Every Wednesday, Dan Hanzus combs through the expert findings of the NFL Media Research Department to share nuggets (also known as "nugs") that interest, fascinate, frighten or change him on a fundamental level. This is the Week 6 edition of High-Flying Adventures In The Research Notes.
SAINTS ARE DOING SOME GOOD THINGS (ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL FOR ONCE)
Let's start with a shout-out to Drew Brees, whose continued excellence in his age-38 season has been unfairly overshadowed by the continued innovations of the Tom Brady Industrial Complex. Four consecutive games without a turnover is certainly a team effort that combines good fundamentals with good luck, but ball security begins at the quarterback position. Brees has continued to play smart football without taking any of the pop out of the Saints' offense, which enters Sunday ranked seventh in the league.
As for the Saints' defense being fixed? Let's pump the brakes there. Their performance on the road against the Panthers in Week 4 was a legitimate eye-opener that commanded respect. But last week's shutdown came against the Dolphins, who are a sloppy mess with Jay Cutler behind center. Point being, I'll need to see more before I change my opinion on New Orleans' forever beleaguered D. They have another favorable matchup on Sunday against Detroit's limited offense.
Let's get back to the crime scene in Miami.
IT WON'T BE LONG NOW BEFORE JAY CUTLER IS AGAIN NUDE AND STARING INTO THE INFINITE ABYSS
This will never not be funny. Anyway, when Ryan Tannehill blew out his knee and Jay Cutler was brought out of retirement, the football cognoscenti pretty much unanimously agreed the Dolphins had made tuna salad out of tuna poop. But it hasn't quite played out that way. You know things have gone sideways when the home fans bust out a "We want Moore!" chant. As in Matt Moore! ThatMatt Moore! Sordid times at
Joe Robbie Stadium Pro Player Park Pro Player Stadium Dolphins Stadium Dolphin Stadium Land Shark Stadium Dolphin Stadium Sun Life Stadium New Miami Stadium Hard Rock Stadium.
WHAT'S WORSE THAN A BUZZSAW? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE GIANTS ARE HEADED FOR ON SUNDAY
I don't want to be dismissive of the unstoppable fighting spirit of the New York Football Giants, but is any team more titanically doomed on Sunday? At full health, the winless Giants would have been heavy underdogs on the road against the Broncos' excellent defense. But now there's a scenario in which they will be without all of their starting receivers. Like, literally all of them! Has this ever happened? Probably not! Eli Manning should send a doppelganger to the game and just shoot an insurance commercial with his brother instead. Meanwhile, there is strong evidence of internal mutiny afoot with DRC's disappearing act and subsequent suspension (or was it the other way around?), an additional subplot that does not bode well for either New York's chances in Denver or coach Ben McAdoo's longterm job security.
As a Jets fan, let me just say it's a relief to see the clown car parked on the other side of the Meadowlands for once.
THAT BUZZING YOU FEEL IN YOUR FRONT POCKET IS AN AMARI ALERT GOING OFF ON YOUR PHONE
What has happened to Amari Cooper? Ostensibly the Raiders' No. 1 wide receiver, Cooper has tallied four receptions for 23 yards in his last three games, all Raiders losses. He has 13 catches on the season and seven drops, the most of any receiver in the league, per Pro Football Focus. For what it's worth, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio believes Cooper had a chance to ball out against the Ravens last Sunday had backup quarterback EJ Manuel shown him some love.
"Yeah. I saw five wide-open [looks], shook his guy, was open in space," Del Rio said, according to ESPN.com. "I would have loved to see that ball get delivered to him there."
THIS MAY BE THE YEAR YOUR TEAM FINALLY SNEAKS INTO THE SUPER BOWL
On balance, I'm a pro-parity guy. It's obviously a better deal for football fans when more teams are in the mix to play meaningful January football. That said, I also like my sports leagues to have Goliaths amongst the Daves. The Patriots have (more than) capably filled that role for the past 15 years, and I remain confident they will eventually slip into that role again. But what if they don't? Could we cast the Chiefs? The Packers? The Panthers? Um, the Eagles? What would a truly wide-open season look like in the NFL? I say embrace the insanity. All 32 teams finish 8-8 and watch the world burn.
YOU GET ME, AARON RODGERS
I'll close out our high-flying adventure this week with a nod of appreciation toward Aaron Rodgers, who continues to be the most fun quarterback I've ever watched in my lifetime. Rodgers' game-winning touchdown drive against the Cowboys might have felt inevitable, but it's still a thrill to watch a player who has mastered the game's most complex, demanding and important position. Tom Brady might be the greatest to ever play -- and I won't shortchange his mastery of the craft, either -- but there's something just a little bit more visually stimulating about Rodgers' execution. He's probably the most entertaining quarterback since Brett Favre, which should tell you everything you need to know about the outrageous fortune of Packers fans.
Until next week ...