The Fifth Down: Deshaun Watson Rubs It In While Green Bay’s Loss Is Everyone’s Loss

What a difference a year makes, or hell, even a week makes. The scene across the young NFL season has shifted so much from where it was a month ago, it is hard to even remember what the expectations were from a year ago. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen the last of Odell Beckham Jr., JJ Watt, and now, Aaron Rodgers (more on that later).

In the process, expectations have had to be revised top to bottom. The post-Rodgers NFC North stands to be a whole new world, while a surprise frontrunner in the East is pulling away from the pack. Deshaun Watson had his first ‘told you so’ moment of his career, while the rest of his rookie cohorts continue to make this a first-year class to remember. Meanwhile, the Falcons and Patriots struggle to resemble who they were not so long ago.

Week 6 continued to defy the odds of expectations of the year, and set the table for a year that has nearly unlimited possibilities week-to-week. Here’s a look back at the week that was across the NFL world, on and off the field.

WEEK 6 WINNERS

The one that got away rolls over the Browns

Deshaun Watson made the most of an early chance to show the Browns what they missed out on. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

There’s not much worse than seeing your ex living their best life right in front of your eyes….with the exception of the one that got away showing up and showing you exactly what you missed out. Thus was the case this weekend when the Browns got all they could handle in facing off against Deshaun Watson, as he sliced and diced the team that traded out of selecting him. The man that could have righted the tradition of wrongs behind center in Cleveland connected for three TDs as the Texans rolled over the Browns, 33-17, in a game that was much more out of hand than even that lopsided score indicates. And after the first six weeks of the year, Watson leads the league in touchdown passes with 14.

An on-sight interview in the Bay?

The ongoing saga that is the year-to-year residency of Kirk Cousins’ long-term status with the Washington Redskins continues to carry on. And as a result, there are a handful of teams that continue to be aligned with the quarterback as a potential future destinations for the Pro Bowl signal caller.

Last weekend’s stop at Levi’s Stadium to face the San Francisco 49ers – and his former offensive coordinator, turned head coach Kyle Shanahan – provided a particularly interesting showcase for Cousins. Cousins capped a day where he passed for 330 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with a game-winning TD run that sealed a tougher-than advertised win for the Redskins. But than anything else, it was a stark difference from the current QB situation in San Francisco, on a day where Brian Hoyer was bumped for rookie C.J. Beathard as the melancholy 49ers offense continued to underwhelm.

The old folks’ home in Arizona shows out

In case you haven’t heard, the year is 2017. So it should defy logic that the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner, the eighth most productive wide receiver of all-time and a recently traded running back in his 11th year should be able to run over one of the (supposed) best young teams in football.

But that is exactly what happened when Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson — who are a combined 103 years old now — guided the Arizona Cardinals over the Jameis Winston-less Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Palmer threw for three touchdowns, while Fitzgerald had 138 yards on 10 catches and scored once. Meanwhile the team’s newest part in Peterson ran for 134 yards and a pair of TDs, his highest yardage total since Week 11 of 2015. Let the throwback show continue.

Carson keeps the Eagles flying high

Even in a year where parity has been the letter of the law across the NFL, it is still somewhat surprising to find the scrappy Eagles as the top team in the league headed into Week 7. But after beating the Panthers last Thursday night, that is exactly who Philly is and much credit must be paid to the steady hand of Carson Wentz.

The second-year QB’s penchant for making the big play when needed saw him throw for three touchdowns, bringing his two-week total to seven against only a single interception. A Monday Night date with the Redskins awaits as the Eagles look to open up a truly cavernous lead in the NFC East.

 

WEEK 6 LOSERS

The Green Bay Packers, the fans and the NFL as whole, via Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone

Whenever a star quarterback hits the ground, there’s a brief second of pause for his fanbase. However, when arguably the best player in the entire league and MVP frontrunner goes down and doesn’t get up, the entire league holds its breath.

