NFL Week 6 overreactions, reality checks: 49ers overusing Christian McCaffrey? Lions best team in NFC?

The NFL no longer has an unbeaten team, as the 1972 Miami Dolphins can pop the corks again as the lone unbeaten team in NFL history. Both the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles suffered their first loss of the season with poor performances Sunday in Week 6. 

While the 49ers and Eagles have a loss on their record, the Detroit Lions are cruising to a 5-1 start (tied for the best record in the NFL) and the Miami Dolphins overcame a 14-0 deficit to blow past the Carolina Panthers and advance to 5-1. 

Parity in the league is just as strong at the top with five teams sitting at 5-1. There is no clear front-runner to go to the Super Bowl, making an exciting rest of the season ahead. With the Week 6 Sunday afternoon games completed, there are plenty of overreactions to go around. Which actually are overreactions and which are reality? 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

McCaffrey’s injury showcases how much the 49ers have utilized him this year. His 110 carries are second in the NFL and his 134 touches lead the league. That’s 22.3 touches a game through six games. The 49ers are wise to use their best offensive player to his skill set, but how much is too much? 

McCaffrey left in the second half with an oblique and rib injury, only to return before exiting the game for good. The 49ers have to be careful with their star running back and perhaps reduce the amount of touches he’s getting. 

That would involve relying on Brock Purdy more, which its unclear how he’ll perform after his 12 of 27 game Sunday (55.3 passer rating). The 49ers have to limit McCaffrey regardless — if they want to make a run at the Super Bowl

Lions are the best team in the NFC 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Detroit is certainly looking like the team to beat in the NFC after the Lions took care of business against Tampa Bay. Detroit’s defense held its opponent to 20 points or fewer for the fourth time this season, while scoring 20-plus points for the 15th straight game (a franchise record). 

Jared Goff threw for 353 yards against a good Buccaneers secondary and didn’t throw an interception, carrying an offense that survived the loss of David Montgomery. Jameson Williams adds a deep-ball counter to Amon-Ra St. Brown’s route-running, making the passing game even more dangerous. 

The defense held Tampa Bay to 2 of 12 on third down and 4.6 yards per play on the afternoon. The Lions are just pulling off complete wins, no matter the opponent. They are the hottest team in the NFC, but their test will be the Eagles and 49ers in January (they don’t play them in the regular season).

Make no mistake. The Lions are good. 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Ridder threw three poor interceptions that highly contributed to the Falcons falling to the Commanders, finishing 28 of 47 for 307 yards and touchdowns for a 66.5 rating. Ridder continues to throw passes into lanes that aren’t available as he should have more interceptions than the six he already has.

The two interceptions Ridder threw late in the fourth quarter were brutal, especially the one in the red zone with Atlanta down 24-16. The Falcons outgained the Commanders 402 yards to 193 and picked up 25 first downs to Washington’s 13 — but lost because of Ridder’s three miscues. 

Ridder is supposed to be a game manager, yet struggles when the run game is taken away. Perhaps the Falcons should give Taylor Heinicke a shot, as they are still in the NFC South race at 3-3. They could be punting 2023 by keeping Ridder in. 

The Bengals are about to go on a run

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Here come the Bengals, winners of two straight games with a franchise quarterback that looks 100% recovered from his calf injury from the summer. Burrow wasn’t perfect in Sunday’s win (24 of 35, 185 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 88.4 rating), but he was moving around very well in the pocket and had command of the offense early. 

Of course the Bengals went dormant late — and Orlando Brown’s injury had a lot to do with that — as their defense stepped up and held a good Seattle offense to 13 points and 1 of 5 in the red zone. 

Cincinnati is looking like itself again, but San Francisco and Buffalo are up next after the bye. The Bengals need to prove they can rise up against those teams, the start of a brutal stretch that includes Houston, Baltimore and Jacksonville in five of their next six games. 

Jets defense can beat any quarterback in NFL 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

What the Jets did to Jalen Hurts is just the norm for this group. Hurts finished 28 of 45 for 280 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions (52.5 rating), struggling all day against a Jets defense that was able to put consistent pressure in the backfield once Lane Johnson left the game with an ankle injury. 

The Jets have done this to other quarterbacks this year. Josh Allen threw three interceptions in week 1 against the Jets while Patrick Mahomes threw a pair of interceptions in Week 4 — all at MetLife Stadium. Hurts, Mahomes, and Allen have combined for three touchdowns and eight interceptions against the Jets defense this year — and they are three of the five best quarterbacks in the league. 

Allen, Mahomes, and Hurts have completed 65% of their passes against the Jets defense — and 70% against everyone else. They average 6.2 yards per attempt against the Jets and 7.7 against everyone else, along with 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. 

The Jets defense just shuts down great quarterbacks. Plain and simple. 

Raiders are a playoff team 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

The Raiders finally scored 20 points in a game (they scored 21) and won their second consecutive game to advance to 3-3. Las Vegas is certainly an enigma, as the Raiders have scored just 16.6 points per game and allowed 21.8. Yet they are at .500 and have the Bears, Giants and Jets in three of their next four games. 

Las Vegas is in playoff position, but the Raiders need to generate more points on offense if they are to be taken seriously. Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury is also a significant blow to an offense that can’t get Josh Jacobs going through six games. They are beating bad teams and taking care of business, but the offense has to be better.