By Tom Di Benedetto
There was a nice little quarterback duel in Week 5 that has flown under the radar but showcased two of the most promising passers of the 2016 season so far. It certainly wasn’t the Sunday night game, in which Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning once again underwhelmed despite both being in seemingly excellent situations to succeed this year. It was instead Matt Stafford who prevailed over the young Carson Wentz in a truly exciting contest for fans of the position.
Let’s start with Carson Wentz and the Eagles, who looked solid again on the road after a week off. Wentz led the way with his already-trademark precision in the short passing game and his ability to protect the ball. In the middle of the game, he caught fire with a torrid 17-19 stretch for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns leading Philly back from a 14 point deficit. The game went south on 3rd and 2 from their own 45 with 2:41 remaining and Detroit out of timeouts. With the opportunity to win with a first down, the Eagles decided to run for a third consecutive time rather than put the ball in the hands of their star rookie. Ryan Mathews fumbled on the play, and Wentz’s next pass attempt was a desperation bomb (which was not actually that bad of a pass or idea) that became his first career interception.
It was a fine performance, but not quite at the level of Wentz’s stellar form in the first three weeks. A big factor in this was an adjustment by the Lions defense, who frequently rushed only four allowing them to conservatively defend the deep pass, a departure from a blitz-heavy game plan used against him previously. It will get truly interesting for Carson and the Eagles moving forward in exactly the kind of late game, pressure situations that exposed them on Sunday. Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton and Darren Sproles make up a surprisingly exciting complement for the young QB, and if he can maintain anywhere near his early-season level, the Eagles will have many more opportunities for wins this season. How the first-year coach and quarterback will fare with these chances will be quite interesting.
The victorious Matt Stafford had one of his good days on Sunday, and on those good days he is one of my favorite players in the league to watch. He meets almost every single one of my talent checkmarks: huge arm, excellent accuracy, fierce competitiveness, surprising athleticism and scramble ability and an unquestioned leadership role. The thing he has yet to hone, one that is critical when playing for a team as flawed as the Lions, is consistency. Stafford is prone to major errors and can struggle to overcome them to turn efficient statistical performances into actual wins.
Sunday was a promising step because he did just that, overcoming an inexplicable and unforced fumble on his own 12 early in the third quarter after a near-perfect first half. The rest of the game wasn’t his best, but he got the job done by leading the decisive field goal drive in the final three minutes. Stafford has to be near-perfect on most days to give Detroit a chance to win. Thing is, he’s capable of reaching that level on most days. The big question left is will his “Stafford moments” disappear or define him.
Week 5 Game Balls
He did his job in shredding an astoundingly horrendous Jets secondary (seriously the tape is even worse than it looked on Sunday). The Steelers offense is already scary enough, but it will become straight-up terrifying if Sammie Coates stops dropping passes.
He said he was rusty.
Led four-straight second-half scoring drives (including 2 TD passes) to build a decisive 10 point cushion after trailing by 8 early in the third quarter. Out-dueled poor Philip Rivers and lifted the Raiders, yes the Raiders, to 4-1. The breakout watch is so on for Carr.
Yea so I’ve vacillated on the name the last couple of weeks. Sticking with Power 7. If you noticed/care, thank you.
1. Matt Ryan
2. Derek Carr
3. Ben Roethlisberger
4. Philip Rivers
5. Sam Bradford
6. Carson Wentz
7. Russell Wilson
Knocking on 7’s Door: Dak Prescott, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady