A wise man once said that we really don’t know anything. That statement has never been more true than this past weekend in the NFL. We believed we had foregone conclusions, positive for some teams, negatives for others, and we were shocked to find out those conclusions were incorrect.
Somehow we keep doing this every single year. After two weeks, we assume we know where teams are at and where they will go. We assume no upsets will occur, certain teams are done, and certain teams won’t falter.
I’m not saying I disagree with the condition that 90 percent of teams who start 0-2 don’t make the postseason. That data still holds. But, there will be 0-2 teams that finish in the middle of the pack and don’t end up with the top pick in the draft. Some 1-1 teams will finish better than 2-0 teams.
What I am saying is it’s a long season and we don’t quite know where every team will be come December.
What we can do is react to what we saw in week three of the NFL season.**
**Plus, some scouting notes and a Packers-only section.
Two Teams At The Top
There are three teams sitting at 3-0 after week three in the NFL season, and one undefeated team still has a chance to get themselves to 3-0 tonight. However, two of those teams are very much in their own class.
Also, quick note. It is interesting that there will be a max of four undefeated teams after three week. It speaks to the parity that still exists in the NFL, something that is a great product driver.
The Rams and Chiefs are the class of the league at this point. There is no denying that.
The Chiefs are still riding the hot start of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who now has 13 touchdown passes after three weeks, breaking the record previously held by Peyton Manning. He has also found nine different receivers for a touchdown, which is impressive after only three weeks. The offense is full of weapons, from stars like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, to Sammy Watkins, who is clearly thriving in this offense.
This speaks to the success and genius of head coach Andy Reid. Reid has consistently been one of the best offensive minds in the league, and his work with Mahomes so far is especially astounding. Mahomes ran a spread at Texas Tech, and NFL concepts like taking snaps under center and working through progressions had plenty of analysts weary. It shows how much Andy Reid can help young quarterbacks and shape an offense to tailor to their strengths.
Speaking of the development of Mahomes, the Chiefs did something that isn’t common in today’s NFL with rookie quarterbacks. Kansas City moved up to select Mahomes in 2017, certain he would be the franchise quarterback in the future. Then, they let him sit behind Alex Smith to work on his game and his transition to the NFL. Most quarterbacks who are first round picks nowadays end up thrown into the fire at some point, whether it be because of injury or incompetence in front of them. Not the Chiefs though. They had the plan in place to draft someone like Mahomes. That plan is a reason why you are seeing the start he is having.
Let’s move over to the other 3-0 team with plenty to be excited about. The Los Angeles Rams acquired plenty of veteran talent in the offseason, adding Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Brandin Cookls, and Aqib Talib. Many wondered if head coach Sean McVay could work all the new guys in along with continuing to evolve as an offense. So far, the transition looks good. Brandin Cooks is not just playing decoy in the offense as a deep threat (seven catches for 90 yards on Sunday), and Suh looks like he is racing Aaron Donald to the quarterback on every play.
Let’s also not forget about the continued rise of quarterback Jared Goff. Many wrote him off as a franchise quarterback after one season under Jeff Fisher, but the presence of Sean McVay completely turned his career arc around. He is the comfortable pocket maneuvering, dime-dropping player that many saw leading up to the 2016 draft. He made a throw to the sideline yesterday in between two defenders to Robert Woods that made jaws drop.
They are dealing with some injuries right now on both sides of the ball, but the Rams are the most complete team on both sides of the ball at this point in the season.
Roughing The Passer Is Out Of Hand
Another week, another showing of why the roughing the passer call needs to be changed. Clay Matthews has been the center of attention in this saga after three roughing the passer penalties in three weeks. The first one against Chicago was a fair call, as Matthews went up high at Mitchell Trubisky’s head. Last week, Matthews hit Kirk Cousins as he threw and “drove him into the ground” (he did not). This week, Matthews was penalized sacking Alex Smith. Smith didn’t get rid of the ball, and Matthews just took him down. However, he was penalized because he put all of his weight on him.
This rule is absolute garbage.
On most plays, players put their full body weight on each other, defined as a tackle. This rule that was enforced yesterday seems like a penalty will be assessed for sacking the quarterback.
Or will it? Because it happened in that game, with Da’Ron Payne throwing Aaron Rodgers hard into the ground wit his head hitting the ground first. Penalty? None whatsoever.
Officiating in general is pretty inconsistent, but this is next level. If you are going to implement a rule as bad as this, and then not be consistent with it, that’s a problem on top of a problem.
The issue of not being able to sack the quarterback normally creates an issue for a defender when they reach the quarterback, and it could lead to injury. Oh wait, it’s already happened. Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL trying to avoid landing hard on Derek Carr when he sacked him. This could become more common under this rule.
Not only that, but the league is standing strong on the idea of player safety when talking about this rule. They say player safety, but they mean quarterback (and offense) safety. It doesn’t seem like anyone seems to care about defensive player safety. Out in space Sunday, an Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman went low on Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson and proceeded to roll over into his leg, leading to most likely a severe injury.
What’s the takeaway here? The NFL has issues with the product right now, and the unrest is growing.
Don’t Worry About The Patriots, Yet
The Patriots didn’t look quite like themselves last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, allowing Blake Bortles and company to shred them through the air. The offense also only mustered 20 points. After that, many expected that the rout would be on Sunday in Detroit.
