Here's what we learned from Sunday's Week 6 slate of games:
- In a clash between quarterbacks of football present and yet to come, Tom Brady had the ball last, and his Pats had the last laugh. But not before Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs almost made history. Down 15 points at halftime, Kansas City came all the way back to take a 33-30 lead early in the fourth quarter, threatening to break the Patriots' 88-game winning streak when leading by 14 or more points at the half. New England regained a seven-point lead after two scoring drives, only for the Chiefs to tie the contest at 40 on a 75-yard Mahomes-to-Tyreek Hill bomb on the first play of the next drive. But Kansas City left three minutes on the clock, way too much time for the most clutch quarterback of all time to march down the field to ice the victory.
Brady, who logged career win No. 200, did just that. In five plays -- a Julian Edelman sweep, two short Sony Michel runs, a James White catch-and-run, the elusive Rob Gronkowski chunk play -- New England marched 65 yards down the field to set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winning 28-yard field goal. The loss knocked Kansas City for the ranks of the undefeated and re-cemented New England as a favorite to come out of the AFC. If we're lucky, these two teams will meet again in January. The way both clubs played Sunday evening, that's a very real possibility.
- For just the second time in the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots "failed" to attempt a single punt all game. That's a testament to New England's balanced attack, which ate up 36 minutes of clock en route to nine scoring drives; Brady (340 yards) dropped back to pass 37 times while New England attempted 38 carries, including 24 by Sony Michel. After a sketchy start to his career, the rookie back has rattled off 316 rushing yards at a 4.7 YPC clip over his last three games, all Patriots victories. Michel and James White were the beating heart of the Pats' attack Sunday night, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and leading a ground attack that picked up 15 first downs. Their consistency in the running game was needed on a night when Brady struggled to connect with his receivers downfield and was often bothered by Kansas City's eight-man coverage. That is, until the fourth quarter when Chris Hogan and Gronkowski each secured long gainers to set up go-ahead scores. Brady had his senior moment -- his third-quarter fumble in Patriots territory after spending 10 seconds in and around the pocket was a rookie mistake -- but on the whole, the Patriots offense has not looked better than what we saw on Sunday night.
- Patrick Mahomes went shot for shot with Brady, and it wasn't enough. Thanks to two early interceptions from Mahomes, including a reckless red-zone throw in the direction of a triple-covered Travis Kelce at the end of the first half, Kansas City entered the final frames with the aforementioned 15-point deficit. The Chiefs rode back into contention on Mahomes' laser arm and the speed of Tyreek Hill (142 yards, 3 TDs) and Kareem Hunt (185 total yards, TD), scoring 24 points on their first four drives of the second half. But Kansas City mismanaged the final two drives, going three-and-out and punting down four (the only punt of the game) and then scoring too quickly, if there is such a thing, to tie the game at 40 with three minutes to go. The Chiefs' porous and injury-riddled defense was no match for New England down the stretch, failing to make the necessary third-down and red-zone stops when needed. Breeland Speaks will have nightmares about his missed tackle on Brady's go-ahead touchdown run. Kansas City had survived its previous shootout with the Steelers by playing from ahead in the fourth quarter. When the roles were reversed in Week 6, the Chiefs couldn't finish.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- Ripped to shreds by Isaiah Crowell last week, Denver's porous run defense had no shot against the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for a career-high 208 yards against the Broncos, scored two touchdowns and picked up 10 first downs on the ground by himself. That's five touchdowns in two weeks for Gurley and 11 this season, the most through six games since Shaun Alexander in 2005 (12). With Cooper Kupp (knee) sidelined and Brandin Cooks coming off a concussion, Gurley and Robert Woods (100-plus yards for the third time in four weeks) stepped up. This is a weekly phenomenon with the still-undefeated Rams, who are stockpiled with so much talent that when one facet of the offense doesn't work (on Sunday, it was the chunk play), they can lean on another without missing a beat. A note of concern: Rodger Saffold and Andrew Whitworth were both sidelined with injuries at points during Sunday's win.
Sunday's loss, though close, doesn't help the case of Joseph, who is reportedly in a "crucial stretch" to save his job. If Denver's losing streak extends to five against a bottom-tier Cardinals squad next week, then Joseph and Co. could be gone by November.
