Welcome back football fans of America. If you read my column last week, you would have seen multiple spoilers for Week 3 as Fitzpatrick just made NFL history by passing for 400+ yards in three consecutive weeks (albeit a rough second quarter), the Browns finally won a game for the first time since 2016, and the Dolphins made Gruden’s Raiders look silly without even playing anywhere near their best brand of football. It’s time I show you another glimpse into the future this week as I tell you whether a take is on point or way off as the title of this series suggests. Let’s ride.
Take: The NFL is too fast-paced for rookie quarterbacks.
Way off. Through Week 3 of the NFL season, we have seen not one, not two, not three, but FIVE rookie quarterbacks earn snaps in actual regular season games. Four out of the five of these players have won a game he played in, and the same percentage of them have earned the starting job. The five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft have combined for a total of 1631 yards and seven touchdowns. This does come at a cost with some adjustment to the league as they also have combined for a completion percentage 59.39% and eight interceptions (albeit Sam Darnold has thrown five of those picks), but the success these young players have found already in the span of three games has proven that they are ready for the big time. Darnold is still on pace to top McCown’s yardage last season by 800+ yards, Josh Allen turns the ball over much less frequently than Nathan Peterman while also throwing 20% of his passes into tight windows, and Baker Mayfield has defied all odds as he stormed back against the Jets to give Cleveland their first win since the same year the Rio Olympics took place (how many more times will I reference the year 2016?) with a completion percentage 5.2% above his expected completion percentage (73.9% compared to 68.7% respectively). The Cardinals’ coaching staff clearly showed their confidence in Josh Rosen to take over the helm from Sam Bradford, and Lamar Jackson is the most electric athlete on the field when he’s in the game; the future looks bright for aerial attacks and daunting for opposing secondaries.
Take: J.J. Watt and Tyrann Mathieu are back to their old selves.
On point. Remember when both J.J. Watt and Tyrann Mathieu were both All-Pros and contenders for Defensive Player of the Year? It seems like that was ages ago, but life moves fast in the NFL, and you’ll be left in the dust if you can’t keep up. Although the Texans are currently ranked in the bottom half of the league in almost every major category for defense, Watt and Mathieu have been bright spots on this roster. In Week 3, J.J. Watt had the fastest sack clocking in at 2.07 seconds; he beat out the next-fastest sack by over half a second who clocking in at 2.59 seconds for second place was…J.J. Watt. Watt is currently #2 on the list of edge defenders according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 91.0. Tyrann Mathieu is also doing well for himself with a 72.3 grade so far this season, and a couple takeaways to tack on. Mathieu is obviously not the All-Pro he was just a few short years ago, but he is a solid contributor in this secondary. Hopefully the stellar play of these two is not in vain as Houston finds themselves climbing out of a hole for the rest of the season.
Take: The Patriots will easily bounce back.
Way off. The classic headlines pop up without fail every time the Patriots lose: “Die-nasty”, “Brady Bunch gets cancelled”, “Death of the Empire”, etc (okay maybe I made all of those up, but you get my point). This time feels a little different. Yes, Tom Brady is still the greatest quarterback to ever grace our television screens. Yes, Bill Belichick’s enigma of a brain is still leaps and bounds above the rest of the NFL. Yes, Gronk is still capable of doing Gronk things. But this offense does not look dynamic at all, and the defense looks SLOW. Without receiving help from a suspended Julian Edelman and physical specimen Josh Gordon, Brady has not looked like the same quarterback we saw even just a year ago. This is not to say that Brady is deteriorating, but the lack of weapons outside and out of the backfield are painfully apparent as TB12 has still played aggressively with a 20% aggressiveness percentage but only a 34.4 yard distance as his longest completed air yards on any play according to NFL Next Gen Stats. We also know that this defense is notorious for starting slow as they rank in the bottom half of the league in every major defensive category except in takeaways and turnover margin. But Dont’a Hightower does not look like the same guy he was a couple seasons ago as he has had six tackles and one pass defended through the first three weeks of the this year. Showing some promise in the preseason, this defensive front has only generated 1.3 sacks per game, putting them second-to-last in the rankings across all NFL teams. To put that number in perspective, Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Cameron Jordan, and Myles Garrett have all averaged more sacks per game BY THEMSELVES. Obviously Belichick will fix his team by playoff time, but with all the injuries, suspensions, and overall lack of quality play, don’t be surprised if the Patriots miss the AFC Championship this year.