I had a slow week at work, so I figured I’d spend my free time coming up with my first thought of every team after the first two weeks of the season.
This is what I came up with:
Offense is underwhelming
- The return of David Johnson has meant nothing so far. This offense has scored 1 touchdown through 8 quarters, and have been outscored 58-6. It won’t be long before Josh Rosen gets a chance to provide a spark to a woeful offense. I thought Sam Bradford would be the perfect quarterback for Rosen to learn from. One of the more accurate quarterbacks in NFL history but injury has really prevented him from reaching the potential we all thought he’d have coming out of Oklahoma. He still could be, as long as Rosen isn’t watching what’s actually happening on the field thus far.
Matt Ryan’s 2016 MVP campaign was a fluke
- With the number of weapons in this Atlanta offense, it’s baffling that the Falcons have so much trouble in the redzone. The common denominator is Ryan. He’s either too reliant or not reliant enough on Julio Jones, there’s no in-between. If the Falcons want to get back to the Super Bowl to avenge the disappointment of 2016, Ryan will have to get back to his 2016 form, if he’s capable.
Joe Flacco motivated to fend off Lamar Jackson
- Ah, the ol’ sports clichés. The team drafted a quarterback in the first round, so naturally the current, aging vet will be motivated to keep his job. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening in Baltimore. We know what Flacco is, but he hasn’t quite been that for some time. He’s back to it, keeping Jackson in the backup role for now.
2018 Cleveland Browns
- Two weeks in, this team is awful. They may be less talented than last year’s Browns that did not win a game. With a schedule that features the improved Dolphins & Jets in their own division plus the very competitive NFC North, it seems very possible to have back-to-back season with a winless team. Josh Allen has the ability to be a very good quarterback, just not yet. The fact that he was pushed into duty in Week 2 shows the failings of this front office. They’ve dug an enormously deep hole and it’ll take a while to climb out.
Not enough firepower to contend
- The Panthers have exciting players around the field with Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, and Luke Kuechly, but not enough to contend within their division. With no serious outside threats and a lot of question marks in the secondary, it’s hard to see this team winning more than 7 games. Cam Newton, while very talented, isn’t exactly the leader that’s needed to get every ounce of ability out of this offense that would be needed to be a serious threat to Atlanta or New Orleans.
Here’s the keys, Trubisky
- The shocking trade to bring in 2016 DPOY Khalil Mack from the Raiders solidified everything about this team minus one thing. The quarterback. The addition of Allen Robinson and Trey Burton has given Mitchell Trubisky the necessary weapons in the passing game, along with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the backfield. The blueprint is there for this team to compete with Green Bay and Minnesota; it all comes down to the play of Mitchell Trubisky.
Marvin Lewis: the new Jeff Fisher
- If it wasn’t for Hue Jackson retaining his job after a 1-31 start to his Cleveland tenure, I wouldn’t understand how Marvin Lewis still has a job. I suppose he’s just the 2nd worst head coach in football. Not necessarily by overall record, or team success, but because he simply couldn’t get the MOST out of his players. As long as he’s the coach, the Bengals will always be just good enough to compete for a #6 seed, but never good enough to really threaten in the playoffs.
Baker must hit
- The moves made by the Browns in the offseason were very interesting. Obviously, they didn’t want to go winless again, I get that, but to think you’re just a quarterback and a receiver away from really doing anything is troubling. Perhaps Baker was the plan all along and thought Tyrod would be the perfect mentor for the heir apparent to, forgive me, Robert Griffin III (the last QB to lead the Browns to a victory). But, I’m not sure what the end goal to the plan is. Jarvis Landry is good, though not good enough to lead a team to 10 wins alone. The defense is slowly improving but if there’s no tangible success in the near future, they’ll be gone as soon as their rookie deals expire. Baker is the one. He has to be #1 overall pick worthy. If not, this team will fall into a deeper hole than they’ve ever been in.
