It’s time to take the New York Giants seriously.
Daniel Jones took the next step in his evolution as a quarterback, against both incredible odds and the Green Bay Packers in London in Week 5.
Facing what felt like an insurmountable 20-10 halftime deficit to reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Jones — despite throwing to the likes of Darius Slayton, David Sills and Marcus Johnson — took over the game in the second half.
Arguably the most impressive performance of Jones’ three-plus season career and his coming of age moment came in the fourth quarter when he led the Giants’ longest drive of the season — 15 plays for 86 yards and a touchdown that pulled New York even. And Jones did it with Saquon Barkley briefly sidelined with a shoulder injury.
On that possession, Jones completed 7-of-8 passes for 68 yards and rushed for 25 more, despite entering the game with the lingering effects of an ankle injury. The drive proved instrumental in New York’s 27-22 upset victory over a Packers team many believe to be among the best in the NFC.
“Jones and that offense really battled,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy on Sunday. “It was really awesome to see.”
Despite a bloody late-game hand injury, Jones showed the trademark poise of the future Hall of Famer on the opposite sideline and perhaps earned the respect of a front office that declined his fifth-year option prior to this season.
Brian Daboll has the Giants completely bought in.
Daboll’s Giants believe they can come away with a win every time they walk onto the field — even against one of the more talented defenses in the league and one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks to play the game.
Beyond Jones’ strides toward grabbing the mantle as the Giants’ franchise quarterback, Barkley authored a performance for the ages.
Barkley rushed for only 70 yards and a touchdown, but he also caught 3 passes for 36 yards, looked as explosive as he ever has and continues to carve out a new niche in the Giants’ offense.
Prior to the 2022 season, league sources insisted that Daboll and the coaching staff understood the value of getting Barkley the ball in his hands in space, as often as possible, and in new ways.
In Week 4 against the Chicago Bears, Barkley was thrust into the wildcat role thanks to Jones’ ankle injury and a concussion to Tyrod Taylor. Then, in Week 5, it became apparent that Barkley’s time behind center was going to continue.
So far this season, Barkley has 4 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown on carries out of the wildcat.
It wasn’t just the Giants’ offense that traveled, either. Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense held Rodgers and the prolific Packers scoreless in the second half, until New York took a strategic safety to run time off the clock in the waning seconds.
With a decimated receiving corps, and a player so explosive and dynamic in space, the Giants are going to likely continue to put the ball in Barkley’s hands as often as possible.
Behind Jones, Barkley and a swarming defense, Daboll and the Giants notched their signature victory and improved to 4-1. The victory provides all the legitimacy this team can garner.
The Giants are for real. And they’re going to be tough to beat.
Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from Sunday’s action across the NFL.
Breece Hall Offers Glimpse of Jets’ Future
The New York Jets‘ future is now, and rookie running back Breece Hall is vital to the trajectory of the 3-2 squad.
In a 40-17 blowout win against the Miami Dolphins, Hall rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown and added 100 receiving yards, announcing his arrival to the rest of the league.
“He’s the best player on the team. Period. He’s a terrific talent,” a member of the Jets’ front office told Heavy after Hall’s Week 5 breakout performance.
In the first quarter, Hall took a big step toward becoming a household name when he broke free on a wheel route taking a Zach Wilson pass 79 yards to the 1-yard line and setting up a Michael Carter touchdown.
Along with wide receiver Garrett Wilson, a fellow rookie, Hall is a key piece to Wilson’s supporting cast and the young nucleus that has the Jets so optimistic about the future.
Sunday afternoon, Hall showed exactly why that optimism is warranted.
Bills’ Explosive Offense Reaches New Heights
The Buffalo Bills just scored again.
Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Josh Allen and the Bills cemented their status as the NFL’s most prolific offense.
Allen completed 61% of his passes for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the first half.
Through the first half of Sunday’s game, Allen and the Bills produced eight explosive plays, including three of Allen’s touchdown passes.
Allen’s final stat line was even more ludicrous: 20-of-32 passing for 424 yards with 4 touchdowns to 1 interception, and a 134.1 passer rating.
Certainly, the Steelers and their 24th-ranked defense are not the 1985 Chicago Bears, but a Bills team that continues to battle nagging injuries on both sides of the ball is looking like this decade’s greatest show on turf.
How difficult are the Bills to contain and Allen to slow down?
Entering Sunday’s game, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts led the NFL in yards per attempt, averaging 9.1. Allen finished Sunday’s game, buoyed by touchdowns of 98 and 62 yards to Gabriel Davis, averaging 13.67 yards per attempt. At one point in the first half, Allen was averaging an insane 17.25 yards per attempt.
It’s going to take a perfect game, for 60 minutes, to beat the Bills. That is, if Allen and the offense aren’t perfect themselves.
The Bills’ matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 16 will be the ultimate measuring stick.
Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell Should Be on the Clock
Brian Daboll is an example of results driving culture with the Giants.
Meanwhile, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell is the latest cautionary tale of an NFL head coach talking a big game about changing a culture but failing miserably to deliver on those promises with wins.
