Oh week five, we hardly knew thee. Nobody may have done a dropkick into the crowd and attempted to kill someone here, but there is still plenty to love and even more to hate on.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Those of you who, like me, made awful life choices regarding sleep and watched Sunday Night Football were treated with a peach of a game between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys, with the Texans squeaking through in a 19-16 overtime win.
There were a lot of notable performances, not least the Texans QB DeShaun Watson doing things which should be physically impossible with clearly broken ribs, but it was his star receiver DeAndre Hopkins who receives the plaudits.
He didn’t have a TD and did fumble, which should indicate a bad game, but if you watched it you know he was why the Texans won. Along with a league-leading 151 receiving yards, Hopkins also batted a ball out of his own endzone when he was deployed as a defensive back as the Cowboys went for a late game Hail Mary.
His real star turn came deep in overtime when he went on a worldy to throw off Cowboys defenders and drag the ball into field goal territory. It set up the Texans winning kick, and like me looking at the last voulevant was the very definition of just wanting it more.
The New York Giants
I hate the New York Giants because I hate how Eli Manning and his dumb potato face have Forrest Gump-ed their way to two Super Bowl titles. That said, at this point I’m just concerned for them.
It was only a narrow loss this week, 33-31 against Carolina, so that’s an improvement, but the local press are giving Eli Manning a worrying amount of praise for having a poor game. Since the day I started watching the NFL, it has baffled me how Eli Manning is considered a starting calibre quarterback. To put into perspective how bad the guy is, over the course of his career he averages just 1.4 touchdowns to each interception. His brother, an all time great, had a ratio of 2.1 TDS per INT. So too does Drew Brees, who has just three less career picks than Manning. All of that excludes the intangible awfulness too, such as the “Eli Special” where he’ll drop the ball mid-throw. You’ll see it roll around his feet while he throws an empty hand, before he looks at it all dejected like a man who dropped his kebab trying to have a cheeky bite on the way home.
Look, Giants fans, it’s time to admit it… this needs to be Eli’s last season on Broadway. I remember the outcry last year when Manning was benched, so I know how much you love him, but lightning isn’t striking again. You’ve got the tools like OBJ and Saquon Barkley to be a great offense. And who knows, telling Eli that this is a retirement tour might spur on an emotional response to save the season. It is hard enough to rebuild with an established veteran, though, let alone a bad one, and for that reason Eli has got to be sent to a farm upstate.
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Le’Veon Bell still holding out, and probably feeling more vindicated for it after Earl Thomas broke his leg last week, James Conner has grabbed the brass ring and made the Steelers backfield his own. This week he pounded out 110 yards and two TDs (along with 75 receiving yards) as he put up 30.5 points during the Steelers 41-17 rolling of the Atlanta Falcons.
Unfortunately, my mate Misha had him in his team and I was duly decimated. To add salt to the wound, he was texting me about this while he was drunk on a beach in Hawaii.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles should have an easy job, as really all he has to do is be average. The Jags have a great defence and bruising running game, so Bortles’ only real task is to throw the ball about a bit and not balls things up. Unfortunately, he’s not very good at his job so he threw four picks as the Jags limped to a 30-14 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. With even two less picks the Jags would have been in serious contention, but alas Blake Bortles, your ambition can’t match your talent.
Nobody can quite figure out the Jags – are they a really good bad team, or a really bad good team? All too often, which version of them that turfs up boils down to what side of the bed Bortles got out of that morning. You don’t have to be a good quarterback to do well in the NFL, all you have to be is consistent. Unless Bortles can figure out how to do that soon, the Jags may well look at some veteran options to find the final piece of their puzzle.
Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
An honourable mention needs to go to Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker. He not only managed to get a sack, but somehow he also made 11 tackles in, with 3 more assisted. Now I know that those stats are somewhat akin to a goalkeeper on a poor team having more saves because they have more to do, but still that is immense. He was, to the best of my research, the only player in double tackle digits this week, and that deserves a hat tip.
But, again, Khalil Mack deserves the Khalil Mack Award for Being Khalil Mack. Admittedly the Bears were on a bye this week so he didn’t play, but goddamn I can be sure that he prepared for his glorious return with some nice, relaxing chaos magic.
When the Kansas City Chiefs traded away a perfectly serviceable Alex Smith I thought they’d lost the plot. However, the emergence of Patrick Mahomes has shown that they were right on the money; the guy has been an absolute revelation, leading the league with 14 TDs while the Chiefs stand tall as the only undefeated team in the AFC.
Sunday Night Football is the biggest game of the week, and there are few bigger opponents than the New England Patriots. The stage is set for a Chiefs victory and Mahomes coronation as the real deal.
It won’t be easy; not only will he have to outscore Tom Brady, but he’ll have to get past the Pats’ wily defence. The Patriots are renowned for their in-season adjustments, and all too often rookie QBs see their productivity slide the more footage on them there is for defensive coordinators to study.
Nothing suggests that Patrick Mahomes can’t pass this test, though. Much like how a prospect boxer needs to beat an established name before they’re considered legit, the same is true for NFL teams and especially their quarterbacks. Well, this is Mahomes’ chance, and if he can pass it then expect the talk of him, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt to rival that of the revolution happening with the LA Rams.
That is, of course, until the traditional Andy Reid late season slide into playoff disappointment.