Week 5 of the NFL season took place over this past weekend. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch most of it. In the Jacksonville area, we were dealing with Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath. Wednesday night, preparation began, and many were rushing to the home improvement and grocery stores to grab last-minute items in case of power outages and storm surges. Sunday, life slowly began to return to normal for most folks, and for my family, the day was occupied by church, cleaning, rest, and having to replace the contents of our refrigerator and freezer. However, what can largely be termed minor inconveniences of power outages and food spoilage are put into perspective with the knowledge of the death toll that Matthew caused in the island countries just a little south of Florida. We got off lucky, we were blessed, and not in the ironically detached sense often hashtagged by millennials. Meanwhile, games this weekend included some surprises, and it was nice to catch up once our power was restored and I had a moment to decompress from the Matthew. Now, as we pick up the pieces, we move on as we always do because we are a resilient people, and we look forward to Week 6 of the NFL.
I don’t like to cover items that have already been covered by the Talking Head Sports Shows because those programs (First Take, PTI, Around the Horn [that is still on the air, right?] and whatever Skip Bayless’ new show is called) take a point, throw it around, and then beat it with sticks until it is dead. Such is the way of the “Embrace Debate” epoch of sports television (it amazes me sometimes that the same company that puts together great “30 For 30” documentaries can also air Steven Smith and Max Kellerman screaming at a camera for two hours, but I digress).
That being said, I would like to take a paragraph or two to talk about how the Dallas Cowboys should leave Dak Prescott in as the starting quarterback even when Tony Romo is healthy. First, I know that everyone in the NFL is one injury (or suspension) away from their backup playing in their position. That is a given, and only superstars usually have their spots waiting for them when they get back. It is apparent to me, though, that Dak Prescott is now the “superstar quarterback” for Dallas. When (if?) Romo is cleared to play again, he should either enjoy some time as a backup, getting fully healthy so he can enjoy some success during his waning years (albeit from the bench) or test the market this offseason–not that anyone is in the market for a thirtysomething QB with chronic back issues.
Tony Romo has been one of the singular bright spots for Dallas over the years. He has held the team together through some down years. But, he has a playoff record of 2-6. He has been held out with injuries to his core over the past two seasons. It is harder to heal the trunk of the body than the extremities (legs and arms), especially when those injuries are to the back. We all know how hard it is to get over back pain. The man may come back with a worse arm than Peyton Manning did last year. Is that who you want quarterbacking your First-Place Cowboys? Dak Prescott has been an excellent quarterback thus far, and, while it’s too early to measure him for his gold blazer, he has punched above his weight and has shown excellent poise and executive ability in his role as an unwilling first-teamer. He just walked all over what is supposed to be one of the best AFC defenses in the Bengals, and if he can give the Packers a ball game this week, I don’t see any reason to pull him out. Literally, NO. REASON. AT. ALL. Don’t do it, Jerry! I say we let the kid continue to play, see what gels with him, Elliott, and Bryant (Dez has even been out the last couple of weeks with injuries to the surprise of nobody!), let the defense do its thing, and see what the season brings. Jerry Jones should be patting himself on the back for picking Prescott in this year’s draft.
On to the game previews…
BRONCOS at CHARGERS – I am not sure about the quality of the game that will come on this Thursday night, but I can say it will probably be the best-looking one of the week. The Broncos’ Thursday Night “color rush” uniform will be a throwback-style all-orange affair with throwback Broncos decals on their helmets. The Chargers’ uniforms will be royal blue with gold numbers, similar to the Don Coryell years of the franchise. Those will be some cool-looking uniforms. The Broncos’ game, it seems, will ride on whether or not Trevor Siemian is the starting quarterback. Paxton Lynch looked serviceable, but not ready, against the Falcons, and he wasn’t able to lead the offense to keep up with the Falcons last week. The Chargers straight up got embarrassed at Oakland, and while they may want to save face at home this week, I think that the Broncos’ defense will keep Philip Rivers on his toes and Denver will return home with the W.
EAGLES at REDSKINS – Man, I’m surprised. Both of these teams are looking good! The Redskins started the year with two straight losses but have racked up three straight wins and seemingly have come together. The Eagles are almost surprisingly excellent, but they lost a close one in Detroit. Who is going to win? I’d say the Eagles – their loss to the Lions came on a running back fumble recovery. They look like overall the better team. But this is the closest push of the week to me.
STEELERS at DOLPHINS – The Dolphins have become the Browns of the South. The Steelers should lay waste to this team and keep rolling. Next!
