Cut­ler feel­ing heat in Mi­ami

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - SPORTS - Stom­ach for an up­set?

USA TO­DAY Sports’ Jar­rett Bell breaks down his keys for Week 5 in the NFL. From Jay Cut­ler to E.J. Manuel, there’s plenty to dis­cuss on the grid­iron this week.


Jay Cut­ler. It is hardly a huge sur­prise that Cut­ler – who re­tired, then un­re­tired to sign out of the Fox broad­cast booth dur­ing the pre­sea­son af­ter Ryan Tan­nehill was lost for the sea­son – has been an early flop for the Dol­phins. Be­ing a so-called “good fit” be­cause he knew Adam Gase’s sys­tem has re­sulted in the NFL’s worstranked of­fense and a ho-hum 80.4 passer rat­ing for Cut­ler. Un­for­tu­nately for Mi­ami – shut out by a Saints de­fense con­sid­ered among the worst in the league – Cut­ler has re­sem­bled the worst of him­self. Maybe it gets bet­ter with more reps, tim­ing and chem­istry with his re­ceivers. But head­ing into Sun­day’s game against Ten­nessee, the op­tics look as hor­ren­dous as ever for Cut­ler, whose hands-frozen, “statue” pose while flanked wide on a Wild­cat snap in Lon­don is one more ex­am­ple of why he’s got the worst body lan­guage in the league.


Todd Gur­ley. Sean McVay’s touch as the new Rams coach has brought out the best in the dy­namic run­ning back, who ranks sec­ond in the NFL to Kansas City’s won­drous rookie, Ka­reem Hunt, in yards from scrim­mage as a ma­jor test looms on Sun­day when the Sea­hawks visit the Coli­seum. Gur­ley, flow­ing down­hill be­hind a re­built O-line, looks again like the rookie run­ner who burst on the scene two years ago, on pace for a 1,400-yard rush­ing cam­paign. What a turn­around af­ter floun­der­ing last sea­son in the NFL’s worst-ranked of­fense. Yet even more strik­ing is the man­ner in which McVay and emerg­ing quar­ter­back Jared Goff are uti­liz­ing Gur­ley in the pass­ing game. With 20 re­cep­tions, Gur­ley’s on pace for an 80-catch sea­son and 2,200 yards from scrim­mage. So while the Sea­hawks have the sec­ondary that can surely clamp down on Goff’s down­field tar­gets, Sun­day’s NFC West show­down could hinge on whether the Seat­tle lineback­ers, in­clud­ing K.J. Wright and Bobby Wag­ner, can con­tain Gur­ley in mul­ti­ple ways – stuff­ing the run and per­haps more crit­i­cally, com­ing out of the back­field.


Justin Hous­ton vs. De­shaun Wat­son. Since Bill O’ Brien switched to his mo­bile, rookie quar­ter­back, the Tex­ans’ of­fen­sive line (still with­out left tackle Duane Brown) has been much less ex­posed. Wat­son not only reads de­fenses bet­ter than most rook­ies, he can bail out of trou­ble and buy time. Whether he can es­cape Hous­ton, the Chiefs’ premier rusher, will be one of the key sub­plots on Sun­day night for ar­guably the best matchup of the week. Kansas City has won two play­off games in Hous­ton in re­cent years, but that was be­fore Wat­son ar­rived. None­the­less, it might feel like a play­off game as Kansas City (4-0) tries to re­main the NFL’s only un­de­feated team.


E.J. Manuel. With Derek Carr nurs­ing an ail­ing back that has run the gamut of ex­pec­ta­tions for heal­ing – once con­sid­ered min­i­mal, then a frac­ture was re­vealed and a 2-to-6 week re­hab an­nounced, then he showed up at prac­tice this week and is of­fi­cially listed as ques­tion­able – it’s most likely that Manuel will get at least one start for the Raiders, on Sun­day against the Ravens. Boy, does Oak­land, rid­ing a two-game los­ing streak, need a game from Manuel (and Mar­shawn Lynch, too, for that mat­ter) while try­ing to keep the team afloat with Carr out. The last time they faced such a predica­ment, in the play­offs in Jan­uary af­ter Carr broke his an­kle, it was such a dis­as­ter with then-rookie Con­nor Cook fall­ing flat on his face. At least Manuel, a former first-round pick who bombed in Buf­falo, has some game ex­pe­ri­ence. And he wasn’t half-bad in relief at Den­ver last week­end.


Myles Gar­rett. Af­ter suf­fer­ing a high an­kle sprain just days be­fore the sea­son opener, the No. 1 pick in the draft will make long-awaited de­but for the Browns on Sun­day against the Jets. Browns coach Hue Jack­son main­tains that he will keep the de­fen­sive end on a “pitch count,” which has noth­ing to do with his throw­ing arm. It’s a mat­ter of eas­ing Gar­rett back into the rhythm. Nat­u­rally, the win­less Browns need him in the worst way as the Browns D was stung for 31 points in each of the past two games. Gar­rett, a Texas A&M prod­uct in­vites so much an­tic­i­pa­tion, given his rare com­bi­na­tion of speed and power, and the man­ner in which he un­leashed dom­i­nance in the trenches af­ter ramp­ing up in train­ing camp.

Ari­zona at Philadel­phia. Bruce Ari­ans, the one-time Tem­ple coach, re­turns to the City of Brotherly Love desperate for a win against the Ea­gles (3-1), lead­ing the NFC East. The swing fac­tor could rest with pro­tec­tion for Carson Palmer, who has been sacked an NFL-high 17 times – in­clud­ing 12 in the past two weeks. With time, Palmer can go af­ter an Ea­gles sec­ondary that has been so shaky with its pen­chant for giv­ing up big plays (7 passes of 35+ yards, 3 of at least 50). The Cards (2-2) surely have the re­ceiv­ing weapons, led by Larry Fitzger­ald and Jaron Brown. If there’s time. The last time Ari­zona played at The Lync, in 2015, they won a blowout to im­prove to 13-1. But that’s a dis­tant mem­ory. Since then, they are 10-13-1, in­clud­ing the post­sea­son, which is ex­actly why they are so desperate now.


Buf­falo would have ended the NFL’s long­est play­off drought. The Bills have gone 17 years since last qual­i­fy­ing for the play­offs, which makes their AFC Eastlead­ing 3-1 start even more com­pelling. New coach Sean McDer­mott, pre­vi­ously Carolina’s D-co­or­di­na­tor, has his new de­fense hum­ming as the Bills have al­lowed an NFL-low 54 points. Of course, be­fore it’s set­tled, the Pa­tri­ots will have their say in it. New Eng­land (3-2) has won the past eight di­vi­sion ti­tles, 13 of 14, and 14 AFC East crowns in the past 16 years. It could come down to De­cem­ber foot­ball. In a se­ri­ous sched­ul­ing quirk, the Bills will play both of their games against New Eng­land and both of their games against Mi­ami this sea­son in De­cem­ber. But first things first: The Bills sud­denly find them­selves with a “trap” game on Sun­day at Cincin­nati.


Jay Cut­ler’s stint in Mi­ami has not been as suc­cess­ful as an­tic­i­pated so far - the Dol­phins have the NFL’s worst-ranked of­fense.


Jar­rett Bell

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