Week 1 of the NFL season is bound to have some overreactions from fans. Moving into Week 2, this will be the chance for those doubters already prepping for the 2021 Draft to realize first game jitters are real. It’ll also be a time where those who might under-react to a potential problem see it rise.
Like any season, it’s hard to tell after one Sunday who will be the contenders and who will be in for a long 16-game schedule. Who would have thought this time last year Lamar Jackson was a legitimate MVP candidate after obliterating the Dolphins 59-10. Then again, who saw the Titans making an immediate turnaround with a 30-year-old journeyman calling the shots?
There’s always going to be miscues in Week 1 — especially when practices are limited and preseason games are out. The trick is to figure out what fans shouldn’t overreact to and what lingering problems are not getting enough attention.
What were some of the reactions to opening weekend and heading into NFL Week 2?
Tom Brady is washed, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will struggle in 2020
Let’s start with the biggest signing of 2020, shall we? Brady was expected to change the “pick-six” narrative that Jameis Winston had cursed in Tampa Bay when signing a two-year, $50 million deal. Instead, the second quarter led to miscommunication, and a horrendous throw intercepted and returned by Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The rest of the afternoon had mixed results as Tampa fell short to the other senior quarterback and New Orleans, 34-23.
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Given the offseason circumstances, it’s hard to imagine Brady not improving with live reps. Mike Evans made a little impact due to a hamstring injury while Chris Godwin is now in concussion protocol. The defense overall played up to par for a young unit, and Scotty Miller found a rhythm as the team’s No. 3 target.
The offensive line will need to improve, and health will always be a factor. Other than that, how many teams were marching in to beat the “all-in” Saints on their home soil? A game against Carolina’s horrible defense should fix the problems in the NFL world.
Cam Newton’s legs make the Patriots a real threat
Remember when everyone thought the Patriots would tank in 2020? Ahh, good times, right? For the first moment in over a year, fans were treated to something that has been missing: Cam Newton having fun again. The 31-year-old Pro Bowler was happy once more and looked like a kid in a toy store while carving up the Dolphins’ defense Sunday.
Newton relied on his legs (15 carries) almost as much as his arm (15 of 19/155 yards). He also was the man to score a pair of rushing touchdowns and grab the 21-11 victory. Running the read-option will help New England remain a competitor, but how long can that production last? Newton also led the team in rushing attempts by a significant amount. Can his body withstand those hits late into the season?
It’s time to exit the Jarett Stidham hype express since New England’s all-aboard on Newton. That said, he’s going to have to rely much more on his arm if Bill Belichick wants to contend for another title. Running quarterbacks works, but leading the team in carries absolutely won’t for a full season.
DeAndre Hopkins’ production can be replaced in Houston
Oh boy, where to begin. Both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were paid handsomely this offseason as the faces of the organizations. The difference? Mahomes has options with shiny new weapons, while Watson is forced to make it work with hand-me-downs in play down at NRG Stadium. No more was that prevalent when the Texans struggled to create any offensive noise in the passing game on Thursday night’s opener.
Maybe Watson could have used a legitimate No. 1 target.
Even with Will Fuller leading the team with 112 receiving yards, that won’t make up for the three drops he also was credited for in the 34-20 loss. O’Brien believed that quantity could make up for quality in a player, and maybe he’s right.
However, combine the Texans’ top three target’s outing (155 total receiving yards), and they barely passed Hopkins’ debut (151 yards) with the Cardinals against a top-three defense.
With games against the Ravens and Steelers secondaries, O’Brien better be on to something. Hopkins dominated out west while Watson is entering his prime. There’s little room for the superstar stallion to gallop with the self-proclaimed head coach/GM calling the shots.
The 49ers Super Bowl hangover will last well into the regular season
If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s the Super Bowl hangover is real, especially for the losing side. Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, and Seattle all represented the NFC in their respective seasons, yet failed to win their division the following year. Somebody better pour San Francisco a Bloody Mary quick after their disappointing loss to Arizona Sunday afternoon.
