What a wacky day. The Giants beat the Ravens after a furious comeback, the Jets beat the Packers without any stress at all, the Buccaneers looked terrible, and the Falcons looked great. Just like everyone thought right? Obviously not, but that’s the point. The NFL is as unpredictable as ever, and I’d certainly think twice before betting on games if I were you. Let’s try to make sense of everything that happened in my week 6 takeaways for the 2022 NFL season!
TNF: NFL Really Not Having Much Luck With These Matchups
In the league’s defense, when they made the schedule, it was very reasonable to think that the last 3 Thursday Night Football games would be fantastic. They didn’t know that the Steelers would be without TJ Watt, who they apparently require to win even 1 game. The schedule makers would’ve needed to be psychic to know that Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa would suffer a horrible concussion in week 4, and I definitely can’t fault them for thinking that the Broncos and Colts would be really good teams and provide a great game in week 5. They have no such excuse for this one.
Anyone could have seen these two teams struggling just based on the talent on their rosters. And struggle they did. This game was quite a sack-fest, but don’t go and blame the offensive lines for everything. While Washington’s certainly got Carson Wentz crushed a few times, he also held the ball too long. His counterpart was even more to blame; Justin Fields gave up sacks on plays where he had more than 3 seconds to throw. The Bears’ line actually played pretty well, especially in the running game against Washington’s ferocious DTs.
The Wentz trade isn’t looking fantastic, especially since it may have been against the rules, but he’s been alright. The poor protection and coverage busts are far more to blame. Fields, on the other hand, has definitely not been worth the trade up in 2021 that was required to get him. He has shown no progress as a passer, single-handedly destroying a drive by taking unnecessary sacks and wrecking two more by missing wide open targets in the end zone…just in the first half! Their two first-half red zone drives ended in no points.
Things got a little better in the second half (they couldn’t get any worse after all; a muffed punt recovery was the best “offense” either team had), but Washington held on 12-7 (barely). Chicago is back on track in the #1 pick race, but Matt Eberflus is in his first year as head coach. Ron Rivera, on the other hand, might want to start polishing his resume…unless any dirt he has on owner Dan Snyder is enough to keep him around.
Bills-Chiefs Provides Potential AFC Playoff Preview
While we didn’t have the same fireworks that we saw in last season’s divisional round playoff matchup between these two teams, fans were still treated to a great game. As in that game, Patrick Mahomes led a ridiculously fast scoring drive; this one was a 16-second FG drive before the half. Josh Allen just happened to be a little sharper this time. Allen made an MVP case, going 27/40 with 329 yards, 3 TDs, and no INTs. He found Stefon Diggs (10/148/1) time and time again while also hitting Gabriel Davis for another deep strike TD.
Both teams made a few unforced errors. Buffalo’s were mostly Isaiah McKenzie, who had a day to forget. He dropped a pitch and then botched the recovery, dropped an easy first-down reception, and fell down in the end zone on 4th and goal. KC’s mistakes were on Mahomes, as he made two ill-advised throws. On KC’s first drive, he threw a ball into the end zone, but Marques Valdez-Scantling was double-covered; rookie CB Kaiir Elam picked it off. With 1:04 on the clock and needing a TD, Mahomes only lasted one play, throwing under pressure right to Taron Johnson, clinching a 24-20 Bills victory.
That pressure was very notable, as it was provided by Von Miller. Pass rushers in their 30s don’t usually get 6-year deals. Buffalo gave Miller one to entice him to leave the Rams, and they did so specifically for that play (or preferably a similar one in the playoffs). Last time these two teams played, Mahomes moved comfortably in the pocket, picking apart KC’s secondary. GM Brandon Beane knew he needed an edge rusher who plays best in key moments if his team was going to conquer their demons against the Chiefs. The early returns on that decision have been very good.
It was a rather well-played game by both teams in all 3 phases. The two top-scoring offenses were both kept well below their season averages, while each QB had signature moments that showcased their immense talent. On special teams, both punters were fantastic, and Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 62-yard FG in his return from an ankle injury. Unless another AFC power knocks one or both of these teams out, they could meet yet again in the playoffs, and I imagine they’ll put on a show once more.
Another Week, Another Trio of Bad Offensive Performances for Packers/Bucs/Rams
I know I keep harping on this, but these teams are supposed to be Super Bowl contenders and feared juggernauts. They have top-tier QBs with rings. Let’s see what’s bothering them this week and whether it’s the same problems that have caused issues all season long.
Green Bay had the most pitiful loss of the week, falling 27-10 at home to the Jets. Weapons continue to elude Aaron Rodgers, and that was made worse after Randall Cobb was carted off with what appears to be an ankle sprain. Cobb was Rodgers’ most trusted receiver, and losing that security blanket seemed to throw him off his game. He still targeted returning players (Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard) more than any of the newcomers, but GB abandoned the running game once again. Rodgers was sacked 4 times, and he fumbled twice (losing one). Until they get their play calling in order and their o-line aligned, don’t expect many easy wins for this team.
Tampa Bay went to what should have been one of their easiest games and couldn’t take advantage. Pittsburgh has been a pitiful offensive team for the whole season, and they only managed to score 20 points in this game. Somehow, that was enough to stop TB12 and friends. The running game was ineffective once again, but at least they stuck with it for 26 attempts to keep the defense honest.
