The first football weekend of the year just passed, and man, it was amazing. We had some offensive shootouts, stellar rookie debuts, and even a tie! (NOTE: More on that later) The NFL is back in full swing, and despite it only being a week, there were certainly more than a few developments throughout the league that we can touch on.
As much as I’d love to recap every single game for you guys, one does simply not have the time available with other obligations currently entrenched in my life (you know, school and all that nonsense). Nevertheless, every week I will briefly touch upon five takeaways from the previous slate of games and how I see them affecting the teams/players moving forward.
1. A CLEVELAND CURB-STOMPING
Now, I know I have touched upon not overreacting to the first game of the season for any NFL team. Opening week can be seen by some as a “feeling-out” process for your squad, especially one with so many new faces as Cleveland does. But holy moly did they get manhandled by the Titans yesterday.
After a nice opening drive from Baker Mayfield that led to a touchdown, it was all downhill from there. You can point to 3 INT’s from Mayfield himself or an atrocious performance by the highly-lauded Cleveland secondary. No no no. How about being called for (clears voice) 18 PENALTIES FOR 182 YARDS!?!? We knew Freddie Kitchens could have some bumps in the road for his first season, but yesterday displayed a completely undisciplined team that will need to fix these issues quickly before they are anointed anything.
2. TWO “WIDE-RECEIVERS” HAVE A FIELD DAY IN SOUTH BEACH
The title of this takeaway may be a little contradicting because even though Marquise Brown is clearly a wide-receiver, is that what many draft analysts thought Lamar Jackson should play when he got drafted? Well, Lamar made those guys look like idiots during the game and after as well.
We can talk about the Dolphins and how this team is so bad they might go 0-16 (a real possibility), but this was all about the connection between Jackson and the rookie Brown. Hollywood caught four passes for 147 yards and two scores in his rookie debut, while Jackson’s performance was so stellar it is currently tied for the #4th best game in NFL history by ESPN’s QBR metric. Not every game will be a cakewalk for Baltimore, but Lamar Jackson proved he’s got the goods to not just be a regular quarterback in this league, but a great one as well.
3. HOW ABOUT THE REST OF THE SOPHOMORE QB CLASS?
While Lamar had himself a career game, the rest of the highly-touted crop of second-year passers left much to be desired. And I mean, a lot.
I’ve already brought up Mayfield’s trifecta of picks, but what about the battle between Josh Allen and Sam Darnold at Metlife? Well, the Jets blew a 16-0 lead midway through the third and Darnold throwing a measly 175 yards on 41 attempts is a massive reason for that. While Josh Allen deserves a smidge of credit for bringing Buffalo back (along with their stellar defensive unit), he still was his usual inconsistent self with four total turnovers. Throw in Josh Rosen coming in for Miami during garbage time of a near 50-point rout and doing this, the 2018 QB class will want to bounce back in a big way next week.
4. THE CHIEFS AND PATRIOTS STILL HAVE IT
If you’re looking for some new fresh faces at the top of the AFC, I have some bad news for you. Both 2018 AFC Championship opponents look primed to square off again in January once more. Unless injury strikes one of these teams in a brutal way, there should be no precaution of my prior statement after looking over both these games.
Patrick Mahomes overcame the loss of Tyreek Hill to a shoulder dislocation and his own sprained ankle to eviscerate the highly-touted Jaguars’ defense. The reigning MVP threw for over 375 yards and three touchdowns, including a monster game from Sammy Watkins. That’s the thing with the Kansas City, there’s always someone else ready to contribute for you.
As for New England, let’s just say Tom Brady was Travis and the Pittsburgh defense was Old Yeller. The 42-year old also went bonkers against a team whose defense was expected to look fresh and improved early in the season. Now throw Antonio Brown into the mix and the rest of the league is wondering how this offense can be stopped.
It’s natural for us fans to want variety in our sports, but let’s be real. If we get KC-New England again in the playoffs, I don’t think any of us would be complaining.
5. FIRE TIES INTO THE SUN!
When I write these articles I try my best to be objective and not pick favorites. Putting forth your honest opinion and not saying stuff outlandish for clicks is something I put pride in (and being a Miami Dolphins fan, that should be fairly simple this season).
Yet, I will NOT be nonpartisan when I proclaim that having two professional sports teams battle it out and put everything on the line just for it to end in the equivalent of a toddler’s little-league game is preposterous. The Lions and Cardinals were the first (and please God the last) teams to play into a stalemate this season, and while I don’t expect these teams to contend for the playoffs anyway, why not just have a penalty kick style shootout from 40 yards? The risk of injury would be minimal and it would make a majority of people happier knowing they didn’t waste their Sunday afternoon for this nonsensical result. FIX THIS NFL!!!!
TNF PREVIEW: CAROLINA PANTHERS (-6.5) vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
I always get skeptical seeing moderately sized lines in divisional games, even if one team is perceived as being plenty better than the other. Although Carolina is the former and Tampa Bay is the latter in this instance, I think we should pump the brakes on that opinion. Both teams are coming off of a loss, with the Rams squeaking out a road win at Carolina and San Francisco going to Tampa Bay and defeating the Bucs thanks to Jameis Winston’s performance.
All jokes aside, the Bucs’ defense looked very much improved under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, as San Fran scored 14 of their 31 points off two pick-sixes. Cam Newton barely ran and his interception basically iced the W for L.A. I’m not certain who is going to win this game outright yet, but betting for a team as wishy-washy as Carolina on the road doesn’t fly with me.
THE PICK: Buccaneers (+6.5)