Tim Sports Report for 2018 NFL Week 3

Top 5

  1. Browns win, Baker shines.

It has happened. The Cleveland Browns have won a football game. The Meme Fountain will likely continue, however. They are the Browns. Baker outplayed Darnold. Have to squeeze that in here.

2. QB Drew Brees 39/49 for 396, 3 TDs, 120.7 rating, 3 carries for 7, 2 TDs @ATL

Mr. Brees and Mr. Ryan had quite the gun show on Sunday but Brees gets the edge for a spin move past two defenders and dive into the end zone.

3. QB Matt Ryan 26/35 for 374, 5 TDs, 148.1 rating vs NO

A near perfect passer rating with five touchdowns and the Falcons still lose. Usually, this is where someone would say, “The offense needs to be better” but in this case, I don’t think it can be. You can only hide your problems for so long.

4. RB Christian McCaffrey 28 carries for 184, 2 receptions for 10 vs. CIN

Always gonna give a running back a shoutout when they explode on the stat sheet. McCaffrey is one of my favorite emerging stars. Dual-threat and has a chance to survive in this league long-term.

5. RB Alvin Kamara 16 carries for 66, 15 receptions for 124 @ATL

Speaking of dual-threats, another great performance from a back. The 2017 running back class has a chance to be one of the best ever.

Worst of the Worst

5. The Lions streak is over.

Kerryon Johnson ran for a hundred yards. Lions hadn’t done that in 70 games. Sad to see it go.

4. Defense, anyone?

Some really high scoring games thus far. At least we had Titans beating the Jags 9-6!

3. Sam Bradford started another football game and predictably cost his team the game.

Four turnovers on four consecutive possessions. Bravo!

2. Vikings blow game against Buffalo. Were favored by 17 points.

A complete stunner. Vikings defense didn’t show up and the Bills defensive line is the strength of the team. Still hard to believe this happened.

  1. Jets knock Tyrod Taylor out of game, spawn Age of Baker, lose to Browns.

Hue Jackson is a very stubborn and very stupid man. The Jets were going to win this game. The Browns offense was anemic. It had been since the beginning and still Hue had not made a change. All the Jets had to do was not knock Tyrod out of the game and of course that’s exactly what the Jets did because they’re the Jets. Sam Darnold did not look threatening though that might speak more to the Browns defense than Darnold. Baker had quite the debut.

Steelers Recap

The Steelers beat Fitzmagic but earn no brownie points from me due to letting them own the second half and come roaring back into the game. All those takeaways and they still almost lost. The Steelers window is closing but I don’t know if anyone knew how fast it was coming until now. Gotta take Pittsburgh at home against the Ravens purely because it’s a divisional game at home. It’s a win they need.

Game of the Week: Vikings @ Rams

Vikings got upset by the Bills. I expect them to come pissed off into Los Angeles and make a statement. An upset win against McVay would mean a lot. Zimmer. McVay. Thursday Night. Yes, please. I’ve got the Vikings.

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2018-2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

1. Rams (-) (W 35-23 vs. LAC)

What we learned: The Rams, currently, are a few steps ahead of the pack.

Kansas City’s defense is too weak to be a nemesis. Los Angeles is on the throne.

What we learned again: The Rams have too much firepower.

Gurley, Cooks, Kupp, Woods and Goff is proving more than serviceable in McVay’s hands.

2. Chiefs (+2) (W 38-27 vs. SF)

What we learned: Patrick Mahomes is still throwing touchdown passes.

Tack another three on the chalkboard there, Jimmy.

What we learned again: Justin Houston can still play.

Two strip sacks. Well played, sir.

3. Eagles (+3) (W 20-16 vs. IND)

What we learned: Was not the Eagles best game.

They will more than likely fall in next week’s ranking but due to my top five getting sabotaged, Philly gets to sneak a few spots up the ladder. Wentz looked fine and I’m not concerned about how he’ll perform this season.

What we learned again: Eagles fans should be the most relaxed in the NFL.

The Rams could be holding that flag but they haven’t won a championship yet. The Eagles have and are still a very strong team. Most games this season will be exhibitions for Philly. They’re making the playoffs.

4. Jaguars (-1) (L 9-6 vs. TEN)

What we learned: I was right!

Blake Bortles cannot be counted on to carry the Jaguars offense on a regular basis. That is not their identity. No Fournette and the offense stutter steps. Hate to see this team lose a divisional game at home but Tennessee is no slouch. They’re moving up quick.

5. Falcons (+2) (L 43-37 vs. NO)

What we learned: Atlanta, despite occasional red zone problems, can still score.

Atlanta still has the most explosive receiver group in the league, the best backup running back (talked about that last week) and a quarterback who can sling.

