TMF Week 6: Dak’s Heroics Elevate Cowboys, Top 5 Surprises Through Six Weeks, Lamar Jackson Won't Be 'Figured Out'
Dak Prescott's heroics have elevated the Cowboys, Lamar Jackson won't be 'figured out' any time soon, top 5 surprises of the season through six weeks.
Week six featured a plethora of blowout, non-competitive games. With a few games delivering fascinating narratives, and one extraordinary game (Dallas at New England), the week surely gave us plenty to talk about.
TMF, The Headline: Dak and Cowboys are ‘for real’
You know it, Dak knows it, and the entire Dallas Cowboys team knows it.
“We know, we’re for real.”
Prescott said Sunday night after the Cowboys overtime win in Foxborough.
The thrilling game in New England concluded in theatrical fashion. In overtime, Prescott threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb for a walk-off Cowboys win. What a game.
I think we all expected that the Cowboys would be much, much better when Prescott returned this season. But I also believe we tempered our expectations for this team due to two primary preseason beliefs: Prescott’s injury and the Dallas defense.
Both have surprised us. In a big way, too.
I’ve recently found myself forgetting entirely how severe Prescott’s season-ending injury was last year. When I watch him this season, he actually looks better than he did pre-injury. Pretty insane, right?
Dak’s return and arrival to elite status isn’t the only reason the Cowboys are sitting at 5-1 heading into their bye week, however. This Cowboys defense has exceedingly improved compared to last season’s unit. And with emerging star cornerback Trevon Diggs, opposing teams might begin to dread throwing at this team – more than they did in past years.
This leads me to ranking my Top 5 biggest surprises so far this season.
Dak Prescott’s MVP caliber play
Dallas Cowboys (5-1) running away with NFC East title
Behind Joe Burrow’s return, Bengals (4-2) look good
New England Patriots (2-4) look bad
The undefeated Cardinals (6-0)
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LEAD TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK SIX
Dak’s Heroics elevate Cowboys in New England
2:37 on the clock, in the fourth quarter: New England was clinging to a 21-20 lead when Mac Jones threw a pass intended for Kendrick Bourne. Instead, sensational Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs intercepted the pass and returned it 42-yards for a touchdown.
2:21 on the clock, the very next play from scrimmage: Jones made a ballsy throw hitting Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown. Jones then connected with Jakobi Meyers for the two-point conversion to put the Patriots up 29-26.
With plenty of clock left, Prescott ultimately led the Cowboys on a 40-yard drive that resulted in a Greg Zuerlein 49-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
New England won the coin toss and started overtime with the football. But after one first down and facing a fourth-and-three, Belichick decided to punt.
And Dak Prescott made sure Jones and the Patriots offense would not get the ball back again.
Dak Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. The second-year wide receiver waved ‘goodbye’ to New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills as the Dallas Cowboys picked up a compelling 35-29 victory on Sunday.
Dak’s Heroics: Inside the Numbers
Dak Prescott threw for 445 yards on Sunday. Bill Belichick has taken the field as a head coach in 422 games, between the Browns and Patriots. No quarterback has passed for that amount of yardage against a Belichick head-coached team. Ever. Not once, until yesterday.
Before yesterday, the Cowboys hadn’t won at New England since 1987. And Dallas was 0-5 against Bill Belichick entering yesterday’s game.
Dak remains flawless in overtime. In his career, Prescott has not thrown a single incompletion. Prescott is 18-of-18 for 214 yards with three touchdowns. Incredible.
Dak Prescott’s career 400-yard passing games: 9.
All other quarterbacks in Dallas Cowboys history, combined: 9
Prescott is the seventh quarterback in the Super Bowl area to have 16+ passing touchdowns, 70%+ completion percentage and fewer than five interceptions in his team’s first six games of a season. Four of the previous five went on to win NFL MVP that same season. (Kurt Warner 1991, Tom Brady 2007, Aaron Rodgers 2011, Peyton Manning 2013).
Lamar Jackson won’t be ‘figured out’
We’ve seen and read countless opinions on Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson over the past few years: He’s the most electrifying playmaker who also plays quarterback. He’s not accurate enough of a pocket passer to play the position. He’s a front running quarterback who can’t adapt to playing from behind due to the pressure of the defense knowing he’s going to pass.
On and on and on.
You know what my favorite stat is? Wins. Lamar Jackson is beginning to prove to everybody - myself included - that at the end of the day, all he does is win. He can run, he can pass, he can hand it off – he doesn’t care. Because he simply only cares about winning.
Jackson didn’t have a brilliant performance on Sunday in a dominating 34-6 win over Justin Herbert and the Chargers. But it didn’t matter. Jackson was 19-for-27 for 167 passing yards, one touchdown with two interceptions. Jackson and the Ravens offense decided to exploit the Chargers run defense – and they did just that. As a team, the Ravens ran for 187 yards on 38 total carries.
