Commentary

Week 5 debunks conventional wisdom

Originally Published: October 6, 2008
By Bill Barnwell

Week 5 saw the players of the NFL make a mockery of their stereotypes and conventional story lines.

Kurt Warner is fearful and hears footsteps in the pocket? Warner took a hit against the Bills that left his chin leaking blood for the rest of the drive and he didn't miss a play. Jay Cutler's a gunslinger who can't settle a game down? The Broncos' quarterback was masterful underneath all day. Kyle Orton shouldn't be starting for an NFL team? Rookies can't win on the road in Green Bay? The Eagles have a strong run defense? Felix Jones isn't ready for big-time action? Apparently, all wrong.

Sunday changed all that, dramatically eliminated one team from the ranks of the undefeated, and saw an AFC power (Colts) save its season with a stunning comeback that consigned its opponent (Texans) to another miserable season of irrelevance.

There was no offensive shootout that compared to Cardinals-Jets, and no season-defining stop a la Bears-Eagles.

Instead, the Week 5 games once again reminded us that categorizing the performance of players and teams after just a month is a fool's errand, and that we still have a lot to learn about how the 2008 NFL season before we can get a true handle on what's going on.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 5, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) statistics. Note that with five weeks played, opponent adjustments are currently at 50 percent strength.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
1.
Kurt Warner ARI
33/41
250
2
0
186
181
5
480
Warner was pretty much flawless, putting the ball exactly where he wanted play after play and just marching down the field on a Bills defense that looked excellent before Week 5. Credit also goes to an offensive line that kept the speedy Bills' front four buzzing past its quarterback all day, as Warner wasn't sacked once. He did, however, take a helmet to the chin and complete a drive with blood seeping through his chin strap.
2.
Jay Cutler DEN
23/34
227
1
0
139
132
8
385
This wasn't the huge day that people have come to expect of the Nouveau Favre, but Cutler was able to shift into a lower gear that Favre didn't have early in his career, checking down and -- gasp -- managing the game.
3.
Chad Pennington MIA
22/29
228
1
0
135
134
0
351
If he finishes in the third spot more frequently, we'll start calling him CP3. Pennington's performance as Dolphins quarterback is another sign that he wasn't the problem with the Jets last year. Although getting Brett Favre certainly didn't hurt the Jets, the antiquated idea that a team is as good or bad as its quarterback shouldn't have caused Pennington to be blamed for a team that couldn't stop the run.
4.
Eli Manning NYG
19/25
267
2
0
118
118
0
300
Eli had a fantastic day, but simply didn't have a lot to do. The Giants' running game was so effective that Manning threw on only five third downs and was out of the game by the third quarter. It was promising to see Manning link up with Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss. In the event the oft-injured Plaxico Burress were to go down for a lengthy period of time, Hixon and Moss would likely have to fill the downfield threat portion of Burress' duties.
5.
Kyle Orton CHI
23/34
304
2
0
109
104
4
354
Yes, it was the Lions, and this game won't look as impressive once the opponent adjustments are full strength. Even against Detroit, though, averaging nearly 9 yards an attempt is an excellent day. Orton had eight consecutive successful pass plays on first downs, picking up more than 5 yards on each play. He's significantly better now compared with two years ago, and that's a big reason why the Bears lead the NFC North.
6.
Matt Ryan ATL
16/25
194
2
1
100
98
2
280
Ryan really had a superb day with just one huge mistake, an interception in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Ryan threw 17 passes to his wide receivers: 12 to Roddy White, and five to Michael Jenkins. To contrast, Eli Manning threw to five different wide receivers Sunday. It's not better or worse, just different.
7.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/36
313
3
1
89
93
-4
321
It was strange timing, but we dug his tribute to Dave LaRoche and "LaLob" on that out pattern he threw to Michael Boley.
8.
Jake Delhomme CAR
14/22
236
2
1
85
88
-3
227
Delhomme had lots of help from the running game, but when he needed to pick up a first down, he did.
9.
Donovan McNabb PHI
17/29
196
0
0
84
84
0
279
McNabb converted his first three third-down attempts, then failed on his next six before getting one at the end of the game. Sound like a microcosm of the Eagles' performance as a whole? That's not an accident.
10.
Jason Campbell WAS
16/29
176
0
0
69
66
3
264
Campbell played well, but the Redskins' passing offense was abysmal on first down. Campbell dropped back 11 times, was sacked once, had one 18-yard completion, and two 4-yard dumpoffs to show for it.
