NFL Week 6 Observations and Hot Takes: The Whole League is 3-3

Here are your 3-3 teams after Sunday’s action, keeping in mind that tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup is between the 3-2 Chargers and the 2-3 Broncos:

  1. Dolphins
  2. Patriots
  3. Ravens*
  4. Bengals
  5. 49ers*
  6. Rams
  7. Seahawks
  8. Packers
  9. Bucs*
  10. Falcons

Okay, so maybe it’s just 10 teams, but it feels like everyone is 3-3 right now. The asterisks indicate division leaders, meaning three of the eight divisions are led by 3-3 teams.

Here are all the teams with records better than 3-3. We’ll exclude the Chargers for now:

  1. Eagles, 6-0
  2. Bills, 5-1
  3. Giants, 5-1
  4. Vikings, 5-1
  5. Chiefs, 4-2
  6. Cowboys, 4-2
  7. Jets, 4-2
  8. Titans, 3-2
  9. Colts, 3-2-1

So only 9 teams above .500, 10 including the Chargers.

The league is pretty much separated into three categories: winning teams, .500 teams, and losing teams.

But among the categories, there’s a lot of surprising names. Like, did anyone expect the Eagles to be the only undefeated team in the league? Did anyone expect the Cowboys and Giants to be where they are?

Did anyone other than Colin Cowherd expect the Vikings to be 5-1?

Did anyone expect the Jets to be 4-2?

And after the way their season started, with a loss to the Giants and then an ass-whooping by the Bills, did anyone expect the Titans to be 3-2 right now?

The only teams in that winning group that were “expected” to be there before the season are the Bills, Chiefs, and maybe the Vikings and Eagles.

What a weird season it’s been so far.

The Second Quarter Eagles

The Eagles beat the Cowboys in Philly last night to improve to 6-0. It was a game that looked like a blowout at first, but turned into an exciting game. A pattern has started to emerge with the Eagles: they look unstoppable in the first half, but in the second half, for whatever reason, they just drop it into neutral and basically coast the rest of the way. They were up 20-0 on the Cowboys, and then by the 4th quarter it was 20-17. Lane Johnson going out with a concussion had a lot to do with why the Eagles’ offense sputtered in the second half, but this is not something new with this Eagles team.

  1. Eagles 38, Lions 35: Philly was up 24-14 at halftime, went up 31-14 early in the second half, then wound up escaping with a 38-35 win.
  2. Eagles 24, Vikings 7: Eagles go into halftime with a 24-7 lead, then neither team scores for the entire second half.
  3. Eagles 24, Commanders 8: Eagles go into halftime up 24-0, win 24-8.
  4. Eagles 29, Jaguars 21: This one was a bit different. The Eagles were down 14-0 after one quarter, then scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter to go up 20-14 at half. They ended up getting out to a 29-14 lead before winning 29-21.
  5. Eagles 20, Cardinals 17: Eagles built a 14-0 first half lead, went into the half up 14-10, and wound up kicking a late field goal to go up 20-17, a score which held after the Cardinals missed a kick late that would have sent it to overtime.
  6. Eagles 26, Cowboys 17: Philly up 20-3 at half, Cowboys storm back to make it 20-17. Eagles go on a methodical TD drive in the 4th to go up 26-17 (missed 2 point conversion).

So maybe not every game follows that script, but the fact is that the Eagles are a much better first half team than they are a second half team. They’ve been tested a few times in the second half, and have done what they needed to do to get the wins against teams like Dallas, Arizona and Detroit.

But I just feel like the Eagles need to show us a complete game. If they play all four quarters the way they play the first two quarters, they’d be destroying teams.

Eagles point differential by quarter:

  1. -7
  2. +92
  3. +3
  4. -25

Look at that. Over their 6 games, they’ve been outscored by 7 in the first quarter, and by 25 in the fourth quarter. They’re just +3 in the third quarter.

However, in the second quarter, they have a +92 point differential. The Eagles are just destroying teams in the second quarter.

So the Eagles have been outscored by 29 points in quarters 1, 3 and 4, but they have outscored their opponents by 92 in the second quarter.