It didn’t quite go that way.
The offense only scored 10 points, and Tom Brady completed just 14 of 26 for 133 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The defense allowed Detroit to have their first 100 yard rushing game since 2013. This wasn’t the performance everyone expected.
So, is there something wrong with the Patriots? They haven’t lost back-to-back games by double digits since 2002. Yes, you read that correctly.
If you look back at previous seasons, the trend is there. The Patriots just do not start well in the regular season. This is a team that consistently starts slow and finishes strong. The offense doesn’t look quite right, but Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman will soon be joining the offense. The defense will hopefully get Trey Flowers back soon.
So, the Patriots are fine, for now. However, there are definitely concerns on the defensive side of the ball that need to be addressed. The offense doesn’t get a pass for last night’s performance either.
What Are The Cardinals Doing?
We discussed above that the Chiefs sitting Mahomes paid huge dividends. When it comes to the 2018 quarterback class, all five first round selections have had some sort of game action. Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are the only two who have started games so far, but that will change this coming week with Baker Mayfield set to start for Cleveland.
The debuts have shown mixed results. However, no debut is as nuts as the debut of Josh Rosen for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend.
Arizona built a quick 14-0 lead on the Chicago Bears with a couple of Sam Bradford touchdown passes. However, Arizona didn’t get anything else going after that with Bradford at the helm, turning it over several times.
Down 16-14 with just a few minutes remaining, head coach Steve Wilks decides to put in Josh Rosen for his first game action in the NFL.
What a fantastic idea. Put a rookie in against a very good defense to try to run a two minute drill for a victory in his first meaningful action.
Since Bradford didn’t get injured, it begs the question of why. If Bradford had gotten hurt, then okay, someone has to go out there. But he didn’t. If Wilks had even thought about playing Rosen yesterday, how do you not give him reps all week to be ready to go in? Or, even better, let him prepare as the starter for the week!
Hopefully the Cardinals terrible start and organizational decision making doesn’t ruin what could be a great young trio of Josh Rosen, David Johnson, and Christian Kirk.
Scouting Notes From Week Four
This will be a staple every week on the Weekend Cap as we start to build towards the 2019 NFL Draft. Here are some bullet points on some guys I got to watch this weekend and my thoughts on their draft stock.
- Quick thought on the quarterbacks. Right now, it’s Drew Lock and Justin Herbert competing for QB1. Herbert looked excellent against Stanford, showing great anticipation and decision making all game long. Oh, and his arm is very good too. Drew Lock made some great throws against Georgia, but he didn’t get much help, as his receivers caused two turnovers and dropped several passes on the day.
- Will Grier also looked very good against Kansas State, and he will certainly keep himself in the conversation. Wide receiver David Sills V also showed out.
- The wild card is Dwayne Haskins. He is rising big time and could declare as a redshirt sophomore.
- Rodney Anderson’s injury is very unfortunate, and RB1 feels pretty open right now. One guy who has his sights set on it is Kentucky running back Benny Snell. Snell is a hard-nosed back with plenty of power, but he’s shown some juice when he hits the hole and better lateral quickness this season.
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside helped himself a ton Saturday night, especially on a sluggo move later in the game. He sold a slant route, and used lateral quickness to separate for his second touchdown. His first was a great usage of his frame to box out the defender.
- Oregon linebacker Troy Dye is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. He is a taller linebacker at 6’3″, and he played extremely well Saturday. He showed his coverage ability on a Bryce Love wheel route and played instinctive near the line of scrimmage.
- Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia) had some concerns coming into the season, especially when it came to man coverage. He is on a mission to erase those doubts, and he dominated against Missouri. He stayed glued to receivers and continued his physical style of play.
- An important injury to monitor is Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz. He is currently my top interior offensive lineman, but as a redshirt sophomore he might not declare. The severity of the injury could affect Wisconsin along with his decision to declare early.
Quick Packers Thoughts
Finally, let’s talk about the Packers 31-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday. Here are some notes in bullet point form as well.
- The secondary struggled mightily. Kentrell Brice is a fill the hole, tackling type of safety and not a guy who can play in coverage. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix continues to miss tackles and is still trending in the wrong direction. Earl Thomas and Eric Reid are available.
- Aaron Rodgers looked a bit better moving around the pocket this week. However, there were a couple plays where Rodgers looked to be in significant pain. This injury isn’t going away anytime soon.
- Aaron Jones only played 17 snaps and carried the ball 6 times for 42 yards. Yes, he can’t be relied on in pass protection, but he should be the guy on early downs.
- Not a great game on Randall Cobb’s part. A couple of big drops and a costly fumble got the “trade Cobb” crew back up and running. Don’t be a part of that crew.
- There were a few more drops, including Lance Kendricks on a key deep ball down the sideline. This receiving core has to get it together.
- Nick Perry hasn’t done much at all since his game-sealing sack in week one. Yes, he left with an injury, but he didn’t do much when he was in.
- Clay Matthews’ sack should NEVER be a penalty.
- Muhammad Wilkerson, Bryan Bulaga, and Perry all suffered injuries. It’s likely Wilkerson is done for the year.
- All this said, the Packers are still 1-1-1 and it is early. R-E-L-A-X for now. And get Thomas and Reid, Gute.
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