11.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
26/41
309
3
1
69
73
-5
314
Weird split: Roethlisberger's success rate on short passes to the right was 73.3 percent (11-of-15); on the left side, it was 36.3 percent (4-of-11). Just like NBA teams will try to force a point guard left or right if he's uncomfortable with the ball going one way or another, NFL defensive coordinators will try and do the same with quarterbacks.
12.
Peyton Manning IND
25/34
247
2
1
56
51
5
271
Manning's absurd performance on third down this year (completing 64 percent of his passes versus 57 percent on first and second down) didn't hold up in Week 5. Although he was 2-for-2 on fourth down, Manning converted only two out of nine third downs.
13.
David Garrard JAC
18/32
200
1
0
49
49
0
239
14.
Tony Romo DAL
14/23
176
3
1
40
49
-10
177
Romo's biggest play of the day was a Terrell Owens post that went for 57 yards and a touchdown, but of course, Owens caught the ball after 17 yards and proceeded to run through the Bengals' defense for 40 more. Giving Romo the credit for all those yards seems a little silly, but because that's how it's always been done, Romo got himself 57 yards.
15.
Kerry Collins TEN
17/32
163
1
2
22
22
0
191
What a weird, streaky day. After the second quarter began, here was Collins' performance: Incompletion, three completions, four incompletions, two completions, incompletion, completion, two incompletions, two completions, three incompletions, four completions, two incompletions, and then two completions to finish out the day, ending with his touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler.
16.
Carson Palmer CIN
23/39
217
2
1
20
20
0
228
Palmer's back, but he's not close to 100 percent: There's no zip on his fastball. At what point, if you're the Bengals, do you get him checked out and understand it might be better to let him rest and be ready for 2009? How much of that equation has to do with the likelihood of Marvin Lewis losing his job?
17.
Matt Cassel NE
22/32
259
1
2
9
7
1
217
Ah, the hidden bounces of luck. Matt Cassel's big bomb to Randy Moss was a throw into double coverage; it just so happened that a half-second after Cassel released the ball, Walt Harris (shading Moss deep while Nate Clements covered underneath) tripped in his backpedal and Moss had an easy catch for a score. Take that pass and use it as an indicator of Cassel's ability to succeed at your own peril.
18.
Philip Rivers SD
13/28
159
1
0
6
6
0
137
Rivers has always had a funky motion, but he was downright David Eckstein at times Sunday, just whipping his entire body forward with the ball to get velocity on his throws. His bizarre relationship with Chris Chambers continues: Chambers caught three of four passes thrown to him, one for a touchdown and a second ending up with Chambers on the opposing 1-yard line. That leaves Chambers with five touchdowns (nearly six) on 11 catches. Wasn't there a Matt Christopher book about this?
19.
Sage Rosenfels HOU
21/32
246
1
1
1
22
-21
193
20.
Jeff Garcia TB
13/17
93
1
1
-2
-3
1
89
Yes, Garcia was 13-of-17 and we like quarterbacks who consistently gain yardage. You also have to actually push the chains forward, though, once in a while. Garcia didn't have a successful play in the third quarter, but once he got into the swing of things on his second drive, he was much better.
21.
Joe Flacco BAL
18/27
153
0
2
-3
-1
-3
143
22.
Brian Griese TB
13/18
88
0
0
-26
-26
0
65
23.
Tyler Thigpen KC
5/10
37
0
0
-28
-32
4
38
Thigpen took a 15-yard sack with his team down 34 points in the fourth quarter. There's no good time for the 19-step drop, but down 34 in the fourth … just fall down and take a sack. It's OK.
24.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
11/21
105
0
1
-34
-34
0
77
25.
J.P. Losman BUF
15/21
220
1
1
-36
-45
9
88
We were never really sure why commentators only referred to great games by a quarterback as "Vintage [Your Name Here]". I mean, this was vintage J.P. Losman! A long bomb to Lee Evans, an ugly interception, a bunch of sacks, an aborted snap, and a Robert Royal fumble. The start of the second half for Losman: Royal fumble, Marshawn Lynch catch for 6 yards, sack with fumble lost, sack, sack.
26.
Dan Orlovsky DET
13/23
97
0
1
-60
-57
-2
48
Homophone Andrei Arlovski enjoyed a much better weekend than our man Dan. On the bright side, Orlovsky lasted longer than Kimbo Slice.
27.
Jon Kitna DET
8/16
74
0
0
-60
-60
0
13
Jon Kitna, on the other hand … lasted about as long as Slice.
28.
J.T O'Sullivan SF
14/29
130
3
3
-67
-63
-4
83
It's not as if the Patriots have shown great cover skills this year, so O'Sullivan going 2-for-10 on third and fourth down shows that talk of JTOS being a Pro Bowl-level quarterback in this system is a little exaggerated.
29.
Damon Huard KC
10/21
86
0
2
-127
-127
0
-70
