NFL Week Five: Ain't nothin gonna break my stride
A shortened pre-season means teams are only now starting to get into their regular season stride. Will the QBs open up? Will Houston's stars take advantage of the departure of Bill O'Brien to embrace their free-spirited talents and shine?
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Week Five is normally just a pretty standard week in the sporting calendar, but this year it does mean just a little bit more.
How's that? - Well, mentally and physically, players went without a full pre-season - meaning right now, we reckon they’re only really getting up to regular season speed. Expect to see improved mechanics on both sides of the football from here on in, but we've effectively been given a major preview of schemes to complement that.
Week Five: Ain't nothin gonna break my stride
Teddy Bridgewater QB Carolina Panthers. Over 290.5 Passing Yards (1.84)
When playing Atlanta, all you have to account for is avoiding Grady Jarrett and seeing where Deion Jones is on the field.
Bridgewater has the easiest task of any player in the league this week; ensuring that he continues to feed Mike Davis in the passing game, and having genuine difference-makers, thanks to Joe Brady, wide open repeatedly.
Carolina didn’t expect to win games this year. We're not even sure the fanbase want them to, as they truly believe they’re all-in on Clemson stud Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming draft.
But DJ Moore is still an explosive receiver, Curtis Samuel is as versatile as they come in terms of flexibility, and Robbie Anderson is a true burner on the outside.
The only thing quite as good as their game plans this year has been their recruitment, in retrospect. Bridgewater may not be their long-term solution, but he more than meets the standard required to pass around these Falcons.
Deshaun Watson QB Houston Texans. Over 293.5 Passing Yards (1.84)
The freedom in which Deshaun Watson will now feel because he’s clear of Bill O’Brien’s draconian play-calling should be a sight to behold - and if you think his mega-money contract seemed excessive, we reckon you’re about to see just why his signature was worth the splurge.
Watson is a free-roller. He can wheel to his left, to his right, and he may well be the hardest quarterback to sack in the entire NFL.
His problem so far this season (the Texans are 0-4 at the bottom of the AFC South), as we see it, is that he was handcuffed by O’Brien and a lack of creativity on the callsheet. Every first down was a run, meaning you rarely ever get free yards or take advantage of personnel groupings. This should change now.
There’s a new dynamic in Houston, and expect a let-loose Watson to show people just why he’d be a top-five taken player if the NFL rosters were emptied tomorrow.
Tyreek Hill WR Kansas City Chiefs. Take the Over on a Receiving Yards market
The Las Vegas Raiders have been slow to deal with speed. Josh Allen tore them apart by extending plays last week, finding his targets after plays broke down - and you’ll find that coming against Patrick Mahomes the week after does very little for you in that regard.
Hill, Watkins, Hardman and co all possess elite-level speed, but Hill may well be the one who understands what Mahomes does best when he leaves the pocket, as was evidenced last week against New England.
These are free yards and you really can’t blame any coverage on them, just a lack of containment against Mahomes – which is naturally hard to do given you always want to commit men to pass coverage on the backend.
The Raiders are going to need all the new home-town luck in the world.
As ever, these odds are correct at the time of writing, but are of course subject to change.
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