The ‘72 Dolphins get to pop the champagne a bit earlier this season. With the Eagles and 49ers inexplicably losing games they should’ve won, we’re fresh out of undefeated teams.
But we’ve got a handful of 5-1 teams, and they round out this week’s top 5. We also have an 0-6 team, so that’s something.
Sack Watch Reminder: To get mentioned, a player needs to average at least 1 sack per game. Due to bye weeks, some players with 5 or 5.5 sacks will be mentioned, others will not. There are currently 8 players meeting the criteria, all on pace for 17 sacks. That’s absurd.
- 1. Kansas City Chiefs
- 2. Miami Dolphins
- 3. San Francisco 49ers
- 4. Philadelphia Eagles
- 5. Detroit Lions
- 6. Buffalo Bills
- 7. Baltimore Ravens
- 8. Jacksonville Jaguars
- 9. Dallas Cowboys
- 10. Cincinnati Bengals
- 11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 12. Seattle Seahawks
- 13. New York Jets
- 14. Los Angeles Chargers
- 15. Houston Texans
- 16. Los Angeles Rams
- 17. Atlanta Falcons
- 18. New Orleans Saints
- 19. Cleveland Browns
- 20. Tennessee Titans
- 21. Washington Commanders
- 22. Green Bay Packers
- 23. Pittsburgh Steelers
- 24. Indianapolis Colts
- 25. Vegas Raiders
- 26. Minnesota Vikings
- 27. Arizona Cardinals
- 28. Carolina Panthers
- 29. Chicago Bears
- 30. New England Patriots
- 31. Denver Broncos
- 32. New York Giants
1. Kansas City Chiefs
I’m actually starting to think if they wanted to, Patrick Mahomes could just throw to Kelce every time. Like, every time. But then people would stop watching.
Just kidding, that would just mean more airtime for TayTay. And seriously, if it bothers you that much that she gets shown on the screen, think about how ridiculous you’re being. You can’t handle a few seconds every so often of screen time for someone you claim to not care anything about?
Which, btw, is pretty much the definition of projection. If you go to social media to scream about it and demand to know who cares so much about her that the network keeps showing her… it’s you. You’re the one who cares.
2. Miami Dolphins
Last week I talked about De’Von Achane’s 12.1 yards per carry. This week I planned on talking about how the Dolphins as a team are averaging a ridiculous 8 yards a play.
But then Mike McDaniel did a press conference and I got roped in cause he’s just the best. This time, however, I think he artfully dodged a legitimate question.
Tl;dr is he was basically asked if Tua Tagovailoa is a system QB. His response was “Who the F cares?” No censorship, he actually said the letter F.
At first I thought, he’s right, as he so often is, because it shouldn’t matter if a QB is a “system” QB if they’re running the system well. But it does matter when your QB is entering his 5th year option next season and the team tabled extension talks until after this season.
That’s where this question becomes important, and it will continue to be important for offenses that stack skill position talent. The Dolphins are already paying Tyreek Hill the high per year WR contract, and Jaylen Waddle will be up for an extension this offseason while the team decides (and presumably signs) his 5th year option.
So the question becomes, is it more important for the Dolphins skill players to have Tua, or is it more important for Tua to have all that talent around him? As easy as it seems to support the latter, that wouldn’t jive with the way the offense struggled when Tua missed time last year.
This will be a different kind of market as teams continue following the blueprint. At some point, Brock Purdy will need a new deal and the same questions will be asked. Front offices will also have to consider if they truly have a star at QB. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Daniel Jones extension, the Derek Carr signing, the Russell Wilson trade and extension, and we still don’t know what the heck DeShaun Watson will bring. We do know his team just beat arguably the best team in the league without him.
McDaniel can dodge for now, but this will be important very soon, because if Tua stays healthy and keeps the pace he’s on, he could carry an MVP into negotiations that he’ll rightfully expect to make him the highest paid player in the league.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Talk about a classic “bury the tape” game. Bury it deep, don’t bother watching it, there’s nothing to take away.
It feels weird that for so long I’ve been questioning people who’ve insisted Purdy is this generational QB, and now that he had a rough outing, I find myself defending him from people who insist he’s been “exposed.” Settle down.
