1 Question Still Haunting Every NFL Team | Bleacher Report

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    We’re now six weeks into the 2021 NFL season, and whereas now have a fairly good thought of what groups are going to be this season, each franchise nonetheless has unanswered questions. Unfortunately, some questions have the potential to unravel even essentially the most promising of campaigns.

    Last 12 months’s Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance, rattled off 11 wins to start out the season. However, it was honest to marvel if a lackluster working sport and an inconsistent offense may carry them by means of the playoffs. Ultimately, it could not.

    Here, we’ll study one query nonetheless hanging over every group. These questions largely pertain to roster weaknesses, damage issues and training questions primarily based on what we have seen to this point—although we are going to take a big-picture method in some situations. We’ll dive into what these questions are and the way they might hang-out groups over the ultimate 12 weeks of the season and past.

    Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

1 of 32

    Cardinals vs. Browns

    Cardinals vs. BrownsKirk Irwin/Associated Press

    As the NFL’s final undefeated group, the Arizona Cardinals do not carry many questions. They throttled the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and corralled what has been one of many NFL’s greatest speeding assaults—although there’s a caveat.

    The Browns got here into the sport with out beginning again Nick Chubb. Kareem Hunt was coping with knee and wrist accidents and was finally carted to the locker room with a calf damage. Arizona additionally opened up an early 20-0 lead, which took Cleveland out of its speeding aspect—the Browns completed with 73 yards on 19 carries.

    What the Cardinals should work out is whether or not Sunday’s efficiency is an indication of enchancment or a situational aberration. Arizona entered the sport ranked thirty first in yards per try allowed (5.4)

    Considering Arizona is sitting at 6-0, it is protected to say that the Cardinals can reside with how their run protection has carried out so far. However, it is a potential downside that would value the Cardinals towards a run-heavy group within the postseason.

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons entered their Week 6 bye with a 2-3 report. However, Atlanta has received two of its final three and could possibly be on the upswing. The offense with out Julio Jones is a piece in progress however is healthier than its twenty second rating in factors (heading into Sunday) may recommend.

    Atlanta scored 9 in Week 1, Arthur Smith’s first-ever sport as a head coach. It scored 27 in Week 5 regardless of not having high wideouts Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.

    The protection below new coordinator Dean Pees is probably much more promising. It got here into Week 6 ranked thirteenth in yardage after rating twenty ninth a 12 months in the past. Yet, the Falcons protection ranked twenty eighth in factors allowed—partially due to return scores (two interception, one kick return) and an absence of turnovers.

    The Falcons have pressured simply three turnovers, tied for second-fewest within the league. They must pressure extra in the event that they hope to capitalize on a protection that’s strong and enhancing.

    Teams can’t merely ask opponents to drop the ball or throw to the incorrect participant, however they’ll make aggressive performs and pressure errors.

    Pees can reply the turnover query by higher disguising coverages and pressuring opposing quarterbacks popping out of the bye—and discovering a brand new method to the move rush ought to be a part of the equation. Though the Falcons have blitzed on 24.2 % of their defensive snaps—the league’s Seventeenth-highest price—they got here into the bye with the fourth-lowest strain price within the NFL (21.1 %).

    And if the Falcons can’t successfully strain opposing quarterbacks with their present personnel, they should search out gamers who can get it accomplished.

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    Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey

    Ravens CB Marlon HumphreyTerrance Williams/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens ought to really feel fairly good about popping out of Week 6 with a 5-1 report and a decisive win over an excellent Los Angeles Chargers group.

    The Ravens may really feel even higher about how their secondary held up towards one of many sport’s greatest younger gunslingers. Justin Herbert completed the sport with solely 195 passing yards, one landing and one interception.

    However, Baltimore’s move protection has been removed from stellar to date in 2021. Baltimore ranked twenty ninth in passing yards allowed and twenty fifth in yards per move try surrendered coming into Sunday. Baltimore surrendered 390 passing yards or extra in three of its first 5 video games.

    Naturally, shedding cornerback Marcus Peters for the season to a torn ACL has been a part of the problem. Lapses in protection and a reliance on the blitz, although, have additionally contributed to the protection’s points.

    Heading into Week 6, Baltimore blitzed on 33.2 % of its defensive performs—the fifth-highest price within the NFL.

    Baltimore’s underwhelming move protection has solely led to a loss as soon as this season, but it surely could possibly be a major legal responsibility come playoff time. The large query is whether or not Sunday’s turnaround is an indication of enchancment to return or merely a mirage.

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    Bills QB Josh Allen

    Bills QB Josh AllenAssociated Press

    Heading into Monday night time’s showdown with the Tennessee Titans, there merely aren’t many questions surrounding the Buffalo Bills. The group dropped its opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers however has since received 4 video games by 28.8 factors.

    As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk not too long ago identified, that is the most important margin of victory throughout a four-game profitable streak since 1953.

    Cynical Bills followers, nevertheless, might marvel if Buffalo can maintain its scorching streak—and extra importantly, if quarterback Josh Allen can proceed his lights-out degree of play.

