Monday Night Football Tonight: Top 4 Storylines To Watch Include Kenny Pickett Expectations and Deshaun Watson Rust

With four teams playing, Monday Night Football tonight will look a bit different. Deshaun Watson, Kenny Pickett, and Bryce Young dominate the storylines.

Monday Night Football will look slightly different than we are accustomed to seeing it tonight. In fact, it’ll be a bit foreign in each of the next two weeks. With the Saints, Panthers, Browns, and Steelers in action on Monday, what is the single biggest storyline to watch for each of the four when the action kicks off at 7:15 p.m. ET?

What Are the Top Storylines To Watch Tonight?

The NFL is driven by quarterback play. While that certainly doesn’t mean they’re the only topic worth discussing, the performance of Deshaun Watson, Kenny Pickett, and Bryce Young will be the most fascinating for a large majority of the league. Meanwhile, the Saints are out to prove that kicking the can down the curb again was the right move.

Can Kenny Pickett Survive the Local Preseason Hype?

Pickett’s preseason performances had local Pittsburgh media personalities feeling some type of way about the second-year QB from the local university.

Is the above tweet … X post … patently ridiculous and meant only for social media exposure? Yes. But many people legitimately put unrealistic expectations on Pickett heading into 2023.

The Steelers will likely be a decent team in 2023 because they always are. But Pickett isn’t trotting onto the pitch with the Eagles offensive line paired with the Bengals WR corps.

No, he has an inconsistent Diontae Johnson, an unproven George Pickens, and the corpse of Allen Robinson. The offensive line isn’t as bad as a few years ago, but it’s still not good.

And we’re discussing potentially elite production and play from a QB with a limited physical skill set in an offense constructed by Matt Canada? The reality of the situation is that getting top-half-of-the-league play from their second-year passer would be a massive win for the organization.

None of this is meant to denigrate Pickett. He has every requisite ability to be a competent NFL starter.

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But he’s a second-year passer drafted with the 20th overall pick. Expecting greatness from that package is privileged fandom at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.

The Browns’ defensive front won’t roll over and play dead. Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith are coming. And the secondary looks revived in Jim Schwartz’s defense. If Pickett is efficient tonight, it could be a great sign for the rest of the season.

Can Deshaun Watson Clean Up His Game?

The NFL as a product is far too much of a cash cow to allow things like weather to dictate wins and losses, but they continue to do so for the sake of tradition. The Bengals-Browns game was a ridiculous display between two quarterbacks who could hardly control the general direction they were throwing the football because of the weather.

Watson was terrible last year after returning to an NFL field for the first time in over 700 days. However, that shouldn’t have been a concern for the Browns organization or the fans. Watson was always going to be rusty coming off a hiatus that long. Quarterbacking is far too complex not to get consistent reps in. It’s not riding a bike.

But while the operational side of things could be rusty, the physical side of things should not. Can Watson get back to the playmaking savant he was in Houston as a Brown?

Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after scoring a two point conversion during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

He’ll have a nice test against the Steelers. T.J. Watt looks back at 100%, and Alex Highsmith will be chasing down his blindside for 60 minutes. Minkah Fitzpatrick had a day to forget against San Francisco but is one of the best safeties in the NFL. Can Watson get the operational side of things back while maximizing his production as a playmaker once again?

The Browns haven’t beaten Pittsburgh away from Cleveland in 19 years.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to be able to go out there and show the world what we got and what we can be,” Watson said.

Can Bryce Young Get Enough Help In the Panthers Offense?

Jonathan Mingo, Adam Thielen, and Terrace Marshall Jr. are about as unappealing a group of starting WRs as you’ll find in the NFL today. Help should be coming from Frank Reich and the offensive scheme. But because there is so much parity in the NFL, sustaining drives is incredibly difficult, which puts a premium on explosive plays.

Young did not complete a pass of 15 air yards in Week 1. Of his 38 attempts, only nine traveled more than 10 yards downfield. Only two of nine were completed.

Young wasn’t consistently under pressure, but he was not good at facing it in his maiden NFL voyage. He completed only five of his 15 attempts under pressure and averaged only 2.7 yards per attempt.

His interceptions were concerning because he was not pressured during either pick, and they were lapses in his own judgment. But his wide receivers are doing him absolutely no favors. There is not a single natural separator among the group, which will consistently make life difficult for the rookie QB.

Plus, the Saints are one of the most consistent defensive units in the NFL on a yearly basis in a league that does not boast defensive consistency from year to year.

Saints Must Handle Business and Send a Message to the NFC South

Mickey Loomis is a salary cap wizard, but the collection agency will eventually show up at the door. New Orleans has an aging defensive core and went “all-in” by acquiring Derek Carr during the offseason.

The Titans were a difficult matchup for New Orleans from a defensive perspective. The Saints moved the ball with relative ease against Tennessee, which was a nice sign, considering the Titans’ defensive front dominated the Saints’ offensive line.

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But the Saints only came away with 16 points and a one-point win, and it’s because they were unable to score in the red zone. The team’s winning window is condensed to the next two seasons, and this might be the best time to strike, considering how the NFC looks at the top.

Anything can happen if you make the dance. But in a bad NFC South, it would be nice to see the Saints pull away from the mediocrity early on. Taking care of business against the Panthers would be a nice start.

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