NFL Notes: Week 2

A little while ago you saw my predictions for the 2018 season. Through two weeks, some of those look pretty good, and some look pretty bad. After this week, a couple surprising 2-0 teams emerged. There are also a fair amount of 0-2 teams. Since 2002, when the current playoff system was implemented, only about 10.5% of 0-2 have made the postseason. That’s a cool fact, but there was some much cooler stuff that happened in Week 2. Let’s take a gander.

FitzMagic

Not a lot of people know this, but Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard. The 35-year-old quarterback threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns against the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. This was his second straight 400 yard performance, giving him over 800 yards, 8 passing touchdowns, and another rushing touchdown so far. DeSean Jackson, who caught a 75-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage, has already expressed his desire for Fitzpatrick to remain the starter after Jameis Winston’s suspension is up. I’d have to agree with him.

The seemingly new “FitzMagic” name caught the attention of another NFL player who shares a name with the quarterback. Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick filed a trademark application for “FitzMagic.” He picked up the nickname in high school, and it appears he wants it back.

Mahomes Goes Mad

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the only QB slinging large quantities of touchdowns. First year starter Patrick Mahomes has 10 through two weeks so far. That includes six in Week 2 against the Steelers. Consider yourself lucky if you have him on your fantasy team. The kid is a stud. The Chiefs were lucky to have Mahomes, as the defense allowed a taped together Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 450 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

Are the Saints okay?

The Saints dropped their season opener to Tampa Bay, and struggled mightily against the Browns in Week 2. Both of these games were at home. New Orleans really should be 0-2, but [now former] Cleveland kicker Zane Gonzalez missed four kicks, costing eight points. It was a three point game. Sean Payton and company can thank Gonzalez for their Week 2 win, but they should probably get it together soon.

The Rodgers Rule

Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone last season, and the particular play sparked the creation of new and questionable rules for sacking a quarterback. The pass-rusher is no longer allowed to bring his weight down on the quarterback. If he does do this, it results in a roughing the passer penalty on what should be a routine tackle. Quarterbacks deserve some protection, but the NFL needs to acknowledge that they are also football players who run the same risk as everyone else on the field.

Moving on. You might think the Packers supported this new rule, considering why it was made. I doubt that’s the case anymore. Green Bay picked off Kirk Cousins late in the fourth quarter, which should have sealed the win. But, Clay Matthews was flagged for bringing his weight down on Cousins — the correct call. Cousins took the Vikings down the field, scored a touchdown, and tied the game on a two point conversion. The score never changed after that and the game ended in a 29-29 tie.

Irony.

 

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NFL Notes: Week 1

Football is back, and there was no shortage of excitement during Kickoff Week. We saw a few surprising victories, incredible comebacks and records broken. Here are some notes on the cool things to happen in Week 1 of the NFL season.

The Longest Game Ever

The Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins kicked off at 1:00 p.m. EST and did not finish until after 8:00. Two separate lightning delays totaled almost four hours, creating a total game time of 7 hours and eight minutes. The previous record was set in 2013 when the Bears and Ravens played a 5 hour and 16 minute marathon. Miami won the game 27-20.

Four Special Teams Touchdowns

Two of them came in the aforementioned longest game ever. Jakeem Grant ran a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and Darius Jennings responded with his own 94 yard TD return. The others came on punt returns. One came from Tyreek Hill against the Chargers and the other was from Andre Roberts during the Jets’ beatdown of the Lions on Monday Night Football.

The Saints lost to the Buccaneers

The Saints were supposed to be really good this season, and the Bucs were supposed to be awful. Ryan Fitzpatrick apparently had other plans as he led Tampa Bay to a 48-40 upset on the road. Now we face this question — Is Tampa bay better than we thought or was New Orleans just rusty and unprepared in its opener?

The Bills looked really bad

The Bills were not expected to have a great season, or even a good season, but their performance on Sunday might have given us a preview of an atrocious season ahead. They lost 47-3 to the not-that-good Ravens.

Even with that ghastly performance, the true problem might point to Sean McDermott. He traded one of the league’s better backups in AJ McCarron, signaling his confidence in top ten draft pick Josh Allen. Just kidding, he chose Nathan Peterman instead. We all know how that went before, and to no surprise, he was just as bad on Sunday.