- Rookie defensive end Bradley Chubb had his breakout game, recording three of Denver's five sacks of Jared Goff. Lined up against Andrew Whitworth, Chubb took advantage of strong coverage from Denver's secondary, who bounced back after allowing multiple big plays in New York last week. His edge rushing partner Von Miller also tallied 1.5 sacks, boosting his season total to 5.5. While the Broncos' run defense still resembles a sieve, Denver's pass rush is picking up steam with a rookie quarterback in Arizona waiting on deck.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- Sack party! The Baltimore Ravens defense manhandled the Tennessee Titans to the tune of 11 sacks, setting a franchise record. Don "Wink" Martindale's unit discombobulated Marcus Mariota and a Titans offensive line that had allowed nine sacks combined through the first five games. Contract-year rusher Za'Darius Smith led the way with three QB takedowns and a forced fumble. Terrell Suggs pestered Mariota all game, Patrick Onwuasor (2 sacks), Matt Judon, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr., and Chris Wormley all got in on the sack fiesta. On the Titans first 17 snaps, Baltimore generated five sacks. They didn't let up all game. The Ravens swallowed the run game, holding Tennessee to 55 rushing yards. Mariota had just 117 yards passing while losing 66 yards on sacks. No receiver for the Titans generated more than two receptions or 35 yards. It was about as dominant a road win as a defense could hope to conceive.
- Baltimore mauled the Titans in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Joe Flacco had all day to pick apart the Tennessee secondary, and the Ravens run game moved the chains, gobbling up 123 yards on the ground. Baltimore started the game with a 17-play, 94-yard drive for a score, taking up more than nine minutes off the clock. Leading 14-0 at halftime, Flacco guided a 78-yard, 12-play score to go up 21-zip. The Ravens had former DC Dean Pees' number all game and didn't give up a single sack on 37 passes to a good Titans front. Michael Crabtree bounced back from his struggles last week. As Flacco's go-to target, Crabtree compiled six receptions for 93 yards and a TD. The only negative for Baltimore was seeing guard Alex Lewis being strapped to a stretcher and carted off. He was taken to a local hospital with a neck injury.
- Marcus Mariota was a mess from the start. With no run game, Mariota dropped back to pass 28 times but got off just 15 passes. The offensive line was overwhelmed, but more concerning for Tennessee was Mariota's inability to diagnose the defense. The quarterback had no idea where the pressure was coming from play to play. Baltimore's bevy of secondary blitzers befuddled Mariota, leaving free rushers all game. With Mariota discombobulated, and his receivers not earning separation, there was no chance for Tennessee to move the ball. The Titans generated just seven first downs and didn't have a single drive more than seven plays. After scheming around Mariota's elbow injury early this season, it's back to the drawing board for Matt Lafleur's offense after producing a measly 12 points with zero touchdowns the past two weeks.
-- Kevin Patra
- Sunday's matchup was basically over after the first half, as the Cowboys dominated the Jaguars en route to a 24-0 halftime lead. Through the first two quarters, the Cowboys produced 17 first downs compared to the Jaguars' three. The Cowboys also totaled 251 net yards of offense, while the Jaguars managed just 64 total yards.
When the dust settled, the Cowboys produced head-turning numbers against the vaunted Jaguars defense. The Cowboys entered Week 6 ranked 30th in the league in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, but scored a season-high 40 points. The Jaguars ranked first in total defense (292.2 yards per game), but allowed the Cowboys to amass 378 yards. Dallas also ran a season-high 72 offensive plays, converted 7 of 17 third down attempts, produced 23 first downs and commanded time of possession, holding the ball 38:55 to Jacksonville's 21:05.
- The Cowboys threw it back to 2016 by allowing quarterback Dak Prescott to work his magic through the air and on the ground. Prescott was efficient throwing the football, connecting with 10 different players en route to completing 17 of 27 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. But Prescott really hurt the Jaguars with his legs, rushing for a touchdown and setting career-highs in yards (82) and carries (11) in a single game.
When Prescott dropped back to pass, wide receiver Cole Beasley proved his favorite target, especially on third down. Beasley made the most of the opportunities, hauling in nine catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets. Beasley's 100-yard receiving effort marked the first time this season a Cowboys receiver hit the mark.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott rounded out the Cowboys' attack by rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. With his 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Elliott reached 25 career rushing touchdowns in fewer games (31) than any player in Cowboys history, passing the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who needed 34 games to set the previous mark.
