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NFL first quarter trends: Real and fake news

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The first quarter of the NFL season is over, and week five is coming up. There are always unexpected trends that pop-up at the beginning of the season. Some first quarter trends stand true throughout the entire year, but others are temporary and fall back to the norm.

For example, last season, former Chiefs QB Alex Smith, who is known as a game-manager, was throwing deep bombs and leading a high-power offense. However, after week 5, he turned back into the Alex Smith everyone thought they knew, keeping his team in the game but not putting up too many points. On the other hand, the Saints defense was playing well during the first quarter of 2017 for the first time in years. They kept it up the whole season and finished as a top 10 defense point-wise.

Here are some first quarter trends from the first four weeks of this season that will stay and some that will soon be proven false.

A trend that will Last: Patrick Mahomes is the Truth

Over the offseason, the Chiefs traded the solid and reliable Alex Smith, a Pro-Bowler from last year. They believed in 2017 number 10 overall pick Patrick Mahomes, who had not yet proven anything as an NFL starter.

First quarter trends
Mahomes throws a running left-handed pass against the broncos (Image from Kansas City Star)

After four games, Mahomes has already thrown for 14 touchdowns, no interceptions, and 1200 yards. After putting up at least 38 points in his first three games, he led a fourth-quarter comeback against the Broncos in Week 4. He showed calmness and composure, which are extremely important traits for the quarterback and leader of a team to have.

While defenses adjust to young QBs once they have tape from a few starts, Mahomes is one of a few rare quarterbacks who has generational talent. His ball is too precise and has too much heat for a defense to truly adjust to it. The Chiefs QB also has the ability to make plays outside of the system, as he showed against Denver with a running, left-handed pass for a key first down (Mahomes is right-handed). In relation to intangible qualities, he has the leadership qualities and mental strength to rally his team in crunch time. Mahomes is going to be a top NFL quarterback for a long time due to his physical tools and mental ability.

Fake News: Vikings Defense is a bottom half defense

First quarter trends
Rams WR Brandin Cooks wide open to make a catch against Minnesota’s defense (Image by AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Minnesota Vikings defense has not lived up to its billing for the first quarter of the season. This team was supposed to be built around its immense talent on the defensive side of the ball, with Kirk Cousins coming in to complete the offense. While their new quarterback has delivered after receiving $84 million guaranteed, their defense has done exactly the opposite. Minnesota’s defense is currently ranked 19th in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed.

However, this should not last for the whole season. The Vikings have too much talent on defense to be simply be bad. Starting from Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary to Anthony Barr and Sheldon Richardson in the front seven, Minnesota has Pro-Bowlers all over the place. Mike Zimmer knows his schemes are not currently working and is a good enough defensive mind to improve them.

At the end of the day, great players will come through. The Vikings added All-Pro D-lineman Sheldon Richardson to their top defense from last year. Even without Everson Griiffen who is currently out with personal issues, Minnesota arguably has the best defensive roster in football. They’ll find a way to turn it around.

Trend that will Last: The Bears are for real

The Chicago Bears are currently leading the NFC North with a 3-1 record and could easily be undefeated if not for a blown 20 point lead in week 1. They have an athletic, young defense including Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, who has been dominating opposing O-lines. In addition, head coach Matt Nagy has been a creative play caller who has found ways to get the ball to his playmakers. He has called plays to fit the strengths of Mitch Trubisky, who broke out last game with six touchdowns against the Buccaneers.

This Bears defense is certainly here to stay because it is complete on all levels. They have players who seem to have great chemistry with each other and know exactly where to be on every play. Chicago is holding teams to 16 points a game and there is no reason to believe they will slow down.

First quarter trends
Trubisky throws one of his six TD passes against Tampa Bay (Image from NBC Sports)

The question marks come on offense, which has been decent but not consistent. However, Matt Nagy has schemed well, getting the ball to his playmakers such as Tarik Cohen. Mitch Trubisky took a big step last game with six touchdowns and also has an underrated scrambling ability. However, needs to prove he can play well on a more consistent basis.

No matter what the offense does, Chicago’s defense will keep them in every game. Offensively, they can control the tempo on offense by running the ball through Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. In the receiving game, number one option Allen Robinson will step up more than he has so far. The Bears will be a factor in the postseason race and could very well win the NFC North.

Fake News: The Rams will run away with the NFC

The LA Rams have been so dominant and have many people questioning whether anyone can even beat them this year. The offense has put up over 30 points in all four games and their defense has been nearly as dominant, allowing under 17 points a game. LA has stars all over the field on both sides of the ball and a head coach who knows exactly how to get the best out of his quarterback.

While the Rams are certainly a great team and currently the favorites to win the NFC, they won’t go undefeated. In their first two games in which they dominated, their opponents were the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. These two teams have a combined one victory so far. They only beat the Chargers by 10, and it was really a close game up until near the end. Last week, Minnesota scored 31 points on LA’s defense and had the ball down seven at with three minutes left.

First quarter trends
Rams running back Todd Gurley celebrates a touchdown in the second half (Image by AP/Michael Ainsworth)

Yes, Los Angeles is probably the most talented team in the NFL right now. But they didn’t look unbeatable against the two playoff contending teams they played, especially on defense. And the Aqib Talib injury makes their secondary somewhat vulnerable at least on one side of the field.

In addition, the Rams have a tough schedule. They have to play at the Superdome against Drew Brees and the Saints and at Soldier Field against the Bears. At home, LA has to play Aaron Rodgers, the undefeated Chiefs, and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. This is without mentioning two games against the rival Seattle Seahawks, and this becomes a not-so-easy schedule. No matter who’s the better team, there is always at least one tough-fought Rams-Seahawks game.

This is too early to say that the Rams are way better than the rest of the stacked NFC. Teams like the Saints and Eagles should stick around near them late into the season. It’s very possible a couple of tough losses here and there knock them down to the second seed.


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