The Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams enter week 6 of the NFL season as the only two undefeated teams. The Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints have a bye week ahead:
Buffalo Bills: On a tough game day for NFL kickers, the Bills’ Stephen Hauschka was a star on Sunday. His 46-yard attempt on the game’s final play was good, giving the Bills a 13-12 home victory over Tennessee. “It was a good kick. It wasn’t the best one of the year, but it was good and it got the job done,” he said. “It’s a situation where you know it’s an important kick. Obviously you’re going to be excited about it. I want that opportunity. So when I’m out there, I just try and put a good swing on it. That’s all you can do. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s not going to feel any excitement about a kick like that, right?” His teammates have faith in him. “He kicks a 100-yard field goal, I probably think he can make it,” safety Jordan Poyer said of Hauschka. “He’s the best kicker in the league, hands down. So much confidence from us when he’s out there kicking, no matter where he’s kicking from.”
Miami Dolphins: It looks like the Dolphins and wide receiver DeVante Parker could be closer to parting ways. Michael Lombardi of The Athletic reported Monday that the Dolphins and “several teams” have talked about acquiring Parker in a trade. This season, he has missed four out of five games with a quad injury and a broken finger. The Dolphins took Parker, a Louisville product, with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and coach Adam Gase hoped that when he took over as coach, he could instill better health and work habits in Parker, but that hasn’t happened. Parker has a fifth-year option worth $9.5 million that the team picked up in the spring. A league source told the Palm Beach Post that the team is not shopping Parker.
New England Patriots: The Patriots appear to be getting their footing on defense after a 1-2 start, but coach Bill Belichick said they must be ready for a test on Sunday when the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs come to town. The Chiefs (5-0) lead the league in scoring, averaging 35 points per game behind first-year starter Patrick Mahomes. The young QB got high praise from Belichick. “(Mahomes) gets the ball to all of his receivers quick, quick release, sees things quickly, can extend plays,” Belichick said. “(He’s) got a great arm, got a fabulous arm, can throw the ball out of the stadium. He makes good decisions, accurate, gets the ball out on time.” He added: “The further the quarterback can throw it then the more you’ve got to defend. If the ball is on their 20-yard line you’ve still got to defend to the goal line against him. He can rip it.”
New York Jets: The Jets’ defense played without its defensive leader on Sunday and turned in an impressive performance in a 34-16 win over Denver. They did it for defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, whom coach Todd Bowles told the team last week is dealing with a health issue Bowles described as “serious.” “We had a brother down, and that was our message,” safety Jamal Adams said after the win. “We wanted to play for him. I know he is smiling right now. (I’m sure) he was excited the way we played, and we can’t wait to get him back.” Linebacker Darron Lee told the New York Post: “When we found out, it definitely hit home. At the end of the day, for all of our young careers, he’s always believed in us. We always want him here. You obviously want to make your teammates proud and your coaches proud. He’s here in spirit. We know he’s going to fight through. We definitely got this win for him.”
Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Suggs voiced disappointment in the aftermath of the 12-9 loss at Cleveland on Sunday, particularly after the Ravens had scored a significant road win at Pittsburgh to claim a share of the top spot in the AFC North. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” Suggs said. “The opportunities we missed and the mistakes we made, we’re going to have those situations later in the season, I guarantee you. What decides a good team from the mediocre team is if you keep making the same mistakes.”
Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins leads the NFL with 31 quarterback pressures and is on pace for 19 sacks, so it’s understandable when defensive coordinator Teryl Austin turns hyperbolic when attempting to put the two-time All-Pro’s first five games into perspective. “He’s outstanding. Boy, he’s different. And in a good way,” said Austin, who drew comparison to a former pupil with the Detroit Lions, Ndamukong Suh. “He just can wreck the game. It’s like when I had Suh in ’14. You can’t single block the guy. And if you do, you do at your own risk.”