What we learned again: For Dan Quinn being a former defensive coordinator, his defense is still a constant struggle.

Atlanta is hurting from the injury bug right now but Atlanta hasn’t had a great defense since Quinn has been there. I’m not calling for a firing or anything but if your offense is putting up 37 and losing, you need to make some changes.

6. Vikings (-4) (L 27-6 vs. BUF)

What we learned: We play the games for a reason.

Minnesota was a huge favorite, playing a home game against one of the worst teams in football. They were humiliated. Hopefully this is a wake-up call. This is a game that may come back to bite them.

What we learned again: Anyone seen Dalvin Cook?

Had a good start to last year and has remained mostly anonymous thus far.

7. Patriots (-2) (L 26-10 @DET)

What we learned: This is the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double digits since December 2002.

An interesting stat for sure but it’s too early for the panic button. New England’s defense is still bad. We already knew this. The offense has struggled, which is unheard of for New England but again, I think it’s just too small a sample size to run them out of the top ten just yet. We know the ceiling this franchise is capable of.

What we learned again: Bill Belichick has no time for fun.

Seeing Belichick walking past kids just looking for a high-five wasn’t a great look. It was also stereotypical Belichick.

8. Chargers (+3) (L 35-23 @LAR)

What we learned: The Chargers defense might officially be a problem.

I think I’ve already mentioned this but I am perturbed how Melvin Engram and Joey Bosa aren’t entering the dreams of opposing quarterbacks.

What we learned again: The Bolts might be trending in the wrong direction.

After starting 0-4 last year, Los Angeles looked like a competitor. Keenan Allen had a comeback player of the year. Melvin Gordon has been on fire this year and yet the Chargers sit at 1-2. A big win against the Rams or Chiefs would have made a huge difference. Kansas City looks like a playoff lock. If the Bolts want a shot at a playoff run, they have to come away with victories in some of these games. Eventually, keeping games close only means so much.

9. Bears (+1) (W 16-14 @ARI)

What we learned: I love the Bears defense.

Tenacity is back to Chicago. Looks like a playoff team.

What we learned again: The Bears offense isn’t great and it will be up to the defense to keep them in games.

16 points, let alone having to come back to win against Arizona, isn’t flattering.

10. Buccaneers (-1) (L 30-27 vs. PIT)

What we learned: There’s a reason they call him Fitzmagic.

Fitzpatrick is magical but like magic, it fades away eventually. Fitzmagic turned into Fitztragic in the first half. He performed some heroics in the second and nearly pulled a win out of his beard anyway. Cracks began to show but Fitzmagic isn’t done yet.

What we learned again: The Buccaneers can’t run worth a damn.

Peyton Barber has not been an acceptable option and Ronald Jones hasn’t made the progress management has hoped for.

11. Packers (-3) (L 31-17 @WAS)

What we learned: The Packers recipe of “Rodgers or Bust” is finally coming back to bite them.

Rodgers suffered a knee injury of some sort and playing on it as hampered his play. He’s still doing things other quarterbacks simply can’t do but he’s hobbling out there and the Packers and Aaron himself are putting his long-term health at risk by continuing to play on it. I understand that’s what a leader does but if I’m Aaron, I’m so disgusted with Packers management that if I’m Aaron, I’d tell them to screw off. If they’d built a team during the near decade he’s been on that field, they could at least win some games without him or, better yet, maybe he wouldn’t have got injured in the first place.

What we learned again: You need more than one player to play football.

Feel like we should all know this but Green Bay doesn’t.

12. Panthers (+5) (W 31-21 vs. CIN)

What we learned: Panthers have the most complete team in the NFC right now.

Not a Cam fan but Carolina is on the right track. Love McCaffrey. Their receiving core is iffy and their offensive line is prone to spurts. That front seven? Terrorizing.

What we learned again: Luke Kuechly is the Panthers most valuable player, not Cam.

If you’ve been living your life thinking Cam Newton is the MVP of the Panthers, you are incorrect. Cam is also prone to spurts. The defense has always been strong and Kuechly, the league’s best middle linebacker, is the reason why.

13. Giants (-) (W 27-22 @HOU)

What we learned: The Giants can score points when given protection.

I took Houston for this game. I expected Clowney and J.J. Watt to be all over Eli. Watt had three sacks, but otherwise, the Giants handled the Houston defense. At this point, I think that’s more a statement on Houston than New York. We’ll see.

What we learned again: Eli Manning is still a feasible option if not an attractive one.

25/29 with two scores. Eli is not a quarterback that will win you games by talent alone. It’s too early to say whether taking Barkley was a mistake but I’m not as hard on the decision as others are.

14. Bengals (+1) (L 31-21 @CAR)

What we learned: Cincinnati might have a suspect run defense.

