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Neil Reynolds' Wraps Week 6

We talk so much about the need for a breadth of talent and for depth across your NFL roster. That especially becomes the case as the attritional battle takes hold in the second half of the campaign.

But Sunday's contest that saw the Baltimore Ravens record a 24-16 win over the Tennessee Titans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was a reminder that star players also matter. Those true superstars of the league can step up and lead at critical times, influencing their teammates to follow them.

That was the case on Sunday as Lamar Jackson proved his worth in leading the Ravens to their fourth victory of the year. He didn't rip off a spectacular run of 40 or 50 yards in London but, time and again, Lamar would turn what could have been a three- or four-yard loss into a five- or six-yard gain.

For someone who had never seen Lamar play live before, his elusiveness was everything I have seen on film ever since he entered the league. And it was a firm reminder that he is well worth the $50 million-plus he earns each year. I'm not sure where the Ravens would be without Lamar.

He ended the day leading Baltimore with 62 rushing yards and adding 223 yards and one passing touchdown. On that play, Lamar showed his elite mobility to extend the action before finding Zay Flowers for his first NFL touchdown.

The Ravens will not be pleased with the fact that they were forced to settle for six Justin Tucker field goals and they must be better in finishing off drives moving forward, but they will be happy at how they wrestled the momentum away from the Titans after Tennessee had pulled to within five points at 18-13 midway through the third quarter.

Jackson was helped by a Baltimore defense that made life very difficult indeed for the Ryan Tannehill, who was ineffective as the Titans quarterback before leaving the game with a second half ankle injury. And when Malik Willis entered the contest, it was all too much for him – he was overwhelmed.

The Ravens came into Sunday's game with the league's second-ranked defense in terms of fewest yards and points allowed. And they stood up to the tune of six sacks and an interception. I truly believe the Baltimore offense is going to continue to grow in the second half of the year and start clicking.

When that happens, this will be a complete team that will be hard to beat in the AFC playoffs. As for the Titans? We wait to see the seriousness of the Tannehill injury and whether that opens the door for Willis or 2023 second-round pick Will Levis. I have to believe some freshness needs to be injected into that struggling offense.

Who's Hot…

The Miami Dolphins' offense… I'm almost cut and pasting the Dolphins into this section every week because they continue to score points for fun. They spotted the Carolina Panthers a 14-0 lead on Sunday night and exploded to a 42-21 victory to move to 5-1 on the season. Tua Tagovailoa continues to benefit from being surrounded by elite and, at times, other-wordly speed. He threw for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Tyreek Hill is a threat on every single play and he reeled in six catches for 163 yards and one score. And for those who were worried about the loss of rookie running back De'Von Achane, fear not… Raheem Mostert carried 17 times for 115 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Dolphins are scary fast and scary productive.

The Cincinnati Bengals' defense… Cincinnati's game with the Seattle Seahawks soon became a defensive struggle with some key mistakes from both offenses. Joe Burrow had a couple of nice moments, but the Bengals quarterback was held to just a couple of touchdown passes and could only muster 17 points. But that was enough for the win (17-13) because Cincinnati balled out on defense, sacking Geno Smith four times, picking him off twice and rushing him into an incomplete pass on the game's decisive final play on fourth-and-eight from the Cincinnati nine-yard line inside the final minute. If the Bengals can win the occasional bruising struggle like this, they are going to be very much in the AFC playoff conversation the rest of the way.

The Cleveland Browns' defense… The Browns are for real on the defensive side of the ball and that unit played a key role in a stunning 19-17 win over the previously-undefeated San Francisco 49ers in Ohio. Time and again the Browns made life difficult for Brock Purdy and what had been a potent Niners attack. They sacked Purdy three times, picked him once and of the two touchdowns they gave up, one of them came on a short field after a P.J. Walker interception. Purdy was held to just 125 passing yards. He was not the first quarterback to suffer a poor game against this Browns defense and he most certainly won't be the last.

Who's Not…

Desmond Ridder… A week after showing some promise in the passing department, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder let his team down in a 24-16 home loss to the Washington Commanders. Trailing by eight, Ridder and the Falcons were presented with chance after chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. One inexplicable end zone interception came after a delay of game was almost followed by another delay of game. It clearly drove Falcons head coach Arthur Smith crazy as he was caught on camera questioning the decision making of his QB. After another Atlanta drive ended with a turnover on downs, Ridder had one more chance and tossed a miserable interception to Jamin Davis to end the game. Ridder better improve soon or Smith is going to turn to Taylor Heinicke.

Jake Moody… The 49ers were down by two with 1:40 left in Cleveland. Purdy stepped onto the field having led his team to just 21 yards in the second half. The Browns fans were baying for blood but Purdy – without the injured Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey – moved the Niners into field goal range with completions to Brandon Aiyuk (twice) and Jauan Jennings. This was supposed to be the outcome that added to the legend of Purdy, especially as the game-winning field goal attempt from Jake Moody was from just 41 yards out. The Niners spent an expensive (for a kicker) third-round pick on Moody in the 2023 NFL Draft. He pushed his kick wide right and that is hard to forgive. The 49ers had a chance to escape Cleveland with their perfect record intact, but their rookie let them down.

