Yardbarker’s NFL Week 15 game-by-game analysis, grades

In Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Bills clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Steelers. Earlier, the Eagles earned a come-from-behind win against Washington, setting up an NFC East showdown with the Cowboys in Week 16 in Philadelphia. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 15 whip-around: 1 of 16

BUFFALO 17, PITTSBURGH 10

BILLS (10-4): It’s hard to envision Buffalo being playoff-bound were it not for key additions made during head coach Sean McDermott and since-fired GM Doug Whaley’s few months together. In the spring of 2017, the Bills added Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer – the safeties via team-friendly free-agency deals and CB White via a momentous first-round trade that gave the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes. That trio quickly helped Buffalo assemble a formidable pass defense, one that is belatedly receiving attention. Likely en route to All-Pro acclaim, White intercepted Devlin Hodges twice – the second pick leading to a Bills field goal – and Poyer notched one of the visitors’ two end-zone picks. The third-year Bills were the difference in another defensive battle, one that cemented the franchise’s first 10-win season since 1999. White’s six interceptions are tied for the league lead. Buffalo’s secondary equips QB Josh Allen with a safety net, and it keeps showing up in big spots. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


STEELERS (8-6): It’s a shame Pittsburgh is so limited offensively with QB Devlin Hodges, who doesn’t have the arm strength to make big-time NFL throws. Duck’s performance (23-for-38, 202 yards, four interceptions) negated another stellar showing by the defense. LB T.J. Watt, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was spectacular (two tackles for loss, two QB hits), and DE Cameron Heyward was a force, routinely beating Quinton Spain, especially when aligning on the outside shoulder of Buffalo’s top-heavy left guard. Heyward’s aggression and hustle set the tone for what may be the NFL’s best defense. Too bad the Duck couldn’t fly. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 2 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 37, WASHINGTON 27

EAGLES (7-7): For the second consecutive game, the Eagles needed somebody on their banged-up offense to step up. Rookie Miles Sanders delivered, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and grabbing six passes for 50 yards and another TD. In the process, he smashed the Eagles’ rookie record for yards from scrimmage, held by DeSean Jackson. He has 1,120. Philadelphia needed every yard it could get from Sanders, as the defense struggled to contain a Washington offense that averaged 7.1 yards per play. The Eagles are far from perfect, but their talented backfield of Sanders and Boston Scott has allowed them to overcome injuries. An NFC East showdown against Dallas awaits. GAME GRADE: B  | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


REDSKINS (3-11): For the Redskins, all that really matters is the development of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who suffered from poor pass protection and drops by his receivers in his first five starts. Against the Eagles, Haskins finally got more aid and he had the most productive performance of his pro career. He completed 19 of 28 passes for a career-best 261 yards and posted career-highs in yards per attempt (9.3) and passer rating (121.3). Haskins has a special connection with former Ohio State teammate Terry McLaurin, who caught five passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. A special guest watched from Daniel Snyder’s owner’s box: Urban Meyer, Haskins’ coach at Ohio State. Hmmm. Does Jerry Jones know? GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Giants (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 3 of 16

DALLAS 44, LA RAMS 21

RAMS (8-6): The defending NFC champs’ playoff hopes were virtually extinguished after a performance much more reminiscent of their midseason slump than their recent two-game winning streak. Los Angeles is at its best when it runs the ball effectively, but the Rams totaled just 22 yards on the ground. Todd Gurley did next to nothing, averaging fewer than two yards per carry, and Jared Goff’s numbers (284 yards passing) were inflated by garbage-time production. The Rams could still go 10-6 and miss the playoffs, but they should not be fooled into thinking that there aren’t significant issues to fix. Chief among them is Goff’s performance this season. His passer rating of 84.8 is significantly below the league average of 91.3, and he has been the main cause of multiple losses. Since Los Angeles has guaranteed more than $100 million to Goff, the goal must be to maximize his production and performance, although it is fair to wonder just how high his ceiling is. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


COWBOYS (7-7): Finally. Dallas earned its first win over an opponent with a winning record. Credit the O-line. Against a defense that entered the game ranked second in pressure rate (30.1%) and seventh in sack rate (8.4%), QB Dak Prescott was not sacked in 23 pass attempts. Los Angeles had also been dominant defending the run, entering the game allowing the fourth-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.8). But Dallas shredded the Rams, rushing 45 times for 263 yards (5.8 per attempt) and scoring three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliott led the way 24 totes for 117 yards (4.9 per attempt) and two scores, but Tony Pollard was dynamic (131 yards on just 12 carries, 10.9 per attempt). The game marked just the eighth time in Cowboys history that Dallas ran for 250-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns. Run like this and the NFC East is theirs. GAME GRADE: A +  | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

4 of 16

ATLANTA 29, SAN FRANCISCO 22

FALCONS (5-9): What. A. Stunner. George Kittle led the 49ers with 13 catches for 134 yards, but the rest of San Francisco’s receiving corps combined to catch just nine passes on 17 targets for 66 yards (3.9 per target), a testament to the Falcons’ lockdown coverage. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, getting extended action for just the fifth time this season, led the Falcons with three passes defended. Desmond Trufant, who entered the game as Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked corner from Weeks 11-14, stayed quiet against Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders. Dan Quinn’s defense held QB Jimmy Garoppolo to 5.9 yards per pass attempt, his second-worst mark of the season. Since the bye week, Atlanta is 4-2 and allowing just 19.2 points per game. Will Quinn keep his gig? GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


49ERS (11-3): San Francisco was on top of the NFC but left the door wide open for Seattle and New Orleans with a sloppy loss. The 49ers never got going on offense, with only George Kittle providing a consistent threat, and their vaunted pass defense was unable to keep Matt Ryan from going down the field for the winning touchdown. Other than a scramble by Ryan, every play on Atlanta’s winning drive was a pass. That’s problematic for the 49ers, who knew what was coming. Ultimately, the Niners might not need home field, or even to win the division, because when things are going along well, their style of play wins anywhere, as they proved against the Saints. Still, this performance should serve as a wake-up call; they might be loaded with talent, but they’re not nearly good enough to overlook anyone.GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Rams (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 16

HOUSTON 24, TENNESSEE 21

TEXANS (9-5): Houston wasn’t perfect, but it did enough to seize control of the AFC South. While the story of the Texans’ season is primarily about superstar talent – specifically QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins – Kenny Stills was a key figure in the victory over Tennessee, doubling his season touchdown total with two scores. Watson took advantage of Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson’s absence (foot) to hit Stills twice in situations in which Hopkins and Will Fuller commanded significant defensive attention and Stills drew man-to-man coverage. Houston’s chances of winning the division are better than 90%. If Stills, RB Duke Johnson and the rest of the supporting cast take advantage of their opportunities, Houston can beat anyone.GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: at Bucs (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


TITANS (8-6): The stats would suggest QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry cooled off from their torrid recent pace, but had Tennessee not suffered multiple self-inflicted wounds, it would be atop the AFC South. Tannehill threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and was victimized on his only interception by a blatant drop by Anthony Firkser. Firkser’s play likely will decide the division, as Tennessee was poised to go in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Instead, Houston scored a touchdown two plays after Whitney Mercilus’ 86-yard interception return. One more win for Houston will give it the division; the playoff hopes of the Titans, who must win out to take the AFC South, are grim. That’s bad news for them, good news for the rest of the AFC. The way things were going, Mike Vrabel’s team looked like one of the most dangerous teams outside of Baltimore. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 6 of 16

ARIZONA 38, CLEVELAND 24

BROWNS (6-8): Embarrassing. The body language from this team was simply awful. And the Browns’ play on the field was sloppy and extremely uninspired. Where is the leadership? Is veteran WR Jarvis Landry providing it? He was spotted sulking. Where’s Odell Beckham? He and Landry combined for 89 yards receiving on 21 targets against a poor defense. Baker Mayfield has a lot of TV commercials, but he’s still finding his way. Head coach Freddie Kitchens, a possible Black Monday candidate, is lost. Cleveland should add veterans who have won in the league. It sure could use a player like Steelers CB Joe Haden. Oh, wait, they had him. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun.) 

