Baker Mayfield told everyone this turnaround was coming

18


Week Five continued to weed out some of the pretenders and elevate some of the teams we expected to be contenders. The Dolphins, with their surprise 3-0 start, have sunk back down to earth at 3-2 in the AFC while Patriots, winners of their last two, are also 3-2 and trending upward — as usual.

In the NFC, the surprise struggle has continued in Atlanta, where the Falcons are 1-4 and the Giants, with their revamped roster, are an NFL-worst 1-5.

With that, here’s a look at The Post’s NFL High Five for Week 6:

Turnaround to watch

The Browns, at 2-2-1 entering Sunday, have the same winning percentage as the 3-3 Super Bowl champion Eagles, a better mark than the 1-4 Falcons, the Super Bowl runners-up two years ago, and the same record as perennial winners Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

A win at home over the 3-2 Chargers would push the Browns over .500 for the first time since Dec. 7, 2014.

Just 12 teams have a better record than the Browns, who entered this season having won one game in the previous two seasons (1-31).

The catalyst to the Browns’ early promise this season has been brash rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. While lobbying to be the No. 1-overall pick he eventually became, Mayfield told reporters at the NFL Combine in February, “If there’s anyone who would turn that [Cleveland] franchise around, it’d be me.”

He’s one resounding relief appearance, in a comeback win over the Jets, and two starts into his NFL career, so it may be a bit early to start carving a statue of him outside the Browns stadium.

But, after the long list of high-draft-pick quarterback hopefuls — Johnny Manziel, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy, Tim Couch — there’s a different feel in Cleveland about Mayfield.

“From the people they are putting together in this group, but then also the belief I have always had in myself,” Mayfield told reporters during the week. “I said it back at the combine when everybody said I was a short quarterback that could not do much, I said if anybody is going to do it, I believed in myself to do that. That is something that I carry with me, and I hope our guys believed in themselves, as well.”

Jet lag to watch

One of the most intriguing games on the schedule Sunday is the 1-4 Raiders vs. the 2-3 Seahawks in London. The 6 p.m. London starting time will be 10 a.m. in Oakland and Seattle.

The differing preparation philosophies will be as much a factor as the actual personnel matchups on the field. The Raiders opted to depart the West Coast on Thursday night for their 10-plus-hour flight and begin their work in England on Friday afternoon.

Russell WilsonAP

The Seahawks left Seattle on Wednesday night in order to have a full day’s head start on the Raiders. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he wanted his players to get as much sleep as possible on the flight before practicing shortly after landing and to stay awake the rest of the day “so that they get a regular night’s sleep [Thursday night], a real healthy night’s sleep without going to sleep during the day.”

Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who played two games in London with the Lions, downplayed the travel issues, saying it took only one day to acclimate.

“I don’t think it really matters whether you go early or if you go later in the week,” Whitehead told reporters. “Whether you’re here or there, you’re still practicing, training with the squad. On this patch of grass, or that patch of grass.”

In 2014, the Raiders went to England immediately after playing at the Patriots and lost to the Dolphins 38-14 at Wembley Stadium.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who has coached in Japan and Mexico in preseason games, is not a big fan of the long plane travel — having had issues after 14-hour flights to and from Belarus to watch his son Deuce compete in a powerlifting tournament a few years ago.

“I had vertigo for a month [after Belarus],’’ Gruden said. “I couldn’t even lay down, the house was spinning. I am hoping I don’t get vertigo. I’m not a great traveler. I’ll be honest with you, I hate it. I’m not good. I’m concerned.’’

Carroll said he spoke to former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley about making the trip to London, since Bradley did it four times while head coach of the Jaguars.

“We have chosen our options after a long study and we feel really good about what we’re doing,” Carroll said.

We’ll see which team’s preparation worked best.

Potential injury to watch

Texans center Nick Martin checks on Deshaun Watson during a Week 5 game against the Cowboys.AP

The Texans are playing with fire with their star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who’s been taking an alarming amount of hits in the first month of the season.

The Texans probably need no reminding that Watson, who has been sacked 18 times and been hit 55 times “while on the run,” according to ESPN statistics, was lost for the season in Game 7 of the 2017 season to a knee injury. Houston was 3-3 at the time and finished 4-12.