Jalen Hurts… I'll have more on the New York Jets defense below, but that was a worrying showing from Jalen Hurts as the Philadelphia Eagles fell to a 20-14 defeat in New York. Hurts had his positive moments, for sure, and scored another rushing touchdown while carrying eight times for 47 yards. But he tossed three interceptions, including an ill-advised, off-the-back-foot effort late in the game that was snagged by Tony Adams to set up New York's winning touchdown from Breece Hall. Hurts had a quarterback rating of 59.5 – his lowest mark in a game since Week 12 of 2021. There is no doubt that Hurts is a true star of this league, but he's made some worrying mistakes in the first six weeks of this campaign. He now has seven interceptions on the year after throwing just six in 15 starts in 2022.

The Fast Five…

·       The Houston Texans have now won three of their last four after Sunday's 20-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints. And while C.J. Stroud threw a couple of touchdown passes, it was notable that the rookie quarterback didn't have to do it all by himself. The Texans made some key defensive stops late in the game, suggesting they are piecing together an intriguing team around their young passer.

·       I continue to be impressed by the spirit of the New York Jets and they fought and scrapped their way to victory over the previously-undefeated Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. The Jets are hanging in there at 3-3 and they are being powered by a swarming defense. I felt going into that Week 6 contest that Jalen Hurts might offer up some turnover chances. And he did just that, throwing three interceptions in the face of a very tough D. It was another example of the excellent work being done by Robert Saleh's men on that side of the ball

·       Wins for the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets served as a reminder to the equality across the NFL right now. After just six weeks, we are left with no undefeated teams and the remaining members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins can pop their champagne corks while the weather is still steamy in South Florida. The NFL really is an 'any given Sunday' league as the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills discovered while being pushed harder than expected by Denver and the Giants. The best teams in the league need to be on their guard every weekend and there is always hope, no matter what your team's record might be.

·       The Detroit Lions continue to roll as they moved to 5-1 with a 20-6 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that was – at times – a bit of a struggle to watch and far from a classic. But a win is a win and these Lions seem to keep finding a way. They've now won 13 of their last 16 games dating back to last season and Jared Goff keeps making the big throws when needed. He threw for 353 yards and two scores and was backed up by a Detroit D that held the Bucs to 46 rushing yards and just two field goals.

·       The entire football world will be sending prayers and best wishes in the direction of Buffalo Bills running back Damien Harris, who was injured during Sunday night's game with the New York Giants. Medics from both teams rushed to Harris after he suffered a serious neck injury and everyone was thinking, 'Oh no, not again' and 'Why did it have to be the Bills again?' Watching Damar Hamlin barely able to look up while sitting on the bench was utterly heartbreaking. The good news was that Harris gave a thumbs up as he left the field and had movement in his arms and legs by the time reports came out of a local hospital. But it was still a horrible moment. We never want to see those ambulances drive onto an NFL field.

Fact of the Week

After their win against the Carolina Panthers, the Miami Dolphins have moved to 5-1 for the first time since 2002. And they have amassed 2,992 offensive yards in the first six games of the season – second-most in league history behind the 2000 St. Louis Rams (3,056 yards).

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 Paul Mc (@Plopps67) The San Francisco 49ers are still… the best team in the NFL. They had a bad day at the 'office' against a very tough defense on the road. They lost Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel to injuries yet they made enough defensive plays to hang around and then came alive when it mattered on the final drive, moving into comfortable 41-yard field goal range. Had Moody made a kick he likely makes 90 times out of 100, we would be lauding the Niners right now for digging deep in trying circumstances. This team will be playing deep into January and, I still think, into February (in the Super Bowl).

From Conor Rafferty (@Rafferty1993) The Titans starting QB for the rest of this season should be… Will Levis if Ryan Tannehill is going to be sidelined for a significant amount of time with his right ankle injury. I don't think the Titans saw much out of 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis last year and I saw little from him at Tottenham on Sunday. There were a couple of manic scrambles that raised the pulse but, for the most part, he didn't see the field well and he looked and got overwhelmed by Baltimore's rush. If not Levis, why did the Titans spend a second-round pick on him in 2023? This seems like the perfect time to see what they've got in him. We already know everything we need to know about Malik Willis and Ryan Tannehill.

From David Duffet (@Demolition71) Bill Belichick is entirely accountable for the sorry state of the New England Patriots in all three phases and should be… fired? We were asked to make one bold prediction for Sky Sports on the eve of the 2023 season and I said Belichick would be fired by the Patriots on Black Monday after the Week 18 games. He might not make it that far after this 1-5 start. And while it's hard to question his X's and O's acumen, Belichick is also the general manager and is responsible for this roster. And it looks like an expansion team roster, filled with so-so players; most of whom have not been wanted or would be wanted by the other 31 clubs in the league. It's gotten dark early in New England and Belichick is sitting on an ever-warming throne.

Final Thought…

As I have said many times before, we are living through an historic period of growth when it comes to the NFL on the international stage. That's why we've just witnessed another three highly-enjoyable regular season games in London with the promise of two more to come in Frankfurt, Germany, in November. But things are about to go to a whole new level following Monday's announcement that Flag Football will be an official sport in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. This is a true game-changer as more and more people around the world will now be introduced to American football like never before. And more and more young children will be exposed to the sport in schools. This is going to catapult American football to a whole new level… oh, and it will fill hours and hours of social media posts and television shows as we all pick our NFL Dream Team for Flag Football.