If Campbell wasn’t already on the hot seat prior to Sunday, he should officially be on the clock after losing for the 17th time in his first 22 games.
This summer, under the bright lights of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Campbell preached during team meetings about competitiveness, fire and relentless effort. He even built rapport with his players by doing up-downs on the practice field with them.
None of it has mattered.
Detroit lost to the New England Patriots 29-0, and that score tells only part of the story. Campbell’s Lions weren’t anywhere close to competitive.
Through five weeks, the Lions are now 1-4. Granted, three of Detroit’s losses are by a combined 10 points, but the progress from winning just three games in 2021 is minimal.
The only thing that creates a winning culture is winning. Campbell doesn’t seem to have a clue how to win.
There is plenty of young talent on the Lions’ roster, on both sides of the football. It just may take a new voice to maximize it.
Eagles Pass Another Championship Test
The Philadelphia Eagles just continue to find new ways to win and new ways to cement their championship character.
Despite being held to a season-low 20 points by the Arizona Cardinals, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles survived to preserve a 20-17 win and remain the NFL’s lone unbeaten team.
Not only that, but the Eagles offense showed the ability to salt away a victory by leading a time-consuming drive when they needed points the most.
Hurts and the Eagles took over with 9:43 remaining in the fourth quarter after Kyler Murray’s Cardinals knotted the game at 17.
On Philly’s final possession, head coach Nick Sirianni dialed up 13 runs on a 17-play drive that drained 7:58 off the clock, and set up new kicker Cameron Dicker for what became a 23-yard game-winning field goal. Sirianni and the Eagles’ commitment to the run and the ability to execute in the ground game as the clock wound down is exactly what fuels Super Bowl runs.
After Cardinals kicker Matt Ammendola missed wide right a 42-yarder to tie the game, all of Philadelphia exhaled. Philadelphia 20, Arizona 17.
Not every win is going to be a blowout.
Sometimes, it takes survival and a little luck. The Eagles remain in the NFC’s driver’s seat after another hard-earned win.
The Carolina Panthers Really Should Be Shopping Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey continues to be one of the most versatile, explosive and — at least when healthy — productive running backs in the sport. But he is wasting away in Carolina.
McCaffrey rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown, adding 50 receiving yards and looking as elusive as ever in the open field.
The problem here, is the Panthers aren’t close to meaningfully competing. In any aspect.
Carolina is no closer to having a franchise quarterback today than they were when Cam Newton took his last snap in Charlotte in 2019. Under Matt Rhule, who was fired on October 10, the Panthers are a rudderless ship without an identity. Even a front-seven that generates decent pressure can’t save a defense that’s allowing 21.3 points per game.
McCaffrey has accounted for 512 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns through five games, and if Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has any sense, Carolina will be actively shopping McCaffrey to contenders as the NFL trade deadline nears.
Playoff-caliber teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks (even a team like the Eagles, with no meaningful holes to speak of and two first-round picks in the 2023 draft) would make some sense for McCaffrey. So, too, would the Bills, whose offense would be as close to unbeatable as we have seen in this league, with McCaffrey as a focal point.
Trading McCaffrey would create $1.03 million in cap space, while triggering a $7.75 million cap charge in 2022 and an $18.35 dead cap charge in 2023, but acquiring significant assets to jump-start an overdue rebuild could be worth it.
The Panthers have no chance of competing until they mine a franchise quarterback.
Even if Carolina selects one of the top passers in the 2023 draft, McCaffrey, 26, could be approaching the back end of his prime before a rookie quarterback is capable of turning the franchise’s fortunes around.
At this point, McCaffrey is more valuable to the Panthers as a trade chip than he is on a team that will struggle to finish .500 this season. Fitterer should try to toss his most valuable chip into the middle of the table.
The NFL Has Lost the Narrative on Roughing the Passer
Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay may have seen the most egregious roughing the passer penalty in the history of the sport.
What’s worse, the penalty went a long way toward determining the outcome of a one-score game.
The Atlanta Falcons‘ Grady Jarrett sacked Tom Brady on third down, which would have forced the Buccaneers to punt the ball back to the Falcons, who were trailing 21-15. But, inexplicably, he was flagged for roughing the passer.
There was nothing egregious about Grady’s hit on Brady.
There wasn’t any unnecessary roughness after the play was over, either.
The combination of this being a by-the-book sack and the timing of the penalty with the game very much in the balance makes it one of the more egregious penalties that we have seen in recent memory.
Admittedly, the solution is unclear.
One idea would be disciplining officials for mistakes in big spots. Another would be reviewing any in-action penalty (roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness, pass interference, facemask, etc.) to confirm an official’s judgment call inside of the two-minute warning.
Something needs to change. This penalty may have cost the Falcons a win.
Rookie Cornerbacks Announce Their Presence
The 2022 draft was as strong a cornerback class as there has been in recent memory, with nine selected in the first 64 picks of the first two rounds.
