Davis Mills jumps Trey Lance and Zach Wilson in Rookie QB rankings

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Deadspin 12 October, 2021 - 12:47pm 19 views

Betting Takeaways from ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings - Are the Titans overhyped?

ESPN India 12 October, 2021 - 03:20pm

The Bills announced themselves as the team to beat in the AFC on Sunday night. A near-perfect performance at Arrowhead was enough to vault the Orchard Park heroes to the top of the Power Rankings.

Close behind them are Cowboys and Chargers teams that crash the top five for the first time this season. Meanwhile, the stunning downfall of Jon Gruden has resulted in a free-fall for the Raiders.

Everything can change in an instant in the NFL. This past week is a reminder. Let's get to it.

NOTE: Up/down arrows reflect movement from the Week 5 Power Rankings.

Defeating the Chiefs in October and defeating them in January are two very different beasts, but that doesn't mean Sunday night's 38-20 stomping of the defending conference champs wasn't important. For the Bills, it was affirmation of what they already believed: With superstar quarterback Josh Allen out front, they can beat anyone. They might even embarrass you. That's what happened at Arrowhead Stadium, where Patrick Mahomes struggled to find any rhythm against a Buffalo defense that played like it knew what was coming. Bills defenders might tell you they did, which is a credit to Sean McDermott and his entire coaching staff. Buffalo is a juggernaut.

Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury and the offense get much of the headlines coming out of Arizona, but it was the Cardinals' defense that took the NFC West leaders to 5-0. The Cards held Trey Lance to 10 points in his NFL starting debut and stopped the 49ers on four of their five fourth-down attempts in a 17-10 win. The most dramatic of those stuffs came in the second quarter, when Lance scrambled toward the right pylon before slamming into a wall comprised of brick (Tanner Vallejo) and mortar (Isaiah Simmons). After the game, DeAndre Hopkins called it "championship football." Lance would probably describe it a different way.

The weirdest stat of Week 5: Sunday's 45-17 win over the Dolphins marked the first time Tom Brady threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns in a game. This feels impossible, given Brady's unmatched résumé over 22 seasons, but it's true. Not bad production, considering Brady didn't even play the final nine minutes of regulation as Blaine Gabbert closed out an overmatched Miami team. At halftime, newly acquired veteran cornerback Richard Sherman approached teammate Leonard Fournette and shared the eye-opening opinion that he'd never been part of a team with so much talent. The running back's response? "This s***'s different."

The Cowboys swept their three-game homestand against the Eagles, Panthers and Giants by a combined score of 121-69 -- a stretch of dominance that cements America's Team as a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. On Sunday, the Cowboys rolled up 515 yards of total offense on a bruised-and-battered Giants team that -- like the Eagles and Washington -- knows the best-case scenario is scrambling for a wild-card spot come December. If Dallas keeps its health, the NFC East race is already over. The next question: How good can the Cowboys be? As we approach mid-October, they cut the profile of a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Justin Herbert Is A Savage In The Pocket. The second-year prodigy was an unstoppable force against the Browns, throwing for 398 yards with five total scores in a 47-42 win at Hollywood Park. The Bolts' usually reliable defense stumbled through its worst performance of the season, but Herbert was there to pick up the slack with his cadre of playmakers. L.A.'s 26 points in the final period were the most by a team in a fourth quarter in eight years. "To win a game like this that turns into a track meet, you have to have a superstar quarterback," coach Brandon Staley said after the victory. "And that's what he is." You know what else he is? (Please see first sentence.)

The Packers love Mason Crosby. He's been a dependable contributor for years, and he's always weathered the storms of inconsistency that grip all kickers not named Justin Tucker. After Crosby missed his third field goal in less than an hour on Sunday against the Bengals, Matt LaFleur decided to check in on his grizzled veteran. "I could see the look in his eyes," the coach said. "There was zero flinch from him." Given one more shot to salvage his afternoon, Crosby split the uprights to lift the Packers to an overtime conquest over the Bengals, the team's fourth consecutive win. "I went up to him and just told him I loved him," running back Aaron Jones said after the win. "You'll always stay with your teammates no matter what."

