Zwiller: Week Five Overreactions
Thomas Zwiller | Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Let’s overreact to NFL Week Five…
Claim: Sam Darnold is broken. He looked like a new quarterback through the first three weeks of the season, prompting David Newton to write an article called “Carolina Panthers successfully exorcising Sam Darnold’s ghosts from NY Jets.” However, in weeks four and five, Darnold threw a combined six interceptions, looking like the Sam of old.
Conclusion: This is an overreaction, as the Panthers’ offensive line is what’s broken. Against the Cowboys in week four, Darnold was pressured 30% of the time, a season-high resulting in a bad throw percentage of 25.6%; he was also sacked five times. Against the Eagles, Darnold was sacked three times. Darnold can play well, I believe that much to be accurate. He simply needs more support from his offensive line. The Panthers’ Pass Block Win Rate (an ESPN statistic) ranks 30th in the NFL at 44%. Their Rush Block Win Rate ranks 27th in the NFL at 67%. For Sam to play well, the offensive line cannot be one of the worst units in the NFL.
Claim: Seattle will miss the playoffs. The Seahawks were 2-2 and looked like they could keep pace with the Rams in their Week 5 Thursday Night Football game. Then, Russell Wilson hurt his middle finger. Wilson is expected to miss anywhere from 4-6 weeks post-surgery, and with Seattle 2-3 in the NFL’s most competitive division, it may be time to call the race.
Conclusion: This is not an overreaction. If Wilson’s finger takes the optimistic four weeks, that would place him back in the lineup by Week 10. During that stretch, the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh, play host to the Saints and the Jaguars before having a bye. I would put that record at 1-2, making Seattle 3-5. Yikes. If Wilson goes down for the entire six weeks, Seattle will play Green Bay and the Cardinals without their star quarterback. That will likely put them at 3-7. Again, yikes. Maybe that record could win you the NFC East last season, but that record is not going to allow Seattle to sniff even third in the NFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
Claim: The Chiefs have problems offensively and defensively. Coming into the season, I had the Chiefs winning the AFC, with the Chargers a close second, but even I thought I drank too much of the Herbert punch. However, here we are, Week 6, and the Chiefs are 2-3, the Chargers are 4-1 and in control of the AFC West. So, what is the problem with the Chiefs? How did they go from making the Super Bowl to being last in their division? The answer: their defense.
Conclusion: This is not an overreaction. The Chiefs have allowed 30+ points in every game (except for the Browns, who scored 29). Coming into the season, I thought the Chiefs’ defense would be bad, but not this bad. They give up 5.2 rushing yards per attempt, and 141 yards per game, stats I had expected. What I did not expect was the Chiefs to yield 9.3 passing yards per attempt and 296 yards per game.
All four of those figures are better than the Chiefs’ offense. The Chiefs’ defense does not need to be the best in the league, but they cannot be the worst.
Claim: The Bills are the best team in the AFC. After watching the Steelers beat the Bills in Week One using their defense, I wondered if Josh Allen was going to regress from last season.
Then the Bills beat the Dolphins, the Washington Football Team and the Texans by absurd margins. I stopped worrying. But I was still skeptical of the Bills when ESPN ranked them number one in their power rankings. Last night I thought the Chiefs would bring them back to reality, but man was I wrong.
Conclusion: This is not an overreaction. Who else should go here? Nobody else in the AFC East, nor anyone from the AFC South. I think the Chargers have a strong case, but they seem to be worse defensively than the Bills. The Browns and Ravens maybe, but I think the Bills are better defensively than the Browns and offensively better than the Ravens. With a win against the Chiefs out of the way, the Bills have a very winnable schedule until December, when they play the Buccaneers. The Bills have five games against the AFC East which likely turn into five wins (they also have the second-easiest remaining schedule). It will not surprise me at all if they get on a roll and claim the top seed in the AFC and earn the extra bye week.
Claim: The Steelers’ offense is fixed. The Steelers won their first game since Week One, beating the Denver Broncos 27-19, which felt like a shocking result. The Steelers’ offense has been one of the worst in the league, and the Broncos’ defense has been one of the better defenses. Big Ben got sacked once, passed for 253 yards and had two touchdowns. The Steelers had their best rushing performance of the season with 147 yards.
Conclusion: This is an overreaction. I am inclined to say that the Steelers got lucky with this one. Big Ben had his first good game this season, yet he came close to turning it over three times. Just one interception could have made this a very different game. I also think that this result says more about the Broncos’ defense than it does the Steelers’ offense. The Ravens were able to rush for 102 yards last week, and the Steelers almost made it past the 150 mark. There is also something to cornerback Ronald Darby missing the game due to injury. His replacement Kyle Fuller allowed the Steelers to score two touchdowns: one by Diontae Johnson for 50 yards and another one by committing a PI penalty setting up the Steelers on the one yard-line. I think the Steelers are improving on offense, and I think they should perform well against Seattle, but I still anticipate they will struggle for the duration of the season.