Saturday, January 20, 2018

NFL Week 6 overreactions: Are Eagles now the front-runners?


SportsPulse: NFL insider Jarrett Bell breaks down how Aaron Rodgers’ injury will impact the Packers and all the top story lines from Week 6.
USA Today Sports

Week 6 brought another devastating injury, saw the NFL’s lone undefeated team fall, and had underdogs go 9-4 – not against the spread, but straight up – on Sunday.

Still, some are extrapolating definitive conclusions, so here are five overreactions we’re arguing against.

The Eagles are the best team in the NFC

Based on record alone, that claim is true.

After Thursday night’s 28-23 victory on the road against the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia climbed to 5-1, which tops four other NFC teams at 4-2.

The Eagles have plenty of ingredients that make them an early contender.

They rank sixth in scoring offense (27.5 points per game) and are tied for ninth in scoring defense (20.9 points per game). They surrender an NFL-low 65.7 rushing yards per game. They lead the league in third-down conversion rate (50.6%) and have yielded just 32.9% of third-down attempts (third-best) on defense.

But the NFC is wide open, and Philly still has its flaws.

The secondary, in particular, is a weak spot, ranking 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (273.5 per game). Quarterback Carson Wentz is rapidly progressing, but he is still prone to making an occasional mistake.

With two games left against the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) as well as contests against the Washington Redskins (3-2), Los Angeles Rams (4-2) and Seattle Seahawks (3-2), the Eagles still have to prove themselves against some of the conference’s other contenders.

More: 40 things we learned in Week 6 of the 2017 NFL season

More: Upon Further Review: Aaron Rodgers’ injury gives NFC race a significant shake-up

The Chiefs fell from the top tier of AFC contenders

Perhaps no other defense right now is stingier than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are averaging 17 points allowed per game. The latest victim for the unit was the Kansas City Chiefs, who earned their first blemish of the season in a 19-13 defeat.

Kansas City earned just 12 first downs, converted only three of 11 third-down tries and mustered 28 total yards on the ground. Coach Andy Reid’s history of questionable game management resurfaced when on a failed fourth-down attempt at the Steelers’ 4-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Despite all that, the Chiefs still had the chance to win and were down six points on their final drive. Were it not for a pivotal third-down sack in that series, Kansas City may have made a serious comeback push.

While some flaws were exposed, one loss hardly drops the Chiefs from the AFC’s best. There aren’t many squads that can match the Steelers in competing with the speed and athleticism Kansas City boasts.

Adrian Peterson is back to his 2012 form

Just five days after the New Orleans Saints traded Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals, the former all-pro running showed burst and patience in a demonstration of how much he still has left to offer.

In Arizona’s 38-33 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Peterson ran the ball 26 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns. His longest carry spanned 27 yards, but he had a 41-yard rush negated by a penalty.

Peterson injected new life into a running game that ranked as the league’s worst. He rushed for more yards in his first eight carries (84) than Arizona had in any game this season. The Cardinals entered Week 6 averaging only 2.6 yards per carry. Against the Bucs, they averaged 4.6 per rush.

But Peterson is still 32 years old and in his 11th season. He has collected 2,471 carries and has had multiple significant knee injuries.

He’s an excellent and timely addition for a team that was reeling with David Johnson injured.

But it’s unrealistic to expect Peterson to exceed 25 carries and 100 yards each week. 

Peterson’s performance reveals the Saints made a mistake

Although Peterson posted big numbers, New Orleans didn’t miss him.

The Saints tallied 52 points and 193 rushing yards on 35 carries (5.2 yards per attempt) in their victory against the Lions.

This was against a Detroit defense that entered Sunday averaging just 19.4 points allowed per game, which was tied for 10th in the NFL.

Peterson simply wasn’t a fit in coach Sean Payton’s offense, which is loaded with West Coast concepts. It requires running backs to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Peterson has never excelled at.

New Orleans established its offense through starter Mark Ingram (25 carries, 114 yards, two TDs; five catches, 36 yards) and rookie Alvin Kamara (10 carries, 75 yards; four catches, 12 yards). The Saints now have a focused attack that highlights the strength of their running backs.

This was the rare trade that worked for both parties.

Season is over for the Packers with Rodgers out

The Green Bay Packers just aren’t as strong without Aaron Rodgers. So the quarterback’s broken collarbone in the 23-10 loss against the Minnesota Vikings is a devastating blow to a team that looked like a Super Bowl contender.

But it doesn’t end Green Bay’s season.

Rodgers broke his left collarbone in 2013 and missed seven games. The Packers still won the NFC North that season.

This year’s fracture is to his right clavicle, but it happened earlier in the year. In 2013, the injury came in Week 9. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers will be out “a significant amount of time,” but there still has been no full determination on a timeline.

Meanwhile, Backup Brett Hundley struggled against Minnesota, throwing for 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on 18-of-33 passing.

It would help if the rest of the NFC North stumbled. And if the Packers alter their offense to include more zone-read concepts – something Hundley ran often at UCLA – and can focus on the rushing game (Green Bay ran for only 72 yards Sunday), they might be able to weather Rodgers’ absence.

All those conditions might constitute a long shot, but the Packers still have some hope for keeping their postseason aspirations alive.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

PHOTOS: Best of NFL Week 6


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