As if we had all forgotten how brutal the NFL can be when it comes to players’ health, fate gave fans a scare this weekend to act as a reminder. In about a 15-minute span on Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger, LeSean McCoy, and Odell Beckham Jr. all left their respective games and were questionable to return. Each a catalyst for their offense, these were injuries with the potential to shake up more than just your fantasy playoff race.
Luckily, the injuries appeared to be nothing more than dramatic tension, as all three players returned in the second half to varying results. McCoy came back to continue tormenting former head coach Chip Kelly, finishing the day resting on the sidelines as the Bills took a laugher 45-16, thanks in large to Shady’s 140 rushing yards and three scores.
All Beckham had to his name before he left with a hip injury was a costly fumble, but he finished with his best career outing to date: 222 yards receiving and two touchdowns on eight catches, including the game-winning score with just over a minute remaining. Throw in his surprise engagement to on-again/off-again companion, the kicking net, and it may have been the best day of his life period.
But not all who battled back were triumphant. Big Ben hobbled out to try to rally the Steelers from a 16-8 halftime deficit, but it only grew as the Dolphins controlled the clock and ultimately waxed Pittsburgh 30-15. And if it looked like Ben was having trouble making throws in the second half, he likely was. It was later revealed he would require surgery on a torn meniscus, and there is no timetable for his return.
Roethlisberger has a knack for coming back quicker than most from injury, and with a Steelers bye week coming up, there’s optimism he may only miss one start. Yet, even if that’s the case, Pittsburgh has New England on tap, meaning he’d likely return to a 4-3 team. The Steelers had a real chance to get a leg up on their AFC North contemporaries (3-3 Baltimore and 2-4 Cincy); now, this should be another tight race to the bitter end.
Whether it’s injuries to big players, missed calls, or just plain bad luck, there are always more forces conspiring against teams than helping them, it seems. I know it’s far overstated, but as a Bears fan, I know it to be true: it’s so hard to win in the NFL! So if your team did come out on top this weekend, take some time to enjoy it. There’s no guarantee you’ll get to feel this way again. (Unless Cleveland is on your schedule.)
Week 6 in a Nutshell
Shout-out of the Week
Barry Church, S; and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys secondary
I’m in no hurry to give Dak Prescott love here, since his performance against Green Bay basically assured I’ll have more opportunities to do so down the road. (Sorry Romo, I was pulling for you!) Instead, what impressed me most in this dominant Dallas win was how a Cowboys defense that ranked 25th in DVOA heading into the week was able to make plays, despite lacking any consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers.
Church led the way with a forced fumble on Jordy Nelson and an interception, but it was an entire team effort on the back end. Even when cornerback Morris Claiborne left the game with an injury, the secondary still held up. This included times when Rodgers had over six seconds to stand back in the pocket and couldn’t find anybody open down field. In a sight that happened far too often, the Cowboys pass rush couldn’t get home, or did but took a stupid penalty to negate any success. Ultimately, Dallas finished the day with only one sack and two QB hits, yet they forced an astounding four Packer turnovers at Lambeau!
No play summed up the day more than when the Packers found themselves on the 1.5-yard line. If the Packers aren’t just going to pound it up the middle with Eddie Lacy, they typically throw a quick slant to Nelson or roll Rodgers out of the pocket. Instead, the frazzled offense avoided taking to the air, running a draw play for Rodgers up the middle which ended in disaster.
Green Bay didn’t find the endzone until midway through the fourth quarter, and their longest play on the day was only 25 yards. While one could argue Dallas’ defensive success had more to do with Rodgers inaccuracy than the Cowboys’ coverage, the end result was still shocking one way or the other. And since I’m the one writing, I choose to give an unappreciated Dallas D some kudos this week.
Other great things from Week 6
Lamar Miller saving Brock Osweiler’s hide
Perhaps the Packers could solve their QB’s accuracy woes by stealing from Houston’s fixer-upper formula? Step 1: Have an outstanding playmaker at running back. Step 2: Play a terrible Colts defense. Step 3: Dig yourself a big hole, just for the hell of it.