You know the success rate stat we keep referring to? Guess how many successful plays Huard had in the first half. No, less. Keep going. Nope! OK, he had one, and no, it wasn't the tightly contested 6-yard throw to Tony Gonzalez on third-and-16 that gave Gonzalez his record.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Brandon Jacobs NYG
136
2
9
0
83
78
6
207
Through Week 4, the Seattle Seahawks had the second-best rush defense in the league according to our advanced DVOA stats. Jacobs gashed them for over 9 yards a carry, although strangely, it was mainly through huge gains of 44 and 38 yards; usually, Jacobs is more of a steady runner. Either way, it's hard to argue with nine first downs on 15 attempts.
2.
Clinton Portis WAS
145
1
13
0
74
67
7
235
The Eagles had the best rush defense in the league, according to DVOA, through Week 4. Portis was unconcerned. He converted five of his six opportunities on third and fourth down, extending drives that led to points and killed clock.
3.
Felix Jones DAL
96
1
7
0
61
57
4
141
Here's what we know about Jones: 1) He might be the fastest player in the league, 2) he's the player the Bears wished Devin Hester was from a dead ball, 3) he must be historically bad at pass blocking, because if Jones could do that and the Cowboys still didn't put him on the field half the time, well, Wade Phillips is crazy. Jones was successful on nine of his 10 attempts rushing and receiving Sunday.
4.
DeAngelo Williams CAR
123
2
25
1
58
38
21
172
We're not really sure why people were leaving Williams for dead. Sure, Jonathan Stewart looks great, but Williams also averaged 5 yards per carry last year on a team that threw the ball at a remedial high school level. They should split time in the backfield, but just because one Carolina back might be a superstar and one might merely be very good isn't a reason to disparage the latter.
5.
LeRon McClain BAL
51
1
12
0
49
41
8
145
We'll cut you off. How is McClain one of the top-five backs of the day despite only getting 51 yards on the ground? Well, first off, he was playing Tennessee and its superb run defense. Second, he scored a rushing touchdown. Third, McClain was successful on an impressive 10 of 11 carries, including four first downs.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
76.
Chris Perry CIN
34
0
19
0
-30
-20
-10
10
Perry has five fumbles in five games, joining a club of 11 backs since 1995 who have done so. That list includes stars like Jerome Bettis and Ricky Williams, but it also includes plenty of players who lost their starting job (James Allen, the second coming of Jamal Anderson, Travis Henry, Erric Pegram) shortly after their fumblitis. Either way, the fact Cedric Benson came in off the street and ate into Perry's playing time points to the likelihood that Perry's days as a starter are numbered. Another question: If Perry's the starter, how bad did Rudi Johnson look in training camp?
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
1.
Domenik Hixon NYG
4
4
102
25.5
1
69
136
Hixon did all this in two quarters of work before suffering a concussion and leaving the game. For a special teams guy who isn't likely to see a lot of time as a starting wide receiver, it's both a little sad he didn't get to see his first real game through and poignant he played so well when given the chance. Those four catches went for a touchdown and three first downs.
2.
Roddy White ATL
8
11
132
16.5
1
62
164
What White does week-in and week-out is so impressive because there's no one -- absolutely no one -- who draws attention in Atlanta's passing game other than him. He doesn't get a lot of attention, but he's criminally underrated and one of the league's best wide receivers.
3.
Andre Johnson HOU
9
11
131
14.6
1
61
168
White now holds the title this man held during the David Carr days, and Sage Rosenfels' arrival in the lineup seemed to light a spark underneath Johnson. Johnson had six first downs and a touchdown Sunday, with the only blemish being his status as the "target" on Rosenfels' fourth-quarter interception.
4.
Reggie Wayne IND
7
8
97
13.9
1
49
127
DYAR doesn't give out bonus points for plays that make you celebrate like it's an And1 game, but if it ever did, Wayne's touchdown catch would pick up some extra affection. We've watched it 20 times and still don't know how he caught it and held onto it.
5.
Reggie Brown PHI
4
5
84
21.0
0
48
109
Brown's performance looks better when you consider he had three first downs and had two catches of 20-plus yards against Washington's good pass defense.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
142.
Benjamin Watson NE
2
6
11
5.5
0
-25
-13
Antwaan Randle El (3-of-10 for 34 receiving yards) barely eluded this spot by virtue of his touchdown pass. Instead, the spot goes to Watson, who should've exploited a defense that couldn't handle tight ends in its base sets. Instead, Watson could muster only one first down and remained unimpressive despite a first-round pedigree that seems to fade with each injury-riddled season.

Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.