It’s pretty bizarre, and I wonder how much it has to do with adjustments, but teams typically make their adjustments at halftime, not between the first and second quarters.

I really can’t explain it. But they’re 6-0 right now, so it’s clearly working.

I just would like to see the Eagles put it together for a full game before I crown them the kings of the NFC.

Speaking of the NFC…

There is no reason the Eagles can’t win the NFC this year. Record-wise, they’ve already beaten the next best teams in the conference (the Vikings and Cowboys). And they don’t play the Giants until late in the season. The NFC is wide-ass open.

You think of the traditional powers, and they’re all in the skids. The Rams have serious issues. The 49ers are, as usual, the most injured team in the league. The Bucs–they’re a mess. Tom Brady is clearly not focused and looks utterly miserable out there. The Packers are also a mess offensively (maybe it’s Rodgers’ thumb–they better hope it is).

It really feels like the dawn of a new age in the NFC. The Eagles have a young head coach, a young quarterback–it feels like they’re taking over, and all the traditional powers are washed up.

I thought the Rams would have one or two more years of elite-level play after winning that Super Bowl, but apparently not.

I know nobody outside of Philly wants to buy into the Eagles, and I get it. It feels like, while their offense is great, it is very scripted and, things have not really gone off script for them yet. It feels like they’ve been very in control of every game they’ve played this season. How will they fare when they have to respond, when they get punched in the mouth? We will certainly find out eventually, and I’m not saying they won’t be able to, but we just really haven’t seen it yet.

But there is no reason to believe the Eagles can’t win the NFC this year.

The Giants, though, are a different story. I know they’re 5-1, but it just feels different from the Eagles. While the Eagles have tended to get out to big leads on teams and then coast, it feels like the Giants are perpetually behind in games and have relied on storming back to win.

We just went over the Eagles’ scoring differentials by quarter, let’s do the Giants:

  1. -10
  2. -14
  3. +12
  4. +26

The Giants are being outscored in the first half, but outscoring their opponents in the second half, including +26 in the fourth quarter this year.

It’s fun, it’s impressive, it’s nice to see the Giants finally good for once.

But I don’t know how sustainable it is. It feels like a fairy tale.

However, I think based on their schedule, they could finish with a very strong record:

Winning at Jags is no guarantee, in fact I think they’ll probably lose. Ditto at Seattle. I bet they split those two games, though. But Houston should be a win, Lions they’ll be favored against, at Cowboys they’ll be underdogs. The Giants could well be 8-3 by the end of November.

However, the Eagles have an even easier schedule going forward:

Steelers should be a win, Texans should be a win, Commanders should be a win. That’s 9-0. At Colts will be tough, but Philly should be favored. Packers at home should be a win, Titans at home won’t be easy but Philly will be favored. They could definitely get to 11-0.

So I think the Eagles have to be the NFC favorites right now. Obviously lots can change over the next 12 weeks plus the playoffs, but as it looks right now, the Eagles are the class of the NFC.

The Bills and Chiefs Are Dead Even

In yesterday’s Bills-Chiefs heavyweight showdown, the score was 0-0 after one quarter, 10-10 after two quarters, 17-17 after three quarters, and 24-20 Buffalo after four quarters. The two teams were neck and neck the whole way until the end.

In last season’s unforgettable playoff game between the two teams, which went to overtime, the teams were tied 7-7 after one quarter, tied 14-14 at halftime, the Chiefs were up 23-21 after three quarters, and then tied at 36 after four quarters.

Kansas City and Buffalo are remarkably evenly matched.

And thus, for this reason, I’m not going to take too much away from the Chiefs beating the Bills 24-20 yesterday. Yes, it was a huge win for the Bills who now have that tiebreaker over Kansas City for homefield advantage in the playoffs. That’s a big deal. Nobody wants to go to Buffalo in January and play in front of those fans. And the Bills are proving the doubters wrong by winning close games.

But that game didn’t really tell us anything about who should be the favorite in the AFC. I mean, I guess you’d have to say the Bills, because they won in the Chiefs’ house. But everyone was leaning Buffalo before the season. It’s not like everyone thought the Chiefs were better than the Bills before this season, or even before this game (except Nick Wright). The Bills did what they were expected to do.

