A handful of observations as we turn the page on Week 5 and head into Week 6:
Jeremiah: To protect and sack
In today's NFL, Daniel Jeremiah says there's one stat that really defines success (or a lack thereof): sack differential. More ...
Remember, this is a team that dealt with similar adversity last season. The Texans began 2011 without the league's best running back, Arian Foster; lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub (and then his backup Matt Leinart) for the season; played stretches of games without top wide receiver Andre Johnson, who was sidelined with two different hamstring injuries; and lost star pass rusher Mario Williams for the year after just five games. So if any team understands the "next man up" philosophy, it's Houston.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' unit isn't built around just one player. He'll need to find a guy to step up, just like Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed did last season in Williams' absence. With the way J.J. Watt has been playing, he'll draw a lot of attention from opposing offensive lines. That should allow fill-in linebacker Tim Dobbins to roam free without having to cycle through much traffic.
» So much for a rebuilding year in Indianapolis.Andrew Luck gives the Indianapolis Colts the opportunity to win right now. It speaks volumes that Reggie Wayne had the best day of his 12-year career (212 receiving yards on Sunday) with Luck rather than Peyton Manning. Luck already has two fourth-quarter comebacks under his belt, and he would have had a third, if it weren't for Blaine Gabbert's fluke 80-yard touchdown toss in a Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Luck is even better than all the inflated hype he carried with him into the NFL.
» Bradshaw shows feature potential. I was always hesitant to label the New York Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw a feature back in the NFL. I thought he was better in a supporting role, as a change-of-pace or third-down back. He fumbled too much to deserve 20 touches a game, and didn't show the kind of explosive speed that could complement his running style. The Giants obviously had similar concerns when they used their first-round draft pick on running back David Wilson last April. Well, despite Bradshaw fumbling yet again Sunday, he broke out to the tune of 200 yards on 30 carries against the Cleveland Browns. One game won't change my opinion, but Bradshaw now has my attention.
» Be honest with yourself, Cleveland. It appears the Browns are unwilling to admit who they are as a football team. Rookie Trent Richardson has the skills to be one of the top running backs in the league. The offensive line is physical and at its best in power run-blocking schemes. But for some reason, even when they had a 14-point lead against the Giants, the Browns refused to keep the ball on the ground. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is averaging 43 attempts over the past three games. Compare that to the 14 carries Richardson is averaging out of the backfield. Something is off. If you have a beast, feed the beast.
» Philly's play-calling leaves much to be desired.Michael Vick had yet another red-zone turnover in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, this one a fumble while diving for the goal line on a first-down play from three yards out. While Vick obviously needs to accept responsibility, my question is, why did the Philadelphia Eagles even put him in that situation? Why run a draw with a quarterback struggling to make sound decisions, one who had already put the ball on the ground earlier in the drive? Why sideline your Pro Bowl running back, LeSean McCoy, when you have the ball on the 3? Hindsight is 20/20, but the Eagles coaching staff should have seen that coming.
» Mea culpa, Mr. Kerrigan. I wasn't sure that Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end coming out of Purdue last season, would transition to the outside linebacker position as well as he has with the Washington Redskins. I didn't think he had the flexibility to consistently run the loop from the outside speed-rush position, and I didn't think he had the footwork to drop into zone-pass coverage. But he has graded out very well in the position, notching yet another pick-six on Sunday. It takes athleticism to tip a pass to yourself, catch it and return it to the house, the kind of athleticism that I had doubted Kerrigan possessed.
» The lost cornerback. Remember when Nnamdi Asomugha was touted as the best cover corner in the NFL? I'm guessing the Eagles feel like that must have been ages ago, because he's been far from that since joining them last season. In fact, he has hardly even been average. He seems lost, and was absolutely torched by Antonio Brown, who isn't even the Steelers' No. 1 receiver, last Sunday. I wonder if the Eagles would have been better off keeping Asante Samuel (who was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in April) on the roster.