Before we get into what was another wild weekend of action, we’ve got to talk about Jon Gruden. The now former Raiders coach resigned Monday night amid the fallout of the emails that surfaced this week. They are full of racist, misogynistic, bigoted language that seriously calls into question Gruden’s character.
I am happy that he will no longer be a coach in the NFL, but I do question why he was not fired. He unquestionably crossed a line, but the fact that his employment status was left up to him is concerning. Gruden apologized profusely, but seemed to be bothered by the fact that he was continually asked about the topic, almost dismissive of the significance of the situation. His apologies felt like he was simply going through the motions, even disingenuous. He just wanted to wipe his hands clean of it and move on, rather than address the damage done by the derogatory comments he made regarding several members of the NFL community.
There is no question that the NFL has a track record for sweeping serious allegations under the rug and often the league chooses to penalize those for drug use way more sternly than racism or even domestic violence. The NFL has certainly come a long way, but there is still a ton of room for improvement. Perhaps we will see future developments as the fallout from this email review continues. One can only hope.
Meanwhile, the NFL season continued to deliver exciting finishes. It helped that seemingly every kicker in the league forgot how to put the ball through the uprights. Let’s review Week 5 and take a look at how the league stacks up.
1. Arizona Cardinals: 5-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 17-10 vs. San Francisco
For the first time in a while, we have some stability at the top of the rankings. Arizona is proving that it can find multiple ways to win. Sunday was a defensive battle as the Cardinals had their fewest points of the season. However, they contained Trey Lance and did just enough offensively to earn their fifth win of the year. A huge test at Cleveland is up next.
2. Buffalo Bills: 4-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 38-20 at Kansas City
It’s just one impressive win after another for Buffalo these days. Josh Allen had some big plays, but it was the defense that truly won the day. Holding the Chiefs to 20 points is impressive. Add in four forced turnovers, including a pick-six, and you are talking about a dominant performance. While Kansas City has been struggling this year, this was still a big step for Buffalo. It is hard to find a more complete team in the league at this point.
3. Los Angeles Rams: 4-1 (Last Week: 1)
Won 26-17 at Seattle
It wasn’t always pretty, but Matt Stafford put in a gutsy performance and the ground game got it done. Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel combined for 119 yards and two scores. Defensively, Los Angeles was doing a decent job of containing everyone not named D.K. Metcalf even before Russell Wilson got hurt. There were a couple of scares down the field, but the Rams bounced back with an important win in a really tough place to play.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 45-17 vs. Miami
Goodness Tom Brady looks good. After struggling against the Dolphins towards the end of his time with the Patriots, the 44-year-old aired it out for 411 yards and five touchdowns. Antonio Brown and Mike Evans looked unstoppable for much of the afternoon. On the other side of the ball, the secondary remains a work in progress, but the run defense is the best in the league. The Eagles are up next fresh off a surprising win over the Panthers.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-1 (Last Week: 6)
Won 47-42 vs. Cleveland
What a game! Justin Herbert was nearly flawless as he engineered some second-half heroics. There are certainly some red flags when it comes to the defense, which gave up a ton of yards and points. However, the Chargers made a stand when it mattered most with a fourth-down stop to win the game. The schedule doesn’t get any easier though with a visit to Baltimore on tap.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 4-1 (Last Week: 7)
Won 31-25 vs. Indianapolis
Trailing 25-9 in the fourth quarter, it certainly looked like the Ravens were headed for an underwhelming upset. Instead, Lamar Jackson turned into Superman, leading a pair of scoring drives, complete with two-point conversions to tie the game. Baltimore certainly got some help from a few missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship, but this was a stunning turnaround. If the Ravens can play anything like they did in the fourth quarter on a more consistent basis, they will be in really good shape.
7. Cleveland Browns 3-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 47-42 at Los Angeles
As long as games like these continue to happen, questions will be asked about the Browns’ status as a true Super Bowl contender. For the second time this season, Cleveland blew a two-score lead against an AFC West opponent. This time, it blew a 27-13 third-quarter lead, only to rally in the fourth quarter and then surrender two touchdowns in under four minutes. It is hard to blame the offense after a 42-point outing, including 300 yards from Baker Mayfield and no turnovers. Life won’t get much easier as the undefeated Cardinals visit in Week 6.
