Week 5 in the NFL brought a devastating series of injuries, but it also provided little clarity about the pecking order for many divisions.
Even though the sample size of football games is growing, there’s still a tendency to overreact from one week to the next. Here are five such cases that we’re pushing back against:
The Cowboys are already in too deep
The Dallas Cowboys have some serious defensive concerns after Aaron Rodgers again snatched away a victory in the final minutes at AT&T Stadium.
Now the Cowboys are 2-3, two games back of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. It’s an early hole, to be sure, but Dallas has two games left against Philly (Week 11 and Week 17). There’s plenty of time to make up ground.
To do that, the Cowboys need to shore up a defense that hasn’t forced a turnover in its last three games. Though Dallas has the NFL’s sack leader in Demarcus Lawrence (8.5), coordinator Rod Marinelli’s unit has struggled to force opposing offenses off the field. The Cowboys have allowed opponents to convert 44.62% of third-down attempts, ranking 27th in the league.
Dallas now gets to enjoy its bye week, but the schedule doesn’t ease up. From Weeks 8-11, the Cowboys face the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, and the Eagles – all of whom rank in the top 10 in total offense. That’s the stretch that likely determines whether the Cowboys reach the playoffs again.
It’s over for Kizer in Cleveland
It’s never good for a young quarterback to be benched midway through a game. But Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson’s decision to pull DeShone Kizer in favor of Kevin Hogan in a 17-14 loss against the New York Jets might allow for important reflection.
Through five games, Kizer has thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles. Rookies tend to have turnover issues, but 11 through 18 quarters of play is far too many. Kizer’s proclivity for committing them in the red zone makes matters worse.
Kizer also has lacked decisiveness. He often held onto the ball for far too long, and it eventually led to those interceptions. That’s exactly what happened when Kizer telegraphed a red zone pass that was intercepted by Jets safety Marcus Maye in the second quarter.
With all that said, this was just Game 5 of Kizer’s rookie season. This hardly closes the book on him being a competent quarterback. But for him to get to that point, Kizer needs to overcome his slow start and show he can consistently protect the ball.
NFC West power structure now set
The Los Angeles Rams are still – even with their disappointing 16-10 loss against the Seattle Seahawks – one of the top surprises in the NFL this year. But L.A. and Seattle are still tied at 3-2.
The Arizona Cardinals have been inconsistent but remain just one game back.
The Rams came into the game with the league’s top scoring offense, but faced their toughest foe yet in a stingy Seahawks defense that forced five turnovers.
Seattle established that it is still a dangerous team, but there was one concern that was reinforced: How did it only end up with 16 points despite the takeays? The offensive line keeps putting quarterback Russell Wilson in tough spots and has not consistently opened holes in the run game.
Granted, the Seahawks are a team that historically plays their best late in the year. But even though the Rams are only five games into rookie coach Sean McVay’s career, he has shown an ability to game plan well and compete with some of the NFC’s best.
The Chiefs have an open runway to claim the AFC
It’s important to note that the Kansas City Chiefs, the lone undefeated team in the NFL through five weeks, are the best team in football. They hung 42 points on a talented Houston Texans team. Their offense leads the league in scoring (32.8 points per game). Quarterback Alex Smith and running back Kareem Hunt are both MVP candidates. And their speed makes them arguably the most explosive team in the NFL.
But it’s the second week of October. Things can change in the NFL, and rather quickly. Look at the 2015 Chiefs, who won their season opener but dropped their next five … and then claimed their last 10 regular-season games to make it into the postseason.
Kansas City, right now, should be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But it would be wise to wait a little while longer before making any bets.
The Jets are hurting themselves by winning
The New York Jets’ unexpected hot start might be bittersweet for fans who who wanted their team to tank in order to end up with the top selection in the NFL draft.
But it’s the second week of October, and Gang Green is on a three-game winning streak and, at 3-2, in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East after beating the Browns.
The reality is that this incoming class is expected to be loaded with plenty of franchise-caliber QBs like USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. The season is still young, and there’s a chance the Jets could still end up with a pick that would allow them to take a cornerstone passer.
But what’s even more important is that this is an extremely young roster. What coach Todd Bowles has done in getting this group to play competitively should foster plenty of lessons and traits necessary to win down the road, if the team’s rebuild is successful. The Jets are still several few pieces away from making a real run, but there’s little doubt this team is in better shape than it once appeared to be.