The Top NFL Storylines of Week 6: Jalen Hurts, Deshaun Watson and DeVante Parker

Plus, there's going to be a Super Bowl in London?

October 17, 2023 8:37 am
Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns looks on prior to a game.
Deshaun Watson has been a bust so far for the Cleveland Browns.
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty

With the NFL season’s sixth installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another 15 games over and done, Week 6 is complete. While we can’t get to everything — like this revelation about Aaron Rodgers’s appearances on the Pat McAfee Show — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s sixth week. (Here’s a look back at Week 5.)

Deshaun Watson is gone and the Browns are winning

Desperately seeking to finally net themselves a franchise quarterback after the Baker Mayfield experience ended in failure, the Cleveland Browns rolled the dice in 2022 and traded a trio of first-round draft picks and two other mid-round selections to the Texans for Deshaun Watson, who missed the entire 2021 season after requesting to be traded from Houston amid a number of sexual assault allegations.

Despite those allegations, which ultimately resulted in Watson being suspended for the bulk of last season, the Browns gave the three-time Pro Bowler a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. Since making the trade for Watson and giving him a deal that pays him an average of $46 million annually, Cleveland has gotten nine games out of their franchise quarterback, winning five of them.

Of those nine games, only three have come this season as Watson suffered a deep rotator cuff contusion on his throwing arm in Week 3. Though Watson was cleared to play by Cleveland’s medical staff and insisted he would play in Week 4 against Baltimore, Watson ended up sitting out against the Ravens and also didn’t suit up in Week 6 against the San Fransisco 49ers after the Browns’ bye week.

Double-digit underdogs to the Niners, the Browns were able to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season on Sunday and escaped with a 19-17 victory over previously undefeated San Francisco with third-string quarterback PJ Walker running the offense.

Walker was far from great against the Niners as he went 18-of-34 for 192 yards with two interceptions, but Cleveland’s defense was able to contain San Fran’s potent offensive attack and get a season-defining win without their franchise quarterback.

Which raises the question: is Watson actually Cleveland’s franchise quarterback?

The Browns are certainly paying Watson, who will turn 29 in about a month, like he’s a franchise QB, but he’s done little to justify his hefty paycheck since arriving in Cleveland and hasn’t really played at an elite level since 2020. The Texans went 4-12 that season and were pretty terrible in ’21 and ’22 without Watson. This season, with rookie CJ Stroud at quarterback, the Texans have won more games with their first-year player than the Browns have won with their star player (two).

It’s too early to know for sure, but an argument can certainly be made that the Texans are in better shape without Watson than the Browns are less than two years after trading a king’s ransom for him. They didn’t miss him on Sunday.

Haason Reddick and the Eagles Are Ready to Run It Back
Reddick led Philadelphia’s top-ranked defense with 16 sacks last season

It’s time to see the real Jalen Hurts

Hoping to become the only team in the NFL to start the season at 6-0, the Eagles committed four turnovers against the Jets, who handed Philly their first loss of the season, the first time in 13 tries since 1973 that Gang Green has been able to knock off Philadelphia. Three of the Eagles’ turnovers were interceptions by Jalen Hurts, who now has seven interceptions in six games after throwing just six in 15 regular-season games last season. Hurts, who has never thrown more than nine picks in a season, is on pace for 20 interceptions this season — which would almost certainly lead the league.

In the loss to New York, Hurts’s third and final interception was especially costly as it occurred late in the fourth quarter and led to a game-winning touchdown run for the Jets by Breece Hall. Hurts, who does have five rushing touchdowns, only threw a single touchdown against the Jets and now has as many TD passes as he does picks.

That is a ratio the fourth-year quarterback will have to improve on if the Eagles are going to get back to the Super Bowl this season as Philadelphia has a brutal five-game stretch on tap with games against Miami, Dallas, Buffalo, Kansas City, and San Francisco on the schedule.

Fresh off signing a five-year contract with an average annual salary of $51 million following Philly’s Super Bowl run last season, Hurts is about to face more pressure than he’s ever faced during his time in the pros as fans have expectations for him that did not exist before. A fan favorite after taking over for an underachieving Carson Wentz, who is still out of the NFL, Hurts fared far better last season than anyone could have hoped and played very well in the Super Bowl even though the Eagles lost.