Khalil Mack is scary

Before Jon Gruden could even coach a game for the Raiders, he shipped their best player of to the Bears. A sunburned Gruden said this week that Mack did not want to be in Oakland, which doesn’t seem entirely true. Gruden can think what he wants and call Spider 2Y Banana as much as his heart desires, but based on last night’s performance, he might regret not even talking with Mack before the season.

Anyyywayyy, Mack racked up a strip-sack and a pick six off of Deshone Kizer. He had one of the best defensive performances of the week on a limited snap count, which is pretty impressive. Unfortunately for Mack and the Bears …

Aaron Rodgers is just as scary

After having his knee stepped on, and being carted off the field nearly in tears, Aaron Rodgers returned to the field and led the Packers to a 24-23 win after they had trailed 20-0 in the third quarter. It was a game for the books, in terms of both performance and toughness.

 

 

 

NFL Preview: NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints                                             Projected Record: 12-4

The New Orleans Saints devastating playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings last season shrouded just how talented that Saints team truly was. Running back Alvin Kamara’s production on a per touch basis was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and with the suspension of Mark Ingram for the first four games Kamara should see an heavy  workload from the jump. Pair him with wide receiver Michael Thomas, and you have the most electric receiver/back combo in the NFC. All of these weapons at the disposal of quarterback Drew Brees sets the offense up for another stellar season. Last year’s incredible draft, which included rookie starters Kamara, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and offensive tackle Ryan Ramcyzk, has extended Brees career and transformed the Saints into Super Bowl contenders. Lattimore headlines a defense that took impressive strides last season and should continue to improve. Cameron Jordan forced his name into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation with a breakout season from the defensive end position. Jordan, setting career highs in sacks (13.5) and tackles (48), anchored a defensive line that produced the seventh most sacks in the league. Linebacker Manti Te’o had a nice bounce back season as New Orleans starting mike linebacker. In the secondary, safety Marcus Williams had a breakout campaign alongside the newly departed Kenny Vaccaro. Overall the Saints are one of the leagues best teams and should seriously contend for another Super Bowl appearance.

2. Carolina Panthers                                                Projected Record: 9-7

All signs point to an absolutely monster season from Quarterback Cam Newton, with a new plethora of weapons that doesn’t include Kelvin Benjamin. The loss of guard Andrew Norwell will hurt, but Newton is mobile enough to survive behind what is now just an average line. Rookie wide receiver DJ Moore is instantly the team’s most talented receiver, but will still likely be the team’s third option through the air behind tight end Greg Olsen and running back Christian McCaffery. McCaffery, with his proficiency in both running and catching the ball, established himself last season as one of the league’s most versatile weapons and should see increased production in new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s running back heavy scheme. On the defensive side of the ball, Luke Kuechly played 15 games last season for the first time in three years, and earned his first All-Pro nod since 2015. He and Thomas Davis remain one of the league’s strongest linebacker duos, and anchor a defense that was the third stingiest against the run last season. Much of that also has to do with one of the league’s best defensive lines, who added defensive tackle Dontari Poe to a group that already included lineman Kawann Short and Julius Pepper. The secondary remains the team’s biggest hurdle to Super Bowl contention, but rookie cornerback Donte Jackson could help elevate a unit that currently slots James Bradberry as it’s number one corner. In total, the Panthers have some serious flaws that will likely hold them back from their full potential. All it takes though is one or two breakout campaigns for this team to find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

3. Atlanta Falcons                                                     Projected Record: 9-7

The Atlanta Falcons remain one of the leagues most prolific offenses, with an impressive group of weapons surrounding quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan certainly has his flaws, and he looked shockingly average without offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but he still possess the talent to lead this talented Falcons team to the playoffs. Wide receivers Julio Jones, rookie Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu form an enticing trio that should give secondaries fits while Atlanta’s running back combo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman remains one of the league’s most electric. Combine all that with an above average line, and it’s hard to see this Falcons offense not finishing as a top ten unit. Defensively the Falcons took sizable strides as the unit transitioned from liability to league average. Deion Jones asserted himself as one of the league’s premiere linebacker talents, and with another healthy season could lead the league in tackles. The season ending injury to safety Keanu Neal is painful, but Atlanta’s secondary is well equipped to handle his absence. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant is one of the best in the business, and Robert Alford is certainly an above average talent. On the defensive line, pass rusher Vic Beasley Jr. looks to return to his 2016 form when he lead the league with 15.5 sacks. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley produced as a rookie, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett took a huge step forward in both run defense and rushing the passer. All in all the Falcons still have one of the most talented rosters in the NFC, and will advance as far as Matt Ryan can take them.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers                                       Projected Record: 2-14

