The Detroit Lions had the week off, but the NFL goes on without them, and Week 6 provided a tad more clarity throughout the league. Sure, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers still have a game to play, but I’m impatient. Let’s recap Week 6 of the NFL with a focus more on issues affecting the Lions. Here are five takeaways from the week.
1. The Chicago Bears defense is fallible
Going into Week 6, the Bears had a top five defense by nearly every single metric. They were the No. 1 defense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency metric, coming in first against the pass and third against the run.
But the Miami Dolphins appeared to have found their kryptonite, and it’s one that could be very interesting for the Lions: YAC.
Brock Osweiler finished with 380 yards passing and a whopping 8.6 yards per attempt, but he very rarely threw the ball downfield. Check out his passing chart, courtesy of NFL’s Next Gen Stats:
Osweiler had more passes behind the line of scrimmage than beyond 15 yards. Albert Wilson was a beast against the Bears’ secondary, and his 75-yard game-tying scamper was a perfect example of what someone with YAC abilities can do to the clear weakness of Chicago’s defense. You know Golden Tate was watching with a big grin on his face.
The blueprint has been laid. Get the ball out quick before Khalil Mack can hit your quarterback (the Bears had zero sacks on Sunday) and let your wide receivers make men miss. The question is whether the Bears can adjust.
2. Adam Thielen is a top five receiver
Say what you will about the Vikings and their struggles this year, but Adam Thielen has been an absolute terror for opposing defenses all season. Here’s a look at his week-by-week performances:
Week 1: 6 catches, 102 yards
Week 2: 12 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD
Week 3: 14 catches, 105 yards
Week 4: 8 catches, 135 yards, 1 TD
Week 5: 7 catches, 116 yards, 1 TD
Week 6: 11 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD
Unsurprisingly, Thielen leads the league in receiving yards (712) and he has 10 more catches than anyone else. The dude just gets open and is clearly a favorite target of Kirk Cousins.
Get this: If Thielen gets 100 yards next week against the Jets and the following week against the Saints, he will have tied one Calvin Johnson for the most consecutive games with 100 yards receiving (8).
3. The Rams are the best team in the conference—there is no clear No. 2
While the Los Angeles Rams weren’t pretty in their sixth win of the season—struggling until the very end to put away a bad Broncos team—it’s clear they’re still the best in the NFC. Despite a bad game from Jared Goff, the Rams have enough weapons (see: Todd Gurley) to compensate for a down week from the young quarterback.
Behind the Rams, though, there is no clear leader in the conference. The Saints, who had the week off, are probably the leading contender at 4-1, but beyond them is just a slew of mediocre teams. Washington, Chicago, Carolina are all 3-2, while Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia all have three wins, too. Point me to a team that is clearly going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack? I don’t see one.
4. The Cowboys are... good?
Three weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys were a team on the verge of blowing everything up. The offense was sputtering, the coaches were completely on the hot seat, and Dallas was in danger of falling off the map completely.
However, Dallas has now won two of their last three, and their performance against the Jaguars this week was especially impressive. A 40-7 blowout is rare these days in the NFL, and it was fully earned by the Cowboys on Sunday. They held the Jags to just 204 yards of total offense, while Dallas was responsible for 206 yards... rushing.
Dallas’ offense is now completely transformed, with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan finally embracing Dak Prescott’s mobility (11 rushes, 82 yards vs. Jaguars). The Cowboys still have a couple ugly losses on their resume, but a win next week at Washington would really put their stamp on the NFC East divisional race.
5. The Patriots and Chiefs will play in the AFC Championships game, and I can’t wait
If you were patient enough to stay up for the “Sunday Night Football” game last night, you may be paying for it this morning, but it was well worth it. The Chiefs and Patriots had themselves a shootout filled with big plays and unbelievable moments. Though the Patriots eventually won via a last-second field goal, it was really a case of whoever had the ball last was going to win.
Elsewhere in the AFC, other top teams disappointed. The Bengals fell down to Earth and the Jaguars go wholloped by the Cowboys. The Steelers and Chargers did admittedly have good games, but they’re going to have to be a lot more consistent for them to truly contend with Kansas City and New England. It’s Tom Brady’s and Patrick Mahomes’ world, and everyone else in the AFC is just living in it.