Takeaways from NFL Week 6: Jets, Giants, Falcons, Steelers pick up surprising wins

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Welcome to Week 6 of the 2022 NFL season, where no top-10 team is safe.

The Green Bay Packers’ offense was silent in a loss to the New York Jets — just one week after losing to the New York Giants. Speaking of the Giants, they handed Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens their third loss of the season. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers (at No. 6 in our NFL Power Rankings) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 9) suffered losses at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

Elsewhere, Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts put up 15 fourth-quarter points to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cincinnati Bengals came from behind to secure a win against the New Orleans Saints, rookie QB Bailey Zappe threw for over 300 yards in a New England Patriots win over the Cleveland Browns, and the Minnesota Vikings continue to pad their lead in the NFC North with a win against the Miami Dolphins. On Thursday, the Commanders squeaked out a 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears.

Four teams had a bye this week and will continue action in Week 7: the Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions coming out of this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:

WSH-CHI | SF-ATL | NE-CLE
NYJ-GB | JAX-IND | MIN-MIA
CIN-NO | BAL-NYG | TB-PIT

Falcons

What to know: Marcus Mariota showed Sunday why, in a controlled offense, he can still be a dynamic performer. Mariota had his best game as an Atlanta Falcon on Sunday in beating San Francisco, completing 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while running six times for 50 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t throw an incompletion until 10:52 left in the fourth quarter and ran coach Arthur Smith’s offense perfectly against one of the better defenses in the NFL. It’s a clear sign Mariota is starting to gain confidence.

Is Atlanta’s defense something to believe in? Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees gave an impassioned speech about how he wanted his defense to be like the ones he ran in Baltimore and New England. Atlanta is starting to look somewhat like it. The Falcons forced three three-and-outs Sunday, scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery, pressured 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and intercepted him once. Of course, there is some concern, too, as both starting cornerbacks A.J. Terrell (thigh) and Casey Hayward (undisclosed) finished the game on the bench with injuries, which will be something to monitor. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


49ers

What to know: Relentless injuries have made it impossible for the 49ers’ defense to carry this team, which means it’s time for the offense to pull more of the weight. It was only a few weeks ago that Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about the offense’s efforts to find a rhythm following a strange offseason. That was OK when a healthy Niners defense was suffocating opponents. But the toll of injuries left the Niners with four healthy starters on the field at the end of Sunday’s loss, leaving the offense to make up the difference. They weren’t up to the task.

How bad is it going to get on the injury front? Every team in the league deals with injuries, but the Niners continue to have more than their share, with 11 of 22 starters on injured reserve, a pregame inactive or a player departing Sunday’s game because of injury. Nobody can overcome such attrition. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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0:40

A.J. Terrell tries to return a fumble for a touchdown, but he fumbles too, allowing Jaylinn Hawkins to recover the ball for a Falcons touchdown.

Jets

What to know: Who needs a star quarterback? The Jets proved again they can beat a good team without a prolific passing day by QB Zach Wilson, who was held without a touchdown pass for the second straight game. The Jets (4-2) upset the Packers with a classic game of complementary football. With Wilson struggling, they relied on the running game (two TDs), a suffocating defense (four sacks) and big plays by the special teams (a blocked punt and field goal). It took a few games, but the Jets have found their identity: a smash-mouth offense featuring rookie Breece Hall (116 rushing yards) and a dramatically improved defense led by DT Quinnen Williams.

Is it time to take the Jets seriously? Heck, yeah. They’re a legit playoff contender. They’re in second place in the AFC East, riding their first three-game winning streak since 2019. They beat the Packers and Dolphins, two respectable teams, by a combined score of 67-27. They flipped the script from last October, when they got blown out on a weekly basis. They finally beat an elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, controlling him for the better part of 60 minutes. This isn’t a mirage: The Jets are for real. — Rich Cimini

Next game: at Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Packers

What to know: It was hard to tell who was worse: Rodgers, his offensive linemen or his skill-position players’ hands. Rodgers missed what used to be routine throws, and his blocking didn’t give him much of a chance to stand in the pocket. Oh, yeah, and the Packers had six dropped passes — their most in a game since 2017. And then there was the lost fumble on a botched exchange between Rodgers and running back AJ Dillon. The Packers can’t go more than 3½ quarters without an offensive touchdown like they did on Sunday and expect to be a contender. But that’s what happened because Rodgers was off target and his offensive line allowed him to get hit nine times. It all added up to the first time the Packers have lost consecutive games in Matt LaFleur’s four seasons as head coach.

