Another weekend, another victory for the Kansas City Chiefs, this time over the Houston Texans and their rookie QB Deshaun Watson. While box score analysis will tell you that Deshaun Watson had 5 TDs and no INTs, his play was not sterling; he completed only 52% of his passes, often throwing into very dangerous coverage, and padded his stats with garbage time.
Injuries, sadly, are the big story coming out of this game again. Chris Conley tore his Achilles (in one of the most gruesome non-contact injuries I've seen in a long time) while on the Houston side, both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost for the season with a tibial plateau fracture and torn pectoral, respectively. Travis Kelce left the game at the half with a concussion, and after all was said and done, it was an ugly, injury-riddled affair that the Chiefs managed to dominate, a 42-34 beatdown only made close by some Deshaun Watson garbage time magic.
Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt continue to be the top 2 contenders for the NFL MVP award this year, with AS11 racking up 324 yards and 3 TDs, two to Charcandrick West and one to DAT. Kareem Hunt gained another 107 yards on the ground, bringing him to 609 for the year after five games. Hunt had his heaviest workload of the year so far, with 29 carries (plus 3 catches, although only getting 9 yards on those catches). Should we be worried about him getting overused? I still say no; he's projected to get 310 carries this year at his current pace, but was averaging only 17 carries a game before this game, so I doubt he's going to get ridden into the ground a la Larry Johnson in 2006.
Deshaun Watson, in my opinion, played alright. He wasn't a world-beater in the game, getting a lot of help from swallowed whistles once the game was securely out of reach, but he did make some very pretty throws that, had Alex Smith made them, we would have been praising him for his gutsy decision-making. As Bruce Arians says, "No risk it, no biscuit." He's not there yet, but he's probably going to be a long-term starter.
What does this game mean for the Chiefs? It means we're flying high, with victories over two AFC teams that will likely be in the playoff picture (New England and Houston), wins over two strong NFC East teams, and a division victory over the Chargers. While our team continues to be ravaged by injuries, hopefully Mitch Morse and LDT return soon, and while Conley's experience in the offense will be missed, he wasn't really a difference maker, on pace for just over 600 yards on the season. DeMarcus Robinson and Jehu Chesson now get their chance to make their value known.
Well, on to the game against Pittsburgh, but first, the week as it happened in the NFL.
Week 5 Review
Thursday Night Football
Patriots (2-2) @ Buccaneers (2-1)
My Prediction: Patriots 31, Bucs 14
Actual Outcome: Patriots 19, Bucs 14
Fantasy play of the Game: Chris Hogan, 13.4 pts.
While a much lower scoring affair than I expected, the Patriots looked markedly different from the beginning of the season. While Doug Martin ran wild over the Pats D, Jameis Winston was erratic and failed to consistently move the ball. Look for the offense to run through Doug Martin in Tampa this year, and look for the Patriots to lose games against good offenses.
Sunday, Noon Arrowhead Time
49ers (0-4) @ Colts (1-3)
My Prediction: 49ers 12, Colts 14
Actual Outcome: 49ers 23, Colts 26 (OT)
Fantasy play of the Game: Frank Gore, 8.6 pts.
The 49ers remain winless, and the Jake Brisket-led Colts scrape their second win of the year in a game that I will fully admit to not actually watching a single bit of. Simply terrible football.
Jets (2-2) @ Browns (0-4)
My Prediction: Jets 21, Browns 14
Actual Outcome: Jets 17, Browns 14
Fantasy play of the Game: Robby Anderson, 1.6 pts.
The Jets move on to 3-2 and probably officially out of contention for the #1 overall pick, with the Browns, 49ers, and Giants all at 0-5 and the Chargers at 1-4. They look like a team that might win 8 games this year, which is mind-boggling. How in the hell did they screw up tanking? Meanwhile, the Browns look like their offense somehow got worse from last year, although Myles Garrett looks as good as promised.