Now, back to the home field advantage thing, here’s a crazy stat: Patrick Mahomes has never played a road playoff game. Not once.

Well, except the 2020 Super Bowl, which was played in Tampa against the Buccaneers.

Other than that, they have played all 9 of their non-Super Bowl playoff games in the Mahomes era at Arrowhead. The last time the Chiefs played a road playoff game was January 16, 2016, and they lost 27-20 to the Patriots. That was obviously before Mahomes, though.

So if the Chiefs don’t have home field advantage in the postseason, that is a big-ass deal.

Bailey Zappe Truthers Vindicated?!

I am the President of the Bailey Zappe Truthers Club. If you follow me on Twitter, you know this.

I follow college football closely, and I noticed that last year, as I was compiling my power ratings and burying myself in stats, there was one team that was always near the top of the country in passing and offense: Western Kentucky. And they had this quarterback named Bailey Zappe, who was leading the nation in passing.

By the end of the season, he had 5,967 passing yards, 62 TDs and 11 INTs. He threw the ball 686 times, or 8.7 yards per passing attempt. That’s pretty good. Hendon Hooker this year is averaging 10.7, CJ Stroud averages 10.8, but Bryce Young is averaging 8.9, for reference.

And Bailey Zappe was doing that on Western Kentucky, not with elite receivers like they have at Ohio State, Bama and Tennessee.

Now obviously we’ve seen small school QBs put up insane numbers before in college football. Hawaii with Colt Brennan, Ty Detmer at BYU, Graham Harrell at Texas Tech, Case Keenum at Houston, David Klingler also at Houston back in the early 90s.

But Bailey Zappe last season set the all-time college football record for pass yards in a season. That 5,967 he threw for? Most ever in the FBS.

That is no small thing. His 62 TDs were also and FBS record. And he broke Joe Burrow’s record of 60 in one fewer game, too: Zappe played 14 games, Burrow played 15.

So in 2021, Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky set the FBS record for single season passing yards and single season passing touchdowns.

And he had no draft buzz or hype at all. Nobody was talking about him. Nobody even knew his name. I knew who he was, but I didn’t even really pay much mind to him in the draft. I just figured he was another Graham Harrell or Colt Brennan.

But still, in an NFL constantly starved for quarterback talent, this kid had to at least get some attention, right? He can clearly throw the ball, even if it is against Group of Five competition, and even if he does play in a system at WKU that is all about passing the ball. Without Zappe this year, under new QB Austin Reed, WKU ranks 6th in the nation in passing yards per game. They’re averaging 345 passing yards a game this year.

However, last year they averaged 433 a game with Zappe.

This year, WKU is on pace to throw for 4,825 passing yards in 14 games. That’s really good, but it’s nowhere close to last year’s 5,967 with Zappe.

So clearly Bailey Zappe is a difference-making QB, even if he did play in a college system that is designed to put up ridiculous passing numbers.

Okay, so this kid Bailey Zappe was on my radar starting last season. And then I noticed the Patriots drafted him this year. Interesting, I thought. Yeah, they have Mac Jones, but we an all agree that Mac Jones, while competent, hasn’t really set the world on fire.

So why not take a chance on, statistically, the greatest college football quarterback ever?

I watched Bailey Zappe play in the preseason, and he looked good. He was making some throws that were impressive.

Mac Jones got hurt earlier in the season, and Bailey Zappe got his chance.

His first game was against the Packers, and it was a tough outing for him. Actually, Brian Hoyer got the start in that game, but he got injured early, and Zappe had to come in for him. Belichick really had him on a tight leash, didn’t trust him to throw the ball much, but the Patriots still took that game to OT. Though they lost, I thought Zappe looked promising.

His numbers against Green Bay: 10-15 passing for 99 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, and a 107.4 QB rating.

The following week against the Lions, Belichick gave Zappe more leeway. Patriots won 29-0, and Zappe was 17-21 for 188 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and a 100.0 QB rating.

This week against the Browns, where the Patriots won 38-15, Zappe was 24-34 for 309 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 118.4 passer rating.

The dude is legit!

