at Lambeau Field, which is never an easy place to play. But apparently, gone are the days when the Giants could do it, as they did in both of their last Super Bowl runs, just a few years ago, really. It was a tough game, a relatively low-scoring affair, at that. But in the end, the Giants only managed to keep it close, but did not manage to actually win. Green Bay's offense does not look nearly as explosive as it did a few seasons ago, but their defense seems to have toughened up, and they still find ways to win. For the Packers, they maintain a solid 3-1 mark on the year, while the Giants drop to 2-3 with their third straight loss. They desperately need to stop the bleeding, before this seasons really begins to spiral out of control.

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