I’m not saying that Jackson should be in the conversation for NFL MVP, as other quarterbacks are clearly ahead of him in most eyes. But the Baltimore Ravens currently sit atop the AFC North with a 5-1 record. And Lamar Jackson has unquestionably been the reason for that.
After Sunday’s win over the Chargers, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh spoke about the reporting around people in the league “figuring out” Lamar Jackson:
“If you’re looking for your headline here, I think the people who make those statements are kind of whistling in the graveyard just a little bit,”
Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Ravens website.
“It doesn’t have any meaning. Anybody who knows Xs and Os are rolling their eyes when they hear something like that.”
It’s easy to criticize a player like Lamar Jackson, because he’s truly special and very unique to what we usually see at the quarterback position. But if he’s winning football games, who cares how he’s doing it.
The league hasn’t “figured out” Lamar Jackson, and until he stops winning at a high level, you won’t convince me, or this Ravens team, otherwise.
The New York Giants should clean house, hire new GM
Another week, another embarrassing loss for the New York Giants. After spending frantically in free agency, this is obviously not the season ownership wanted or expected. Before the season started, John Mara stated that he expects this team to be in contention for a playoff spot.
That isn’t happening this season. Maybe not even the next.
Mara and Giants ownership need to consider the long-term play after this season. Both Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge might be good at their jobs. But they have not displayed that as members of the Giants organization.
As Peter King points out to his readers via Twitter, you cannot draft a running back with the No. 2 overall draft pick in today’s NFL. It simply shouldn’t happen.
Rahul Kaul @rahulkaull@peter_king Can we start pushing for Tisch to replace Mara
I can make an argument that in today’s NFL, there may be only four position groups you’d want to draft second overall: QB, OT, DE/DT (Pass-Rusher), and maybe CB if the player is a definite, can’t-miss prospect.
Even Gettleman’s philosophy of front/back seven has not paid off in New York, as the Giants defense and offensive line continue to perform at an average to below-average level, year in and year out.
There’s really no way you can feel good about this 1-5 Giants team. Injuries, lack of identity on offense, and a defensive unit that has regularly been a problem for this team.
It’s all bad right now, and I don’t see things getting better any time soon.
Trouble in Seattle?
Since 2012, when Seattle drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, Wilson has been the guy. Until last night, Wilson hadn’t missed a game in that span. And judging by what we saw from Wilson during Seattle’s Sunday Night Football game against Pittsburgh: Wilson is undeniably lost when he’s not playing quarterback for his team.
Despite his thumb injury that required surgery last week, Wilson still flew with his team to Pittsburgh. But it didn’t stop there.
Wilson took the field pregame, and cameras caught him running through two-minute drill scenarios. Clips show Wilson changing plays at the line and running through various in-game scenarios:
In game, Wilson stood and walked up and down the sidelines watching on as Geno Smith attempted to mimic the Seahawks offense as if Wilson was playing. At times, the offense looked in sync. Other moments, not nearly as much.
Seattle ultimately lost to Pittsburgh in overtime when Geno Smith fumbled the ball, giving the Steelers the ball already in position to kick a game-winning field goal.
The Seahawks now sit at 2-4, and with Wilson reportedly set to miss at least two more games – Seattle could be in trouble.
Seahawks next two games are against the Saints and Jaguars. Both winnable games even without Wilson.
I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but I do worry about the offseason this franchise just saw. And how adding a 2-4 record to the previous rumors surrounding Wilson’s future might not be ideal for the franchise.
Wilson wants to win Super Bowls. So, Seattle needs to show him he can win them as a member of the Seahawks.
Patrick Mahomes keeps throwing interceptions, and that trend might continue if he doesn’t receive further help offensively.
Matt Rhule and the Panthers might need a new quarterback in 2022. Speaking of the Carolina Panthers, Matt Rhule made a few interesting comments on Monday following his team’s third consecutive loss:
"We're not going to line up and throw it 40 times a game and think that's going to win for us,'' Rhule said. "It hasn't. So we're going to redefine who we are, and we're going to run the football and we're going to protect our quarterback and we're not going to turn the ball over anymore.”
"That's the only way we're going to win.''
Cam Newton is vaccinated, and per himself, still wants to play. “Hell yeah, I still want to play.”
Aaron Rodgers: One of the greatest QB’s in NFL history, and also the new owner of the Chicago Bears.
After starting the season with a win over the Patriots, the Miami Dolphins have now lost five straight. Injuries aside, this team is capable of more – and should be better than 1-5.
Am I the only one that didn’t hate Sean McDermott’s decision to go for it on fourth down Monday night? It didn’t work out, but I like giving the ball to Josh Allen and trusting he’ll get the job done for you. Huge win for the Tennessee Titans, by the way.