Jaguars (2-2) @ Steelers (3-1)
My Prediction: Jags 13, Steelers 29
Actual Outcome: Jags 30, Steelers 9
Fantasy play of the Game: Martavis Bryant, 3.4 pts
LOL The Steelers got their ass whooped. Which means they're probably going to come to Kansas City looking for vengeance next week. Ben threw five (!) interceptions (five more than Alex Smith has thrown all year) and the Jags took two back for scores in a game that was just as one-sided as the score implies. The Jaguars CB duo of AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey looks legit as all hell, and if Blake Bortles can clean up his act, this team could be seriously contending for the 4th seed.
Chargers (0-4) @ Giants (0-4)
My Prediction: Chargers 17, Giants 19
Actual Outcome: Chargerss 27, Giants 22
Fantasy play of the Game: 3.2 pts
Boy, both of these teams suck. The Chargers managed to get the W over a putrid Giants team that lost all three of its top receiving options, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall going down for the season. (Reminder, they've already lost TE Dwayne Harris for an uncertain amount of time with a broken foot.) The New York Football Giants will not win more than 2 games this year, you can lock it up. Feel free to screenshot this and rub it in my face if they somehow get to 3-13.
Bills (3-1) @ Bengals (1-3)
My Prediction: Bills 24, Bengals 21
Actual Outcome: Bills 16, Bengals 20
Fantasy play of the Game: Tyrod Taylor, 9.94 pts.
Never trust a Bill. Bill Dauterive, Bill Clinton, Bilbo Baggins, none of them, especially not the Buffalo Bills. THey had an opportunity to gain a 2 game lead on the Patriots with a win here, and they blew it, now tied with the Jets and Pats for 1st in the division (ignoring tiebreakers). The Bengals, however, look good under new OC Bill Lazor (great last name, but I don't trust him either).
Panthers (3-1) @ Lions (3-1)
My Prediction: Panthers 14, Lions 20
Actual Outcome: Panthers 27, Lions 24
Fantasy play of the Game: Eric Ebron, 0.6 pts
This was a pretty good game, and I think it was Cam Newton's best of the season so far. Matt Stafford had a rougher go of it, injuring his ankle and lower leg in the game. The Panthers, 4-1, look to take back their division from the Falcons this year behind a better offense and a still-feisty defense. The Lions still look like they could compete in the NFC North (with the Bears and Vikings both huffing glue, it looks) but I'm not going to put money on them against Aaron Rodgers.
Titans (2-2) @ Dolphins (1-2)
My Prediction: Titans 21, Dolphins 6
Actual Outcome: Titans 10, Dolphins 16
Fantasy play of the Game: Delanie Walker, 2.5 pts
The Tennessee Titoons blunder their way into losing to the freaking Dolphins, and I lose all respect for them. The only way to lose to Wishing He Was Still Retired Jay Cutler is to start Matt Cassel in 2017. No matter your opinion on his politics, Colin Kaepernick gives a team a better chance to win than Matt Frigging Cassel does at this point in their careers, that much should be obvious.
Cardinals (2-2) @ Eagles (3-1)
My Prediction: Cardinals 13, Eagles 24
Actual Outcome: Cardinals 7, Eagles 34
Fantasy play of the Game: Zach Ertz, 12.1 pts
This might have been the first TE I've picked for a FpotG that worked out. Anyway, the Iggles soared over the Cardinals in a laugher, and Carson Palmer looks old and broken while Carson Wentz looks like he's on the rise. I think the Eagles are well on their way to being an NFC heavyweight this year, while the Cardinals window with this squad closed after losing to the Panthers in the 2015 season's NFC Championship Game. Larry Fitz, please let yourself be traded to KC.
Sunday, 3:05 Arrowhead Time
Ravens (2-2) @ Raiders (2-2)
My Prediction: Ravens 14, Raiders 10
Actual Outcome: Ravens 30, Raiders 17
Fantasy play of the Game: Jeremy Maclin, 4.3 pts
Surprise, surprise: EJ Manuel sucks at QB. Without their franchise QB, the Raiders were left adrift, and they got waxed by the Ravens in their building. Joe Flacco may be a Fluke-o, but he did enough to take home the glory, with his defense doing most of the heavy lifting.
Seahawks (2-2) @ Rams (3-1)
My Prediction: Seahawks 17, Rams 22
Actual Outcome: Seahawks 16, Rams 10
Fantasy play of the Game: Cooper Kupp, 4.4 pts
The Rams outgained the Hawks nearly 2-1, but the Seahawks managed to hold the Rams off in the waning minutes of the game to keep the win. The Seahawks don't look good this season, but they might be able to pull off enough wins to win the NFC West just well enough to get stomped in the playoffs. I still like the Rams, but they need to win some ball games to keep the McVay Magic going.
Sunday, 3:25 Arrowhead Time
Packers (3-1) @ Cowboys (2-2)
My Prediction: Packers 27, Cowboys 21
Actual Outcome: Packers 35, Cowboys 31
Fantasy play of the Game: Geronimo Allison, 0 pts
This was the best game of the day that wasn't involving the Red and Gold. The Pack and Dem Boys traded blows all day, and when the Cowboys scored late, I thought to myself "they left too much time on the board." Sure enough, Rodgers pulls off some miracles and won the game with less than 30 seconds left. The Cowboys fall to 2-3, a full two games behind the eagles for the division lead, and the Pack sits comfortably at the top of the NFC North.
Monday Night Football
Vikings (2-2) @ Bears (1-3)
My Prediction: Vikings 14, Bears 17
Actual Outcome: Vikings 20, Bears 17
Fantasy play of the Game: Forgot to put one :(
This game was 3-2, Vikings up, at halftime, and ended when Trusbisky threw a back-breaking pick with just over two minutes to go as he began his comeback attempt. Neither team looked great, but the Vikings held on to win and improve to 3-2. Trubisky looks promising IMO, but he doesn't have any help at TE or WR to speak of, and the Bears defense can't force turnovers to save their lives.
Week 5 Pick Results: 7-7
Year to Date Results: 38-39
Week 6 Preview
The 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs return to their home turf to take on the Yinzers, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs have not played Pittsburgh well since Andy Reid got to town, losing to them twice in 2016, both in embarrassing or frustrating fashion. The knuckle-dragging Yinzers can be found at BehindTheSteelCurtain.com, and their team sits at 3-2 after getting blown out by Jacksonville last week.
As the Steelers beat the Chiefs twice last season, emotions still run hot about both of those games; the week 4 beatdown in the regular season dropped the Chiefs to 2-2 on the year, giving them the motivation they needed to win 10 of their final 12 and make the playoffs as the #2 seed, where they were shown the door by... The Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed to win the game without scoring a single touchdown, kicking 6 field goals to claim an 18-16 victory. That game is widely regarded as the catalyst for the Chiefs deciding to trade up for Patrick Mahomes II, as Alex Smith's poor play and inability to consistently move the offense doomed the Chiefs.
Now, however, the outlook is very different. The AFC North-leading Steelers may be 3-2, but they have been as erratic and inconsistent as nearly any team in the league, their two losses coming against an otherwise-winless Chicago Bears team and the aforementioned throatstomping by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They narrowly edged out the Browns in week one, wiped the floor with the Vikings in week 2, and decisively beat the Ravens in week 4, so who are the Steelers this year?
They are, in simple terms, a defense-first team. The young defensive core, lead by rookie TJ Watt and veterans Ryan Shaizer, and Cameron Heyward, has playedvery well for the most part this year, with TJ Watt looking like a high-ceiling player similar to his older brother JJ. Former Browns CB Joe Haden has done well at LCB, with Artie Burns and William Gay both looking good in the nickel defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers still have one of the most dangerous collections of skill position players in the NFL; Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Jesse James are all talented players in their own right, and the Todd Haley offense has generally produced big numbers. The offensive line has also been strong, with LT Alejandro Villanueva, C Maurkice Pouncey, and RG David DeCastrooooooooooooo all playing very good, tight football.
