Five Wide: 2023 Week Six

By Thomas Willoughby

Well, there goes the London games. Seems like only yesterday we were fresh-faced and excited for what this team’s contestants might bring to the nation’s capital. Now all we have are memories. A tinge of regret? For sure. I truly regret believing in the Atlanta Falcons. And selling on my tickets for Bills vs Jags. But we move on in the knowledge that the German stuff is right around the corner. And a new set of London games will be here before you know it.

Bizarre week for the old NFL, let’s be honest. Not many players or teams will look back at week six as THE week in 2 or 3 months’ time. Nevertheless, let’s try and get something from it!

And Then There Were None

Going into Sunday night, two sides could boast an unbeaten record: the 49ers, and the Eagles. Both sides were matched up against very favourable opponents. And both fell to their first defeat of the season, the 49ers taken down in Cleveland 19-17, and the Eagles felled by the Jets, of all teams, in their own backyard. What a sport, eh?

It begs the question, when are we going to see another team go unbeaten? The additional games in the modern NFL make it more and more unlikely. Plus, the “any given Sunday” aspect of the sport seems to be rearing its head more and more this season. The fact that I, noted bad predictor, sit joint top the Ballsy Callsy table thus far is a testament to that. But when was the last time you saw a team go deep into the season unbeaten? 2015 Panthers, maybe? Perhaps the dream of simply never losing is dying.

If anyone could have done it this year, it would have been the 49ers. We’ll have to wait until 2024 to see who’s best placed to attempt the impossible.

Adam Hunger-AP Photo

One Way Rivalry

Thanks to a series of engineering works on our nation’s rails this weekend, my Sunday to and from North London this weekend was very much the long way round. Part of that involved traveling to the other side of the county to set of from Didcot Parkway station. On the drive back from that station, I was exposed to the world of NFL radio for the first time ever. TalkSport 2’s game of the week was the 49ers @ Cleveland Browns, which, as we’ve discussed, ended the 9ers undefeated season. 

One of the nuggets from that broadcast was a stat so unbelievable I had to pull my phone out, jot it down, and relay it on the Touchdown Pod this week. Kyle Shanahan has coached against a Jim Schwartz defense 9 times in his career, this weekend included. His record is 1-8, and that single win came was in 2008, when Shanahan coordinated the Houston Texans offense to a 13-12 victory over a Titans defense coordinated by Schwartz. We talk about some teams having other teams’ numbers; Schwartz has got Shanahan’s on speed dial.

The Enigma of Nashville

Tennessee. Who are you? WHAT are you? One week you’re pulling victories out against the Chargers and the Bengals, the next you’re struggling to muster any sort of a challenge against the Saints and the Colts. This weekend they gave up a home game to play in London, and mustered next to nothing against a Ravens side struggling to really impose themselves on the season. They’re a bad team. Plain and simple. 

There was a moment, about halfway through the 2nd quarter, where I drafted a tweet to the effect of “The Ravens have had 4x as many yards, 3x as many first downs, and 5x as many points. The Titans don’t have anything.”, and swiftly deleted it when I realised I was opening myself up to a cold takes-ing. I wish I hadn’t, because, man, those Titans had nothing.

Outside of one big run by Derrick Henry, Tennessee really struggled to move the ball. Tannehill got hurt, granted, but that doesn’t really excuse the fact that Malik Willis managed nearly as many passing yards as he did with half as many completions. The offense simply did not get going. The Titans’ biggest producer on offense was the Ravens’ defense, as they were kept on the field thanks to pass interference calls, holding calls, etc.

The Titans season has been strange. And I’m not sure they’re going to be able to smooth it out and get back on track. The biggest thing going for them before week one, as far as I could see, was that they were the wiley vets with the fewest variables. The steady QB, the can’t-fail running game, the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, as long as they were capable of playing smartly and efficiently, they’d be there or thereabouts in the divisional race come January. They’re not doing either of those things. The Jags had a rough start to the season, and have managed to build a bit of momentum following their school trip to London. The Titans aren’t really in the divisional race right now. I’d argue wildcard’s a step too far right now. What’s going on with them?!?

Kin Cheung-AP Photo

Cold Snap

What an awful weekend for Quarterbacks. I’ve sat here wracking my brain trying to come up with one notable performance from the league’s gunslingers, and the best I can do is Tua Tagovailoa and Jared Goff vs the Panthers and Buccaneers respectively, and even THOSE weren’t overly impressive. 

You know what I blame? Climate change, that’s what. Our beloved ball-throwers have gotten so used to balmy afternoons and evenings that they didn’t expect Autumn to ever arrive. And here it is, bringing with it a slightly colder temperature than we had last week. They’ve had no time to prepare, for goodness sake. How can we expect these brave boys to amaze us when it’s a bit chilly?

Expect a bevy of undershirts in the coming weeks, and an uptick in performance, from next week.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

One story that’s stuck with me from the off-season is Tua Tagovailoa’s attempts to put himself in a position to avoid concussion this season. At least to the level he suffered last. The Dolphins are a better team with him, and his safety is absolutely paramount. So, when he took up various forms of martial arts, I found that refreshing. Learning how to fall down in a manner that protects himself should be encouraged. This weekend, I think we saw the fruits of that labour flowering.

I don’t really have much more to say about it, I just saw that and thought it was interesting. Not really anything to keep an eye on, either. But, if you do spot your QB rolling after being dropped, you know where it’s come from.

Features Image Credit: Sue Ogrocki-Associated Press

Thomas Willoughby