It’s hard to believe, but we’re already entering the point in the season when we start to see teams separate from each other and cement their statuses for the year. It’s already October, the bye weeks are here, and only one undefeated team remains. We’re entering the main straightaway.
And with five weeks gone in the NFL season, here are five things I learned from the most recent slate of games.
The Kansas City Chiefs are not an elite football team
As much as I so desperately want to believe that my preseason Super Bowl representative from the AFC is just working out some early season growing pains, five games is a large enough sample size to acknowledge that there are legitimate issues with Andy Reid’s football team.
The most obvious weakness is the defense. They’ve allowed more points than anyone else in the league through five weeks (163), opponents have scored 29 or more points in every game this season, and they were just shredded apart by Josh Allen in primetime – a quarterback that they can expect to see again in the playoffs if they want to get back to the promised land. Offensively, they move the ball just fine. Patrick Mahomes leads a group with plenty of weapons. But what good is that if you score 29 points and allow 30?
The Chiefs are still a good football team, but their defense is the reason they sit below .500 after five games.
The Chargers are the second-best team in the AFC
Every rise has its fall, and in this case, it’s the Los Angeles Chargers taking advantage of the Chiefs’ descension. Aside from the fact that Justin Herbert and Co. knocked off Kansas City head-to-head in a fantastic shootout earlier in the season, the Chargers have played the Robin to Buffalo’s Batman since the season kicked off.
Herbert is laughing in the face of the feared ‘sophomore syndrome’ by emerging as one of the league’s MVP candidates. Austin Ekeler looks every bit the elite playmaker we expected him to be, both in the the run game and the pass game. The Derwin James-led defense was allowing fewer than 20 points a game prior to Sunday’s slugfest with Cleveland. In a division with the Chiefs and the formerly undefeated Raiders, Los Angeles is the team to beat.
The NFL needs to stop sending bad teams to London
I mean, my goodness – the Jets and the Falcons are who we choose to showcase our sport across the pond?
I know that the matchups are set before the season starts, but the least the league can do is send some half-decent teams to London. The domestic primetime lineup has been brilliant this season – a Ravens-Chiefs shootout, Rams-Seahawks on Thursday night, Cowboys-Buccaneers on the opening week of the season – and we send the Jets and the Falcons to the United Kingdom? And their encore is the Jacksonville Jaguars in two weeks?
On a more serious note, the game won’t grow overseas if the league is constantly sending some of its worst product. The Jaguars go every season, the Raiders, Bengals, and Bears went in 2019, and the Dolphins have made their share of appearances as well. It’s time to send over some Super Bowl contenders to show off what our game really looks like – not two of the league’s worst in a game that went into halftime 20-3.
We’re trying to grow a game here, folks.
Forget his slow start, Najee Harris is the real deal
Fantasy owners and Steelers fans alike had big expectations for Najee Harris, the athletic running back that Pittsburgh drafted out of Alabama in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. But his early output had both sets of people concerned.
Harris put some of those concerns to bed on Sunday with a monster 122-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Denver, showing football fans the first real glimpse of what he’s capable of.
Entering Week 5, the former Alabama back hadn’t rushed for over 62 yards in a game in his short professional career. He was only averaging 3.4 yards per carry (55 carries for 185 yards) and had only found the end zone one time – a garbage time 1-yard rush in Week 4 against the Packers.
He still has room to grow, and his trajectory may take a few more bumps and bruises. But we’ve known since the day Pittsburgh drafted him that Harris is a superb athlete with freakish abilities, and we got a timely reminder in their 27-19 win over the Broncos.
Justin Fields might save Matt Nagy’s job
And whether or not you think that’s a good thing, Justin Fields’ form since taking over as Chicago’s starter under center has been good enough to maybe give Matt Nagy another day. After losing the first start of his career to the Browns (and getting beaten up in the process), he’s knocked off the Lions and Raiders in back-to-back weeks, leading Chicago to an over .500 record for the first time since Week 9 of last season.
Fields is the obvious long-term answer for the Bears under center, but will Nagy be the one alongside him for the ride? Two weeks ago, the answer was a resounding no. If Fields continues to win games, Nagy might claw his way back into his job.