The Top Week 6 NFL Storylines: Kliff Kingsbury, Cooper Rush and Tom Brady

Plus, New York seems destined to have a playoff team for the first time since 2016

October 18, 2022 6:49 am
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on against the Seattle Seahawks.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals is on thin ice.
Tom Hauck/Getty

With October’s third edition of Monday Night Football in the rearview mirror, the sixth week of NFL action is in the can. While we can’t get to everything — like what former NFL QB Robert Griffin III enjoyed about playing on the road — here are four of the top Week 6 NFL storylines and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em. (ICYMI, here’s what went down last week along with a stellar video of Bill Belichick rejecting rookie special-teamer Brenden Schooler’s attempt to gift him the football after a fumble recovery in Week 6.)

Buy: Cooper Rush did his job for the Dallas Cowboys

With the Cowboys looking like a lost cause after being dismantled by the Bucs in Week 1 and losing Dak Prescott to a serious hand injury, backup quarterback Cooper Rush stepped in and played his role to perfection in the next four weeks as Dallas went 4-0 with the 28-year-old posting a 92.0 QB rating to go along with zero interceptions.

That Cinderella story came to an end on Sunday night in Philadelphia as Rush had a passer rating of 1.0 in the first half and finished with a 37.3 rating after going 18-of-38 for 181 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in a 26-17 defeat to the undefeated Eagles (6-0).

It was an ugly loss, but what Rush has been able to do for the Cowboys was a huge, huge win for the team.

While no one is ever going to confuse Rush with Dan Marino or John Elway and any talk that he should have retained the starting job over Prescott was laughable long before what went down on Sunday night in Philly, he was unquestionably a steadying force for Dallas and helped keep the team on the tracks when the season was poised to go off the rails.

As a backup, your job is to hold down the fort until the starter is ready to return. Rush, to his credit, did that and then some as the Cowboys sit at 4-2 with Prescott sounding as if he will be able to return for a Week 7 date against the Lions (1-4) in Dallas. The Cowboys then play the Bears (1-4) in Week 8 and should be sitting in good shape at 6-2 approaching the season’s midpoint unless something goes seriously wrong.

“Obviously, [I’m] just disappointed that I couldn’t be with the guys these past five weeks, I guess, but I’m excited to move forward and happy as hell with the position that we’re in,” Prescott said on Monday.

Thank Rush.

Sell: Tom Brady is fully invested in Tampa Bay’s season

Already in the crosshairs after missing an extended portion of training camp for reasons unknown and requesting a day off from practice each week, Tom Brady is having his commitment to his craft and his team called into question after the Buccaneers became the biggest upset victims of the 2022 season when they lost 20-18 to the Steelers on Sunday the day after the seven-time Super Bowl winner missed a walkthrough.

Rightly so.

Brady, who was known for his maniacal work ethic and attention to detail during his days with the Patriots, missed the walkthrough because he was in New York attending the wedding of New England owner Robert Kraft on Friday night. Although Brady eventually met up with the Buccaneers on Saturday night in Pittsburgh, he didn’t arrive until after the walkthrough and also missed several team meetings.

On Sunday against a Steeler team that just allowed 38 points in Buffalo in Week 5, Tampa Bay’s offense played like a unit that was not on the same page as Brady completed 25-of-40 passes for just 243 yards and one touchdown while struggling badly on third down (4-for-14). As he has increasingly been doing this season, Brady threw another temper tantrum on Sunday while appearing to throw his teammates under the bus. What he can’t throw is touchdowns as the Bucs are averaging 19.0 points per game after averaging more than 30 points a game through the first six weeks of the season last year.

A one-of-a-kind player who is still clearly capable of playing at an elite level despite being in his mid-40s, Brady has probably earned the right to smash a few tablets or offer his teammates some harsh words of encouragement if he sees fit. But the fact that he has to resort to these tactics during games also opens the door to questions about how prepared he actually is to play at this point in his career and how dedicated he is to Tampa Bay. Adding fuel to the fire is that he was clearly interested in being a Miami Dolphin — and there’s no longer any debate about it.

“He works as hard as anybody,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said of Brady following Sunday’s loss. “Special treatment — there have been a few guys that have missed meetings and some practices for some special thing — that just doesn’t get publicized because they’re not him. It just kind of comes with the territory. You don’t worry about it too much.”

With the Bucs now 3-3, it might be time to start.