I know it’s football and it’s emotional, but let’s all just take a deep breath and remember this is still a sophomore QB who just got violently introduced to Myles Garrett. Maybe he’ll still be great, or maybe he was always limited and it’ll be shaky from here on out. I don’t mind someone having one of those opinions, but you can’t have both of them in a week. Pace yourselves.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
If Purdy was just exposed, then what was Jalen Hurts? Because I promise you he’s already shown plenty of greatness. He’d have one of those fancy 4th Quarter Comebacks in the Super Bowl if his defense could’ve stopped Mahomes from being Mahomes.
Last week’s game against NYJ showed me more about the Jets than the Eagles. Philly’s offense has been shaky all year as they work in a new scheme, and week 6 may have been a bit early to test it on one of the best defenses in the league.
What was most discouraging was the lack of a running game and the lack of even trying to mix it up with one of their other backs. Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott can both deliver blows when other parts of the offense aren’t functioning properly.
5. Detroit Lions
I don’t know why it took me so long to give the Lions their due and a top 5 spot. I think living a state over and personally knowing a handful of Lions fans has made some of their endless doubt permeate the clouds over my house.
Just consider that this is a team with a fanbase always expecting them to fail. And it’s not normal failure. They find a way to make it dramatic. I’ll explain what I mean, while also offering what I hope is a rat if hope for Lions fans that this time, maybe it really is different. And both events happened in 2021.
The Lions were coming off a rocky 2020 season that ended 5-11 and included firing their head coach and GM over Thanksgiving weekend. They traded away Matthew Stafford and were starting over with new HC Dan Campbell and newly-acquired (in the Stafford trade) QB Jared Goff. They were awful. You could see sparks, but then those sparks got smothered by awful.
After losing their last 4 games of 2020, they started off 2021 continuing that streak. But in week 3, they looked ready to snap it and pull off a major upset of the Ravens. And then Justin Tucker kicked an NFL record, game-winning 66-yard field goal. And he didn’t just make it… oh no, just to add a little spice, Tucker took a giant hop to get extra momentum, then launched a kick that doinked off the crossbar, seemed to go straight up, and landed on the other side. For the win.
And literally everyone, having witnessed this miraculous moment, just kinda went, “yeah, that checks out.”
Fast forward to December 5, week 13 against the Vikings, and they still hadn’t won a game, managing only to tie the Steelers 3 weeks earlier. But this time, the Lions pulled it off and beat the Vikings 29-27 for Dan Campbell’s first win.
The win isn’t what sold me, though. It was Goff running to the sidelines and jumping into Campbell’s arms. There was belief in that moment. That’s when I knew the Lions were starting something, and that’s when I knew they wouldn’t be going out of their way to replace Goff. That’s a coach and QB who went through hell together.
It’s okay, Lions fans. You can start believing now. Just make sure Matt Millen stays a hundred feet from the stadium and you’ll be fine.
6. Buffalo Bills
This probably seems like a weird 2-spot drop for a team that won, but if you really think it’s strange, you didn’t watch the Monday night game.
They got shut out for 3 quarters by a Giants defense that’s been getting lit up all year long. I hate to say it because I love me some Tyrod Taylor, but Daniel Jones may have been enough to make up the difference, and that should be deeply concerning in Buffalo.
They’ve got a few must-win games against the Pats and Bucs before they start a long, difficult stretch that includes a bye week to mercifully split up road games against last year’s Super Bowl teams. Devious schedule makers.
Leonard Floyd Sack Watch: 6.5
7. Baltimore Ravens
Get over the pond early and you’ll be rewarded with clarity. Honestly, I don’t get why teams don’t head to London as soon as possible after their previous game ends. Shower up and let’s go. Jet lag is real, and the sooner you get there, the sooner you’ll feel like a human being again. And then maybe a football player.
Outside of some phenomenal plays by Lamar Jackson, whose receivers remembered how to catch, and Derrick Henry, who has no business being as fast as he is at his size and age, there was also the spat between Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jeffery Simmons, whose name is spelled wrong. Like I know it isn’t, but it is.
I don’t know what Beckham said or what all happened between him and Simmons, but there are rules, and Beckham has every right, and I’d even say a responsibility, to stick up for his young teammate.
Maybe don’t knee him in the groin, though. There are other rules, too.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
With 3 impressive wins in a row, Jacksonville finally seems to be putting it together and stacking wins. And with another winnable game on Thursday against New Orleans, of course Trevor Lawrence would be questionable to play.
It’s possible he rests his sprained left knee with a long weekend and a bye next week, but it would be tough to lose momentum now. The Jags have the division lead, but the Colts (who they just beat) and Texans (who beat them) are just a game behind.