This time though, Brady himself wasn’t his normal self. He completed less than 50% of his first-half passes, though part of that was pressure given up by his line. He was not happy about that. Red zone problems continued for the Bucs, as Ryan Succop kicked 4 FGs on the day. With just one end zone trip, Tampa only managed 18 points. TB has scored more than 21 points just once this season, so you can’t call their week 6 game an outlier. This is an offensive unit that needs work.
The LA Rams were mediocre on offense yet again, but their outcome was different than those of the teams above because they happened to be playing the Panthers, who just fired their coach due to being even worse. Matthew Stafford threw his league-leading 8th INT, and this one was another pick six. Once again though, he was pretty good for the most part if you take away that poor decision, and his connection with Allen Robinson (5/63/1) was better than it has been. The production was enough for a 24-10 win over Carolina, but they’ll need more against opponents who aren’t competing for the #1 pick.
Sean McVay, seeing his running game struggling again, showed some creativity by using WR sweeps and misdirection. One such play was a go-ahead TD by WR Ben Skowronek. Carolina’s defense deserves a lot of credit, but this is nothing new for LA. They haven’t looked fully right in any game this year, even their wins. RB Cam Akers is reportedly away from the team while the two sides work out some personal issues, and tackle Joe Noteboom left the game on a cart. Only one reinforcement seems available at the moment; give Odell a better offer already!
5 Veteran Backup QBs Lead Gusty Efforts, But Only One Wins
Three teams (Saints/Panthers/Cowboys) started their backups due to pre-existing injuries, while two more (Dolphins/Steelers) inserted substitutes due to injuries that happened during their games. Just one of these 5 managed to lead his team to victory.
Miami’s Teddy Bridgewater was supposed to be active as an emergency backup only, but he was pressed into service when fellow backup Skylar Thompson left the game with a thumb injury. Bridgewater played decently, with 329 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs (one wasn’t his fault at all), but this team is very different without Tua. The running game wasn’t effective because Minnesota didn’t feel threatened deep down the field. Bridgewater made some nice throws, but he had only 16 points to show for it.
New Orleans’ Andy Dalton made his third straight start for the injured Jameis Winston. Dalton has actually been more effective than this version of Winston, but he was average in week 6. His stats were 17/32 for 162 yards and a TD, but I consider that pretty good considering WRs Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Chris Olave were all out. His 26-point effort would have beaten Bad Joe Burrow, but Good Joe Burrow came to play (as he always does in Louisiana).
The Steelers benched Mitchell Trubisky two weeks ago at halftime, but a concussion suffered by rookie Kenny Pickett forced Mike Tomlin to reinsert him into the lineup in the third quarter. Trubisky was fantastic, helping Pittsburgh upset Tampa. The roles seemed to reverse, with Pickett averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt while Trubisky took shots down the field. He converted two long 3rd downs during the game’s final drive, finishing 9/12 for 144 yards and a TD. He also added a key 9-yard scramble that moved the chains. This is probably still Pickett’s team, but you have to wonder “what if” Trubisky had played this way before.
Carolina, with a new coach and an injured/ineffective Baker Mayfield, started PJ Walker against the Rams because Sam Darnold is not yet ready to return from IR due to his high ankle sprain. Things honestly went just as poorly as when Baker Mayfield was in the lineup. Walker went 10/16 for just 60 yards, and the offense mustered only 3 points. He didn’t run at all, but it felt like he was on a leash and unable/unwilling to cut it loose and take shots. The offense sputtered so much that Jacob Eason came in at QB (and was promptly picked off). Sam Darnold somehow remains this team’s best hope for 2022.
Cooper Rush showed us why the Cowboys need Dak Prescott back. The Cowboys would have beaten the Eagles with Dak, but Rush short-circuited everything the team was trying to do. Big Jordan Davis and Philly’s 5-man front tried to shut down the Cowboys in the ground game, daring Rush to beat them. He couldn’t. Though he had some nice moments in the second half as the Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points, his 3 INTs and 18/38 passing were the main reason they came up short. I won’t be too hard on Rush though. As a backup QB, he has more than done his job with a 4-1 record. He hands the keys back to Prescott with the team in great shape.
MNF: Let Russ Cook –> Is Russ Cooked?
In yet another primetime game, the Broncos’ offense floundered on national TV. A common theme this year has been that Russell Wilson is no longer the player he was during his Seattle prime. In week 6, there were several reasons one could blame for Denver’s offensive struggles: the loss of LT Garett Bolles to a broken leg last week, Wilson’s own shoulder injury that required surgery less than two weeks ago, and the fact that the longtime Seahawk is learning a new system for the first time in his career. The thing is, it didn’t have to be this way…because it wasn’t. For one quarter of play at least.
The Broncos came out on fire, with Wilson starting 10/10 for 116 yards and a TD. Denver’s 10 first-quarter points had commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman wondering if the offense had finally gotten out of its funk. They would score just 6 more points the entire night (3 total in the second half), even though the game went to OT and the Broncos got the ball first. Wilson’s flaws this season appeared again in this game: he took 4 sacks, most of which were the result of him holding the ball too long, he completed just 3 passes on third down, and the offense stalled on their lone red zone trip.
Seahawks HC Pete Carroll was chastised often by fans for his insistence on running the football (thus the calls to “let Russ cook”), but perhaps he saw signs of decline in Wilson that were not noticeable by outsiders. He has not seemed quite as elusive this year, though he did have a few nice zone read runs (4 carries for 23 yards). His deep ball accuracy has taken a step back, and he’s not adjusting as well to defensive tendencies. Some of this is very fixable, particularly the mental aspects. If his mobility is permanently on the downswing, then Denver will regret giving him that big contract, as I warned that they might.