McCaffrey is an electrifying player but he’s not someone who’s great between the tackles so he’s often limited to traps or zone reads outside. McCaffrey had 184 yards rushing. Haven’t gotten to watch the tape but that’s a lot.

What we learned again: John Ross is a bust.

When John Ross does something, I will shut up. Until he does, I will keep talking.

15. 49ers (-3) (L 38-27 @KC)

What we learned: The 49ers are now in trouble.

With Jimmy G, San Fran was an intriguing team to watch. Without him, less so and the team is too young to compete for a wild card spot. There’s also now concern about Jimmy’s long-term health. No one can know how he’ll return from that knee injury.

What we learned again: $37 million quarterbacks are a bad idea.

*shrug

16. Ravens (+3) (W 27-14 vs. DEN)

What we learned: Ravens look fresh.

The Broncos defense was a true test for what was one of the league’s worst attacks last year. Baltimore came away with 27.

What we learned again: Ravens defense will do Ravens defense things.

Allowed under 300 yards offense and under 200 passing.

17. Dolphins (+5) (W 28-20 vs. OAK)

What we learned: Kenyan Drake looks awful.

His tape from last year looked good. A lot of analysts liked him as a dark horse fantasy pickup. He had five carries for three yards against the Raiders. Yes, the Raiders.

What we learned again: Miami is undefeated.

Still haven’t learned much about the Fins. They’ve played three mediocre opponents and so I have to take most of their stats thus far with a grain of salt.

18. Redskins (+9) (W 31-17 vs. GB)

What we learned: Redskins look improved.

Now that they have an actual starter at running back in AP, the Skins can better utilize Chris Thompson, forming a legitimate one-two punch combo in the backfield. Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins but will likely not force things down the field or make gunslinger-like decisions. Ball security will be a plus for this team. I have little confidence in the team’s receivers (Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder both look better as slot options) and Jordan Reed is an injury bug.

What we learned again: AP has more juice.

19 for 120. He’s not done yet.

19. Browns (+2) (W 21-17 vs. NYJ)

What we learned: Cleveland won a football game.

Haven’t been able to say that in a long time. Let the record show I was rooting for the Jets.

What we learned again: Hue Jackson is an idiot.

Hue watched Baker this summer and decided Tyrod should start. That’s fine. I’m not a fan of starting rookie quarterbacks in openers, but by the end of the first quarter, it was readily apparent that Tyrod should not be in the game. Hue is a really dumb guy though and I can say with the utmost confidence that the Browns would have lost this game if it wasn’t for the Jets knocking Tyrod out of the contest.

20. Titans (+6) (W 9-6 @JAC)

What we learned: The Titans quietly knocked off Houston and Jacksonville.

Neither game was pretty but a win is a win. They’re gonna get a boost in the power rankings next week if this keeps up.

What we learned again: Tennessee doesn’t need Mariota.

Think I said this last week. Guess I want to make sure you’re listening.

21. Lions (+8) (W 26-10 vs. NE)

What we learned: Kerryon Johnson is the Lions first 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, 2013. Snaps 70 games without 100-yard rusher, fourth-longest drought.

I would get excited but this doesn’t mean that the Lions have finally acknowledged that running the ball exists. Blind squirrels find nuts, too.

What we learned again: Matt Stafford is underappreciated.

He plays for the Lions so this is kinda redundant. I just can’t imagine what Detroit would be like without him. I think once he’s gone we’ll begin to realize how good he really was. Not a HOFer or anything but a very good passer.

22. Saints (+1) (W 43-37 @ATL)

What we learned: The Saints can score a lot of points.

Drew Brees is more of a factor this year, Michael Thomas is a WR1 and Alvin Kamara is an MVP candidate.

What we learned again: The Saints defense is definitely back to being awful.

Matt Ryan had nearly a perfect passer rating and five touchdowns.

23. Broncos (-7) (L 27-14 @BAL)

What we learned: Denver’s No-Fly Zone is over.

Think this was already established last year but feel like losing to Flacco was a red flag.

What we learned again: When Case Keenum is your quarterback, teams like Baltimore aren’t a favorable matchup.

Keenum against the Ravens or Flacco against the Broncos? I’ll take Flacco.

24. Steelers (-) (W 30-27 @TB)

What we learned: For the Steelers to win, their defense will have to force four turnovers. Even then, might still barely win.

The first half was great. The defense came up with big plays and the Steelers unloaded on Tampa Bay. Then they didn’t show up in the second half and let the Bucs claw their way back into it. That lost Pittsburgh any rungs in the power rankings they might have earned from the win.

What we learned again: At this point, feels like everything and then some has to go right for the Steelers to win a football game.