Do the Packers need to bring in a receiver? The trade deadline is a little more than two weeks away, and if the Packers stand pat, it’s hard to imagine how their passing game will get better. Maybe they’re counting on Sammy Watkins, who could return this week off injured reserve after spending four weeks on it because of a hamstring injury. Watkins was off to a nice start before he got hurt in practice leading into Week 3. Or perhaps they believe rookie Christian Watson, who also has battled hamstring problems and was inactive on Sunday, can add some speed to the lineup when or if he returns. But if not, there could be more performances like this. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Bengals

What to know: It wasn’t a must-win game, but it was one the Bengals desperately needed after a rough start to the season. New Orleans was without several key offensive starters, and playoff teams don’t lose three games to backup quarterbacks. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase delivered the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to provide Cincinnati a big midseason boost.

Is Cincinnati’s offense back? It’s a bit too early to say yes. But the Bengals’ offense had its best showing of the season. Burrow had his best game since the end of the 2021 regular season. He was elusive, had great field awareness and feasted on short throws. It resulted in the most fluid offensive showing for the Bengals this season. If Cincinnati can replicate that performance next week against Atlanta, it’s a great sign for a unit that has really struggled this season. — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Saints

What to know: Surprisingly, there was some life in the Saints’ offense despite being short at wideout. New Orleans didn’t have Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave or even Deonte Harty and managed to move the chains with unlikely replacements, like explosive rookie Rashid Shaheed. They also continued their luck with the run game, rushing for more than 200 yards as a team. But they kicked too many field goals, and after the defense gave up a late-game touchdown, they couldn’t do enough to come back.

Do the Saints keep going with Andy Dalton? It’s clear that Jameis Winston is progressing from his back injury, returning to practice on a limited basis and even being dressed and active on game day. But the offense, even though it was compromised, seems to have found a rhythm with Dalton. If Winston is healthy enough to play next week, the Saints could be wading into a potential quarterback controversy, unless they feel that he could boost their chances if he’s playing at 100%. — Katherine Terrell

Next game: at Cardinals (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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0:16

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase continue strong connection with a third quarter touchdown.

Giants

What to know: This Giants team is unflappable. They put up 90 yards in the first half, while the Ravens had 256. They were down 10 points with under 10 minutes remaining and their offense couldn’t do much of anything. It doesn’t matter with this group. They hang around and do just enough — seemingly every week — to win. The Giants may not have been the better or more talented team Sunday, yet they still found a way in the final minutes. This group is resilient.

What can the Giants do to make this offense more explosive? The offense is so unimposing that Baltimore still keyed on Saquon Barkley and the run game with the Giants down 10 and less than 10 minutes remaining. New York didn’t produce a 20-plus-yard play in the contest. But Wan’Dale Robinson returned after missing four games with a knee injury, and the Giants didn’t put Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Kenny Golladay (knee) on injured reserve in hopes they could return soon. It’s their only hope at this point. In the meantime, they’re surviving. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Ravens

What to know: This ugly loss falls squarely on Lamar Jackson, and it will go down as one of his worst performances. With the game on the line, Jackson turned the ball over on the final two drives with an interception and a fumble. Not sharp all game (17-of-32 for 210 yards), Jackson got intercepted on one of the worst decisions of his career. With three minutes left in the game, Jackson picked up a poor snap and threw a wild, off-balance pass in the middle of the field while deep in his own territory that was picked off by safety Julian Love. The Giants converted that turnover into Saquon Barkley’s game-winning touchdown. On the Ravens’ next possession, Jackson got stripped with 1:29 left, sealing another late-game collapse by Baltimore.

Has Kenyan Drake surpassed J.K. Dobbins as the go-to running back? It could be by default right now. The biggest positive of the game was the big-play running by Drake, who became the first Ravens running back to produce 100 yards rushing this year. Dobbins, who acknowledged that it was “super hard” not being the featured back late in last week’s game, didn’t play in the second half. He wasn’t even holding his helmet on the sideline, which could be a sign that he’s dealing with an injury. Drake, who was inactive for two games earlier this season, has earned more playing time going forward. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Vikings

What to know: The Vikings have reached their bye with a 5-1 record, nearly a best-case scenario with a new coaching staff and entirely new schemes installed on both sides of the ball. Their loss came at the Eagles, who entered Week 6 as the only undefeated team in the NFL (5-0). Only one of the Vikings’ five wins has been convincing, their Week 1 defeat of the Packers, and the disappearance of their offense for long stretches in Miami will give coach Kevin O’Connell plenty to study. At one point, the Vikings had as many three-and-outs (seven) as they did first downs.