Rookie corners played a starring role in Week 5, with Sauce Gardner (Jets), Kaiir Elam (Bills), Tariq Woolen (Seahawks), Derek Stingley (Houston Texans) and Jack Jones (Patriots) all intercepting a pass.
“Derek Stingley was the No. 1 corner on our board,” an NFC executive told Heavy. “He’s playing like it now, too.”
Through the first four weeks of the season, those five cornerbacks alone have combined for 4 interceptions, and each added one to his total in Week 5.
In recent years, thanks in part to the emergence of elite high-impact wide receivers and the game being tilted even further than ever in favor of the passing game, cornerback has become a premium position.
Beyond pulling down interceptions, Gardner, Elam, Woolen, Stingley and Jones have already made significant impacts on their teams, as evidenced by their overall ratings from Pro Football Focus:
- Jack Jones: 88.5 overall grade, 42.2 passer rating allowed
- Sauce Gardner: 71.1 overall grade, 81.3 passer rating allowed
- Kaiir Elam: 65.4, 81.3 passer rating allowed
- Tariq Woolen: 60.3 overall grade, 40.4 passer rating allowed
- Derek Stingley: 48.2 overall grade, 88.2 passer rating allowed
At a position where experience tends to lead to significant growth, there’s no doubt the Jets, Bills, Seahawks, Texans and Patriots will sign up for that level of dominance from their young corners.
Buccaneers’ Commitment to Leonard Fournette Paying Huge Dividends
The Buccaneers redoubled their commitment to funneling the offense through running back Leonard Fournette against the Falcons and were rewarded handsomely.
Fournette became a focal point against Atlanta, rushing for 56 yards with a touchdown and catching 10-of-11 targets for 83 yards and another score.
With wide receiver Julio Jones sidelined, Fournette stabilized an offense that was wildly inconsistent in Week 4 against the Chiefs.
So far this season, only star wide receiver Mike Evans has more yards from scrimmage than Fournette’s 280.
Tampa’s versatility on offense, especially if Fournette can continue to play at this consistently dominant level is going to serve the Buccaneers well.
Micah Parsons Is Going to Mess Around & Run Away With Defensive Player of the Year
Micah Parsons continues to be among the most disruptive and dominant defensive players in the league.
Parsons sacked Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford twice, including in the game’s waning seconds to seal the Dallas Cowboys‘ fourth victory of the season. The best players make the biggest plays in the game’s biggest spots, and that’s exactly when Parsons notched his sixth sack of the season.
Parsons is now on pace for 20.5 sacks, with the skill set to mount a real challenge to T.J. Watt’s single-season record of 22.5, set in 2021.
Moreover, Parsons is a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive lines, having already produced 22 total pressures entering Sunday’s game.
There is no shortage of elite defenders in today’s NFL, but Parsons ranks high on the list and may be the best pass rusher in the game today. Parsons’ consistency could put him in a position to run away with the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Kenny Pickett Outperforms the Box Score
The final score wasn’t indicative, but Kenny Pickett passed some major tests in first NFL start, including facing arguably the league’s most ferocious defense in a hostile environment, on the windy banks of Lake Erie
Despite an onslaught of pressure from Von Miller and the Bills’ front seven, it was evident that Pickett is building a strong connection with gifted wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool and dynamic rookie George Pickens.
The Pickett-to-Pickens connection in particular looked like it has the chance to be Pittsburgh’s future, as the duo connected on six passes for a team-high 83 yards.
Ten different receivers caught passes from Pickett, who finished 34-of-52 passing for 327 yards with an interception.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s abundantly clear that Pickett has garnered the respect of his teammates. When Pickett took a big hit near the sideline while sliding, offensive guard James Daniels leveled Damar Hamlin, starting a brief melee near the sideline.
Pickett flashed plus-accuracy and showed plenty of calmness in the pocket as chaos ruled around him. His athleticism should ultimately throw the playbook open, if not light up the scoreboard.
Week 5 MVP: Bills WR Gabriel Davis
Gabriel Davis lived up to his reputation as a game-breaker for the Bills against the Steelers. Davis caught 3 passes for a game-high 171 yards and 2 touchdowns. But it wasn’t just the scores, it was how dynamic they were.
Davis pulled down a Bills franchise-record 98-yard touchdown on Buffalo’s first possession and later made a one-handed grab with Minkah Fitzpatrick draped all over him, to reach paydirt on a 62-yard score.
In an offense chock-full of prolific weapons, Davis continues to emerge as a big-play superstar. Davis is a significant reason the Bills’ offense is so difficult to keep down.
Week 5 Breakout Star: Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce
Dameon Pierce has entered the Offensive Rookie of The Year chat.
One week after rushing for a career-high 136 yards, Pierce added 99 more on Sunday, this time against the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars as the engine powering Houston’s 13-6 road win.
Pierce, chosen by the Texans in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, rushed for a touchdown in Jacksonville while averaging 3.8 yards per carry and one of the more memorable 20-yard runs you’ll see.
With 5:03 remaining, Pierce broke about seven tackles that evoked images of Marshawn Lynch, as the Texans’ rookie looked every bit the part of BeastMode 2.0.