It’s not often that you watch a game and come away more frustrated after a win. Such was the case on that evening.

25. Texans (-11) (L 27-22 vs. NYG)

What we learned: Bill O’Brien is on the hot seat.

Now sitting at 0-3 with a healthy roster, O’Brien is out of excuses. No quarterback, not healthy and no money are all off the table. This team has a light schedule, too. Make a run for the wild card or get out of town.

What we learned again: J.J. Watt is still a freak.

Three sacks!

26. Jets (-8) (L 21-17 @CLE)

What we learned: Darnold did not look like the better quarterback on Thursday.

Baker was quite something. Looked diligent with a gunslinger attitude. Darnold looked like he was still learning.

What we learned again: The Jets are gonna Jet.

They were winning. All they had to do was not injure Tyrod. They, of course, injured Tyrod.

27. Seahawks (-2) (W 24-13 vs. DAL)

What we learned: Seattle’s only as good as Russ is that day.

Russ has to be playing great for Seattle to have a shot. Hard to see this team bailing him out if he has a rough night.

What we learned again: Earl Thomas is a top-five safety.

Thomas, Berry and Harrison Smith are the first three names that come to mind. Malcolm Jenkins, Devin McCourty, Eric Weddle and Keanu Neal are up there as well.

28. Cowboys (-8) (L 24-13 @SEA)

What we learned: Dak Prescott is now becoming a problem.

People hit the concern button earlier than I did and I’m hitting it now. Dak seems incapable of throwing for 200 yards right now. His receiving core sucks. Travis Frederick probably won’t play this season. Let’s not pretend Dak’s walking through an orchard. That said, if he’s the franchise quarterback Dallas believes him to be, he needs to show them more.

What we learned again: Scott Linehan needs to go.

In the first three weeks, Dallas has put up 8, 20 and 13. Time for a new offensive look.

29. Bills (+3) (W 27-6 @MIN)

What we learned: The Bills were pissed off.

They came out swinging and shocked the world. They were heavy underdogs.

What we learned again: Josh Allen is a bust.

Dude seems to be better at running than throwing. Maybe they should move him to running back.

30. Colts (-2) (L 20-16 @PHI)

What we learned: The Colts still struggle to run the ball.

It’s the Eagles so not a team that most run well against but you would’ve hoped Frank Reich would have brought a new philosophy to the Colts.

What we learned again: The Colts always seem to fall a step behind.

They seem to have a shot at a lot of big games but seem to lose each time. Close but no cigar seems to be a running joke.

31. Raiders (-1) (L 28-20 @MIA)

What we learned: Jordy Nelson’s still alive.

Six receptions for 173.

What we learned again: Hiring people who haven’t coached in a decade is a bad idea.

Signing them to a 10-year, $100 million contract is probably a bad idea, too.

32. Cardinals (-1) (L 16-14 vs. CHI)

What we learned: The Cards blew a 14-point lead.

Congratulations! You still suck! Least they’re starting Rosen next game.

What we learned again: Bradford just made a lot of money to suck and sit on the bench again.

Bad habits die hard, huh, NFL?

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Tim Sports Report for NFL Week 2

Top 5

  1. QB Patrick Mahomes 23/28 for 326, 6 TDs, 154.8 rating @PIT

That was quite something. The Steelers defense is atrocious and it’s important to try and keep that performance within that frame. That said, to do that in National Football League in your third professional start is brilliant.

2. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 27/33 for 402, 4 TDs, INT, 144.4 rating vs. PHI

Back-to-back showings for Mr. Fitzmagic. It is not often that a player gets on my Top 5 twice in a row but what Mr. Fitzpatrick is doing right now is truly special. That postgame presser was hilarious.

3. QB Blake Bortles 29/45 for 376, 4 TDs, INT, 111.0 rating vs. NE

After bashing Bortles in my power rankings, he went off. Against a bad defense, sure, but it’s still New England and I will still give him a tip of the hat.

4. LB Darius Leonard 19 tackles, 15 solo, sack, forced fumble @WSH

That is a eye-opening stat line for a rookie linebacker.

5. RB Matt Breida 11 carries for 138, TD, 3 receptions for 21 vs. DET

It’s Breida’s backfield to lose after this. Morris seems to be a veteran journeyman more than a starter.

Worst of the Worst

5. QB Sam Bradford 17/27 for 90, INT, 53.0 rating @LAR

My favorite punching bag is an easy jab for me. I don’t feel bad throwing them this guy’s way.

4. New York Giants on Sunday Night Football

What was that? The Giants looked like disheveled man coming out of a highway wreck. Eli was dumping it off to Saquon nearly every play. The Giants offensive line looked like a sand castle.