    Through the profitable streak, Allen has handed for 1,100 yards, rushed for 144 yards, totaled 13 touchdowns and thrown simply two interceptions. During final 12 months’s 4-0 begin, Allen handed for 1,326 yards, rushed for 83 yards and totaled 15 touchdowns.

    However, Allen then tossed two interceptions towards the Titans in Week 5 in the course of the group’s first loss. After posting a passer score above 100 in every of the primary 4 video games, he didn’t hit that mark in seven of the ultimate 12. Buffalo went 13-3 however nonetheless didn’t seize the No. 1 seed within the AFC.

    It’s arduous to nitpick a group that ranks first in whole protection, eighth in offense and first in each scoring and factors allowed. However, the query of whether or not Allen has lastly arrived as a perennial All-Pro has but to be answered.

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    Panthers QB Sam Darnold

    Panthers QB Sam DarnoldGerald Herbert/Associated Press

    At instances, Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold has seemed like a completely totally different quarterback than the one who struggled to develop with the New York Jets. However, he has had his fair proportion of struggles—he threw three interceptions in a winnable sport towards the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5.

    Darnold can’t shoulder all the blame, nevertheless. He’s been hampered by an offensive line that continues to wrestle in move safety.

    Before Sunday’s defeat to the Vikings, Darnold had been sacked solely 14 instances. However, he was below strain on 28.1 % of his dropbacks. That’s the best price of Darnold’s profession, together with his three lean years in New York.

    Carolina was with out left sort out Cameron Erving in Week 5—forcing proper sort out Taylor Moton to the alternative facet—however move safety has been a relentless problem.

    “It’s disappointing,” Moton stated, per Darin Gantt of the group’s official web site.

    Darnold was sacked one other 4 instances towards the Minnesota Vikings, tossed one other interception and completed with a disappointing 55.6 passer score.

    If the Panthers can’t get higher O-line play out of their present lineup, they are going to have to check the free-agent and commerce markets forward of the Nov. 2 commerce deadline.

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    Bears vs. Packers

    Bears vs. PackersJeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    In Weeks 4 and 5, the Chicago Bears proved that they’ll win with rookie quarterback Justin Fields below heart. However, a problematic offensive line begs the query of whether or not the Bears can efficiently develop Fields this season.

    Now that Fields has been named the full-time starter, it is his present. However, that present has too usually concerned opposing defenders in his face. Fields entered Week 6 dealing with strain on 31.2 % of his dropbacks.

    Fields and Andy Dalton had been sacked a mixed 18 instances earlier than Sunday. Against the Green Bay Packers, Fields was sacked one other 4 instances and was regularly below strain. He completed simply 16-of-27 for 174 yards with a landing and an interception.

    Part of the issue, in fact, is that Chicago misplaced offensive sort out Teven Jenkins, a rookie second-round decide, to again surgical procedure earlier than the beginning of the season. With working again David Montgomery on injured reserve (knee) and Damien Williams out on the reserve/COVID-19 checklist, Fields had a number of strain on his shoulders towards Green Bay.

    Of course, Fields was requested to shoulder the load in his first NFL begin too, when the Bears ran the ball solely 13 instances whereas Fields was sacked 9 instances.

    If the Bears hope to see Fields make continued progress as a rookie, they should do a greater job of defending him, which can require taking the ball out of his fingers when he is taking a beating.

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    Bengals QB Joe Burrow

    Bengals QB Joe BurrowDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a devastating knee damage in 2020 that minimize his rookie marketing campaign brief after 10 video games. It resulted in a number of torn ligaments in his left knee. While Burrow has seemed wholesome and performed like a top-tier quarterback, he is additionally taken a number of hits.

    Burrow has now been sacked 16 instances, and he is taken a number of different hits as a runner. As Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after his Week 5 shootout towards Cincinnati, taking up defenders is a behavior that Burrow wants to interrupt.

    “Sometimes you gotta slide,” Rodgers stated on the Pat McAfee Show (on the 1:18 mark).

    It’s honest to marvel if the Bengals have accomplished sufficient to guard Burrow—each behind a rebuilt offensive line and from himself. Given final 12 months’s damage, his potential and his significance to the franchise, it is honest to say that Cincinnati must do a greater job.

    With a wholesome Burrow below heart, Cincinnati has the look of a playoff group and a perennial contender. All of that goes out the window, nevertheless, if he suffers one other vital damage.

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    Browns RB Kareem Hunt

    Browns RB Kareem HuntDavid Richard/Associated Press

    The Browns entered the season as proficient on paper as any group within the league. However, the NFL is a sport of attrition, and Cleveland might have already misplaced it.

    Cleveland has been with out wideout Jarvis Landry since early in Week 2. It performed with out cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II for a lot of the Week 5 loss to the Chargers. On Sunday, the Browns had been pressured to play with out beginning tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tyler Conklin, plus beginning working again Nick Chubb.

    Quarterback Baker Mayfield aggravated the shoulder damage that has been hampering him since Week 2, and working again Kareem Hunt was carted to the locker room with a calf injury.

    Both Hunt and Mayfield are anticipated to endure MRIs on Monday.

    Cleveland is now 3-3, coming off a blowout loss and about to face a formidable Denver Broncos group on a brief week. The Browns could possibly be staring down at being 3-4 and are in very actual hazard of falling out of the AFC North race early.

