It’s hard to believe that 30 of the 32 NFL teams will have completed a quarter of their season by Tuesday morning.
They’ve had a month to shake off the rust and work out the initial “kinks” from the ever-shortening offseason, and now — to borrow from the Simpsons — their baby legs are going to fall off.
There’s a whole lot more I could write about, but I wanted to take a quick spin through four (or more) of the storylines worth discussing at this point in the NFL season:
1. I think the national media has taken it easy on the New York Giants, in terms of how bad their offense has been this year.
It’s been mentioned by a few people, but I don’t think this is getting it’s full due. The Giants started this season by scoring exactly one offensive touchdown in their first 11 quarters of the season. They’ve been held scoreless for in seven of the 12 quarters they’ve played this year. Manning currently ranks 25th in the NFL in Quarterback Rating (QBR) right now, and has a lower passer rating than guys like Blake Bortles, Trevor Siemian, and even Josh McCown; the latter was supposed to be the one leading a winless team this season, and even they (the New York Jets) won a game before the Giants did.
If you’re looking to make excuses for Manning, you have plenty of choices. Calling the Giants’ running game “abysmal” seems like it’s still being too generous; they’re dead last in the NFL, averaging 48.7 yards per game, and they only have five more rushing yards as a team than the Miami Dolphins, and that’s with the Dolphins playing one full game less than New York has. It shouldn’t be any surprise that they’re dead last in rushing offense DVOA, too. The Giants offensive line has been an unmitigated disaster, and a source of scorn for the local and national media.
In fact, you don’t need concepts like the Pythagorean Theorem to validate how bad the Giants line has been; just ask this guy:
No words. pic.twitter.com/btsaBZLrpf
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) September 21, 2017
(I could watch that rant every single day, and laugh out loud every time. It’s just gold)
Even after devoting draft and free agent resources towards giving Manning weapons to throw to, the team can’t muster up any semblance of offense without force feeding Odell Beckham Jr. And Beckham is just as likely to do something spectacular as he is to do something that sabotages his team.
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is doing his job (… kinda), as far as keeping the defense somewhat respectable (although even that group has stunk this year, as they’re currently dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, ceding opponents over 150 yards on the ground each week). But as far as Ben McAdoo, who was brought in a few years ago to revitalize the Giants offense: what the hell are you actually doing each week between games?
I’m happy that I covered last week, picking the Giants (+6). I’m even more happy to see that the Giants are 0-3.
2. After getting beaten by the hapless Indianapolis Colts, dropping Cleveland’s record to 0-3 this year, I think Hue Jackson’s days in Cleveland could be numbered (though they shouldn’t be).
I (still) think Hue is a really, really good coach, and should be given a very, VERY long leash in Cleveland. It’s not Jackson’s fault that his offense — which is his forte — is operating with a raw, rookie quarterback who’s been forced to start because they didn’t have a better option, and they legitimately have nobody at wide receiver (it’s also not Jackson’s fault that Kenny Britt cashed in on one good season with the Los Angeles Rams last year and has been hot garbage for the Browns). It’s not his fault that they’ve gutted the defense, as part of their “renovate and rebuild” approach to the team, and that their prized rookie pass rusher hasn’t played a single regular season snap so far.
But I don’t think the folks in Cleveland feel the same way I do, or are willing to give Jackson the time and patience that I would provide. If the Browns do choose to move on from Jackson after the 2017 season (or even sometime during it), I still think it would be yet another huge mistake for an organization that has a history of making such mistakes.
3. I think Tony Romo has been really good as a color analyst opposite of Jim Nantz, because he actually provides real insight during games.
When you listen all the other (so called) “analysts,” who happen to be ex-football players themselves, they all use the same tired football clichés about how someone is a “football player,” and just regurgitate whatever the national media narrative happens to be at the time.
We know that Romo’s “thing” is how he tells you what play is coming before it happens. But the biggest difference between him and others is that he gives you the “why” and “how” insight of what’s going on during the course of a football game, like he’s a quarterback watching the game film of both teams as if he had to play against them. For football junkies everywhere (of which i’d include myself), it’s fantastic. Even if he is a former member of the Dallas Cowboys.
4. I think Alvin Kamara is the best running back on the New Orleans Saints, and might be their official “RB1” in 2018.
If you’ve watched the Saints play this season, this should have become very apparent to you. It figures that the Saints would devote over $7.5 million in salary cap space to the guys we thought would be their “#1” and “#1A” running backs this year, only to see that they’re nowhere near as good as the guy they took in the 3rd round of this year’s draft.
Given that, there’s almost zero chance that Adrian Peterson will be back in 2018, as they realize what most other people realized long ago: he was a terrible fit there to begin with (and he has nothing left in the tank, either). Peterson is scheduled to count for $4.75M against the cap, and they can get back about $3.5M of that by releasing him at the end of the season.
New Orleans can part also ways with Mark Ingram after this season as well, getting back about 75% of the 6.24M cap hit he’ll have in 2018. There’s a chance they could just renegotiate his contract and extend him at a reduced rate, but in an era where serviceable running backs are getting cheaper and cheaper (and the ROI on expensive running backs is becoming smaller and smaller), why would this perennially cap-strapped team even bother?
4 More Quick Hitting Things I Think:
– I think I owe an apology to Mike Mularkey of the Tennessee Titans. Many people ripped his oxymoronic “Exotic Smashmouth” approach to offense … present company included. Robert Mays of TheRinger.com did a fantastic job of breaking down teams who have shown an innovative approach to offense so far this season, but no other team he mentioned impressed me more than the Titans. Also, for those who haven’t been paying close attention: Marcus Mariota is really, really good.
– A few people are starting to issue their mea culpa after writing off Jared Goff so early — nobody likes hearing anyone say “I told you so,” but… DIDN’T I TELL YOU IT WAS TOO EARLY TO DO SO — but I think we’re still not giving enough credit to how much Sean McVay has made a difference there. I don’t care if it was against a not-very-good San Francisco 49ers team; some of his playcalling in last week’s Thursday night game was just masterful.
God I love Sean McVay. Used 2nd down play to see how they'd defend the double slant next play. Check out the WRs on the 2nd down play pic.twitter.com/QCox1VEFkM
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) September 22, 2017
– I think we need to stop calling John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens “a good coach.” Does a “good coach” lead his team to one playoff appearance over the last four seasons, zero division titles, and a 33-34 record since since February of 2013? Does a good coach allow his team to get absolutely dumptrucked by one of the worst offenses in the NFL, allowing Blake Bortles to throw FOUR touchdown passes?
How about “NO.” So, if you’re counting: not only do the Ravens have the most overrated player in the NFL, but the most overrated coach, too.
– I think the trashing of the Oakland Raiders by the defense of Washington Redskins last Sunday night was one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen from our guys in a long, long while, and it’s absolutely worth reliving again (considering the caliber of opponent it was done against).
NFL Week 4 Picks:
New Orleans (-3) vs. Miami (London, England)
Carolina at New England (-9)
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas (-6.5)
Detroit at Minnesota (-1)
Tennessee (-1.5) at Houston
Jacksonville (-3) at NY Jets
Cincinnati (-3) at Cleveland
Pittsburgh (-3) at Baltimore
Buffalo at Atlanta (-8)
NY Giants at Tampa Bay (-3)
Philadelphia at LA Chargers (-1.5)
Oakland at Denver (-3)
Indianapolis at Seattle (-13)
Washington at Kansas City (-7)
Last Week: 4-12 (I’m somehow getting progressively worse at this)
Season To Date: 18-29 (seriously, whoever/whatever I pick, you’re better off going with the opposite)