The weak link on the offense, so far, has been at QB. Ben Roethlisberger is having his worst season perhaps ever. His highest completion percentage so far this year came against the Browns at 66.7%, and his two losses have both had statistical nightmares associated with them; against the Bears he completed only 56% of his passes, and against the Jaguars, he threw 5 interceptions. Five interceptions, it doesn't even sound right. Ben also made headlines by blatantly missing a wide-open Antonio Brown in the Jaguars game, leading AB to blow up on the sideline. Ben has also been making noise in the media, calling out Antonio Brown for his temper tantrum a week before having his worst game as a pro. It's also been said that there's a tension in the locker room between Brown and Ben due to the two men having very different opinions on the protests, but that's not something I can prove.
Despite the offense's big-play potential, however, only one of the Killer B's (Ben, Bryant, Brown, and Bell) has actually been playing well this year. While Bell has already logged 102 carries, he's only gained 371 yards, at 3.6 yards per carry. Bryant has been a virtual non-factor this year (as anyone who drafted him in fantasy like I did will know). Antonio Brown, with his sideline antics and all, however, has been a monster, with 40 catches for 545 yards so far. He's only found the end zone once, which is definitely a step down for him, but he's been the engine of that offense most of this year.
It's difficult to say who the Steelers are, as a team. The offense finally has all its pieces together on the field at the same time, but Ben could be nearing the end of the road (I doubt it, but it could happen.) The defense is good and has playmakers at all three levels, but it's not good enough to carry the team quite yet. Which Steelers team we'll meet, the one with a functional, effective offense or the one piloted by an over-the-hill, out-of-shape moron that can't move the ball down the field, I'm not sure. For the sake of this article, I'll assume that we get an effective offense.
The way to stop the Steelers is to crash the line of scrmmage, bringing pressure on Big Ben and stopping Le'Veon Bell early. Antonio Brown is always going to get his, even with bracketed coverage, so the easiest way to keep him from burning you for two bucks and a touch is to bring down Big Ben. While simpler said than done, I feel like the best matchups to exploit this would be Justin Houston against their RT, which could be the recently injured Marcus Gilbert or the human turnstile Chris Hubbard, and Chris Jones/Allen Bailey against their LG, Ramon Foster. Maurkice Pouncey is a solid center, but has had issues with his health recently, and I think that Bennie Logan shoud be able to match up well against him. If Dee Ford returns and can go against Alejandro VIllanueva, that will add a lot of bite back to our defense that's been missing with Frank Zombo getting extended play.
Le'Veon Bell has struggled this year like he never has before, and he could be looking for a get healthy game against our run defense, which again looks #notgood. What exactly has caused our run D to give up 5 yards or so per carry is confusing, as we brought in Bennie Logan for the express purpose of being a run defender, but that's just how it is with a Bob Sutton defense it looks like. We need to key in on Bell, as well as his backup, James Conner, to stop them from gaining too much ground on the ground.
Offensively, we need to run the ball well. The Steelers gave up 200+ yards on the ground to the Jaguars, and while Leonard Fournette had a 90 yard run to fluff the stat sheet, without it they still gave up 141 yards on the ground to Fournette and Ivory. Kareem Hunt is much better than either of those guys, and if our offensive line can open up holes, Hunt will eat against this defensive front.
The secondary for the Steelers is strong, but not invincible. If Kelce clears the concussion protocol and can play against the Steelers, I would expect him to have a strong day against their safety duo of Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis. Both are good players, and Mitchell can hit like a truck, but neither will be able to effectively cover Zeus.
