Week 5 might not have been the weirdest or wildest slate of the season, but there were plenty of winners and losers — including a triumphant return from Alex Smith, a franchise-changing injury to Dak Prescott and a taste of Tuesday football.
Who are this week’s biggest winners and losers? Let’s find out.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons Fans
The Falcons are winless and look like a team that’s given up a little over a month into the season. So why are their fans winners? Because the team finally got rid of coach Dan Quinn, who should have been given his walking papers years ago.
While the Falcons fans have been losers for all season, they can finally rejoice over this. The start of a new era on the horizon.
Falcons chose their defensive coordinator and former Buccaneers’ HC Raheem Morris as their interim head coach to replace Dan Quinn, per @vxmcclure23.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 12, 2020
Actually, maybe the Falcons fans aren't winners... yet.
Loser: The Entire 49ers Franchise
The Niners were absolutely embarrassed Sunday in one of the most surprising losses of the season. San Francisco’s injuries finally caught up to them, but the Dolphins’ demolition of the defending NFC Champions was much more than that.
The 49ers weren’t playing this bad even in Shanahan’s first couple of seasons.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 11, 2020
The Niners were simply outcoached, which is rare in the Kyle Shanahan era. The team shockingly started Brian Allen, a practice squad player, who had no business being on the field and the ‘Fins teed off on him. And they also trotted out a clearly injured Jimmy Garrapollo and fed him to the wolves of the sea, aka, the Dolphins.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a corner play worse than Brian Allen is right now— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 11, 2020
While the 49ers don’t have to worry about losing Robert Saleh to a head coaching job anymore, the Niners have some soul searching to do. If Shanahan and Co. don’t turn it around, they have the makings of a five-win team.
Winner: Rookie Wide Receivers
The 2020 class of wide receivers was touted as one of the most talented groups ever, and so far, they are living up to the hype.
Highest-graded rookie WRs in Wk 5 ahead of MNF:— PFF (@PFF) October 12, 2020
1. CeeDee Lamb - 91.0
2. Chase Claypool - 90.0
3. Laviska Shenault Jr. - 80.8
4. Henry Ruggs III - 78.4 pic.twitter.com/pAjUQwsSYC
It seems that each week a new rookie receiver is bursting onto the scene. In Week 5, it was Chase Claypool who popped. The athletic phenom out of Notre Dame scored four touchdowns — and it could’ve easily been five if not for a tacky offensive pass interference call — despite not receiving a single red-zone target.
He wasn’t alone, though.
Henry Ruggs, Laviska Shenault and CeeDee Lamb all looked like future stars.
That’s two years in a row with strong rookie receiver classes, and 2021 is looking pretty good, too.
Loser: The Cowboys' Entertainment Factor
No matter what you think of America’s Team, it’s undeniable that Dak Prescott is one of the more entertaining quarterbacks in the NFL. The young passer — who deserves to get paid — was on pace for a career year until a season-ending leg injury ruined it all.
The Red Rifle is one of the best backups in the league, and he should keep the Cowboys afloat in the awful NFC East, but it’s still a huge bummer. And with how many primetime and nationally televised Cowboys games there are, it’ll make watching football a little less fun.
There’s an argument that Tuesday is the worst day of the week. Sure, it's popular to hate on Mondays, but — if you’re a sports fan — you have Monday Night Football to look forward to. And any day with football is better than a day without football.
That leaves Wednesday and Friday as the only other weekdays with no football, at least on the professional level. Wednesday is hump day, and a day closer to the weekend, so that’s clearly better than Tuesdays. And you don’t need me telling you how great Fridays are. There’s even a classic movie named after the day. What’s the best movie named after Tuesday? Tuesdays With Morrie? I rest my case.
In fact, Tuesdays are so terrible they had to turn them into Taco Tuesdays just so people could tolerate the day.
But this is all just a long way of saying that this Tuesday actually doesn’t suck! Do you know why? Because there will presumably be football played on that day. The Buffalo Bills take on the Tennessee Titans in a truly tantalizing Tuesday experiment.
Welcome to the good life, Tuesday. And suck on that, Wednesday!
Loser: NFL Schedule Makers
Every day there seems to be a new coronavirus outbreak in the NFL. That’s just the world we live in today. But since the NFL stupidly decided to not build in an extra bye week — or more — for each team in the schedule, the gatekeepers of the schedule are working overtime to figure out how to fit in the latest postponements.
In their latest installment in confusing the public, the NFL announced major schedule changes for multiple teams.
What’s sad is that there will be more and more changes in the near future. In fact, NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported that the NFL is on the precipice of adding a Week 18 and could potentially cancel the Pro Bowl and delay the Super Bowl if further schedule changes are needed. And guess what, there will be.
Winner: Alex Smith
After nearly losing his leg to a devastating leg injury, Alex Smith triumphantly returned to the gridiron Sunday after Kyle Allen injured his arm.
It was an inspiring moment that would’ve been even better in front of fans at FedEx Field in Washington.
While it’s unfortunate that it happened in a monsoon and on the lowly Washington Football Team, it’s still one of the most amazing moments in a season — and year — that desperately needs it.
Should he be on the field? Now, that’s a different story. And his family’s reaction probably says all you need to know.
Loser: Alex Smith’s Family
Yes, Alex Smith’s return to the football field was goosebump-inducing, but it was also anxiety-inducing.
And you could tell that was happening tenfold to Alex Smith’s family, specifically his wife Elizabeth.
Alex Smith's wife is all of us right now pic.twitter.com/11LcTRNvcU— The Ringer (@ringer) October 11, 2020
She looked like a mix of excited and “holy shit, someone give me all the alcohol in this stadium” — which makes sense after seeing what her husband went through.
It didn't help that Smith's return came against quarterback-destroyer Aaron Donald, either.
Winner: Panthers’ Playoff Chances
Don’t look now, but the Panthers might actually be good.
The official meme of the 2020 Carolina Panthers. pic.twitter.com/cvuqcFJjGJ— Jeremy Igo (@CarolinaHuddle) October 5, 2020
With an entirely new coaching staff, scheme and starting quarterback in Carolina, the Panthers were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. But Matt Rhule and Joe Brady have turned the Panthers into a young team with high-scoring potential. And that makes them a threat in the NFC South.
That, along with an improving defense, gives the Panthers a bright future — and present. With an expanded playoff field and some NFC teams faltering early, Carolina could claw their way into the playoff hunt.
Loser: Michael Thomas
If the Panthers are coming on strong in the NFC South, then the Saints will surely need their top receiver back in the fold as soon as possible.
But that’ll have to wait.
Michael Thomas, who was set to return from a high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 1, will have to wait a couple more weeks to get back on the field.
That’s because he was throwing hands instead of catching balls.
Saints’ WR Michael Thomas had an altercation with a teammate at practice this weekend, per league sources. Saints now disciplining Thomas by sitting him Monday night, when he was being listed as questionable with an ankle injury.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 11, 2020
Now that he’s suspended by the team, Thomas won’t be back on the field until Week 7.
Will he be able to keep his hands to himself, though?
Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration