2019 NFL: Week 5
Let’s start this week with a story.
Years ago, I worked for a newspaper group in Southern California. Since it was my first foray in the media business, my starting point was right at the bottom. I started in the local high school football scene, going to games on Friday nights and then hustling back to the office to write 6-8 inches of copy.
I didn’t have an assigned desk at the office, so the standard operating procedure for freelancers was to quickly find an open terminal, sign on and get working since I usually had about 10-15 minutes to file my story. The best place to sit was the features desk, since they usually left around 6 p.m. That worked well for the first 4-5 weeks.
Then one night as I was just about to hit send on my meager story (I even had quotes!), the man who normally sat at my desk suddenly showed up for some reason. What he was doing there at 10:20 p.m. was beyond me. Anyway, this is the exchange we had:
“Uhhh, why are you sitting at my desk?”
“Oh, sorry, they told me to just grab an open desk since all the ones in the sports area are being used.”
“I don’t care what they said. I don’t want anyone sitting at my desk and spreading germs on my keyboard.”
“Sorry, I’ll move.”
And the volume of his voice was such that most heads in the office turned and looked my way. I can still feel the embarrassment as I hurriedly packed up my stuff and awkwardly stood near the sports editors until someone told me my story was fine and I could leave.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, what he who shall not be named said wasn’t the end of the world and since then, the world has very much adjusted to the whims of germaphobes. But it was the way he came up to me, someone who had never met, and was a huge jerk to me without a second thought.
I hate that guy to this day. You could tell me that he works with rescue animals and sick children in his free time, and I’ll still call him a jerk, even though that makes me look petty and quite frankly, wrong. That’s how strong a negative first impression can be.
Which brings me to Jared Goff.
His rookie season was a disaster. Stuck in the mire of the failing Jeff Fisher regime, Goff stumbled to an 0-7 record as a starter in 2016 and the legions of media nitwits and gasbags lined up with their “LOL Rams” takes and dug a giant hole to bury the No. 1 pick in, buried him and stuck a tombstone on top that just said “BUST!”
Then Sean McVay came and Goff started doing some nice things. The critics were still not impressed. “Pshaw! It’s just a fluke! He still stinks!”
Then he won some more games. Then he and the Rams won a division title. But that wasn’t it! The next year, they didn’t just win the division, they reached the holiest of holies: the Super Bowl! The meatheads were scrambling. There must be a reason! “But, but, but, it’s all Sean McVay! He just feeds the answers to Goff in his helmet radio! He’s just a SYSTEM quarterback!”
The Rams are 3-1 at the moment and the hyenas are circling as Jared’s rocky start to 2019 reached its apotheosis with a four-turnover performance in a surprising home loss to the Buccaneers (more on that later). His detractors, who were forced to be somewhat quiet over the past two seasons, are popping their heads out with fresh ammunition.
“He wasn’t worth that big contract! LOL Rams! They’re stuck with him!”
Their first impression of Jared Goff was so negative, they can’t let go of it. It doesn’t matter what he does over the remainder of his career. He can win a Super Bowl, maybe two. He can average 10-12 wins a year. But the second he makes an errant throw, turns the ball over, or heaven forbid loses a game, the same old tired criticisms will come out.
That being said, get it together, Jared. You’re making me look bad.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
NFL’S TOP 10
1) Patriots — This defense looks absolutely filthy. They gave up their first touchdown of the season in their close win against the Bills. It took until Week 4 for someone to cross the goal line against this unit, and even that barely qualified. Josh Allen leaped over the pile at the 1-yard line and the ball crossed the plane, only to be swatted back five yards a millisecond later. People are saying they haven’t played a solid offense yet and while that’s true, just use your eyes. It’s hard to imagine any team having a great day against that secondary and they’re also leading the league in sacks. Yikes.
2) Chiefs — They put up 34 points and Patrick Mahomes didn’t have a touchdown pass. If that’s not promising, I don’t know what is. Too bad their defense is going to keep opponents in games going forward.
3) Saints — Defense came up huge against the Cowboys at home on Sunday night. And don’t read too much into Teddy Bridgewater not leading a touchdown drive along the way. These two teams faced off last year and it was also a low-scoring affair. Sometimes teams just cancel each other out. Two of their next three games are very winnable and Drew Brees’ return isn’t far off.
4) Cowboys — We’ll know a lot more about this team over the next few weeks. They’ve got the Packers at home on Sunday, then go on the road against the Jets before coming back home for a huge divisional game against the Eagles. I think this team is for real. I’ll have my proof by then.
5) Rams — The questions and doubts are everywhere. The main issue is their offensive line. Pro Football Focus just rated this unit as the league’s worst. Ouch. You want to know why Todd Gurley can’t get going? Why Jared Goff has a hand in his face once he receives the snap. There you go right there. Also, Wade Phillips needs to get his defense in gear. I don’t care how many times the offense turns it over, you can’t allow Jameis Winston to look like Joe Montana in your own stadium.
6) Eagles — You can make the argument that this team should be 4-0, if it wasn’t for a number of drops from their receivers. Carson Wentz looks sharp and more importantly, their running game looks like it found its mojo against the Packers.
7) Seahawks — Russell Wilson is in his eighth year and looks like he’s mastered the position. Before the season started, I picked Ben Roethlisberger to win MVP (I know, I know). I’d like a mulligan, please. My current choice for MVP is Wilson and if he gets a home win over the Rams on Thursday night, will have his team in the driver’s seat for a division title.
8) Packers — They haven’t put a complete game together yet. Sunday afternoon (national game on FOX) is a perfect chance for their offense and defense to work well together. They’ve got all the pieces.
9) Bears — If Chase Daniel does well in Mitchell Trubisky’s absence, don’t expect head coach Matt Nagy to hesitate. Trubisky is still on his rookie deal and the team won’t lose much by cutting him loose if there’s a better option. They have a Super Bowl-level defense. They just need a quarterback who doesn’t completely suck.
10) Bills — Any defense than can make Tom Brady look like an amateur is a force to be reckoned with. There was a temptation to put the 49ers in this spot, but they only have the best record in the NFL because they were on a bye last week. That shouldn’t be rewarded.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
More than a feeling: I want to believe so bad. Gardner Minshew, in all of his mustachioed, jockstrap-stretching glory, is a story the NFL needs in the worst way. A man rising out of the ashes of the sixth round (sounds like someone we know?) who takes the world by storm and gives the world an unconventional new hero. The Prince of the Palouse birthed out of the mind of Mike Leach. Please God, let him succeed. I’m drinking tubs of the kool-aid on this one.
Kick to the groin: The Patriots might have looked sluggish against Buffalo last week, but there’s a reason. They’re banged up all over the place, with even Tom Brady nursing a calf injury. And now, it gets worse as the team placed kicker Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve due to a season-ending hip surgery. This isn’t good. There’s a dearth of reliable kickers in the NFL as is, not to mention the dreck available in the free-agent pool. Bill Belichick teams have always been solid on special teams. Things could get ugly.
He’s back, sort of: Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill went down in the season opener with a clavicle injury and while it seemed serious at first, he’s already back practicing with the team. There’s no word if he’ll play this weekend, but can you imagine what impact a healthy Hill will have on this offense? Yowza.
Chopping block: Word around the campfire is that Redskins coach Jay Gruden could be fired as soon as Monday. His team faces the Patriots this week, so there’s nothing like getting thrown out on your ass just after it’s been kicked by Bill Belichick. He shouldn’t be down for long. This is the NFL, I’m sure he’ll have a coordinator job somewhere next season.
Not good enough: Can anyone tell me what the hell happened to Kirk Cousins? Yes, he was never that great to begin with, but the Vikings are doing everything they can to minimize his impact on games this season. Wide receiver Adam Thielen expressed his frustration that Cousins wasn’t getting him the ball on deep routes and the latter, to his credit, agreed with him. Hopefully he can snap out of this funk, but it doesn’t seem like his team will really allow him the opportunity. Strange.
High times: Remember Percy Harvin? Frustrated fantasy owners certainly do. Well, turns out he loves his marijuana.
“There’s not a game that I played in that I wasn’t high,” the former wide receiver told Bleacher Report. He said he used the drug to deal with anxiety and migraine headaches, which he routinely suffered from.
The NFL should just stop testing for weed. It’s silly, who cares what these players do in their private lives.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 5
Rams at Seahawks: The Goff haters are gleefully waiting for him and the Rams to collapse in this game. The 12s will be there to make it as difficult as possible. It’s hard not to feel like the Seahawks will win this one and break their three-game losing streak to Los Angeles.
Bears vs. Raiders: This game is in London and while Khalil Mack is anxious to get revenge against Jon Gruden and the Silver and Black for trading him away, I’m more anxious to see how Chase Daniel does in his first start.
Buccaneers at Saints: They just put 55 points on the Rams. This is exactly the kind of game where the old Jameis Winston would throw four picks and lead the team to a loss. In fact, I’ll call it now: The Saints are winning this one.
Vikings at Giants: It was all fun and games when Daniel Jones was beating the Bucs and the Redskins. Let’s see how he does against a Mike Zimmer-led defense.
Ravens at Steelers: Pittsburgh’s defense came alive in their win over the Bengals. Can they keep the momentum going? Meanwhile, the fawning praise heaped on Lamar Jackson during the first two weeks of the season has faded a bit after back-to-back losses. The national pundits are going to go all out to pick the Ravens here, but I’m not so sure.
Patriots at Redskins: The potential last game of the Gruden era and the Redskins don’t even know who will start at quarterback. Wouldn’t it be nuts if they pulled off an upset against the shorthanded Patriots? Yes, it would be. It won’t happen. But keep a side-eye on this game, just in case.
Jaguars at Panthers: The battle of two teams with backup quarterbacks. And while I respect what Kyle Allen has done with the Panthers, my heart lies firmly with Gardner Minshew.
Packers at Cowboys: If you need me to explain why this game is good, you don’t deserve to watch football.
Browns at 49ers: Give me Baker Mayfield here. The 49ers are seemingly winning with smoke and mirrors and I don’t buy them going forward.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.