What happened to the Vikings’ running game? It was just waiting for the right moment. Tailback Dalvin Cook had been primed for a big game in his hometown but managed only 17 yards on his first nine carries as the Dolphins’ defense presented favorable looks for the passing game. When they needed to carve time off the clock midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings passed three times. But given a reprieve, Cook popped through the line for a 53-yard touchdown that sealed the game. The running game affected the outcome in another way, too: Both of Kirk Cousins’ touchdown passes came on play-action. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, Oct. 30, 1 p.m. ET)


Dolphins

What to know: Regardless of what you feel Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term status as the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback might be, it is abundantly clear that this team is quantifiably better with him on the field. Miami’s offense hasn’t moved the ball with any sort of consistency since Tagovailoa went down in Week 4. Rookie Skylar Thompson was inspiring in the first half (7-of-13, 89 yards) before a thumb injury to his throwing hand knocked him out of the game. In his stead, Teddy Bridgewater was skittish in the pocket, late on his throws and constantly harassed behind an offensive line that gave up 23 pressures — 19 of which came when the Vikings weren’t blitzing. It’s not often you can say one player would make all the difference, but it’s reasonable to think that Tagovailoa’s return next week against the Steelers should turn things around for what’s been a stagnant Dolphins offense.

Can the Dolphins’ defense stay hot and find a groove over the next month and a half before a grueling December? Sunday was the Dolphins’ best defensive performance of the season, outside of a game-sealing 53-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook late in the fourth quarter and a 47-yard catch-and-run by Justin Jefferson on the previous series. Those two plays accounted for 42% of the Vikings’ offense in what was otherwise an impressive effort from Miami’s defense. Ideally, it’s the start of a trend of improved defensive play during a still-winnable stretch of the season coming up. If the Dolphins can keep this up against the Steelers, Lions, Bears, Browns and Texans, they should be rolling by the time a difficult December slate comes around. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Colts

What to know: This didn’t figure to be the game where the Colts discovered a viable offensive gameplan, given the way the Jacksonville defense dominated the first meeting, and with running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines sidelined on Sunday. But the Colts used a new offensive line configuration, timely throws on crossing routes from quarterback Matt Ryan and deep shots to emerging star Alec Pierce to pull off a critical AFC South victory. Pierce (winning TD catch, two drawn pass interference penalties) and Michael Pittman Jr. (13 catches, 134 yards) benefited greatly from the much-improved pass protection.

Has Matt Ryan turned things around? There have been massive struggles for Ryan this season, especially in an earlier shutout loss to Jacksonville. But Ryan perhaps showed what he is capable of with improved pass protection. The Colts revamped their line for the second consecutive game, and Ryan took advantage, throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns on 42-of-58 passing. For the first time this season, Ryan was not sacked in a game, and his pocket presence was clearly improved as a result of the protection. This was easily Ryan’s most complete performance of the season. — Stephen Holder

Next game: at Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Jaguars

What to know: The Jaguars had a chance to take early control of the AFC South with back-to-back games against struggling Houston and Indianapolis. They lost both — including Sunday’s game against the Colts on a last-second field goal — and are now 1-2 in the division with none of the early momentum they gained with their 2-1 start. It’ll be hard to make up the two games in the division considering they’ve struggled against the Tennessee Titans (the Jags haven’t won in Nashville since 2013) and have lost nine consecutive games to Houston. The Jags are likely going to be fighting to stay out of the cellar — again.

Should Travis Etienne Jr. be the Jaguars’ feature back? Etienne has outperformed James Robinson in back-to-back weeks, rushing for 157 yards on 20 carries and catching five passes for 63 yards, while Robinson rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries and caught three passes for 13 yards. Etienne had a 48-yard run against the Colts and is flashing the big-play potential he was drafted to provide. He started on Sunday, and it may be time to make that permanent. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Patriots

What to know: Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, the fourth-round draft pick from Western Kentucky playing in place of injured Mac Jones, finished 24-of-34 for 309 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. While many of the throws were shorter and allowed his pass-catchers to do the rest, Zappe once again played with poise and stayed within himself to complement a stingy Patriots defense (which limited the Browns’ No. 1 rushing attack). Zappe smiled last week when asked if he’d heard of “Zappe fever” — a playful theme that has been discussed on local sports-talk radio — and he gave Patriots fans a reason to smile Sunday with another solid performance.

Will Mac Jones return for a Monday Night Football matchup against Justin Fields and the Bears? Jones made the trip to Cleveland, which was a reflection that he was hoping to play but wasn’t sure he was quite there yet. That bought the Patriots more time until 90 minutes before kickoff. But Jones didn’t even go through a pregame warm-up, and when he came out to the field, he was still walking with a limp of sorts. Over the past three weeks, Jones has progressed from out to doubtful to questionable on the injury report. If he takes the next step, he’d be going up against fellow 2021 first-round draft pick Justin Fields with the Bears coming to town on Monday night. — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Bears (Monday, Oct. 24, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Browns

What to know: New England took away NFL leading rusher Nick Chubb and the Browns’ vaunted running game, and Cleveland had no answer. Chubb finished with just 56 yards, as coach Bill Belichick forced QB Jacoby Brissett to beat the Patriots instead. Brissett couldn’t consistently make New England pay, throwing two interceptions in a game the Pats controlled from the opening kickoff.

