Sunday of Week 5 was a brutal day with injuries all across the league. Here are some of our big takeaways.
» Pittsburgh's offense struggled to morph into the yardage-and-points machine you'd expect from such a star-studded cast.
» The Seattle defense grounded Sean McVay's high-flying offense.
Here's what else we learned on Sunday:
- Odell Beckham, with about four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, jumped for a high slant and got his left ankle trapped against the ground upon landing. His emotions from there on out told the story. Wincing and tearing up, Beckham eventually covered his face as the cart wheeled him into the MetLife Stadium locker room. The Giantsconfirmed that Beckham fractured his ankle. An MRI is scheduled to see if there is any ligament damage, NFL Network's Kimberly Jones added. The Giants, now 0-5, might have had their eyes on next year already. This injury will sink any microscopic chance they had of righting the ship. Only one team in NFL history (the 1992 San Diego Chargers) had previously reached the playoffs after starting the year 0-4.
Odell Beckham is the nerve center of head coach Ben McAdoo's offense. His precision route running, creativity and breakaway speed are among the best in the NFL. Had it not been for a picture-perfect out and up earlier in the afternoon, the Giants would not have been in contention to begin with. On the play after Beckham left the field, Eli Manning was blitzed and fumbled. The Giants had already lost Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard earlier in the afternoon with ankle injuries. Sometimes, a season can just feel cursed from the get-go.
- The Eli Manning-Philip Rivers 2004 draft link is always a fun subplot and, despite both teams playing with broken wheels on offense, each quarterback found at least one moment to make us remember why they were the premiere passers in one of the best QB draft classes ever. Manning's moment: After losing Marshall and Shepard, Eli Manning floated a pass to Roger Lewis for a 29-yard score. The word "dime" is bandied about often in the NFL but this is one of the few acceptable uses. There was nowhere else for the ball to land, and Manning found a way to curve it over the shoulder of Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward.
- Where do the Giants go from here? Five weeks ago, they were favored by some analysts (present company included) to win the NFC East. Now, they are one of three winless teams in the NFL. Manning, already on a bit of a decline, is signed for two more seasons. Their "window" has been slammed shut. Beckham has a fractured ankle. The defense is expensive and not dominant enough to take over games. This will be a fascinating -- but revealing -- final 11 games this year. For once, the typically straightforward Giants are a must-follow this offseason.
- The slumping Raiders (2-3) found themselves in a hole right away. After watching Baltimore (3-2) race down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive, Oakland's Jared Cook fumbled away a catch on the following possession, springing Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith for a 47-yard scoring return and the 14-0 lead. The early explosion altered the tone of this contest, with Oakland struggling to string together drives and drawing boos from the crowd after Jack Del Rio, down by 10 points, decided to punt the ball from Baltimore's 44-yard line with 8:50 remaining. The game felt over from there with Buck Allen (21/73/1) and Alex Collins (12/55) pounding away at Oakland's wanting defense as the minutes ticked away.
- The Ravens have run a limited offense all year due to the absence of a downfield passing game. That changed Sunday with Mike Wallace (3/133) nabbing first-half gains of 52 and 54 yards to set up 10 Baltimore points. These weren't catch-and-runs, either, but arching rainbow shots from Joe Flacco, who looked like a different quarterback behind solid protection. After being shutout on 13 first-half drives over the past two weeks, the Ravens scored on all three of their possessions before the two-minute warning against a suspect Raiders defense.
- It's easy to say this Raiders loss falls squarely on the absence of Derek Carr, but Oakland struggled to score points and move the ball over the past two weeks with or without their starting passer. Backup EJ Manuel was vaguely serviceable, throwing for just 159 yards, but staying turnover-free and wiggling away from pressure to unfurl a perfectly lobbed, 41-yard scoring strike to Michael Crabtree (6/82/1) in the second quarter. Manuel also deserves credit for a diving, chain-moving run that set up Marshawn Lynch's third-quarter touchdown burst, but this isn't a quarterback who puts the team on his shoulders. Meanwhile, Amari Cooper's vanishing act raged on, with the wideout being shut out before catching his only pass in the fourth quarter.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Seattle defense grounded Sean McVay's high-flying offense. The Rams entered Sunday averaging an NFL-high 35.5 points per game and 383.8 total yards. The Seahawks bottled up Todd Gurley and forced Jared Goff into low-percentage tosses, holding L.A. to 10 points. The Rams moved the ball at times, earning 375 yards and 21 first downs, but Seattle forced five turnovers, including two from Goff late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks' pass rush was held at bay until late in the game. Then pressure up the gut forced a fluttering interception by Earl Thomas. On the following drive, Frank Clark burned reliable left tackle Andrew Whitworth to strip Goff. Seattle's secondary bottled up the throwing lanes and contested nearly every catch. The D-line set the edge and didn't let Gurley loose (14 carries for 43 yards), setting up a bevy of Rams third-and-longs. Sunday was the return of the dominant Seahawks defense we'd become used to.
