Every year around this time in the NFL season (late September-early October) is when early-season trends begin to sputter or stay for good. Some teams start off well and we are certain they’ll be good (Kansas City), but the other way around happens quite often where a team may not be as good as we thought (Chargers?). Anyway, these five takeaways this week all have a theme: they surprise me; events that I did not see coming and/or was hesitant about.
1. WHO NEEDS ANDREW LUCK?
Okay okay, let’s not go too far. Despite the great success Jacoby Brissett has had these season as the new starting quarterback for Indy, I’m still certain they’d feel more comfortable with this guy around.
Andrew Luck isn’t here anymore however, and Brissett is filling in admirably. Playing an Atlanta team coming off of a huge win against Philadelphia Sunday night, the young quarterback diced up the Falcons’ D en route to a 27-24 victory. Brissett was excellent, completing over 75% of his passes for 317 yards and two scores. While he has an abundance of skill position talent with running back Marlon Mack, stud wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and his tight end Eric Ebron, Brissett deserves a lot of credit for stepping in for one of the best gunslingers in the game and making the transition seamless.
I had my hesitation’s with Indy after the Luck retirement, but they certainly look like they’re in the driver’s seat for the AFC South.
2. PACKERS AND VIKINGS AND BE-… I MEAN LIONS, OH MY!
Heading into the 2019 NFL season, the NFC North was one of the hardest divisions to predict. Who would come out on top? Would the Bears continue their defensive dominance? Would the Vikings bounce back with their revamped offense? How about Green Bay with their defensive overhaul. Well, Green Bay has certainly looked the most impressive out of any of them, but notice I forgot one team, the Detroit Lions. Needless to say, they’re making me look foolish.
Outside of blowing that huge lead in the #4th quarter Week 1 against Arizona, Matt Patricia has had his guys playing hard ever since. Coming off a clutch win against the Chargers the previous week, Detroit came into Philly and stood toe-to-toe with them and coming out on top 27-24. You can blame this result on the growing number of Eagles who are injured (more on that shortly), but the Lions stuck in there and played smart football. The main difference in this game was the turnover battle, in which Philly lost three fumbles and Detroit lost none.
The Lions are somewhat of a forgotten team because of their lack of historical success and star-power (outside of Darius Slay), but this is a well-rounded football team with very few weaknesses that deserves a lot of credit for their hot start. We’ll see how long it lasts, however, as they host the Chiefs next Sunday.
3. CRY, EAGLES, CRY!
My apologies for the Skip Bayless-esque introduction, but it is the first thought that came to mind. After falling to 1-2 after a tough loss to Detroit, the Eagles are sputtering. On paper, this is one of the deepest-rosters in the league with a star QB, a fantastic coaching staff, and playmakers everywhere. So what’s the deal? The issue is that a majority of their players have spent more time in a medical tent than on the actual field. Here’s a list of all notable Eagles who are currently banged up:
That’s seven starters and one key backup out for extended periods. Going into Lambeau Thursday night against a smoking-hot Packers squad isn’t going to be easy by any means, but Philadelphia needs to play their butts off with the guys they have to avoid falling to 1-3.
4. DANNY DIMES DINES ON BUCCANEERS
I am a huge NFL Draft fan. I love following prospects and watching their tape and guessing their projection to the NFL. So this past season when I watched Daniel Jones at Duke, I was… lukewarm. I saw a guy who could definitely be a spot-starter in this league a la Ryan Tannehill, but never a top-10 guy. I was a part of the mob who ridiculed the Giants for selecting Jones #6th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft but, for now at least, I’m biting my tongue.
Many will say “Who cares, it’s one game against a Swiss cheese secondary!??” Let’s not forget how impressive these Buccaneers have looked this season, only giving up 31 points defensively the previous two weeks. Jones and the Giants surpassed that total yesterday alone, and that was without Saquon Barkley, who’s going to miss time with an ankle injury. Jones was sensational, throwing accurate passes and running for two scores of his own. He brings five times the athleticism to the position that Eli Manning ever brought, and Tampa Bay didn’t know what hit them.
It would be naive to expect this every week from Jones, and I’m certain he’ll fall back to earth despite an intriguing matchup with Washington next week. For the time being though, let’s give this man some credit for shutting his haters up.
5. THE #1 THING HOLDING THE BROWNS BACK
You’d have to be living under a rock to not know how high expectations were for the Cleveland Browns entering this year. So far, they have been a disappointment at 1-2 and blame can be put on many things. Baker has been playing poorly, the offensive line is a sieve, and the penalties. So many penalties. Out of all of those issues, there is one that stands out the most: Freddie Kitchens’ stubbornness to relinquish play-calling duties.
This isn’t just because of that awful 4th & 9 draw-play that he called yesterday that would’ve made Chuck Pagano cringe. It’s just stale, bland play-calling. The list of playmakers on the Browns’ O is daunting (Baker, Chubb, OBJ, Landry) and Kitchen’s has rarely called any RPO’s, end-arounds, or anything that resembles a #21st century NFL offense. Kitchens has also refused to give offensive coordinator Todd Monken the ability to call the plays. I mean, it’s not like Monken ( who was with Tampa Bay last season) generated the #3rd most yards in the NFL last season behind only the Chiefs and Rams, two of the league’s well-known juggernauts on that side of the ball.
The Browns schedule doesn’t let up, as they head to Baltimore and San Francisco the next two weeks. If things don’t change, this could wind up being an all-time letdown season for Cleveland fans, and my word that is saying something.
TNF PICK: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-2) vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-0) [-4.5]
Thank Jesus we get a good Thursday Night game this week! A somewhat important game for both teams, a Philly win somewhat gets them out of this early-season hole and a Packers win would cement them in the NFL’s elite.
I’ve already touched earlier in the article how banged up the Eagles are, especially on their defensive line, but their run defense was still awesome this week against the Lions. Their secondary has been solid, and Aaron Rodgers still hasn’t looked the same this season. I’m not sure who wins this game outright yet, but if the Eagles can limit turnovers against this stifling Green Bay defense, an upset seems like a high probability.
THE PICK: Eagles (+4.5)