    If the Browns are going to have any hope of creating the postseason, they are going to have to seek out some strategy to navigate a number of accidents and a troublesome upcoming slate that features video games towards Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New England.

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    Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs

    Cowboys CB Trevon DiggsRoger Steinman/Associated Press

    With arguably the very best offense within the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys are legit contenders within the NFC. They narrowly misplaced to the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 after which rattled off 4 straight wins.

    With Dak Prescott wholesome and weapons like Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Dalton Schultz within the lineup, the Cowboys can outscore nearly anybody.

    Where Dallas may run into hassle is with its protection. Entering Week 6 ranked fifth in run protection, Dallas has been strong towards the run, but it surely tends to give up passing yards in chunks. That’s a possible downside in shootout conditions, particularly if the offense struggles or turns the ball over.

    Before Sunday’s slate of video games, the Cowboys ranked dead-last in passing yards allowed and twenty first in passing yards per try surrendered. On Sunday, the Cowboys allowed solely 215 passing yards, however in addition they pressured solely six incompletions and surrendered a 75-yard landing move with simply over two minutes remaining in regulation.

    Dallas beat the New England Patriots in additional time, thanks in no small half to Trevon Diggs’ second pick-six of the season, however it might’t take into account its secondary issues alleviated.

    The stellar play of Diggs (seven interceptions) has helped make up for the inconsistent secondary. However, Dallas can’t rely on Diggs being a turnover machine all season lengthy. The Cowboys have to determine a strategy to not be so turnover-dependent defensively.

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    Broncos edge Von Miller

    Broncos edge Von MillerJack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos fell to 3-3 on Sunday, largely due to three interceptions by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Denver’s new beginning quarterback has now thrown 4 interceptions within the final two weeks—each video games resulted in losses. In Denver’s different loss this season, Bridgewater exited with a concussion after solely 16 move makes an attempt.

    While Bridgewater should shoulder the blame for his miscues, the truth that the Broncos have been unable to win poses a giant query. Is a strong-looking protection actually ok to hold Denver into the postseason?

    The Broncos ranked third in whole protection and second in factors allowed earlier than their newest loss. However, it is value noting that the Broncos beat up on three groups that now personal a mixed three wins to start out their season.

    In their three losses, the Broncos have misplaced by a mixed 84-50 rating.

    Against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Denver surrendered 426 yards of offense, which actually doesn’t recommend that the Broncos have a really elite protection. And if they do not, head coach Vic Fangio should work out easy methods to get extra out of Bridgewater and an offense that has averaged 21 factors per sport.

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    Lions QB Jared Goff

    Lions QB Jared GoffPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    When the Lions traded away quarterback Matthew Stafford, they acquired a pair of first-round picks together with quarterback Jared Goff. Theoretically, this arrange the Lions with a pair of choices for the quarterback place. They may both attempt growing Goff as a long-term reply or use their draft capital to discover a new quarterback of the long run.

    The downside is that the 2022 draft class is not perceived as one loaded with quarterback expertise. Last month, the Bleacher Report Scouting Department mocked Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler as the one quarterback within the first 9 picks. Rattler was not too long ago benched in favor of Caleb Williams.

    If Detroit is not going to look to the 2022 draft for its subsequent signal-caller, it has to determine whether or not Goff can carry the group for no less than one other season. Based on the early outcomes, the reply is not any.

    Goff hadn’t precisely been unhealthy earlier than Sunday’s lopsided loss to the Bengals, however he was common at greatest. Goff got here in with 1,303 passing yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He had 202 passing yards and an interception towards Cincinnati.

    Goff has now had three video games and not using a landing move, and naturally, he has left the Lions winless.

    To be honest, Goff hasn’t precisely been surrounded by a stellar supporting forged. But he is proven nothing to recommend that he might be the long-term reply. Right now, Detroit ought to be questioning if it might cope with one other 12 months with Goff because the stopgap.

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    Packers WR Davante Adams

    Packers WR Davante AdamsEmilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Wide receiver depth has been a query mark for the Packers courting again to final season. There’s Davante Adams, after which there’s everybody else. The Packers did purchase Randall Cobb in the course of the offseason, however Adams nonetheless dominates the goal share by a big margin.

    Before Week 6, Adams led the Packers with 61 targets and 42 receptions. No different huge receiver had greater than 16 targets. Against the Bears, Adams led the group with 4 receptions and 89 yards. Allen Lazard was subsequent amongst wideouts with three catches and 27 yards.

    Now, Rodgers targets Adams as usually as he does for one easy motive. Regardless of the protection he’s dealing with, Adams all the time appears to get open. And so long as Adams is wholesome, Green Bay’s lack of different choices is not going to be a problem.

    If Adams is pressured to overlook time, nevertheless—he missed six video games during the last two seasons—the Packers offense may have issues. Lazard got here up large (146 yards, one TD) throughout one among Adams’ absences final 12 months, however Marquez Valdes-Scantling led Packers receivers with simply 45 receiving yards within the different.

    Sure, we’re a little bit of a “what if” state of affairs right here. However, Green Bay is a group with championship aspirations and should plan for all potentialities. This is one query that the Packers may probably look to reply on the commerce deadline.

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    Texans QB Tyrod Taylor

    Texans QB Tyrod TaylorDavid Richard/Associated Press

    Sans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans had been extensively anticipated to be one of many worst groups within the NFL this season. That’s just about been the case, however for the primary six quarters of the season, it wasn’t.

    With journeyman Tyrod Taylor below heart, the Texans seemed and performed like a aggressive group. In six quarters of motion, Taylor handed for 416 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He additionally rushed for 55 yards and one other rating. When he left at halftime of Week 2 with a hip damage, Houston had outscored opponents by 16 factors.

    Since Taylor exited, although, the Texans have hardly ever appeared aggressive. Sure, they put up a struggle towards New England in Week 5, however Houston has misplaced by double digits in 4 of their 5 losses.

    While rookie quarterback Davis Mills has proven flashes of promise, he is seemed overwhelmed at different instances—he completed 29-of-43 for 243 yards with two interceptions on Sunday.

    Texans head coach David Culley insists that Taylor will reclaim the beginning gig as soon as he is again to one hundred pc.

    “Tyrod comes back and he’s healthy, he’s our starting quarterback,” Culley stated, per Aaron Wilson of Sports activitiesTalk 790.

    Unless the Texans are attempting to tank, they must be questioning how quickly that is going to occur.

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    Colts LB Darius Leonard

    Colts LB Darius LeonardAJ Mast/Associated Press

    The excellent news for the Colts is that quarterback Carson Wentz seems to have turned the proverbial nook. After coping with a dual-ankle damage, Wentz lastly seems wholesome and is taking part in at an above-average degree.

    Indianapolis could make a run with the model of Wentz we have seen over the previous few weeks.

    The downside is that Indianapolis’ protection has been an issue. A 12 months in the past, the Colts ranked eighth in whole protection and tenth in factors allowed. They had been a balanced group, able to profitable particular person matchups on each side of the ball.

    It’s been a special story this 12 months, as Indianapolis ranked 18th in whole protection and twenty third in factors allowed earlier than Week 6. Indy’s Week 5 defensive meltdown towards Baltimore—the Ravens surged again from a 22-3 third-quarter deficit—value the Colts what might need been a turnaround win.

    “When the game was on the line, the defense didn’t step up,” linebacker Darius Leonard stated, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “That was really heartbreaking.”

    The Colts protection was higher towards the Texans, however let’s take that with a proverbial grain of salt. Houston got here in ranked twenty ninth in whole offense and nonetheless amassed 353 yards. Indy can really feel superb about holding the Texans to 3 factors, however this protection remains to be a query mark.

    If the Colts hope to contend for the AFC South title, they must be extra constant on the defensive facet of the ball.

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    Jaguars coach Urban Meyer

    Jaguars coach Urban MeyerIan Walton/Associated Press

    It’s early within the season, but it surely’s already wanting like Urban Meyer is struggling to regulate to life within the NFL. He first raised eyebrows when he introduced in former Florida quarterback and buddy Tim Tebow for a tryout at tight finish. A few weeks in the past, Meyer drew criticism for not flying house with the group, as a substitute staying in Ohio and hitting the city.

    Hall of Famer Tony Dungy stated on Brother from Another (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk): “I never went to a game where the head coach didn’t come back with my team, me and myself for 13 years as a head coach, 15 years as an assistant, 15 years playing when the head coach went to a game, when we returned the head coach came back with us.” 

    Along the way in which, Meyer has put a subpar Jacksonville Jaguars group on the sector. Jacksonville has been out of types each offensively and defensively. They got here into Sunday ranked twenty eighth in scoring and twenty ninth in factors allowed.

    Meyer did get his first win of the 12 months Sunday morning—a 23-20 thriller towards a nasty Miami Dolphins group—however that victory would not all of the sudden make Jacksonville a contender.

    There remains to be time for Meyer to vary the narrative, in fact, however he must act rapidly. The Jaguars introduced him in to assist change the tradition and to develop rookie No. 1 total decide Trevor Lawrence. Through six weeks, Jacksonville seems quite a bit just like the one-win group it was a 12 months in the past.

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    Chiefs DL Chris Jones

    Chiefs DL Chris JonesTerrance Williams/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs offense is championship-caliber. No one is questioning that. With Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce main the way in which, the Chiefs can go toe-to-toe with any opponent in a shootout.

    Unfortunately, Kansas City goes to seek out itself in a number of shootouts this season, as a result of the protection has been atrocious.

    Before Sunday’s win, Kansas City ranked thirty first in whole protection and final in factors allowed. The Chiefs protection wasn’t an elite unit a 12 months in the past—it ranked sixteenth total and tenth in factors allowed—but it surely was ok to get the group into Super Bowl LV.

    Turnovers have been a giant distinction between what we noticed final 12 months and what we have seen in 2021. Kansas City pressured 24 turnovers a 12 months in the past. It pressured 4 over the primary 5 weeks. That, mixed with a nasty run protection, has allowed opponents to maintain drives and put factors on the board.

    Kansas City was ranked thirtieth in each speeding yards allowed and yards per try surrendered coming into Week 6. Coming into Sunday, opponents had scored on 54.2 % of their drives—the best price within the NFL.

    The Chiefs protection was higher towards the Washington Football Team on Sunday—it held Washington to 276 yards and 13 factors. However, the Football Team got here in ranked simply nineteenth in whole offense, so whereas this efficiency may present a spark, there isn’t any assure.

    Whether it is to the scheme or to personnel, the Chiefs must make adjustments on protection. The unit as constructed is not ok for Kansas City to make any vital playoff run.

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    Raiders RB Josh Jacobs

    Raiders RB Josh JacobsRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Raiders moved to 4-2 on the season with their win over the rival Broncos, and there is a lot to be ok with as they transfer into the post-Jon Gruden period. However, the Raiders would really feel even higher about their playoff possibilities in the event that they had been seeing the 2020 model of working again Josh Jacobs.

    Jacobs made the Pro Bowl final season after speeding for 1,065 yards, catching 33 passes for 238 yards and scoring 12 speeding touchdowns. Unfortunately, he is been banged-up for a lot of this season, lacking two video games with ankle and toe accidents and coming into Sunday’s contest questionable with an sickness.

    While the Raiders have gotten positive contributions out of Peyton Barber and Kenyan Drake—primarily as a receiving again—their floor sport has suffered. Las Vegas entered Week 6 ranked thirty first in yards per rush and twenty ninth in speeding yards. Jacobs got here in averaging simply 3.2 yards per carry.

    Jacobs once more averaged 3.3 yards per carry towards Denver, whereas Drake averaged 8.5 yards per carry, albeit on 4 rushes.

    Both working backs ran for touchdowns Sunday, and Jacobs has 4 speeding touchdowns in 4 video games. However, Las Vegas needs to be questioning when he’ll be at one hundred pc and when he’ll be again to taking up video games as he did a 12 months in the past.

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    Ravens vs. Chargers

    Ravens vs. ChargersGail Burton/Associated Press

    For a lot of the season, the Los Angeles Chargers offense has been a revelation. Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert is wanting and taking part in like a star, whereas guys like Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler are rising as elite skills.

    Things weren’t clicking on Sunday towards Baltimore, and the sport highlighted simply how problematic the Chargers protection has been.

    Unfortunately, Los Angeles’ protection—significantly towards the run—has been a problem all season. The Chargers entered Week 6 because the league’s worst in speeding yards allowed and speeding yards per try surrendered. They ranked nineteenth in whole protection.

    The defensive struggles had been on full show in Week 5 towards the Browns. L.A. got here away with the win, however the protection surrendered 42 factors, 230 speeding yards and 531 yards of whole offense whereas failing to pressure a turnover.

    The Chargers protection bought shredded by the Ravens, who racked up 187 speeding yards, 327 whole yards and 34 factors. With the offense out of sync, the sport become a blowout.

    The run protection is a query mark that L.A. wants to seek out a solution for instantly. If it might’t, opponents who can run properly will take over video games by which the Chargers offense stumbles.

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    Rams RB Darrell Henderson Jr.

    Rams RB Darrell Henderson Jr.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams have actually seemed like legit NFC contenders by means of the primary six weeks of the season. Their protection, although not as spectacular as final season, got here into Week 6 ranked twelfth in factors allowed. The offense, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, got here in ranked ninth total and eighth in scoring.

    However, the Rams have needed to marvel if they’ll get sufficient out of the bottom sport to win when working is required.

    Los Angeles suffered a major blow when second-year again Cam Akers was misplaced for the 12 months to a torn Achilles. The Rams traded for 2018 first-round decide Sony Michel however have not gotten a ton of manufacturing out of the previous New England Patriot.

    Instead, it has been Darrell Henderson Jr. main the way in which. The Rams working sport has been purposeful however removed from nice. Coming into Sunday, L.A. ranked twenty third in each speeding yards and yards per speeding try.

    Despite opening up a 28-3 halftime lead towards the lowly New York Giants on Sunday, the Rams produced simply 131 yards on the bottom and three.9 yards per play.

    While Los Angeles has continued rolling due to Stafford and a potent passing assault, higher steadiness could possibly be important within the postseason.

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    Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

    Dolphins QB Tua TagovailoaMatt Dunhan/Associated Press

    Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made his return from injured reserve (fractured ribs) on Sunday morning and largely carried out properly towards a nasty Jaguars protection.

    Tagovailoa completed 33-of-47 for 329 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and 22 speeding yards.

    However, one good efficiency would not erase the truth that Miami nonetheless would not know what it has in Tagovailoa. The Alabama product was out and in of the beginning lineup as a rookie and went simply 17-of-31 for 215 yards with a landing and an interception earlier than the damage this 12 months.

    What we do not know is how dedicated Miami is to growing Tagovailoa. Rumors persist that the Dolphins are fascinated with buying and selling for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

    Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits from ladies accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct. Houston police and the NFL have additionally been investigating the allegations towards Watson. He has not performed in 2021, however Watson made three straight Pro Bowls. Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN have reported Watson “would like” to play in Miami and that the Dolphins are the “most likely” touchdown spot.