It’s unbelievable how good Derrick Henry is. Without a doubt, the best RB in the NFL.
Speaking of the Dolphins, did anyone catch the end of the game after the Jaguars game-winning field goal? I found it interesting how few Jacksonville Jaguars players celebrated with their head coach. Just an observation.
Through six weeks, the Los Angeles Rams still remain my pick to come out of the NFC. I’m not hopping off the McVay-Stafford train just yet.
Davante Adams is the best wide receiver in the NFL. And no, he did not send me a signed jersey to say this…
Bill Belichick’s conservative coaching could be holding this team back. Mac Jones has proved that he can throw a pick-six and then proceed to throw a 75-yard touchdown on the very next play. Jones has that ‘next play’ mindset. Let the kid ball, coach. What do you have to lose?
ASK ME ANYTHING FROM THE WEEK
(Weekly AMA questions can be sent via twitter @coreyalex, or by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org)
– Will the Lions draft a QB with their 1st round pick next year?
Jared Goff has not played well enough in Detroit to tell us he’s their guy moving forward. Yet, the 2022 QB class is not particularly good. And I’m actually a bit harsher on this class than I think most people are.
For example, if Mac Jones were in the 2022 class, he’d undoubtedly be my QB1, as he would be for many others.
Dan Campbell publicly challenged Goff after Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. And regardless of what you or I think, the Lions won’t go into the 2022 season with Goff as their starter unless he truly changes their opinions over the next 11 games.
– Why hasn’t Vic Fangio received more criticism in Denver? Seems like the national media is focused on Urban Meyer and Matt Nagy, but Fangio hasn’t been any better…
Great question, and I don’t know if I’m the right guy to answer it. But I’ll give it a shot. If I had to guess, I’d say the expectations in Denver were a bit more relaxed because going into this season, the organization knew it didn’t have a solid plan at quarterback. The offseason quarterback battle between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock was competitive.
Yet, most NFL teams that hold quarterback competitions aren’t teams with Super Bowl aspirations.
I don’t believe Fangio will be the head coach much longer in Denver. It’s just a matter of what vision the front office in Denver has and where/when a new head coach fits into that vision.
– Could Cleveland move on from Baker after this season?
Absolutely. Funny you ask this because as I’m writing numerous “Lead Takeaway” pieces for this column, Baker Mayfield’s future was one of them.
One could argue that given the roster talent, the Cleveland Browns are one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL through the first six weeks. And to make things worse for the Browns, Mayfield is now dealing with a shoulder injury and is planning on seeking a second opinion this week, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
If Cleveland doesn’t make the playoffs this season, Baker Mayfield’s contract extension will become a big story in the offseason. The Browns are built to win now, with or without Baker Mayfield.
– Not football related, but favorite beer for football Sundays this time of year?
I’m definitely a seasonal beer guy so as the fall weather has arrived here in New England, I’ve recently begun enjoying the Oktoberfest beers. Those and a few local traditional lagers have been my go-to game day brews.
I’m also a sucker for a good IPA, so Treehouse Brewing Company and Wachusett Brewing Company are two local Massachusetts breweries I’m regularly stocked up on.
FOURTH AND LONG: FINAL THOUGHTS HEADING INTO WEEK SEVEN
The Miami Dolphins are proof that tanking in the NFL doesn’t always work
In 2021, the Miami Dolphins were supposed to be good – maybe even AFC contenders if they hit their ceiling. But at 1-5, the Dolphins are far from contenders, and the problems in Miami are continuing to pile up.
It was just two years ago when the Dolphins traded away numerous players on the team to accumulate draft picks in an attempt to rebuild and restart. The common slogan in Miami at the time was ‘Tanking for Tua’ as even fans began to embrace the need to rebuild for the future.
Well, the future is now – and Miami is not only 1-5, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that selecting Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert looks to have been a massive mistake.
Tanking or no tanking, the end result for every NFL team remains the same: If you don’t get the right quarterback, every other decision becomes irrelevant.
If things don’t turn around rather quickly in Miami, things could get ugly.
Thursday Night Football: Important Night in Cleveland
Week 7 gets kicked off this week with a Thursday Night Football game in Cleveland. The Denver Broncos (3-3) will be in town, and I believe it’s a big game for both teams, but more notably; the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns (3-3) have played three great offenses through six games this season. In those games, the opposing team has scored 47, 37, and 33 points. Yeah, that’s bad.
We can talk about Baker Mayfield’s ability, or inability, to elevate a team and win his team games they shouldn’t win. But allowing 47, 37, or 33 points won’t win your football team many games regardless of who your quarterback is.
Whether it’s Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum behind center for Cleveland, they need to win this game Thursday night.