Peter King hands out NFL Week 5 awards to Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Todd Bowles, Vontaze Burfict and more
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Alex Smith, quarterback, Kansas City. The MVP of the first five weeks is having far and away the best season of his life. His 76.6 percent accuracy is absurd; the current record for accuracy in a season is 71.6. Smith continues to throw the ball well downfield, and his three touchdowns and 324 yards led the last unbeaten team in football to a 42-34 win over the plucky but beat-up Texans.
Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina. The former MVP is starting to play like one again. His Week 5 league-high 355 passing yards, with three touchdowns, led 4-1 Carolina past Detroit 27-24 win in a week full of self-made distraction for Newton.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Vontaze Burfict, linebacker, Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis will tell anyone who’ll listen how valuable Burfict is, and how much he was missed during his September suspension for the brutal hit on Kansas City running back Anthony Sherman. Burfict’s 13 tackles and one sack were vital to the Bengals’ 20-16 win over Buffalo in the Cincinnati rain Sunday.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Adam Vinatieri, kicker, Indianapolis. Vinatieri bookended the game perfectly for the Colts. His 52-yard field goal in the first quarter accounted for the first points of the game; his 51-yard field goal in overtime gave the Colts a 26-23 win. And an extraordinary career gets more extraordinary. Vinatieri turns 45 in December. Since turning 41, he has made 16 of 19 field goals from 50 yards and beyond. Here’s the interesting thing to me: In his first six seasons, Vinatieri hit on 80.4 percent of all field goals. Since turning 41, he’s made 84.2 percent of his 50-yard-plus kicks. Now that’s impressive.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Todd Bowles, head coach, New York Jets. Coaching in the NFL cauldron is a difficult thing anyway. Doing it with a bad team in New York is exponentially more distracting. I’ve got tremendous respect for Bowles, for getting his team to 3-2 with a quarterback put on the street by the Cleveland Browns, a tattered offensive line, and a defense that gave up 45 points in Week 2 in Oakland. Bowles has proven against the odds that coaching, and a smart plan, matter.
GOATS OF THE WEEK
Nick Folk, kicker, Tampa Bay. The difference in New England’s 19-14 win over Tampa on Thursday night? Simple: Stephen Gostkowski, 4-for-4 on field goals. Nick Folk, 0-for-3 on field goals. Folk missed kicks from 56, 49 and 31 yards. The gory details … New England up 13-7, late second quarter: Folk missed a 56-yard prayer, wide right. New England up 16-7, early fourth quarter: Folk missed a 49-yarder, wide left. New England up 16-7, midway through the fourth quarter: Folk missed a 31-yard field goal, wide left.
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh. For his five interceptions, and for a 21-point loss to the Jaguars at home. Both stunners.
Quotes of the Week
“We cannot in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind, that the (NFL) and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag.”
—Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, to the Dallas Morning News.
“The players should be heard and not crushed.”
—Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, to the Indianapolis Star after the vice president walked out of the stadium following some 49ers kneeling for the national anthem.
“Nice to see the commissioner here today. Forty-eight million dollars a year, and he couldn’t give his job away.”
—David Letterman, at the unveiling of the Peyton Manning statue in Indianapolis Saturday, on Roger Goodell.
“By the way, if you like football trivia, so far this year Eli and Peyton have the same number of wins.”
That held true Sunday, as the Giants fell to 0-5 with a loss to the Chargers.
“One of these teams is going to walk out of here with a win today. We think.”
—CBS play-by-play man Ian Eagle, watching the Giants and Chargers (a combined 0-8 entering the game) slop around in New Jersey on Sunday
“The Giants have to think about the future—possibly replacing Eli Manning at quarterback.”
—NBC Football Night in America analyst Rodney Harrison
Stats of the Week
In their past 49 games, the Cleveland Indians are 40-9.
In their past 49 games, the Cleveland Browns are 9-40.
Kicking efficiency since the start of the 2016 season, as measured by percentage of successful field-goal and extra-point attempts combined:
|Team (Kicker)||PAT Made-Att.||FG Made-Att.||All Kicks Made-Att.||All Kicks Pct.|
|1. Baltimore (Tucker)||36-36||45-48||81-84||.964|
|2. Los Angeles Rams (Zuerlein)||38-38||34-38||72-76||.947|
|32. Tampa Bay (Aguayo, Folk)||39-43||28-42||67-85||.788|
Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that the Bucs will have kicker tryouts for Nick Folk’s job today. Folk’s still employed, but who knows for how long.
A word about NFL TV ratings. Several words, actually. The NFL is concerned about them. Some people in the league are hugely concerned about them. They should be. A year ago, when the ratings were tanking, most media cognoscenti said it was because the rancorous presidential campaign was sucking all the TV air out of the room, and the marginal football fan was watching Fox News or MSNBC or CNN instead of football. So we’ll skip 2016 ratings for the purpose of this exercise, and compare 2017 to 2015.
In Week 4, ESPN’s Monday night rating for the Kansas City-Washington game was 19 percent lower than the Detroit-Seattle Week 4 game in 2015. NBC’s Sunday night Indianapolis-Seattle rating was down 32 percent compared to the Dallas-New Orleans game in 2015. Now, you can say a lot about that second comparison, namely that any game with Dallas will get a good rating. But no matter what the matchup, to be down by a third, week over week, from two years ago is notable.
Now, I doubt in NBC’s case that a third fewer people watched this year’s game in Week 4 than watched in 2015. People who follow the ratings game closely tell me that some fans are cord-cutters who have found ways to watch that aren’t measured by traditional rating services. Still, the numbers are concerning.
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
Stolen from Pro Football Focus: Dallas center Travis Frederick has not allowed a sack in his last 1,658 pass blocks, since midseason 2014. That’s almost three full seasons of protecting Dallas quarterbacks on pass drops.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
You may wonder why I sing the virtues of Indianapolis as a travel city. There is no big-league city that comes close to the convenience, in my book. In part, that’s because you do not need a rental car when you go to cover a game or event there; everything downtown is, at most, a 15-minute walk. Then there’s the airport. It’s a great one, never over-crowded, and it's got a good rotunda of shops and coffee and a wine bar and the underrated Patachou restaurant. I had a 6:35 a.m. Delta flight from Indianapolis to New York on Sunday. Check out this Indy convenience factor:
5:18 a.m.: Finish packing in downtown Westin. Leave room. Get in cab for airport.
5:39 a.m.: Arrive at airport. Go to TSA precheck line. Four people in front of me.
5:42 a.m.: Get coffee.
5:47 a.m.: Arrive at gate A11. Flight’s on time.
Granted, the quick trip happened in part because of the insanely early hour I left my hotel. But trust me: Nowhere else in an NFL city can you leave your downtown hotel room and be at your airport gate in 29 minutes at any time of day. Not even close.
Tweets of the Week
Just so we're clear..— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) October 9, 2017
CAN play in NFL:
Kershaw has the heart of a lion, without telling anyone that he does— Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 7, 2017
We’re in the first month of a new section of the column called My MVP, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL person what his most valuable possession is, and why.
Adam Thielen, wide receiver, Minnesota. “I’m a big golfer, so there’s not much better than a great set of clubs. But it’s my house. That’s the only thing I have that I can think of that’s really significant—because my wife and I have a son now and it’s where we spend so much time and get to be a family. My parents … we had a good life, and we had a roof over our head. But when you’re a kid, you see MTV Cribs, and maybe you have unrealistic visions about the kind of place you’ll have when you grow up. But we have a dream house that we never thought we’d be living in. So I’d say my house.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversations: Peyton Manning, on the verge of a statue of him being unveiled outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.
• Manning on staying at Tennessee for his senior season in 1997, and not choosing to be drafted by the Jets number one overall that year: “I talked to Tim Duncan. I saw him at a college basketball game that year, and he had stayed for his senior year, which was kind of against the norm, and he just said, 'Hey I wanted to be a senior, I wanted one more year to get ready.’ So that kind of let me know it was okay if I wanted to stay. I threw the injury bug out the window and I just really wanted to be a senior in college. It's by far the best decision I've ever made. I've created some long-lasting memories and friendships my senior year, and of course I was able to stay healthy. When 1998 came around I felt more prepared.”
• Bell on running backs at all levels of football using him as a model for his patient rushing style: “When you see guys like Christian McCaffrey, who was a first-round pick, a guy who was highly touted coming out of the draft, everybody watched him … and the fact that he said that he wanted to reach out to me about the way my running style was, it kind of hit home to me that guys were really looking up to me, the way I run. That's when I realized I'm different. You got guys like [Rams back Todd] Gurley—I hear a lot of comparisons about him to me. When you hear things like that, and I know that running backs are looking up to me, it means everything in the world to me. I got my imprint on the game, and it's a blessing. Now that I am on a big stage, people get to watch me and they see that I'm different, and my style works.”