First Down/Fourth Down: Fisher, Ryan in trouble; Carr impresses
The writing may be on the wall in both spots. New York's plight has been well-documented this season, with Rex Ryan continuing to play on as his ship sinks. This week alone, Ryan again backed QB Geno Smith unconditionally and praised the work of GM John Idzik, who frankly has left Ryan with little tangible talent on the roster.
Jeff Fisher's fate may not be quite as clear just yet. His tenure has been hamstrung by the franchise's reliance on Sam Bradford, who now has fallen to season-ending injury in consecutive seasons. Monday night's starter, Austin Davis, was the Rams' fourth choice at QB -- Bradford, Shaun Hill and Case Keenum all sat ahead of him headed into the year.
Yet, there has been little progress on the offensive side of the football in Fisher's tenure and now the defense is flailing. What was a feared defensive front last season has produced a mere one sack in five games.
St. Louis' schedule is filthy, too. The next six: Seattle, at Kansas City, at San Francisco, at Arizona, Denver, at San Diego. Anything shy of a 1-10 start will require a rather significant upset.
If Fisher and GM Les Snead do not pay the price together -- as might be the case with Ryan and Idzik -- it could be offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer or defensive coordinator Gregg Williams pinpointed as the scapegoat. Fisher is now 15-21-1 in two-plus years with St. Louis, far shy of expectations.
More thoughts on the best and worst of Week 6:
First Down: Aaron Rodgers ... and the ability to relax.
So, I guess listen when Aaron Rodgers speaks. Ever since QB12 (now famously) told Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X. Relax, we're going to be OK," Green Bay has gone 3-0 and Rodgers has been on fire.
How calm, cool and collected are the Packers right now? Well, head coach Mike McCarthy opted for a fourth-quarter field goal Sunday, despite his team trailing by seven with about four minutes left. The defense then got the stop McCarthy was hoping for and Rodgers proceeded to lead a brilliant late drive -- which included a fake spike, against Dan Marino's former team -- that culminated in a game-winning TD pass to Andrew Quarless.
Miami's offense not only failed to run out the clock, it handed the ball back to Rodgers and the Packers with 2:04 still left. Rodgers needed all but three seconds of that time to get his team into the end zone for the win.
But he never panicked. No surprise there.Marshawn Lynch
Lynch had back-to-back carries on Seattle's first drive of the second half and ripped off 36 yards. He then had three consecutive rushing attempts with the game tied in the fourth quarter and moved the chains.
That was pretty much it. The Seahawks handed off to Lynch a mere five times outside of those aforementioned carries, never again on back-to-back plays.
"We weren’t making first downs," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. "You have to get rhythm. ... If you look at it, 'Why didn’t you give the ball to Marshawn more?'; or 'Why didn’t this guy catch more passes?' It’s because you have to get first downs and get more plays."
Tough explanation to swallow when Lynch produced two of Seattle's nine (yep, that's it -- nine) first downs himself. A similar conundrum occurred back in Week 2 when Lynch ran the ball just six times ... and Seattle lost to San Diego.
At one point Sunday, Lynch's agent, Doug Hendrickson, tweeted about Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell: "Bevell know he has a running back?"
It might have slipped his mind for a bit in Week 6.
First Down: Joseph Vincent Flacco.
For a long while Sunday afternoon, Joe Flacco was well on track to either tying or breaking the NFL's single-game record for touchdown passes (seven, held by several QBs). In fact, through one quarter versus Tampa Bay, Flacco had a 12-TD pace rolling. Twelve.
He slowed down, at least in part because the Ravens coasted to a 48-17 win, but Flacco still finished with five touchdown passes -- four coming in that opening quarter and another just 1:03 into the second. Torrey Smith caught two of the scores, with Steve Smith, Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken each adding one.
Flacco's previous career-high of four touchdown passes came back in 2009, versus the Bears.
Fourth Down: New England's injury situation.
Two weeks removed from a humbling 26-point loss in Kansas City, the Patriots again are the cream of the AFC East crop. A 37-22 win in Buffalo reasserted that for now, though New England does not play Miami again until Week 15 (the Dolphins downed the Pats in Week 1) and the Buffalo rematch is in Week 17.
