NFL Takeaways, Week 5: Kaepernick Up, Gabbert Down, Trouble in Carolina, Controversy in Dallas

Tuesday Takeaways, NFL Week 5 

colin kaepernick
The 49ers named Colin Kaepernick their starting quarterback once again Tuesday.

1. After losing to Tampa Bay on Monday night football, the Carolina Panthers are 1-4. They’ve fallen and they won’t get up…

Things are a mess for the defending NFC champs, who went 17-2 last season, postseason included. In 2016 the Panthers aren’t solid in their protection of quarterback Cam Newton who missed Monday’s game with a concussion. The biggest problem is a lack of efficiency: turnovers, penalties, stalled drives offensively. In 2015 the Panthers were among the cleanest teams in the league, only eight teams had fewer penalties.

This season, only four teams have more penalties than Carolina. And then there are the turnovers … The 2015 Panthers finished first in the league with a plus-20 turnover differential; this season they rank 29th at minus 7. This is a team that’s turned the ball over a league-worst 14 times this season, and here are the repercussions: just under 30 percent of the points scored against Carolina have come after giveaways. Now compare that to 2015 when only 10 percent of the points against the Panthers were related to giveaways. The giveaways, obviously, have led to fewer scoring drives.

The 2015 Panthers got points on 43 percent of their offensive possessions; that ranked No. 2 in the NFL. Through the first five games the 2016 Panthers have put points on the board on 35 percent of their possessions (16th.) The Panthers probably need to pound run the ball more to reduce risk. Unless the Panthers tidy up they’re in trouble.

2. Don’t look now, but the Buffalo Bills are a definite factor in the AFC Wild Card Race…

With an 11-point win over the idiotically coached Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the Bills had their first three-game winning streak since 2011. And for the first time in 50 years a Bills team has won three in a row after opening with an 0-2 record … the Bills defense is playing well, but the main difference is on the offensive side. After the 0-2 start the Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Romans and promoted assistant Anthony Lynn to OC.

Lynn has ignited LeSean McCoy, the dynamic multi-purpose running backs who averaged only 58.5 yards rushing in the first two games. But during the three-game win streak McCoy has averaged 110 yards rushing per game, 6.0 yards per carry, is catching passes, and has four touchdowns from scrimmage. … McCoy shredded the Rams defense for 150 yards rushing Sunday … Despite the season-ending loss of star wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a foot injury, the Bills have averaged 26 points in their three victories

The AFC wild card race is pretty open, and while the Bills have several tough road games to go, the play San Francisco (home) and Miami (road) over the next two weeks and have a good shot to be 5-2 and in the hunt.

3. It appears that the New York Jets are a fraud …

Last season rookie head coach Todd Bowles finished strong, with the Jets winning five of the last six to close out a promising 10-6 season. Just barely missing the 2015 playoffs the Jets were touted as an up-and coming contender going into this season … well, go ahead and scratch that, because the Jets are 1-4, and though it’s easy to blame everything on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his 10 interceptions and awful 67.4 passer rating, the Jets defense is getting torched for too many big plays.

The Jets have given up a league-worst eight plays of 40 or more yards … and they’ve been burned for three plays of 60+ yards… opposing quarterbacks have completed 72 percent of their passes against the Jets, with 12 touchdowns two interceptions and a passer rating of 118. That’s a bad look for a head coach that built his rep on defense.

4. As much as I root for St. Louisan Blaine Gabbert, the San Francisco 49ers had to make the change at quarterback…

Whether you see him as a hero or villain for his national anthem protests — where he took a stand by taking a knee — it was time for Colin Kaepernick to stand in the huddle and take over as the starting QB. Coach Chip Kelly on Tuesday revealed his his decision to bench Gabbert for Kaepernick.

Not that it’s all Gabbert’s fault — the 49ers are woefully short on talent — but this season San Francisco ranks 31st among the 32 NFL teams in passer rating, 31st in yards per passing attempt, 30th in touchdown-interception ratio, and are 28th with six completions of 25-plus yards.

According to the Player Grades at Pro Football Focus, Gabbert was the poorest-rated NFL quarterback through the first five weeks, ranking 34th. Kaepernick had to gain weight and rebuild strength after multiple offseason surgeries, and it’s time to see if he can reset his once-promising career after veering off course professionally.

5. The most entertaining head coach in the NFL is (surprise!) Oakland’s Jack Del Rio …

The demented Del Rio did it again Sunday, taking a bold gamble that would make conservative, uptight coaches break down and weep  … On 4th-and-3 at the San Diego 21-yard line, and down by 5 points with a little over a minute left in the third quarter, Del Rio declined to go for the field goal to try for the first down … wait a second, check that … Del Rio didn’t opt to go for the first down … he went for THE  TOUCHDOWN.

And sure enough quarterback Derek Carr threaded a 21-yard pass to the WR Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown that put the Silver & Black in the lead for good, and they held off the Chargers for a 34-31 win … the Raiders are 4-1 for the first time since 2002. Averaging 28.4 points per game, letting it fly with an average of 39 passing attempts per game, the brash Raiders are playing with supreme confidence and are a helluva lot of fun to watch.

6. Stating the Obvious: Dak Prescott was the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft … 

Sure, the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie quarterback has considerable assistance in the form of a massive and dominant offensive line, and the rolling-thunder rushing of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. But Prescott is off to a brilliant start in his NFL career, ranking eighth among league quarterbacks with a 101.5 passer rating. The QBR rating system likes Dak even better; only Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has a higher QBR (93.63) than Prescott’s 90.5.

Prescott already owns one NFL rookie passing record; his streak of 155 passing attempts without an interception is the longest in league history. Prescott has completed 69 percent of his throws. He’s passed for four touchdowns, rushed for three TDs and has fumbled one time — and that one lost fumble wasn’t his fault. The Cowboys are 4-1 and their only loss came by one point against the NY Giants in his first reg-season game. And just think … 134 players came off the board, including seven quarterbacks, before the Cowboys chose Prescott (Mississippi State) in the fourth round.

The seven QBs picked before Dak: Jared Goff (LOL!), Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg (huh?), Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and Connor Cook. And yet … one fool could ruin Prescott’s season: that would be pretend GM Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ meddling owner who insists that the hopelessly brittle veteran Tony Romo will retake the starting job as soon as he’s healthy and cleared for duty. Jones wasn’t all that thrilled with the Prescott selection at the time; Jones foolishly tried (and failed) to trade up to pick Cook. If Owner Jerrah gives the order to reinstall Romo, he’ll set off a tornado of controversy in Dallas.

7. There’s a lot more to the Atlanta Falcons than QB Matt Ryan  … 

After two seasons of relative dormancy, the Falcons are a surprising 4-1. The offense is ablaze, with Ryan directing a versatile attack that’s producing 35 points and 472 yards per game. Ryan — the NFL’s highest-rated passer — and dangerous wideout Julio Jones are commanding the most attention.

But it could be argued that the most important factor in the Falcons’ success on offense is the running-back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Both can run it, catch it, and put it in the end zone. Freeman ranks fifth among NFL running backs in yards from scrimmage (527.) Coleman ranks eighth (473 yards.) Add it all up, and you have the league’s most productive RB set. Together, Freeman and Coleman have combined for 155 touches from scrimmage, 1,000 rushing-receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie 

More: Miklasz – Offseason Question: Should the Cardinals Pick Up Jaime Garcia’s Option?