Now, of course, the Lions and the Browns are two of the worst defenses in the league, so take it with a grain of salt. But it was also Zappe’s first two true NFL starts of his career!

I watched his highlights against the Browns, and I saw a QB with poise in the pocket (i.e. standing tall, remaining calm, not getting scared), I saw a QB who could throw accurately into tight windows, and I saw a QB who was money on third and long.

I saw a QB making his progressions through his reads, making the right throws way more often than not, and delivering the ball right where it needed to be. I even saw him stepping up in the pocket, rolling out, avoiding the pass rush while still keeping his eyes downfield–everything you could ask for. He just looks so technically sound and polished out there. Go watch that highlight tape and tell me that is not textbook quarterbacking right there–everything a coach dreams of. He’s a “yes sir” “no sir” type of player, and on top of all that: he doesn’t hesitate in the pocket. He’s not afraid to let go of the ball. He’s decisive. So many of these young quarterbacks are terrified to let go of the ball, but not this kid. Maybe it’s because he went to Western Kentucky instead of Alabama and is not used to having his receivers running open down field by 10 yards on every other play.

I think the Patriots have their future QB, and it’s not Mac Jones. It’s Zappe. I think he’s the guy for New England. He is a legit NFL quarterback.

I don’t think he’s Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes or anything, Tom Brady was never the biggest physical freak or anything. Tom Brady is just a really polished and cerebral quarterback. Bill Belichick doesn’t really need much more than that.

I don’t want to overreact here, but I think Bailey Zappe is the future for New England.

He is currently completing 73% of his passes, has a 4:1 TD to INT ratio, and averages 8.5 yards per attempt.

How does that compare to Mac Jones this season?

Well, here’s Mac’s numbers from the first three games:

Nothing special. I know Zappe has gotten to face the Lions and Browns defenses, but it ain’t like the Dolphins are anything special on defense. They rank 25 out of 32 in pass yards allowed.

And the Ravens are a bottom-five pass defense in the NFL right now after 6 weeks. In fact, they’re even worse than the Lions and Browns against the pass.

As are the Steelers, surprisingly, who are ranked 30 out of 32 in pass yards per game allowed.

Zappe, on the other hand, had to play against the Packers in his first NFL game, and the Packers are the league’s best defense against the pass (although the Eagles rank first in yards per attempt allowed, which is probably a more accurate measure).

So you can’t just write off Zappe’s success to playing bad defenses. For one thing, he’s a rookie. Second, Mac Jones played some bad pass defenses as well, and he wound up with 2 TDs and 5 INTs.

I have never really believed in Mac Jones. Maybe it’s because of his baby face, but I just feel like he’s not ready to be an NFL quarterback. Ever since I saw this image:

I think Mac Jones is a JAG–just a guy. Average QB, take him or leave him, nothing special really. He doesn’t strike me as gritty, he doesn’t strike me as mentally tough, and I just don’t think he has the talent to be an elite QB in the NFL.

I’ve always gotten the feeling that him with the Patriots was mainly a product of Belichick and Saban being friends–like when your rich and powerful father uses his connections to land you a really nice job.

I think Bailey Zappe has that underdog mentality, whereas Mac Jones seems like a trust fund baby.

The main thing, though, is that this is Bill Belichick is the coach who will not hesitate to replace Mac Jones with Bailey Zappe if it’s what’s best for the team.

The standard in New England is Tom Brady. The standard is Super Bowls. If you are not good enough to win a Super Bowl, Bill Belichick will have no special attachment or commitment to you. He’s not going to reward average play. If he feels Mac Jones isn’t a franchise QB, he’ll move on quickly.

Sure, he spent a first round pick on Mac Jones, but Bill has wasted first round picks in the past and still won Super Bowls. He can overcome it.

What I think happens from here is the Patriots know they can give Mac Jones some extra time to recover from his ankle sprain now that they have Zappe winning games.

They’ll let Mac Jones come back and take over the starting role, but if he falters, they’re going to replace him with Zappe in short order. I don’t think Mac Jones has a terribly long leash right now. I think the standard has been set–the Patriots know they can win games with Zappe, so if Mac Jones is not winning games, he will get yanked pretty quickly.