Lamar Jackson reminded the world on Monday night that he is one of one. The Ravens' quarterback authored the greatest passing game of his career, carving up the Colts for 442 yards and four touchdowns in a ridiculous comeback win. The Ravens fell behind 22-3 early and were trailing by 16 points in the fourth quarter before ripping off the final 22 points of the game. The comeback included two Mark Andrews touchdowns and, ridiculously, two Mark Andrews two-point conversions. When the Ravens won the overtime coin toss, the game was already over. Jackson marched Baltimore through an exhausted Indy defense for 68 yards on 10 plays, ending with the Hollywood Brown game-winner. It was a brilliant comeback that just might have been Jackson's best performance yet.

Welcome back to the offense, Robert Woods. The veteran wide receiver is one of the Rams' top weapons, but forming a connection with Matthew Stafford was more difficult than expected in the season's first four weeks. That changed against the Seahawks on Thursday night, when Woods turned a whopping 14 targets into 12 catches for 150 yards in a 26-17 win over their division rivals. The Los Angeles passing attack is imposing when Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson and Tyler Higbee are on the field at the same. Add Woods' reliable presence into the mix, and it can be overwhelming.

In wins over the Bears and Vikings, the Browns authored two of the most dominant defensive performances we've seen by any team all season. On Sunday, Cleveland's D entered The Twilight Zone. Kevin Stefanski's team surrendered 493 total yards -- and 26 points in the fourth quarter alone -- in a 47-42 insta-classic loss to the Chargers. Disappointing outcome aside, the Browns' beat-up defense should recover, while a huge bounce-back performance from Baker Mayfield and the offense offered promise of better days. If these Browns can put both sides of their game plan together, they'll be tough to stop.

Following a humbling blowout loss at home on Sunday Night Football, you can imagine the Chiefs wondering aloud -- to borrow a Madden-ism -- where that truck came from. The 18-wheeler in question was Josh Allen, Micah Hyde and the rest of a Buffalo Bills team that put Kansas City on notice: You may be the back-to-back defending conference champion, but you're not the best team in the AFC. The truth is, it's not close right now. The Chiefs have been mistake-prone on offense and overmatched on defense, facts the Bills laid bare. "You kind of have to take it on the chin," Patrick Mahomes said. "We've still got a long season left, but this one you're going to remember."

The Saints might be the NFL's most perplexing team through five weeks, but a surge of reinforcements could bring some more clarity (and consistency) to Sean Payton's squad. Wide receivers Michael Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith, kicker Wil Lutz, left tackle Terron Armstead and center Erik McCoy are all eligible to return to action following the Week 6 bye. Defensive tackle David Onyemata is eligible to return from suspension following Week 7's matchup against the Seahawks. That's a long list of valuable players, and it's a credit to these Saints that they managed to get to their well-timed bye above .500. No team can survive in the NFL without roster depth. The 2021 Saints just proved they have it.

The Big Dog is still The Big Dog. Any attempts to fade The Big Dog will result in the stern reminder that The Big Dog is not to be disrespected under any circumstances. Derrick Henry rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns, another mighty performance in a 37-19 win over the lowly Jaguars. Henry is on pace to set the NFL record for carries and rushing yards this season, and it's hard to imagine an otherwise ordinary Titans team turning away from the one thing that makes it special. This stat, from CBS: Henry just completed the most productive 40-game stretch by a running back in NFL history. His 4,792 yards over the span is just ahead of Jim Brown (4,759). Jim Brown.

Evan McPherson's NFL career is off to a promising start, but he'll have to do some special things to escape being remembered as The Kicker Who Celebrated Too Soon. The rookie's overtime field-goal attempt against the Packers started straight before veering left and making contact with the flapping orange flag blowing atop the left upright. McPherson thought he'd converted his third game-winning kick in five professional contests, but instead it was a miss that set up an eventual 25-22 loss. McPherson later said he thought the officials were "playing a game" with him. That would have been a pretty mean-spirited prank, to be honest.