Chiefs Offense V Steelers Defense
I'm going to give the edge to the Chiefs here. While the Chiefs don't usually play good offensively against the Steelers, Alex Smith has given me no reason to think he can't play well against this defense; he's played well against much better ones this year. Kareem Hunt is the leading rusher of the NFL, and while the Steelers have a strong defensive front, it's a step down from Washington, Houston, and Philadelphia. The health of Travis Kelce is huge, as well as who replaces Chris Conley as the every down starter at Z receiver. I would assume it'd be DeMarcus "Honey Thunder" Robinson or Albert "Bert Alert" Wilson, who's quietly having a decent season.
Steelers Offense V Chiefs Defense
I'm worried about this game, but I'm going to give the edge to the Chiefs here. Big Ben rarely has two poor games in a row, but there seems to be serious issues in this offense, and not just on the field. If Marcus Peters can rebound from two worse-than-average games and play with his head on straight this week, Antonio Brown shouldn't have too big of a day against us, and that's the key to stopping the Steelers offense right now.
Tyreek Hill finally broke off a long punt return against the Texans, and it was glorious. While he probably won't do the same thing this week, we have the decided advantage on Special Teams, with the Butt Kicker Harrison Butker booming nearly every kickoff out of the end zone and Colquitt doing well enough to allow our gunners to get down the field to cover the punts. Edge, Chiefs.
Mike Tomlin might be the best coach we've faced since Belichick, although we haven't faced a Murderer's Row of solid HCs. However, he's still not better than Andy Reid.
How the Chiefs Can Win
Feed the ball to Kareem Hunt, early and often. Maybe not the workload he got against the Texans, but 20ish carries seems like a good number. Let Alex Smith find the holes in coverage, using our receiving backs and TEs to expose their LBs in coverage. Be patient with the return game, hoping that we can break one off while also containing Antonio Brown on their punt team. If he's available, involve Travis Kelce to the tune of 10 targets, minimum.
How the Steelers Can Win
Big Ben has a bounce back game, feeding the ball to Antonio Brown, who uses his speed and route-running to get past Marcus Peters and Terrence Mitchell. Le'Veon Bell regains his 2016 form, gaining four or five yards per run rather than his usual 3.6 this year. Alex Smith has his first turnover of the year, and our offensive line remains injured, with Witzmann and Erving victimized by Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
With the Chiefs playing as well as they have been, I think they should be able to pull this game off. This is a hugely important game for the Chiefs, as a win here means tiebreakers over both New England and Pittsburgh, which could be key to getting home field advantage in the playoffs this year. I think the Chiefs win their closest game of the year, 27-26.
The Rest of the NFL
Teams on Bye
Buffalo Bills, Cincinatti Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks
Thursday Night Football
Eagles (4-1) @ Panthers (4-1): Eagles 24, Panthers 23
This should be one of the better TNF games of the year so far. The Eagles and Panthers have both looked very good this year, and I've said for a while that Carson Wentz is a very similar player to Cam Newton, so both defenses should know exactly what to expect. I think the Eagles have a better defense right now, and I think that's what gives them the win. Don't miss this game. Fantasy play of the Game: Alshon Jeffery.