- In a defensive tilt, Wade Philip's crew battered Russell Wilson. The Rams' pass rush came in waves, with Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Matt Longacre hounding the QB for six sacks and 11 hits. With the Seahawks' run game bottled up, Wilson was forced to throw 37 times, but completed just 23 for 194 yards. The Rams' secondary also forced two interceptions (one from Wilson and one from Tanner McEvoy on a trick play). L.A. blanketed Doug Baldwin and didn't give Wilson his quick looks. With the Rams' defensive line blowing through Seattle blockers, Wilson didn't have time to stretch the field. Jimmy Graham was the lone bright spot on the Seahawks' offense with six receptions for 37 yards on eight targets and a post-up touchdown catch.
- The Rams will be kicking themselves on Monday. L.A. missed out on at least 13 points in a tight game. Gurley fumbled at the goal line on the first drive, leading to a turnover. Greg Zuerlein (who made seven field goals last week) missed a chip-shot field goal. Goff then threw an interception in field-goal range on a high toss to Gurley that was tipped and intercepted by Sheldon Richardson. The Rams netted just 10 points on five possession that went inside the Seahawks' 20s in the first three quarters.
-- Kevin Patra
- The magical Aaron Rodgers needed just 1:02 to go 75 yards in nine plays after watching Dallas pound out a masterful nine-minute drive of their own to reclaim the scoreboard with a 31-28 lead. With zero timeouts and just under 30 seconds remaining, Rodgers scrambled for 18 yards to move the chains on third down and set up the game-winner. Overcoming a rash of injuries at offensive line, wide receiver and throughout the defense, the Packers have taken on the look of the NFC's team to beat this season. The missed time by key starters has not only revealed Green Bay's enviable depth on both sides of the ball, but also the requisite mental toughness to carry through the season.
- Dak Prescott deserved a better fate after unfurling three first-half touchdown passes and rushing for the go-ahead score on a perfectly-executed quarterback keeper in the waning moments of Sunday's nail-biter. The boxscore will show a crucial pick-six that put Green Bay ahead 28-24 early in the fourth quarter, but that error rests solely on the shoulders of Terrance Williams for a dropped pass into the hands of cornerback Damarious Randall. Prescott pulled off a convincing Roger Staubach impression, repeatedly escaping pressure to make plays with his legs as well as his arm. More than a mere sidekick, Ezekiel Elliott also merits plaudits for continually breaking the back of Green Bay's defense by grinding out tough yards in short-yardage situations. It took until Week 5, but the Cowboys' offense finally channeled dominant 2016 form.
- The Packers are a more effective running team featuring Aaron Jones, who authored a 100-yard performance in his first career start. A superlative athlete and UTEP's all-time leading rusher, the fifth-round rookie has shown quick feet, good vision and the ability to turn the corner against defensive backs and linebackers. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have been singing his praises to national broadcast crews since the first week of the season. Even when Ty Montgomery returns from his rib injury, Jones is here to stay as at least a complementary piece in the ground attack. When the congruity strikes his fancy, McCarthy can roll out the "All-Aaron" backfield of Rodgers, Ripkowski and Jones.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Coming off a controversial week, Cam Newton played lights out all afternoon, vacillating from quick lasers, to deep dimes. Given plenty of time to sit in the pocket, Newton looked like his 2015 MVP-self, dissecting the defense, going through his progressions, and using his legs when needed. His beautiful 31-yard touchdown strike to Kelvin Benjamin should be enshrined on highlight reels. Newton iced the game on another pinpoint dart to Benjamin when the Lions closed the gap to three points. After struggling to open the season, Newton has blasted off, surpassing the 300-plus passing yards mark and 130-plus passer rating in back-to-back games. Newton finished 26-of-33 passing for 355 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 141.8 passer rating in Sunday's win.
