We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications. If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
1. Aaron Rodgers is worth every damned penny
Did you see that? I mean seriously. Did you see what just happened. In the span of one football game the entire state of Wisconsin just collectively lost all hope for the next half decade, then came back to life like a phoenix with the vanquishing of a hated rival. Seeing Rodgers return after halftime with a noticeable limp, but a full head of steam was breathtaking. Sure, he wasn’t exactly mobile, but he honestly doesn’t need to be (see: Brady, Thomas). A Rod can (and did) throw from any possible arm angle, regardless of body position. He makes a mockery of QB coaches. Maybe that’s why the Packers got rid of theirs in the offseason. This Packers team should contend if he’s healthy, so let’s hope that knee has no permanent or lingering damage. As for the Bears? New look defense or not, that loss is going to sting.
2. So is Khalil Mack
As awesome as football’s highest-paid player was, he was the second-best player on Lambeau Field yesterday. Khalil Mack, who was on a limited snap count since he’d only had a week of practice with his new team, made the Frozen Tundra his own personal playground, terrorizing the entire Green Bay offense. Here’s Mack’s afternoon in a nutshell. One sack, One forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pick-six interception. Oh, and he directly pressured backup QB DeShone Kiser into Roquan Smith’s first NFL sack. He’s got a new swagger and I think, like plenty of players before him, he’s grateful to be
out of Oakland. I’m calling him the DPOY unless something weird happens.
3. Yup…Le’Veon Bell, too
The only difference is, we didn’t get to see Bell in action this weekend. The result of which was the Steelers scraping out a tie on a last second blocked field goal. Against Cleveland. Yeah. That Cleveland. So, hear me out. It’s party time…Cleveland is undefeated. But there’s only one reason for that. Le’Veon Bell wasn’t in uniform. Sure, James Conner had a great game in relief, but don’t be fooled. The Browns were defending against Big Ben and Antonio Brown, because they knew that the Steelers would rely on that connection to a fault. It also explains those three Ben Roethlisberger interceptions, doesn’t it? If Bell was in the lineup, defenders would have been forced to respect the run. Mark my words. There is no way that this game ends in a tie or a Browns win if Le’Veon Bell is on the field. Bell knows it, and the Steelers know it. Pay that man his money.
4. The Ravens are good, just not that good
I know, my purple-clad friends, that the Ravens just absolutely destroyed a playoff team 47-3. Here’s the thing. The Bills aren’t that team any more. I think we’ve seen that the heart of the Bills squad that made the postseason last year was ripped out and shipped off to Cleveland. If you watched even fifteen minutes of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, you know the type of attitude and work ethic that Tyrod Taylor has brought with him to the Browns. The Bills are suffering his loss at more than just the quarterback position. That Bills team looked adrift on both sides of the ball. Joe Flacco and company looked good, but let’s not start planning on burning Fell’s Point down again just yet. Nathan Peterman has removed all doubt as to the type of player he is. He’s a one-man turnover machine. And that might not be the worst part of his game. 5-18 for twenty-four yards with the two INTs. No wonder the guy can’t make it through a game. Josh Allen was marginally better, but that isn’t saying much. It’s going to be a long winter in Upstate New York. Nothing new there. So, let’s hold off on calling the Ravens “King in the North” until we see them against some real competition. After all, the Bengals are also 1-0, for pretty much the exact same reasons.
5. The Preseason is important…for young guys
You know who missed getting preseason reps? DeShaun Watson. Admittedly, the Patriots defense does look more aggressive than last season and they did capitalize against a soft Houston front seven, getting to Watson a dozen times in the game. But Watson looked scared. Frantic. Super- duper-uncomfortable. In other words, he didn’t look like the guy that the Texans fans saw last season and were expecting back after the knee surgery. I suspect that he’ll right the ship, but it might take a few weeks. Heck, even Jared Goff and Todd Gurley looked uncomfortable for the entire first half against a wildly overmatched Raiders team, since the Rams kept them in bubble wrap until yesterday. You know who didn’t look out of sorts? Tom Brady. Drew Brees. Hell, Ryan Fitzpatrick. You get the point. Old dudes with a lot of football under their belts just don’t need the preseason reps that same way that the young cats do.