Christian McCaffrey returned to practice last week -- now the Panthers need their superstar RB back on Sundays. The Carolina offense sputtered again in a frustrating loss to the Eagles that featured three Sam Darnold interceptions and pass-protection issues that we didn't see before No. 22 exited with a hamstring injury in Week 3. Such is the importance of McCaffrey, a driving force in both the running and passing games. He seems especially essential to Darnold, whose turnover-prone ways have returned without his safety valve sliding out of the backfield. "Sam needs to take what's given him," Matt Rhule said. "If we do that, we'll get back on track quickly."

No Dalvin Cook? No problem! That was the general sentiment -- perhaps not behind the scenes at Vikings headquarters -- but around the team as it prepared for the winless Lions on Sunday. Naturally, Minnesota found itself in a street fight against Dan Campbell's scrappy group, which pushed the Vikings to the brink before the kicker saved the day. Greg Joseph hit four of five kicks, including the 54-yarder as time expired in a 19-17 win over Detroit. It was a redemptive moment for Joseph, whose miss from 37 yards out cost the Vikings a win over the Cardinals in Week 2. Still, concerns linger over an offense that looked all but unstoppable in the season's first three weeks. Is it a simple slump, or a sign of bigger issues?

Progress. The Steelers desperately needed to show signs of it on offense in Week 5, and that's exactly what they did. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 253 yards and two scores, and Najee Harris produced like the first-round pick he is in a 27-19 win over the Broncos. It wasn't all good news for the offense, however: JuJu Smith-Schuster's season is over after he suffered a shoulder injury that will require surgery. Pittsburgh has a good group of playmakers at wide receiver, but Smith-Schuster was a treasured safety valve in the slot for a veteran quarterback who loves to get the ball out quickly when the pass rush closes in (and even when it doesn't).

Trey Lance brought some much-appreciated excitement to the offense in his first career start. Points? That was a different story. Lance threw one interception and the Niners were stuffed on four of their five attempts on fourth down, the difference in a 17-10 loss to the undefeated Cardinals. Lance looked very much like a raw rookie at times on Sunday, but he also moved San Francisco into Arizona territory on eight occasions and led the team with 89 rushing yards. It felt like something to build off of, but Kyle Shanahan appears determined to turn back to Jimmy Garoppolo if the veteran is ready to return from a calf injury after the Week 6 bye, and Lance is now dealing with a knee sprain that that will be re-evaluated at the end of the week.

In 2018, the Raiders gave Jon Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract with the hope he would guide the franchise back to the promised land. Instead, Gruden resigned on Monday after three seasons and five games following reports that emails he wrote over a seven-year span included racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments. Gruden's sudden downfall is one of the biggest bombshells in franchise history. More than just the head coach, Gruden was the face of the franchise and driving architect behind the team's construction. Interim coach Rich Bisaccia has been tasked with keeping the 2021 season from slipping away under extraordinary circumstances. As for who fills the massive power vacuum in Vegas? The Raiders are probably asking themselves the same question.

Inefficiency in the red zone plagued Teddy Bridgewater during his one season with the Panthers. You could make the case that Bridgewater, not Sam Darnold, would still be Matt Rhule's QB in Charlotte had he not made so many backbreaking mistakes near the goal line. Fast-forward to the present day, and Bridgewater has brought this problem to Denver. Facing an eight-point deficit in the final minute on Sunday, the Broncos failed in four cracks from inside the Pittsburgh 10. The final play was the clincher, a poorly thrown ball picked off by the Steelers with 11 seconds to play. In these crucible moments, Teddy simply needs to be better.

The Eagles were in desperate need of a big play late in Sunday's matchup against the Panthers. They got one in each phase of the game during the final five minutes of a 21-18 win. T.J. Edwards' blocked punt, Jalen Hurts' 6-yard touchdown run and a Steven Nelson interception of Sam Darnold turned a five-point deficit into a three-point victory that snapped a three-game losing streak. Next up for the Eagles is a huge measuring-stick game against the reigning champion Bucs on Thursday night. It will take more than a strong finish to beat Tampa Bay.

