Aside from potential Wisconsin-area "Die Hard" buffs who observed the unexpected re-emergences of Argyle and Hans Gruber's IT guy, Sunday was a slog for Packer fans. Aaron Rodgers' numbers against the Buccaneers' blitz: 3-for-12, three sacks. Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' attacking tendencies vexed a Packers offensive line that ranked first in Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate through four games. The Packers (4-1) lost ace left tackle David Bakhtiari to a chest injury -- one Matt LaFleur hopes is not serious -- amid the carnage. But the team that took heat for limited offensive additions this year faces big questions again.
PACKERS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)
The Buccaneers (4-2) allowed the NFL's most passing yards in 2017, ranked 26th in 2018 and 30th last season. After muzzling QBR's No. 2 passer Sunday, the young Bucs secondary can no longer be overlooked. Jamel Dean's pick-six -- just the third of Rodgers' career -- keyed an avalanche in the Bucs' highest-profile spot since the Jon Gruden era, and the unit prevented Davante Adams' return from injury from impacting the game. Comprised almost entirely of first-, second- or third-year players, Tampa Bay's secondary has become a strength. It helped Tom Brady pull away from his rival for the second time in three years. Hopefully a Brady-Rodgers IV commences.
BUCCANEERS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)
Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson's situations dwarf Deshaun Watson's, making the fourth-year Texans quarterback's performances even more captivating. After seeing his former GM/coach trade DeAndre Hopkins to downgrade at running back and again saddle him with shaky protection and another bad defense, Watson is still thriving. In his second post-Bill O'Brien game, Watson had Houston (1-5) on track to upset Tennessee with a 335-yard, four-TD passing day. Unlike Jackson, the Texans standout has proven he can thrive in any game script. Behind Mahomes and Russell Wilson, he might be the third-most bankable quarterback for the 2020s.
TEXANS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Packers (Sun.)
The late-2010s' round of running back contracts burned the teams that authorized them; a few backfield stars have gone down this season. Yet the Titans becoming part of 2020's renewed RB commitment looks like the right play. Derrick Henry dropped his third career 200-yard rushing game (256 from scrimmage), and his pulling-away-from-DBs 94-yard TD sprint was the fourth-fastest speed a ball carrier hit this season. Henry at $12.5 million per year, on a deal without post-2021 guarantees, is a good investment -- despite his run-oriented game. Henry's mileage remains fairly low, and his skill set is perfect for this Titans team (5-0).
TITANS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)
With the Ravens and Steelers combining to outscore the Browns 76-13, a clear barrier separates Cleveland (4-2) from the AFC North's true powers. Absent fast-developing guard Wyatt Teller, the Browns' vastly improved offensive line allowed Baker Mayfield to face frequent pressure and could not open lanes for Kareem Hunt (40 rushing yards). Mayfield has 11 multi-INT games in barely two years as a starter -- the NFL's third-most in that span. The difference between the outcomes of the Browns' games against Super Bowl contenders and their four wins reveals plenty about their standing.
BROWNS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)
Ben Roethlisberger threw 17 TD passes in each of his three Super Bowl seasons. Defense drove the best Big Ben-era Steeler teams, making Sunday's performance tantalizing -- given what this Pittsburgh team is assembling on offense. The Steelers (5-0 for the second time in franchise history) notched four sacks, nine tackles for loss and held the NFL's top rushing offense to 75 garbage time-aided yards. Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree represent the NFL's best pass rush. With Dupree on the franchise tag and Watt on the verge of a 2021 payday (and Ben at 38), this season is crucial for the Steelers. They are operating like it.
STEELERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)
Denver's defense entered the season with three former Pro Bowlers; each missed Sunday's game. Despite Von Miller and Jurrell Casey's long-term injuries and A.J. Bouye's absence exposing shaky cornerback depth, the Broncos (2-3) made the Patriots resort to multiple trick plays to move the ball on their final drive. Vic Fangio's depleted unit intercepted two Cam Newton passes on a brutal day for the ex-MVP, who took four sacks, and prevented the kind of collapse that has unfolded many times under Fangio. Offensive and defensive injuries will limit the Broncos, but they showed Fangio's blueprint has life Sunday.
BRONCOS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)
COVID-19 opt-outs weakened the Patriots this summer, and an outbreak limiting the Pats' practice time exposed a flawed team Sunday. New England (2-3) mustered less than 300 yards against a battered Denver defense, and even with the team down multiple O-linemen, the Pats' issues may be too much even for Bill Belichick's defense to overcome. Newton had no consistent weapon to target; that may continue to be a problem even with the Pats at full strength. After losing for the first time in the Belichick era when not allowing a touchdown, the Patriots are under .500 in October for the first time since 2002.