That said, a non-conference Thursday night before a bye is about as optimal a time as ever to start getting early rest and prepare for the long stretch.
Josh Allen Sack Watch: 7
9. Dallas Cowboys
I think Micah Parsons has heard enough. Holy buckets did that man ever take all his frustration from the past few weeks and unleash it on a single, critical play. It should be no surprise that a shook Justin Herbert threw an ugly interception the next play that ended the game.
I know, I know, Dak Prescott had a great game and he’s running again and… actually no, this all ties together. I assume most football fans understand Dak’s hesitation to run, but as a Swiftie-friendly blog, I like to provide context to newer NFL fans.
First option is to (super content warning) watch this, which I do not recommend. Or I could just tell you he started running, got hit, and suffered a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula plus a dislocated ankle. I will double down on the content warning cause there’s no unseeing that.
How does this tie in to Parsons? Because, even if just for a play, he got in Herbert’s head. He made the QB take steps to avoid another hit like that. It’s the proverbial “hearing footsteps” feeling, and the result was a really bad throw that was picked off and effectively sealed the win for Dallas. That is the defensive version of a 4th Quarter Comeback.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
Remember when they started the year 0-2 again? Sure ya do, because we always feel like it’s finally falling apart in Cincy. Then they rip off 3 out of 4 and get back to .500 and just a game back from the Ravens.
It certainly hasn’t been as pretty this year as last year’s resurgence, but importantly, this time it’s coming more through defense. This is a sneaky good defense. Now the offense has a bye to get Joe Burrow healthy and back on track with his receivers.
Speaking of, Andrei Iosivas is on the scoreboard! 2 weeks ago he recorded his first NFL catch; last week he added his first NFL touchdown. And I know he has a gauntlet ahead of him on the depth chart, but those are also guys he’s learning from every day. And it’s doubtful the team will be able to afford them all. Iosivas is a 6th round steal and I feel like we’re all watching the very beginning of something special. Or at least something productive.
Trey Hendrickson Sack Watch: 7
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the plus side, they got beat up by what most are now recognizing as one of the better teams in the league. On the not so plus side, you never like to put up an offensive clunker like that out of a bye week.
Throw the tape out and look ahead. This week is a critical matchup with the Falcons, and every head-to-head between the Bucs, Falcons, and Saints could be the difference at the end of the season.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Speaking of clunkers, I feel like Tampa and Seattle should have their own clunker tier. Last week’s mess came after 3 impressive wins in a row, and against a good team, so I think we’re can cautiously call it an outlier.
There’s plenty of reason for optimism amidst a relatively weak upcoming schedule. They finally have Charles Cross back, and Boye Mafe has 3 sacks in the last 3 games. Devon Witherspoon has had an obvious impact. Thats 3 pieces of the Russell Wilson Trade Train™️ delivering results.
13. New York Jets
First, to the proud parents of gamewrecking interior DL Quinnen Williams and breakout off-ball LB Quincy Williams, why would you do that to yourselves? Their mom has to be super announced. Not only can she not call either of them any version of Quin, but she can’t even say Quincy because that’s also their dad’s name. What a mess. But I guess they turned out alright.
I always thought it was weird seeing the size disparity in brothers that make it to the NFL. Quincy is 5’11”, 225 lbs., while Quinnen is 6’3”, 303 lbs.
Similarly, the Watt brothers are all over the board. Oldest brother J.J. Watt was a 6’5”, 288 lb. DL, youngest T.J. Watt is a 6’4”, 252 lb. edge rusher, and unheralded Derek Watt is a 6’2”, 232 lb. fullback. Even Travis and Jason Kelce are 2 very different body types.
I mean, I get how genetics works, kinda, to create these kinds of disparities, but I also find it interesting when I find out players who don’t really look alike are brothers.
Then again, I’m probably twice my brothers size, but that has more to do with cheese and brats.
Oh, and Zach Wilson looks pretty good. No, really. Once again, he made the plays he was supposed to make. After, we started to hear that his more solid play was the result of constant work during camp on those expected throws. They’re helping him build a foundation.
14. Los Angeles Chargers
Brandon Staley, whose seat had reduced to a mild warmth over the past few week, helplessly watched as Justin Herbert got jacked up by Parsons, then ended the game by throwing an ugly pick that reignited the flames. Staley’s chair is now officially back to scorching, as fans and analysts question more and more how such a talented team loses so many games.
