Aaron Donald, Baker Mayfield, Baltimore Ravens, Brandon Staley, Cam Newton, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Cooper Kupp, Covid-19, DK Metcalf, Doug Baldwin, Ezekiel Elliott, Face Masks, Fantasy Football, Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jalen Ramsey, James Robinson, Jared Goff, Jay Gruden, Joe Burrow, Kansas City Chiefs, Kevin Stefanski, LA Chargers, LA Rams, Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots, NFL, Pete Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles, Robert Woods, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, San Francisco 49ers, Sean McVay, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Tom Coughlin, TWF NFL Dynasty League, Tyler Lockett
It feels like on the field the news has been about injuries as we start to get a handle on how teams are shaping up after the shortened pre-season, whereas the news from the side lines are the head coaches who have been fined for violating the face-covering protocols and it was certainly odd to see Pete Carroll operating without a covering Sunday night. You would expect a coach to lead by example, and I am not surprised that having already released a sternly worded memo after week one, that fines are following.
What I Saw
Week two started with the Cleveland Browns getting the better of the battle for Ohio, but once again Joe Burrow was able to get the Bengals into contention by the end of the game that they ultimately lost 35-30. I have been impressed by the Bengals’ rookie quarterback who after only two games I am predicting is a franchise quarterback. If the Bengals can build an offensive line either through development in-season or through off-season acquisitions either by draft or free-agency then I think Burrow and this offence could be specials. Burrow gets the ball out, has not been overwhelmed by starting in the NFL despite a curtailed pre-season, and if he had a bit more support from the defence the Bengals might have won one of the opening pair of games they lost. Having watched this game, I went back to look at the Browns’ loss to the Ravens and whilst I still would say there are valid concerns about Baker Mayfield in his third year, the design of Kevin Stefanski’s offence should help him, particularly with its focus on running the ball, play action and QB bootlegs. There is a lot of talent on the Browns’ roster but it will be a concern that the Bengals made this a close game. Then again, given how the Chargers competed against the Chiefs this week and how good the Ravens look full stop, I think both the Browns and the Bengals are already showing progression from last season, even if the records don’t really show it yet.
I watched two of the early Sunday games this week. In my first, the LA Rams followed up on my podcast bold prediction (I’m really not sure I’m happy about Dan making me do this) and beat the Philadelphia Eagles comfortably 37-19. The Eagles still have not quite put things together in either the offensive or defensive phase of the game, but they do have the chance to get right this week against the Bengals. However, the Eagles’ usually strong pass rush was not able to bother Jared Goff, and while he may not be in the upper echelon of quarterbacks, if you give Goff time to run Sean McVay’s system then the Ram’s offence looks really good. The influx of youth at running back has got the Rams looking more like they did in the first two seasons under McVay, and with half a dozen players catching the ball there looks to be support for Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The defence isn’t particularly inspiring despite having two all-star talents in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsay, and currently ranks fourteenth in the league by DVOA, but it doesn’t have to be that good for the Rams to win and as they adjust to new coordinator Brandon Staley they may well improve. I have my concerns about the Eagles, but this is a team trying to bed in new players and dealing with injuries so whilst the playoffs are not beyond the realms of possibility yet, they will need to start finding some form soon. Still, the Bengals could be just the team they need to face…
The other early game I watched was the thoroughly entertaining contest that saw the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the Tennessee Titans, but ultimately losing 33-30. In truth, the Titans were the better team who now seem to play good enough defence and offence to always be competitive and this has been the case ever since Ryan Tannehill established himself as their starting quarterback last season. For the first few seasons that I was writing this blog, it felt like the Titans didn’t really have an identity or the players to catch your attention, but Mike Vrabel and some good drafting has changed all of that. A defensive ranking of seventeenth by DVOA and a top ten offence is a similar formula to the Rams and looks to be enough to compete in the AFC South dvision and perhaps have more success in the play-offs, although the Titans do look a step down from the truly elite teams. However, they did have to work for this game and part of that is because the Jaguars are looking pretty good for a team that a lot of people thought were in for a rebuilding year. However, rookie running back James Robinson looked dynamic running for one hundred yards and catching a a couple of balls out the backfield as Gardner Minshew continues to outplay his sixth round draft status. The young talent, when combined with the off-season hiring of Jay Gruden as offensive coordinator looks like it is going to be too good for the Jaguars to have the high draft pick some were suggesting was the goal for the season. Yes the Jaguars are playing a lot of young players, but it looks like they might have something and perhaps the absence of Tom Coughlin and his frequent fines is helping the talent flourish in Jacksonville. I’m not one for big predictions (despite Dan’s best efforts) but there might be some hope for Jaguars yet.
