/B/R Staff NFL Week 5 Report Card: Raiders Ruin Khalil Macks Revenge

B/R Staff NFL Week 5 Report Card: Raiders Ruin Khalil Macks Revenge

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    Tim Ireland/Associated Press

    The NFL is nearly impossible to discern on a weekly basis. It’s rather comical, actually.

    “Enough madness? Enough? And how do you measure madness?” the Joker asked in Grant Morrison‘s Batman: Arkham Asylum.

    Just when the league seems predictable, it zigs while onlookers expect everything to zag.

    The Oakland Raiders weren’t expected to move the ball against the Chicago Bears’ stout defense without their top wide receiver, Tyrell Williams. Yet Jon Gruden‘s offense amassed 398 yards against a top-five defensive unit.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who came into the weekend tied for the league lead with four touchdown receptions, isn’t supposed to go an entire game without a catch. But he did.

    The Bengals weren’t supposed to win a game. OK, that’s still true.

    The joke is always on those who think they know exactly what’s going to happen on any given Sunday.

    “Laugh and the world laughs with you,” the Joker said as he channeled poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.

    Bleacher Report’s team of NFL writers aren’t afraid to make fools of themselves as they grade the biggest surprises and topics from the Week 5 slate


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    Naomi Baker/Getty Images

    Revenge is best served with bangers and mash, or so Bears linebacker Khalil Mack thought. But the Raiders ruined Mack’s and the Bears’ trip to London, England. Oakland managed a 24-21 victory despite traveling halfway around the world and being considered the underdog.

    Gruden now has a feather in his cap after trading Mack to the Bears a year ago for a pair of first-round draft selections (and some change). One of those picks turned into running back Josh Jacobs, who carried the ball 26 times for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Sunday’s victory.

    Mack, meanwhile, didn’t make his usual impact. He finished this supposed revenge game with three tackles, one quarterback hit and a fumble recovery (on a missed toss).

    The loss aside, how did Mack do against his old team?


    Ty Dunne: F

    What an unbelievable letdown for the Bears. Right when this team seems to be molding back into Super Bowl-contending form…it loses to the Raiders.

    Mike Freeman: D-

    Mack had a fumble recovery but didn’t have a sack. He was mostly invisible, which is not a word you often associate with him. You have to give the Raiders a ton of credit for stopping the best defensive player in football. Overall, this Raiders team, which had an embarrassing offseason, is now a solid 3-2.

    Mike Tanier: C-

    We’ll find out later in the week that he was the one who actually flew the plane from Chicago to London.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    Extra attention came Mack’s way before and during the game. The Raiders weren’t going to let their former franchise player beat them, and they didn’t. Oakland’s protection schemes revolved around Mack’s down-by-down alignments, which prevented him from making any impact plays.      

    Brad Gagnon: F

    This feels weird, but how can Mack get a passing grade? He did recover a fumble. But aside from that, this was one of the quietest games of his career. And it’s not as though his presence exposed the Raiders elsewhere because the Bears had zero team sacks and barely got a hand on Derek Carr. Jon Gruden might have lost the war, but he won this battle.

    Gary Davenport: D

    Mack recovered the ugliest fumble in recent memory, and he remains one of the best edge-rushers in the game. But the Bears didn’t have any sacks, and the prospect the Raiders drafted with Chicago’s pick this year (Josh Jacobs) was the player of the game. That trade may well have been a win for both sides.

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    Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey entered Sunday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a league-leading 411 rushing yards. The 23-year-old weapon dominated during the 34-27 victory with 176 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and three total touchdowns.

    McCaffrey’s versatility, thanks to a special all-around skill set, already placed the 2017 eighth overall pick in the conversation with the league’s best. But the top designation usually went to the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley or Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley (when healthy).

    McCaffrey has outproduced all of them so far this season as a true workhorse. How strong is the argument he’s now the NFL’s best running back?


    Ty Dunne: A+

    He does it all. He runs through you and past you. There is not a back in the NFL with McCaffrey’s repertoire, and he never shows signs of tiring.

    Mike Freeman: A+

    There isn’t much doubt (or shouldn’t be) that McCaffrey is now the best back in football. He’s even passed Elliott. He isn’t just having a good season; he’s having an all-time one.  

    Mike Tanier: B+

    He’s the best in the league until Barkley returns or his knees crumble to dust under his current workload—whichever comes first.

    Brent Sobleski: A

    Forget everyone else. McCaffrey is the man. Barkley and Gurley can’t be in the conversation when they’re hurt. Elliott will get some run, but McCaffrey is a true hybrid as an elite runner and receiver.