Between now and then, the Patriots have to figure out how exactly to move on without RB Stevan Ridley and, probably of greater concern, LB Jerod Mayo. This is the second straight season that Mayo has fallen to injury in Week 6.
Last year, Brandon Spikes was around to help shoulder the load, but Mayo has been New England's signal-caller on defense. This season, more responsibility will fall to the Patriots' youngsters at linebacker: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and rookie Deontae Skinner.
"We will have to put multiple groups, multiple players to do some things that he did," Bill Belichick said of Mayo. "I don’t think there’s one player that’s going to run this team and do all that Jerod did. We were lucky to have him, let alone a guy who can do all that too. It will come from a combination of guys somehow."
First Down: Cleveland's shot at starting 6-2.
It's hard not to buy in. The Browns are 3-2 and could be -- perhaps should be -- 5-0 right now. Up next on the schedule are games with Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay, three teams with a combined record of 1-17. An upset trap may be waiting for the emerging Browns, like this week at Jacksonville, but this team is set up to be 6-2 heading into a huge AFC North showdown at Cincinnati in Week 10.
Fourth Down: Ties.
Time to put an end to these things for good. The Panthers and Bengals played a thrilling back-and-forth game Sunday, which ended like The Sopranos abrupt cut to black on Mike Nugent's overtime missed field goal.
That's three seasons in a row now with ties after there were just two from 1998-2008. The modified OT format, which gives each team a shot at possessing the football unless a touchdown is scored, might be more fair across the board but it also makes the possibility of a tie far more likely. And there is too much at stake in a 16-game schedule for any game to end without a winner.
Ideas? Sure, I've got ideas. Here are two:
1. An adjusted take on the college OT system. Each team gets the ball once per overtime period, starting from the opponent's 40-yard line. The overtimes continues until one team outscores the other in a given period.
2. Each team gets the ball once, with a kickoff to open each possession and two minutes on the clock. Whoever scores more in its possession, wins. If it's still tied after each team has had the ball, drop the clock to 1:30 and do it again. Then one minute. And stay there until one team outscores the other.
First Down: Derek Carr.
The Raiders lost (again) and Carr helped seal their fate by tossing an interception with 1:13 left. There's still little doubt at the moment that Carr was a solid second-round draft choice by Oakland or that he should be starting as a rookie.
Aside from the costly INT, Carr torched a San Diego defense that entered Week 6 with the fewest points allowed. He finished with 282 yards and four touchdowns through the air. A couple more games like that and Carr will be among the Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunners.
"He played really well," San Diego QB Philip Rivers said, via the Union-Tribune. "He was efficient, making some checks, handling things at the line. He showed great poise. I don't know him at all. He's got a heck of a career if he keeps this up."
Fourth Down: Detroit and Minnesota's offensive lines.
Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater were fortunate simply to avoid injury on Sunday, each peppered all afternoon by the opposing pass rush. Bridgewater was sacked eight times (at least a couple because of his own indecision), while the Vikings sacked Stafford four times. Even when the QBs managed to get rid of the ball, they often did so while taking a hit.
Struggling OT Matt Kalil was at the heart of Minnesota's problems -- Ziggy Ansah ran circles around him during a 2.5-sack performance. On the other sideline, it was center Dominic Raiola left scratching his head. He was responsible for three of the four Stafford sacks.
First Down: Philadelphia's pass rush.
Connor Barwin finished last season with 5.5 sacks for the Eagles. He already has six in the 2014 campaign, including three Sunday night in a 27-0 demolition of the Giants. Vinny Curry added two sacks of Eli Manning and now has four this season -- doubling his career total.
The Eagles may not see a worse offensive line performance than what the Giants turned in Sunday, but their aggressiveness up front still could continue to pay off all season.
Fourth Down: The Washington Redskins.
Thanks to Sunday's setback in Arizona, the Redskins find themselves four games back of first place in the NFC East. Only two other teams, winless Jacksonville and Oakland, have dug themselves as deep a hole through six weeks.
There has been little in the way of silver linings either, unless you count Washington hanging with Seattle and Arizona on back-to-back weeks. In neither case did Washington make enough plays to steal a victory, with Kirk Cousins' rapid regression to mediocrity (he had three INTs Sunday) chief among the worries.
The Redskins still should top last season's two-win total. It just might not be by very much.