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (4-9-1): Arizona owes David Johnson plenty of money, but it may have found a full-time running back in Kenyan Drake, at least if the price is right. Johnson will count $16.2 million against the cap in 2020, but Drake now has two 100-yard games in Arizona after Sunday’s 137-yard, four-touchdown effort. Drake, acquired from Miami earlier this season, had just two 100-yard outings as a Dolphin. Drake will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but his career statistics suggest that a big contract is not likely in the open market. Arizona has major areas of need in the draft; trying to retain Drake could fix one of them without the use of a valuable pick. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Seahawks (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 16

MINNESOTA 39, LA CHARGERS 10

VIKINGS (10-4): Danielle Hunter is a stud. The 25-year-old end out of LSU recently became the youngest player in history to get 50 sacks. Against the Chargers, Hunter caused the Philip Rivers fumble that was returned for a Minnesota touchdown. Shortly afterward, he recovered a fumble by RB Melvin Gordon, one of seven Chargers turnovers. As usual, Hunter’s extreme length and great get-off was on full display against an overwhelmed Chargers line. When Hunter entered the league, he was a piece of raw clay. Man, he has learned the game. Hunter’s Week 16 matchup against Aaron Rodgers, sacked once by the Bears on Sunday, will be intriguing. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Packers (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson


CHARGERS (5-9): Most NFL teams would trade their skill-position arsenals for what the Bolts have. The Melvin Gordon-Austin Ekeler-Keenan Allen-Mike Williams-Hunter Henry quintet is healthy, but the Chargers still turned the ball over seven times. The franchise had not committed seven turnovers in a game since 1986, in an era when interceptions were more commonplace. Philip Rivers threw three interceptions, running his season total to 18 (second-most in the league), and lost a fumble the Vikings returned for a touchdown. Gordon lost two fumbles. The one-time Charger cornerstones are lumbering toward free agency. While Gordon has little chance to return to Los Angeles, unless his market craters to the point the Bolts re-sign him via a buy-low agreement, Rivers certainly could be back. But after this season, can the Chargers convince themselves to bring back an immobile 38-year-old – at a franchise-QB price – who fared this poorly despite having high-end weaponry? GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

KANSAS CITY 23, DENVER 3

BRONCOS (5-9): While the 2018 Denver draft/UDFA class produced Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos’ reliance on two less remarkable members of the class has limited the offense. QB Drew Lock cannot count on 2018 fourth-round pick DaeSean Hamilton, a wideout whom the Broncos hoped would step up after the Emmanuel Sanders trade, and third-round RB Royce Freeman has not shown a high ceiling. The Broncos fell behind early and rushed for 52 yards on a snowy day in K.C. So Lock opted to throw Hamilton and ex-UDFA Tim Patrick a combined 16 passes; five of them were completed. Freeman averaged 2.4 yards per carry – his eighth game averaging fewer than 3.5 per tote this season – and continues to fail the eye test. The Broncos need better auxiliary weaponry to support Lindsay, Sutton and Noah Fant next season. With Denver owning a rookie quarterback contract and seven picks in the first four rounds in 2020, upgrade avenues exist. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHIEFS (10-4): A CBS graphic indicating Travis Kelce’s first seven seasons have produced more receiving yardage than any tight end was deceiving. Microfracture surgery ended Kelce’s rookie season after one stat-less game. The 2013 third-round pick’s 6,367 yards in six seasons better every other tight end’s first seven years. Comparing Kelce’s first six healthy seasons to the field, the Chief has 812 more yards than any tight end in NFL history. Kansas City began using its near-unrivaled chess piece frequently against Denver to avoid testing cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Since 2016, the perennial Pro Bowl weapon has posted four 100-yard games against the Broncos; his 11 catches for 142 yards Sunday were easily season-highs. With both Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has been the Chiefs’ skill-position centerpiece. He’s swung the AFC West’s balance of power. With a tight end-record four straight 1,000-yard seasons, the 30-year-old playmaker is on track for the Hall of Fame. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Bears (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 34, CINCINNATI 13

PATRIOTS (11-3): Despite Bill Belichick’s defenses being perhaps the most reliable 21st-century NFL unit, no Patriot has earned Defensive Player of the Year. On a team with an undependable offense, Stephon Gilmore should be given strong consideration to become the sixth cornerback to win this award. Shutdown corners are often avoided to the point where their stats suffer (see: Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey or Raiders 1.0-years Charles Woodson), but Gilmore has six interceptions and two return TDs. Gilmore’s 64-yard pick-6 in Cincinnati came on a day when the eighth-year corner produced two INTs and four passes defensed. Although the Pats’ record is built on a weak schedule, Gilmore has thrived against all competition, regularly locking down No. 1 wideouts to lead a historically great DVOA pass defense. With impact stats plus weekly film showcases, Gilmore has his front-seven peers beat to join Mel Blount, Lester Hayes, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson as corner DPOYs. GAME GRADE: A-minus  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


BENGALS (1-13): Even though Cincinnati lost by 21, the defense is improving. Slumping Tom Brady barely completed 50% (15 of 29) of his passes for a measly 128 passing yards. James White, who gave Cincinnati’s suspect linebackers problems, was the only Patriot with more than 22 receiving yards. New England’s ailing rushing attack racked up 175 yards (5.5  yards per attempt). But after the Patriots’ first drive, the Bengals’ run defense held up well. Five turnovers, not their defense, cost the Bengals. Clearly, Cincinnati needs a QB. Where are you, Ohio native Joe Burrow? GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

10 of 16

GREEN BAY 21, CHICAGO 13

BEARS (7-7): Aaron Rodgers attempted 33 passes (203 yards) but was sacked just once and rarely disrupted by Chicago’s pass rush. DE Akiem Hicks, put on injured reserve Oct. 15, returned and made his presence felt (4 tackles, 2 QB hits). But Chicago’s edge players, especially Khalil Mack, didn’t put enough pressure on Rodgers. Mack, who has had a down year by his amazing standards, draws most of the attention from offensive coordinators. He isn’t a declining player, but his inability to impact this game (one tackle) is disconcerting. GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


PACKERS (11-3): Kenny Clark is rarely mentioned among the league’s best defensive tackles, a big mistake. Powerful and with long arms and strong hammer-like hands, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder gets off the ball quickly and with force. Chicago had no success with its inside running game, largely attributable to Clark’s stellar play. (Overall, the Bears rushed for 96 yards on 27 carries.) An every-down force, Clark couldn’t be blocked when the Bears passed either, demonstrating a great bull rush and a wide variety of other pass-rush moves. Clark’s dominance is evident in his stat line: eight tackles (six solo), two sacks and three tackles for loss. GAME GRADE: B + |  NEXT: At Vikings (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 16

TAMPA BAY 38, DETROIT 17

BUCS (7-7): Jameis Winston was stellar, rebounding from an early interception to throw for 458 yards (10.9 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Winston, who has thrown for over 10 yards per attempt in three of his past four games, eclipsed 300 passing yards in the first half. WR Breshad Perriman stepped up with Mike Evans out with a foot injury, grabbing five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Winston has set a career-high in turnovers, but he is on track for career-highs in touchdown rate, yards per attempt and yards per game. Is he a franchise quarterback or not? At 67 years old, head coach Bruce Arians might not want to start over at QB. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sat.)

