Hurts, Roseman continue to roll through the league


We’re six weeks through the NFL season, and things are a complete muddled mess.

Some things have played out as expected. The Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles are disemboweling teams.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and San Francisco 49ers have struggled to gain any sort of traction.

As for the Bears, a 2-1 start has been flushed down the drain by three straight losses. A 2-4 start is extremely disappointing, especially given their easy schedule to open the season. But that’s what happens when you ask your second-year quarterback to survive and thrive behind a patchwork offensive line.

But the Bears aren’t alone in their early-season anguish. You just have to look north to Green Bay to find a different kind of anxiety.

With the season one-third of the way gone, let’s see who is riding high and who is buried in a pit of despair.

Winner: Career resurrections

Both Geno Smith and Marcus Mariota entered the season as stop-gap options for rebuilding teams without an heir apparent to the franchise quarterback thrones left vacant by Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan.

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder in April, and most assumed the Cincinnati product would supplant Mariota as the losses piled up in Atlanta.

Smith, meanwhile, was seen as a one-year placeholder until the rebuilding Seahawks nabbed either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.

Instead, both Smith and Mariota appear to be enjoying a renaissance.

Smith has thrown for 1.502 yards, nine touchdowns, and just two interceptions. His 68.5 QBR ranks fourth in the NFL.

Mariota scuffled a bit out of the games, but he put together one of the best games of his career Sunday. The Oregon product went 13-for-14 for 129 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 50 yards and a score in the Falcons’ upset win over the 49ers.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said Mariota, who spent the last two years on the bench behind Derek Carr, is knocking the rust off and starting to come into his own.

Both the Falcons and Seahawks are tied for first place in their respective divisions at 3-3.

Sometimes all you need is a second chance.

Loser: NFC North rivals feeling different kinds of misery

The 2022 season was always going to be Year 0 of a rebuild for the Bears. But with a winnable schedule, there was hope the Bears could shock people and make a surprise playoff run.

A Week 1 win over the 49ers only fueled that belief. The Bears started 2-1 with games against the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington Commanders in front of them. A 4-2 start seemed realistic.

It wasn’t.

The Bears have lost three straight games, with their embarrassing Week 6 loss to the Commanders sending them into the mini-bye week searching for answers.

Per ESPN, quarterback Justin Fields has been pressured on 46 percent of his dropbacks this season. That’s the most through six weeks since ESPN started tracking pressures in 2009. The Bears didn’t put a capable offensive line in front of Fields, and now they risk permanently damaging the 23-year-old signal-caller in a critical year for his development.

Things are bad on the lake shore.

But while the Bears might be wasting a generational prospect in Fields, the Packers could be flushing the final years of an all-time great down the drain.

It's a different type of dread brought on by the same symptoms.

The Packers traded Davante Adams in the offseason and elected to use both of their first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball. Surely Aaron Rodgers could make it work with Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, and Christian Watson.

He hasn’t.

The Packers started 3-1 but tripped over themselves in London against the Giants before being embarrassed by the Jets at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

The Packers rank 24th in points per game, 18th in passing yards per game, and 15th in yards per game.

The 17.8 points per game are the fewest in any six-game stretch for the Packers with Rodgers as starting quarterback.

Rodgers keeps trying to manifest offensive success, but I'm not sure a vision quest will cure what ails the Packers' offense.

Winner: Brian Daboll

Daboll was one of the hottest names on the coaching market last offseason. It became clear that Daboll was a part of a package deal with new Giants general manager Joe Schoen, both of whom came from Buffalo.

So far, so good.

Many expected the Giants to be among the worst teams in the NFL this season. But through six weeks, the 5-1 Giants are one of just four teams in the NFC above .500.

That’s all thanks to Daboll, who has maximized the Giants’ offensive talent and schemed up ways to beat teams in different ways.

It has been a coaching masterclass so far.

The return of a healthy Saquon Barkley hasn’t hurt, either.

