Storylines around the NFL

What to believe from week one of NFL action:

Week one is always absolutely crazy every year. Find me one person who said before Sunday that the Browns would lose by 30 to the Titans or that the Bucs would put up 48 on the Saints at the Superdome in last year’s week one matchup. With how little starters play in preseason and how teams still figuring things out early on, it surprises us every year and most people overreact to the first look at all teams in an extreme way. I kind of wanted to look at the storylines emerging from the first round of NFL games and give my opinion on if that trend will continue or that statement will prove to be right. To do so, I labelled all twelve of them, which includes almost all matchups, either as truth or deceit and explain my reasoning behind it. Here they are:


Packers D

 

The Packers finally have a defense – Truth

I thought all along Green Bay’s defense would take a major step forward in 2019 once I saw them add all those pieces and retain Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator. With two high-quality edge rushers, a versatile piece in Rashan Gary, an underrated veteran safety in Adrian Amos and a flying missile in first-round pick Darnell Savage added to what they already had, I thought they could really surprise some people. To see them holding the Bears to a sorry three points was stunning even to me however. Chicago’ lone field goal came on their second drive of the game off a short field. After that they had only one possession of seven plays or more – and it ended in an interception. This will probably be the lowest total Green Bay surrenders all year because it was a combination of the lack of preseason reps, which always favors the defense, Matt Nagy getting a little too cute with his play-calling instead of giving the ball to who I predicted as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in David Montgomery and some other factors. With that being said, I love what the Packers have done in the draft to revamp their secondary, especially with cornerback Jaire Alexander who I have been hyping up since I first saw him at Louisville, and that pass rush is for real, with Pettine drawing up all kinds of stunts and pressure packages.

 

Case Keenum

 

Case Keenum will start all 16 games in D.C. – Deceit

When Andy Dalton, Dak Prescott and Case Keenum are three of the top four leaders in passing yards, you know something is a little off. Keenum completed more than two thirds of his passes for 380 yards and tossed three touchdowns. Surprisingly enough the journeyman has now started every single game he was healthy for over these last three seasons, since taking over for Sam Bradford in Minnesota, with a different team every year and while he did have those performances that would make some people believe he can be a franchise guy, at some point he always seems to lay an egg. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Keenum for his week one performance, but this Eagles secondary is still meshing together and it tightened up in the second half, where the Redskins went three-and-out on every possession until a meaningless last-second touchdown. Keenum is also at his best off play-action and 28 yards rushing by the team are not encouraging in that regard. In the meantime, Washington has a highly promising young QB in Dwayne Haskins, who had no problem airing it out as a Heisman finalist at Ohio State. Over the next four weeks Washington is facing the Cowboys, Bears and Patriots (plus the not so significant Giants). The week after that they travel to Miami, which would be perfect opportunity to give their young signal-caller some confidence and the fans some excitement if they decide to hand over the reigns to the rookie.

 

Devin Singletary

 

Devin Singletary could be a special running back – Truth

When I put together my positional rankings for the draft in April, I had this kid number three right behind Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery, who both showed some serious flashes in their first games – even though less in the case of Montgomery who simply didn’t get the touches he deserved. However, nobody made more with limited opportunities in their season-opener than the Bills rookie running back. By letting LeSean McCoy go shortly before week one, Buffalo made a clear statement that they want to feature their third-round pick. Throughout the preseason he had shown vision, balance and toughness to be a better in-between the tackles ball-carrier than given credit for. In his first regular season action, the young man who is often referred to as Mini-Shady McCoy gained 98 yards on just nine touches(!), with a couple of his receptions coming on check-downs just beyond the line of scrimmage. While Frank Gore took away some plays early on and was used as a pass-protector on third downs, Singletary ended the game with 70 percent of the offensive snaps and from what I saw in preseason, I think he can definitely get the job done in blitz-pickup to stay on the field. I expect him to only touch the ball more going forward and he is a dynamic guy in space, with all the burst and open field moves you want to see.

 

Baker Mayfield

 

The Browns are overrated – Deceit

Well, you could still argue that the hype the Browns received over the offseason was too much and they should still not be looked at as true Super Bowl contenders probably, but as far as this week one loss goes, I think this might be the best thing that could have happened to this team. All the noise coming out of Cleveland worked against them and a 30-point defeat will bring them right back to earth, by focusing on in-house things only. Looking at their play on the field, the score was 15-13 with two minutes left in the third quarter before Derrick Henry went 75 yards on a throwback screen pass on the very next snap. The final five drives all ended in turnovers and Baker Mayfield just forced the issues way too much, throwing three picks to end the game. While I had them winning ten games in my preseason predictions and this was one of the wins, I still think they can go 9-7. Looking at this team, the talent is just too much for them not to be a dangerous squad. Not every week will they face a defensive gameplan as complex as the Titans and they should go back to handing the rock to Nick Chubb more. However, they do need to seriously clean up their penalties and a trade for Trent Williams with all their offensive tackle issues almost makes too much sense at this point.

 

Lamar Jackson

 

Lamar Jackson is a true threat as a passer – Truth

I know it was against the Dolphins, who looked absolutely pathetic, and we only have one game to judge him on, but I really think Lamar is a different player coming into year two. After going 6-1 as a starter down the stretch for Baltimore, the former Heisman trophy winner could not do anything through the air in the playoff game against the Chargers and people started making fun of him being a running back and whatever. In his first game of 2019 he completed 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns, posting a perfect quarterback rating and shutting up the critics. While the Dolphins just refused to play a deep safety and allowed all those deep bombs, just looking at Lamar’s rhythm and throwing motion, it feels different than a year ago. Plus, Miami’s secondary actually is the best unit on their team by a lot. This probably was his easiest test of the year, but he is so much more comfortable in this new offense and now has weapons around him. Last year the Ravens receiving corp lacked playmakers and a lot of times everything happened so fast, that the only way Jackson know how to counter that was using his own speed. This should still be a run-oriented offense with Lamar being a threat to pull the ball on every single play, but when teams start stacking the box and leaving their DBs one-on-one, he can make them pay quickly.

 

Nick Foles

 

The Jaguars are done without Nick Foles – Deceit

This might be more about people who actually believed in the 2019 Jaguars, which includes me since I had them winning the AFC South. With how good pretty much all the other three teams looked (even the two of them lost) and the starting QB headed for IR, I might have to reconsider this, but I don’t believe we should completely disregard this team. The main reasons I had the Jags making it back to the postseason was a massive offensive line for Leonard Fournette to run behind, better options in the passing game than they get credit for, a ferocious defensive line and a secondary that can shut down opposing receivers. Nick Foles certainly was the factor that made me put them over the top, but we have seen this team go to the AFC Championship Game with pretty bad quarterback play. Gardner Minshew might have been a sixth-round pick and I had him slightly outside my top ten QB prospects for this year’s draft, but he finished fifth in Heisman race last season and plays with a  lot of confidence. That should not change after going 22 of 25 for 275 yards and two TDs (with one interception) after Foles came out of the game. If there is reason for doubt, it’s the fact that the Jags only rushed for 81 yards and their defense surrendered 40 points, but a lot of that had to do with them being in catch-up mode and without Myles Jack for most of the afternoon, while losing their cool a lot.

 

Dalvin Cook

 

Dalvin Cook is the real deal – Truth

Ahead of the 2017 NFL draft, I had this young man as a top ten prospect coming out of Florida State. Cook eventually ended up falling to the second round because of some concerns about the people he was spending his time with away from football and some concerns about his knee, but I never doubted that he could be an amazing weapon. He only gave me more optimism when he racked up 137 yards from scrimmage in his regular season debut and went for about 450 through four games before being lost for the season with a torn ACL. I had Cook as my biggest breakout candidate ahead of last year, but a hamstring problem kept him sidelined for five games and held him back when he did get to play, plus the offensive play-calling didn’t give him the opportunities he should have received when he was healthy, carrying the ball an average of just 12 times per game. Now coming into year three, Dalvin quickly reminded of us his talent on just two preseason carries, as one of them went 85 yards for a touchdown. He is as explosive a back as we have in the game and a perfect fit for that Gary Kubiak rushing attack. Cook can make things happen with the ball in space as well as run downfield routes out of the backfield. With Kirk Cousins attempting just ten passes in week one while Cook went for 120 yards and two scores, the Minnesota offense should run through their star back.