That performance left an impression and set a standard of play that Hurts will now have to match in order to keep himself from incurring the wrath of the Philly faithful. That’s a pretty tall order as the Dolphins, Cowboys, Bills, Chiefs and 49ers have only lost seven games between them and all five teams have Super Bowl aspirations of their own.

“It is about how we respond and what our mentality is moving forward,” Hurts said on Sunday. “The great ones turn negative situations into positive situations. Great teams do that as well. This is an opportunity for us to do that.”

It’s an opportunity for Hurts as well, and it will be very telling to see what he does with it.

The Super Bowl is headed to…London?

With the NFL continuing to attempt to grow from America’s pastime into an international obsession, the league will be following its trio of London games with a pair of games in Germany. While the league is not hosting any games in Mexico this season, the NFL does plan on returning south of the border and is also looking into the possibility of playing games in Spain and Brazil in the future. Despite the logistical issues, the NFL is also studying the possibility of playing a regular-season game in Australia.

Speaking at press events in London ahead of the Ravens and Titans facing off in London on Sunday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league is also investigating the possibility of making its biggest game an international affair. With the Super Bowl set to be held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in February, at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans in February of 2025 and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in February ’26, Goodell suggested that the biggest event in American sports could eventually be played in London.

“It is not impossible and it is something that has been discussed before,” Goodell told a fan forum last week. “I think that is not out of the question.”

Goodell did say that the league prioritizes holding the Super Bowl in cities that are home to football franchises, but, with the prospect of moving a team to England on a permanent basis starting to become closer to being a reality, that priority might not preclude London moving forward.

“I think being able to play it in one of our cities — it’s at a huge economic boost to those cities,” Goodell said. “Our fans live in those cities also. I think that is important. Not that we do not have great fans here [in London]; we do. So as the international series develops, maybe that is a possibility as we play more games here.”

Moving the Super Bowl to London, even as a one-time-only event, would certainly anger a number of Americans and also potentially create some dilemmas for advertisers who will want to market their products but won’t want to risk alienating patriotic customers. Some football fans may even say they’ll boycott the big game if it is moved overseas.

They won’t — and the NFL knows it. Hopefully the league won’t take advantage of that knowledge and move the game, but if they do, America will be tuning in regardless, even if that means sitting down for kickoff three hours earlier due to the time difference.

DeVante Parker may have ended the Patriots

Limping into the desert at 1-4 for a rematch against the Raiders in the stadium where their season hit its lowest mark last season, the Patriots were desperate to get a win against a Las Vegas team that is filled with plenty of faces that are familiar to Bill Belichick.

That desperation did not translate onto the field as the Patriots were sloppy on offense with a number of costly penalties and a horrendous interception by quarterback Mac Jones. New England wasn’t much better on the defensive side of the ball as the Pats could not capitalize on facing former Tom Brady backup Brian Hoyer in the second half after former Tom Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo was knocked out of the game with a back injury.

Despite all of their miscues, the Patriots had the chance to wipe them all away and leave Las Vegas with a win with less than two minutes left in the game trailing by two points. That chance was blown when Jones targeted DeVante Parker on a deep route down the left sideline and saw the ball clang off the hands of his wide receiver at the 50-yard line.

Parker, who was acquired from the Miami Dolphins prior to last season and then awarded with an extension over the offseason despite finding the end zone just three times as a member of the Patriots, did not have a chance to atone for his blunder as Vegas pass rusher Maxx Crosby brought Jones down in the end zone for a safety following a delay of game penalty.

When Parker did have a chance to explain what happened when possibly the best pass that Jones has ever thrown hit him in the hands with plenty of room to run in front of him, the 30-year-old offered the same explanation many have given when asked what exactly has gone wrong for Bill Belichick this season: “I don’t know.”

It’s unfair to blame Parker, who eventually admitted he got his fingertips on the ball but was unable to grasp it, for the loss in Las Vegas or for all of the problems the Patriots, who finished with 10 penalties for 79 yards on Sunday, have endured this season. But his failure to produce on the field and then own up to the lack of production is a microcosm of what has been happening in Foxborough since Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay.

Untalented and uninspiring, the Patriots have rapidly devolved into one of the worst clubs in the NFL and, at 1-5 with the Buffalo Bills coming to town on Sunday a week before New England travels to Miami to face the first-place Dolphins, things are only going to get uglier for the team that Brady built.

Parker couldn’t have saved the Patriots, but he could have staved off their demise. He just couldn’t hold on.

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