NFL Week Six: Five things we learnt

A round-up of the action from week six of the NFL

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The Independent Online

Zander Swinburne takes us through what happened this week.

Andrew Luck is fasting becoming a great quarterback of the present

Once deemed the quarterback of the future, Andrew Luck has cemented himself this season as one of the league’s best. Although many could argue he has been a consistent threat since he was drafted in 2012, this year marks a true breakout as he has led his team to a respectable 4-2 record.

Statistically, Luck is dominating on the field. He has thrown the most yards from a quarterback this season (1,987) whilst his touchdown to interception ratio is steady at 17:7. His leadership skills and presence in the locker room have all too often been praised, but this year it shows. The Colts are first in the NFL in points scored, yards passed and total yards and with such a weak division to contend with, Indianapolis look all but set to take the AFC South. Their victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night was a vital win as it not only showed the league that the Colts are capable of winning a shootout, but also that Andrew Luck is now a major threat.

For several teams, the season is already over

It’s that time of year again. Usually by week six the post-season fate for a number of teams has already been set and this is year is no different. There remain two winless teams in the league, London’s past and future home incumbents, the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Although nothing is yet official, the chance of these two teams making the play-offs is next to none, not only because of their records but also because they are teams devoid of talent. Not far behind are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets. At 1-5 these teams have little more to show for their season than the winless duo. All three have more talented rosters than their record suggests, which may give a sliver of hope to their fans, but the odds are not in their favour, as fewer than one per cent of teams have ever made the play-offs following a 1-5 start. Never say never, but for these franchises, plans for 2015 are already being drawn up.

Cleveland are now contenders in the AFC North

Sunday night’s 31-10 thumping of the Pittsburgh Steelers was pivotal for the Cleveland Browns. Not only did they despatch a division rival, it was done in such a way that that Cleveland’s days in the dog house of the NFL may soon be coming to an end.

From the start, Cleveland were competitive, keeping Pittsburgh to just three points in the first quarter before taking control of the game with 21 points in the second. Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for over 200 yards on Sunday and has looked every bit the part nobody expected him to be. The talk of Johnny Manziel rescuing the Browns franchise in the off-season seems unfounded now and Hoyer has surprised all with his consistent and effective style of play. Although still third in the AFC North, the Browns are now just half a game behind the leaders and in a strong position going into the midpoint of the season. For a franchise plagued with disappointment, the Browns have the momentum to make a run at the play-offs.

The Eagles finally show the league what they were capable of

For a team to be 4-1 as well as a disappointment is a difficult feat to achieve. Yet going into the match between the Eagles and the Giants, Philadelphia were exactly that. Running back LeSean McCoy has been a shadow of his former self, producing distinctly average numbers week after week whilst Nick Foles has seemingly regressed from being a stable quarterback who threw few interceptions.

This season he has already thrown as many interceptions as he threw in 2012 and 2013 combined (7). Sunday’s win over the Giants was at last a display of the Eagles team most had been expecting to see before the season started. McCoy ran riot, picking up 149 yards in what was his best performance of the year. The Eagles defence produced a master class, shutting out the Giants whilst also limiting Eli Manning to just 151 yards passing. It was a complete performance, somewhat overshadowed by the loss of Darren Sproles, but the Eagles have nonetheless recovered themselves to now be seen as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Joe Flacco, player of the week

If there was to be one standout performance from Sunday’s games, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens produced one of the best of his career. In only one quarter of football, the Ravens QB threw for four touchdowns, with the fifth coming just minutes later into the second quarter. Not only did he throw the fastest five touchdowns in NFL history since the merger in 1970 but he also put the game to bed, barely 15 minutes in.

Flacco finished 21 of 29 with over 300 yards passing and his team recorded a resounding 48-17 victory. This type of performance is not to be expected every week and Flacco has had his struggles this season. Nevertheless, for a quarterback to embarrass a Lovie Smith defence so convincingly is such a short amount of time has to be applauded. Flacco has had his critics this year, and deservedly so in some games, but Sunday’s performance was one to simply be admired.