- The Jaguars (3-3) are on a two-game slide with issues on offense and defense. When it comes to the latter, the Jaguars once-feared defense has sprung a leak, allowing 70 total points in the past two games. Week 5's performance against the Kansas City Chiefs could be considered a fluke, but in a world where twice or more is a habit, Sunday's defensive showing against the Cowboys raises major alarms.
Meanwhile, the offense truly misses running back Leonard Fournette, who missed a second straight game with a hamstring injury. The Jaguars thrive when they are able to establish the running game as a complement to the defense, but the inability to sustain drives has put the defense on the field too much, evidenced by two straight weeks of blowout losses and the disparity in the time of possession category. Quarterback Blake Bortles struggled against the swarming Dallas defense, which pinned its ears back with a big lead and went after the signal-caller. Bortles finished the game completing 15 of 26 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown with an interception, while getting sacked three times and hit seven times.
-- Herbie Teope
- Jason Sanders nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime to give the Miami Dolphins a magical victory in a game it felt they'd lost multiple times. Adam Gase's team gave up three straight touchdowns to open the second half, putting Miami down by double-digits in the blink of an eye. After battling back to tie the game, the Dolphins drove to the 1-yard-line on the opening possession of OT (after a wacky long completion to Kenny Stills that went off the back of a Bears defender, and big runs from Frank Gore). Running back Kenyan Drake then lost the ball diving into the end zone for a turnover. Chicago, however, missed a subsequent 53-yard field goal after Matt Nagy played for a long attempt, setting up the Dolphins last-second win. The Dolphins got outplayed for long stretches, but made their own luck, forcing a goal-line fumble, a red zone interception, and enough YAC to feed a third-world country. It wasn't pretty, but with a backup quarterback, Gase will cherish a home win to move to 4-2 in the AFC East.
- Brock Osweiler loves beating the Chicago Bears. Playing in place of injured Ryan Tannehill (shoulder), the quarterback moved to 3-0 versus the Bears in his career. It was an OK day for Osweiler, who finished with 380 yards on 28-of-44 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brock's first pick could be blamed on DeVante Parker not playing the ball, but his second was a telegraphed pass right to Bears corner Kyle Fuller, which set up Chicago's go-ahead score early in the 3rd quarter. Gase didn't ask Osweiler to do much. Just eight of Brock's 44 pass attempts went for more than 10 air yards, per Next Gen Stats. Brock cleverly avoided sacks, getting the ball out quickly, specifically targeting tight end Nick O'Leary and Danny Amendola. The Dolphins, however, took advantage of a gassed Bears defense that tackled poorly. The star of the comeback was receiver Albert Wilson, who took two short tosses to the house. According to Next Gen Stats, Wilson's two touchdowns had an expected yards after catch of nine yards and one yards. The wideout took them to pay dirt for 43 yards and 75 yards, respectively. For the game, the Dolphins compiled 268 yards after catch. With Frank Gore earning his 46th career 100-yard game, Gase game-planned around his limited quarterback and took advantage of a defense that has been burned by YAC this season.
- A slow start and red-zone turnovers will haunt Matt Nagy's team. After a sleepy opening, the Bears (3-2) offense turned on the turbo jets, blasting past the Dolphins defense to score touchdowns on four of their first five second-half possessions. Chicago turned a 7-0 first-half deficit into a 21-10 lead with three straight TDs to open the third quarter that took a mere 3:32 off the game clock. Mitch Trubisky looked rusty to open the game after the team's bye, missing high and long in the first half. In the third quarter, Trubisky looked worlds more confident and took advantage of Taylor Gabriel's matchup with Miami corner Torry McTyer. The wideout earned 110 receiving yards, including catches of 54 and 47 yards. Trubisky made solid throws and reads after halftime, hitting receivers in stride and taking advantage of Tarik Cohen's mismatch in space. Putting a bad beginning behind him is a positive for Trubisky. It's the mistakes that will be remembered, however. After a questionable OPI that wiped out a TD early in the fourth quarter, Trubisky forced a pass into coverage and was picked. The second-year QB also got away with several other questionable decisions that could have been picked. The Bears left at least 14 points on the field before overtime.
