Cover-Two: Which one-loss team has been the most impressive?
After the NFL's final two undefeated teams went down last weekend, Chris Burke and Doug Farrar look ahead to Week 6, discussing which once-defeated team has looked the best through five weeks, which top receiver's injury hurts his team the most, and how much stock we should put in Ryan Tannehill's career day against the Raiders in London.
Which one-loss team is the most impressive?
Chris Burke: San Diego Chargers. Well, I put them No. 1 in this week's Power Rankings, so ...
Most of this has to do with Philip Rivers, who probably is running neck-and-neck in the MVP race with J.J. Watt, that robot programmed to sack quarterbacks. Rivers has a completion percentage of 70.3, best in the league and up from his career-high mark of 69.5 set just last year in this Mike McCoy offense.
He has been off-the-charts good over the past four weeks, a stretch that started with Rivers torching Seattle's vaunted secondary. Heck, he even challenged Richard Sherman successfully.
Rivers' play has overshadowed the Chargers' defense. Right now, San Diego has the top-ranked scoring defense in the league at 12.6 points per game. Playing the Jaguars and Jets back-to-back provided a little boost there, to be sure, but the Chargers should be able to hold the fort against better opponents.
The key has been the addition of cornerback Brandon Flowers, who signed a one-year deal this offseason. He is playing like an All-Pro through five games, with safety Eric Weddle and rookie corner Jason Verrett carrying their share of the weight, too.
This is a really good team -- not just in a small window or when the schedule is favorable, but overall. The Chargers look like a Super Bowl contender.
Farrar: Denver Broncos. While the Seahawks look for the most part like a team that could defend their Super Bowl title, I'll give the nod to Denver because I think it has been a bit more defined from game to game, and I'm not sure who this Seahawks team is just yet. Not only does Denver rank first overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics on offense (no surprise there), but also it stands second on the defensive side of the ball, and that's the big difference for John Fox's team this season. New acquisitions DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib have paid dividends, but this is also about underrated players like cornerback Chris Harris, end Malik Jackson and nose tackle Terrance Knighton. Now, this is a team that can blow you out on offense and stay stout against opposing teams trying to keep pace with Peyton Manning. That's a dangerous combination.
More concerning injury going forward: A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson?
Burke: Green. At least, that is, if the rest of the Lions' offense performs as it was expected to before the season.
Without Green in the lineup, the Bengals' passing attack deserves a downgrade to mediocre. While Mohamed Sanu is off to a strong start, no receivers other than he and Green have double-digit receptions, and there certainly is not anyone left behind Green who will scare opposing defenses. The situation at tight end, a position manned by block-first Jermaine Gresham, does not help.
If there is hope for the Bengals, it's that their scheme overall is built around the run game and defense. They might be able to grind out some victories without Green.
Detroit, in theory, could win a shootout here or there without Johnson. The Lions need their other injured weapons (Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Joseph Fauria) to recover. In signing Golden Tate and drafting Eric Ebron, though, the Lions wanted to guarantee they would be less reliant on Megatron. Now, they have a chance to prove it.
Farrar: Green. The Lions have pieced together a decent passing game with Megatron acting as an injured decoy over the last two weeks. Golden Tate isn't a legit 1A receiver, but he can get separation from cornerbacks, can run deep routes and is physical enough to elude tight coverage. And Reggie Bush is always a factor in any passing game -- not only in the targets he gets but also in the ways that his presence forces defenses to alter their concepts.
If Green's out for a number of weeks, however, things get pretty dicey for the Bengals. Mohamed Sanu is their second receiver, and Sanu isn't quick enough to get free with the expanded coverage he'd see with Green out. Giovani Bernard is a decent receiver out of the backfield, but with all the good work the Bengals have done in drafting players over the last few years, the lack of a true do-it-all second receiver if Green is out could be a real problem -- especially for Andy Dalton, who has always depended on Green's unreal catch radius.
True or false: Ryan Tannehill turned a corner in Miami's Week 4 win
Burke: False. I just cannot make any sweeping declarations based on how a player performs against Oakland.
Tannehill took a step in the right direction, let's say that. And so too did the play-calling by Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was smart to get Tannehill out of the pocket -- either on read-options or packaged plays. As Tannehill continues to get more comfortable in the Chip Kelly-like system Lazor brought over from Philadelphia, the Dolphins will be able to expand their playbook.
Tannehill has had these spurts before, where he appears on the verge of a breakthrough only to crash back to earth. Establishing some consistency is the next key step -- then it might be safe to declare him permanently on the right track.
Farrar: False. Or at least, I'm not yet convinced. Completing 23 of 31 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Oakland in London in Week 4 is all well and good, but it was against Oakland, and that game got Raiders head coach Dennis Allen fired. I need to see more conclusive results against more resistant defenses. The week before, Tannehill couldn't complete 50 percent of his passes against the Chiefs, and he was average at best against the Patriots and Bills to open the season.
The Packers defense Tannehill will face Sunday provides an interesting test: Green Bay has talented defensive backs, but Dom Capers' zone blitz concepts aren't what they used to be. The Pack is getting pressure, though -- they're tied with four other teams for fifth in the NFL with 12 sacks. Tannehill still struggles with defensive recognition, but perhaps in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's quicker passing game and with a better offensive line, things will turn around. Tannehill certainly has the raw talent to be great, but I haven't yet seen him turn that proverbial corner.