On an unrelated note, I was unreasonably annoyed by what looked like it could be a backwards pass, yet caused no reaction from anyone. No one on offense ran to get the ball just in case, and no one on defense did more than jog through it even though it would be an easy scoop-and-score. The ref jumped on his whistle, likely what stopped the players, and Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were more interested in what could have happened if DeMarcus Lawrence hadn’t batted the ball down and Austin Ekeler made the catch with lots of open field ahead of him.
*sidenote – I don’t have anything against Buck and Aikman, but sometimes they get so caught up in a conversation that they miss what else is happening… this was a perfect example.
So anyway, I’ll let you be the judge. See below. Maybe it’s a perfectly legal forward pass, but you have to admit it’s awfully close… way too close for literally everyone to act like it wasn’t close.
Khalil Mack Sack Watch: 7
Morgan Fox Sack Watch: 5
15. Houston Texans
I’m so intrigued by the Texans. In a very short time, they seem to have established a franchise QB in C.J. Stroud, a #1 receiver in Nico Collins, a strong backfield 1-2 with Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary, and a defense punching above it’s weight class under HC Demeco Ryans and his brilliant defensive mind.
More encouraging is that Stroud is starting to find and take full advantage of the somehow always open Dalton Schultz. That was a savvy signing that will really pay off on Stroud’s development.
16. Los Angeles Rams
I’d probably have them higher if their other revelation, RB Kyren Williams, wasn’t expected to kiss multiple games. That means they may have to rely on 6th round rookie Zach Evans and journeyback Royce Freeman.
Still, they should be able to threaten a winning record against the Steelers this week. Alaric Jackson seems to have solidified Stafford’s blindside, which is a huge relief after Joseph Noteboom struggled since the departure of Andrew Whitworth.
17. Atlanta Falcons
In a weird way, I’m sort of glad Desmond Ridder threw 3 picks. Obviously no one wants that to become habit, but he’s played overly safe for so long and he finally started to let it fly. That translated to the 3 picks, but also over 300 yards to 8 different receivers and 2 TDs.
This is still a very young team that’s learning, and as they learn, they have a chance this week to improve to 4-3 and take the top spot in their division.
18. New Orleans Saints
Inconsistency is more the standard than not in the NFL. It’s so rare to see a team deliver consistent results, week after week. But the Saints take this to a new level.
I don’t even know how to rate them. Who are they? If you’re a regular reader, you know 16-18 is always a good place to shove teams like this until they establish some kind of identity. The Saints need to do that fast, as they have a tough Jaguars matchup Thursday night and their division rivals face each other on Sunday.
19. Cleveland Browns
After being medically cleared to play 3 weeks ago, then missing 2 games against dominant defenses with a bye in-between, DeShaun Watson… still might not play this week. It’s not like the Colts have a scary defense like the Ravens or Niners, but it’s in Indy, so maybe this is a case of Turf Flu?
I don’t know, this whole thing is weird, and I feel like a bigger story we never expected will eventually come out if it all. This will end up being what the Browns get for all that guaranteed money. Constant uncertainty.
Lucky for them, there’s no uncertainty on defense. Those guys were flying around all afternoon. They were everywhere. Suffocating. Brock Purdy never felt safe, especially when Trent Williams rolled his ankle and had to block Myles Garrett on one leg.
Myles Garrett Sack Watch: 5.5
20. Tennessee Titans
Facebook memories gave me a reminder of a game 2 years ago when I remarked that Derrick Henry is really fast and how in the world is he this fast. I didn’t see this until after last week’s game when I remarked that how is Derrick Henry still this fast. I mean, lost a step, sure, but that’s like saying Jordan lost a step when he came back from baseball.
Considering there’s no telling what the plan is at QB and Tyjae Spears looks the part of an eventual replacement, it’s probably a good time for the Titans to maximize their return on Henry. Throw it out there to the Eagles and Cowboys, who both desperately need a power back, and let the bidding begin.
21. Washington Commanders
Last week wasn’t just a solid win for the Commanders, but an important defensive win. They’re tied with the Bears for 3rd most points allowed on the season, behind just the 0-6 Panthers and the Broncos, who had 70 dropped on them in a single game.
Sam Howell seems to work well with a short field, so they need their defense to keep showing up if they hope to keep pace for a playoff spot.
I know, I just heard Jim Mora in my head, too.
22. Green Bay Packers
Big week for the presumably rested Packers to get back to .500 against the mess that is the Broncos. Aaron Jones is back and most of the players with lingering injuries should be set. It’s hard to know at this point which players are critical to keep on the field, but Jones seems like a strong candidate.