    Brad Gagnon: A

    A healthy Barkley might be more intimidating and Alvin Kamara deserves some love, but McCaffrey is in a league of his own right now. He has more scrimmage yards than anyone else in modern NFL history at the five-game mark.

    Gary Davenport: A

    You can’t argue with numbers, and McCaffrey’s have been spectacular this season. There’s zero chance the Panthers are 3-2 without CMC standing on his head. He’s more than just the game’s best running back right now; he’s a legit MVP candidate.

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Will the Air Raid succeed in the NFL? Can Kliff Kingsbury be a better coach at the highest level compared to the collegiate version? Is Kyler Murray a true franchise quarterback?

    Definitive answers can’t be given regarding any of those questions, but the Arizona Cardinals finally broke through with their first victory of the Kingsbury-Murray era. A walk-off Zane Gonzalez field goal gave the Cardinals a 26-23 win over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals.

    Arizona is now 1-3-1 through five weeks of play. How impressive was the Cardinals’ breakthrough performance?

    Ty Dunne: B

    The Air Raid is off to a rocky start in the desert, but it deserves a little time. Murray could be special.

    Mike Freeman: B

    Murray is going to be a star. You can see it. Hopefully, the organization puts more talent around him. If they do, this duo can be terrific.

    Mike Tanier: B-

    It was a manufactured win against a zombie team, but the Cardinals are going to be a lot of fun once Kyler gets better weapons and more protection and Kingsbury figures out what works and what should have been left in the Big 12.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    The same problem Kingsbury faced at Texas Tech nearly bit the Cardinals on Sunday. Kingsbury doesn’t coach or emphasize defense. The offense should be just fine, though. Murray is the perfect trigger for this system to excel over time.

    Brad Gagnon: A

    Kingsbury put Murray in good spots with tremendously smart play-calling as Arizona built up a lead, and Murray was superb with his arm and legs. The best sign, though, is that after taking a league-high 20 sacks in September, Murray was taken down just once in Cincy.

    Gary Davenport: B

    This performance will epitomize Murray and Kingsbury this season. There are going to be “wow” moments and probably more than a few cringe-worthy ones. But I can’t grade this any higher given the performance came against what passes for a defense in the Queen City.

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Teddy Bridgewater is ballin’, and his play Sunday had the New Orleans Saints’ home crowd chanting “Ted-dy! Ted-dy!” multiple times.

    Bridgewater completed 76.5 percent of his passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns in the 31-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    In his three starts, the 2014 first-round pick has a 74.7 completion percentage and a six-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio. More importantly, the Saints have won all three games.

    Can Bridgewater be Drew Brees‘ long-term replacement?

    Ty Dunne: A

    Bridgewater sure looks the part. His comeback from an injury that could’ve—and probably should’ve—ended his career is remarkable.

    Mike Freeman: A

    Anyone who speaks to others around the league about Bridgewater knows he’s thought of highly not just inside the Saints organization but with many other teams. One of his admirers was Sean Payton, and you can see why. Bridgewater has raw ability, is smart and can be highly accurate. It’s not a question of if he’s Brees’ successor but when he takes over.

    Mike Tanier: B+

    It’s exciting to see Bridgewater open things up a little bit. I was getting a little worried the Saints were going to build their passing game entirely out of screens until Brees returns.

    Brent Sobleski: A

    Two things are critical to Bridgewater’s current standing. First, his knee injury prevented him from becoming the Minnesota Vikings’ long-term starter. His talent has never really been in question. Second, he’s a free agent after the season. But his current trajectory seems obvious: He’ll re-sign to become Brees’ successor.

    Brad Gagnon: B

    Obviously, this was an extremely promising performance, but I need to see Bridgewater do it consistently. He struggled when facing tougher defensive fronts. Another strong showing on the road against a talented Jacksonville Jaguars defense would make me feel more comfortable about his status as a potential heir apparent.

    Gary Davenport: B

    Bridgewater admittedly looked great Sunday. He’s getting what he wanted: an opportunity to show he can be “the guy” in New Orleans. But he also doesn’t have much margin for error—maybe even less so now that he’s raised the bar he has to clear. See what you get for being good?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Vikings turned into an episode of Days of our Lives this week after a 16-6 loss to the rival Bears.

    Afterward, wide receiver Adam Thielen said the offense had “to be able to hit the deep balls,” per The Athletic’s Chad Graff. Quarterback Kirk Cousins apologized for the team’s poor start in the passing game. On top of that, fellow receiver Stefon Diggs decided not to show up to the facility Monday or Wednesday and didn’t directly answer questions about a potential trade request upon his return.

    Cousins threw for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns—both to Thielen, who had 130 receiving yards—during Sunday’s 28-10 victory over the New York Giants.

    Is everything fine with the Vikings’ passing attack?