PATRIOTS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)
So what if the Ravens still have not proven they can play from behind with Lamar Jackson; their defense is bludgeoning all non-Chiefs comers. After Calais Campbell's three-sack day, the Ravens (5-1) have 13 QB drops in the past two games. Although they faced a battered Eagles O-line, the Ravens were down D-line starters Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe. Campbell, still on his game at 34, compensated. Acquired for a fifth-round pick, the former All-Pro has given Matt Judon the wingman he lacked last season. Judon blowing up Philadelphia's defining two-point play showed the kind of safety net Jackson has.
RAVENS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Nov. 1)
Remaining from the Eagles' optimal starting offense by game's end: Carson Wentz, Jason Kelce. The Eagles (1-4-1) losing Miles Sanders continues a sobering year for talented running backs and has made it easier to list the starters who are healthy in Philly. Sanders (525 scrimmage yards) was about the only non-Travis Fulgham element working for this offense. Zach Ertz will also undergo a Monday MRI. It is kind of impressive the Eagles came this close to upsetting the Ravens. But even with DeSean Jackson due back Thursday, how much longer can this aging team extend this season's relevancy?
EAGLES GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Giants (Thu.)
The Bears (5-1) are plus-12 this season. Coming into Week 6, Football Outsiders tabbed them the second-worst (by DVOA) 4-1 team since 1985 -- behind only the 2010 Bears. That team voyaged to the NFC championship game; this one keeps compiling wins. Chicago's defense hounded Teddy Bridgewater, forcing three turnovers to help a below-average offense. The Bears' late-first-half goal-line stand proved pivotal and epitomized their sneaky-effective season. Their schedule stiffens up at the midseason point, but 85 of the 102 teams to start 5-1 since 1990 have made the playoffs. This is a low-key fascinating team.
BEARS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Rams (Mon.)
Yes, Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins are on track to rank first and second in receiving yards after their respective Monday outings. But entering tonight's games, Robby Anderson leads the league with 566. The same player the Panthers added for two years and $20 million, Anderson has become an all-around weapon in Joe Brady's offense. The ex-Jets deep threat who was 0-for-4 in 1,000-yard seasons in New York added 77 more yards Sunday -- his second-worst total this year. Although the Panthers (3-3) lost, they have seen Anderson play a key role in ensuring they will not be in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
PANTHERS GRADE: C | NEXT: at Saints (Sun.)
The Falcons were breaking in interim coach Raheem Morris in a week in which multiple coronavirus positives emerged, forcing the team to leave its two D-line coaches at home. GM-less as well, the Falcons (1-5) saw their franchise player ensure 0-6 would not happen. Julio Jones dispelled doubts about his status as a premier NFL wideout at age 31, carving up the Vikings for eight catches, 137 yards and two TDs. Probably the best player in Falcons history, the 10th-year wideout shaking off an injury-plagued start is good news for certain fantasy managers and an Atlanta team facing more uncertainty than it has in 13 years.
FALCONS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)
After giving Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed, three-year deal worth $84M in 2018, the Vikings (1-5) bumped their passer's per-year salary to $33M this offseason. Cousins continues to show he is at best a slightly above average quarterback incapable of being an offensive centerpiece. Prevented from doing much practice work this week because of COVID-19, the Falcons limited flashy Vikings RB2 Alexander Mattison to 26 rushing yards. They took a 20-0 halftime lead on three Cousins INTs. The financial superstar/game manager's contract will tie him to Minnesota through at least 2021, keeping the Vikings' middle-class ceiling installed.
VIKINGS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Packers (Nov. 1)
The Bengals (1-4-1) are rebuilding, but Taylor is now 22 games into his head-coaching run. He is 3-18-1. The Bengals employed several veteran defenders last season and still went 2-14. They now have A.J. Green and left tackle Jonah Williams back, creating a better situation for Joe Burrow. They blew a 21-point lead against a depleted Colts offense Sunday. David Shula and Dick LeBeau won eight games in their first two Cincy seasons -- with worse rosters. Marvin Lewis' rebuild produced 16 wins from 2003-04. Burrow is tethered to this offense, giving Taylor some security. But results continue to elude the young coach.
BENGALS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)
Swatting away notions he is washed, Philip Rivers threw for 371 yards and led a 21-point comeback. Over the Bengals, but still. Rivers, however, has not walked into the kind of situation he expected. While his pass catchers did well to corral some of his passes -- particularly career backup Marcus Johnson (108 yards), Trey Burton and Jack Doyle -- the Colts (4-2) are playing without foundational pieces here. For the first time in eight years, T.Y. Hilton (one catch Sunday; 242 yards this season) does not look like a core player. With young talents Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell out, the Colts are getting by without building-block targets.