The Good Ship Carroll is taking on water. The Seahawks fell to 2-3 with a home loss to the division-rival Rams, then learned that Russell Wilson could miss at least a few games after undergoing surgery on the finger he injured in Thursday's game at Lumen Field. The Seahawks are a team searching for an identity: Pete Carroll loves to run the football and ride with his defense, but the rushing attack is average and the defense is in the conversation for the league's worst. Wilson is the one who has always held it together -- take Seattle's superstar quarterback out of the mix and there's nothing left to hold onto.

Generally speaking, a scenario that combines a rookie QB making his fifth start and an offensive line missing four starters is -- well -- not ideal. It's the stuff blowout losses are made of, and perhaps that would have been the Patriots' fate had they not been playing the hapless Texans on Sunday. But perhaps not, considering Mac Jones is showing us on a weekly basis that he's not your typical rookie quarterback. Jones engineered a pair of fourth-quarter scoring marches on Sunday, including his first classified as a game-winning drive, in a 25-22 win. Jones isn't as flashy as the other rookie QBs, but on balance, he's been the most impressive.

The identity of the Justin Fields Bears -- in 2021, anyway -- is beginning to take shape. Run the football (a lot), ask your young QB to protect the football and make a few plays, then let the defense take it home. That was a formula for success against the Raiders in a convincing 20-9 win at Allegiant Stadium. Chicago proved it could move the ball on the ground even without David Montgomery (knee), getting a combined 139 yards on 34 rushes from Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert. Will the Bears’ formula work against the NFL’s elite? Imposing tests lie ahead with the Packers and Bucs up next.

As the Ravens celebrated their stunning overtime win over the Colts, ESPN cut to a replay of Carson Wentz on the sideline reacting to the game-winning touchdown by Marquise "Hollywood" Brown moments earlier. Wentz anxiously rubbed his hand through his hair, clearly stunned by what had just transpired. A 25-9 fourth-quarter lead had turned into a 31-25 defeat. The biggest win of the season had morphed grotesquely into one of the most crushing defeats in recent franchise history. A collapse like this has many fathers: There were multiple breakdowns on special teams, while a gassed defense offered zero resistance against a rampaging Lamar Jackson. It was a game the Colts absolutely could not lose ... and yet, they did. 

The Falcons flew high over London thanks to a vintage performance by Matt Ryan. The veteran signal-caller might not be able to sling the ball like he did five years ago, but he showed against the Jets that he can still pick apart a young and inexperienced defense with surgical precision. It helps to have a stud like Kyle Pitts around. With Calvin Ridley out, the No. 4 overall pick finally enjoyed the breakout game many had been waiting for; Pitts went off, hauling in nine catches for 119 yards and his first career touchdown against a New York defense ill-equipped to handle his rare combination of size and speed. Pitts’ special skill set deserves a Darren Waller-level target share.

Is there a more disappointing defense in football than Washington's this year? Ron Rivera’s D made progress in pass-rushing and takeaways against the Saints, but the inability to stop big plays continued to haunt the Football Team in a 33-22 loss. On Sunday, Washington allowed a 72-yard touchdown to Deonte Harris and a Hail Mary score to Marquez Callaway at the end of the first half. After the game, Washington players said they didn’t see the end zone heave coming, which, hoo boy. Said Rivera: “I’m very frustrated, because we have too many good football players to not be better than what we are right now.”

Week 5 was a disaster for the Giants. Daniel Jones (concussion), Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Kenny Golladay (knee) were all lost to injury as the superior Cowboys coasted to a 44-20 win at Jerrah World. It was a sobering game for Big Blue, which entered Sunday feeling great about a season turnaround after a big comeback win in New Orleans. Now begins a week of health updates: Barkley and Golladay are expected to miss Week 6, while Jones needs to clear the league’s concussion protocol. Rookie Kadarius Toney, who had a breakout game on Sunday (10 catches, 189 yards) before getting ejected for throwing a punch, is also banged up (lower leg), but his ailment doesn't sound too significant. With a brutal schedule ahead, Joe Judge’s team is in serious danger of second-half irrelevance.

