Week six in the NFL was almost the polar opposite of last week. On Sunday almost every game was a two-score affair, with only two games being close at the whistle. Here's what we learned in a slate of blowouts.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Buffalo Bills 24
- It's assumed that good quarterbacks make their receivers, but rare pass catchers can make passers look good. Such is the case with A.J. Green, who's made a mark in the NFL over the last three seasons by making Andy Dalton look great. This continued on Sunday as Green caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He might not be the best receiver in the NFL, but he could be the most important to his team. Dalton is a great short passer, but Green enables him to throw deep.
- Mario Williams' up-and-down performances have to end. There's no question he's one of the league's best pass rushers, with 7.5 sacks on the season -- but he has been woefully inconsistent. Against the Bengals he managed just one assisted tackle which resulted in a half sack. Buffalo's offense is in shambles at the quarterback position, necessitating the defense to step up. Quarterbacks can't have a clean pocket, which Dalton had for much of the day.
Detroit Lions 31, Cleveland Browns 17
- The Lions are winning, so there's not much to complain about -- but coaches should be getting a little concerned that Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson aren't hooking up as they have in the past. Johnson came away with just 25 receiving yards on Sunday, despite being targeted eight times. Leaning on Reggie Bush is great, but Johnson is what allows this team to beat the NFL's best.
- Cleveland can't possibly be entertaining a Josh Gordon trade, even if they want a reliable unit for the future. Gordon is better than any return the Browns could get in draft picks, and remains one of the team's only reliable offensive weapons. He finished Sunday with 126 yards receiving, and is on pace for 808 yards even with unreliable QB play and missing two games due to suspension.
- Wiener dog races!
Oakland Raiders 7, Kansas City Chiefs 24
- Alex Smith was terrible on Sunday, and the Chiefs still managed to win big. This is the most compelling evidence that this team has turned the corner from being very good to one of the league's best. It's easy to continue to write off these Chiefs' wins as being little more than beating up on bad teams, but Jamaal Charles is finding a role in the offense now and can shoulder the burden when Smith plays poorly. Watch out for Kansas City moving forward.
- Terrelle Pryor's season has been a bell curve, which isn't what the Oakland Raiders want to see. The third-year quarterback was stellar against the Broncos and Chargers, but very mediocre in three games this season. Against the Chiefs he failed to see the field and completely regressed from what we've seen this season. He finished with three interceptions to close out the game and put the nail in his team's coffin. Admittedly he doesn't have many weapons, but this needs to trend upwards quickly.
Carolina Panthers 35, Minnesota Vikings 10
- Cam Newton did something we haven't seen from him often -- bounce back from adversity. The Panthers quarterback was coming off a four-interception game that prompted local media to question whether he could the be the answer moving forward. There were some shaky plays to start the game, but Newton settled down and finished with four total touchdowns.
- The Josh Freeman era in Minnesota needs to start now. Coaches have wanted to ease him into a starting role, but the team can't afford to keep playing Matt Cassel. It's not that Cassel is horrible, he just doesn't have any ability to move the football downfield when Adrian Peterson is struggling. His lone touchdown came in garbage time, and tight end Kyle Rudloph was the only player who benefited from him being under center.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19, New York Jets 6
- Pittsburgh got a much-needed win to avoid a 0-5 start, but there are still huge issues for this team. The inability to run the ball is a major concern and moves away from what the Steelers did so well during each of their playoff runs. Without that run game, the team's third down efficiency suffers, as the offense converted just 6-16 on Sunday.
- Geno Smith is still a mystery. There are times where the rookie quarterback looks like he's put it all together, but Sunday's game wasn't one of them. Smith finished with just 201 passing yards and two interceptions.
Philadelphia Eagles 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
- Chip Kelly has a very tough decision to make at his quarterback position with Nick Foles playing so well. There's something to be said for not letting a player lose their job due to injury, but the Eagles are 2-0 with Foles at the helm. He is taking care of the football and utilizing his weapons, which has allowed the team to circumvent its struggling defense.
- Mike Glennon was better for the Buccaneers, that's the primary takeaway. This has become an evaluation season for Tampa Bay, before the team inevitably cleans house and moves in a new direction. Glennon wasn't perfect, but he was worlds better than he played in his first NFL start. The hope will be that he can do enough to show he can carry this team moving forward.
Green Bay Packers 19, Baltimore Ravens 17
- Eddie Lacy emerged and showed the kind of play that was expected when he was drafted. Lacy finished with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown, all at an efficient 5.2 yards per carry. This could be a huge development for Green Bay, who could be without some of its top wide receivers moving forward.
