October 20, 2020

Jon Ralph’s Week 6 Review

THIS loopy, turbulent doomed-to-fail NFL season is like a giant Jenga block teetering one bad decision away from crashing down upon itself.

Every week another team is sent home with a positive COVID test that threatens to sweep through the entire roster. Each Monday morning as you flick on Redzone or 7Mate or ESPN you wait with bated breath to see which contests have been reconfigured or delayed.

Yet this batshit crazy season, only six weeks in, just keeps delivering.

In Week Six alone:

  • Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers roared to a 10-0 lead against Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he danced a hip-thrusting borderline-arrogant celebration. Minutes later his pick six started a 38-point straight route as even Rob Gronkowski got in on the party after spending the first weeks in a glorified blocking role.

Suddenly everyone’s pre-season favourites are building up a head of steam.

  • Pittsburgh went to 5-0 only days after Le’Veon Bell was waived by the New York Jets. The Steelers refused to waver when their star running back wanted a monster guaranteed deal and held out for a full season, then he was a bust at New York and this week found his way to Kansas City. Pittsburgh has long moved on from Bell and star wide receiver Antonio Brown and found a new band of receivers in Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and a cheap-yet-effective running back in James Conner. Yet it is the defence that is owning rivals. The Steelers trounced Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns 38-7, forcing the quarterback into two hurried intercepts. Don’t look now but the Steelers are contenders, averaging 18.8 points against and 31.2 for with their high-octane offence.
  • The Tennessee Titans went 5-0 with an overtime victory over the Houston Texans. Ryan Tannehill is justifying a four-year, $118 million contract at quarterback but Derrick Henry is simply unstoppable. He shuffled down the fantasy ratings this year despite his finals performance last January but peeled off another 212-yard rushing day including a gashing 94-yard rushing touchdown. New Kansas acquisition Bell loves to dance and jink and then finally explode into space when it presents, but as so often Henry was an unstoppable freight train steamrolling defenders. Tannehill is being mentioned as an MVP candidate, but only if he can beat his own running back.

So where are we at with a third of the season finished?

Kansas City, who took on the Buffalo Bills in the first game of Monday night football, entered that game as seventh in the power rankings given the Super Bowl champions have been good but not mind blowing in the early stages of the NFL season. Buffalo quarterback Allen actually had better passing stats entering the contest – and both teams shared a 4-1 win-loss record. But in a soggy contest that showed the Chiefs are so much more than Mahomes’ brilliance, they ground out a 26-17 victory based on a running game and a stout defence. Rookie Clyde Edward-Helaire gained a career-best 161 yards on 26 carries ahead of Bell’s inclusion, and as usual the doubters over the Chiefs’ back-to-back ambitions are now starting to doubt themselves.

Seattle did exactly nothing in their bye week and still rose in the estimations of many. Russell Wilson is an MVP contender with elite wide receivers in the dependable Tyler Lockett and athletic freak DK Metcalf. But the next five contests are against teams with a winning record in Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, the LA Rams and then Arizona again.

The Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are the only three undefeated teams, with the Steelers taking on the Titans this week.

Then there are the New England Patriots, already savaged by a spate of COVID-related withdrawals pre-season and finally able to play their twice-postponed clash against the Denver Broncos. Cam Newton was finally back after testing positive to COVID but played exactly like a recovering quarterback in a team that has barely practiced in recent weeks. They looked sloppy and out of synch in an 18-12 loss with Bill Belichick saying post-match: “We need more time together, we need to practice together. hopefully we’ll be able to practice this week. We certainly need it.”

So the contenders remain just that – save for a second-rate Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott sidelined with a broken ankle – with New England 2-3 and with a losing record unseen this late in a season.

It all sets up a scintillating middle chunk of the season… before a playoff campaign no one is really sure will go ahead.

So enjoy it while it lasts in a season that refuses to play by the rules.