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Neil Reynolds' Wraps Week 5

What a fantastic week that was. It was one of those weeks where I get to the end of it, crawling into my bed in the early hours of Monday morning, thinking how lucky I am and we are to have so much NFL activity in our own back yard.

In the days leading up to the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I got to spend time with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Hall of Famers in Thurman Thomas and Tony Boselli, Super Bowl champions in Ndamukong Suh and Jay Ajayi; and additional legends from Buffalo in Fred Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander and former NFL rushing champ from the Jags in Maurice Jones-Drew.

I spent time with football friends in Jason Bell, Phoebe Shecter, Hannah Wilkes and Osi Umenyiora – another Super Bowl champ, by the way. Oh, and the tens of thousands of fans who took over Battersea Power Station on Saturday. It really was great to see you all. In a busy week, I also conducted virtual interviews with Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada and Peter King, of NBC Sports.

And out of a range of interviews came a news line or two. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained to me that representatives from three new markets were in London to see how things were done with the view to the NFL exploring new venues for games, "as soon as next year."

Madrid in Spain and both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil have reportedly been investigated as potential venues for a regular season game in the coming years. That, to me, is a very exciting development and it feels like the success of London and Germany has accelerated proceedings beyond what was previously expected.

The NFL moved fast in Germany, hopping from one game to two in the space of one year and there is a very real possibility of the league resembling a Formula One-style calendar in the not-too-distant future. London, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and who knows where after that? Dublin, Paris, Rome?

The reason for such ambition is because of the foundations that have been very firmly laid in London. The continued success, year after year, of regular season games in the UK emboldened the league to venture to Germany in 2022. And in 2023 a total of 1.5 million fans registered to buy tickets for the games in the UK and Germany. So, the continued interest in and success of those two markets now takes us to this point… further expansion of regular season games being played around the globe.

And we should not be worried on these shores by the playing of more games elsewhere. Commissioner Goodell was keen to point out that the UK will have their games (two at Tottenham and a Jags game at Wembley), as will Germany. But they are determined to become even more of a global entity and that puts Spain and Brazil in the crosshairs.

While the continued playing of regular season games featuring multiple teams is one course of action, the London franchise discussion was also had over the weekend. The Commissioner talked through one particular hypothetical that featured two London teams and even a Super Bowl in the UK, while Jaguars owner Shad Khan stressed that he would be open to continuing the back-to-back playing of regular season games for his team in the capital.

Whether it be a London franchise, a European division (an idea the Commissioner acknowledged in 2022 and one which was raised again last night by Peter King) or the playing of games in multiple countries around the world; there is no denying the fact that we are living through historic times in the NFL.

Who's Hot…

The San Francisco 49ers… I came into this season thinking the San Francisco 49ers would be the best team in the NFL this year and picked them to win the Super Bowl. Their 5-0 start has, of course, consolidated that thought process and Sunday night's 42-10 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys surely sent a message cascading around the rest of the league. Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner – all the stars showed up in an emphatic beatdown of what was supposed to be a contender in the NFC and the breadth and depth of talent on this team is scary.

De'Von Achane… Miami's rookie had another big game in a 31-16 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, rushing for 151 yards and one touchdown (a breathtaking 76-yarder) on just 11 carries. That was good for an average of 13.7 yards per attempt. And that is no one-game anomaly. Achane has carried 38 times for 460 yards at an average of 12.1 yards per rush this season. He is the second player in NFL history and the first in the Super Bowl era to score seven touchdowns in his first four career games. And what's amazing is that all of Achane's touches this season have come in his last three contests. He never saw the ball on his NFL debut in Week 2.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase… Can we finally stop worrying about Joe Burrow's calf and will Ja'Marr Chase finally put his early-season bad mood behind him? Sunday saw the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Arizona Cardinals 34-20 and, finally, the Burrow-led offense sprung to life. The star quarterback hit on 36 of 46 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns, while Chase was open all night long as he reeled in a club record 15 catches for 192 yards and three scores. If those two are going to now get up to speed, the season is very salvageable indeed for the 2-3 Bengals. Let's see if they can keep it going, but that was a promising development; albeit against a poor Arizona team.

Who's Not…

The New England Patriots… Quarterback Mac Jones got benched for the second week in a row, head coach Bill Belichick cut a forlorn figure on the sideline as he scoured his play sheet for anything that might help his ailing team and the final reading on the scoreboard told a tale of woe as the New Orleans Saints left Foxboro with a 34-0 win over the 1-4 New England Patriots. He may be the greatest of all time, but the Patriots have always put the team and winning first, so is Belichick going to be feeling some heat soon? His team has now been out-scored 72 points to three in the last two weeks. This is shaping up to be a lost season for a team so used to championship-winning ways when Belichick had Tom Brady under center. Any form of winning would be welcomed right now.