 

Dak Prescott

 

Dak Prescott is a 40-million dollar quarterback – Deceit

Well, the number is ridiculous already, because it would be five million more than any other player in the league and about seven million more than either of his fellow draftees from 2016 in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, but I don’t think he is even at their level. I have heard all this “that is what the market dictates” talk and I’m all for a player getting paid, who earns the least amount of money among all week one starting QBs, but comparing him to the other top-paid passers, he is not in their class. Prescott had one of the greatest rookie season we have ever seen, but the turnovers have gone up and the offense has been much more stagnant at times since then. Dak has had the luxury of playing behind one of the premier offensive lines in football for pretty much all of his career, Zeke is the biggest workhorse back in the league and last year the defense emerged as one of the top units out there as well. Moreover, with Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup, who I thought very of ahead of last year’s draft, he now has some serious weapons around him. If Prescott continues to ball out under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who actually was the star of the show for me, I will reexamine, but a blowout win over one of the worst teams in the league won’t completely sell me.

 

Jameis Winston

 

Jameis Winston is the same guy under Bruce Arians – Truth

This might have been the most disappointing showing from week one to me. I really thought coming into the year that having a coach like Bruce Arians, who encourages his quarterback to take shots down the field while avoiding stupid mistakes would benefit the Bucs QB and lead to big numbers, but looking at Winston in just one game, he didn’t show me anything that would make me think he will be a different guy. He is still the big-bodied passer with a strong arm, who can shake off rushers like a Big Ben and make crazy throws when things break down, but he also doesn’t take care of it the way you need in order to win games. Jameis threw three interceptions against the 49ers and while one came off the hands of one of his receivers, he should have been picked twice more, where defenders flat-out dropped the ball. The most heart-breaking one came with a little more than two minutes left in the game with the score being 23-17. On first down the Bucs had a running back screen set up and the defense was all over it, but instead of simply throwing it in the dirt, Winston tried to somehow lob it over the top only to have Ahkello Witherspoon take it back for six and basically end the game. I’m sorry, but you can’t do that kind of stuff in the NFL.

 

James Conner

 

The Steelers offense will struggle without Bell and AB – Deceit

I don’t think we have ever seen a team lose almost 20000 career yards of production by their top two weapons in one offseason and while you could argue that the organization should be happy without all the distraction that came with them, there is no doubt that Pittsburgh lost two amazing players on the field. Neither Juju Smith-Schuster nor James Conner are as good as their previous WR1 and RB1, but taking the season-opener at Foxborough as your only proof would be wrong. Bill Belichick and that Patriots coaching staff is simply next level, knowing when to force those number two and three receivers to win their one-on-ones with Stephon Gilmore on Juju, but then bracketing #19 once the Steelers got into the red-zone because of how much they like to go him in that part of the field. And their D-line is full of grown man, who will hold their ground in the run game and did not allow Conner to ever get going throughout the night. Obviously they would be better on the field with those two superstars, but Smith-Schuster and Conner with Big Ben are still a trio a lot of teams would love to have. The O-line lost some pieces, especially their position coach Mike Munchak being one of the best at his job in the league, but with a retooled defense this still is a Steeler squad you don’t want to face, especially at Heinz Field.

 

Patricia & Kingsbury

 

Ties just suck – Truth

There’s not much to add to this point. You sit there and watch a game for over four hours, especially since the major part of the audience waited for Kyler Murray to do anything for two-and-a-half quarters, and then there is no winner. I just hoped the Cardinals would go for it on fourth and seven inside Lions territory. And Tramaine Brock had a potential interception to set up a field goal go right off his facemask.

 

Jon Gruden

 

The Raiders are back – Deceit

I was completely off on that Broncos-Raiders game. I had Denver penciled in and had their defense losing me my matchups in multiple fantasy leagues. A Raiders offense that had everything set up for Antonio Brown being featured heavily, as Jon Gruden has always done with his number one receivers, combined with a defense that was absolutely atrocious last season seemed to not have a chance against what I thought could be an underrated Broncos team. However, I did not consider how all this drama would fuel that team and the energy that was inside that building. Josh Jacobs looked like an absolute stud running back, Tyrell Williams made his case for being a WR1, Derek Carr could not miss and they are on pace to almost triple their sack total from 2018. With all that being said, I do not expect this team to make a playoff push. The most surprising thing in that matchup to me was the dominance at both sides of the line, which I think is the basis of a strong team. Looking at their personnel I just don’t see why this trend would continue, especially when it comes to their guard spots with two backups and the lack of true edge rushers. Now they lost their first-round safety Jonathan Abram, who was bringing all that energy on defense and set the tone, and while I’m extremely happy to know Gareon Conley’s injury wasn’t too serious, he could be out for a couple of weeks. I might have underrated Oakland, but I would be shocked to see them contend for a wildcard spot down the road.

 

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