After three weeks of the NFL season, there are no shortage of surprises. While some predictions fly out the window, others shock us and keep us hooked. From young quarterbacks on the rise, to major pile ups all over both conferences, let’s look at and recap a wild week 3.
Young Quarterbacks are a 50/50 Proposition
The 50/50 proposition is not a new idea: you see many bring that up every time two quarterbacks go off the board early in the first round of the draft. “Only one of these guy will be the real deal, the other will be a bust”, everyone says. This narrative continues to build into something that we really can quantify. Let’s take a look at the draft dating back to 2011, when Cam Newton went first overall.
2011: Cam Newton (first overall), Jake Locker (8th), Blaine Gabbert (10th), Christian Ponder (12th), Andy Dalton (35th), Colin Kaepernick (36th)
2012: Andrew Luck (1st), Robert Griffin III (2nd), Ryan Tannehill (8th), Brandon Weeden (22nd), Brock Osweiler (57th), Russell Wilson (75th)
2013: E.J. Manuel (16th), Geno Smith (39th), Mike Glennon (73rd)
2014: Blake Bortles (3rd), Johnny Manziel (22nd), Teddy Bridgewater (32nd), Derek Carr (36th), Jimmy Garoppolo (62nd)
2015: Jameis Winston (1st), Marcus Mariota (2nd), Trevor Siemian (250th)
2016: Jared Goff (1st), Carson Wentz (2nd), Paxton Lynch (26th), Christian Hackenberg (51st), Jacoby Brissett (91st), Cody Kessler (93rd), Connor Cook (100th), Dak Prescott (135th)
So, as we look to the past six drafts, you see around (or slightly under) 50 percent work out. Now, I know I only took notable names from each draft, but notable means they’ve started enough games to warrant consideration into this (yes, Brissett is a little overboard, but hey, he won a game). Five years later, two of the six names from 2011 are franchise players, which adds to 33 percent. From 2012, you have Luck, Osweiler, and Wilson, 50 percent. As to 2013, let’s just label that a down year for quarterbacks coming out of college, but yes that’s still zero percent. Four of the five names look like viable starters from 2014, with a couple already making leaps into serious franchise conversation. 80 percent. It seems that all three from 2015 that I noted will be starters for some time. 100 percent. 2016 is very much still a crapshoot at this point, but two of the notable names have emerged as viable starters, with Wentz drawing especially high praise. So, if you take all the numbers I threw out, it is 14 of 31, for a percentage of 45. That percentage right there almost deems quarterbacks to be what most say, a 50/50 shot at a franchise player.
As for the quarterbacks who have emerged this season, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz have been playing real good football. They have looked extremely efficient in the pocket and make good decisions, which is why neither have thrown an interception yet through three starts. Dak has made the reads that he has needed to through three games, and doing so against the Giants and Redskins should be brought to attention. Had Terrance Williams gone out of bounds, we may be talking about the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys the way we are talking about the 3-0 Eagles, so that speaks a lot about what we know about Dak. He’s a gamer who will make plays with his arm or his legs. As for Wentz, he is so smart before the snap, reading the defense to find the open man. I will talk about a play last week that everyone has talked about: his long TD pass to Darren Sproles. He slid around pressure, moved outside the pocket, and drew the defender in enough to throw a dime and let Sproles do the rest. A perfect read. Demolishing the Steelers at home draws more attention to Philly. A team many (including me) thought would be the basement dweller this season, people are starting to believe in this team. We have some time to determine that though. Let’s sit back and watch more impressive play from the young guns.
Contenders Continue to Flop
It’s hard to make sense of the messes that we have seen over the first few weeks. Many teams who we thought would have strong starts are faltering. There shouldn’t be time to panic yet, as there are 13 games left for everyone to make a statement and find their way, but let’s take a look at some things that left us scratching our heads.
It’s hard to figure out who in fact is an AFC contender. The Patriots and Broncos have made giant statements so far this season. The Pats are 3-0 without Brady (which doesn’t shock me too much), so who knows what happens when Brady returns and Gronkowski continues to heal up. Trevor Siemian looked spectacular against what many thought was a top two roster in the AFC. Other than those two, it’s hard to figure out who is a contender and a pretender. The Steelers got two big wins in the first two weeks, then got torn to shreds by a rookie quarterback. The Jets responded well to their loss against the Bengals in week one, but then looked lost at Kansas City. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions in the loss, and the Jets schedule does not get any easier from here. The Chiefs were another strong bet for the playoffs, and getting back on track against the Jets boosts my confidence in them. But, this week they play the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, which won’t be easy. The Bengals got ripped by Trevor Siemian, but can get right back to .500 with a win over the Dolphins at home. But, their offense needs to figure things out, especially because Tyler Eifert has not yet returned. Running the ball more effectively would help out a bunch. Finally, what the heck happened to the Texans last week? Brock Osweiler looked so lost, and they had no answer for LeGarette Blount or even Jacoby Brissett. Now, JJ Watt is on IR with a back injury. The only good news for Houston right now is that their division is weak. Hopefully after a few more weeks, we will find someone to challenge New England and Denver.
Let’s switch gears to the NFC. While the participants in last year’s NFC title game are a combined 2-4 so far, the Minnesota Vikings are riding high at 3-0, despite not having Teddy Bridgewater or Adrian Peterson. Their defense belongs in the “best in the league” conversation, and I expect a playoff run out of this club. As for our two faltering contenders, patience is key. But, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some concern. I was very confused when the Panthers didn’t look for a tackle in the draft in April, and I was right to be concerned about it. Cam Newton got sacked 8 times by Minnesota on Sunday, and has taken a beating through three weeks. The running game hasn’t shown up, and against better teams like the Vikings, being one dimensional won’t cut it. The secondary needs to mature a little faster, because Bene Benwikere can’t cover everybody. If the Panthers cannot protect Newton or run the ball, this team could find themselves an early exit on the playoff freeway come January. Arizona hasn’t helped their cause either. Carson Palmer has been wildly inconsistent so far, and the defense is playing very aggressive. The pass rush needs to be more consistent and tackling has become an issue. Again, I won’t overreact and put these teams in the dog house after three weeks, but it’s time for them to lock in and deliver on expectations.
Is Defense The Key?
Denver. Philly. Baltimore. New England. Minnesota. There’s a common thread here with the five remaining undefeated teams: defense. Whether they have unreal talent or are scheming to perfection so far (you know who you are *cough, cough* Belichick *cough*), there’s no doubt the presence of a great defense has returned as a key component to being a championship caliber team. Even though it seems that complete teams win every year, these teams are winning without completely established franchise players (that’s a stretch on Flacco, Ravens fans, I get it). Trevor Siemian is 3-0 this year, as is Carson Wentz. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett have gotten the Pats to three wins. As it shows, defense and scheming have gotten them this far, and with their good defenses, there’s no reason it cannot continue.
Week 4 is upon us, so now everything about the first three weeks is irreversible. So, for the teams struggling to find themselves, it’s a new week. For the undefeated crew, keep rolling. Let’s enjoy the NFL and all of its surprises.