Aaron Donald, Baker Mayfield, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Clay Matthews, Cleveland Browns, Daniel Jones, Dante Fowler, Demarcus Robinson, Frank Gore, Gardiner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jaen Ramsey, Jared Goff, Josh Allen, Kansas City Chiefs, Kyle Allen, LA Rams, Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota, Mecole Hardman, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFL, Nick Chubb, Patrick Mahomes, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Tannehill, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee Titans, TJ Yeldon
It would appear that a quicker process was what was needed to improve my picks in week three, but sadly there was no respite for Dan or I in terms of our teams doing anything other than losing. Still, here we go with my trip through the NFL this week.
What I Saw
Week three started with a one-sided Thursday night game that never quite took off as the Jacksonville Jaguars made a mockery of my pick by grinding out a 20-7 win over the Tennessee Titans. This was a game dominated by penalties and the Jaguars pass rush that sacked Marcus Mariota a massive nine times. The Titans have a real problem as they are good enough to compete across the roster bar quarterback with Mariota holding onto the ball and reluctant to throw the ball deep. This competitiveness will make it difficult for the team to replace Mariota if the team do decide to move on and I wonder at what point we might see Ryan Tannehill get a start if things don’t improve for the Titans offence. Meanwhile, the confident Gardiner Minshew II (I do enjoy that his father’s name is not Gardiner Minshew – he was just creative when registering his son’s name) did enough in his first start to get the Jaguars their first win of the season. The strange thing was the Jaguars defence finally looked really good this week yet it seems as if they are still likely to lose arguably their best player in Jalen Ramsey. In a division that is wide open it would be a curious move indeed to trade him, as was playing him in this game if you intend to trade him and having reported sick on Monday he is on the injury list for his lower back. I still do not trust this team but if their defence can play like this a little more often and Minshew can keep the offence ticking over when the opponent’s defence has time and film to game plan for him fully then the Jaguars could climb back into contention in the division.
The next game I watched was the Baltimore Ravens traveling to Arrowhead stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs, but whilst the Ravens were able to generate over four hundred and fifty yards of offence they were not able to move the ball consistently enough to beat the Chiefs in their home opener falling to a 28-33 loss. The score is actually closer than it was for a lot of game even if the Ravens did get the first touchdown of the contest but Patrick Mahomes had another spectacular second quarter as the Chiefs scored twenty-three points that included two spectacular catches from the young Cheifs’ receivers. First Demarcus Robinson pulled in a lovely one-handed catch and then Mecole Hardman took advantage of a broken coverage to score on an eighty-three yard play that put the Chiefs 20-6 up. There was plenty of production from the Ravens offence, which managed over two hundred rushing yards as part of their day and several splash plays of their own including a several moments of rushing brilliance from Lamar Jackson. However, too many drives stalled and they cost themselves three points from failed two-point conversions, which is an interesting tactical choice when you have one of the most reliable kickers in the league. It was clearly a deliberate tactic and I don’t know the relative percentage of two-point tries versus extra points to do the maths, but if the Ravens had made all of them that would turn a five point deficit into a one point win so I can see what they were trying to do.
I’m not sure I want to write about the Cincinnati Bengals, but I’ll try as they travelled to Buffalo and suffered their third loss of the season falling 21-17 having taken a three point lead with under five minutes to go. However, whilst the record is lousy, the Bengals aren’t all that bad but maddeningly inconsistent. If they could put more consistent good play across four quarters I can see how they could be good – particularly as the pass rush is really good but the run game has been inconsistent ad I wonder where the team will be when they visit London at the end of October. Meanwhile, the Bills continue to be a tough team to face thanks to a stingy defence and an offence that seems to be doing enough. In his second year quarterback Josh Allen is finding a way to compete and the combination of him, TJ Yeldon and the ever reliable Frank Gore dominated a running game that generated one hundred and seventy-five yard. I don’t know if they can beat the visiting Patriots next week, but I suspect it will be a competitive game.
The final game of the week that I watched was the LA Rams travelling to Cleveland to beat the now 1-2 Browns: 20–13. For all the talk of offensive prowess about both teams in the off-season, this was a grind it out defensive contest that seemed to pit the Rams pass rush against the Browns generating three interceptions. The Browns got pressure of their own but it seemed that Jared Goff was the quarterback more prepared to take risks and paid the price in interceptions. However, he did enough to put twenty points on the board even with a missed field-goal, whilst the Browns offensive line seemed to scupper the Brown’s ability to move the ball consistently. The Browns looked good both running the ball with Nick Chubb and passing the ball when Baker Mayfield had time, but were not able to sustain drives regularly enough thanks to multiple Rams’ defenders getting into the backfield and harassing Mayfield. It’s no surprise that Aaron Donald played really well in this game, but the combination of him with Dante Fowler and Clay Mathews really worked for the Rams when rushing the passer with Mathews in particularly looking as good as he has done for several seasons. The saving grace for the Browns is that they have yet to play a divisional opponent but next week they travel to face the Ravens who are the early favourites to win the division. Even starting 1-3 wouldn’t necessarily scupper the Browns chances of making the playoffs given the state of the AFC North so far this season but this first AFC North game against the Raven is now massively important and the Browns have not convinced so far.
What I Heard & What I Think
I’m combining two section this week thanks to the scope of quarterback stories this week, but I’ll try to get back to my normal subjects next week.
There has been a lot of discussion about quarterback this week, which is understandable given that even discounting the Colts’ enforced change in quarterback we now have seven teams starting a different player than was planned at the start of the season. What’s more several teams got wins off the back of their new starter at quarterback. I have already mentioned Gardiner Minshew II who has been getting lots of headlines thanks to the various urban legends that are doing the rounds but one of the other performances that leapt out was by Kyle Allen who led the Panthers to their first win of the season. I don’t think this will necessarily create a quarterback controversy unless Cam Newton cannot get back to the level of performance he has in previous years, but what it does do if Allen can maintain this level of performance then the Panthers can afford to wait unit Newton is fully healthy before returning to the game. This is why whilst no team can afford to have two quality starters on the roster, a good veteran or a promising young player can turn around or rescue a season if they only need to do it for a short stretch.
For instance, the investment the Saints put into making Teddy Bridgewater one of the highest paid backups paid off when he stepped up and won on the road in Seattle. He didn’t look great, but he kept the Saints moving and got them a good win.
However, the other type of quarterback we saw step up was the high pick rookie. A lot of the headlines have gone to Daniel Jones because he plays for the New York Giants but Jones also got a win in his first start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game I’ll be looking at for this week’s Amateur Adventures in Film. It seems the days of a high round rookie quarterback sitting for an entire year are pretty much gone as even Patrick Mahomes got to start week seventeen of his rookie year. Sooner or later a highly drafted player is going to start. I suspect the next one will be in Washington but at what point I don’t know.
What I Know
That someone at the bottom of the AFC North should get their first win of the season next Monday, although it would be just my luck if the teams managed a second tie of the season.
What I Hope
That the Bengals don’t forget themselves against the Steelers and give a good account of themselves in front of the nation on Monday night.
It’s going to be a long wait…