Brock Osweiler has been dreadful to start his giant-contracted career in Houston. It’s been so bad that Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were bringing up comparisons to Rob Johnson and Matt Flynn during the first half as the Colts raced out to a 13-0 lead.
Luckily, Bill O’Brien has plenty of experience with quarterbacks who can’t complete a pass (see Houston’s QB history). So when Osweiler came out hurling the ball with the razor-sharp precision of a Trump insult, the offense leaned heavily on Miller. The Texans only good pass plays in the first three quarters came off play action. Then in the fourth, when Osweiler was dinking and dunking despite a 14-point deficit and a clock working against them, Miller made a great play on an underneath route on third down, doubling back for a TD.
Not only did the score save precious time, but it seemed to give Osweiler the confidence that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t the worst. And he proved his not-terribleness, finishing the game by going 5/5 for 98 yards and leading the Texans to two more scores to win a crucial divisional game.
The name “AFC South” still has all sorts of negative connotations, so it’s understandable if you want to downplay the importance of that game. But remember that Lamar Miller is coming from four dreadful years in Miami. This probably was the biggest game of his career. For him to combine for 178 yards and two scores in that situation was pretty clutch.
Eagles and Browns Twitter
After another ridiculous NFL rule prohibited teams from posting videos, GIFs, or other highlights during games, the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns’ twitter decided to make their own.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 16, 2016
TOUCHDOWN BROWNS! pic.twitter.com/RjRt9DVlpB
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 16, 2016
Surely the league is going to revisit yet another hastily applied rule (likely put in to drive up their Twitter follows in the first place), but if homemade highlights are here to stay, I’m not complaining.
Dontari Poe: the NFL’s new most versatile weapon.
Wanna know why Andy Reid wins after the bye? Because he spends that extra time putting in genius plays like this. That’s 346-lb Dontari Poe lined up behind a bunch formation, catching a pass, and powering his way in for the fattest touchdown of the year.
Somewhat disappointingly, the NFL went back and ruled that Alex Smith’s pass wasn’t forward, so it became the second rushing TD of Poe’s career instead of his first receiving one. But after seeing those hands, I can’t imagine we’re done with Poe as a pass-catcher. Meanwhile, until Terrelle Pryor can start gutting it out in the trenches, I think Poe is the new “Slash” of the league.
The Chargers throwing us for the strangest loop of all!
We visited a lot of possibilities for how the Chargers could blow another game last week. None of us were prepared for the biggest shock of all. I believe Bill Simmons put it best on Thursday…
The 2016 Chargers might be the first NFL team to surprise us when they knock down a 50-yard Hail Mary.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) October 14, 2016
The Chargers’ 21-13 win cast the AFC West back into a state of confusion, a place pretty much all of the divisions now reside.
Other bad things from Week 6
Jacksonville got the win, but Bortles continues to be awful. What’s odd is, even though he’s now 2-14 on the road in his career, his numbers have actually been better away from home throughout his career. But if he were playing any team other than Chicago, his 20/33 day, complete with two turnovers, wouldn’t have gotten the job done. It’ll be interesting to see if the next head coach wants to move ahead with the third-year passer, because Gus Bradley has failed to make any improvements with this group.
Colts going for it on fourth down.
Speaking of head coaches who should be fired, how’s it going Chuck Pagano? I can’t believe you don’t know this, but your team isn’t good enough to pass up points. So faced with a 4th-and-1 on your opponent’s 8-yard line, you take the points! You definitely don’t throw out of shotgun.
You may think it doesn’t matter, since Vontae Davis had an interception on the next drive that led to a TD. But trust me sir, that field goal could’ve been the difference in a very important game! And obviously, I’m talking about my fantasy team in this scenario…
That missed pass interference call.
You know the one I’m talking about. Unlike NFL coaches, I’m not avoiding addressing bad refereeing for fear of fines. I’m avoiding it because it’s an unavoidable reality of the game. Also I’ve written like 1,500 words and I’m tired.