    Any commerce earlier than Watson’s civil circumstances are resolved feels unlikely, however one may come within the offseason. If the Dolphins aren’t all-in on Tagovailoa—and so they presumably aren’t if Watson is on their radar—Tagovailoa might solely have till the offseason to show himself.

    That locations a number of strain on a younger quarterback who performed properly in a shedding effort on Sunday however who has but to show himself. That strain may construct and turn into a major downside because the season wears on.

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    Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

    Vikings QB Kirk CousinsJacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Vikings are sitting at 3-3, however they might simply be 6-0 or 1-5. Minnesota has precisely one decisive win on the season—a 28-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks—and a number of shut calls.

    After profitable in additional time towards the Panthers on Sunday, the Vikings now have each wins and losses in additional time. They received in Detroit per week in the past on a last-second subject purpose and missed on a possible game-winner on the finish of regulation in Week 2.

    Against the Browns in Week 3, Minnesota misplaced by a landing however had a last-second throw into the tip zone that ought to have resulted in move interference and given the Vikings one other probability.

    “I am anxiously awaiting NFL Officiating to explain why this is not Defensive Pass Interference on the last play of the Browns-Vikings game?” Tony Dungy tweeted.

    At this level, the Vikings must marvel how usually they’ll reside on the sting in video games and nonetheless come away with a playoff-caliber report.

    Close video games are going to occur, in fact, however championship-caliber groups work out easy methods to put away opponents earlier than the closing moments. That’s not what occurred Sunday, with Minnesota permitting Carolina to climb out of a 28-17 fourth-quarter gap.

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    Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers

    Patriots WR Jakobi MeyersMatt Patterson/Associated Press

    The Patriots are sitting at 2-4, however they’ve misplaced shut video games to the Dolphins, Buccaneers and Cowboys and will simply be sitting at 5-1 as a substitute. Counting New England out of the postseason combine can be a mistake.

    However, if the Patriots hope to make a critical push, it is time for them to ask if their huge receiver corps is sweet sufficient. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has performed extra good soccer than unhealthy, however he hasn’t had the advantage of a legit go-to No. 1 receiver.

    Jakobi Meyers got here into Sunday main New England receivers with 302 yards. However, he supplied a quarterback score of simply 60.4 when focused. Meyers led the Patriots with 5 receptions and 44 receiving yards towards Dallas.

    Kendrick Bourne got here in as New England’s second-leading wideout with 207 receiving yards. He had a 75-yard landing reception on Sunday (his solely catch) but in addition had a move bounce out of his fingers and returned for a landing by Trevon Diggs.

    The Patriots, who got here in ranked twenty seventh in passing yards per try, have been in a position to subject a purposeful offense. However, they might and doubtless ought to be getting extra out of the passing sport. If New England’s present crop of receivers can’t present it, it is time for the Patriots to contemplate exterior options.

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    Saints QB Jameis Winston

    Saints QB Jameis WinstonAssociated Press

    The New Orleans Saints hardly ever needed to fear about Drew Brees making game-killing errors. He final threw double-digit interceptions in 2016, and he had a completion share above 70 in every of his final 5 seasons.

    In brief, Brees was each constant and dependable. The identical can’t be stated for quarterback Jameis Winston. If the Saints are hoping to make Winston their long-term reply at quarterback, they should discover out if it ever can.

    His expertise has by no means been in query, however turnovers and consistency points had been widespread throughout Winston’s pre-Saints profession. The seventh-year quarterback has additionally been up-and-down in the course of the first 5 weeks of the season.

    Winston has had large performs and 12 passing touchdowns, however he is additionally created issues for the Saints to beat. He tossed two interceptions within the Week 2 blowout loss to Carolina. He had two first-quarter turnovers in Week 5 towards Washington. In every sport, he accomplished simply 50 % of his move makes an attempt.

    Despite coping with accidents to a number of starters—together with Michael Thomas, Erik McCoy and Wil Lutz—the Saints have appeared formidable sufficient on protection and on the bottom to be a playoff group. If Winston can be taught to match his highlights with reliability, New Orleans can be a troublesome out in January. If not, the Saints will proceed being a group that would win or lose to any given opponent.

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    Giants RB Saquon Barkley

    Giants RB Saquon BarkleyBrett Duke/Associated Press

    Giants star working again Saquon Barkley was pressured to overlook Week 6 with an ankle damage. Injuries are nothing new to Barkley, who was hampered by an ankle sprain in 2019 and missed the majority of 2020 with a torn ACL and a meniscus damage in his proper knee.

    While the newest ankle damage was a little bit of a fluke, it got here at a time when Barkley was simply starting to spherical into Pro Bowl kind.

    “I’ll be honest, it’s frustrating,” Barkley stated, per Michael Eisen of the group’s official web site.

    It’s honest to marvel if the Giants are doing sufficient to guard Barkley, who presumably is within the group’s long-term plans. While Barkley has not carried the ball greater than 16 instances in a sport this season, he has performed 209 offensive snaps. That’s a large workload for a 232-pound jump-cut runner barely a 12 months faraway from a devastating knee damage.

    Barkley is New York’s greatest offensive asset. However, he’ll even be on the ultimate 12 months of his rookie deal in 2022. If the Giants hope to have him round past that, they might wish to take into account lightening his workload much more than they already are.