8. Dallas Cowboys: 4-1 (Last Week: 9)
Won 44-20 vs. New York
Outside of a two-point loss to open the season, the Cowboys are unbeaten and cruising. Dallas opened things up in the second half, but this game was actually very close before Daniel Jones exited the game. Perhaps the Cowboys always would have pulled away, but the Giants were a much worse team without him, Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay. Focusing on the positive though, Ezekiel Elliott went over the century mark and the team as a whole eclipsed 200 yards. That is a winning formula with the defense playing the best we’ve seen in years.
9. Green Bay Packers: 4-1 (Last Week: 8)
Won 25-22 at Cincinnati
On one hand, the Packers picked up their fourth straight win in a tough road test that required overtime. On the other hand, Green Bay tried its hardest to lose this game, but Cincinnati would not oblige. It is clear the secondary is missing Jaire Alexander. The defense came up with a pair of clutch interceptions of Joe Burrow, but Ja’Marr Chase torched the Packers’ defensive backs on a 70-yard touchdown and had another deep score called back due to a penalty. Winning while ironing out the kinks is still a good place to be.
10. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 25-22 vs. Green Bay
Lose and move up five spots? Seems counterintuitive, but who do you put above them at this point? Cincinnati should have won this game. They certainly looked like the better team for much of the second half. Joe Burrow did not play his best game though and ultimately, the offense blew several chances to win the game. While all the Bengals do is play close games, they seem to be trending in the right direction.
11. New Orleans Saints: 3-2 (Last Week: 17)
Won 33-22 at Washington
Is the Jameis Winston experiment working? On the season, he has nearly 900 yards passing and 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. However, he has also completed just 60 percent of his passes and continues to be fairly inconsistent. I suppose as long as the Saints win games, they won’t really care how pretty it is. Winston tossed four more touchdowns on Sunday, but went 15-of-30 throwing and New Orleans had the ball for just 23 minutes of game play. Thankfully, the defense forced Taylor Heinickie to play much worse in an important bounce back victory.
12. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-3 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 38-20 vs. Buffalo
Losing is one thing. Losing badly at home and looking overmatched in every phase of the game in another. Patrick Mahomes continues his uneven start to the season. He tossed two more interceptions, matching his season total from 2020. Defensively, Kansas City needs a reset. The Chiefs give up huge plays and tons of points on a weekly basis. With the team unable to run the ball even before Clyde Edwards-Helaire left with an injury, the defense had no chance. Andy Reid has a lot of work to do.
13. Carolina Panthers: 3-2 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 21-18 vs. Philadelphia
So that’s why the Jets traded away Sam Darnold. Zach Wilson might have his own struggles, but Darnold imploded on Sunday, tossing three interceptions and only amassing 177 yards through the air. He had some help in the ground game as Chuba Hubbard racked up 101 yards. The defense did its job as well, recovering a fumble and limiting Jalen Hurts. This is a troubling loss for the Panthers, who will really hope they can get Christian McCaffrey back for Week 6.
14. Chicago Bears: 3-2 (Last Week: 24)
Won 20-9 at Las Vegas
While Chicago picked up a solid win, its offense took a significant blow with the loss of David Montgomery. Through four weeks this season, he had the fourth-most carries in the league. How the Bears have found success this season has been by running the ball and trusting its defense to win the game. It remains to be seen if Damien Williams can pick up the slack.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 20-9 vs. Chicago
Suddenly, the Raiders are in free fall. After two straight comprehensive defeats, Las Vegas lost its head coach as Jon Gruden resigned on Monday. Now, Rich Bisaccia takes over as head coach with the near impossible task of blocking out all of the off-the-field distractions that will inevitably follow in the coming weeks. Derek Carr has clearly regressed after a hot start and Josh Jacobs continues to be one of the least effective running backs in the league. It will be very interesting to see how the team responds in Denver this upcoming week.