The Giants' offensive line… It was sad but not all that surprising to see Daniel Jones exit Sunday's loss against the Miami Dolphins with a neck injury in the second half. That's the sort of thing that can happen when your offensive line allows a player like Jones to be sacked 16 times in less than two games. The offensive front is a mess. It was a mess to begin with but has now been ravaged by injuries. It never felt like Miami were rampant on defense, yet they registered seven sacks a week after the Giants gave up 10 to Seattle six days earlier. There was also no push on the ground as the Giants averaged 2.9 yards per rush. It's hard to expect more from the disappointing Jones without some help up front.

Dak Prescott… This was supposed to be the night that Dak Prescott exorcised a few demons and produced a win over the San Francisco 49ers on a big stage. With the Cowboys' last two seasons ending in playoff defeats at the hands of the Niners, Prescott was out for revenge on Sunday Night Football. But he struggled badly, throwing three interceptions and compiling a passer rating of just 60.3. Prescott is now 0-3 in his last three games against San Francisco and has thrown just three touchdowns and six interceptions in that time for a rating of 60.3. Prescott has to be better if he and the Cowboys are to be considered serious contenders. Sunday suggested there is still some way to go on that front.

The Fast Five…

·       The last two games have shown Chicago Bears fans how good things could potentially be if the right team and coaching is put in place around Justin Fields. In a loss to Denver and a win over Washington, Fields has thrown for 617 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. The young quarterback has the potential to be absolute Box Office!

·       The Philadelphia Eagles wore down the Los Angeles Rams in a 23-14 win that took the reigning NFC champs to 5-0 on the year. Philly controlled both lines of scrimmage. On offense, they continue to operate behind the best offensive line in the game – a unit that allowed just one sack, paved the way for 159 rushing yards and allowed the Eagles to keep the ball for close to 38 minutes. The defensive line produced four sacks and held LA without a second half point.

·       While he has struggled to take flight thus far, Desmond Ridder showed real promise as a passer in Sunday's 21-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The second-year quarterback threw for 329 yards and one touchdown and if he can make that form something of a regular occurrence, that could ease some of the pressure on rookie running back Bijan Robinson; who needs a bit more room to run.

·       Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson has been fun to watch in the first month of the season, but he did put his body on the line and now he is gone for at least a month with a shoulder injury. Richardson will be missed, but Gardner Minshew is a very solid reserve who has won games in this league before. Minshew will be helped immensely if the Colts can run for 193 yards and two touchdowns every week like they did in Sunday's 23-16 win over Tennessee.

·       Travis Etienne Jr. is turning into quite the player for the Jacksonville Jaguars and he was the leading force – but not the only one – in Sunday's 25-20 win over the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Etienne rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns as the Jags moved to 3-2 on the year, ably supported by Trevor Lawrence, who shrugged off five sacks to throw for 315 yards and a touchdown.

Fact of the Week

In leading Kansas City to a 27-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, Patrick Mahomes has now defeated the 31 other teams in the NFL. Only four other quarterbacks have achieved that feat – Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Mahomes is the youngest to achieve such a feat at the age of 28 – the others were in their 30s.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we so often did on our NFL Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go…

From Peter Allen (@retepallen) Brock Purdy will finish the season as… a Super Bowl champion if he and the key players from the San Francisco 49ers can avoid injuries. And given how their season ended in cruel fashion 60 minutes short of last season's Super Bowl, the Niners deserve a bit of luck in that department. Given how well he is playing at a position that always seems to win this award, there is also a strong chance that Purdy – the overlooked last player taken in last year's NFL Draft – could be crowned the league's Most Valuable Player. What a story that would be.

From Miles Clement (@MilesAClement) The biggest name to be traded before the deadline will be… All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald if the Los Angeles Rams fall out of contention. I think this team is beginning a rebuild and could consider saving some money down the road and they certainly seem intent on getting younger across the board. Also, Donald has hinted at retirement a couple of times and may want one last run as a contender somewhere else. A few other names to look out for? How about Las Vegas wide receiver Davante Adams? He and management don't seem on the same page and a lost season is taking shape in Sin City. And there could be a Denver Broncos fire sale if head coach Sean Payton wants to put his stamp on things. No one is trading for Russell Wilson and that huge contract, but good young players such as receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, as well as cornerback Patrick Surtain II, could be had for the right price.

Final Thought…

Finally, it's our turn as Sky Sports NFL will cover the London game between the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens. These two teams are bruising and committed at the best of times, but both are coming off Week 5 losses that can best be described as annoying! The Ravens had the Pittsburgh Steelers right where they wanted them, but a 10-0 lead dissolved into a 17-10 loss. And Tennessee wasted a big day from DeAndre Hopkins (8 catches for 140 yards) in losing to the Colts by one score. Both clubs have a tradition of physicality and winning and both now have some added motivation heading to London