— Michael Nania


LIONS (3-10-1): This was a bleak game for head coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator whose expertise is supposed to be, well, defense. Even without the injured Mike Evans, the Bucs threw the ball at will. Jameis Winston rarely was under pressure, and even more alarming, Bucs receivers ran free almost all game. Winston found receivers in short zones, deep — heck, they were open everywhere. There were plenty of coverage busts, too. Tampa Bay’s best receiver in this game, Chris Godwin, didn’t even finish because of a hamstring injury. Eleven different Tampa Bay receivers had a least one catch. Is Patricia a Black Monday candidate? GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 12 of 16

NY GIANTS 36, MIAMI 20

DOLPHINS (3-11): Miami deployed one of the least recognizable starting lineups in modern NFL history. The Giants’ rout moved them behind the Dolphins in the 2020 draft order as a result. With a potential draft-damaging game against the Bengals looming, there is no reason for the Dolphins to keep playing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Josh Rosen would cover the Dolphins on multiple fronts. Two more starts would give the trade acquisition more experience and potentially enhanced trade value or, if said starts go as poorly as Rosen’s meetings and practices apparently have, the 2018 first-round pick could “help” the Dolphins lose their final two and secure the No. 2 overall draft slot. While it would look like an NBA-style tanking move, head coach Brian Flores sticking with the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick – as he said he plans to – serves no purpose for a rebuilding team that built 2019 around developing players and acquiring draft capital. GAME GRADE: D  | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.) 

— Sam Robinson


GIANTS (3-11): Eli Manning was solid in perhaps his final home game as a Giant, tossing two TD passes and averaging 10.1 yards per attempt. He had face-plant moments, too: three interceptions against a defense that entered the game allowing the third-highest passer rating in the NFL (103.7). If he decides to play next season, Manning should have no shortage of suitors. Cincinnati and Miami might want a stopgap starter while waiting for a rookie (Joe Burrow?) to develop. Perhaps Chicago or Jacksonville (where Manning has a connection with VP of football operations Tom Coughlin) will be in the market. Pittsburgh, with questions surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, might also seek a starter. If he can’t find a starting spot, he could attract interest from a playoff-worthy franchise. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

13 of 16

SEATTLE 30, CAROLINA 24

SEAHAWKS (11-3): Tyler Lockett, who had eight catches for 120 yards, is Seattle’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver (75 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns). Almost as important as Lockett’s emergence is the rise of rookie D.K. Metcalf, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft. Even though Metcalf was targeted only four times against Carolina, managing a 19-yard touchdown catch in the process, Russell Wilson’s growing trust in him is obvious. Metcalf’s targets have gone up, from 5.6 per game in the first half of the season, to more than seven a game. Metcalf’s detractors claimed he was a Combine superstar and not a polished receiver coming out of Mississippi, but he has proven to be anything but. His college teammate, A.J. Brown, also a 2019 second-round pick, is an emerging star for the Titans. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT:  vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


PANTHERS (5-9): It’s clear Carolina has two glaring needs: run defense and quarterback. Against Seattle, the NFL’s worst run defense was atrocious, yielding 154 yards (and two touchdowns) on 34 attempts. Proving he’s nothing more than a backup, Kyle Allen continued his stretch of ugly play, posting a 58.7 passer rating (91.3 was league average entering Week 14) and tossing three picks. He averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt. Should Carolina bring back Cam Newton, who has missed most of the season with a Lisfranc injury? He was ineffective earlier in 2019. The Panthers will probably draft toward the lower end of the top 10, where Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (if he comes out) and Georgia’s Jake Fromm might be available. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow appears out of Carolina’s reach, barring a trade up. GAME GRADE: C-minus  | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 14 of 16

JACKSONVILLE 20, OAKLAND 16

JAGUARS (5-9): Jacksonville managed to spoil the Raiders’ final game in Oakland with two late Gardner Minshew touchdown passes to Chris Conley. But the Jaguars’ listless performance before that rally feels more relevant to their future than what happened in the game’s final five minutes. After Jacksonville’s first drive yielded a field goal, its next five possessions featured four three-and-outs and 16 total yards. A beleaguered defense did well to keep the Jags in the game long enough. Head coach Doug Marrone can say his team hasn’t quit on him, but there was precious little to get excited about. GAME GRADE: C +  | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-8): Oakland fans have handled an unfortunate situation bizarrely well. The Raiders are about to become the first NFL franchise to leave their original city twice. They have one winning season since 2003 and went full rebuild in their final two Oakland seasons. Somehow, Raiders supporters accepted Oakland being a three-year lame duck after Mark Davis received relocation approval in March of 2017. The cascade of boos and assortment of items thrown onto the Oakland Coliseum’s field, after a blown lead against the Jaguars in the Raiders’ home finale, seems restrained considering what the city endured. Other markets have not handled imminent relocation so well – see Cleveland in 1995 or Houston in ’96 – yet Raiders fans kept supporting a team that sold off top assets in a pre-Las Vegas purge. Do not be surprised if Raiders home games become somewhat like Chargers LA atmospheres in transplant-heavy Las Vegas. A good bet: Vegas Sundays will not bring the atmosphere the Black Hole provided.  GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 15 of 16

MONDAY: INDIANAPOLIS AT NEW ORLEANS

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis is all but certain to miss the playoffs despite starting 5-2 and looking more solid top to bottom than most of the rest of the AFC. A three-game losing streak has derailed the Colts’ season; Jacoby Brissett’s poor play during that stretch (82.1 passer rating; league average 91.3 through Week 14) is a major reason why Indy has slumped. He was unable to win a shootout with turnover-prone Jameis Winston in Week 14, despite Tampa Bay’s defense being one of the league’s worst against the pass. The Colts signed Brissett to a two-year, $30 million deal in September. The length of that deal looks like a wise move, because while Indianapolis’ early rally after Luck’s retirement was a nice story, Brissett has not proven definitively that he can perform like a franchise-level player. NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): The defense has sputtered in its three home games since the bye week, yielding an average of 35 points. The Saints have had a tough time stopping QBs at the Superdome, as their 100.5 passer rating allowed at home ranks seventh worst in the NFL. Saints opponents average 25.2 points in New Orleans, the 11th-worst figure by a home team. New Orleans is 11th in home point differential (plus-17), after ranking sixth from 2017-18 (plus-129). Sean Payton’s team should dominate a Colts team that is 2-4 on the road, but will the defense step up? NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

