Danny Kelly: Week 6 is upon us, but before we start looking forward it's probably worth a look back, because that was quite a set of close games in Week 5.
11 of 14 matchups were one-score games — the Colts beat the Texans by a touchdown, the Bengals beat the Seahawks by a field goal in overtime, the Bears edged the Chiefs 18-17, Atlanta beat Washington by six, Cleveland beat the Ravens by three, the Bucs outlasted the Jaguars by a touchdown, the Bills came back to beat the Titans by a point, the Broncos edged the Raiders by six, the Giants defeated the Niners by a field goal. The Steelers decided to say screw it, we're not going for the tie — and ran a ballsy wildcat play with Le'Veon Bell to beat the Chargers in the final seconds by four. What a frickin' slate!
For me, that Bengals comeback was the craziest outcome of all. Teams just don't overcome 17-point fourth-quarter deficits. In fact, the Seahawks had never lost a game in their franchise history when going into the fourth quarter with that big of a lead.
How improbable was @Bengals comeback? In the last 5 years teams had lost..wait for it.. 427 straight games when down at least 17 in 4th qtr!— trey wingo (@wingoz) October 12, 2015
Depressing for the Seahawks, but man, what a big win for the Bengals. They have weapons all over the place. Tyler Eifert, if he's not on your radar yet, he's going to be very soon. The dude is a beast, and is playing like a Pro Bowl tight end through the first quarter of the year.
Cincinnati looks like a legit contender in the AFC. They showed the kind of resilience and mental toughness to mount that big comeback. That's something they've missed a little bit over the years, especially in the playoffs, and that could mean big things for them the rest of the way. If there's anyone in the AFC that's looking like a true threat to New England, it might be the Bengals.
What games really caught your attention?
Stephen White: Many of last weekend's scores were indeed interesting. Not only were so many of the games close, several of them also came down to a huge play at the end of the game. Hell, both the Falcons and Broncos essentially won with a pick-six near the end of their games.
The Browns got the crazy touchdown catch from TE Gary Barnidge -- the ball landed on his feet but never touched the ground -- in the fourth quarter on third-and-5 to take their first lead of the game, before eventually winning in overtime. And of course, there was the Bell touchdown that you mentioned. It just goes to show you how important it is for teams to know how to finish games.
In their 5-0 start, how many close games have the Broncos won this season? They always seem to know how to make a play to seal the game. And obviously, it's not just Peyton Manning this year. The pick-six from Chris Harris on a ball Derek Carr never should have thrown, facing a blitz and two guys running crossing routes who are generally not expecting the ball, shows both sides of the coin.
You have the Broncos who are comfortable playing close games in the fourth quarter and winning them. The Raiders are still trying to learn how to win. I think that whole game was fasinating in that the Raiders were able to keep Manning and the Broncos' offense out of the end zone, and they also picked off Manning twice. Yet, they still ended up giving it away while they were on the Broncos' side of the field in the fourth quarter.
The bottom of the pile
Stephen: On another note, as we look at the standings after five weeks, I gotta say that some of the teams at the bottom of the pile are really shocking to me.
The Dolphins have already fired their head coach. After spending all that offseason cash, they are still bringing up the rear in the AFC East. Then you look at teams like the Ravens, Chiefs, Lions and, to a lesser extent, the Eagles and Saints. I'm just not sure many folks imagined that any of those teams were going to be at the bottom of their division after five weeks. Now, the Ravens and Saints both have head coaches who have won a Super Bowl, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton, so I would kind of assume they are both safe.
Do you think any of these other head coaches are starting to feel the heat under their seat? I would think Jim Caldwell is sweating at this point.
Or do you think a team like the Jags, who haven't exactly won a lot in recent memory anyway, are more likely to reconsider their coaching staff in light of them being cellar dwellers again? Losing to the Bucs had to hurt Gus Bradley's professional outlook at least a little bit, no?
Danny: I would say that if Jim Caldwell isn't feeling the heat yet, he soon will be. You've got a team that's underachieving greatly, and there are rumors and speculation that they've given up during games. It's kind of a cliche, but to say Caldwell has "lost the team" isn't too much of a stretch. It feels like the season is lost and it's only been five weeks.
When you're benching your franchise quarterback during the middle of a game, that's a big deal. As we talked about on our podcast, one of the main points Caldwell made in interviewing for the job was that he could turn Stafford into a consistent, top-10 quarterback. Well, that has not happened, and if anything, Stafford's gotten worse this year. For better or for worse, wholesale changes in Detroit could be coming, particularly if they lose to the Chiefs on November 1 — that's the Sunday before their bye week.
As for the Jaguars, that's an interesting one. I really don't have a great feel for the temperature there. Obviously when Gus Bradley was hired, it was with a long leash — the Jags needed a total rebuild that that would take time — and as far as we know, the relationship between Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell is strong.
However, things have not progressed in the manner anyone had hoped for and Gus is now 8-29 over the last two years and change — a MUCH worse winning percentage than a big number of other head coaches that have come and gone in other cities since 2013. At some point, Jacksonville has to decide if it's still facing a talent deficit or if it's Bradley's scheming and coaching chops.
I have to think a lot of it lies in Blake Bortles' hands for the rest of this season, though. Coaches' careers are sometimes made on their ability to find a franchise quarterback, and Bortles is definitely Gus' guy. If Bortles can step up and continue to develop, it could save Bradley's bacon. If not, I wouldn't be too surprised to see Jacksonville move on. At the end of the day, though, it's year three: the Jaguars need real wins, not moral victories.