Cleveland Browns: Running back Carlos Hyde said the Browns aren’t shying away from anything with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and pinpointed just what has changed in the huddle since the No. 1 overall pick took over for an injured Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter three weeks ago. “When I first saw the video of him dancing when he was in college at (Oklahoma), that is when I knew that Baker was a different breed,” Hyde said. “He is not like most quarterbacks. He has some swag to him. I love it, especially from the quarterback position. I say that because of the way he plays and the way he carries himself — a guy who has been here and done it before like it is nothing new to him.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Players have already been reminded about the heavily penalized games in the past between the Steelers and Bengals. In four of the last seven meetings (including playoffs), the sides have combined for at least 15 penalties and 180 penalty yards, including 20 for 239 last December. Offensive guard Ramon Foster said he hopes the Steelers can usher in a new tone to the rivalry in light of the number of flags officials are throwing this season. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree said he’s aware officials will watch each play closely. “A lot of guys probably can’t get penalties this game because of the animosity there is between these two teams. Don’t be the instigator, just go out and play with your head above water.”
Jacksonville Jaguars: With his offense down to only one healthy and experienced running back, and an offensive lineman going down seemingly every game, coach Doug Marrone told reporters Monday he will definitely be bringing in players in a search for healthy bodies. “Attrition plays an important role in the NFL,” Marrone said Monday. “It’s obvious that we have to (bring players in).” The Jaguars placed both running back Corey Grant (Lisfranc injury) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (abdomen) on injured reserve Monday. Grant is expected to be out for the season, though the team hopes Seferian-Jenkins can return. While NFL Network reported running back Leonard Fournette will Sunday’s game against Dallas, Marrone said an evaluation will be made Wednesday.
Houston Texans: Though his club has won two straight games and quarterback Deshaun Watson is trending upward, coach Bill O’Brien says it’s clear that his team needs to fix one thing on offense: limiting the hits on Watson. And, O’Brien said, a lot of that falls on the coaches and Watson himself, after the second-year pro took several shots against the Cowboys on Sunday night. “He’s a great competitor,” O’Brien said of the QB. “As he goes through his career, there’ll be times when he needs to make the decision to slide or get out of bounds. …Obviously those are plays we want to cut down on and we’re going to work hard to do that. …That’s not a sustainable way to play, to be hit that much.”
Tennessee Titans: A day after his team fell to the lowly Buffalo Bills, 13-12, coach Mike Vrabel said the key to his 3-2 team’s inconsistency is his players’ approach to the games. “We need more out of everybody,” Vrabel said when asked if the Titans need more production out of their tight ends with Delanie Walker out for the season. “We need more out of me, honestly. …The only two guys we didn’t need more from yesterday were the kicker and the punter.” In particular, Vrabel lamented his team’s missed tackles (13 in all, four on one play by Vrabel’s count), defensive players getting too down after one big play and losing the drive, players on both sides of the ball getting outworked, and dropped passes.
Indianapolis Colts: While Andrew Luck’s health and arm strength have been the dominant topics around the Colts facility since before training camp opened, a month into the season a new concern is becoming increasingly prominent: The Colts’ running game. While coach Frank Reich said “Andrew’s hit full stride,” he acknowledged the ground game now needs to catch up. “You just know from over time and experience you have to run the football,” Reich said. “We’re committed to having more balance.” But, he added, “We’re in good shape. We haven’t run the ball well but I’m not panicked, I’m not worried. I know we have the offensive line to run the football, I know we have the backs, we just have to get in a rhythm running the football.” Among the facets of the offense being hurt by the struggling ground game, according to Reich: play-action passing, explosive plays and the red-zone package.
Denver Broncos: After getting steamrolled by the previously 1-3 Jets on Sunday, head coach Vance Joseph told reporters the Broncos didn’t play physically enough or desperate enough to compete. That stood in contrast to the team’s first two losses — at Baltimore and vs. Kansas City — according to Joseph. “We’ve shown great grit in the first four weeks, but yesterday, I didn’t see the same grit from everyone on our football team,” he said. With the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams up next, Joseph is less focused on the opponent than on his own squad.”We have to fix ourselves first before we can talk about beating the Rams,” he said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and fix our football team here.”