16 of 16

BALTIMORE 42, NY JETS 21

JETS (5-9): Lamar Jackson’s latest showcase came against a depleted secondary and revealed a perennial Jets deficiency. Surely drawing scorn from fantasy owners facing Jackson-led teams, the Jets’ pass defense was missing Pro Bowler Jamal Adams and bounce-back slot cornerback Brian Poole. Ravens targets ran wide open in the blowout – the Jets’ seventh loss by at least two touchdowns this season – and Jackson tossed a career-high five touchdown passes and averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt. The returns of  Adams, Poole and C.J. Mosley will help, but needs remain at boundary corner and edge rusher for yet another offseason. The Jets, who ranked 22nd in pass-defense DVOA before the Jackson rampage, have one front-seven player (free agent-to-be Jordan Jenkins) with more than three sacks. Needs across the offensive line, and the ill-advised contracts Joe Douglas’ GM predecessor authorized – such as the nightmare pact given to cornerback (and imminent dead-money sinkhole) Trumaine Johnson – will not make defensive upgrades easy, however. GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


RAVENS (12-2): Thursday night’s win, which clinched the AFC North for the Ravens, showed us how dangerous Baltimore’s passing game is when TE Mark Andrews (58 catches, 759 yards and 8 TDs) and rookie WR Marquise Brown (43-563-7) are in the lineup. Coordinator Greg Roman does a great job scheming to get them open. Andrews stretches the field and makes plays after the catch, and he’s a supreme weapon in the red zone. Brown isn’t quite Tyreek Hill (yet), but he’s a threat against whom defenses must keep deep help on his side of the field. That can hurt against the Ravens’ NFL-leading running game. Andrews and Brown combined for eight catches, two TDs and only 97 yards, but their impact went far beyond those stats. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

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NFL Week 5 game-by-game analysis, grades

The Colts stunned the Chiefs in Kansas City. Green Bay built a big early lead on the road and held off the Cowboys. Wow, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (237 scrimmage yards) is good. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 5 whip-around. 1 of 16

INDIANAPOLIS 19, KANSAS CITY 13

COLTS: (3-2):  Indianapolis’ defense turned in a heroic performance against PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs. The D-line played the biggest part. Indy was without Malik Hooker, Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers, but Justin Houston, Grover Stewart and the rest of Indy’s front-seven owned the line of scrimmage. The Colts harassed Mahomes and, in particular, suffocated Kansas City’s running game. It was an impressive and surprising effort; Indianapolis allowed three of its first four opponents to rush for at least 100 yards, and Oakland dominated them on the ground in Week 4. The Colts now get a much-needed bye week to get healthy, before they host Houston in a game that could shape the AFC South race. If the Colts win that one, they could easily be 7-2 by the time a mid-November divisional crucible begins. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Texans (Sun., Oct. 20)

— Chris Mueller


CHIEFS: (4-1): The first of many national showcases for this Chiefs team illuminated an uncomfortable reality. They may not be sufficiently improved defensively to  capitalize on Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. When the reigning MVP is compromised or is missing enough key players, the Chiefs’ foundation becomes shaky. The Chiefs entered Sunday night’s game 31st in run defense, and the Colts turned the clock back to expose it. Kansas City used considerable capital on defensive augmentations this offseason but had no answer for Indianapolis’ rushing onslaught. The Chiefs, who did lose key defensive tackle Chris Jones, gave up 180 rushing yards – the third straight game in which they have allowed at least 180. Considering the Chiefs are also below average on pass defense and rush offense, they are again asking Mahomes to walk a tightrope. For a team carrying the NFL’s best contract, its defense still being one of the league’s worst is troubling.GAME GRADE:  D + | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 2 of 16

GREEN BAY 34, DALLAS 24

PACKERS (4-1):  It’s about time the coaching staff trusted AARON JONES enough to feed him touches. It took Jamaal Williams (concussion) going down, but hey, maybe everyone can now see he is far and away the best running back option. After the Packers took a big early lead, Jones got a little breather here and there in the second half, but still finished with 182 total yards against an excellent defense. He has natural running skills and is developing as a pass-catcher. This game also showcased Jones’ improvement as a route runner, and he’s getting better in pass protection. Without Devante Adams (turf toe), Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around, with nine Packers catching at least one pass. It’s telling that Jones not only led the Packers in rushing but also was Green Bay’s leading receiver (seven catches for 75 yards) by a significant margin. GAME GRADE:  A-minus | NEXT: vs. Lions

— Matt Williamson


COWBOYS (3-2): With Dak Prescott’s contract looming, it’s impossible for his performance not to be the focus. Although he made this game interesting down the stretch, he finished with three interceptions, the 10th multi-interception game of his career, now early in his fourth season. Prescott threw for 463 yards, 226 to Amari Cooper. But much of that yardage came in the second half, when the Packers’ defense seemed to let up. Green Bay’s defense was especially impressive in blanking the Cowboys in the first half. Cooper, the former Raiders receiver, has been a wise investment for Dallas, but whether he’s enough to help turn Dak into a top-line starter remains to be seen. Two weeks in a row against considerable competition, Dallas was found lacking. Are the Cowboys willing to settle for “just OK”? GAME GRADE:  C | NEXT: at Jets

— Mike Tunison 3 of 16

CAROLINA 34, JACKSONVILLE 27

JAGUARS (2-3): Jacksonville’s run defense had been trending in the right direction the past two weeks, holding the Titans and Broncos to a combined 159 yards in two wins. But the Jags’ run D was a no-show against Carolina. CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY gouged Jacksonville, especially on an 84-yard gallop that saw more than half the defense over-commit to a fake. Even McCaffrey’s backup, Reggie Bonnafon, hit for a 59-yard TD. Jacksonville’s aggressiveness was its problem on that play, too. Multiple members of the front-seven over-pursued because of an end-around fake; the Jaguars’ secondary had no chance to catch him because all the players took a bad angle. Gardner Minshew (374 yards passing) played well enough, but if the Jaguars are going to win the AFC South, they must get more from the defense. GAME GRADE:  C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


PANTHERS (3-2):  Christian McCaffrey continues to add reasons why he’s an elite back and in the discussion for the best in the game. Sunday’s performance was historic in many ways. The third of his three touchdowns was an 84-yard run, the longest in franchise history. (According to NextGen Stats, he reached a max speed of 21.95 mph on the TD run, his fastest touch since 2018.) McCaffrey’s performance was one of only 18 since 2000 by a running back that resulted in at least 237 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. That means you’re talking about a roughly once-a-year type of outing, usually done by only the best of the best. The only downside was a sequence in the red zone in the fourth quarter when the Panthers tried to get him a passing touchdown (he had one in his career before Sunday) on third down and it didn’t work out. Then McCaffrey was stuffed on a fourth-down attempt. Carolina held on, but it slightly marred an otherwise excellent game. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Bucs (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison 4 of 16

BALTIMORE 26, PITTSBURGH 23 (OT)