3. Second tie in two weeks

I’m unsure what the basis was for shrinking the overtime clock to ten minutes but I’d like to kindly remind NFL leadership that no one wants to see tie football games.

2. Kicking

Is hard, apparently. Plenty of kickers cost their teams games this week, bringing us to…

  1. K Zane Gonzalez

What a dumpster fire this guy was. Two missed extra points and two field goal tries on top of it. This guy couldn’t kick a flame off a cupcake. It was only another scene of a Brown Browning all over himself.

Steelers Recap

The Steelers defense is like a paper towel trying to prevent a running faucet from hitting the sink below. They could not do anything against Mahomes. Mahomes is playing excellent pigskin right now, sure, but it looked easy for him. Gifting the opposition 21 points before you start playing isn’t a recipe for success either.

Tampa Bay feels like a must-win but I’m not hitting the panic button just yet. A loss on Monday would be a push to the edge.

Game of the Week: Chargers @ Rams

The Battle of Los Angeles should be a fun time. I’ll take the Rams at home but this could be a legitimate Super Bowl preview.

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2018-2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

1. Rams (+1) (W 34-0 vs. ARI)

What we learned: Sean McVay has a legit shot at being one of the best coaches in the NFL for the next decade.

We didn’t learn much about the Rams as a team on Sunday but we did learn more about McVay, who continues to succeed with an average rookie quarterback behind center thanks to elite schemes and play calling. Don’t let his age make a fool of you. This guy knows football and in my eyes is already at the top of the game.

What we learned again: It is really hard imagining a future where the Rams don’t win the West.

Arizona is in a full rebuild, Seattle is hanging by a thread and while Shanahan and the 9ers have promise, it’s hard to see them meeting the Rams at eye level.

2. Vikings (-1) (T 29-29 @GB)

What we learned: The Vikings aren’t quite perfect yet.

On paper, there’s little reason why the Vikings shouldn’t have been able to handle Green Bay like a lesser. Green Bay is a weak roster, though improving and as great as Aaron Rodgers is, he’s still only one man. In Lambeau with a better team, the Vikings missed an opportunity to establish themselves as the kings of the North. On the other hand, they added Dan Bailey so they’re now closer to perfection.

What we learned again: The new roughing the passer rule is ridiculous.

The only reason the Vikings didn’t lose this game is because the referees called a phantom penalty on Clay Matthews, who made a routine, clean hit of Cousins. This rule needs changed as soon as possible. It’s hurting the game and turning fans off.

3. Jaguars (+2) (W 31-20 vs. NE)

What we learned: The Jaguars can win without Fournette.

After bashing Bortles last week, Bortles got onto my top-five this week, throwing for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Jacksonville can win without Fournette but what I said is still true: in most games, Jacksonville will struggle offensively without their workhorse.

What we learned again: Jacksonville’s defense is built to last for the long haul.

As dominant as Jacksonville is, it’s likely we’ll see this for at least the next three years. The roster is young and the front office is continuing to build upon it. A reminder Jacksonville took yet another defensive lineman in the first round this year.

4. Chiefs (+2) (W 42-37 @PIT)

What we learned: Patrick Mahomes looks really good.

It is not often you see a rookie quarterback throwing six touchdowns at the highest level. Mahomes earned my number one spot on my top-five this week. I’m not completely sold on him because of the sample size and because Andy Reid historically has managed to makes quarterbacks look a lot better than they really are but it’s very difficult to not be impressed with the young gun.

What we learned again: The Chiefs defense is hurting.

It’s not going to be talked about much because of how dominant Mahomes was, but the Chiefs defense looks like something that will come back to bite them in the future. When your rookie quarterback is playing as well as Mahomes is and you still only won by five, that’s got to be something in the back of your mind.

5. Patriots (-1) (L 31-20 @JAC)

What we learned: The Patriots might be in for a rough year.

Last week, I joked New England could start your neighbor at receiver and still win, poking at the lack of playmakers on this offense. I like Chris Hogan and I like James White. I’m sure Edelman’s return will be a big boost. Gronk is still gonna do Gronk things. That unit didn’t look exemplary in Florida.

What we learned again: The Patriots defense is still suffering.

Bortles played really good on Sunday. I’m not going to take that away from him. That said, you got blown up by Blake Bortles and a Jaguars offense without their best player.

6. Eagles (-3) (L 27-21 @TB)

What we learned: The Eagles secondary is prone to getting scorched.

Malcolm Jenkins is an underappreciated talking point on this defense. Philly has no elite corners and it showed on Sunday as Fitzmagic performed more deep ball theatrics.

What we learned again: Philly should be three rooms away from the panic button.

All teams are constantly adjusting, trying to make tweaks to improve from week to week, some more than others. If I’m a Philly fan, I’m very comfortable with how my team has performed and where it’s headed.