Nagy's decision to play for a 53-yard field goal instead of trying to get closer in OT will also be a talking point this week. Coaches playing for long field goals too often comes back to burn a team, as it did Chicago on Sunday.
-- Kevin Patra
- James Conner and the tight ends carried Pittsburgh's offense for 59 minutes, but it was star wideouts Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster who turned the AFC North on its ear with a thrilling touchdown drive to trump Cincinnati's own comeback bid on Sunday. After Andy Dalton led his second two-minute touchdown drill of the afternoon to stake the Bengals to a 21-20 lead, Smith-Schuster moved the chains with catches of 8, 10 and 23 yards to move into struggling Chris Boswell's field-goal range. Rather than settling for a nail-biting kick, Brown got free with an assist from Justin Hunter's rub route and scampered 31 yards to pay dirt for the game-winning score with 15 seconds remaining.
- One week after exploding for 24 fourth-quarter points to overcome a 17-3 deficit, Cincinnati's "Cardiac Cats" had a prime opportunity to take a comfortable 2.5-game lead over the Steelers by way of their fourth comeback victory of the season. While the Queen City's talk radio community will have a week to obsess over yet another heartbreaking collapse to their Ohio River rivals, it's worth noting that the Bengals were extremely fortunate to be in position to win. The Steelers dominated time of possession and total offense by 10 minutes and 206 yards, respectively. If not for red-zone woes that included an easy Joe Haden interception drop, Artie Burns getting lost in coverage and James Conner being ruled down inches shy of the goal line, the Steelers would have run away with this one. As it is now, Cincinnati's AFC North lead is down to a half game in the standings.
- It wouldn't be a Steelers-Bengals clash without the requisite Vontaze Burfict shenanigans. The trouble-prone linebacker opened the festivities with a batch of fresh trash talk for Ben Roethlisberger, breaking up a third-down shovel pass on the opening drive. What Steelers fans will remember, though, was a forearm shiver delivered to the head of Antonio Brown in the third quarter. Although Burfict was not penalized, he sent not only Brown but also Bengals safety Jessie Bates to the sideline with the hit. Should the league opt to review that play, Burfict could be facing punishment.
-- Chris Wesseling
- The one-two offensive punch of Alex Smith and Vernon Davis performed so well in the first half for the Redskins (3-2) you could almost swear this game was being played at Candlestick Park in 2009. Smith connected on three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown with his old Bay Area cohort to set the tone early in what was a strong first-half offensive effort for Washington as it jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Taking advantage of Carolina turnovers that kept the ball out of Cam Newton's hands for a big chunk of the opening two quarters, Smith methodically cut his way through the Panthers' defense with long, time-consuming drives. While his 22-yard TD pass to Davis came one play after Panthers rookie DJ Moore lost the ball on a fumbled punt return, Washington's other scoring drives in the first half lasted 12 and 10 plays. Augmented by a solid 97-yard performance on 17 carries by Adrian Peterson, Smith finished the game connecting on 21 of 36 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Smith hardly accomplished anything in the second half with Carolina's front seven finally turning on the pressure, but his steady performance in the opening half was enough for the Redskins to eke out a win.
- Cam Newton and the Panthers (3-2) certainly know how to put on a suspenseful show. Following an inconsistent first-half effort, the Panthers found their groove in the passing game in the second half as they tried to tie the record for the biggest comeback in franchise history. Carolina got a critical touchdown late in the second quarter when Devin Funchess made an amazing leaping catch in the end zone to put the Panthers on the scoreboard. Down 20-9, Newton then pieced together his best drive of the game in the fourth quarter on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that featured another jaw-dropping catch by Funchess before Torrey Smith scored on a 3-yard pass. Carolina looked poised to continue its march to history on the final drive before it sputtered out at midfield in the final minute. Newton connected on 27 of 46 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns while Funchess had five catches for 74 yards.
- Two costly Carolina turnovers and a fourth-quarter stroke of luck for the Redskins played big roles in helping the Redskins bounce back after last week's Big Easy breakdown. Moore's fumble on the first-quarter punt return gave Washington prime field position to score its first TD of the game, and Josh Norman's interception against his former team dissolved what was -- at that point -- the Panthers' best offensive possession of the game. The Panthers suffered more misfortune in the fourth quarter when Smith fumbled the ball into the hands of offensive tackle Trent Williams as he was sacked by Julius Peppers. Williams managed to run about five yards and get the Redskins onto the edge of field-goal range. Kicker Dustin Hopkins then sent a career-best 56-yard field goal just over the crossbar in what proved to be the winning score.