The Dolphins will get on the plane to London wondering what they are: A good team in a bad slump or a bad team in a long season. Facing the Bucs' gang of All-Pros and future Hall of Famers presents a tough assignment for anyone, but Sunday's 45-17 loss to the defending champions wasn’t the type of performance to engender hope that a turnaround is near. Miami allowed 558 yards of total offense, including 411 passing yards and five touchdowns to Tom Brady, the legendary quarterback who is still finding ways to torture the Dolphins fan base from the beyond the AFC East grave.

Dan Campbell isn’t one to hide his emotions, so it wasn’t a surprise when the Lions coach got emotional after his team’s latest heartbreaking loss. Detroit is 0-5, with two of its defeats coming on last-second field-goals that bordered on the impossible. This one was made more painful because the Lions had orchestrated a stunning comeback to take a late lead over the Vikings. It still wasn’t enough. "You want it for yourself, as an organization and for all of us,” Campbell said with tears in his eyes. “But you want it for those players. They’re out there busting their ass and … it’s tough.”

Davis Mills shredded the Patriots' defense in the way many expected Tom Brady to a week earlier. The third-round rookie washed away the memory of his four-INT Week 4 performance, setting career highs in passing yards (312) and touchdown passes (3) in a narrow 25-22 loss. Davis’ productive day was especially impressive considering Bill Belichick’s typical mastery over rookie quarterbacks as New England's head coach: The Hooded One moved to 22-6 against first-year QBs, but this one wasn’t a laugher like many of the others. The only Texan player seeing ghosts on this day was Ka'imi Fairbairn, who missed a field goal and two PATs. Ka’nt do that.

The Jets mysteriously lost their momentum somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean before landing in London, delivering a deeply lackluster performance in a 27-20 loss to the Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Robert Saleh hits the bye week with more holes to plug than fingers on his two hands: The defense is coming up empty in the game’s most important moments, while rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is back to square one after another shaky showing. Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur need to find ways to get Wilson more comfortable, especially early in games. One idea: Make a point to get highly drafted young playmakers like Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims involved. It shouldn’t be this hard.

The losses continue to pile up while Urban Meyer continues to give Shad Khan buyer’s remorse on a biblical scale. After another lopsided defeat, this time to the Titans, the Jaguars have lost 20 consecutive games. They haven’t won since last year’s season opener, and they’re the first team to lose 20 in a row since 1977. That team, Tampa Bay, was an expansion franchise. Jacksonville hasn’t been able to lean on that excuse for 26 years. "You can't wrap your head around that," running back James Robinson said of The Streak. "We've got to find a way to win.”

Davis Mills jumps Trey Lance and Zach Wilson in Rookie QB rankings

SB Nation 12 October, 2021 - 12:47pm

So, we decided to rank these five gentlemen every week and track their progress throughout the season to determine who’s the best QB out of this class.

Let’s see where these young gunslingers stacked up in Week 5.

The main reason he’s last on the list this week is because he lost to the Atlanta Cockatoos at a neutral site. Whenever you lose to the Flamingos and allow them to grab a win off you, I can’t look past that.

Wilson still has a lot of talent and I think he’ll be a pretty good quarterback when he gets more experience and talent around him. But right now he needs to take a seat in fifth place.

But after having a performance like he did on Sunday against a good New England defense, he deserves to get some love on this list.

Mills was 21/29 for 312 yards and three touchdowns against New England, and stood a mere field goal away from beating Bill Belichick as a rookie. That’s a pretty impressive outing if you ask me.

Mills is the least naturally talented quarterback in this group, but he balled out on Sunday and deserves his props.

Going 23/33 for 273 yards with a touchdown and a pick isn’t too bad for a rookie who’s playing with the meager amount of talent Lawrence has surrounding him right now.

Also, with the Urban Meyer debacle taking over the sports world last week, I have to give the 22-year-old credit for being the adult in the room and trying to handle that situation in the best way possible.

He is starting to grow as a quarterback, and we are starting to see what he can do with competent play calling. While the former Ohio State QB wasn’t spectacular on Sunday in the stat line, he went into a hostile environment in Las Vegas and beat the Raiders in their place.