7. Falcons (-) (W 31-24 vs. CAR)

What we learned: Matt Ryan will do it all himself if need be.

Ryan ran it in twice last week and threw two more.

What we learned again: Tevin Coleman is probably the best RB2 in football.

There are other candidates (James White, Bilal Powell, Dion Lewis, Chris Thompson) but with Freeman out of the game, the Falcons don’t lose much of a beat without him. Coleman, a free agent in 2019, is all but an assured starter next year.

8. Packers (+1) (T 29-29)

What we learned: That defense is still a problem.

Green Bay gave up 22 points in the fourth at home. Yes, that penalty played a large role in the events following it, but if the defense doesn’t crumble earlier in the fourth, that play never happens.

What we learned again: The roughing the passer rule is ridiculous.

Said it earlier: Packers got hosed by that Matthews penalty. This should have been a win against a better team for Green Bay and I’m gonna treat it that way. I still think Minnesota is the best in the North but Green Bay came to play.

9. Buccaneers (+7) (W 27-21 vs. PHI)

What we learned: Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves one last shot at a starting role.

Fitzmagic is simply too good to be sitting on the bench. We’ve seen what Fitztragic can do but what Fitzpatrick is doing right now has earned him that shot.

What we learned: Jameis needs to go.

The Buccaneers look better than they’ve ever looked with Jameis and with Jameis due for an extension, moving on from him would be the right move. He’s also become too much of a problem off the field. Stick with Fitzmagic.

10. Bears (-) (W 24-17 vs. SEA)

What we learned: The NFC North looks like the strongest division in football.

I currently have Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago in my top ten and Detroit is too strong of a roster to stay near the bottom for long. The NFC South and East are both strong as well, but the North is currently outpacing them.

What we learned again: Khalil Mack is by far the best move the Bears made this offseason.

Chicago added a lot of playmakers to aid Trubisky: Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, a new coach and drafted one of the best available centers in James Daniels from Iowa. None of it has made as big a difference in the Bears’ fortunes as Khalil Mack.

11. Chargers (+2) (W 31-20 @BUF)

What we learned: The Bills suck.

I’d love to put something about the Chargers in this spot but I really didn’t learn anything about the Bolts in this game.

What we learned again: Is Keenan Allen finally good to go?

A career decimated by injuries has placed a lot of red flags around his camp. If Keenan puts up similar numbers to last year and doesn’t suffer a major injury, it might be time to start removing some of those flags.

12. 49ers (-) (W 30-27 vs. DET)

What we learned: It appears Matt Breida has earned the starting nod.

Nothing has been reported to confirm this but Breida has done more in back-to-back games. He had 11 carries for 138 yards. Remove the long 66-yard scamper and he was still 10 for 72.

What we learned again: Jimmy G is not a god. He’s a game manager.

This is only another reason why I have a problem giving Jimmy G all the money. His stats thus far are that of an Alex Smith. Nothing overly flashy but protects the ball and doesn’t do anything obnoxiously stupid. His stats against Detroit were rather pedestrian: a smidge over 200 and two scores.

13. Giants (-5) (L 20-13 @DAL)

What we learned: All the playmakers in the world won’t help offensive line woes.

Odell did little against Dallas, as did Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. For the majority of the evening, the Giants game plan read “Dish to Saquon.” He ended the day with 14 receptions. Running the ball wasn’t an option. The Dallas front seven was all over him.

What we learned again: Sometimes, you’re only as good as you’re offensive line.

Eli looked frazzled all night. Nate Solder is a big upgrade to this unit but is only one guy.

14. Texans (-3) (L 20-17 @TEN)

What we learned: Blaine Gabbert started for the Titans and you still lost.

That’s a red flag especially given the Texan personnel on defense.

What we learned again: Lamar Miller looks old.

Unsure where D’Onta Foreman is or the Texans run game that used to be an identity of this team. DeShaun Watson is really fun to watch but is still budding and a complimentary run game would be a nice comfort.

15. Bengals (+4) (W 34-23 vs. BAL)

What we learned: The Bengals have the Ravens number.

After Thursday, the Bengals are 8-3 in their last 11 against Baltimore.

What we learned again: Even when the Bungles win, they’re still Bungling.

After a strong win against a divisional opponent, it was reported starting back Joe Mixon had torn cartilage and would have to undergo arthroscopic surgery.

16. Broncos (-1) (W 20-19 vs. OAK)

What we learned: Phillip Lindsay is the first undrafted players to get 100 scrimmage yards in his first two games.

Looks like the starting back right now but will likely struggle against power defenses like Baltimore next week.

What we learned again: You can complete 29/32 and still lose.