As the 2-3 Texans play a road game against the 2-3 Bills, Watson’s playing status was somewhat up in the air during the week because of a chest injury he suffered in last week’s win over the Cowboys.

“As he goes through his career, there will be times when he needs to make the decision to slide or get out of bounds, but there were some plays [on Sunday] where he’s trying to score touchdowns,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien told reporters during the week. “He’s trying to help his team win. Dallas was very physical, and Deshaun’s very physical.

“Obviously, those are plays that we want to cut down on, and we’re going to work hard to do that moving forward because we know that that’s not a sustainable way to play, to be hit that much in a game. We understand that, so we’re going to work hard to try to improve that.”

Watson, who’s a dangerous scrambler on the run, passed his physical ailments off this week as “just another day in the office, just recovering from the game.

“It’s part of the game and I was able to take some shots and just regroup and keep moving forward,” he said.

Of course, there’s no way to completely protect a quarterback by putting a protective shield around him, but after what happened to Watson and the Texas last season, more caution must be in play this time around.

Sacks race to watch

Entering Week 6, there is a three-way tie for most sacks in the NFL.

Brothers J.J. Watt (Texans) T.J. Watt (Steelers) are tied with Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins with six sacks each.

While the Texans play the Bills, and the Steelers will be at Cincinnati, so T.J.’s offensive line can have a say in keeping Atkins off the sack sheet this week.

“It’s pretty wild when you go and you look at the sack sheet and you see our names next to each other,” J.J. Watt told reporters during the week. “We used to beat up on each other in [the] backyard and now we get to see our names at the top of the NFL sack charts. So, it’s incredible and I’m lucky.’’

T.J. Watt said called it a “healthy competition,’’ adding, “I’m just really happy to see both my brothers out there playing on Sundays.”

J.J. and T.J. Watt have a brother, Derek, playing fullback for the Chiefs.

“It’s something I’ll never take for granted is to be able to sit on the couch and watch them play,’’ T.J. said of his brothers. “It’s pretty special. I’m always the guy that just keeps striving to get better each and every week, and you can’t get caught up in any of the statistical things. So, I’m sure my mom thinks it’s a lot cooler than I do.”

Among the brothers, J.J. is the eldest and most accomplished as a four-time All-Pro and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He, in fact, was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month with 20 tackles, five sacks, eight quarterback hits and four forced fumbles in September.

T.J., in his second season, is coming off his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his three-sack performance last week.

Cowboys quarterback watch

The heat is rising around Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

Just two teams — the 1-4 Cardinals and the 2-3 Bills — have scored fewer points through five games than the 83 points the Cowboys have produced. And both of those teams are quarterbacked by rookies.

So as the Dallas offense has struggles, the criticism around Prescott has gained momentum as the 2-3 Cowboys on Sunday play the Jaguars, owners of one of the league’s best defenses.

Prescott, who’s just two years removed from being named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year, has been pedestrian this season, completing 61.8 percent of his passes with only five TDs and four INTs. Most importantly, though, he isn’t getting his team into the end zone.

This week, Prescott drew some criticism from Troy Aikman, the former Cowboys quarterback great and Hall of Fame member when Aikman spoke in a radio interview in Dallas on 1310 AM.

“He needs to be more accurate with the football,” Aikman said. “I’ve said for many, many years, as long was I can remember when I’m asked, ‘Hey, what do you look for first in a quarterback?’ The first thing I look for is accuracy because the rest of it doesn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter how tough you are. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or what a great leader you are. None of that stuff matters if you can’t put the ball where you have to put it. I’ve seen too many errant throws in that regard, and then there needs to be a little more anticipation. When there’s two deep safeties, you’re looking for somebody to take the middle of the field, and that should be your first read if you have somebody who is taking the middle of the field versus those kinds of looks.

“I don’t see great anticipation on what a defense is doing and how might I be able to exploit that pre-snap, or as the ball is snapped.”

Prescott, with 961 passing yards through five games, is on pace to throw for a career-low 3,075 yards on the season. He’s thrown for 200 or more yards just twice this season and just three times in the past eight regular-season games. During that stretch, he’s thrown just six TDs to eight INTs.

Spread the love
SHARE