Sunday, Noon Arrowhead Time
Bears (1-4) @ Ravens (3-2): Bears 17, Ravens 23
The Bears didn't embarrass themselves on Monday Night against the Vikings, but they just don't have the offensive weapons outside their RB duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Ravens, possibly the worst 3-2 team so far, should win here. Fantasy play of the Game: Mike Wallace
Packers (4-1) @ Vikings (3-2): Packers 27, Vikings 17
The Vikings struggled to put away the hapless Bears on Monday Night, and the Packers look like one of the three best teams in the NFC. I don't think the Vikings can pull off the upset, with Sam Bradford obviously still hurt and Case Keenum still obviously Case Keenum. Fantasy play of the Game: Davante Adams
49ers (0-5) @ Redskins (3-2): 49ers 13, Redskins 24
This shouldn't be much of a game. Kyle Shanahan can't do much with Brian Hoyer at QB and nobody at WR, and the Redskins are looking like a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East and vying to stay with the Eagles in the hunt for the division crown. Fantasy play of the Game: Jordan Reed
Lions (3-2) @ Saints (2-2): Lions 24, Saints 21
The Saints gave up on Adrian Peterson this morning, moving him to the Cardinals for a conditional pick. THis might be a cold take, but I think this makes them better. Peterson was a tell for the offense, and now they can stop giving him carries and instead give them to players who can still play like Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. They're still gonna lose to the Lions, though. Fantasy play of the Game: Ameer Abdullah
Dolphins (2-3) @ Falcons (3-1): Dolphins 10, Falcons 23
The Dolphins are worse than their record; Jay Cutler has been the worst QB in the league so far, and there's not that much competition for it. The Falcons, while worse than last year, still look like they're gonna compete for the NFC South crown and make a deep run in the playoffs. I don't think this one will be a good game, or particularly close. Fantasy play of the Game: Austin Hooper
Browns (0-5) @ Texans (2-3): Browns 14, Texans 21
Oh, the poor Browns. It'll really suck when they fire Hue Jackson, blow up the whole thing, and they get stuck in awful for another few years. After benching Deshone Kizer for former Chief Kevin Hogan, the offense looked okay. The Texans defense will be more than a match for either QB though. Fantasy play of the Game: Ryan Griffin
Patriots (3-2) @ Jets (3-2): Patriots 40, Jets 9
Come on, is there a universe that this game isn't a total mollywhopping of the Jets? It certainly isn't this universe. Fantasy play of the Game: Danny Amendola
Sunday, 3:05 Arrowhead Time
Buccaneers (2-2) @ Cardinals (2-3): Bucs 21, Cardinals 22
I'm picking an upset here. In a system where his skillset might be useful, and where he's not the clear RB3, Adrian Peterson might be able to do work in the desert, while the Bucs looked all sorts of a mess on Thursday Night Football. Jameis pulls the Bucs close in the waning moments, but the two-point conversion fails, and the Cardinals pull it off. Fantasy play of the Game: Jaron Brown
Rams (3-2) @ Jaguars (3-2): Rams 14, Jags 13
The battle of strength on strength, the LA Rams offense versus the "Sacksonville" defense. The only people who would have picked these teams to be 3-2 at this point would have been homers, but here we are. I like the Rams to pull it off, but this could go either way. Fantasy play of the Game: Robert Woods
Sunday, 3:25 Arrowhead Time
Chargers (1-4) @ Raiders (2-3): Chargers 17, Raiders 19
A divisional matchup that we probably don't care about, the Chargers head to Oakland to take on the Raiders who may or may not have Derek Carr back. I like the Silver and Black to win this with Carr or Manuel under center. Fantasy play of the Game: Marshawn Lynch
Sunday Night Football
Giants (0-5) @ Broncos (3-1): Giants 0, Broncos 21
Yes, I'm predicting a shutout. What else do you want me to say? The Giants might be without their top 4 receiving options in Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard AND Dwayne Harris, have no running game to speak of, and their QB is old and broken. The Broncos will roll in a snoozer. Fantasy play of the Game: Trevor Siemian
Monday Night Football
Colts (2-3) @ Titans (2-3): Colts 14, Titans 13
Yeugh, the one night game I'll be able to watch and it's this? Gross. I think the Colts pull it off, the Titans have not been good all year., and despite the Colts not having Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett has looked good in relief. Well, better than Scott Tolzien, anyway. Fantasy play of the Game: Robert Turbin
Man, this injury bug has really bitten the Chiefs hard this year, and they've still been undefeated. There's no way we can keep up this injury streak, so look for the Chiefs to get healthy.
Also, make sure to get yourself some apple cider donuts this week. They're worth it. You're worth it. The Chiefs are on the warpath, enjoy the games.