Is Cleveland’s season already on the brink? The season isn’t over. But the Browns are 2-4 after facing QBs Baker Mayfield, Joe Flacco, Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota and rookie Bailey Zappe, who cooked Cleveland for more than 300 yards through the air. The Browns are getting ready to face Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen and Tom Brady. The season might not be over, but the way the Browns have played, especially defensively, the season could definitely begin to spiral. — Jake Trotter

Next game: at Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Myles Garrett’s strip sack in the first quarter gives him 62.5 career sacks, setting the Browns franchise record.

Steelers

What to know: Maybe it was senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores’ insight into Tom Brady’s psyche. Maybe it was the defense finally figuring out how to get pressure without injured defensive end T.J. Watt. Whatever it was, the Steelers’ defense kept Brady and the Buccaneers in check, applying steady pressure and keeping the offense out of sync. Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi constantly made Brady uncomfortable, and the patchwork secondary that included James Pierre and former practice squad corner Josh Jackson largely kept Tampa Bay’s weapons from exploiting a talent mismatch. The Steelers got to Brady by rarely bringing a blitz, doing so only once.

What’s Kenny Pickett’s status going forward? The rookie quarterback’s first home start was dampened when he exited with less than eight minutes left in the third quarter after sustaining a concussion on a hard hit by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White. Veteran Mitch Trubisky replaced Pickett, and he completed 9 of 12 attempts for 144 yards and led the Steelers on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Pickett, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, is still more than likely the Steelers’ starter when he returns. Pickett must clear concussion protocol, and there’s no concrete timeline for that. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


Buccaneers

What to know: The Bucs’ red zone scoring woes continue. Errors and costly penalties have attributed to that. Even Tom Brady’s patent QB sneak on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter didn’t work. They made it to the Steelers’ 17-, 1- and 4-yard lines but couldn’t find the end zone until there was 4:45 to go (an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Leonard Fournette), and then botched the 2-point conversion. Bottom line: For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, they have most certainly underachieved.

Why does the Bucs’ offense look so out of sync? There are a lot of reasons for this. First, the offensive line is struggling. Rookie left guard Luke Goedeke once again looked lost. The Bucs can’t run the ball effectively with Fournette getting clobbered in the backfield. And then Brady had a difficult day. He’s rarely off-target, and heading into Sunday’s game, his off-target percentage was 16.2%. But against Pittsburgh, it was 28%. His struggles most notably came when targeting wide receiver Chris Godwin. Bucs officials said it wasn’t a big deal that Brady missed Saturday’s walk-through to attend New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s wedding, but with an offense already struggling, it probably didn’t help. — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Thursday

Commanders

What to know: Washington has a long way to go. The Commanders won the game, but coach Ron Rivera was fired up after the game about various mistakes that could have cost them — the same ones that have cost them other games. They’ve committed 27 penalties in three games. They give up big plays and their offense struggles. A true turnaround must also include smarter, more disciplined play.

Can the run game spur a turnaround? Washington ran the ball much better in the second half, albeit against a defense that struggles against the run. But any turnaround must start with running the ball consistently. They can mix Brian Robinson’s power runs with Antonio Gibson’s ability to get around the corner. A consistent run game would be Step 1 for an offensive turnaround. But until they solve their protection issues, there will still be struggles, especially with an immobile quarterback. He needs help up front; if he gets it, they could be efficient. — John Keim

Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Bears

What to know: The Bears took 11 snaps inside the Commanders’ 6-yard line and couldn’t punch in a touchdown. Chicago went 0-for-3 inside the red zone for the second time in three games, and the offense’s inefficiencies were showcased in a litany of ways, starting with an interception thrown by Justin Fields at Washington’s 5-yard line, a missed throw to tight end Ryan Griffin that Fields stressed he has to make and wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s potential game-tying catch ruled down at the 1-yard line.

How can Justin Fields improve in spite of what’s around him? The Bears need to re-evaluate their offensive scheme and what’s being asked of Fields. Chicago’s shortcomings are hindering his development. But how can Fields improve when he’s being pressured on 46% of his dropbacks and his receivers can’t consistently make catches or create separation? This is the position Chicago put itself in during the offseason when it did not address the talent deficiencies around Fields, and if the Bears want to get a clearer picture about Fields’ development over the next 11 games, a number of adjustments need to be made. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Patriots (Monday, Oct. 24, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Source: ESPN


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