COLTS GRADE: B-minus | at Lions (Nov. 1)
Although Adrian Peterson has shown he belongs in an NFL backfield, the Lions need to determine their run-game future. The team has not ranked in the top half in rushing since Barry Sanders' 1998 finale, and Detroit has invested in four second-round backs -- Mikel Leshoure, Ameer Abdullah, Kerryon Johnson and D'Andre Swift -- since 2011. The newest draftee displayed versatility in elevating the Lions (2-4) over the Jaguars. Swift's 116 rushing yards and two TDs on just 14 carries provide a nice early sign the team has found a long-term piece alongside Kenny Golladay to move the chains.
LIONS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)
The Jaguars were without top pass rusher Josh Allen, but their defense has submitted unsatisfactory work since Week 2. Jacksonville (1-5) allowed 30-plus points in a game for the fifth straight week -- a franchise first -- and, per ESPN Stats and Info, would join the 1968 Broncos and '84 Vikings as the only teams to ever allow six straight such scoring outings were this to happen again next week. The Jags ranked seventh in defensive DVOA in 2018 and first in 2017. If the Jags are eyeing Trevor Lawrence -- as most thought they were entering the season -- they need not mess with this formula.
JAGUARS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)
There are 10 teams with zero or one win this season; have-nots are forming ahead of the most heated race for a prospect since #SuckforLuck nine years ago. Washington, as it did last season, lost a close game to the Giants in New Jersey. Although Washington (1-5) has seen stretches with positive QB developments -- Kirk Cousins' final years, RG3's rookie slate and stopgaps Mark Brunell and Brad Johnson -- this century, its handling of Dwayne Haskins points to no long-term plan existing. Washington's first-rounder-flooded defensive line may impede a Lawrence run, but after its fifth straight loss, the team is on the radar.
WASHINGTON GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)
In March, the Giants (1-5) made a cornerback who had never even been a Pro Bowl alternate the position's third-highest-paid player. James Bradberry has proven worth the money so far, especially since Jalen Ramsey, Marlon Humphrey and Tre'Davious White subsequently changed a stagnant market. Bradberry blanketed Washington wideouts Sunday, allowing just three catches for 12 yards. Washington steered Terry McLaurin away from Bradberry, who is justifying his $14.5M-per-year salary. Pro Football Focus' No. 2-ranked corner, Bradberry has helped a secondary that lost 2019 first-round pick De Andre Baker after an offseason arrest.
GIANTS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Eagles (Thu.)
In 1997, the Jets saw Peyton Manning return to Tennessee rather than become their No. 1 overall pick. Lawrence has declared he will enter the 2021 NFL Draft, but if the Jets continue on this path, the Clemson prodigy would have grounds to consider backtracking. The Jets (0-6) began the game 0-for-12 on third downs, with Joe Flacco treating Gang Green backers to perhaps the team's 21st-century low point. Former Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a 24-0 lead by the third quarter. Sam Darnold will return to probably the bleakest Jets situation in at least 24 years. Maybe longer.
JETS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sun.)
The Jets did not advance into the Dolphins' red zone until deep into garbage time (which encompassed the entire second half), so the hosts were not in genuine danger of losing. But the Dolphins (3-3) stopped a second-quarter Jets drive (giving their punter a break) when Howard registered an interception for a fourth straight game. He is the first Dolphin to do this since Terrell Buckley in 1995-96, per ESPN. This marks a nice turnaround for Howard, who played in just five games last season. He led the NFL with seven thefts in 2018 en route to an extension, and his four picks top the league this year.
DOLPHINS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Rams (Nov. 1)
The 49ers were down their best defensive lineman (Nick Bosa), most accomplished linebacker (Kwon Alexander) and future Hall of Fame cornerback (Richard Sherman) -- among others on defense -- yet they kept Jared Goff in check for most of their Week 6 win. Goff was 19 of 38 for 198 yards, and while Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods let him down with key drops, Sean McVay's weekly task of propping up the former No. 1 pick was again on display. Asked to perform frequent play-fakes or quick screens, Goff being unable to establish consistency against a defense Ryan Fitzpatrick shredded keep questions about the Rams' contender viability relevant.
RAMS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Bears (Mon.)
Coming off a career-high four-sack performance, Aaron Donald let down his IDP fantasy managers Sunday night. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer registered season-lows with one QB hit and two pressures. Leading the way: 49ers second-year O-lineman Daniel Brunskill. With Donald lining up over San Francisco's right guard for much of Sunday night, Brunskill enjoyed a rare (for a guard) spotlight game -- though he had consistent help. Primarily a tackle last season, the former undrafted free agent allowed the 49ers to run their offense and go up two scores without Donald wrecking a borderline must-win game.
49ERS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sun.)