Kansas City Chiefs: With Justin Houston sidelined by a hamstring injury and Dee Ford ejected midway through the fourth quarter, recent second-round picks Breeland Speaks (2018) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (2017) got extended playing time, combining to play 89 snaps (56 for Speaks). “I thought they did a pretty good job,” head coach Andy Reid said. “Breeland was two inches away from two sacks there, so he’s getting better as we go. He’s a young guy that plays hard. And then Tanoh just keeps improving and improving. He kind of tweaked his ankle and for him to push through and play the way he did, I thought he did a nice job.” Both could play more with Houston in danger of missing Week 6’s Sunday night battle with the New England Patriots.
Los Angeles Chargers: Despite missing starting offensive tackles Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale on Sunday, the Chargers allowed just one sack and two hits on Philip Rivers, as 2017 sixth-rounder Sam Tevi manned the left side and undrafted rookie Trent Scott took the right. “With Sam Tevi playing over on the right side (from Weeks 2-4) and moving to the left, just showed his versatility when things go down, he can go as a swing tackle for us,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “I thought Trent Scott did a heck of a job yesterday. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought he played well.” Okung (groin) and Barksdale (knee) could return soon after practicing on a limited basis last Thursday and Friday, but Sunday showed the team doesn’t need to rush them back.
Oakland Raiders: Despite drawing praise for his play early in the season, second-year cornerback Gareon Conley was benched in favor of Daryl Worley — who was returning from a four-game suspension — on Sunday against the Chargers. Oakland’s 2017 first-round pick, Conley played in just two games as a rookie but logged 207 snaps through four games this season before just 13 in Week 5. “Gareon had a couple struggles yesterday,” head coach Jon Gruden said Monday. “We’re trying to find the right mix. We’re trying to find the right mix at a lot of positions. Daryl Worley’s a good player… and he earned the right to be out there” Conley was beaten by L.A. wideout Tyrell Williams for 48 yards late in the third quarter.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys (2-3) are averaging 172 passing yards through the first five games, behind only Buffalo and Arizona with their rookie quarterbacks. Wide receiver Allen Hurns said the receivers are doing their part, backing a statement from Cole Beasley after Week 2. “I feel like for the majority of the snaps, we’re creating separation,” Hurns told The Dallas Morning News. “If I’m not open, (Cole Beasley) is open. It rotates. It’s not always where all three receivers are not getting open.” Quarterback Dak Prescott said wide receivers need to shoulder some responsibility, too. “Just let them know we got to stay in this together and we got to make the play,” he said. “…The (plays) are there.”
New York Giants: Quarterback Eli Manning is hearing the whispers that at age 37. Critics place a big part of the blame for the team’s 1-3 start on Manning and wonder aloud if he’s showing his age. One quarterback who played into his 40s — Brett Favre — isn’t buying it. Instead, Favre said look to the offensive line. “The way he plays the game has not changed,” Favre said in an interview on Sirius XM radio. “You have to protect him. He’s not going to win with his feet. Every once in a while he may scramble, but he is what he is. When you can protect him, he’s really good. I think his demeanor, personality and physical attributes really haven’t changed.” He continued: “I think he’s battling his butt off. I think given good protection you’ll see an Eli that we have known to be there in the end. I think that’s still there, I don’t think skills are diminishing, I see an offensive line struggling to protect him right now. And if they figure that out, I think the Eli we’ve known for so long, will be there again.”
Philadelphia Eagles: In their 23-21 loss to the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles called just 12 plays for their running backs, including just two carries in the first quarter, that netted 55 yards in the game. To running back Jay Ajayi, who had eight carries for 29 yards, that was a questionable game plan. Before he landed on injured reserve Monday, Ajayi was critical of the team’s use of the running game. “Obviously we want to be able to run the ball early and start that rhythm early at the beginning of the game,” Ajayi said. “…With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn’t make sense to me.” He added: “I know the game can get away sometimes and that’s how time works and the game plan and everything. But I think you see what happens when we run the ball. We’re productive. If we can get rolling with that, I think we’ll do a good job.”