- Ray Rice has been non-existent in 2013. The normally reliable running back is on pace for just 435 rushing yards on the season. Joe Flacco was solid on Sunday, but without a good running game the Ravens are a shadow of the team that won the Super Bowl a year ago.
St. Louis Rams 38, Houston Texans 13
- The St. Louis Rams did what it took to win, something far too many teams fail to do when it comes time to putting the boots to a downed opponent. Matt Schaub was injured, T.J. Yates was terrible -- they needed to batter the Texans while they were down, and the Rams obliged. This game hinged on a third quarter series that saw Sam Bradford toss a 4-yard touchdown, before the Rams recovered a fumble for another touchdown.
- Texans fans didn't know what they had until it was gone. For all the mocking of Matt Schaub's propensity to throw interceptions and the burgers offering pick-six toppings, it was lost on fans what a Yates-led offense could look like. The switch at quarterback showed that Houston's issues are deeper than the QB position, which won't make any fans feel better. The Texans have the same number of wins as Oakland, let that sink in.
Jacksonville Jaguars 19, Denver Broncos 35
- Peyton Manning continues to be sensational, but the Broncos have to find a way of getting him more help in the run game. Denver survived a sort-of, near-scare from Jacksonville, but the team can't continue to have a leading rusher averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. Knowshon Moreno did score three touchdowns, but he's not a chain mover. Big passing games will allow a team to run through the regular season, but when it's 3rd and 1 against a good defensive team it's unclear if Denver has someone to lean on.
- Full credit to Jacksonville -- this team is still fighting despite being in an evaluation year. The team didn't register a sack, but got plenty of pressure on Manning causing him to have one of his worst games of the season. It didn't hurt that Justin Blackmon had 190 yards receiving, making him a player the team can build on moving forward
Tennessee Titans 13, Seattle Seahawks 20
- The Seahawks found a way to win on a day everything went wrong. Marshawn Lynch couldn't run the football and they almost gave away the game on a 77-yard fumble return on special teams, but the team stuck to its game plan and slowly ground down the Titans. It will get overlooked as a close win to a bad team, but this was a huge test for Seattle to show they can win when things are going wrong.
- Chris Johnson went down with an injury, which could be the death knell for Tennessee's season. The All Pro running back is getting no help from his offensive line. It was his aim to total 2,500 yards on the season, but is on pace for just 794 yards on the season -- and this was before the injury. Things looked so promising for Tennessee before Jake Locker's injury. It's just a shame.
New Orleans Saints 27, New England Patriots 30
- What more is there to say about Tom Brady? No quarterback is doing more this season with less. A series of events left him with almost no weapons, but he's making players like Kenbrell Thompkins stars. His last-second touchdown to the rookie receiver sealed the win. There just aren't any more words -- #12 is amazing.
- Drew Brees relies very heavily on Jimmy Graham. The Saints' quarterback struggled on a day where Graham was unable to register a single catch. This is typified by Brees' 6.6 yards-per-attempt statistic, his lowest of the season. To make matters worse Graham was injured late in the game and it remains to be seen if he'll miss any games.
Arizona Cardinals 20, San Francisco 49ers 32
- Colin Kaepernick has been overly-criticized this season, but Sunday's game showed that it's Frank Gore that makes this offense tick. He doesn't need to run for a huge gain every play, but just his ability to move the chains opens up the passing game. Kaepernick worked against a talented Cardinals defense and finished with 292 yards passing and two touchdowns.
- This offseason will be critical for Arizona as the Cardinals have to find a long-term quarterback. This was probably true before the season, but has been accentuated by Carson Palmer's terrible play. Palmer erased his good plays on Sunday with another two interceptions, bringing his season total to 12. When this is paired with seven touchdowns you have a big problem.
Washington Redskins 16, Dallas Cowboys 31
- Dallas should have the NFC East locked up. It's the only team that can be marginally competent on both sides of the ball. Tony Romo didn't throw for 500 yards this week, but he was effective at 18-for-30 with 170 yards and one touchdown. Dallas finished off three of its four trips to the red zone with a touchdown. Injuries are a big concern now with DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware both leaving the game hurt.
- RGIII is rounding back into form, slowly. He played better Sunday, not throwing off his back foot like he did for the first month of the season. He completed 49 percent of his passes, only the second time in his career he's completed less than half of his attempts. When RGIII isn't playing at 100 percent, the team around him is exposed.
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