The Raiders registered 26 pressures against the Chiefs -- the most they have compiled since a five-sack Khalil Mack game in December 2015. With severe knee injuries perhaps threatening to end Kelechi Osemele's career, the Chiefs (4-1) are left with embattled right tackle Mike Remmers as their third option at left guard -- after Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and emergency stopgap Osemele. PFF rates returning Kansas City interior starters Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie as below-average blockers this season, giving Patrick Mahomes a bigger challenge as he attempts to lead the Chiefs to the AFC's lone playoff bye slot.
MONDAY: at Bills, 5 p.m. ET
Backing an inconsistent Josh Allen, the Bills pass defense provided elite security over the past two years. DVOA pegged the past two Buffalo pass defenses as top-five units. Through five games this season, they rank 22nd by this measurement. They were not exactly dominating prior to their Tuesday outing, but the Bills (4-1) could not stop Ryan Tannehill, who had one (sanctioned) practice session amid a COVID-19 outbreak. The Bills are in line to have top cornerback Tre'Davious White back to face Tyreek Hill and Co. but are down Levi Wallace (on IR) and may still be without top coverage linebacker Matt Milano (questionable).
MONDAY: vs. Chiefs, 5 p.m. ET
Arizona's defense boasts five players with two sacks; Chandler Jones ended his season with just one. But the All-Pro edge rusher catalyzed this pass rush. DVOA grades Arizona 26th against the pass, and the team has encountered issues for years finding a complementary Jones piece. Jones' biceps tear complicates the Cards' contention hopes. Potential trade candidates include the Bengals' Carlos Dunlap, the Falcons' Takk McKinley and the Jets' Jordan Jenkins. Seeing how the Cardinals (3-2) handle the Cowboys' aerial attack will help reveal if a move is necessary.
MONDAY: at Cowboys, 8:15 p.m.
Caught in 2020's rare buyer's quarterback market, Dalton took the Cowboys' offer to back up a quarterback who had never missed a game. Dak Prescott's setback gives his 32-year-old backup with a chance to secure a better deal in 2021. Dalton has not enjoyed this kind of weaponry perhaps ever, and the most recent time he was outfitted with such a crew -- 2015's Bengals team that was 10-2 in games Dalton finished -- he ranked third in QBR. Dalton steadily declined as the Bengals' roster worsened, but in maybe the worst NFC East in its 51-season history, he should be capable of keeping the Cowboys (2-3) afloat.
MONDAY: vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m.
The Chargers refused to dip into free agency to bolster their left tackle position, despite trading incumbent Russell Okung to the Panthers. The team has entrusted former sixth-round pick Sam Tevi here. PFF rates the fourth-year blocker 61st among tackles; it slots Bolts swing tackle Trey Pipkins last. Justin Herbert has taken all but 42 of his snaps without either of the team's high-priced offseason pickups -- guard Trai Turner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. The Chargers (1-4) rank 26th in ESPN's pass block win rate. Turner and Bulaga returning soon after the bye will provide more support for Herbert, whose rise has included extensive work with backups.
NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)
The Raiders (3-2) are 3-0 when Henry Ruggs plays; they were 2-0 with both Ruggs and fellow rookie Bryan Edwards in uniform. While obviously simplistic, these qualifiers help explain Las Vegas' plan. Ruggs returned to gash the Chiefs (two catches, 118 yards; 39.3 per target); he will open up defenses for Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs (3.6 yards per carry, down from 4.8 in 2019) and slot man Hunter Renfrow. With their rookie wideouts, a Raiders playoff run should not be discarded. After the Amari Cooper trade and Antonio Brown misstep, this could be the Raiders' deepest receiving corps since the 2000s.
NEXT: vs. Buccaneers (Sun.)
The only 5-0 team in Seahawks history has needed just about every bit of Russell Wilson's brilliance. It exited Week 5 not only last in defense but on pace for some unthinkable endpoints. Seattle's first five opponents combined for 2,356 yards -- the most any team has yielded through five games since 1950, per Elias Sports Bureau. Jamal Adams having missed the past two contests hurt, but this is not a Super Bowl pace. Seattle has used much of its trade capital on Adams and other secondary starters, but with its pass rush 28th in win rate and lacking a proven sack artist, might another deal be necessary?
NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)
In Saints fashion, they have tried some extreme solutions to find a Cam Jordan sidekick. They sent the Packers their 2019 first-round pick to trade up for Marcus Davenport and put a full-court press on Jadeveon Clowney late this summer so he could start over Davenport. After all this, a career backup has emerged as an answer opposite Jordan. Trey Hendrickson, a 2017 third-round pick, leads the Saints (4-2) with 4.5 sacks. He has not preyed on one overmatched tackle, instead recording at least one sack in four games. Davenport played behind Hendrickson in his 2020 debut last week.
NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)
Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.