For some reason, I have a feeling this will be the week Payton and Russ put it all together and beat up on the Packers vanilla defensive scheme.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers
Are they the best 3-2 team, or the worst 3-2 team? I could really go either way. I’m a strong believer that Mike Tomlin’s coaching adds an extra win or 2 each season, so he’s basically the difference between 3-2 and 2-3 right now. In a division where the Ravens are strong, the Browns are being pesky, and the Bengals just remembered that the season started, every win is crucial.
T.J. Watt Sack Watch: 8
24. Indianapolis Colts
Look, Minshew Magic™️ is unpredictable. You can’t expect the ‘Stache to play by the rules, and sometimes he’ll face punishment from the football gods.
Anthony Richardson appears to be out for the year, so we’ll be getting a heavy dose of Gardner Minshew II for the rest of the year. With Jonathan Taylor back under contract, it’ll be interesting to see what the Colts can do on offense.
25. Vegas Raiders
25th is always a great spot for QB messes. With Jimmy Garappolo out, presumably the Raiders would turn to promising rookie Aiden O’Connell. But no, that would be a normal coach decision, not a Josh McDaniels decision. So he’s going with Bryan Hoyer.
I don’t think McDaniels trusts anyone who didn’t learn his offense in the presence of Tom Brady. It’s getting ridiculous.
26. Minnesota Vikings
Big win over the Bears, but it was way too close for comfort. For a 2-4 team, Minnesota actually has a really interesting string of games. It’s like every game has to be close. Last season they won all those close games, and this year they’ve struggled.
Alexander Mattison is still shaky, and I can forgive the overuse of T.J. Hockenson with Justin Jefferson out. But I really think they need to find more opportunities for K.J. Osborn. If the plan is to force it to one player every game until JJettas is back, I think Osborn is a better option in space than Hockenson. #science
Danielle Hunter Sack Watch: 8
27. Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray practiced Wednesday, but I can’t imagine he’ll be activated anytime soon, if at all. Unless he’s traded. At 1-5, there’s no point trying to turn things around with a team so full of holes.
Despite their competitiveness in most games, they just don’t have the horses. They kinda remind me of Cleveland in the movie Major League, where the front office had a goal to lose x number of games so they put together a team meant to reach that goal.
Turns out, you can’t make grown-ass men accept that.
28. Carolina Panthers
Being the only team with a zero in your record is an accomplishment of sorts. At the very least, I’ve seen enough to understand their path. They just have a long road to get there, and a nice draft pick to grab Bryce Young some weapons next year should help.
It’s never good when I’m talking about a team’s offseason needs going into week 7.
29. Chicago Bears
Last week was a tough division rival, and they actually looked competent on defense. Offense, not so much. Obviously it didn’t help
30. New England Patriots
Never thought I’d put a Bill Belichick team in the 30s.
Here’s 2 painful minutes of Pats reporters facing the Kobayashi Maru of interview subjects, Bill Belichick.
The long pauses between questions while they try to figure something out to get him to say something is just *chef’s kiss* perfection.
31. Denver Broncos
I had some interesting conversations this week on my Facebook page (that you should follow) about Russell Wilson and his Hall of Fame status. The question I posed is this:
After the 2021 season, Wilson had played 10 years, had a career passer rating of 101.8, appeared in 2 Super Bowls and won 1 of them. Despite my objection to the stat, his record as a starter was 104-53-1. Would he have been a HOFer if he’d retired at that time? If so, 1st ballot or later?
Now here’s where it gets more fun. If you said yes to any of that, after adding the 2022 season and their 1-5 start in 2023 (which admittedly he’s been pretty good statistically) do you still think so now? In other words, has he somehow managed to play his way out of the HOF, or perhaps to a later ballot?
The responses I got were all over the place. I had people say he wasn’t worthy then and definitely isn’t now, I had people say he was and still is a 1st ballot guarantee, and everything in-between. Literally everything.
It was fascinating. I spent all week trying to come up with another player who seemed like a lock, then somehow played their way out of it. And I’m not talking about off-field stuff like a Darren Sharper situation. I mean a full, HOF career that finished so terribly that and ruined how their career was viewed by the media that votes them in.
I need answers.
32. New York Giants
Daniel Jones hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, so it’s highly unlikely he’ll be ready in time for the Commanders on Sunday. I fully expect the Giants to unleash Tyrod Taylor for one of his classic 6 TD, 4 INT masterpieces. Make it happen, football gods!