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The Cardinals had an exceedingly large amount of hype entering the offseason thanks to Hopkins hopping on board. Let’s not also act like the 49ers played at full-strength since the team’s top two targets missed the season opener and could miss more. And with George Kittle now questionable, is there anyone Jimmy Garoppolo can trust in the passing game?
Healthy players will save Kyle Shanahan’s season, but there are concerns. Throw in games against Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Buffalo, and Green Bay, and they could be playing to stay alive. Get the stars some Tylenol and a good night’s rest, or the 49ers will be bringing in the new year at home.
Verdict: Overreaction (for now)
MVP Aaron Rodgers is back for Green Bay
If you give a team a rookie quarterback, that veteran is going to be playing like a madman. That was the case Sunday for Green Bay as Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers against the rival Vikings. And for those saying it’s a down year for Minnesota might be onto something, but explains throws like his 24-yard laser of a touchdown throw to Davante Adams? That’s an MVP throw, no questions about it.
This is a Vikings secondary that was rolling short-handed. Three starters were either rookies or second-year players, while the front seven added little pressure without Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, and an inactive Danielle Hunter. Winning on inexperienced teams is something Rodgers has always feasted on, making Sunday’s blood bath inevitable.
An NFL Week 2 matchup against the struggling Detroit secondary isn’t going to prove that the 36-year-old is an elite player, but it will boost his numbers. Another outing like this could be the start of a special season for the Packers and their “aging” quarterback. It’s early, but if he makes throws like that every Sunday, he’ll be adding another trophy to his case in February.
Washington and Jacksonville are contenders for 2020
Jay Gruden might have been disappointed to see his former team come back from a 17-point deficit and pick up the victory over Philadelphia. Then again, his new quarterback Gardner Minshew went 19-of-20 for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the AFC-favorite Indianapolis Colts. As the two teams who most expected to see picking first and second in April’s Draft are sitting on top of their divisions, could either legitimately be in the playoff hunt?
Minshew’s outing was stellar, and he could very well be the franchise quarterback in Duval County. However, the stat line might read positively, but only one pass went longer than 15 yards, coming in the form of a 22-yard touchdown to Keelan Cole. How many teams aren’t going to pick that up then force the long ball from the second-year gunslinger? Plus, an offseason with a veteran quarterback in a new city for the first time is bound to play in your favor.
Washington, who now sits as the leaders of the NFC East, saw the most out of sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the second half. The problem is, there are four quarters in football, and his first two were much of what fans saw in 2019. The defensive line will terrorize opposing quarterbacks and be a problem for offensive lines, but none of that matters unless Haskins is consistent.
It’ll be hard to see either team picking in the top-three if Sunday’s an indicator of their talent, but the postseason is a tough call. Minshew Mania and River Boat Ron are characters in the league; that’s likely it for 2020.
The 2018 NFL Draft QB Class is a bust
That historic 2018 Draft class of gunslingers and dual-threat wonders is entering its third year. Outside of Jackson (the final QB selected in the first round), is there a man under center that is safe on keeping their job past this season? Baker Mayfield has regressed since his record-setting rookie year, even with a better supporting cast. Sam Darnold is begging for the Browns supporting cast so he can show off his skills. Josh Allen has a fumbling problem that has become a joke in itself, and Josh Rosen made headlines for sitting in the stands in New Orleans as the Buccaneers practice squad quarterback.
The three (sorry Rosen) remaining potential long-term starters all have issues that could be costing their teams wins. Mayfield’s 189-yard outing against Baltimore was scrutinized, but the offense had little time to blend in the offseason. Plus, with three new head coaches and three new systems, that’s going to hurt the confidence of a young quarterback. Allen’s 312-yard, two-touchdown performance against New York was positive, but his missed shots and turnovers were still apparent.
As for Darnold, he has an Adam Gase problem that will only be fixed when Joe Douglas and the Jets force him out of office. Are there rooms for concerns? Absolutely. Can all three be franchise quarterbacks? Come back in November to find out.