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Buy: New York will have a team in the NFL playoffs

With Week 7 on the horizon, the New York Jets (4-2) and New York Giants (5-1) have both already equaled or exceeded their win total for last year when both clubs were 4-13 to cap a league-worst five-year span when each team went 22-59. It seems unrealistic to expect both Big Blue and Gang Green to keep winning games at this pace, but there’s reason to believe that at least one of New York’s football teams will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 when the Giants were a postseason club. (The Jets last made the playoffs during the 2010 season, the last time both teams finished with a winning record.

Both sitting in second place in their respective divisions, New York’s NFL teams have a combined point differential of +29, meaning the teams have an average margin of victory of just over three points in their nine wins. Clearly, neither team is a Super Bowl contender, but both have proved that they are not flukes and should remain in the hunt for the postseason barring a major collapse.

In the case of the Jets, that collapse could be coming in the next four weeks as New York has two games against the Patriots and one against the Bills following a Week 7 matchup in Denver against the beatable Broncos. The Jets should have a shot to extend their record to 5-2 in Denver as the team is undefeated on the road this season, but the games against the Bills and Patriots could be killers as New York has lost 16 straights games to Buffalo and New England combined. If that trend holds serve, the Jets will be back to .500 in a month.

The Giants, on the other hand, do not appear to have a similar risk as they are approaching a fairly soft four-week stretch of the schedule where their four opponents (Jaguars, Seahawks, Texans and Lions) have combined for just seven wins through six weeks of play. As long as stud running back Saquon Barkley stays healthy and early Coach of the Year favorite Brian Daboll doesn’t start reading his own press clippings and take his foot off the gas, the Giants have a realistic shot to be 9-1 before they visit the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in Dallas. Were that to happen, the Giants could lose their eight remaining games — which they won’t — and still finish above .500, possibly in playoff position in a weak NFC.

Whatever happens, the Giants and Jets deserve credit for an improbable six weeks of play and once all 17 weeks are in the books expect at least one of New York’s teams to play for at least one more week in the postseason.

Sell: Kliff Kingsbury will coach the Cardinals for a long time

Understandably desperate to save a season that is hanging by a thread, the Cardinals and Arizona coach Kliff Kinsbury swung a deal to acquire volatile wide receiver Robbie Anderson from the Carolina Panthers on Monday a day after No. 1 wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown suffered a foot injury that could end his season.

Getting Anderson, who will arrive in the desert in tandem with the return of star pass-catcher DeAndre Hopkins, may give a Cardinal offense that was held under 10 points by a Seattle defense that surrendered 32 the week before in a 19-9 loss to the Seahawks a boost, but it won’t help treat the underlying cause of Arizona’s struggles nor will it be enough to save Kingsbury’s job.

Now 2-4 on the year after losing five of six games to end last season, including a brutal beatdown in the playoffs at the hands of the LA Rams, the Cardinals appear headed in the wrong direction after finishing 11-6 in 2021. The team can’t even think of changing quarterbacks as Kyler Murry signed a massive contract extension during the offseason and is guaranteed far too much money to get rid of or bench, so the team will have to look elsewhere to shake things up. Unfortunately for Kingsbury, who signed an extension through 2027 in March as did general manager Steve Keim, he’s next on the list. For the record, he probably should be.

On Sunday, Arizona failed to convert on three fourth downs in field goal range and was unable to get it into the end zone in a game that featured no offensive touchdowns for either team. The Cardinals, who also had a pair of turnovers in the second half, have clearly regressed on offense and have yet to score 30 points this season and have reached 400 yards in a game just once. Billed as an offensive genius, Kingsbury bears the brunt of the blame.

Now 0-3 at home through six weeks with a -28 point differential, the Cardinals have only notched wins over the Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders, two teams with a combined record of 2-9. Things aren’t really looking up as the team has to play against the Saints on Thursday night on short rest before heading to Minnesota for a date with the first-place Vikings. With little time to fix what’s broken and work Anderson and Hopkins into the offense, Murray, who sacked six times on Sunday against the Seahawks, will likely continue to struggle and Kingsbury’s hot seat will turn scalding if the Cardinals are 2-6 in two weeks. In fact, it may no longer be his seat at all.

“It begins with me,” coach Kingsbury said on Sunday. “We will see how we can move things around personnel-wise and scheme-wise and see how we can get better. It’s a six-game view and it hasn’t been good enough.”

Not even close.

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