    With Barkley fully out of the sport, New York managed solely 11 factors towards the Rams on Sunday.

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    Jets QB Zach Wilson

    Jets QB Zach WilsonSteve Luciano/Associated Press

    The brief reply right here is sure. Unless the New York Jets had been fearful a couple of veteran blocking Zach Wilson’s path to the beginning gig, it is arduous to think about a state of affairs by which Wilson would not have benefited from veteran steering from the get-go.

    Instead, the Jets surrounded Wilson in camp with a first-time head coach, a first-time offensive coordinator and two quarterbacks (Mike White, James Morgan) who had by no means taken regular-season snaps. They finally signed Josh Johnson, who has made simply three begins since 2011 and who’s now on the follow squad.

    Wilson has performed like an ill-prepared rookie usually this season. He did get his first win in Week 4, however he adopted that up with one other poor efficiency (192 yards, one INT, 63.5 score) in Week 5. On the season, Wilson has a passer score of 62.9 and 9 interceptions with simply 4 landing passes.

    New York ought to have shadowed Wilson with some veteran expertise, if not outright sat him to start out his profession.

    The large query now could be whether or not the Jets can discover a strategy to proper the proverbial Wilson ship popping out of the bye—and maybe whether or not Wilson is just destined to languish in New York, a la Sam Darnold, for the foreseeable future.

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    Eagles coach Nick Sirianni

    Eagles coach Nick SirianniMatt Slocum/Associated Press

    Nick Sirianni is a first-time head coach, and Philadelphia Eagles followers could also be questioning if he is constructed to deal with each that job and play-calling duties. His aversion to the bottom sport is questionable at greatest.

    Despite having a dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts and a top quality working again in Miles Sanders, Sirianni has not seemed to lean on the run usually. Despite rating fourth in yards per rush, Philadelphia exited Thursday night time’s sport ranked simply twenty eighth in speeding makes an attempt.

    Sanders has averaged fewer than 10 carries per sport. 

    “We’ve been heavy pass, as we all know, but we always want to get that closer to at least 75 percent,” Sirianni advised reporters (h/t Alexis Chassen of SB Nation). “Never be above 75 percent in anything because we know that’s where defenses really look at that and make plans off of that.”

    Of Philadelphia’s offensive performs, 74.2 % have both been passing makes an attempt or runs by Hurts. This makes for a one-dimensional offense and locations a number of strain on a signal-caller with solely 10 begins. Now, the latter half could also be intentional, as Sirianni and the Eagles are nonetheless evaluating Hurts—presumably with one eye on the 2022 quarterback class.

    However, the Eagles are going to seek out it harder to win when defenses can focus virtually solely on containing Hurts and defending the move.

27 of 32

    Steelers vs. Seahawks

    Steelers vs. SeahawksFred Vuich/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers completed the 2020 season ranked final in each speeding yardage and yards per try. Unsurprisingly, they then used a first-round decide on former Alabama working again Najee Harris.

    While Harris has been incredible as a receiving again, he hasn’t fairly erased Pittsburgh’s speeding woes. The Steelers entered Sunday night time ranked thirty first in speeding yards and twenty ninth in yards per try. Harris had averaged a good-not-great 3.9 yards per carry.

    Against a Seattle Seahawks protection that had ranked thirty first in run protection, Pittsburgh did produce 144 speeding yards. However, wideout Diontae Johnson was chargeable for 25 yards of that. Harris rushed for 81 yards and a meager 3.4 yards per carry.

    Pittsburgh did escape with an additional time win after Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith fumbled to arrange the game-winning subject purpose. However, the Steelers didn’t salt the sport away after taking a 14-0 halftime lead—partially due to inconsistency with and an absence of dedication to the run.

    Harris is a younger runner, and Pittsburgh’s revamped offensive line remains to be discovering its method. At this level, although, the Steelers want to determine if scheme or personnel adjustments can enhance the bottom sport or in the event that they’re merely destined to stay a pass-heavy group below coordinator Matt Canada.

28 of 32

    49ers QB jimmy Garoppolo

    49ers QB jimmy GaroppoloJed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    We all know the narrative of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2020 season. They had been a Super Bowl group the earlier 12 months. Injuries to key gamers like Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman derailed what ought to have been a promising follow-up marketing campaign.

    Unfortunately, the 49ers are headed down an analogous previous right here in 2021. They’ve already misplaced starters Jason Verrett and Raheem Mostert for the season. Garoppolo and Kittle each missed the Week 5 loss to Arizona. K’Waun Williams, Dre Greenlaw and JaMycal Hasty have additionally missed time.

    After a 2-0 begin, San Francisco entered the bye week at 2-3 and lurking within the NFC West basement.

    The query right here is whether or not coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers can overcome accidents and succeed the place they failed a 12 months in the past—and maybe whether or not extra accidents might be prevented. Garoppolo may return after the bye, however his return alone will not flip San Francisco right into a title contender.

    “These three losses that we’ve had in a row, the answer good or bad is not just the quarterback,” Shanahan stated, per Josh Dubow of Yahoo. “We’ve got to play better all around.”