Zeke can’t do everything
- The offensive line isn’t quite the brick wall it was in 2016. The outside threats are non-existent. The quarterback is not capable of throwing receivers open. The secondary is questionable. Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs the game has to offer, but we’ve seen that a dominant running back can only take you so far in today’s game. Jerry Jones is as stubborn as they come, we know that, but unless he acknowledges that this team needs to rebuild, it’ll be a very long time before they can hang the 6th
Time to rebuild
- John Elway put together one of the most dominant defenses in recent memory in 2015. He got his ring as a GM; now it’s time to start over. Case Keenum isn’t the answer, and by the time they get a quarterback ready to win a Super Bowl, the weapons in place will be gone. They can still compete for a playoff spot in their current state, but not threaten enough to win it all. Move some of the older, still effective, players and build through the draft. They have enough talent to acquire some good, young players and complete the turnaround much quicker if scouted properly.
Defensive guru makes defense worse
- The Lions brought in Matt Patricia to attempt to bring a tenacity to the defense, similar to what he did in New England, making a strong unit out of 11 non-flashy guys. Through two games, this defense appears to have taken a step back. That was on full display after being shredded for 48 points by a 21-year-old rookie quarterback on Monday Night in Week 1. Don’t forget, this is the same division that houses Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins.
Green Bay Packers
News flash: Aaron Rodgers is good
- We knew that. But, his performance so far this season may be his best accomplishment yet, if he can keep it up; and by keep it up, I mean stay on the field. After being carted off the field in the 1st quarter of the first game against the Bears, he miraculously returned in the second half to lead the Packers back from a 20-0 deficit to victory. Keep this up and stay healthy enough to stand and throw, and this will be his most special season to date.
Deshaun Watson isn’t Superman
- After bursting onto the scene in 2017, throwing 19 TDs in 7 games, he has seemingly cooled off with the start of the 2018 season. He did, however, suffer his 2nd torn ACL of his football career, so the expectations this early should obviously be limited. But, spending so much time recovering, it allowed the NFL’s defensive coordinators to study his strengths and weaknesses. Now, it’s his turn to re-adjust and show the league that 2017 wasn’t a fluke.
Andrew Luck: what could have been
- Andrew Luck could go down as being the most talented quarterback in the NFL to accomplish virtually nothing. This team has become a dumpster fire around what was the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. The defense is horrendous, the offensive line is one of the worst in the league, and the lack of offensive weapons behind T.Y. Hilton is frightening. It isn’t something that can be fixed overnight either; it will take years of solid drafting and smart, high value free agent finds. By the time all that is said and done, Luck will be approaching the end of his unfortunate career in Indy.
Defense is for real
- The dominant Jaguars defense we saw in 2017 was so fluke. In fact, they may even be better this season. After a dominant performance against Tom Brady and the Patriots, they left no doubt who the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl should be. With depth at every level, and speed lateral speed everywhere, this defense could be mentioned among the great defenses in NFL history.
Kansas City Chiefs
Pat Mahomes can play
- It’s only been 2 games (well 3 if you count Week 17 last season), but we’re starting to understand why the Chiefs were so willing to unload a very consistent Alex Smith. Mahomes is ready. I’m interested to see what will happen once teams get a chance to study live film and gameplan against him. But the fact that he uses his speed as a last resort rather than a first instinct sets him up for long-term success in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers better hit on Rivers’ successor
- This team has rebuilt its roster extremely well over recent years. They went from being a #1 seed in the AFC, to the cellar of their own division, now back to being a legitimate threat in the west. Philip Rivers has endured all of this through his 14 years in the NFL. But, things are changing, he’s 36, still playing well but he’s certainly closer to the end than he is to the start. The Chargers are loaded with offensive weapons, and the only way to maximize the potential is to hit on the next quarterback. Unless that happens, Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon will go to waste.
