How many of you had your actual team or fantasy team lose due to some of the odd happenings from week 5. It was a very wacky week, with plenty of overtime games and late victories by teams such as the Bears and the Bengals. I went 9-5 in my picks this week, hit my eliminator pick(barely), went 3-3 in fantasy this week. Side note on fantasy, I could write a whole column on high price fantasy guys who have blown this year(watch for this maybe for the week 6 preview). So after a wacky week, lets see who makes my top 10 through 5 weeks(hint: not much changes at the top).
1. New England Patriots(previous: 1)
Is anyone shocked here? Another week, another blowout for the Pats. Update on Brady, he is on pace for just under 1600 yards and 44 tds. He still has yet to throw an interception(watch him now throw this one this week… oh wait they are playing the Colts, never mind). Gronk is on pace for around 1600 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he has not even caught a touchdown since September 20th. He could go a month with out catching a touchdown and still finish with 16! This Pats team is the ebst in the league right now, no question.
2. Arizona Cardinals(previous: 2)
A week after losing to the Rams, the Cardinals beat the Lions, and beat them good. side note: to me, Matthew Stafford has been getting plenty of passes as qb here, especially compared to Jay Cutler(cuts to Bears fans nodding vigorously). It was also refreshing to see the Rams defense force Aaron Rodgers to throw an INT at home, especially since the Cardinals were held to a season low 22 points in that loss. I am going to hold firm in the belief that the Cardinals are currently the best, and arguably the most complete team in the NFC.
3. Cincinnati Bengals(previous: 5)
Wait, what’s that!?!? It’s a change in the top 5!!! It may be a little bit of an overreaction, but this Bengals team could be really good. Granted, I have my doubts about the Seahawks for this year(I will get to them in a bit). This almost feels like a statement win for them, beating a team that was a play away from winning back to back Super Bowls. Andy Dalton has been fantastic, ranking 2nd(SECOND!!!) in QBR. He is only behind Big Ben. Let that sink in for a second, Dalton has a higher QBR than Brady and Rodgers. Raise your hand if you predicted that before the season(if you raised your hand, you are a dirty liar). This Bengals team appears to be for real, and has a clear path to the playoffs.
4. Green Bay Packers(previous: 3)
The Packers dropping a spot is really more about the Bengals than it is about the Packers. I have always believed, and continue to believe, that as long as this team has Aaron Rodgers that it will be fine. I do have two small concerns about this team I guess. 1. Is lacy alright? Granted the Packers still have a top ten rushing attack so far according to yards per game and DVOA but Eddie Lacy has not looked like his typical self. He has yet to eclipse 100 yards on the ground in a game once, and only has one touchdown so far this year. If he can get right, or just start churning out great games, this Packers offense adds another scary dimension. 2. Is the rest of this team, minus Rodgers, good enough to survive a not great game from Rodgers. Granted those do not happen very often, but if Rodgers has two turnovers against a team like the Cardinals, can the Packers pull that game out. The Rams were a poor enough offensive team where it did not matter, but this is something I would like to see the Packers do before I can have them overtake the Cardinals.
5. Denver Broncos(previous: 4)
Look, I am as much of a Peyton Manning believer as the next guy(I’m a sucker of older stars almost to a fault), but are we completely sure that this Broncos team can with win him as their qb later in the season. He is only going to take more hits, and they haven’t been able to figure out their running game. If they can’t figure out the ground game, there is no way they will be playing in February. They are currently 30th in the league in rushing yards per game, and 31st in rushing offense DVOA. That is a huge part of what makes the Broncos grade out as the worst offense in the league according to DVOA. Manning is obviously not the guy he used to be, no one was asking him to be, but he is worse than I thought. On the other hand, holy crap has their defense looked scary. History tells us that great defense> great offense, but something in the pit of my stomach tells me that the Pats would beat the Broncos this year. I need to see Manning play well, consistently before this team can raise any higher.
6. Atlanta Falcons(previous: 7)
So Devonta Freeman might be really good. Scratch that, he might be fantastic. Shout out to anyone who got him late in fantasy drafts, you might have ended up with this year’s breakout back unless anyone wants to start betting on a Tevin Coleman revival. Oh what’s that? No one wants to bet on that? The defense rests. The other thing that is really helping the Falcons is having an average defense(both their rushing and passing defense rank 25th in the league in DVOA), however they have had an easyish schedule so far. If their defense can just remain average, this Falcons team could be going places.
7. Seattle Seahawks(previous: 6)
We see it happen all the time. A team enjoys a couple great drafts in a row, and they excel. They often win at the highest, or very close to the highest, level. But then after a couple years the team has to start paying people. They are forced to move on from valuable players who they view as expendable. Problem is, the replacements rarely are just as good as the original, which leads to a decline in the team’s play/record. That I think is what the Seahawks are embarking on. Except they are probably in the stage where they have maybe 1-2 years left where they can contend for the NFC crown, but will probably fall short. I believe that this Seahawks team will get it together, but time is fading.