Remember, this is only a conversation right now because Mac Jones didn’t play well in his first three games this season. If Mac Jones was playing well, then this would not be a conversation at all. It would be like the situation in Dallas, where even though Cooper Rush was winning games, we all know he’s not taking Dak’s job.

I don’t know what games you’re watching if you think Mac Jones is completely untouchable. Nothing Mac Jones has shown in his career indicates that he is solidly locked in place as the Patriots’ starting QB for the next ten years, much less the next ten games.

In other words, I don’t think it’ll take much from Bailey Zappe to overtake Mac Jones. Mac Jones isn’t making $45 million a year or anything like that. He’s on a rookie deal–he’s easily replaceable.

Bill Belichick drafted Bailey Zappe for a reason. One year after drafting Mac Jones, Belichick said, “Why not take a chance on this kid from Western Kentucky?”

What does that tell you about his confidence in Mac Jones? Now, I know Belichick drafted plenty of QBs throughout the Brady era. In fact, he drafted 10 of them: Rohan Davey in 2002, Kliff Kingsbury in 2003, Matt Cassel in 2005, Kevin O’Connell in 2008, Zac Robinson in 2010, Ryan Mallett in 2011, Jimmy G in 2014, Jacoby Brissett in 2016, Danny Etling in 2018, and Jarrett Stidham in 2019 (two of those guys are now NFL head coaches, funny enough). But Mac Jones is not Tom Brady.

It’ll be a lot easier to take Mac Jones’ job than Tom Brady. And outside of Garoppolo and maybe Brissett, I don’t think any of those 10 QBs Belichick drafted during the Brady era ever looked as good as Zappe.

Belichick knows full well that your backup could well be better than your starter–Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe after an injury and held the Patriots starting QB job for the next 20 years.

It should not be surprising at all if indeed Bailey Zappe takes Mac Jones’ job. Again, I think Mac will be the starter once he’s healthy again, but if he stumbles, it’s Zappe Time.

Thankfully, the Monday Night Football game between the Broncos and Chargers has ended. The Chargers kicked a game-winning field goal late in overtime after like 5 changes of possession within that overtime period. And the only reason they got into scoring range was because they shoved a Denver player into the guy returning a punt, which caused a fumble, which LA recovered. I didn’t know that was legal, but I guess the refs were just sick of watching that game as well and wanted it to end.

Justin Herbert threw the ball 57 times and still only managed 238 passing yards. That is a pitiful 4.17 yards per passing attempt. They need to get Brandon Staley as far away from him as possible, because he is ruining Herbert’s career. I know Keenan Allen is hurt, and they’ve had some injuries along the offensive line, but they have Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and plenty of other competent pass-catchers on that offense. It should not be this hard for them to move the ball. Justin Herbert is a once in a decade talent at QB. And he was better with Anthony Lynn at head coach–and Anthony Lynn was not a very good head coach, either.

They need a coach who is competent on offense. Staley’s supposed speciality is defense, we’re told, but prior to this Broncos game, the Chargers were fourth-worst in the league in yards per attempt allowed at 6.1, so I am not really sure what exactly it is Brandon Staley is doing there in LA.

What would you say you do here, Brandon Staley?

Your uber-talented quarterback is regressing, your uber-talented defense is just plain bad, you have the most talented roster in the league… I just don’t get it.

Yes, the Chargers have been dealing with a lot of injuries including Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen and at least one of their starting offensive linemen. And yes, the Broncos have a really tough defense. And yes, the Chargers are now 4-2.

But they’re 4-2 in spite of Staley, I think. This team, with all this talent, should be just rolling through everybody they play. But they barely beat the Broncos last night, they should have lost to the Browns last week, they were pretty close to losing to the Texans the week before that, and they very well could’ve lost to the Raiders in week 1. All of their wins are games that could’ve gone either way.

This Chargers team should be the best in the league with all the talent they have. It’s Sean Payton time, I think. He ought to be the next head coach of this team. They had better make the move soon, because Herbert is a multiple Super Bowl type of talent.

Now, as for the Broncos, their offense is just putrid. Nathaniel Hackett was hired to be an offensive guru, and they have the worst offense in the league. Okay, maybe the Bears are worse. But still.