RAVENS (3-2): In an overtime game, the Ravens had the ball 13 minutes, 26 seconds longer and ran the ball 40 times. Despite being the much fresher unit, Baltimore’s defense was far from impressive. This is more than just an isolated incident for the once-exceptional unit, as it has been abused four weeks in a row. Pittsburgh’s offensive box score isn’t telling (269 yards), because the unit still seeks an identity. It lost MASON RUDOLPH (concussion) to a vicious hit by Earl Thomas, which put third-stringer Devlin Hodges at the offense’s controls. Yet the Steelers still averaged 5.3 yards per play, a yard and a half more than Baltimore. The run defense is a problem without question, but the area of most concern is Baltimore’s pass rush. This is a blitz-heavy scheme, but the Ravens’ secondary is uncharacteristically poor, and the lack of pure pass-rushers hurts. Terrell Suggs, where are you? GAME GRADE:  C+ | NEXT: vs., Bengals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


STEELERS (1-4): Going back to 2017, Pittsburgh has rushed the passer as well as or better than almost every defense. The Steelers had 52 sacks last season, 56 in 2017. It’s what Pittsburgh (19 sacks) does best this season, too. The Steelers’ rush (five sacks) on Lamar Jackson was superb. But what stood out in Week 5 was their pass-rushing plan. Not only did the Steelers push the pocket really well, but for the most part, they kept Jackson bottled up by staying in their rush lanes. We didn’t see a lot of games or stunting. Jackson (14 carries for 70 yards) got loose here and there. The execution of a pass-rush plan, an underrated important aspect of playing great defense, was impressive. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 5 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 33, WASHINGTON 7

PATRIOTS (5-0): Jamie Collins went from athletic Patriots linebacker to a freelancing player deemed unnecessary during the team’s Super Bowl LII run; the Pats traded him to the Browns in 2016. Cleveland soon gave the outside linebacker a position-record $12.5 million-per-year contract that he did not live up to. Now back in New England on an incentive-laden deal and counting only $3 million against the cap, he has become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Against Washington, Collins continued his resurgence by recovering a second-quarter fumble and forcing another on an impressive inside rush that resulted in a fourth-quarter sack of Colt McCoy. A player the Browns cut has been one of the NFL’s best this season, finishing Week 5 with 4.5 sacks (an NFL-high for off-ball ‘backers) and a career-high three interceptions. For a Patriots team coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s greatest defensive showing, Collins looks like a frightening luxury. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Giants (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson


REDSKINS (0-5): In a game the Patriots were bound to win in a laugher, especially amid the swirling rumors of JAY GRUDEN’S impending dismissal, the Washington defense put on a better performance than anyone had a right to expect, even if the final score doesn’t indicate as much. Washington limited Tom Brady to completing three of his first seven attempts en route to taking an early lead, the Pats’ first deficit of the season. A fourth-down stop and a red-zone interception by Montae Nicholson, after the Washington offense had just turned the ball over on its own side of the field, kept the game competitive longer than perhaps it should have been. Think Washington fans are disenchanted? Asked by the Washington Post what he thought about the predominately New England crowd at FedEx Field, Brady said, “I thought it was pretty amazing. That felt like a home game.” Gruden, as expected, was canned early Monday morning. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison

BUFFALO 14, TENNESSEE 7

BILLS (4-1): With Miami on tap after a Week 6 bye, Buffalo is firmly in contention. The Bills again received spotty offense but have become a matchup nightmare for opposing aerial attacks. After stifling Tom Brady in one of the worst games of his career, Buffalo smothered Marcus Mariota. The Bills’ front seven did not sack Brady but dropped Mariota five times, four by inside rushers. Defensive tackle JORDAN PHILLIPS had a three-sack first half. Buffalo recently lost promising D-tackle Harrison Phillips (torn ACL) for the season. On Sunday, defensive end Trent Murphy (head) and linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring) left with injuries in the second half. Yet Buffalo still held the Titans to 4-for-14 on third downs. The Bills are headed in the right direction in Sean McDermott’s third season. This is a better team than their fluky 2017 playoff squad. GAME GRADE:  B + | NEXT:  Week 6 bye, vs. Dolphins (Sun., Oct. 20)

— Sam Robinson


TITANS (2-3): It was reasonable to assume that a matchup of two of the league’s top-five scoring defenses would produce a low-scoring game. But the Titans must be kicking themselves because of their kicker. Cairo Santos missed all four of his field goals — 50- and 53-yarders, a 36-yarder, and a 33-yarder that was blocked — and those misses were the difference. Santos came into the game 41-for-44 from 30-39 yards and 8-for-15 from 50-plus yards for his career. Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he still has confidence in him. Santos’ difficulties obscured the fact that Marcus Mariota and the offense were sloppy, had touchdowns nullified by penalties and several drives stifled by sacks. The Titans were penalized eight times for 60 yards and allowed five sacks, despite left tackle Taylor Lewan’s return from a four-game PED suspension. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 7 of 16

DENVER 20, LA CHARGERS 13

BRONCOS (1-4): Denver could not curtail the Jaguars’ momentum in Week 4 but managed to stop the Chargers from stealing the win. Los Angeles, however, would have operated differently in the second half had cornerback Kareem Jackson, a former Texan, not provided Denver’s defensive play of the year. Jackson derailed the Bolts’ fourth-and-goal play by forcing an Austin Ekeler fumble near the pylon in the second quarter. This ensured the Broncos carried a 17-0 lead into halftime. Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 cornerback entering Sunday, Jackson made a Broncos-high 10 tackles and helped a Bradley Chubb-less defense hold PHILIP RIVERS to 4.4 yards per attempt. GAME GRADE:  A-minus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHARGERS (2-3): Despite having Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon back in the lineup, the Bolts could not produce enough against a Broncos team down Bradley Chubb, starting linebacker Josey Jewell and would-be starting cornerback Bryce Callahan. Los Angeles totaled 246 yards – 120 fewer than any output of their previous 2019 outings – and were outrushed 191-35. A week after the Jaguars erased a 14-point Broncos lead largely with Leonard Fournette’s 225-yard day, the Chargers were not patient enough with the run. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions. Keenan Allen, the NFL’s receiving leader after Week 4, caught four passes for 18 yards. This profiled as a non-threatening spot for the injury-plagued team, but the Chargers are plagued by inconsistency. LA, which played at home before a big Denver contingent, is in trouble amid a crowded AFC middle tier. GAME GRADE:  D + | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

ARIZONA 26, CINCINNATI 23

CARDINALS: (1-3-1): KYLER MURRAY and Kliff Kingsbury each got their first win in the NFL, and it isn’t hard to pinpoint why. Arizona’s offensive line kept Murray upright almost the entire game. The Cardinals allowed only one sack despite coming in having surrendered 20, most in the league through four games. Murray did his part, too, managing to get rid of the football under pressure. The lack of negative plays was a major factor in helping the Cardinals establish rhythm and consistency. He was also more decisive as a playmaker, and he led a 266-yard team rushing effort with 93 on his own. Arizona piled up 514 yards, and while Cincinnati is one of the league’s worst defenses, it was still a big step forward for Murray and Kingsbury. Notable: Arizona prevented a score by a tight end for the first time this season. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


