NFL fans, rejoice. The season is officially under way, and, already, there are no shortage of legitimate storylines to discuss.
But what could be more fun than to make wild predictions based on the smallest possible sample size?
Here are a few overreactions to the slate of games played from Thursday night to Sunday.
Packers and Patriots will both have Top five defenses
Only two teams held their opponents to single-digit points totals through Sunday. The same two teams with the most legendary quarterbacks in the league.
The New England Patriots’ brand throughout their 20-year dynasty has been offense- for the most part. With Tom Brady under center, it becomes hard to argue the offense is not the focal point of the team. In 2018, the Patriots lost the second-highest scoring Super Bowl of all time as Brady threw for 505 yards. In the AFC Championship game last year, New England outlasted Kansas City 43-40.
It seems as if that may be changing. For the second game in a row, the Patriots held their opponents’ high-powered offense to just a field goal. Not to mention the first game of this streak was their Super Bowl victory last year.
Bill Belichick has always been a master of chameleoning and adaptation, and he would probably fancy himself a defense over offense kind of guy. But this sudden culture change takes the cake. The play of this defensive unit Sunday night against the Steelers indicate legitimate talent, not just good game-planning.
The Green Bay Packers occupy the same boat. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have simply tried to outscore teams since their 2011 Super Bowl victory. The defense has been an afterthought.
However, the front office seems to have finally clued in to what so many Packers fans have realized for years; Last time Rodgers had a top-10 defense, the Packers won it all.
Now that Green Bay has committed to young talent, been more active in free agency, and been unafraid to spend money on that side of the ball, hopes for another ring can be confidently raised. They proved that by holding the Chicago Bears to just three points on the road, in easily the most hostile environment in the NFL for the Packers.
Both teams will finish in the top-five in total defense, and both teams will buy into their new style, as they know it will be a free pass to the playoffs.
Lamar Jackson will be in the MVP conversation
Of all the highly-touted quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, only one made it to the playoffs. He was also the last taken.
True, Jackson went to easily the best team of all five first-round QBs. It’s also worth noting is that he supplanted the Super Bowl-winning Joe Flacco, after his play outshined Flacco’s. Starting seven games, Jackson went 6-1, clinching the AFC North title.
The biggest criticism of the Heisman-winner has been his lack of throwing talent. Primarily a running quarterback in his first year, he had 695 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Passing the ball he had just 1,021 yards and six touchdowns.
He proved all detractors wrong in the Ravens’ Week 1 matchup against the Dolphins. Jackson threw for 324 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and collecting a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in a 59-10 win in Miami.
Again, detractors will immediately point to the lack of talent on the Dolphins, as they should be one of the worst teams in the league this year. But that is not quite the point here. Jackson, coach Harbaugh and the Ravens all knew fans wanted to see what he could do in the air, as his rushing prowess is well-established.
All questions may have been answered in Week 1. Jackson can throw the ball, both far and accurately. Expect this trend to continue as teams will stack the box to stop him from running, as he continues proving that underestimating his arm talent is a grave mistake.
An MVP-type season could very well be on the horizon as Jackson’s multi-faceted games will rip opposing defenses apart.
The Browns hype train left the station too early
Cleveland finally has hope, after drafting a franchise quarterback, collecting a young, speedy defense and trading for a contractually well-controlled star in Odell Beckham, Jr.
Yet, crowning them playoff contenders and a lock for contention for the AFC North crown looks to be too much too soon.
The Browns were embarrassed in a 43-17 loss at home to the middling Tennessee Titans. Baker Mayfield struggled mightly, throwing one touchdown to three interceptions. No running backs found pay dirt, and neither did OBJ.
The Titans did have a stout defense in 2018, ranking 8th in total yards per game and 6th in passing yards per game. But the rushing defense left a lot to be desired, at 18th.
Bottom line, with the amount of hype surrounding this Cleveland team, Browns fans and NFL fans felt as if they would set the league on fire. Instead, they turned in a dud at home. The season is long, and the Browns have plenty of chances to turn things around, of course. As of Monday, though, it should be back to the drawing board.
Regarding their play in Week 1, it is a much more sure bet to pencil them in as second or third in the division than to pencil them into a playoff spot.
Featured Image courtesy of thebiglead
Check out Eli and Ben’s Podcast “Courtside Ramblings” on SoundCloud or iTunes — TGH Podcast Feed
“From Our Haus to Yours“