Young, athletic quarterbacks paired with play-calling masterminds seem to be the name of the game in today’s NFL. Two of the league’s premier duos, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes/Andy Reid and Los Angeles’ Jared Goff/Sean McVay, have led their teams to perfect 5-0 starts. Since 2002, only five teams that have begun a season with five wins or better have missed the playoffs. They’ve got to like those odds.
Chiefs defense holds just enough
Before the Jaguars’ matchup with the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, who had QB Blake Bortles throwing more than 60 passes (a Jacksonville franchise record)? Not me. Too bad for the Jags though, as four of those passes resulted in interceptions.
The Kansas City defense also had five sacks and a fumble recovery to ensure a 30-14 victory, in which QB sensation Patrick Mahomes threw the first interception of his career (and another later). Even though these decisions were some of the worst he’s made all year, the rookie made plenty of timely, tight-window throws against a historically elite Jacksonville defense to put the game away.
Meanwhile, the Jags simply can’t be trusted to move the ball with Bortles at the helm. His highly inconsistent play forces them to rely on their defense to keep it a low-scoring affair. But there are just some offenses, no matter who faces them opposite the line of scrimmage, that will put up 30 points and gain yards relentlessly.
Falcons, Packers, Eagles struggle
After a 41-17 loss in Pittsburgh, where the defense allowed Steeler RB James Conner 185 scrimmage yards, the Atlanta Falcons (1-4) playoff hopes are all but dashed. Ravaged by injuries, the Falcons were supposed to have a young and fast defense that swarmed to the ball and tackled well.
Now, they are one of the worst units in the league that cannot hold their own against most passing attacks. With both starting safeties and Pro Bowl LB Deion Jones on injured reserve, there is not much QB Matt Ryan and the offense can do to carry the team to wins.
The Packers (2-2-1) and the Eagles (2-3) are in less dire straits, each with two wins and in weaker divisions, but both quickly need to get their acts together if they have any hopes of making a deep playoff run.
A week after Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers sounded off on Mike McCarthy and the offensive play-calling, the Packers lost to the Lions in Detroit. Even though they had a great offensive day, almost doubling up the Lions in total yardage and first downs, costly mistakes at inopportune moments allowed Detroit to go into halftime up 24-0 and eventually win the game.
These are the division games that supposedly good teams such as the Packers are supposed to take care of easily, and it may be possible that it is just another year when Rodgers cannot make up for a weaker supporting cast around him.
The Eagles defense has been almost average through five games, a major step down from their once-elite unit, and the offense has struggled to convert third downs since QB Carson Wentz’s return. Head coach Doug Pederson and the passing attack are sorely missing former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who is now coaching the Colts.
While their present record may be a cause for concern, they have all the time in the world to change course for better waters. Of their next six games, two are against the Giants and one is against the Cowboys, and if they can take care of business in those divisional matchups, they’ll only have to worry about the Redskins in the NFC East.
Dev Navani writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].