BENGALS (0-5): It’s clear the Cardinals are the better of these two poor teams. Here’s the deal with Cincinnati: Its offense has only two players! Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd; that’s it. Andy Dalton is a professional quarterback, and tight end Tyler Eifert can occasionally make plays, but this team has a putrid offensive line, and every defense the Bengals face (at least until injured A.J.Green returns) is going to make life extremely difficult on Mixon and Boyd. These two touched the ball 30 times, accounting for 232 of Cincinnati’s 370 yards. The offense is far too dependent on them. Hey, I thought head coach Zac Taylor’s forte was offense. GAME GRADE:  D+ | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 9 of 16

HOUSTON 53, ATLANTA 32

FALCONS (1-4): Atlanta’s secondary will be having nightmares about Will Fuller for weeks to come. Part of the Texans receiver’s monster day had to do with several miscommunications in coverage by the Falcons, including both of his first-half touchdowns. Fuller didn’t just reap the benefit of broken plays, he also just straight-up smoked an overmatched Atlanta secondary when defenders had the right idea about where they needed to be. Fuller had 14 catches on 16 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a day that looks almost effortlessly easy; Atlanta’s listless coverage helped make it that way.  GAME GRADE:  D-minus | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison


TEXANS (3-2): If this is what life is like for DESHAUN WATSON with a clean pocket, his offensive line should be the most motivated group on the planet. After an opening three and out, the Texans piled up six touchdowns and two field goals, with only the end of the first half stopping another drive. Watson finished with five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating, consistently shredding the Falcons’ defense with deep shots downfield. This came one week after the Texans didn’t complete a pass longer than 14 yards in a loss to Carolina. Watson’s performance and the line’s protection were by far the most encouraging aspects of the game for Houston, but Will Fuller’s career day was close behind. If he can function as a truly dangerous second option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Houston will be the team to beat in the AFC South. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 10 of 16

NEW ORLEANS 31, TAMPA BAY 24

BUCS (2-3): Coming off a 55-point outing in a win over the Rams, the Buccaneers must have figured they wouldn’t need quite that many offensive fireworks to top a Brees-less Saints team, although obviously one would like to keep the offense humming regardless. It can be hard to be effective to that degree when your top receiver, Mike Evans, finishes the game with no catches on three targets. Perhaps that’s a credit to Marshon Lattimore, but wideouts considered among the game’s best don’t usually pull disappearing acts such as that. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison


SAINTS (4-1): The idea during Drew Brees’ absence is that the Saints were hoping for just good enough quarterback play to tread water and eke out a few wins. That has been the case for the most part. New Orleans got good QB play and then some against the Buccaneers, as Teddy Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns. One of the knocks against Bridgewater is that he tends to play the short game and not get a lot of air under the ball. Against the Bucs, he had an impressive strike for 33 yards to Ted Ginn for a score and another to Josh Hill on a 26-yard play. GAME GRADE:  A-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison 11 of 16

MINNESOTA 28, NY GIANTS 10

VIKINGS (3-2): The Vikings have one of the league’s best running games, making play-action rollouts a highly effective tactic by KIRK COUSINS. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for 184 rushing yards on 28 attempts against New York. Cousins isn’t a great athlete, but he does move well and certainly can throw effectively on the run. Designed quarterback movement off play action played to Cousins’ strengths and put the Giants’ suspect linebackers in compromised positions. This game plan had assistant coach Gary Kubiak written all over it — keep an eye on this the rest of the season. GAME GRADE:  B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


GIANTS (2-3): There are plenty of takes to be had about Daniel Jones coming back to earth following his excellent first outing two weeks ago in Tampa. Sunday’s loss makes it clear there are plenty of issues with the roster even if the Giants get a serviceable performance from their starting quarterback. Before Week 5, Kirk Cousins hadn’t thrown for more than 233 yards in a game. He had that before the end of the first half against the Giants. New York’s secondary was ripe for the picking all game, and it shows in the nearly flawless performances that Cousins (306 yards passing) and Adam Thielen (seven catches and 130 yards) put up in a one-sided game. GAME GRADE:  D | NEXT: at Patriots (Thur.)

— Mike Tunison 12 of 16

OAKLAND 24, CHICAGO 21 (LONDON)

BEARS (3-2): Allen Robinson, who had seven catches on eight targets for 97 yards and two touchdowns, is easily Chicago’s best offensive player. That showed in a big way in Week 5. For the better part of this game, the Bears surprisingly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. Chicago was also hampered by penalties, poor blocking, a lackluster running game and less-than-stellar defense. But Robinson was spectacular. Rarely is he mentioned as an upper-echelon wide receiver, but he excels at all levels of the field, is good after the catch and often dominant at the catch point. He has bailed out Chicago QBs all season. GAME GRADE:  C | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Saints (Sun, Oct. 20)

— Matt Williamson


RAIDERS (3-2):  With the Raiders producing one winning season since 2003, the bulk of their drives in this era have not been particularly consequential. A drive in London may go down as a season-changing march. Jon Gruden pulling the trigger on a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from his own 27-yard line ignited a Raiders team on the verge of blowing a 17-point lead. The direct snap to safety Erik Harris doubled as a turning point, with the Raiders then piecing together a 13-play, 97-yard, go-ahead drive against the Bears’ top-tier defense. DEREK CARR, No. 22 in QBR through four games, led the drive without hitting Tyrell Williams or Darren Waller. Oakland rookie tight end Foster Moreau contributed 41 yards on the possession, including a diving grab to set up Josh Jacobs’ game-winner. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: Week 6 bye, at Packers (Sun., Oct. 20)

— Sam Robinson 13 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 31, NY JETS 6

JETS (0-4): Their offensive line struggles in recent years having bled into 2019, the Jets made changes before Week 5. Despite the two new starters – left guard Alex Lewis and right tackle Chuma Edoga – the Jets gave up 10 sacks to the Eagles. For a team that has seen two quarterbacks go down, this made a third consecutive Jets game nearly unwatchable. One of those sacks resulted in a touchdown, with Eagles in-season
cornerback acquisition Orlando Scandrick ripping the ball from Luke Falk and sprinting for a touchdown. The Jets last allowed 10-plus sacks in a 2012 game against the Chargers, when another backup quarterback – Greg McElroy – was concussed. Falk made it through this game but again finished with a dreadful stat line – 15-for-26, 120 yards, two interceptions. The Jets cannot be properly evaluated until Sam Darnold returns, but their stretch without him exposed plenty of flaws that stand to hinder the starter’s development when he comes back. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


EAGLES (3-2): Philly was more or less on autopilot in what was always an expected win. The offense (446 yards) plowed through New York with a run-heavy opening drive to take a touchdown lead. From there, the Eagles’ defense forced the turnovers, including a 52-yard pick-six by linebacker NATE GERRY on the ensuing Jets possession, that have been missing in their early season struggles. Still, a big part of being a playoff team is taking care of business when you have the opportunity, so that’s an encouraging sign for an Eagles team that has been erratic and faces a difficult six-week stretch ahead (at Vikings, at Cowboys, at Bills, vs. Bears, vs. Patriots, vs. Seahawks).  GAME GRADE:  A | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)