Nothing about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offseason has inspired confidence in the team for this upcoming season. Whether it was their starting quarterback getting suspended for the first three games, or their rookie running back absolutely crapping the bed in the preseason, the Buccaneers season seems over before it has even begun. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the team for the first three games and possibly more depending on performance, but is straddled with one of the league’s worst group of skill position players. The fact that second round pick Ronald Jones was unable to beat out Peyton Barber for the team’s starting running back job is disappointing to put it lightly, and a disastrous start to a career many expected to blossom from week one. The Bucs receiving corps hovers around league average, with neither Mike Evans nor Desean Jackson playing at the levels they once occupied. Tampa Bay’s tight end combo of Cameron Brate and OJ Howard is probably the most intriguing unit on the offense, as Howard should assert himself as one of the league’s next great tight ends. On the other side of the ball, the defense still possesses a handful of difference makers at each level. On the defensive line, Gerald McCoy remains as one of the league’s most productive players. Teamed up with outstanding weak side linebacker Lavonte David, the Buccaneers boast an above average front seven. In the secondary, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves should improve after an up and down sophomore season. All said and done, Tampa Bay will be lucky to escape this season with more than four wins, and should be looking for their quarterback of the future come next April.

NFL Mock Draft 1.0

The NFL Scouting Combine is next weekend, which means it’s draft season.

This first mock draft is pretty short in all honesty, only picks one through eight. That’s because we don’t know who the ninth pick will belong to. It will either go the San Francisco 49ers or Oakland Raiders and will be decided by a coin toss on March 2, the same day the combine begins.

Let’s get this rolling.

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold QB, USC

The Browns need a quarterback and Darnold is the highest touted prospect in this draft class. With the first pick, Cleveland can get their man of the future … hopefully.

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2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen QB, UCLA

Eli Manning isn’t good anymore. Rosen already said he’d prefer to stay out of Cleveland, so he’ll be there for the Giants. With a year to develop behind Manning, Rosen can thrive in New York with the talented (when healthy) receiving corps. He’ll also thrive in the New York media market.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb DE, NC State

The Colts’ biggest concern going into next year is probably Andrew Luck’s health, but they also need to add some talent to an aging roster. Chubb will be a playmaker on a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed last season.

4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley RB, Penn State

Barkley might be the best college player in the draft, but here have been questions as to whether his skills will translate to the NFL. He’s still worth the pick. Sam Darnold won’t be able to do all the work in Cleveland, and having Barkley in the backfield will help distribute the load.

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen QB, Wyoming

The Broncos window for championships is still open, but they’ll get nowhere without a decent quarterback. General manager John Elway is believed to like Allen, and with the Jets prepared to pay Kirk Cousins big money, they’ll take their chances on the rookie from Colorado’s neighbor state.

6. New York Jets: Minkah Fitzpatrick S, Alabama

We already discussed how the Jets can land their quarterback, so now they turn their attention to the other side of the ball. Fitzpatrick is the best defensive back in the draft and will be an excellent piece to play alongside Jamal Adams. That’s a pretty goos secondary.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Jackson CB, Iowa

An aging Brent Grimes is set to become a free agent, so the Bucs will need to find a replacement. Drafting a young and talented cornerback is a good way to go.

8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley WR, Alabama

The Bears are committed to Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Now they need someone for him to throw the ball to. Ridley can fill the role of WR1, creating a potentially scary QB-WR duo.

 

Bucs release former first-rounder

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released running back and former first round pick Doug Martin this morning.

In 2017, Martin rushed for 406 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. He was selected to two Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2015.

Martin just finished the second year of a five-year $35.7M contract. His departure will open up about $6.7M in cap space for the Buccaneers.

While he certainly never really met the hype he created in his rookie season, Martin can still make a roster. He’ll likely end up with a team who uses a platoon style backfield. Look for San Francisco and perhaps Denver to express some interest in the 29-year-old.