16. San Francisco 49ers: 2-3 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 17-10 at Arizona
The Trey Lance era got off to a pretty lackluster start. The rookie quarterback was solid, but the offense only managing 10 points is definitely an indictment on his level of play. Defensively, it was a good sign to see San Francisco hold Arizona to just 17 points. Kyler Murray looked fairly ordinary as the 49ers ensured he could not use his legs to beat them. It was a winning strategy, the offense just needs to play a bit better.
17. Tennessee Titans: 3-2 (Last Week: 21)
Won 37-19 at Jacksonville
Tennessee shook off the disappointment of its overtime loss in New York by avoiding another letdown. Kevin Byard got in on the action with a scoop and score to set the tone. Then Derrick Henry pummeled the Jaguars defense to the tune of 130 yards and three touchdowns. There are still some red flags, like James Robinson racking up 149 yards and 8.3 yards per carry. Mike Vrabel’s defense is still a weak spot, one that will need to get sorted out as the year rolls on.
18. Minnesota Vikings: 2-3 (Last Week: 18)
Won 19-17 vs. Detroit
Minnesota came very close to blowing this game. Greg Joseph’s walk-off field goal secured the win, but against a winless team like the Lions, that is not a win to be proud of. For the second straight week, Kirk Cousins and company struggled. Some of that can be attributed to missing Dalvin Cook, but this team has enough playmakers otherwise to account for that. This team has a few close losses on the year against quality teams, but you would like to see them be a bit more convincing against the NFC North basement dweller.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-3 (Last Week: 23)
Won 27-19 vs. Denver
Suddenly, things do not seem as bleak in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger played well against a solid Broncos defense. The biggest talking point though has to be the Steelers finally managing to run the ball. Najee Harris led the way with his first 100-yard game in the pros as Pittsburgh finished with 147 yards on the ground. Establishing the run has to be a priority going forward, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster potentially out for the season.
20. Denver Broncos: 3-2 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 27-19 at Pittsburgh
It is certainly looking like the Broncos were the beneficiary of a very weak schedule to open the season. After a second straight loss in which the defense didn’t not look as strong nor the offense as potent, it is fair to turn the heat back up on Vic Fangio. Denver moved the ball well, but could not turn drives into touchdowns, settling for two field goals in the first half. Teddy Bridgewater tossed a game-ending interception in the end zone on fourth and goal, so this was certainly a close game. Unfortunately, close doesn’t count for anything in the NFL.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-3 (Last Week: 25)
Won 21-18 at Carolina
Philly’s offense looked lifeless through nearly 45 minutes of this game. Jalen Hurts did not look sharp throwing the ball, managing just 5.4 yards per attempt on top of an interception. Thankfully, the defense and special teams stepped up to bail the offense out. Three interceptions of Sam Darnold and a critical blocked punt sparked two late touchdown runs from Hurts to pick up a seemingly improbable win. The Eagles will need to be sharper heading into a short week with the Buccaneers on the docket.
22. Seattle Seahawks: 2-3 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 26-17 vs. Los Angeles
It is time to panic in Seattle. Dropping below .500 in a home divisional loss and losing Russell Wilson for at least a month is about as worst-case scenario as you can get. Geno Smith showed some ability to bridge the gap, but with the Steelers, Saints, Packers and Cardinals coming up in four of the Seahawks’ next five games, it is hard to see a path to the playoffs without Wilson. None of this even covers the concerns for the secondary in Seattle. Robert Woods was open on seemingly every play and Jamaal Adams misplayed a floating pass to DeSean Jackson. Week 6 will be very telling for what to expect next.
23. New England Patriots: 2-3 (Last Week: 19)
Won 25-22 at Houston
Goodness this was ugly. New England scored 16 unanswered points to top Houston. Bill Belichick, notorious for flustering rookie quarterbacks, could not slow down Davis Mills for much of the game. The former Stanford quarterback threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The biggest issue for this Patriots team is the inability to score touchdowns. Mac Jones has been solid, but the Pats rank 26th in points per game. They showed some grit to complete the comeback, but the Texans lost 40-0 a week ago. This performance left a lot to be desired.
24. Indianapolis Colts: 1-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 31-25 at Baltimore
I still don’t know how the Colts lost this game. Leading 22-3 in the closing minutes of the third quarter, it seemed like Indianapolis was well on its way to a much-needed road victory to shake off a lackluster start to the season. Instead, the Colts choked, capped off by a pair of missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship. While it is easy to blame the kicker, Indy’s usually stout defense surrendered over 500 yards and 22 unanswered points. That is inexcusable. Frank Reich has some soul searching to do.