— Mike Tunison 14 of 16

MONDAY: CLEVELAND AT SAN FRANCISCO

BROWNS (2-2): Cleveland got a huge win in Week 4 at Baltimore, but the Ravens no longer have a strong pass-rushing defense. The Browns’ troubled offensive line is going to face a far stiffer challenge on the road against the Niners, who are coming off a bye. It isn’t getting the national credit, but San Francisco’s defensive front is among the best in football. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa has just one sack, but he is stout. Keeping BAKER MAYFIELD clean should prove to be the most challenging aspect of this game for the Browns. The second-year QB is much more effective when he gets rid of the ball quickly.  | NEXT: vs. Seattle (Sun., Oct. 13)

— Matt Williamson


49ERS (3-0): San Francisco comes off an early bye week with a chance to start asserting itself as the team to beat in the NFC West. There will be no worries about looking past the Browns, even with a road showdown with the Rams looming in Week 6. The Niners’ defensive front has been a major strength so far this season, with the team ranking fifth in the league against the run and fourth in yards per carry allowed. It will face their toughest test of the season in the form of Nick Chubb and the Browns, who found their stride against Baltimore in Week 4.  Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa have been productive in terms of generating tackles for loss, and have consistently forced opponents to play from behind the sticks. NEXT: at Los Angeles Rams   (Sun., Oct. 13)

— Chris Mueller

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_5_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30191483#slide_14

By: Yardbarker staff

2019 NFL MVP favorites and odds

The NFL quarterbacks’ MVP dynasty

Two gifted running backs — Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson — won the Associated Press NFL MVP Award in consecutive seasons, 2005-2006. Since then, 11 of the past 12 MVPs have been quarterbacks, including 2018 top dog Patrick Mahomes who earned 41 of the 50 first-place votes. Fellow quarterback Drew Brees finished second. So Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season — less than a year removed from a torn ACL — remains the last time somebody other than an NFL quarterback hoisted the NFL MVP hardware.

Spoiler alert: Based on the favorites to win the 2019 MVP, don’t expect this trend to change anytime soon.

Odds via Bovada 2 of 16

Cam Newton

Odds: +2,500
2018 Stats: 3,395 pass yards, 24 TDs and 13 INTs | 488 rush yards  and four TDs

A shoulder injury may have cost Newton the final two games on paper, but anybody who watched the Panthers quarterback grind out the 2018 season knows it cost the team much more. Carolina started the season 6-2 and in a prime position to reach the playoffs. However, the severity of Newton’s shoulder injury prevented him from throwing balls down field and allowed defenses to cheat up and play the underneath routes. After the hot start, the Panthers lost seven of their last eight games. Newton had offseason surgery to repair the shoulder, and he’s expected to be back at 100 percent by the start of the season. His MVP chances ride on improved play of DJ Moore, Jarius Wright and a healthy Greg Olsen. The veteran tight end has missed 16 games over the past two seasons due to injury, but when healthy he’s Cam’s most trusted target. If Olsen misses time, running back Christian McCaffrey’s MVP odds could be just as high as Cam’s. 3 of 16

Philip Rivers

Odds: +2,000
2018 stats: 4,308 pass yards, 32 TDs and 12 INTs

Rivers may be the NFL equivalent of MLB’s Cal Ripken. The Chargers ironman has not missed a game for 13 consecutive seasons. While the league has gone to great lengths to protect the quarterback, the fact Rivers hasn’t sustained a serious injury over the past 208 games is nothing short of a miracle. Led by Keenan Allen, his receiving corps remains intact and receives a slight upgrade with the full-time return of tight end Hunter Henry who missed the 2018 regular season with a torn ACL. The one constant who is missing as of press time is Melvin Gordon. The Chargers starting running back is holding out in hopes of a new contract. If Gordon’s holdout lingers into the regular season, Rivers’ odds of winning the 2019 MVP should take a notable hit. 4 of 16

Jimmy Garoppolo

Odds: +3,300
2018 stats: 718 pass yards, five TDs and three INTs (in only three games due to torn ACL)

The saying goes, “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and when it comes to Jimmy G. what we don’t  know outweighs his elite hype. Garoppolo has yet to play in more than six regular-season games and missed the final 13 games of the 2018 season with a torn ACL. So the 2019 season will be a fresh canvas on which to either paint a masterpiece and fill in those unknown gaps OR post pedestrian stats as he has through his first nine games as the 49ers quarterback: 12:8 TD:INT ratio. If you’re looking for a reason to back this long shot, Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes will benefit — not hurt — Jimmy G’s shot at the 2019 MVP. 5 of 16

Matt Ryan

Odds: +3,000
2018 Stats: 4,924 pass yards, 35 TDs and seven INTs

Ryan was one of only four quarterbacks last season to finish with more than 600 pass attempts. Aside from a pass-first offense, the primary reason his pass attempts reached a three-year high is due to a host of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, which turned the secondary into Swiss-cheese city, and opponents racked up early leads. So Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley (10 TDs as a rookie) and others spent most of the game in rally mode via the pass. If the defense can stay healthy, the Falcons are one of those squads that could flip the script and qualify for the playoffs one year after missing them. Ryan is as consistent as they come and despite turning 30 years old, Jones will go down as one of the top targets in NFL history. 6 of 16

Ben Roethlisberger

Odds: +3,000
2018 Stats: 5,129 pass yards, 34 TDs and 16 INTs

Without Le’Veon Bell last season, Roethlisberger led the NFL in completions (career-high), attempts (career-high), passing yards (career-high) and pass yards per game. The loss of both Bell and Antonio Brown will no doubt change the Steelers’ offensive dynamic, but don’t sleep on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to fill Brown’s shoes as Big Ben’s primary receiver in addition to a healthy running game of James Connor and Jaylen Samuels behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. While many believe the AFC North torch has been passed to Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, an MVP season by Roethlisberger would mute any chance of that happening. 7 of 16

Deshaun Watson

Odds: +2,000
2018 Stats: 4,165 pass yards, 26 TDs and nine INTs | 551 rush yards and five TDs

The good news for Watson is that he’ll probably compete for an NFL MVP one day. The bad news is that unless his offensive line play improves 1,000 percent, he won’t be among the 2019 MVP finalists. Remember: Despite mobility that rivals Russell Wilson, Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times. To be fair some of those sacks were no doubt Watson’s fault. However, as of early August, head coach Bill O’Brien admits he still doesn’t know who will start on the offensive line. How does this not get addressed in the offseason? Forget Watson’s MVP chances. The Texans could find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. 8 of 16

Mitch Trubisky

Odds: +2,000
2018 Stats: 3,223 pass yards, 24 TDs and 12 INTs

The Chicago Bears 2018 defense ranked first in points allowed and against the rush, third in turnover differential (+12) and seventh against the pass. Its pass offense ranked outside the top 20. So the obvious question becomes where can Trubisky improve in his third year when the top three receiving targets remain the same and the Bears front office elected to shake up the running back depth chart after averaging 121 rush yards per game last season (11 th)? It’s a loaded question. Despite an above-average arm and 421 rush yards and three rush TDs last season, it’s hard to fathom Trubisky making enough of a statistical leap toward MVP when the most valuable players — plural — on the team likely reside on the defensive side of the ball. 9 of 16

