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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 6 of the 2014 NFL Season, thanks to AP Pro 32 for photo & help in this article.
- The San Diego Chargers are quietly playing the best ball in the AFC. The Chargers improved to 5-1, tied with Philadelphia and Dallas for the NFL’s best record. The Chargers have won five straight. The past three were against teams with a combined 1-16 record and starting either rookie or second-year quarterbacks.The competition gets tougher Sunday when the Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs, who are coming off their bye. The Chargers meet the Chiefs for the first time since Dec. 29, when San Diego won in overtime to clinch the AFC’s final playoff berth. Having already clinched a wild-card berth, the Chiefs rested 20 of 22 starters. It still wasn’t easy for the Bolts, who allowed 332 yards and watched Ryan Succop push a 41-yard field goal attempt wide right with 4 seconds left in regulation. The league later said the officials missed a penalty against San Diego that would have given Succop another shot from 5 yards closer.
- When Joe Flacco has protection with his Offensive Line & the Ravens Front Seven is on, the Baltimore Ravens can be very dangerous, just ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which got beatup 48-17 on Sunday in Tampa Bay. It’s very rare that an NFL team builds a 38-point halftime lead, gets five touchdown passes from its quarterback and coasts to a 31-point victory.Doing it on the road is even more unique, especially for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, who won only two away games in 2013, matched that number Sunday with a 48-17 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens’ struggle on the road last year contributed heavily to an 8-8 record that ended the team’s run of five straight playoff appearances. This season, Baltimore won at Cleveland 23-21 and put up a fight in a 20-13 defeat at Indianapolis before breezing past the Bucs. In the midst of a run of four road games in a five-week span, the Ravens (4-2) host Atlanta (2-4) on Sunday.
- The 2 best in the NFC East had statement wins on Sunday, with the Cowboys 30-23 win in Seattle vs. the Seahawks & the Eagles 27-0 whipping of the NY Giants, the Eagles & Cowboys are 5-1 & are heading for a Thanksgiving Day Showdown & after that a 2 week later matchup in Philly. The Eagles are on a bye this week, while the Cowboys meet up with the Giants to show they are the top dog in the NFC.
- Teddy Bridgewater looked like a rookie on Sunday & got a welcome to the NFL gift by the Lions on Sunday. Bridgewater’s second NFL start was a sharp drop-off from his first, as the Vikings were overwhelmed by Detroit’s league-leading defense in a 17-3 defeat by the Lions. Bridgewater passed for 317 yards in three quarters on Sept. 28 when the Vikings beat the Falcons 41-28. His sprained left ankle forced him out of the end of that game and kept him out last week at Green Bay while the Vikings were blown out 42-10. Bridgewater completed better than 62 percent of his passes, but he threw three interceptions, albeit two that came from tipped balls. Also, Left tackle Matt Kalil has allowed the most of the 22 sacks surrendered by the Vikings, second-most in the NFL, but on Sunday the pressure came from everywhere.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers right now look like the most least talented team in the AFC North. The Steelers (3-3) have missed the playoffs the past two years, going 8-8 both years. This season, they’ve alternated wins and losses. The Steelers followed a season-opening win against the Browns with a loss at Baltimore, then bounced back with a win at Carolina.Another bad loss followed against Tampa Bay, but a win against Jacksonville gave them hope. That diminished with Sunday’s loss at Cleveland. Splash plays, as coach Mike Tomlin likes to call them, are missing on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Steelers can’t get off the field on third down, allowing better than a 35 percent conversion rate. Offensively, their play in the red zone is lacking as they are 31st in scoring touchdowns. And penalties hamper all three phases. The Steelers have the Houston Texans on MNF with the loser in deep trouble missing the postseason.
- Rex Ryan has never been in this spot before as a head coach. His New York Jets are staring at a 1-5 start with five straight losses, a stretch of increasing frustration for the team — and fear from fans that this season is already over just six games in. Ryan knows it doesn’t look good. It’s the longest losing streak in his six years with the Jets, but that doesn’t mean the coach is writing off the season. “My message is pretty simple: Hey, we might be counted out, (but) we’re not dead,” Ryan said Monday. “We are going to fight our tails off.” Ryan tried his best to sound positive, but he appeared weary and acknowledged he got very little sleep after the Jets’ 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. His job status has also been a hot topic of discussion. He’s 47-45 with the Jets, including a 4-2 mark in the postseason — with his last trip coming four years ago, which likely seems a lifetime ago for Ryan. For a guy who made headlines with his brash approach and headline-making bravado, his current conundrum has become the low point of his coaching career. Next up is a game Thursday night at New England against the AFC East-rival Patriots. It’s another chance to try to get things moving in the right direction, but even Ryan acknowledged it’s “not ideal.”
- The Falcons looks like a lost football that is in trouble. The Falcons (2-4) are pretty much stuck with the guys they’ve got — and they’re not getting the job done as the team heads into what could be its toughest stretch of the season.Smith talked about a wide array of problems Monday after Atlanta’s third straight loss, a 27-13 setback to the Chicago Bears. A defense that gave up huge chunks of yardage. An offense that persistently faced third-and-long, dropped too many passes, didn’t run the ball effectively, and struggled to protect quarterback Matt Ryan.”I’m frustrated, discouraged, disappointed,” Smith said. “I know we can play a whole lot better than we’ve played.”For now, the changes are likely to be more subtle than dramatic. The coach seemed to indicate a simplifying of the defense, pointing to several communication breakdowns that allowed the Bears to rip off big plays. Five of Jay Cutler’s completions accounted for a staggering 197 yards.
The Falcons next travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens (4-2), who are coming off an impressive 48-17 victory over Tampa Bay. Atlanta better get used to life on the road, because that game is followed by a weeklong trip to London for a contest against Detroit (4-2).
After a bye week, the Falcons play two more road games, against NFC South foes Carolina (3-2-1) and Tampa Bay (1-5). They don’t play another game at the Georgia Dome until Nov. 23 against Cleveland — four days before Thanksgiving. It’s the longest stretch without a true home game in franchise history.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Falcons is the way they’ve closed out games. Over the last four weeks, they’ve been outscored 49-0 in the fourth quarter. Considering the Falcons have won only six of 22 games since nearly reaching the Super Bowl during the 2012 season, they also have to be concerned about dissension in the locker room. That doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment, but a few more losses could stir up some grumbling.