The Broncos defense is elite. Absolutely elite. In their six games, their defense has allowed, in reverse order from last night, 19 points (OT), 12 points (OT), 32 points, 10 points, 9 points and 17 points. That is unquestionably elite, other than the 32 points they allowed to the Raiders.

The Broncos defense only allows 4.7 yards per play. That’s top-5 in the league. They just lost to the Chargers despite holding them to 3.6 yards per play. 3.6! You should never lose a game when your opponent is only able to manage 3.6 yards per play.

And yet the Broncos are 2-4, with one of their wins being 11-10.

The Broncos have been in 2 overtime games this year and still the most points they’ve scored is 23. They have scored 16, 16, 11, 23, 9 and 16 points through 6 games.

Russell Wilson, as I’ve been saying, is an overrated quarterback. He is not elite, he has never been elite, and now it’s undeniable. He’s a B-level quarterback, and yet he’s making the second-most money of any QB in the NFL. But he’s not this bad. At least I don’t think he is.

This is Hackett’s fault, too.

Check this out. On their first two possessions, the Broncos got a field goal and then a touchdown. Those were in the first quarter.

After those two drives, their ensuing drives went as follows:

  • 3 plays, 5 yards, punt
  • 7 plays, 66 yards, field goal
  • 3 plays, 8 yards, punt
  • 8 plays, 11 yards, punt
  • 8 plays, 32 yards, punt
  • 4 plays, 0 yards, field goal (after an INT)
  • 4 plays, 9 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 9 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 3 yards, punt

It got so bad that it looked like Jerry Jeudy was on the sideline with Melvin Gordon openly complaining about Russell Wilson. He was quite animated, too.

You tell me what he was saying.

In completely unrelated news, Mr. Unlimited was 3/11 for 15 yards passing the ball in the second half and OT combined.

Every week I think, “The Broncos have to have figured their offense out by now. There’s no way Russ is still terrible.” And he somehow gets worse every week.

This Broncos offense is broken, and I refuse to watch any more primetime games with them in it. I just can’t do it anymore. They’re so bad. It’s maddening, it’s kind of depressing–I just don’t want to watch the Broncos anymore.

Through 6 weeks, the league-wide scoring average is 21.7 points per game. I feel like scoring has been low, but I don’t know that for sure, so I want to go back and look at past seasons.

  • 2022: 21.7
  • 2021: 23.0
  • 2020: 24.8
  • 2019: 22.8
  • 2018: 23.3
  • 2017: 21.7
  • 2016: 22.8
  • 2015: 22.8
  • 2014: 22.6
  • 2013: 23.4
  • 2012: 22.8

2020 was the highest scoring season of the bunch at 24.8, probably because there were no crowds. The lowest scoring seasons on record are this year and 2017, both at 21.7ppg.

Most seasons are in the high 22 to low 23 range. The average of those 11 seasons is 22.9 points per game, so this season is 1.2 points below that, per team, per game.

So that would come to 2.4 points fewer per game, since there are obviously two teams in every game.

To put it differently, last season there were a total of 1,423 touchdowns scored over the course of the season. Divided by 18 weeks, that’s 79 TDs per week on average.

This year, there have been 440 touchdowns scored through 6 weeks, or 73 a week on average. So we’re seeing, on average, 6 fewer touchdowns per week across the league this year than last year. No wonder Fantasy Football is so much harder this season.

I don’t know what the reason for this is. Maybe the Broncos are single-handedly dragging down the whole league with their horrible offense.

Maybe the shortened preseason has had something to do with it, but we’re already in week 6.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that three teams that should be scoring a ton of points this season–the Packers, Rams, and Buccaneers–are actually more towards the bottom of the league in offense.

Whatever it is, the quality of play this year has definitely been down. I am sure the shortened preseason had at least something to do with it, but again, we’re already done with week 6 now, so that’s not a great excuse anymore.

Let’s hope the quality of play picks up soon here. It’s no fun having a league full of 3-3 teams. Hot take: college football has been way more entertaining than the NFL this year.

Now you all understand why the NFL biases the rules in favor of offenses!

People complain about how hard it is on defenders, but they’re also complaining about these low scoring games with no action.

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