25. Washington: 2-3 (Last Week: 20)
Won 34-30 at Atlanta
Seriously, what happened? Two teams in the NFL are giving up at least 31 points per game so far this season. Washington and Kansas City. That is 10.4 more points per game than Ron Rivera’s side allowed a year ago. After adding William Jackson III and Jamin Davis, it seemed like Washington was set to be even better. Instead, the pass rush is nonexistent and the number of turnovers has dropped precipitously. It didn’t help that Taylor Henickie had a game to forget as well, but this defense is the biggest issue.
26. Atlanta Falcons: 2-3 (Last Week: 28)
Won 27-20 vs. New York
The score looks closer than this game truly was. Despite missing Calvin Ridley, the Falcons offense was clicking. Matt Ryan reached 300 yards for the second time this season and tossed a pair of touchdowns. Atlanta’s defense was phenomenal in the first half as well, holding New York to just three points. The Jets closed the gap to 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons closed it out with a late touchdown. Arthur Smith now gets a bye week to figure out how to beat a team that doesn’t play in New York.
27. New York Giants: 1-4 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 44-20 at Dallas
Let’s not be too hard on the Giants. Before Daniel Jones got hurt, New York was level with Dallas. With Jones, Saquon Barkley, Andrew Thomas, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and more all missing in the second half, everything fell apart. A pair of interceptions from Mike Glennon and some poor run defense ended any hopes of the Giants staying competitive. If possible, a tougher test awaits with the Rams on tap.
28. Miami Dolphins: 1-4 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 45-17 at Tampa Bay
Sure, not having Tua Tagovailoa certainly hurts Miami’s top-end potential, but what gives defense? Brian Flores had one of the best units in the league firing on all cylinders in 2020. This year, the Dolphins rank 30th in yards and points allowed per game. Getting your quarterback isn’t going to fix all of that. The pass rush is lacking and the secondary looks overmatched. Tom Brady put up numbers he has never hit in his illustrious career on Sunday. Flores needs to rejuvenate this group as soon as possible.
29. Houston Texans: 1-4 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 25-22 vs. New England
While the result is incredibly disappointing, especially considering that the Texans collapsed in the second half, this was a huge improvement from Week 4. Davis Mills showed signs that he could be the quarterback of the future in Houston, which would be a massive development for this team. The Texans were never supposed to be good this year, so finding some players to fill key roles in the future while remaining competitive is a perfectly fine outcome. Hopefully, David Culley takes some notes on this loss to avoid blowing a big lead in the future.
30. Detroit Lions: 0-5 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 19-17 at Minnesota
Detroit is two last-second field goals away from being 2-3 with wins over the Ravens and Vikings. The Lions were fairly mediocre offensively, but this defense continues to impress. Kirk Cousins never looked totally comfortable and they forced two turnovers. Dan Campbell has won over this locker room and has Detroit playing his brand of football. It isn’t always pretty, but it often makes up for the difference in talent. The schedule doesn’t offer up any obvious opportunities for a win, but I think a win will come soon enough for this team.
31. New York Jets: 1-4 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 27-20 at Atlanta
Didn’t the Jets fire Adam Gase? You wouldn’t have known it watching New York’s offense in the first half in London? The offense ran just eight plays in the first 20 minutes of the game. They then had a 16-play drive that ended in a field goal. The defense didn’t do too much to help the cause either outside of forcing a fumble to set up said field goal. Serious questions have to be asked about Mike LaFleur after a fifth straight abysmal start.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-5 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 37-19 vs. Tennessee
Same old Jaguars. A win was always a tough ask, but an 18-point blowout against a team that just got beat by the Jets is not a great look. The team ran the ball well and Trevor Lawrence had some moments, but the defense looked helpless to stop Derrick Henry and failed to force a turnover. Jacksonville has a league low one forced turnover this season and a league-worse -10 turnover differential. Urban Meyer is out of the news with Jon Gruden taking center stage, but the pressure is still on.