Another NFL Sunday is in the books! The strengths and weaknesses of teams are becoming clearer, but there were still plenty of surprises this week. I’ll be breaking down Week 5’s biggest winners and losers and what to expect from them going forward.
Following an embarrassing loss to the Raiders, the Colts entered Arrowhead Stadium as 11-point underdogs. They put the league on notice by shutting down the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-powered offense in a 19-13 upset victory. Although the Chiefs are missing their best receiver Tyreek Hill, this is still an impressive feat for a Colts defense that came into the game as a middle-of-the-pack unit in both points and yards allowed. After all, the Chiefs had been averaging nearly 34 points per game despite losing Hill Week 1.
Going forward, the Colts will need to prove that this week was no fluke to establish themselves in what is currently a muddy AFC playoff picture. Head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have done a stellar job maintaining a competitive roster after Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement this preseason. The Chiefs need to hope that other defenses are not able to replicate the Colts’ performance in the coming weeks; they’ll bounce back, and Hill’s return will reignite the offense.
The Vikings’ quarterback took a step toward silencing his doubters with his performance in their 28-10 win over the Giants. Cousins’ teammate wide receiver Adam Thielen publicly criticized Cousins and the Vikings’ passing game as a whole after the offense put up just 6 points against the Bears last week. Against the Giants, Cousins threw for over 300 yards, and Thielen led the Vikings with 130 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
However, I would be surprised if this is the last we hear of this drama. The Giants defense is far from formidable, and I expect the Vikings will have more trouble throwing the ball in the coming weeks than they did Sunday. Additionally, defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski are both inclined toward a run-heavy offense. The Vikings host the Eagles Sunday, who possess a strong run defense and a questionable pass defense, so the Vikings offensive philosophy will be put to the test again soon. Cousins has to prove that he was worth the mammoth contract he signed last offseason, as the Vikings’ hopes for the season rest on his arm.
Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury (sort of)
The Arizona Cardinals got their first win of the season Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals, which means that Murray and Kingsbury earned their first win as an NFL quarterback and coach, respectively. Murray posted an impressive 77.8 quarterback rating and led the team in rushing with 93 yards and a touchdown. However, it’s unclear whether this win bodes well for the Cardinals’ long-term future. The Bengals dropped to an 0-5 record, significantly boosting their chances of securing a better draft pick than the Cardinals in April’s draft. Arizona’s roster is riddled with injuries and the team is already out of contention in the NFC, so Sunday’s win was a moral victory at the expense of building the team’s roster for next season. Additionally, the Cardinals’ tie with Detroit Week 1 means that all the currently winless teams — the Jets, Bengals, Redskins and Dolphins — have to win two more games than Arizona for the Cardinals to have a chance at a better pick than them. We’ll look back at this game come draft season, and the Cardinals can only hope it doesn’t cost them a top prospect.
Titans’ field goal unit
The Titans missed not one, not two, not three but four field goal attempts in their 14-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday. The league average field goal percentage is currently 89.2%, which means if they had even managed to be league-average on their four attempts yesterday, they would have won the game. It’s rare to see a 53-yard miss, a 33-yard attempt blocked, a 36-yard miss and a 50-yard miss by a single team. This was only the third time since 2000 that a team has attempted at least four field goals and not made a single one, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Titans released Santos Monday following the embarrassing showing. The loss to the Bills will certainly be a tough one for the team to shake off, and it hurts Tennessee’s playoff chances significantly. The Bills have to feel lucky to come away with this win, as they continue to have the clearest path to a wild card in the AFC.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers laid an egg on Sunday, losing to the previously winless Broncos 20-13. The defense gave up 17 points in the first quarter, and the Chargers were never able to recover. Running back Melvin Gordon’s return from his holdout did not help the offense’s efficiency, and wide receiver Keenan Allen — who previously led the league in receptions — was unable to get going. This loss puts the Chargers in panic mode. They entered the season with playoff hopes, but they need better production from just about every position group on the roster if they are going to turn things around.
These will all be factors to watch going forward, although each week will bring a new set of surprises. I hope you’re as excited as I am for the rest of the season.
Dario Offstein is a junior writing about sports. His column, “Deep Dive,” runs every other Tuesday.