Usually, six weeks into the season, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s what in the NFL. After six weeks: New England was the best team in the AFC last year and went on to win the Super Bowl; Denver and Carolina were unbeaten in 2015 and went on to meet in the Super Bowl; Seattle and Denver were a combined 11-1 in 2013, and they met in the big one.
This year? If Week 6 records mean the most, it looks like Alex Smith and Carson Wentz meeting in the Super Bowl in Minnesota in 16 weeks.
This season is just plain weird. The President hijacks the anthem protest and makes it a monumental thing. Three of the top 10 stars in the game are lost for the season (most likely) in a span of eight days; Aaron Rodgers, the third, got taken down Sunday with the same run-of-the-mill ferocity he’d been hit with a thousand times in his life, only this time it broke his right collarbone. The defending rushing champ is likely to start a six-game suspension on Sunday, and it barely registers on the psyche of Football America. Nothing weirder than this: The Saints defense and special teams outscored every player in fantasy football Sunday. The Saints. The winless, lambs-led-to-the-slaughter Giants, their head coach in a bubbling cauldron, dominated in Denver on Sunday night.
Of the 32 NFL teams:
• None is unbeaten.
• Two have one loss.
• 27 have two, three or four wins.
• Few are legit hopeless. Three have zero or one win.
NFL 2017: A gigantic mishmash of mediocrity!
Thank God for the Browns. They’re the only dependable team. They’re 0-6 for the second straight year, and they’re stuck down the same rabbit hole they simply cannot escape. Even the other 0-6 team, San Francisco, is ridiculously competitive. Margin of the 49ers’ last five losses: 3, 2, 3, 3 and 2 points, respectively.
I don’t love any team. But before getting to the newsreel of the weekend (and the coming week), here’s how I see the top five:
1. Kansas City (5-1). The last vision you have of a team is usually the one you remember best, so you might find this strange. But the Chiefs are 15-2 versus teams not named Pittsburgh since Oct. 1, 2016, and they’ve got a 12-game winning streak in a tough division. They’ve just got to protect Alex Smith better and keep Tyreek Hill upright.
2. Philadelphia (5-1). The big story is Carson Wentz, who is growing into a big star before our eyes. But LaGarrette Blount went from the doghouse to being a vital cog in the Eagles’ current four-game winning streak. Now Philly doesn’t go on the road until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Looks like the Eagles’ most famous season-ticket holder, Mike Trout, will have some frozen January football to cheer.
3. New England (4-2). I’ve got the same questions as everyone else about the defense holding up, and Tom Brady taking a jillion hits, and the end of the dynasty being around the corner. But if it’s close late, and it usually is with the Patriots, you’re going to have to knock them out. Most times, teams can’t.
4. Pittsburgh (4-2). The Steelers are only slightly psycho. Ben Roethlisberger had his nightmare five-pick game eight days ago in a 21-point loss to Jacksonville, but Pittsburgh sandwiched that with strong games on the road against rivals Baltimore and Kansas City. Notice something about those road wins? Mike Tomlin let Le’Veon Bell own them. Combined in Baltimore and K.C., Bell rushed 67 times for 323 yards. That’s the Steelers’ best chance to make the Super Bowl: feature Bell and get ready to pay him handsomely.
5. Houston (3-3). Scott Hanson on NFL RedZone said just what I was thinking as the Texans wiped out Cleveland 33-17 on Sunday. “The Texans’ offense looks as impressive as any in football now,” he said. Last four games: 33, 57, 34 and 33 points, and Deshaun Watson is making everyone in southeast Texas forget the pain of losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
Now on to the newsy weekend...
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