That was the situation when Aaron Rodgers failed to make it to his feet after a hit from linebacker Anthony Barr early in Sunday’s Packers/Vikings showdown. And the prognosis that followed changed the entire landscape of the NFC instantly, as it was confirmed that Rodgers had broken his collarbone, an injury that all but brings an end to his 2017 season. The ramifications were immediate for the Packers, whose offense struggled to take shape around backup Brett Hundley in route to a 23-10 loss.

Such was the disappointment of the loss that even a rival of Rodgers in Richard Sherman tweeted out disappointment in the loss of Rodgers from the season.

Ezekiel Elliott’s fight to carry the ball carries on

Even on a bye week for the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott nearly took a loss, again. The star running back continues to show a Houdini-like penchant for escaping the six-game suspension that has followed him around since the summer. It appeared as if he would finally have to concede to the ruling late last week after the 5th Circuit clerk in New York ruled for the suspension to move forward again. However, after a restraining order from the judgement was obtained yet again in Elliott’s favor (through October 30th), the running back will continue his elusive nature to remain in the game. So his loss remains intact, albeit subdued.

The Falcons continue to forget about their biggest gun

It’s time to remind Mat Ryan he has Julio Jones’ number in his speed dial. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Although they will bring a 3-2 record into their Week 7 Super Bowl rematch, this year’s Falcons continue to appear as a far departure from the offensive juggernaut that charged its way to the Super Bowl a year ago. The bye week did little to cure the hangover that is lingering around the NFC champs, as they squander a late lead against the Dolphins on Sunday to fall to 1-2 in their new home digs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was sealed by a Matt Ryan interception thrown into double coverage to tight end Austin Hooper.

Perhaps these issues could be moved past if Ryan remember that he has a once in a generation talent at his disposal that could help get him get back on track. Julio Jones has been criminally underutilized on the year, being targeted only eight times in Sunday’s loss and still seeking both his first 100-yard game and touchdown on the year. This isn’t rocket science: get the ball somewhere in Julio’s general area code and let great things happen. Perhaps the generous Patriots secondary provide a memory jolt for Ryan this week.

The Saints finally get over .500….in as ugly of a fashion as possible.

It is tough to believe that it had been since 2013 that the Saints had been over .500. But Sunday’s victory over the Lions allowed them to finally get their head above water, although they nearly drowned in the process.

After opening up a 45-10 lead over the Lions, the Saints allowed the Lions to narrow the gap to fall within a single touchdown by late in the fourth quarter before pulling ahead again after a goal line pick six against Matthew Stafford by Cameron Jordan. It was an ugly win that was far from an inspirational sign of a turnaround for a Saint squad that has sort of ‘existed’ its way into hanging around the top of the marginal NFC South.

 

Extra Points

’72 Dolphins Watch….is over. The final undefeated team on the year, the Kansas City Chiefs, could not get into gear against the Steelers and took their first loss on the year. However, Kareem Hunt became the first player ever to get 100 yards from scrimmage in his first six games during the loss.

’08 Lions Watch: With a Sunday night win over the Broncos, the Giants picked up their first win on the year, just a week after supplying the Chargers with their first victory. However, the 49ers and Browns were unable get over the hump, and thus remain the only winless teams in the league headed into Week 7.

Speaking of those Browns, coach Hue Jackson announced that rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer will return as starter this weekend after being supplanted by Kevin Hogan over the past two weeks. Hogan’s ugly 20-for-37, 140 yard, three interception outing in Houston on Sunday paved the way for a return for Kizer, as the Browns quarterback slot continues to have a penthouse reservation on The Kaepernick Rankings. As a reminder, the two QBs that Cleveland passed on taking the last two years, Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz, have now thrown for 28 touchdowns against only eight picks on the year. Meanwhile, Cleveland QBs have their seven TDs offset by 14 interceptions.

A controversial fumble call against Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is all that stood between a continued rocky start for the Patriots, as the Jets tight end had his second TD of the day – one which would have tied the Jets late against New England. And would have potentially threw the AFC East into an even more prolonged state of disarray.

Another week, another marathon gallop to pay dirt for Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars one-man offensive force of nature took his first carry against the Rams 75 yards for a touchdown, just a week after a 90-yard TD against Pittsburgh. It extended his rookie record for consecutive games with a TD to start a career.

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