Week 5 takeaways: D.K. Metcalf moving into an elite tier

Jeff Simmons
·5 min read

Dak Prescott was on the wrong side of a brutal and unforgiving part of the NFL. In the midst of one of the best statistical starts in his career, the Cowboys QB suffered a horrific ankle injury on Sunday that will knock Prescott out for the rest of the season.

While this certainly limits the Cowboys’ ceiling, the team should be okay in the short term. The organization wisely prepared for this scenario, adding longtime Bengals starter Andy Dalton in the offseason as an insurance policy, and they were paid immediate dividends with a Dalton-led fourth-quarter comeback over the New York Giants.

Dalton will not match Prescott’s passing metrics in this offense going forward, but the veteran QB should be stable enough to keep Dallas in games. In the past, Dalton has performed well when he was surrounded by quality talent at wide receiver, such as the 2015 season when the Bengals were one of the best offenses in the NFL with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohammed Sanu out wide. That season, Dalton was a borderline MVP candidate. Dallas has a similar set of weapons (and arguably better receivers) with CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup at his disposal, so Mike McCarthy should be able to adjust the tempo of the offense, and use play action to put Dalton into more favourable passing situations.

Dalton looked comfortable in his first dose of action off the bench, going 9-of-11 in the air for 111 yards and showing good chemistry for Gallup down the field. If the pass protection gets better, Dalton would be in the most talented offense he’s ever played in, given he has Ezekiel Elliott at running back. Having the stability of Dalton should keep Dallas in the playoff conversation — mostly because of how bad the NFC East is.

Rivers costing the Colts: The Colts have the best defense in the NFL. They have one of the top-rated offensive lines, and a great special teams unit, but they are only 3-2 because of the troubling play of Philip Rivers, who cost the Colts against Cleveland with a brutal performance that included two interceptions and a safety. Rivers did not throw a touchdown pass in the loss, and the team continued its season-long struggles in the red zone. They have only converted eight of 19 chances, which is one of the lowest marks in the NFL and a telling sign of Rivers’ lack of command and production. Rivers has not had a game this season with more than one touchdown pass, and overall has more interceptions (5) than touchdown passes (4), which are extremely alarming numbers in the pass-heavy NFL. Rivers was supposed to be the force of stability to bring the Colts back to the playoffs given the strength of the roster everywhere else, but the Colts would be 5-0 right now with better quarterback play.

D.K. Metcalf moving into an elite tier: Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf had all the makings of an NFL bust. The athletic dynamo had poor college production, a history of injuries, a 40-yard dash that didn’t necessarily line up with his play speed, and fell in the draft (to the end of the second round last year) as a result. Those evaluations have turned out to be laughable. Metcalf, in just his second pro season, is already one of the best receivers in the NFL. He finished with 90-plus yards for the fifth game in a row, and sealed the victory for Seattle with the game winning touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter to beat the Minnesota Vikings. Metcalf not only has elite speed and power, but is consistently winning with technique and displaying a more well-rounded route tree, which was a huge knock on him coming out of Ole Miss. He still has his fair share of mistakes, but with his size and speed, Metcalf is reminiscent of a younger version of Julio Jones, and in just 22 receptions so far, Metcalf ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards and has five touchdown catches. He is a huge reason why Seattle is 5-0.

Panthers have been a pleasant surprise: When the Panthers got rid of Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, and had an unexpected retirement from All Pro LB Luke Kuechly, no one really gave the Panthers a chance this season. Especially with a new head coach (Matt Rhule) that has never coached in the pros. Those chances got even slimmer when the Panthers started 0-2 and lost their franchise player, Christian McCaffrey, to a high ankle sprain. Against all odds, however, the Panthers have won three straight contests, and controlled the game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5. Rhule has done this before, as he made his reputation in college turning troubling programs such as Temple and Baylor into competitive teams. His offseason moves to bring in Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Davis, and Robby Anderson — a player he coached at Temple — has helped kick-start the new program in Carolina and the team is playing the kind of tough and smart football that defined his teams in college.

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