I should have put him in first place considering that he beat Jon Gruden’s racist, homophobic, and misogynistic tail in the last game he’ll (probably) ever coach in the league.

Fields is making strides to becoming a legitimate quarterback in this league. It will just take time.

He was 23/30 for 231 yards with a TD and an interception against the Texans. The only reason Fields hasn’t taken the top spot over Jones this week is because the former Alabama star completed 76 percent of his passes and put the Patriots in a position to win the game with a field goal in the final 15 seconds.

Jones has consistently shown he can complete a large percentage of his passes and put the Patriots in a position to win games. While he hasn’t pushed the ball down the field as much as some of the other rookie quarterbacks, he has excelled in what he has been asked to do for Bill Belichick.

NFL Week 5 takeaways: Top teams and coaching fallout

theScore 12 October, 2021 - 11:58am

Game of inches. Game of kickers.

Missed field goals and extra points were the feature presentation in Week 5, and goal-line fiascos in Arizona, Dallas, and Los Angeles swung a few games on the point spread.

Before we get into the adjustments from this past week, here are my ratings, which include the average expectation of the quality of a team and the range it might play up or down to on any given Sunday.

It's still the Buccaneers, who get a small bump back up to 79/100. The Dolphins receive a major downgrade, as their defense looks horrendous. If you rely on turnovers as the core component of your defense and you don't get them, you're in big trouble.

The Bills submit their application for the league's best team and effectively switch places with Kansas City. The Chiefs need to fall to the level of the Ravens, Chargers, and Browns, as they've lost to the first two and weren't the better team against Cleveland.

What else do we need to see from the Chargers to show us that they aren't worthy of being in this tier? Brandon Staley knows what kind of game he's in, and makes +EV decisions in the appropriate situations.

The Seahawks suffer the worst injury loss of the week. I'm not sure how good they were going to be with Russell Wilson, and he's arguably the most valuable player to his team, so how much do we downgrade Seattle with Geno Smith? I'll start with a move from 62 down to 50, and that might not be enough.

Kyle Shanahan continues to infuriate 49ers fans and backers. The Niners had 338 yards to Arizona's 304, but high-leverage plays were decided by Trey Lance throws from the pocket and a Kyle Juszczyk quarterback sneak - none of which took advantage of Lance's mobility, the sole reason to get excited about the rookie quarterback. Now Lance ends up on the already busy injury list for San Francisco, but Jimmy Garoppolo seems like he may be ready after the bye week. Perhaps controversially, I'm slightly downgrading the Cardinals off the win due to the yardage and concern about Kyler Murray's shoulder.

Week 5 was a reminder that bad teams can't get it done in two straight weeks. They're bad because they're inconsistent. Robert Saleh didn't have the Jets ready in the first half in London, while the Falcons were prepared to give that game away. Beware of getting too excited about a bad organization, especially if it's nudged out of its routine.

While the Packers' game with the Bengals was wild, Green Bay's quality of play wasn't any different than usual. When a game lined at GB -3 pushes the number and it's a fair result, it's hard to want to make any changes.

We tried to slip in a bet for you last week, telling you that a wager on the Texans was almost obligatory. Houston covered easily in a game that was essentially Sports Betting 101 after everything the Patriots gave the previous Sunday night. If you couldn't see that flat performance coming, then you might need to go back to NFL handicapping school. The Texans played to the top of their range while the Pats played to the low end of theirs, and that overlap produced a close game.

The same goes for New Orleans and Washington. The Saints made a couple more high-leverage plays, and the 11-point margin was flattering in a tight contest.

We know the Cowboys can reach a higher gear, but a tie game that Daniel Jones exited with an injury followed by a second-half blowout doesn't convince us they've found it just yet. Meanwhile, like the Seahawks and other teams that have lost their quarterback, how far do the Giants fall if Mike Glennon gets a start?

The Las Vegas Raiders are why we keep ratings and force ourselves not to overreact early. This is the group we expected to see before the season, with the same offensive and defensive capability as we've come to know in the Jon Gruden era, and that's why you've been able to fade them for three weeks in a row with relative ease. Now Gruden's out, and we can't drop the Raiders fast enough.

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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