Carr was 29/32 for 288 and a touchdown.

17. Panthers (-) (L 31-24 @ATL)

What we learned: Christian McCaffrey has a legit shot to be the first running back to have 100 catches in a season since Matt Forte had 102 in 2014.

Forte was fourth in receptions that year behind Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones.

What we learned again: Christian McCaffrey is a beast.

He is a PPR dream and a playmaker who’s gonna have a long career in this league.

18. Jets (-4) (L 20-12 vs. MIA)

What we learned: Darnold is not a finished product.

Last week I said it appeared that starting Darnold was the right move. I still think it was, even though I’m against starting rookie quarterbacks week one. That said, Darnold isn’t a trailblazer. He’s not rookie Andrew Luck. He will have growing pains.

What we learned again: The Jets aren’t there yet.

I like the direction the program is headed but this isn’t a playoff team. Still would’ve liked to see them win a divisional game at home.

19. Ravens (-1) (L 34-23 @CIN)

What we learned: The Ravens are 23-27 since 2015.

I still think John Harbaugh is a good coach but he’s on the hot seat. It’s looking like a change might be on the way.

What we learned again: The Ravens don’t have a run game and that speaks bad news for the offense.

If you have Alex Collins in fantasy, you’re probably not concerned. He’s gonna get you touchdowns. The Ravens had 66 yards rushing against Cincy.

20. Cowboys (+5) (W 20-13 vs. NYG)

What we learned: Dallas’ front seven can show up at any moment.

The team is noticeably weaker when Sean Lee isn’t in the lineup but is strong when he is. Dallas was 8th in total defense last year and averaged 20.8 against.

What we learned again: The Cowboys literally can’t score.

If you watched the game on Sunday night, it felt like a game that could have blown off its hinges. It did not. The Giants defense is going to be above average this year but the amount of chances Dallas had, you would have liked to see them put some points on the board.

21. Browns (+3) (L 21-18 @NO)

What we learned: The Browns defense is for real.

I honestly expected a Saints win by 10. Instead, Drew Brees, an all-time great, was bottled by Cleveland. Stunning.

What we learned again: The Browns are still gonna Brown.

Kicker Zane Gonzalez earned the number one spot on my worst of the worst, missing two extra points and two field goals.

22. Dolphins (+4) (W 20-12 @NYJ)

What we learned: The Dolphins might not be in full tank mode after all.

It’s honestly hard to tell how good this team is given their schedule early (vs. TEN, @NYJ, vs. OAK) but 2-0 is 2-0. If you win the games you should win, you are at least putting yourself in a position to compete.

What we learned again: Ryan Tannehill is serviceable.

Tannehill is not the first-round talent he was drafted to be but he is serviceable at a financially responsible price tag. He is not going to win you games by himself and he may lose you some because of his mistakes, but generally, Tannehill isn’t flashy. Sometimes serviceable and boring is fine.

23. Saints (-2) (W 21-18 vs. CLE)

What we learned: We should absolutely be hitting the panic button in New Orleans.

You start the season by getting obliterated by Ryan Fitzmagic. You follow that up by playing a nail-biter at home against the Browns, who, if not for Lord Incompetence himself at kicker, would have beaten you. Given the talent on your roster, this is unacceptable.

What we learned again: Sean Payton is overrated.

I’ll be singing this song till the day I die. Cleveland is improved yes, but you have Brees, Kamara, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore and Cameron Jordan on your team. Figure it out.

24. Steelers (-4) (L 42-37 vs. KC)

What we learned: The Steelers might not make the playoffs.

After tying with Cleveland in a game ripe with ineptitude, you give up 21 straight points to start your home opener. You fight back and tie it at half and I’ll give you credit for that. You then finish the day by giving up six touchdown passes to a rookie quarterback on your home turf. Monday night against Tampa Bay feels like a must-win.

What we learned again: The Steelers defense might be bottom-ten this year.

Pittsburgh brass made no significant upgrades on the defense, instead going almost exclusively offense at the draft. These are the fruits that come with that.

25. Seahawks (-4) (L 24-17 @CHI)

What we learned: Russ is gonna have a rough year.

Russ is an elite quarterback and will have elite games but that offensive line, which believe it or not has actually improved, is simply not good enough for sustained success.

What we learned again: Drafting a running back in the first round was really, really stupid.

Unless Rashaad Penny is a perennial Pro-Bowler, this makes no sense. Hard to see this guy doing much of anything behind that offensive line. Here are the things this team needed more than a running back: Offensive line, safety, defensive line, cornerback, receiver, tight end. You went with running back. Bravo.

26. Titans (+1) (W 20-17 vs. HOU)

What we learned: The Titans can win games with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.