Loser: Tom Brady’s unretirement tour

When Tom Brady decided to return to the Bucs after having his supposed plan to join the Miami Dolphins foiled, he surely did so with visions of leading the Bucs’ vaunted offense deep into the playoffs.

But Brady’s return to the NFL has brought little joy to the 45-year-old.

The Bucs are 3-3, and their offense is the reason for their struggles.

Brady and the Bucs’ offense scored one touchdown in each of their first three games. Then, they put up 31 against the Chiefs, only to see their defense get punked for 41 by Patrick Mahomes.

Sunday’s loss to the Kenny Pickett/Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers was further evidence of how far the mighty have fallen.

The Bucs haven’t been able to generate explosive plays and the run game, once a strength, is a complete zero at the moment.

Rumors about his personal life aside, this isn’t how Brady imagined what likely will be his final season going.

Winner: Jalen Hurts and Howie Roseman

All of the Eagles’ offseason moves put a ton of pressure on Jalen Hurts to start the season fast and prove he can lead them to a Super Bowl title.

It’s only six games, but Hurts has held up his end of the bargain so far.

The 6-0 Eagles are a wagon at the moment, and Hurts has been stellar at the controls.

Hurts has passed for 1,514 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions while posting a 98.4 rating and a 59.7 QBR. He has also rushed for 293 yards and six touchdowns.

Hurts still has to keep improving as a passer to prove he can win games with his arm come playoff time. But the Eagles have to be pleased with what they have seen so far from the former second-round pick.

As for Roseman, the Eagles general manager has quickly rebuilt Philadelphia into an NFL contender with a series of shrewd moves. From dumping Carson Wentz to trading for A.J. Brown, just about all of Roseman's actions have paid off, and the Eagles are in the NFC driver's seat because of them.

Loser: Russell Wilson

It has been a tough go for Mr. Unlimited to start his Broncos career.

Wilson and his camp maintained that he was held back by Pete Carroll’s offensive approach in Seattle. That may have been the case in the mid-2010s, but it’s clear Wilson isn’t the guy he used to be.

If only the Broncos had known before they traded four draft picks to acquire him and gave him a $245 million extension.

Wilson ranks 13th in passing yards, 23rd in touchdowns, and 25th in QBR.

The Broncos’ offense has been borderline inept with Wilson and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett at the controls.

Denver ranks dead last in the NFL at 15.2 points per game. Their offense is averaging 14.83 points per game. The lowest for any Broncos' quarterback since 2000.

Broncos country hasn’t been happy with Russ or the Dangerwich thus far.

Winner: Dreams of a rematch

Last year’s playoff clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills left everyone wanting more.
Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are on track to be this generation’s Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but more playoff duels are needed for their rivalry to meet the standard set by two of the GOATs.

But the thought was that the AFC gauntlet, loaded with talented young quarterbacks, might get in the way of Allen-Mahomes part two this January.

So far, it appears that the AFC has been greatly exaggerated.

While the Chiefs and Bills have lived up to the hype, many other would-be contenders stumbled out of the gates.

The Raiders and Broncos are a mess. The Ravens and Bengals can’t get out of their own way, and Justin Herbert is trying to hold up a Chargers team plagued with injuries early in the season.

As of right now, I’d say a healthier Chargers team might be the only team in the AFC that can derail a Bills-Chiefs rematch.

But there’s a lot of season left. Crazier things have happened.

Loser: 49ers

Once again, the 49ers have one of the NFL’s most-talented rosters and are one of the league’s most-injured teams.

Trey Lance, Elijah Mitchell, Trent Williams, Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Charvarius Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, and Jimmie Ward have all been injured or are done for the season.

Through pure dumb luck, the 49ers held onto Jimmy Garoppolo, so their season isn’t completely torpedoed. But a team can only withstand so many injuries to key players before it completely crumbles.

That Shanahan appears to have misplaced his offensive genius also hasn’t helped.

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