JAGUARS at BEARS – The Bears are not looking like a good team right now, but neither are the Jaguars. In the scheme of things, when Chicago’s turning to Brian Hoyer to help turn the season around, that speaks volumes about both their lack of talent and the potential severity of Cutler’s injury. The Jags are coming off a bye, and only on Sunday at 1PM will we see if the time off helped the team coming off what should be a momentum-building win, or caused the momentum to come to a screeching halt. The return of slot corner Aaron Colvin frees up the team to put a dangerous combination of Jalen Ramsey, Prince Amukamara, and Colvin on the field, and they are working to get playmaking LB Myles Jack on the field more. Perhaps the defense begins carrying the team when the offense can’t? I’ll predict and hope that the Jags win.
BROWNS at TITANS – The Titans beat the Dolphins, because the Dolphins are at least a few degrees more awful than the Titans. The Browns are on their fourth or fifth quarterback of the year. Josh McCown may be coming back, which is good, I guess? Also the mayor of Cleveland needs to let the management of the Indians and Cavaliers hire the front office for the Browns or something, because this football team ain’t going to the playoffs anytime soon. The Titans will win this, and it pains me to say that, but you never pick the Browns.
BENGALS at PATRIOTS – Tom Brady came back last week and looked great against the Browns. The other team from Ohio seems to be facing a similar fate as they head into Brady’s return to his home field. The fans will be loud and proud and the Bengals may put up some fight, but I don’t think they have what it takes to beat the Patriots right now.
49ERS at BILLS – The Bills are experiencing a resurgence. Somehow Rex Ryan has righted the ship and are a real threat to be legit AFC East contenders. They are relying more on Lesean McCoy which takes pressure off of Tyrod Taylor. The wagons will continue to be circled this week, because the 49ers are Not Good. This should be a win for Buffalo.
RAVENS at GIANTS – The Ravens are going with the “change offensive coordinator to save season” strategy that the Bills recently employed, but will it pay off? This looks like a good game for the Giants to shake off that losing stink and get back to their normal form. The problem is the Giants flirt with mediocrity until about week 12 or 13. Ben McAdoo was supposed to change that, but the change isn’t there yet. Olivier “Buckets Of Cash” Vernon and the Giants’ defense should contain Flacco and give the Giants a win.
RAMS at LIONS – The Rams beat the Seahawks, but got beat by the Bills. The Lions beat the Colts and the Eagles, but got beat by the Titans. Which team will come out on top? I’d say the one with Matt Stafford at quarterback. Expressionless Jim Caldwell against Jeff Fisher’s .500 record. Jim Bob Cooter versus Greggggggggggg “Bountygate” Williams. Yeah, let’s go with the Lions. Why not?
PANTHERS at SAINTS – This used to be a matchup to look forward to. What happened? Both teams stink, and for the Panthers it’s not just because Cam Newton was out last week. The power in the NFC South has certainly shifted in the direction of Atlanta, and it’s not moving anytime soon. I guess the Saints will win this because they’re at home, but what a stinker of a game this will be.
CHIEFS at RAIDERS – This looks like a fun game, and both teams seem to be trending in the right direction. However, the Raiders pack more of a punch on both sides of the ball, in my opinion. It’s true, they kind of got away with one against the Chargers last week, but Oakland is on its way to being one of the most feared teams in the AFC. A win against the Chiefs will put the Raiders in a great spot to be at the top of the AFC West come playoff time.
COWBOYS at PACKERS – This is the GAME OF THE WEEK and a challenging matchup for both teams. They both have one loss. The Packers appear to be a little more vulnerable this year than in years past. The Cowboys are surprising everyone with young playmakers and a defense that is becoming respected. The outcome of this game could very well determine playoff seeding this year. This is about who I think will win and I want to go with the hot hand, so I will pick the Cowboys to win this one (and I very well may be eating crow writing next week’s column).
FALCONS at SEAHAWKS – The Seahawks are a team that flirts with mediocrity through about the first half of the season, and then picks up steam near the second half and when the playoffs get started. Seattle’s three wins so far this year have been against teams that kind of stink, and their one loss has come against the Rams in a bizarre low-scoring matchup. Can they hang with the Falcons and put up points as well as Matt Ryan and company seem to? I don’t think so right now, and so that is why I’m picking Atlanta to keep rolling this week and pick up another long road-trip win.
COLTS at TEXANS – The Texans appear to be regressing. That’s all there is to it. They were the recipient of a good old smackdown at Minnesota last week, and Brock Osweiler is starting to make John Elway look even smarter for not signing him, making messy throws and dumb decisions. The Colts had a little problem with the Bears last week which is troubling, but Andrew Luck is regaining his ability to will the team to a win at the right time. On the big Sunday Night stage, I think this is one that the Colts will be able to take, so long as the defense keeps pressure on Osweiler.
JETS at CARDINALS – Yikes. Both of these teams have some issues, but the outcome of this game depends on one person: Carson Palmer. If Palmer is healthy, the Cardinals will win – the Jets’ defense doesn’t have enough gas to deal with Arizona’s offensive attack. But if not, the Jets have a shot. Let’s call it a presumptive win for Arizona.