- The Ed Dickson Show dominated in Detroit. Greg Olsen's understudy found green grass all day, gashing Lions linebackers and safeties for five receptions and 175 yards. Dickson changed the completion of the game in the first half with catch-and-runs of 64 yards and 57 yards, setting up Panthers scores to help blow the game open early in the third quarter. Dixon hadn't earned more than 135 yards in an entire season since 2013. Devin Funchess also continues to break out as his rapport with Newton improves. The Michigan-native snatched seven passes for 53 yards, and a touchdown on a team-high eight targets. With Dickson and Funchess on the upslope, the Panthers offense will remain a diverse threat.
- Matthew Stafford's struggles continued. The Lions quarterback was held under 300 yards passing for the fifth straight time this season. Stafford was smothered all game and his receivers couldn't uncover themselves downfield. Stafford put up some garbage-time yardage in a comeback effort after compiling just 99 passing yards the first three quarters (finished with 229 yards on 23-of-35 passing and two touchdowns). Credit the Panthers' swarming front for making Stafford a piñata. Carolina sacked Stafford six times, scored well over double-digit hurries, and forced a fumble. The Lions' offensive line continues to struggle mightily, especially left tackle Greg Robinson. Detroit's prolonged offensive lulls put their defense in poor situations. Stafford & Co. had six drives of three or fewer plays. At one point, the Panthers scored 24 points between Lions first downs.
-- Kevin Patra
- Jay Cutler was downright abhorrent through three quarters of action on Sunday in Miami, so much that Dolphins fans were joining in large numbers in calls for backup Matt Moore that were clearly audible on the TV broadcast. Then, the quarter changed to the fourth, and suddenly, Miami could move the ball. Cutler led a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended in triumph, a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry. It was all the Dolphins needed, because luckily for them, Tennessee was even more inept on offense. For a while, it looked like Reshad Jones' return of a Matt Cassel fumble would be the only touchdown for either side. Cutler's final line was as ugly as his play: 12 for 26, 92 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
- Miami's problems offensively stem from their offensive line, which struggled to protect Cutler and also allowed Tennessee's front seven to shut down their rushing attack. Jay Ajayi rushed for more than nine yards at a time just once all day, and more than eight yards just three times, finishing with 77 yards on 25 attempts (for a paltry 3.08 yards per carry). Miami's offense is one that builds out from the running game, which made things all the more harder for Cutler, who was visibly anticipating pressure from the second quarter onward. Cutler's tendency to drift around the pocket also didn't help things, either. Yes, Miami came away with the win, but this team remains far from the squad that earned a Wild Card berth last season.
- Tennessee is an entirely different team without Marcus Mariota. Backup Matt Cassel gave it the ol' college try, posting a line of 21 for 32, 141 yards and a touchdown, but the Titans' offense was anemic -- 2 for 13 on third down, 188 total net yards -- with him under center. Tennessee also missed left tackle Taylor Lewan, who exited early with a knee injury, returned, and then left again for the day. It showed in the Titans' running attack, with leading rusher DeMarco Murray gaining just 58 yards on 14 carries and fumbling once. It also showed in how often Cassel was pummeled by Miami defenders, who collectively racked up six sacks.
-- Nick Shook
- A lot was made, most of it jokingly, of Brian Hoyer vs. Jacoby Brissett -- two quarterbacks in the bottom six of Gregg Rosenthal's QB Index -- but the two QBs made Sunday interesting. Brissett's legs kept the Colts in it when T.Y. Hilton wasn't open. Brian Hoyer's fourth-quarter ending drive forced overtime. They both threw for over 300 yards and gave their teams chances to win. Brissett, who nearly foiled the Colts' shot at a win in OT with a goal-line interception, had more help from his squad, however. Hilton consistently came up with big grabs, backup tailback Marlon Mack provided sparks and kicker Adam Vinatieri was clutch as usual, lifting the Colts over the 49ers and avoiding the league's first tie of the season.
- It's going to be hard to keep Frank Gore out of Canton after the numbers he added to his career totals Sunday. With 48 yards on 14 carries, Gore moved ahead of Eric Dickerson for seventh place on the all-time rushing yards list. The only players ahead of him? Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Ladainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis -- all Hall of Famers. Gore also passed Edgerrin James (3,028) Sunday to have the eighth-most carries in NFL history.
- The Colts and 49ers have intriguing backup running backs to watch going forward. Carlos Hyde gave way to Matt Breida for a lot of playing time in the second half and overtime. The Niners' starter didn't log a second-half touch until late in the fourth quarter because Breida was effective with his carries (10 rushes for 49 yards). The Colts, meanwhile, let rookie Mack show off some skills when Gore needed a breather. Mack flashed burst and quickness that Gore just didn't display, running for 91 yards and a score on nine carries.