Los Angeles Rams
Offseason moves paid off
- We all know it’s very difficult to buy championships in the NFL, where team chemistry is all so important on each side of the ball. But, so far, it looks like the Rams pulled all the right strings in the offseason. Aaron Donald is happy, wealthy, and playing better than ever. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters present an unmatchable 1-2 punch on the outsides, and Brandin Cooks give the team the down the field threat they’ve been yearning for. The sky is the limit for the 2018 Rams.
The return of Ryan Tannehill
- It’s easy to forget that Ryan Tannehill did not play in 2017. Let’s be honest, his return wasn’t as anticipated as that of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, or Odell Beckham, Jr. But, he does bring a level of skill to the quarterback position in Miami that they certainly lacked a year ago. He looks healthy, motivated, and determined to lead the team that finally knocks the Patriots out of the throne of the AFC East.
Kirk Cousins is free
- The Case Keenum story of 2017 was a good, heartwarming tale. We all knew he wasn’t quite good enough to lead his team to the promised land even though they had all the weapons and the dominant defense necessary, but it was a good story of perseverance. Enter Kirk Cousins. Run out of D.C. by all the fans (and the owner) that wanted Robert Griffin III and paid by the team that was simply a quarterback away from being serious Super Bowl contenders. He can finally relax and just play football, and that’s what he’s doing; as good as anyone else in the league.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady needs help
- The old narrative that “Tom Brady doesn’t need weapons around him, he makes everyone around him a weapon” is a thing of the past. Brady isn’t 30 anymore; hell, he isn’t 40 anymore. At 41 years old, it’s very evident that he needs weapons; more than just Rob Gronkowski. The return of Julian Edelman in Week 5 will certainly provide a boost, but it seems as though Father Time is finally catching up. The little bit of mobility he had is now gone, and the receivers/running backs in place simply can’t create separation. It’ll finally be the year where the Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger Super Bowl run goes away.
New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara isn’t built for 25 touches
- Alvin Kamara is as dynamic as they come in the league. However, with Mark Ingram sidelined due to suspension, we’re seeing that Kamara is best suited as the change-of-pace, split-out-wide type back. He is a PPR monster, but when he’s used as an every down back with more inside zone type runs, he’s not as effective. It’ll be interesting to see what happens once Drew Brees finally hangs it up as he’s made a living with feature pass-catching backs behind him.
New York Giants
Offensive line even worse than expected
- We know the Giants had offensive struggles last year. When you’re down four wide receivers, a running back, a right guard, and a center, that’s expected. What’s not expected is when you sign a left tackle and draft a left guard, the line actually will get worse. That’s what happened. This team is loaded with weapons all over the field. Possibly the worst offensive line in the game and a defensive line that let Jason Pierre-Paul walk and Olivier Vernon sidelined with an injury leaves this team extremely weak in the trenches. Odell Beckham, Jr. can only take you so far when Eli doesn’t have enough time to let him stretch the field.
New York Jets
Quarterback search is over
- The Jets traded up to the 3rd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft reportedly hoping to land Baker Mayfield. What they didn’t expect is that USC QB Sam Darnold would fall into their lap. Darnold, the best available quarterback according to draft experts, is looking like the answer to the Jets’ revolving door at the position of late. He beat out last years’ starter Josh McCown and recently acquired Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job in the preseason. After throwing a pick-six with his first NFL pass, he settled down and has played very well since. Now all the Jets need to do is provide him with some offensive weapons.
Gruden over Mack
- The long-awaited Jon Gruden return to coaching has finally come to fruition. The Raiders were always the team that had the ability to entice Gruden to leave the comforts of the Monday Night Football booth. The surprising aspect to this move is that it appears the Raiders made a choice deciding that Jon Gruden was more valuable to the franchise than 2016 DPOY Khalil Mack. Gruden has made some interesting moves since taking the reins and added some veterans in key spots. In a league that values youth, the Raiders traded superstar youth for has-been age.