-- Austin Knoblauch
- Sunday was a battle of bad offensive lines. Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen were pressured relentlessly, and the results weren't pretty: Watson threw two interceptions and fumbled three times (losing one), and Josh Allen suffered an elbow injury that knocked him out for the rest of the game. On one possession that ended in Buffalo's first points of the afternoon (three, by way of kicker Stephen Hauschka), Allen had to scramble them into field goal range. None of the runs were designed. All of the shoddy protection led to an ugly day for offenses, save for the occasional Watson or Allen ad-lib that led to short completions. Oh, and that fantastic touchdown grab by DeAndre Hopkins.
There were a couple positive notes for the Bills, though: Zay Jones' touchdown catch was a nice example of a receiver winning a matchup with a well-run route. Allen continued on his slow climb toward looking more comfortable as a starting NFL quarterback (though emphasis should be placed on "slow"). The Bills defense was good, getting multiple key stops and holding Houston to a field goal when it had the ball at first-and-goal on the Buffalo 1. In the end, a familiar face did the Bills in, though.
- For what I believe is the first time, television announcers openly questioned Nathan Peterman's future with the Bills after he threw a crushing, decisive pick-six with less than two minutes to play in a tight game. It fit right into the Peterman narrative of interceptions, but came at a horrible time in a game in which Peterman was finally showing (at least small glimpses) why Buffalo has maintained this odd infatuation with his potential. After the game, Peterman went on about not finding his identity in football. Perhaps that's how this should go.
It doesn't help that things don't seem entirely right for Buffalo's offense. Kelvin Benjamin finished with two catches for 43 yards on six targets, hours after reportedly telling Allen in warmups he didn't want to work on routes with the rookie. That's not a good look for an offense that only had 83 total yards through 39 minutes of action (but finished with 229) Sunday.
- Someone get a gold ribbon for Houston's special teams. The Texans took advantage of a punt muffed by rookie Ray-Ray McCloud, recovering it and setting the Texans up for their first touchdown of the day (the aforementioned strike to Hopkins). Far from finished, the punt return team managed to block a Corey Bojorquez punt, which deflected toward the sideline before it was recovered by Houston. That ended up producing a field goal and a 10-0 halftime lead. It was the first time in franchise history (dates back to 2002) that the Texans strung together those two accomplishments in a game. It also gave a cushion they needed once Buffalo's offense gained a heartbeat, and helped Houston to its third straight win after starting 0-3.
-- Nick Shook
- It's not fair. The loyal fans of London seem to get these drama-free wipeouts one year after the next. The Seattle faithful had plenty to smile over, though, as the Seahawks set the tone early at Wembley, unleashing a string of powerful runs and money lobs from Russell Wilson to etch a 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive that ate seven-plus minutes off the clock. That march included signs of life from rookie runner Rashaad Penny, who hauled in a 24-yard catch-and-run and finished with 70 yards off 11 touches. Second-year wideout David Moore also helped out, hauling in a 28-yard catch from Wilson and logging a 19-yard touchdown. Wilson threw a bad pick in the second half, but largely had his way with 222 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
- A brutal, forgettable day for the Raiders. Derek Carr took an outrageous six sacks and appeared to hurt his non-throwing arm in the final quarter of this gruesome affair. There's simply no flow to this Oakland attack, which finished the game at 3.3 yards per play with just 79 yards rushing. The Raiders weren't helped by Amari Cooper leaving early with a concussion, but the wideout wasn't about to alter Sunday's destiny for the Silver and Black. Derek Carr managed just 142 yards passing with no wideout accounting for more than 31 yards. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson were essentially invisible.
- Give credit to a Seahawks defense that continues to play well despite the loss of Earl Thomas. Frank Clark dominated from wire to wire, piling up 2.5 sacks and generating a game-changing fumble that set up a Seattle field goal for the 20-0 lead. Oakland's tackles doubled as open barn doors all Sunday. The Raiders must find a way to better protect Carr, but part of this boils down to play-calling and an overall scheme that is, frankly, dull to watch.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Falcons' offense showed grit in the second half without wide receivers Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip), and came through when it mattered the most in the fourth quarter. Nursing a slim 24-22 lead early in the final period, the Falcons put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by quarterback Matt Ryan's scoring pass to running back Tevin Coleman. The Buccaneers had plenty of momentum, having scored a touchdown to pull within two points, but the Falcons' drive took 6:28 off the clock to push the lead to 31-22 before holding on to win a wildly entertaining matchup.