    Ty Dunne: D

    It was the Giants, who are just what the doctor ordered. Let’s see what Cousins can do against a contender before saying this offense is back.

    Mike Freeman: B   

    The Vikings needed this. Dalvin Cook is excellent, but that offense had to have Cousins finally, well, do something. I don’t know how long this will last because Cousins is totally unreliable, but the Vikings will take it.   

    Mike Tanier: C

    If you need a quarterback to look great against one of the NFL’s worst defenses in a low-stakes game by throwing lots of short passes and benefiting from a zillion yards’ worth of YAC without the realization just about any quarterback in the NFL can accomplish that, then Cousins is your man.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    Message sent and received. The Vikings entered Sunday’s contest with the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing attack at 169 yards per contest. Cousins and Co. managed 258 passing yards in the first half against the Giants. Improvement came, but it wasn’t a giant step in the right direction.

    Brad Gagnon: B-

    I can’t give them a bad grade because it was an impressive performance, but it’s the same old thing for Minnesota. Cousins has made a career of feasting on inferior opponents, particularly at home or away from the prime-time spotlight. This was no different.

    Gary Davenport: C

    Yes, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings looked good throwing the ball Sunday. But my grandma could light up the Giants secondary, and she’s been dead for like 15 years.

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Melvin Gordon III sat out of the first four weeks of the regular season in a contract dispute. The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t cave to his demands. Instead, the two-time Pro Bowl running back returned to the team without any resolution.

    In his first action, Gordon led the Chargers in rushing, albeit with 12 carries for 31 yards. The Denver Broncos built an early lead and coasted to a 20-13 win over their rival.

    How did Gordon look despite missing the first quarter of the regular season?

    Ty Dunne: F

    Rust was probably expected, but 2.6 yards per carry and a loss to the previously winless Broncos is about as bad as Gordon’s debut could’ve gone.

    Mike Freeman: C-    

    He is valuable to the Chargers. Gordon just isn’t as valuable as he thinks he is. But he fits that system and culture perfectly. It didn’t necessarily show on Sunday. Eventually, it will.

    Mike Tanier: C-

    That could have been Troymaine Pope in a Gordon jersey for all we know.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    Gordon doesn’t deserve a failing grade simply because the Chargers fell behind by 14 points and the running game pretty much disappeared. Gordon and Austin Ekeler averaged 2.5 combined yards per carry. Ekeler was effective as a receiver, though.

    Brad Gagnon: F

    Gordon averaged just 2.6 yards per carry and was again outplayed by Ekeler. Plus, the Chargers lost at home to a formerly winless opponent. No other grade makes sense.

    Gary Davenport: Incomplete

    Gordon was admittedly blah, but so was Ekeler and the entire Chargers offense. Death, taxes and the Chargers pooping the bed against an inferior opponent: the three great constants in life. Let’s see how Gordon does next week before he gets a gold star (or frowny face).

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    As the Green Bay Packers establish their offensive identity under head coach Matt LaFleur, Aaron Jones and the running game are developing into the strength for a unit that still features quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    Jones became the first running back to rush for four touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He added 107 rushing yards on 19 carries in the 34-24 victory at AT&T Stadium.

    Can Jones really carry the Packers offense?

    Ty Dunne: B

    With that running game and defense, the Packers can absolutely win the division and contend. Winning it all will take more, of course, but this is a strong, albeit foreign, formula for these Packers. Jones is legit.

    Mike Freeman: A   

    The answer is absolutely yes. He’s physical, he’s fast, and he’s a perfect complement to Rodgers and that surprisingly powerful defense.   

    Mike Tanier: B+

    Jones had a heck of a game, but the Packers shouldn’t be thinking about any one person (besides Rodgers) carrying their offense. They should be thinking about how to keep an offense that looks unstoppable in first quarters from falling completely apart in the second half.

    Brent Sobleski: C 

    Don’t be a prisoner of the moment and fawn over Jones’ outburst against the Cowboys because he and the Packers’ running game have been rather inconsistent. The 24-year-old back has two 100-yard games and 79 total rushing yards in the Packers’ other three games. Eventually, the offense will flow through Rodgers, as per usual.

    Brad Gagnon: C

    Jones is an outstanding player who had a special game in Dallas. But Rodgers still had to avoid mistakes and the defense had to make several splash plays for the Packers to beat the Cowboys. Running backs simply can’t consistently carry offenses in this day and age.

    Gary Davenport: A-

    Fantasy football dorks like me have been clamoring for Jones to get more touches for a good long while. He did against the Cowboys and proceeded to tear Dallas a new one while tying a franchise record with four touchdowns. It’s Rodgers’ team, but that offense will be a lot better if it treats Jones like the featured back he is.