Week 6 was defined by one devastating injury and a ton of upsets. The Giants finally got a win. The Rams continued their renaissance season. Mitchell Trubisky got his first win as the leader of the Bears, a gutty, overtime win in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson continued to ball out, bailing out a coach who felt compelled to start Tom Savage in Week 1. Oh, and those old fogeys from the ’72 Dolphins can wash down their cholesterol medication with as much champagne as they damn well please. Onward.
Biggest Winner – Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week’s Biggest Loser, the Steelers, faced off against last week’s Biggest Winner, the Chiefs. KC was favored by 3.5, and are always a tough draw at Arrowhead Stadium. They were 5-0 and firing on all cylinders. But the Stillers came to play, and grabbed a 19-13 win with help from signature performances by their two superstars, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell (more on him later). Their defense did allow one big play on a 57-yard De’Anthony Thomas catch and run, but outside of that play, held KC to just 194 yards of offense. They’re the only team to bottle up Kareem Hunt in 2017, stymying the young star to a paltry 21 rushing yards (though he managed to gain 89 on Alex Smith dump-offs). They also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 36 minutes. They’re now 4-2, with a tiebreaker against the Chiefs should playoff seeding come to that.
Biggest Loser – Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta was coming off a bye, returning a healthy Julio Jones, favored by 14 (!) points, and facing a 2-2 Dolphins team that just lost a coach who did coke at work. Then they started the game with a bang, going up 17-0 in the first half. Seemed like an easy win. Until Dan Quinn’s team totally shat the bed in the second half, allowing 20 unanswered points on two Jay Cutler touchdown strikes. Their defense looked like the streets of Pamplona as Jay Ayaji bulled his way to 130 rushing yards. The Falcons are now 3-2, a half game behind Carolina in the NFC South. They also have a road date at New England this week, an emotional game that they desperately need to win – for their playoff chances and for their psyche.
Rookie Watch – Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
After Pharoh Cooper opened the scoring with a bang by running the opening kickoff 103 yards to the house, the Rams had a 7-0 lead on the Jags on Sunday. But Frisky Fournette was having none of that. On Jacksonville’s first play from scrimmage, the young tailback out of LSU took the handoff 75 yards to la casa, making Rams safety John Johnson look like a silly garden gnome as he ran past. It’s been one hell of a rookie year for this year’s 4th overall pick. He’s sitting pretty at 596 rushing yards and six TDs through six games, breaking off 4.6 yards per carry. He’s even added 136 yards and a TD through the air. This is exactly the player the Jags dreamed they were getting in the draft, and added together with a solid defense, it seems coach Doug Marrone has a pretty nice little team on his hands. OH WAIT. Blake Bortles is their quarterback. NEVER. MIND.
Sleeper Awakens – Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
It’s hard to call AP a sleeper, but after his miserable tenure with the Saints to start the year, it was fair to think that his struggles were more than just the result of a bad scheme fit. But Bruce Arians and savvy fantasy owners knew what was up. And Peterson exploded for 134 rushing yards and two tuddies in his opening game for AZ. This is huge news for Cardinals fans who probably thought their season was toast when David Johnson went down for the year. They’re still a very flawed team, but at 3-3 with a division win under their belt, the playoffs are not an impossibility for this squad.
Dominating Performance – Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Now THIS is the Bell we remember. On the road against a stingy Chiefs defense, Bell did what he does best – shred defenders’ ankles and put the Steelers on his back. He scorched KC for 191 total yards and one score, employing his textbook shimmies to great effect. He’s no stranger to performances like this, but Pittsburgh will need lots more of dominant Le’Veon if they want to reach the postseason with a hampered Roethlisberger under center. With Bell in the backfield and Antonio Brown on the outside, anything is possible.
Most Devastating Injury – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Well this one was awful. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr drove the leader of the Pack into the ground with a punishing hit, shattering his collarbone. That sucks – for the state of Wisconsin, for my fantasy team, for Jordy Nelson, but for Aaron Rodgers most of all. Green Bay is now 4-2, but it will take a Herculean effort from new starter Brett Hundley to go 6-4 and get this team to the playoffs. Losing Rodgers totally shatters your season hopes, but it gives new life to the Vikings and Lions – the NFC North is now wide open.
The Niners and Browns held serve, and are now each 37.5% of the way to winless glory. San Francisco managed to play another close game, living dangerously in their quest for the top pick. Their most winnable remaining game is probably Week 10 vs. the Giants or Week 15 vs. Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Browns got walloped by Houston for their third double-digit loss of the season. They’ll host the Titans next week, which is far from a guaranteed L. Furthermore, their Week 14 home date with Green Bay now gets interesting, as the Pack will be without A-Rod. The race is on!
Image Sources: Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports, Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports, Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports, Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports, Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports, Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports, Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports