Heading into Week 6, and we’ll remember the past week for many years. It was a troubling and disappointing situation that led to the resignation of Jon Gruden, and that no doubt will ripple through the Raiders’ performances for weeks to come. It’s been quite the decline for the Raiders who were 3-0 and seemed to reach a higher level, to now with two consecutive losses and a distraction that won’t go away for a while.
There’s only one unbeaten team and two that have yet to win a game. We’re just now reaching the one-third mark of the season with plenty of football left to play. If you think that the NFL is settled as to the good and bad teams, realize that the Buccaneers were only 3-2 at this point last season. There are still many twists and turns left to experience, and more significant players are lost to injury.
Here are six items I’m following for Week 6.
1.) QB Tua Tagovailoa (MIA) – He was taken off injured reserve, and is potentially available for the matchup with the Jaguars in London. We only saw Tagovailoa for one full game – the win at New England – before he was injured. The roles of the tight ends and wide receivers could, and almost certainly will, change switching from Jacoby Brissett back to Tagovailoa. Mike Gesicki didn’t have a catch in Week 1, but improved significantly with Brissett.
More importantly, Jaylen Waddle’s only touchdown on the year was in the opener. It may be Week 6, but the Dolphins passing offense hasn’t really had a chance to get on track with Tagovailoa out. The next four games are against the Jaguars, Falcons, Bills, and Texans. Almost all of the upcoming games have softer secondaries that will improve the passing stats. It just depends on when they return Tagovailoa as the starter.
2.) WR James Washington (Steelers) – His best performance was four catches for 69 yards in Week 4, and then he was inactive with a groin injury in Week 5. The Steelers lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, and that opens up the depth chart for Washington to assume a larger role. Smith-Schuster hasn’t been as productive this season, but shrinking the wideout rotation from four to only three will net more work for Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Washington. Playing the Seahawks should be a great chance to see how the wideouts shake out now that Smith-Schuster is gone.
3.) WR Rashod Bateman (Ravens) – The 1.27 pick by the Ravens has yet to be activated from injured reserve due to core muscle surgery but still has a chance for this week’s tilt with the Chargers. Sammy Watkins is nursing a hamstring injury and is not a lock to play, so Bateman is even more likely to be activated. He could be activated and then not played, but the ex-Minnesota star was the sixth wideout drafted and ran a 4.39 40-time. Marquise Brown is meeting expectations as the No. 1 receiver this season, but Watkins and the other wideout lack the spark that Bateman might provide.
4.) RB AJ Dillon (Packers) – The No. 2 running back for the Packers hasn’t meant anything more than just the handcuff to own, considering that Aaron Jones typically misses a few games each season. That could change. Dillon ran 15 times for 48 yards in Week 4 in the win over the Steelers. Last week, he ran eight times for 30 yards to 14 rushes for 103 yards by Jones. But both backs caught four passes, and Dillon scored on his four receptions for 49 yards. The Packers have inexplicably let Robert Tonyan turn back into a pumpkin with only one or two inconsequential catches per game. There’s room for Dillon to become more involved and head coach Matt LaFleur has spoken to getting more work for Dillon.
5.) Seattle offense – The loss of Russell Wilson for up to six weeks with a fracture and torn tendon in his finger has an unknown effect on the offense. The Seahawks haven’t started anyone else since 2011. And Geno Smith hasn’t been more than a back-up since 2014. Playing at the Steelers without Wilson and maybe even Carson isn’t ideal but should give an idea of what to expect when Smith passes. The offense runs through DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett when Wilson plays, but that may not be the case since they’ll face the secondaries of the Steelers and Saints next. Gerald Everett was just activated from the COVID-19 list and may see more targets with Smith as the starter.
Smith played in the fourth quarter against the Rams, and his 17 passes were mostly directed at Metcalf (5), Lockett (3), and Will Dissly (3). The tight end Dissly only had one target in three quarters with Wilson.
6.) Houston wideouts – The Texans are likely to leave Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve for at least this week, even though he’s already spent three weeks healing his hamstring injury. His return will boost the receiving stats for the wideouts and there’s been at least some temporary movement there. Brandin Cooks remains the No. 1 wideout, and as such, was shut down by the Patriots. But Chris Conley went from three catches for 40 yards on the season to three receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown last week. Chris Moore was called up from the practice squad to cover for Nico Collins, and he gained 109 yards and a score on five catches.
All of which may not mean much, and the return of Taylor could change the passing up yet again. But the Texans have made almost no use of their tight ends as receivers, and Cooks has been the only wideout with any fantasy value. If Conley and Chris Moore can show anything again this week, it means a lot to an offense that should pass better when Taylor is back. Danny Amendola may return and assumedly replaces Moore. But this wideout group should see a boost from Tyrod Taylor as early as next week. And the Texans will need to throw every week.