Russell Wilson

Odds: +2,500
2018 Stats: 3,448 pass yards, 35 TDs and seven INTs

Because the Seahawks averaged a league-leading 160 yards per game last season, Wilson’s passing totals were the lowest since 2014. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for the Seahawks to make another Super Bowl run, the offense needs to find a consistent passing game aside from Wilson running for his life on third and long. Wilson was sacked 51 times last season, but that total could have been higher if not for his elite mobility out of the pocket. So the offensive line play must improve, and Pete Carroll needs to find lighting in a bottle with second-round draft pick DK Metcalf. The 6-foot-4, 228-pound receiver out of Ole Miss is a polarizing brand, but Wilson has no choice but to embrace the rookie because without Doug Baldwin, No. 3’s primary target is 5-foot-11, 175-pound speedster Tyler Lockett. 10 of 16

Carson Wentz

Odds: +1,200
2018 Stats: 3,074 pass yards, 21 TDs and seven INTs (11 games)

Wentz’s 2017 season was cut short due to an ACL tear, and he missed the final three games of the 2018 season with a stress fracture in his back. The knock of Wentz is that these annual ailments date back to high school. However, when you place the injury history on the back burner and assess a potential 16-game campaign for the Eagles quarterback, it’s evident he has the talent and players around him to make a run at an MVP and Super Bowl title. One guy who will help him reach those goals is DeSean Jackson. The speedy, downfield receiver returns to Philadelphia at age 32 and should allow for Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to enjoy softer coverages this season. Also, the arrival of Jordan Howard should improve the Eagles 28 th-ranked running game of a season ago, which should also boost Wentz’s MVP odds.

By: Ryan Fowler

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/2019_nfl_mvp_favorites_and_odds/s1__29673998#slide_1

NFL mock draft, post Super Bowl edition

1. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Still the consensus top player on the board, Bosa would make quite the bookend opposite Chandler Jones in Arizona. More likely, the Cardinals will trade down to a quarterback-needy team, and Bosa’s draft spot will fall as a result.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

The 49ers are hoping to finish developing a dominant defensive line with former first-round picks DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, and Williams could be the final piece. The youthful defensive tackle has jumped up draft boards after finishing with eight sacks and 71 tackles in his sophomore season at Alabama.

3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
The Jets are encouraged by Sam Darnold’s rookie development, but the value in this spot is on defense. Allen put himself in the conversation as the top pick in the draft after recording 17 sacks in his final season with the Wildcats.
4. Oakland Raiders: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

The Raiders are in a position to take the best player available, and that very well could be Oliver. His stock has dropped slightly after missing time last season with a knee injury, but he still has dominant pass-rushing potential after recording 13.5 sacks and 53 tackles for loss in three seasons for the Cougars.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU

Bruce Arians has been hired to fix Jameis Winston, and wide receiver could be a path if DeSean Jackson isn’t back for 2019. However, the value here is better on defense, and White could potentially replace Kwon Alexander, who suffered a torn ACL last season and is set for free agency.

6. New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins still looks like the top quarterback on the board, but he probably won’t fall this far if recent history of teams trading up for signal-callers in the draft is any indication. If the Giants see Haskins as Eli Manning’s replacement, there are plenty of trade-up possibilities.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Jaguars could be in the market for a quarterback, but more likely they’ll be looking at the available veterans (Nick Foles, Joe Flacco) with a roster just one year removed from an AFC championship appearance. If that does happen, protecting the investment will be the priority, and Williams could join former Alabama teammate Cam Robinson to give Jacksonville two solid, young tackles in Jacksonville.

8. Detroit Lions: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

It looks like the Lions could be a full rebuild with the way they’ve been trending under head coach Matt Patricia over the last year. Detroit acquired Damon Harrison last year, and Gary would further shore up Patricia’s defense after recording 9.5 sacks in 22 games over the last two seasons.

9. Buffalo Bills: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

The retirement of Kyle Williams leaves big shoes to fill in Buffalo. Simmons has the skills to fit well next to run-stuffer Star Lotulelei in the 4-3, with seven sacks and 30 tackles for loss over the last two seasons.

10. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Denver has been connected so much to Lock that it’s almost creepy, and at this point they could be required to use significant draft capital to trade up for him, with the possibility that another team could trade up in the top 10 to get him. Lock made nice progress at Mizzou last season, but his accuracy on short throws is still a question mark.

Full Mock Draft List

By: Seth Trachtman

 

The All-Time Super Bowl Greats Lineup

In 1967, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to become the NFL’s first ever Super Bowl Champion. Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, and Max McGee combined to form one of the deadliest trio in Super Bowl history as they beat up the Chiefs, along with a dominate Packers defense, to win 35-10.

That was just the beginning.

Since the Packers victory in 1967, 20 teams have won the Lombardi. Only four teams have never even been to the big show. (Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions)

Can you imagine what the lineup would look like if you examined every team from every Super Bowl and built the perfect team? Who would make the cut?

We are going to start with the Head Coach because what good is a lineup if you have no one calling the plays and managing the sidelines? We’re also going to do our best to avoid naming Patriots to the team because screw those guys.

Head Coach – Vince Lombardi, Packers

Super Bowls – 2 (I, II)

NFL Championships – 4 (1956, 1961, 1962, 1965)

We could spit out facts and stats to prove the point we want to make. But that is just plain easy.

Ask yourself this question instead, who is the Super Bowl trophy named after?

QB – Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers

Championships – 4 (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV)

MVPs – 3 (XVI, XIX, XXIV)

Passer Rating – 127.83 (SB Record)

Passing Yards – 1,142

Passing TDs – 11 (SB Record)

INTs – 0 (SB Record)

Rushing TDs – 2

There has never been a more efficient player in Super Bowl history than Joe Montana. He is the definition of winning. He led the 49ers to the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons from 1982 to 1991. During those ten years, he won 4 Super Bowl’s, 3 Super Bowl MVPs (Record), and led the 49ers to a come from behind win over the Bengals with a 10 yard TD pass to John Taylor, otherwise known as “The Catch”. Selecting Montana gives us the added bonus of pissing off Tom Brady fans.

RB – Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Championships – 4 (IX, X, XIII, XIV)

MVPs – 1 (IX)

Rushing Attempts – 101 (SB Record)

Rushing Yards – 354 (SB Record)

Rushing TDs – 4

He was a bruising back standing over six feet tall and weighing north of 225 pounds. He was the reason Pittsburgh won their first ever playoff game thanks to one of the most amazing plays of all time, “The Immaculate Reception”. It was not only his catch and score that led Pittsburgh to the victory, he had 160 total yards including the only Steeler touchdown of the day. He would later be a part of a Pittsburgh team that won four Super Bowls in six seasons, an NFL record.

RB – Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys

Championships – 3 (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)

MVPs – 1 (XXVIII)

Rushing Yards – 289

Rushing TDs – 5 (SB Record)

We have a chance to build the perfect roster of Super Bowl champions and Emmitt Smith falls into our laps? The greatest NFL RB of all time owns the NFL record for most career rushing yards, rushing TDs, and most 100 yard rushing games. He played in 3 Super Bowls and ran for over 100 yards twice. The argument shouldn’t be whether or not he makes the team, it should be whether or not we need a second RB.

WR – Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

By Thomas Delatte

Complete Line Up