6. The Giants have a pulse
I know that they lost. I also know that Big Blue looked better yesterday against an AFC Championship contender than they looked last year against, I dunno… anyone. That Giants offense looked balanced and dangerous against a Jaguars team that is looking to go all the way this year. Eli Manning stayed mostly upright. OBJ caught eleven passes for 111 yards and Saquon Barkley ripped off a sixty-eight-yard touchdown run that brought the game into question late in the fourth quarter. Are they going to win the NFC East? Probably not. But it’s a safe bet that they won’t be picking second overall, either.
7. The Cowboys don’t
Man. Let’s be honest here. They looked bad in that loss to Carolina. Carolina looked fine, about what we were expecting. But they owned the Cowboys all over the field. You can see how the loss of Dez Bryant has affected Dak Prescott, can’t you? He is one uncomfortable young quarterback. If their intention is to go to a heavier dose of Ezekiel Elliot, that’s cool, but the O-Line doesn’t look nearly as effective as it has in years past. Unless something changes, these Cowboys are going to be a long way away from the playoff picture come December.
8. Who is Jimmy G?
The former Patriot backup had looked good, great even, in meaningless games late last season…but I think it’s safe to say that the league’s defensive coordinators may have had time to watch some tape on the new wunderkind. Garoppolo completed less than half of his passes and frequently looked confused, finishing the day with one touchdown and three interceptions. Granted, he was playing against a stacked Vikings defense that will rank among the NFC’s best, but fans in San Francisco thought that Joe Montana 2.0 was under center. So, is he the guy that put pressure on Tom Brady in Foxboro before being shipped off to SF? Or is he yet another New England backup that can’t thrive in a different system. Time will tell, but I think he’s the best of the Brady backups. Ryan Mallett, anyone?
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick might have just earned himself a full-time job
Tampa Bay made it clear that Jameis Winston did NOT have a cushy job waiting for him following his return from suspension. I don’t know if Winston took the threat seriously, but Ryan Fitzpatrick apparently got the memo. The Fitzgerald-led Buccaneers went into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and simply outgunned Drew Brees and the Saints. Both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were well over one-hundred yards receiving, and both had LOOOOOONG touchdowns of over fifty yards. The backup-turned incumbent Fitzgerald threw for over four-hundred yards and four touchdowns in total, beating the presumed divisional champs and shaking up the already confusing NFC South like a snow globe. If the Buccaneers are going to be good this year, too, I don’t even know what to tell you about that division. If you told me that the Saints would score forty points and Drew Brees would throw for 439 yards at home, I’d say that’s a New Orleans win every time. I guess not, but congrats to everyone who has Alvin Kamara on their fantasy team. My man is a killer.
10. I’m not sure Sam Darnold is the next Joe Namath, but the Lions sure tried to make him look that way
Aside from a first-play pick six that probably had Jets fans ready to start rooting for the Bills, Rookie QB Sam Darnold looked more than capable in his first game, throwing for just under two hundred yards and two touchdowns in the 48-17 rout. I know what you’re thinking. I thought it, too. How the hell did the Jets beat the Lions by over thirty points with a QB that had stats that mediocre? The answer, flatly, is that the Lions are terrible in all three phases of the game. Isaiah Crowell ran all over the Lions, to the tune of 102 yards and two touchdowns…on only ten carries. Andre Roberts averaged 45 yards per punt return…and took one back to the house. The defense intercepted Matt Stafford and his bloated contract four, count them, four times and returned one for a touchdown before backup Matt Cassel took over. They intercepted him, too. The Lions were 9-7 the past few years, and second in the NFC North both times. If the anticipated upgrade to Matt Patricia doesn’t start to take form soon, the Lions might regret ever letting Jim Caldwell go. He was the first Lions coach (that stayed for more than a season) with a winning record since the seventies.
Got a burning question? Disagree with me? Want more proof? Want to know my thoughts on your rookie that I didn’t mention? Hit me in the comments or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer the week’s best question (or questions) in next week’s edition.
Check out previous editions of ‘Ten Things We Learned in the NFL This Week’ here
Image Source: USA Today