Washington Redskins: They’re NFL coaching competitors now, but when Jon Gruden was in the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth, his mood was dictated by how his brother’s team, the Redskins, did the prior day. “When the Redskins played, Jon was a wreck, a total wreck,” Jay Rothman, the producer of “Monday Night Football,” told ESPN. “That’s no lie. If Jay lost, he was in the tank, and if Jay won, he was as elated as could be. If he won, he was high-fiving everybody.” When the Redskins had their bye week and didn’t play last weekend, Jay Gruden watched his big brother’s team play against Cleveland. “I caught myself yelling at the referees a couple times for him and screaming at someone else, Derek Carr, or whoever it was. I was rooting for him, that’s all,” Jay said. “Since he’s in the AFC West, I can pull for him every week without a doubt. I really want him to have success. This business is hard, and I know what type of competitor he is.”
Chicago Bears: Coming out of the bye week, injured cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Anthony Miller have a chance to return Sunday at Miami. Head coach Matt Nagy gave credit to the strength and conditioning, nutrution and training staffs. “For us, it’s a constant communication to make sure we’re on the same page,” he said. “What it does is it helps us win.” Nagy said Amukamara and Miller were fine “running around” at Monday’s practice. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who played the first four games with a cast on his broken hand, might be ready to play with no protection against the Dolphins. However, Nagy said he doesn’t care if Floyd still needs a brace or cast.
Detroit Lions: Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, retained with the franchise designation in the offseason, has played on 19 snaps this season due to a shoulder injury in the season-opening loss to the New York Jets. Head coach Matt Patricia attempted to tamp down percolating rumors that Ansah is sitting because of his contract, not his health status. “Don’t make it anything more than that,” Patricia said. “That guy’s a competitive guy, he wants to play football. He’s trying to do the best he can to help this team. So he’s day by day, we’re taking it day by day. We’re trying to get him ready to go. As soon as he can go, he’ll help us.” Ansah is making $17.143 million on a one-year franchise tender.
Green Bay Packers: Mason Crosby had one of the worst games in league history as a kicker, but he’s not going anywhere despite costing the Packers in a big way at Detroit. “We have to convert those kicks,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “He’s a proven highly successful kicker, and I believe in him, but he’s got to make those kicks. It’s a different game at halftime (if he makes those three first-half) kicks.” McCarthy said the Packers finished minus-300 in field-position yards against the Lions, taking into account failed fourth-down attempts, turnovers and missed field goals. Crosby missed an extra point and four field goals in the eight-point loss. He was 10 of 11 on field goals entering Week 5. “That’s never happened to me. It doesn’t happen,” Crosby said. “So I’m going to evaluate it but I’m going to (chalk) it up to something that is an anomaly in life that I’ve never even been a part of. So I’m going to evaluate the details like I do every week and move on. Because that one for me is something that I’ve never been a part of and hope to never be part of again.”
Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a 134.1 passer rating against the Eagles when pressured — which was 43.9 percent of his snaps — according to Pro Football Focus. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Cousins gets the credit for his preparation. “He’s had experience and he’s seen a lot of it,” Zimmer said. “Experience is the biggest thing there. Knowing where the guy is going to be, trusting he’s going to go get the football. … I think (Stefon) Diggs is playing really well right now.”
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan took too many hits, including six sacks, in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Head coach Dan Quinn said protection broke down in every way possible — against the blitz, on first down and on key third downs. Quinn said the protection breakdowns are “definitely correctable.”
“But it cannot happen,” Quinn said. “I wish there was one thing I could put it on. At times we didn’t pick up like we’d like, there were other times that we got beat at the point of attack.”
Ryan said nothing needed to be said to his offensive line, because film of the game said enough.
Carolina Panthers: Thomas Davis returned from a four-game suspension to a near-party atmosphere at the team facility, where he was greeted at the building entrance by linebacker Luke Kuechly and found head coach Ron Rivera wearing a custom T-shirt bearing Davis’ likeness with the words “I’m back!” Rivera said on Monday that Davis will be in the starting 11 on Sunday, albeit on a pitch count. He said the Panthers missed Davis’ big-play impact and locker room leadership more than anything else.
“Thomas is always good for about three or four explosive plays in a game, minimum,” Rivera said. “They bring energy to us and I think that’s one of the beneficial things about having a guy like that. He’s got a different energy level than most players. It’s above the norm — even in practice. It’s kind of a little running joke between he and I. It’s nice to have normal, calm practices. Thomas is back now, it’s going to be a little different, so I’ve got to adjust myself to him.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers overhauled their defensive line this offseason, bringing in Jason Pierre-Paul (trade), Vita Vea (draft), Vinny Curry and Beau Allen (free agency), but they are tied for 26th in sack rate (5.1 percent) through five weeks. That number is up from a league-low 4.0 percent in 2017, but D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants more. “I think we’ve been quite average,” Buckner said Monday. “I think they’re still working on trying to get an understanding of what I’m asking them to do. They’re working hard. …We’ve been great at working it, average at what we’ve needed to get done but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. My guys are working hard and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the way they’re working.” Pierre-Paul has four sacks and nine QB hits on the team, with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy next (1.5, 7) in both categories.
Arizona Cardinals: After leading the NFL with 17 sacks in 2017, Chandler Jones was quieter early this season, tallying one sack and no QB hits through two games. But he’s now riding a streak of three consecutive games with a sack, including a strip-sack Sunday against the 49ers, and he has five QB hits in that span. “You can definitely feel yourself heating up,” Jones said Monday. “Whenever I do feel like that, that I am pulsing a little bit, I try to spread it around. That’s my biggest thing, to send it through other players. It’s contagious.” It appeared to work Sunday, as Arizona’s four sacks were a season high, and a strip-sack by Haason Reddick turned into return touchdown by Josh Bynes for a nine-point lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Los Angeles Rams: The Rams’ do-it-all inside linebacker, Cory Littleton, was at it again on Sunday in Seattle. Littleton made a tackle on the Seahawks’ first snap and then got a chunk of Michael Dickson’s punt three plays later, with the ball traveling just 5 yards and setting up the Rams’ offense at the Seattle 23. Littleton, who entered with three blocked punts since the start of 2015, also tallied seven tackles and two passes defensed, including one on the Seahawks’ final drive, while filling a variety of roles. “Oh man, you can put him anywhere,” Rams defensive end Michael Brockers said of Littleton. “He can cover running backs, cover tight ends, one on one, he can rush off the edge and inside off running backs. He can do anything.”
San Francisco 49ers: With running back Matt Breida — who leads the NFL with an average of 7.5 yards per carry — battling an ankle injury and likely out at least a week, the 49ers worked out several backs Monday, coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We are trying to see how our guys are, how the health of Breida is,” Shanahan said. “(The MRI) was better news than anticipated, but it’s still not great news, so we will see about that over the next couple of days.” The 49ers also continue to keep an eye on quarterbacks after working a few out two weeks ago following Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury. Shanahan said he still expects C.J. Beathard to be the starter and Nick Mullens to be the backup, but the team is seeking an emergency option.
Seattle Seahawks: Coach Pete Carroll was widely questioned for his handling of the clock in the closing minutes of the Seahawks’ Sunday loss to the Rams. On Monday, he stood by his decision to save his timeouts until after the two-minute warning, as well as calling a timeout before the game’s final play, in which Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff sneaked for a first down on fourth-and-1. Sean McVay initially had his punt team on the field before Carroll’s timeout, and then switched to the offense. “He had the opportunity to do it whenever he wanted to,” Carroll said of McVay’s change. “It just happened to be when the timeout was called. He could have done it at the start. … We had to do it anyway. We needed all the time we could manage.”
–Field Level Media