The Sunday night game was a humdinger of a battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots that the Seahawks held on to win 35-30 when their defence stuffed Cam Newton on a final chance to score a winning touchdown. It was looking ominous for the Seahawks as Newton lined up once again behind a jumbo formation in a shotgun position and received the snap. Newton had already delivered two rushing touchdowns and looked set to win the game, but the Seattle defence swarmed to stuff him short of the goal line. However, the exciting thing for the Patriots in this game was not that Newton looked good running the ball, but that he threw the ball as well as he has done for a long time. The power was there and the Patriots are beginning to look like a new iteration of their usual perennially successful franchise. Something similar could be said for the Seahawks, whose defence may be languishing as twenty-fourth by DVOA but are second in offence thanks to Russel Wilson playing outstandingly well. The drafting of DK Metcalf last year to pair with Tyler Lockett has given Russell a fearsome pair of receivers to throw to despite Doug Baldwin’s retirement. The Seahawks are one of three unbeaten teams in the NFC West, which is shaping up as the strongest division in the league, with last year’s Super Bowl runners up currently bottom of the divison with a 1-1 record thanks to a slew of injuries. This was a game that lived up to its Sunday night billing and I have a feeling both teams will be featured plenty of more times before the season is through.
What I Heard
It has been a busy week, but the thing that leaps to my mind is that a lot of people who power rank teams are vaulting the Ravens over the Chiefs into first in the league, and I can absolutely see why. If you win two games by over sixteen points to start your season and are top five by DVOA in all three phases of the game then you have not just got a good team, but a potentially great one. It is too early to say anything definitive, particularly based on DVOA given that we have an even smaller sample size to work from in week than usual due to the lack of pre-season games, but I am curious to see how things develop in the coming weeks. Particularly as we are being treated to the Chiefs visiting the Ravens on Monday night.
What I Think
It was frustrating not being able to get a coaching film post up last week. Some of that was work being busy, but there was also some kind of issues with getting coaching film at all last week as I heard several of the podcasters I listen to complaining about it, and the US usually get it a day earlier that we do. If I was really together, I should look at using a VPN to sign up for the US version of Gamepass again as the interface for the EU version is no where near as good as what we used to have. We don’t even get a list of plays to browse by when working with coaching film. It’s pretty frustrating that we are now multiple years into having an EU version of Gamepass and we’re still missing basic functions we used to have when signed up in the US. It’s also noticeable that the Twitter account for the EU NFL Gamepass service has disappeared, almost as if it was highlighting more problems than it was solving.
What I Know
I have avoided playing fantasy football for years after previous disappointments. I still believe in the importance of watching whole games, looking at coaching film, but I am enjoying our new dynasty league and not just because so far I’m winning games. It helps that we know everyone by name and I do like the dynasty format as it enables you to switch track if your teams accumulates too many injuries and with IR and the Taxi squad it feels like you are more in control of your own destiny. You’ll still need luck to win a championship, and it can still all go wrong even if you have made the right moves but that this way you still have options..
Let’s see if that’s how I feel when the losses start racking up.
What I Hope
I have seen that we already have coach’s film available as I was able to check the Seahawks defensive stand on the last play of the game on Sunday. I’m looking at some play diagramming options so there may well be some graphics in the future if I can get that to work. I’m just hoping I get to watch more than 3/8ths of a game this week so I can get an actual post up, but I will always have the memories of what happened to poor Ezekiel Elliot when the protection scheme meant he had to try to block Aaron Donald.