8. Carolina Panthers(previous: 8)
Not going to waste many words here, especially since the Panthers had a bye last week and nothing major really changed for them. Well, Kuechly will be back, and that makes their defense a lot more scary. Cam Newton has been pretty good for this team, showing why his health is the #1 concern of this Panthers team. The Panthers should at this point expect their team to be on the playoff track this year, barring some catastrophe.
9. St. Louis Rams(previous: NR)
Why rank the Rams after they lost to the Packers, but not after they beat the Cardinals, a team that I rank higher? That’s a great question. First of all, the Rams defense followed up a good performance against the Cardinals by forcing Rodgers to turn the ball over, which was impressive. They proved why they are one of the best defenses in the league. Todd Gurley also showed me that he was not a one week wonder. He ran for 159 yards on Sunday, and showed why he could be the best back in the league within the next 3-5 years. Yes Nick Foles played an awful game, and the passing game will be one of this teams weaknesses. But Foles won’t always throw an alarming four picks, and this defense and running game could be enough to smother some opponents. Don’t rule out this team from the playoff picture just yet.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers(previous: NR)
Wow is Le’Veon Bell reminding me why he is the best back in the league. I honestly believe that with Big Ben this team could be 4-1. That is how good this offense is with him(he ranks 1st in QBR). Antonio Brown also really misses Ben, making me question if he is the top WR in the league. Top WR are hurt by their qbs, but when you are talking about the best receivers you have to nitpick, and Brown has not been great without Ben. Just something to think about. He has 436 yards and 2 TDs in the games that Ben has played, and 87 yards and no touchdowns in the last two games with Vick. Anyway, once Ben returns, look for this team to start rolling again, and take control of one of the wildcard spots in the AFC.
Finally, my final Week 5 and general NFL thoughts, and even some non-NFL thoughts:
- Dear Jay Cutler haters: SHUT UP!!!!! If you need any more reasons why Cutler is a viable option at QB, look at what he did on Sunday, especially later in the game. He showed heart, and did not have a great cast surrounding him. To use a statement that I have seen a few NFL and Bears guys use “He made the guys around him better.” That is what you want to see. I won’t waste anymore words here because I think this will be the topic of the Thursday night preview(well.. you know… besides the preview for the TNF game).
- Seriously, when do we start to think about the Pats going undefeated this year. I’m like 50/50 on whether they can do it. Also, if I told you the over/under of the margin of victory for the Pats was 30.5, which one would you take? I’ll take the over and I feel pretty good about that.
- I am not ready to completely to write the Ravens off this year. No, I don’t think they are going to make the playoffs, but I am not sure if I am ready to declare them as an awful team. Some are ready to do that as they are 1-4, but lets wait another three to four weeks before we say for sure that the Ravens are actually bad this year.
- Is it time for Drew Brees to retire after the season? Not sure, but what I do know for sure is that the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era is over.
Now for the non-NFL thoughts of the week:
- If I had to pick to guess what the college football would look like if the playoff started today, my 4 would probably be Ohio State, TCU, Baylor, and Utah. At the end of the year I think it looks like this: OSU, Utah, LSU, and Baylor(I need to dive deeper into CFB stats, but I’ll take Baylor right now).
- While David Price is one of the best pitchers currently in the game, will his playoff record and stats scare some teams away when the price goes up? It’s worth watching.
- Man does this rookie class for the NHL look good. Eichel and McDavid look like stars. Also, how good does the 2nd line of the Blackhawks look? Artemi Panarin could be on his way to stardom, and Patrick Kane looks like he should be one of the top point scorers again this year.
- Finally, good for the Cubs. I honestly had no idea that last night was the first time that the Cubs had ever clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field. Nothing will capture the moment better for me than the call I got from my mom, who has no idea that I am writing about this(don’t worry mom, nothing embarrassing here). She becawas honestly in shock that it had happened, almost like it was all a dream. It was just a mix of happiness mixed with disbelief, almost as if this was something that she had never expected to happen in her lifetime(I of course, being the wonderful son that I am, gloated that I had told her so). But its moments like last night that perfectly describe why I, and so many others, are rooting for the Cubs this October even if they don’t win it all. It’s about the people who never thought they would get to see something special, and it’s about the people who never did get to see the Cubs do it, watching from somewhere else. I know my grandfather is somewhere jumping for joy, and if I were still living at home(i’m at college, don’t worry I am not a delinquent… yet), last night I would have turned on the lights to my model of Wrigley Field and left them on for the night.
Ted Van Green (@TVG_5)
Spark Sports NFL Analyst