Foles is a backup, after all
- Nick Foles will go down in history in Philadelphia folklore. After all, his magical run as Carson Wentz’s replacement brought the city their first ever Super Bowl Championship. Two weeks into the 2018 season, we’re remembering why Foles was a backup in the first place. Philadelphia has not looked very good offensively in their two games this year and Foles has been playing, well, like a backup. Granted, he is missing their top receiver in Alshon Jeffery, but Eagles fans have to be excited about the Week 3 return of Carson Wentz. They better hope there’s no lingering effect to the ACL tear.
From most stable to weekly soap opera
- Who would have thought that the Steelers, the most stable and most accomplished franchise in the NFL, would have become the most content-filled reality television show in the NFL? Every week is something new; from Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, to Antonio Brown skipping work, there’s never a shortage of news coming out of Heinz Field. Top that off with a defense that can’t seem to stop anyone, this could be one of the most disappointing seasons in Steelers history if they don’t get it together.
San Francisco 49ers
Spend money on receivers
- The 49ers got the quarterback they wanted in Jimmy Garoppolo. They saw enough, as did most fans, in the two starts he made with New England to trade for him and pay him. I’m not ready to say that he’s the reincarnation of Tom Brady but we certainly won’t be able to develop a good case until he has someone of note to throw the ball too. The most important position in sports is covered; now it’s time to fill out the roster around him and let him shine.
The Legion of Boom is over
- The Seahawks had a terrific run of success and built one of the most complete teams in recent memory solely through the draft. A very impressive feat that you really don’t see any more with the amount of money thrown around every year in free agency. When you find a franchise quarterback in the 3rd round, a corner that could eliminate one side of the field and a safety that put fear in any receiver going across the middle in the 5th round, and a corner that fit your scheme perfectly in the 6th round, your GM should receive one hell of a raise. However, all good things come to an end. The line deteriorated causing Russell Wilson to have to run all over the backfield looking for somewhere to plant his foot and throw. The defense doesn’t bring even the slightest bit of fear that it once did to opposing offenses. All those things together make the west the Rams’ division now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Step aside Jameis, this is FitzMagic’s team now
- Now I understand Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the guy that has been on 29 other teams at some point, but the point of the matter is that this team no longer belongs to Jameis Winston. He has talent, that’s evident, but whether it’s a work ethic issue or a football intelligence issue, he just can’t seem to improve. He has leveled out as a pro since his rookie season and always seem to find a way to get his name in the NFL headlines in a negative way. As a former #1 overall pick, he’s been extremely underwhelming and his latest suspension may have just cost him his job for good.
Time to make some serious changes
- It appears this version of the Titans has reached its peak. They have a solid defense, solid rushing attack, and solid receiving options when TE Delanie Walker is healthy. However, that’s all it is, solid. There’s nothing special. There’s enough talent to remain competitive but not enough to present a real threat to Jacksonville. Guys like Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, and Corey Davis on the offense are still young enough to build around. Nashville has never been the most enticing cities for big-time free agents, but they have enough core talent to use that as a selling point to acquire some flashy names in the coming years to create a legitimate threat in the AFC.
Maybe Smith isn’t an upgrade, after all
- The Redskins got their guy out-of-town. Kirk Cousins is now in Minnesota. They also got their guy into town. Alex Smith is now the Redskins’ quarterback and he’s reverted back to his old ways. Always known as a “game manager” or “Captain checkdown”, he managed to put those monikers to rest in 2017. He led the NFL in most, if not all, downfield passing categories, thanks in most part to having the NFL’s leading rusher in Kareem Hunt and the NFL’s most dangerous downfield threat in Tyreek Hill. Smith doesn’t have playmakers like that in Washington. So naturally, he’s reverted back to his checkdown ways. He’ll always be a guy that makes very little mistakes because he simply refuses to take risks. Through two games, 44.4% of Smith’s completions have been to running backs, highest in the NFL.