-- Edward Lewis
- If you don't consider Alex Smith to be in, and even the front-runner in, the MVP race this season, you're in deep denial and/or living in the past. The pilot of the game's most efficient offense, Smith's mobility and decision-making were on full display on Sunday evening. The Chiefs quarterback completed 78 percent of his passes and completed at least two passes to eight different receivers against one of the league's better secondaries. Smith looked as in control rolling out of the pocket and holding the ball on run-pass options as he did standing in and launching lasers up the seam to Travis Kelce or down the sideline to Tyreek Hill. Through five games, Smith has as many interceptions as he does losses: zero. Give him the respect he deserves.
- The tone of this one was set from the very first drive. Yes, the Chiefs mounted a characteristic 15-play, eight-minute scoring drive out of the gate, but it was a pair of devastating injuries on Houston's side of the ball that changed the trajectory of this tilt. First, Whitney Mercilus was ruled out with a chest injury. NFL Network's James Palmer reported that he suffered a torn pectoral and will be out for the year. Then, the captain went down, for good.
J.J. Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture on the 14th play of the game and limped off the field with the help of trainers to a standing ovation from an emotional Houston crowd. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Watt is done for the year before the Texans' bye for the second consecutive season. After the departure of two of their best pass rushers, the air went out of the stadium, Houston's vaunted pass rush lost its mojo and the game was soon lost.
Watt's loss will be a major emotional blow, to the football team and the city, but as the Texans did last season and as Houston did last month, there's little doubt they'll recover, especially in a competitive AFC South.
- After a sluggish, sloppy first half, Deshaun Watson bounced back in a big way in the second half. The Texans rookie came into the game as the leading rushing quarterback, but his best moments came when he moved in and out of the pocket evading Kansas City's swarming second-half pass rush. Watson threw five touchdowns, four of them in the second half during Houston's failed comeback attempt, becoming the first rookie with four-plus touchdown passes in back-to-back games since Robert Griffin III. Watson's best passes were deep scoring dimes to Will Fuller (48 yards) and DeAndre Hopkins (34). Expectations should be kept at bay in Houston -- the Texans won't, and can't, score 57 points every week and Watson's rapport with Hopkins (four catches on 12 targets) needs work. But Watson, with 14 touchdowns in four games, is the real deal.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- Game three of the Bill Lazor offensive renaissance in Cincy followed a fairly simple blueprint that featured an overabundance of passes from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. The duo was the driving force behind the victory, but Dalton's persistent need to feed Green the ball -- even in tight coverage -- nearly cost the Bengals the game, too. Dalton's 77-yard touchdown pass to Green in the first quarter was quite possibly the best offensive play of the season for Cincinnati. The two Buffalo interceptions off Green's wet fingertips certainly didn't help the cause. And there were at least a few more throws by Dalton that could have transformed into turnovers. Still, Dalton managed to gut it out despite playing with a sore left ankle for most of the game. He connected on 22 of 36 passes for 328 yards and a touchdown and Green finished with a spectacular 189 yards on seven catches to give the Bengals their second straight win.
- The Bills had chances to win this one, but they failed to capitalize. Following a 40-yard punt return by Brandon Tate that was bolstered by a Bengals sideline penalty that put the Bills on the Cincy 12, Buffalo went three-and-out and settled for a field goal to pull to within one point in the fourth quarter. After giving up a field goal, Tyrod Taylor then threw a late interception to seal the Bills' fate. Taylor completed 20 of 37 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown and LeSean McCoy tallied 63 yards on 19 carries. It might have been enough to carry the Bills for their fourth win, but the team should have managed more against an injury-depleted Bengals secondary.
- Vontaze Burfict is two games removed from suspension and in midseason form. Along with Michael Johnson, the duo caused problems for Taylor most of the game and prevented McCoy from making a real impact in the rainy conditions. Burfict finished with a whopping 10 tackles and a sack and Johnson had two sacks. The performance helped soften the blow from cornerbacks Adam Jones (back) and Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder) leaving the game early because of injury.
-- Austin Knoblauch
- Sometimes NFL games end in the first quarter. This was one of those times. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw for 121 yards with more touchdowns (3) than incompletions (2) in the first frame thanks to pinpoint throws up the seams on third down. He also finally connected deep with Torrey Smith on a 59-yard score on the way to 304 yards and four TDs on only 30 attempts. Wentz is showing greater maturity with heady audibles and consistently keeps drives alive by escaping pressure up the middle. He made some loose throws as usual, but he also tosses in jaw-droppers like a teardrop against the blitz to Nelson Agholar for a 72-yard score.
- Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer spent another day on his back, the inevitable result of the Cardinals' personnel and coach Bruce Arians' philosophy. Arians refuses to leave in an extra pass protector and Palmer continues to pay. (He was hit 10 times Sunday.) Arians lives by a "no risk it, no biscuit" philosophy but the Cardinals risk irrelevance if Palmer keeps throwing dump offs on third-and-long because pressure arrives so soon. This is no longer a team that can make a big comeback. It has no running game whatsoever. I miss the old Cardinals.
- The Eagles offense spreads the ball around, with Kenjon Barner stepping into a three-man backfield Sunday and eight receivers catching passes in the first half alone. But this is undeniably tight end Zach Ertz's breakout season, with another 6 catches for 61 yards and a score keeping him on pace for more than 100 catches. When Wentz needs a third-down, and the team converted 9-of-14 chances Sunday, he looks to Ertz first.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- The New York Jets -- pegged before the season as a candidate to join the 2008 Lions in 0-16 infamy -- have won three straight and sit in a three-way tie with the Bills and Patriots atop the AFC East. Go figure. They won this game because the offense woke up in the second half and the Browns (a team deserving of their place on 0-16 watch) kept finding new ways to kick away scoring chances in the first half. Josh McCown has been the Jets' most important player this season, a steadying influence who doesn't kill the team with turnovers and can make a big throw when necessary. Truth time: Unglamorous as some of his moves may have been, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan did a nice job improving this roster while stripping away ego and salary.
- Hue Jackson benched struggling rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer after two mistake-filled quarters and it will be interesting to see what the Browns coach does going forward. Kizer was responsible for a pair of turnovers inside the Jets' 10-yard line in the first half and Kevin Hogan gave the Browns a spark when he got his opportunity. Starting the season with Kizer always seemed like a risk given the ill-equipped nature of the Browns' offense, and it has played out in a worst-case scenario for Cleveland. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
- The silver-lining for the Browns came in the form of two of their first-round rookies. No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett finally made his NFL debut after missing four weeks with a high-ankle sprain and finished with two sacks in limited snaps, including a McCown takedown on the first play of his career. Tight end David Njoku made a pair of hyper-athletic receptions, including a one-handed scoring snag that got the Browns on the board in the third quarter.
-- Dan Hanzus
- With boos raining down at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh's offense struggled to morph into the yardage-and-points machine you'd expect from such a star-studded cast. The stuck-in-the-mud attack managed just three field goals all afternoon despite attacking the Jaguars with names like Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Ben Roethlisberger authored pure disaster in the second half, unfurling a tipped lob that landed in the arms of lightning-quick linebacker Telvin Smith, who raced 28 yards for a score that put Jacksonville up 13-9. On the following series, a Big Ben rope was tipped by Jalen Ramsey into the waiting hands of Barry Church, who dialed up a 52-yard touchdown return for the 20-9 lead. With an unhinged five interceptions on the day, Big Ben's increasingly wayward season is something Steelers fans -- treated to endless success over the years -- will need time to comprehend:
- Speaking of Ramsey, he's on his way to becoming one of game's premier cover men, but the Jaguars cornerback had his hands full against Antonio Brown (10/157). The All-Pro Steelers wideout beat Ramsey for a 49-yard gain early in the contest before getting the best of Jacksonville's secondary on a 23-yard grab before the half, a catch that set up Pittsburgh's second field goal. Ramsey, though, also broke up a rash of passes, generated the tip on Church's pick six and hauled in a beautiful, first-quarter interception of his own to set up Jacksonville's first touchdown of the game. If Brown got his yardage against this secondary, the presence of Ramsey and Bouye were also huge factors in Roethlisberger's horrifying afternoon. Jacksonville's defense must be taken seriously entering the heart of the NFL campaign.
- What would Leonard Fournette look like in a balanced offense? The rookie Jaguars runner created some of his best gallops all year during a first-half scoring drive that saw Jacksonville run the ball four straight times in the red zone before Fournette leapt over Pittsburgh's frustrated front for a 2-yard touchdown. Down the stretch, the rookie blasted through Pittsburgh's tired defense for gains of 13, 12 and 11 yards before putting the Steelers six feet under with a 90-yard touchdown blast with three minutes left on the clock. What's most impressive about his weekly dose of work is that Fournette (28/181/2) piles up these numbers for a team openly hiding quarterback Blake Bortles. Jacksonville closed the game with 18 straight runs -- and Pittsburgh had no answer.
-- Marc Sessler