    If the 49ers can’t overcome their damage points, it could be time to deal with growing rookie quarterback Trey Lance as a substitute of attempting to make a playoff push.

29 of 32

    Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

    Seahawks QB Russell WilsonStephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is out indefinitely after present process finger surgical procedure on his throwing hand. He was not too long ago positioned on injured reserve together with beginning working again Chris Carson. At a minimal, each will miss three video games.

    Naturally, shedding Carson just isn’t ultimate. However, shedding Wilson for an prolonged interval may value Seattle a shot at relevance within the NFC West. Seattle entered Week 6 no less than two video games behind each the Rams and the Cardinals within the division.

    Throughout his profession, Wilson has usually been requested to beat defensive liabilities, win shootouts and carry out late-game magic. In 2020, for instance, Seattle ranked twenty second in whole protection and was pressured to attain 35 factors or extra in 5 of their 12 wins.

    Asking Geno Smith to fill the identical position just isn’t a recipe for fulfillment. Smith helped lead a second-half surge in Pittsburgh that led to additional time. He additionally fumbled on Seattle’s remaining drive, establishing Pittsburgh’s game-winning subject purpose.

    While groups have weathered quarterback accidents previously, Wilson’s could possibly be a season-killer, relying on his size of absence. Getting Wilson again on the Week 9 bye could possibly be important, because the Seahawks then face the Packers, Cardinals and 49ers in three of the following 4 weeks.

    If Wilson is not accessible for that stretch, Seattle may fall too far out of the divisional race—and presumably the wild-card race—for his return to matter a lot.

30 of 32

    Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

    Buccaneers CB Carlton DavisAssociated Press

    Last 12 months, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on a late run that lasted by means of Super Bowl LV. The run was largely sparked by a protection that completed the common season ranked sixth total and eighth in factors allowed. That protection allowed simply 9 factors to the Chiefs within the Super Bowl.

    This 12 months, although, Tampa’s protection has, at instances, been extra of a legal responsibility than an asset. Yes, Tampa is 5-1, however a number of wins have been too shut for consolation. Against the Eagles on Thursday, the Buccaneers allowed Philadelphia to tug inside a landing after constructing a 21-point third-quarter lead.

    Injuries have been a part of the issue. Cornerback Carlton Davis, for instance, is on injured reserve with a quad damage. Linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) and security Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion) each missed Thursday’s sport.

    Following Thursday’s sport, Tampa ranked ninth in whole protection however a mediocre Seventeenth in factors allowed.

    If the protection will get wholesome and Tom Brady continues taking part in at an MVP degree, the Buccaneers will stay within the Super Bowl dialog. However, the protection we have seen by means of the primary six weeks may simply value Tampa in an elimination sport.

31 of 32

    Titans QB Ryan Tannehill

    Titans QB Ryan TannehillPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the Titans signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a brand new four-year, $118 million contract. At the time, it was justifiable, as Tannehill was coming off an extremely environment friendly Pro Bowl marketing campaign—his 117.5 passer score led the NFL.

    Tannehill wasn’t fairly as spectacular final season, however he was nonetheless superb. He completed with 3,819 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a score of 106.5.

    Unfortunately, Titans followers have not seen this model of Tannehill usually in 2021. Entering Monday night time, he has handed for 1,251 yards with solely six touchdowns and three interceptions. He has accomplished 63.6 % of his passes—his lowest price as a Titan—and posted a score of simply 89.5.

    The reply should not be that tough to discern, although. Tannehill misplaced No. 1 tight finish Jonnu Smith in free company and has been hampered by accidents to each high wideouts, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Tannehill has additionally been damage by an offensive line that has surrendered a league-high 20 sacks.

    If the Titans wish to see the Pro Bowl-caliber model of Tannehill, they should get Brown and Jones totally wholesome and work out some strategy to shore up move safety, which can require a dip into the free-agent and commerce swimming pools.

    The Titans nonetheless characteristic a Derrick Henry-centric offense, but when they wish to be one of many NFL’s elite squads, they should do a greater job of supporting their quarterback.

32 of 32

    Washington edge Chase Young

    Washington edge Chase YoungAssociated Press

    A 12 months in the past, the Washington Football Team received the NFC East. It did so largely on the again of a protection that ranked second total and fourth in factors allowed. While lots of Washington’s key defensive gamers—Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Kamren Curl—returned within the offseason, Washington’s protection has not been the identical dominant unit.

    Coming into Week 6, Washington ranked simply twenty seventh in whole protection and thirty first in factors allowed.

    The additions of gamers like William Jackson III and rookie first-round decide Jamin Davis had been supposed to make Washington’s protection even higher. After six weeks, although, it is clear that the poor defensive performances aren’t flukes.

    It’s disappointing as a result of Taylor Heinicke and the offense have performed properly sufficient to win video games as a rule. Unfortunately, stopping opponents has been a significant problem. Washington carried a 13-10 lead into halftime towards Kansas City however surrendered 21 second-half factors and 499 yards in a lopsided loss.

    Washington just isn’t taking part in as much as its potential defensively, and that lands on defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Del Rio merely is not getting essentially the most out of his personnel, and if he cannot work out how, Washington is rapidly going to fall out of the divisional race.


    Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference except in any other case famous.

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