Week 6’s Top NFL Storylines: Justin Jefferson, Derrick Henry and the 0-6 Jets
The biggest stories to emerge from football this week, and whether we’re buying or selling ’em
Following a Monday night double-header that saw the Chiefs topple the Bills and the upstart Cardinals demoralize the Cowboys, Week 6 of the 2020 NFL season is complete. No Tuesday games this week, phew. While we can’t get to everything — like the Chiefs bringing in Le’Veon Bell to bolster their Super Bowl chances — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from Week 6, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: Justin Jefferson is going to be a star for the Vikings
Now at 1-5 after quarterback Kirk Cousins had a brutal game in a 40-23 loss to the previously winless Atlanta Falcons, the Minnesota Vikings are facing plenty of questions as they head into their bye week. But one area where they don’t have any uncertainty is what to expect from rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson going forward.
Taken 22nd overall out of LSU, Jefferson had 166 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Minnesota’s Week 6 loss to the Falcons. He was the best player on the field for the Vikings.
It was the 21-year-old’s third 100-yard receiving game of the season and he has now accounted for 467 receiving yards over his past four games. The Vikings have only won one of those contests, but it’s not Jefferson’s fault, as he is proving himself to be one of the better route runners, playmakers and downfield threats in the NFL.
With 28 catches for 537 yards and three touchdowns overall this season, Jefferson looks like a star in what appears to be a lost season for the Vikings, and Minnesota should make it a priority to continue his development for the rest of the year. One of just four players in NFL history to surpass 100 receiving yards three times in their first six games (joining Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Byron Williams), Jefferson has proven himself to be a more-than-adequate replacement for former Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs.
With 10 games left to play, Jefferson is on pace for 1,432 receiving yards on the season, which would be the most by a rookie in NFL history.
Sell: The Jets will wind up with Trevor Lawrence
At 0-6 after being the only NFL team to be shut out this season in a 24-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets now clearly have a great shot at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. On Monday morning, FootballOutsiders gave the Jets a 38.5 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, with Washington coming in next at 14.4 percent. And ESPN’s FPI says the Jets have an even bigger chance, giving New York a 57.7 percent shot to pick first.
If New York does end up with the first pick, they’ll likely select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence as a replacement for Sam Darnold, who is in his third year in the NFL but has not really played up to expectations.
But Darnold shouldn’t worry about losing his job, at least not to Lawrence, because the Jets will not end up with him. Why? Because they are the Jets, and they always find a way to mess it up. (For what it’s worth, the Jets have previously used the top pick just twice, winding up with Joe Namath and Keyshawn Johnson.)
Make no mistake, the Jets — who are on pace to finish the season with a -293 point differential — are terrible and head coach Adam Gase should have been fired weeks ago. But the fact that it’s so clear the best move for the franchise would probably be to tank the season and take Lawrence makes it very likely the Jets won’t do it. This is a dysfunctional organization that routinely makes poor decisions and zigs when it should zag. Hence, since going for the top pick and Lawrence is the smart play, it won’t happen. That’s not New York’s style.
Even if the Jets, who previously started 0-6 in 1996 and finished 1-15, do end up with No. 1 pick, general manager Joe Douglas will probably trade it for assets and players to build around Darnold. Douglas had Darnold ranked as the top QB in the class of 2018, and though he didn’t draft him, will have a tough time admitting his evaluation was off.
The Jets, who are not favored to win any of their remaining games, should just lose out, admit defeat with Gase and Darnold and then start over, again, with Lawrence and a new coach. That’s precisely why they won’t.
Buy: Derrick Henry is still a bad, bad man
Whether or not you think Derrick Henry’s contract will pay off in the long run, there’s no debating that he is earning his paycheck to start the 2020 season.
In Tennessee’s 42-36 overtime win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, Henry rumbled for 212 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. It was Henry’s second career game with at least 200 rushing yards and at least two rushing touchdowns and he is now the first player in NFL history to have a 200-yard effort on the ground in three successive seasons.
With 264 total yards on Sunday, Henry outgained the aforementioned Jets (263 yards) all by himself. During a 94-yard TD run, Henry, the nearly 250-pounds back reached a top speed of 21.62 miles per hour according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Arguably the best running back in the NFL entering this season, Henry looks to have consolidated that title with his primary competitor, Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers, fighting through injury problems.
Last year, Henry carried the Titans to a spot in the AFC championship game after averaging 159 yards per game from Week 10 through the second round of the playoffs. Though he hasn’t been quite as effective this season on the whole, Henry has still been dominant and, more importantly, Tennessee is 5-0. Give quarterback Ryan Tannehill some credit too, but the biggest reason the Titans are so good this season is that Henry is a bad man on the football field.
Sell: It’s time to panic in New England
After their scheduled game last week was postponed due to coronavirus concerns, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots finally took the field on Sunday.
For New England, it wasn’t worth the wait.
The Patriots lost 18-12 win as Broncos kicker Brandon McManus booted six field goals and Denver’s defense was able to contain Cam Newton and a Patriots offense that looked downright offensive.
Thanks to the loss, the Patriots are now 2-3 on the season and are trailing both the Miami Dolphins and Bills in the AFC East. And, for the first time since 2002, New England is under .500 through the fifth game or later in a season.
With Tom Brady looking good in Tampa Bay for the Bucs, it seems like the sky is falling in Foxboro just two weeks after the Patriots hung tough for three quarters with the Kansas City Chiefs without Newton on the field. In Sunday’s loss, New England’s lack of talent at receiver and tight end was glaring, and poor play by a usually strong offensive line routinely put Newton in jeopardy. Things were so bad the Patriots had to resort to throwing the ball with Julian Edelman … twice.
Outside of Newton, the Patriots don’t appear to have any players on offense who can make plays and their defense isn’t strong enough to completely keep opposing teams off of the scoreboard.
To help make up for the team’s deficiencies, Bill Belichick is going to need to coach up his players in a way he hasn’t had to in recent years. There’s obviously reason to believe he can do it, as even with Brady in Tampa, the Patriots have generally looked like the Patriots this season despite a sub-par record.
For now, Sunday appears to have been an aberration. But the next few weeks will be telling in Foxboro.
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