Ryan played exceptionally well, completing 31 of 41 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns for a 125.4 passer rating. With Ridley and Sanu down for the final two quarters, Ryan's often connected with Julio Jones, who totaled 10 catches for 143 yards on the game, marking the 42nd time on Jones' career he's had a 100-yard receiving game.
- Atlanta improved to 2-4 on the season, but the Falcons pulled off a much-needed win Sunday despite allowing the Buccaneers to total 512 yards of offense on the game. For a team that started the season with postseason goals, the Falcons' defense is simply undermanned minus linebacker Deion Jones (foot) and starting safeties Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles), all of whom are on injured reserve.
While the Falcons stated after Week 5's loss they believe they can turn it around and Sunday is a good start, the inability to stop an offense places too much pressure on the offense. Ryan leads an elite unit when it is fully healthy, of course, but the absence of running back Devonta Freeman (foot, groin) compounded by Ridley's and Sanu's injuries means the offense isn't functioning with a full deck. Additionally, reliable kicker Matt Bryant appeared to hurt his upper right leg after kicking a 57-yard field goal late in the game and was taken straight to the locker room.
- Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston did his best to lead a comeback attempt, completing 30 of 41 passes to nine different receivers for 395 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions on the game. Winston also received help in the running game with Peyton Barber gaining 82 yards on 13 carries. Barber also scored on a 5-yard catch. Winston's two turnovers, however, proved costly. One came in the first half on a deep pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson inside the 5-yard line, while the other turnover occurred in the third quarter on a pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin in the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers much-maligned defense displayed heart by clamping down on the potent Falcons offense in the second half. Atlanta had their way to start the game, scoring on the first three possessions, and produced 275 total in the first half. But the Buccaneers held the Falcons scoreless in the third quarter, allowing 141 total yards of offense in the final two periods, before surrendering the game-deciding 10 points in the fourth quarter.
-- Herbie Teope
- Sam Darnold played the best game of his young career, completing 80 percent of his passes at over 9.0 yards per attempt against an undermanned, overmatched Colts secondary that couldn't keep up with Terrelle Pryor, Jermaine Kearse and rookie tight end Chris Herndon. Darnold showed impressive touch and decision-making, keeping Andrew Luck's comeback bid at bay with four field-goal drives in the game's final 20 minutes. After experiencing his fair share of rookie jitters in September, Darnold has found his footing of late. The Jets have broken the 30-point mark in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2011 season. Just a half-game behind the first place Dolphins, the Jets are right back in the postseason hunt with imposing matchups looming versus the Vikings and Bears the next two weeks.
- If he didn't have bad luck, the only luck the Colts quarterback would have is his own name. Whether he's throwing them open with precision passes on their hands or waiting until they're wide open before pulling the trigger, Luck is getting killed by the plague of drops that has overtaken the injury-ravaged Colts' running backs and wide receivers. Back in the starting lineup after a three-game absence, Marlon Mack dropped a screen pass into the hands of Morris Claiborne for an easy pick-six on the game's opening possession. After Luck bounced right back with a scoring drive of his own, he lost a gimme touchdown when rookie Nyheim Hines needlessly jumped at the goal line, leading to a brutal drop. Already without No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton, Luck lost No. 2 receiver Ryan Grant and backup wideout Marcus Johnson to lower-leg injuries in the game's second half. While Luck's arm strength, ball placement and pocket movement seem to be improving by the week, the inverse may be true of his surrounding talent.
- Six games into the season, the Colts finally unearthed a semblance of a ground attack. Bottled up and embarrassed in the first half, Mack reeled off 72 yards on seven second half-carries, setting up a pair of Colts touchdowns. While Mack compensated for his early gaffe, power back Robert Turbin never returned to the game after sustaining a shoulder injury on a crucial play in which he lost a fumble in the middle of the second quarter. Expect Mack to be the featured back going forward, with Hines taking over in obvious passing situations.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Cardinals fans are struggling through an unforgiving autumn, but I still see positive signs from Josh Rosen. Arizona's rookie quarterback showed chemistry with Christian Kirk (6/77), pegging the first-year receiver on a 35-yard connection to set up an Arizona field goal. Rosen later unfurled a 40-yard rope to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (5/69) to the Vikings 10, but that drive ended with David Johnson getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal at Minnesota's 1-yard line. Rosen struggled for much of the second half, taking a killer sack at his own 2-yard line -- one of four on the day -- to end one third-quarter series before flinging a bad pick one march later. He returned, though, to put together one of his better drives of the year with a seven-play, 69-yard touchdown march midway through the fourth. Too little, too late for the Cardinals, but Rosen -- throwing for 240 yards at 7.7 per pass -- has a bright future.
- This Vikings offense flexed its muscles on Sunday. It was encouraging to see Minnesota finally pound a team on the ground, with Latavius Murray (24/155/1) gashing the Cardinals for runs of 34 and 26 yards to go with his 21-yard scoring burst -- the team's first rushing touchdown of the year. Cousins caught fire in the second half, throwing for 233 total yards, spreading the ball to six different targets and getting another big day from Adam Thielen (11/123), who notched his sixth straight 100-plus-yard performance and added a 13-yard scoring snag. Cousins returned one drive later to pile on the points with a seven-yard scoring dash.
- The Cardinals leaned on a handful of Vikings errors to hang around early before the game morphed into an ugly wipeout. Minnesota botched a fourth-and-2 attempt from Arizona's 42-yard line out of the gate before a strip-sack of Kirk Cousins set up a 36-yard fumble recovery score by Budda Baker that tied the game at 10-10. Cousins also tossed a first-half pick and saw six passes batted down by an Arizona defensive front that piled up four sacks on the day before the floor fell out in the second half.
-- Marc Sessler
- Philip Rivers is still very good. He twice exploited small openings in Cleveland's secondary to complete huge passes to Tyrell Williams, moving Los Angeles down the field quickly for an important early touchdown. He kept doing so later as the Chargers built a nice lead and started to run away with things. As his draft classmate Eli Manning struggles and shows signs that his road may be nearing its end, Rivers is aging like a fine wine and leading a Chargers offense that is more talented than people give them credit for.
The true story of the Chargers' offense, though, is the continued success of Melvin Gordon, who had his best game of the year against a Browns defense that ranks well statistically but has struggled to stop the run all season long. Gordon racked up 132 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 attempts, gashing Cleveland's defense and rarely going down on first contact. Per Next Gen Stats, Gordon tied for second-most yards gained after close (yards gained after the first defender closes the gap between them to less than a single yard) with an average of 6.5 per carry, and a third of his carries went for 10-plus yards. Gordon's production opened up chances for Los Angeles' talented receiving corps, and they did not waste them. The result was a blowout road win (in a place in which they've struggled in recent years) a week before going overseas.
- The Chargers' defense started to take expected shape, pressuring Baker Mayfield relentlessly and playing tight coverage against Cleveland's depleted receiving corps. Even without Joey Bosa, Los Angeles squeezed the pocket and limited Mayfield's ability to extend plays with his feet. When he did, he almost never found an open receiver. Mayfield faced a well-balanced Chargers defense that was good enough with just four rushers to be able to drop seven into coverage and fill the field with defenders waiting to bat down or intercept Mayfield attempts. They recorded two of the latter Sunday and slowly squeezed Cleveland's offense into submission.
- For yet another week, Cleveland's defense played well enough to win (at least in the first half), but the offense did less than usual and didn't take advantage of multiple early three-and-outs that produced excellent field position. It didn't help that Mayfield appeared to injure his leg after slipping on the first down marker mat. After that play, Mayfield appeared much less mobile and decisive in his pass attempts, significantly limiting the Browns' potential offensively. Losing Rod Streater to a stinger and being forced to play with just three active receivers also didn't help, and Cleveland going away from the run due to an early deficit wasn't of assistance, either. That's the way this season will go at times for this young Browns team: They'll show plenty of promise, eke out a close win or two, and inevitably suffer setbacks typical of a team trying to learn how to win consistently. In Week 6, they ran into a Chargers team that is a serious postseason contender and it produced such a result.
-- Nick Shook