This is not an endorsement of Gabbert but of rookie head coach Mike Vrabel, who’s doing things in Tennessee. He got Clowney’s career back on track and likely should have been given the reins in Houston, a decision the Texans may regret by season’s end.

What we learned again: Tennessee doesn’t need Mariota extended.

Sunday was yet another reminder of what Tennessee can do without Mariota. They have a legit running back duo with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. Delanie Walker is a top tight end who is out for the year but will likely return next year. Corey Davis is a rookie receiver that’s growing and Tennessee will likely target pass catcher in the next collegiate selection ceremony. They improved the defense with two of college’s best linebackers. This team simply doesn’t need Marcus.

27. Redskins (-4) (L 21-9 vs. IND)

What we learned: Chris Thompson is a weapon for this offense.

Jordan Reed is an injury magnet. Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson are better flex options than outside receivers. Thompson out of the backfield? Get ready for all the catches. Had 13 this week.

What we learned again: The Redskins still aren’t consistent.

A strong start against Arizona is offset by a missed opportunity against Indy at home. No excuse for this team not being 2-0 right now.

28. Colts (-) (W 21-9 @IND)

What we learned: Linebacker Darius Leonard, a second-rounder out of North Carolina State, might be a steal.

19 tackles, 15 solo, sack and a forced fumble. That’s a helluva stat line for a rookie.

What we learned again: Luck’s not really back yet.

Andrew Luck was a potential HOFer before Indy let him get smashed by mammoths for two years. It will take him time to recover his form. I’m hoping he gets back to his normal self, but there’s no guarantee he ever returns to being the force he once was.

29. Lions (+1) (L 30-27 @SF)

What we learned: The Lions aren’t this bad.

It’s hard to see them at 29 next week. I honestly am just more impressed with what I’ve seen with other teams thus far. It was too little too late but Detroit almost got a win out of this. They’ll probably be in low 20s next week, depending on how they play New England.

What we learned again: Stafford is the engine.

As has been the case since he was drafted, the Lions go where Stafford goes. He wasn’t good week one and Lions were smashed. Lot better this week and a lot more competitive.

30. Raiders (-1) (L 20-19 @DEN)

What we learned: “Great pass rushers are hard to find.”

Those are the words of Jon Gruden, a man grossly unaware of his own actions.

What we learned again: Trading Khalil Mack was stupid.

I’m honestly so dumbfounded by the Raiders stupidity that I might just put this here for the rest of the season. The Bears being a top-ten team right now is not a coincidence.

31. Cardinals (-) (L 34-0 @LAR)

What we learned: David Johnson might not be a star just yet.

He had a great rookie year but 2018 is not being kind to DJ, even in the new coach’s run-first offense.

What we learned again: Sam Bradford is terrible.

Getting paid $20 million to suck every year is great work if you can get it.

32. Bills (-) (L 31-20 vs. LAC)

What we learned: Allen has been welcomed to the depths of gridiron hell.

Rest in pieces, young pup.

What we learned again: Offensive lines are needed to football.

Buffalo lost three starters this offseason. Coincidentally, Buffalo is god awful and LeSean McCoy is helpless to stop the bleeding.

Biggest Climb: Buccaneers (+7)

Biggest Drop: Giants (-5)

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2018-2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

1. Vikings (W 24-16 vs. SF)

What we learned: If not for the grand introduction of Sean McVay, Mike Zimmer would have won Coach of the Year in 2017.

Mike Zimmer is one of the best coaches in football and the defensive scheme he has made in Minnesota is still causing the best of the best problems. That should tell you something.

What we learned again: Minnesota, as advertised, has the most complete roster in the NFL, including the league’s best defense.

They’re my pick to win this year’s Lombardi. They finally got their upgrade at quarterback in Cousins, Cook returns from injury, Diggs and Thielen are one of the strongest receiving duos in the league and Minnesota’s defense, as mentioned above, is nasty.

2. Rams (W 33-13 @OAK)

What we learned: Rams-Vikings is a solid bet for the NFC Championship game.

Honestly can’t say I learned much from the Rams pummeling the ghost of Chucky. On the other hand, the Rams are a really good football team and seem to be the only thing that can get in their way.

What we learned again: The Rams won the offseason.

In case you somehow forgot, the Rams have gone all in on this season, acquiring multiple talent veterans to bolster their roster. They are stacked at every spot.

3. Eagles (W 18-12 vs. ATL)

What we learned: The Eagles are not fully reliant on their quarterback, demonstrating once again why their team is loaded.

As I stated pretty thoroughly in my quarterback breakdown piece, overpaying your quarterback will destroy a franchise and the proper usage of funds saved by a quarterback on a rookie deal can completely turn a franchise around. Exhibit A: Philly.

What we learned again: The Eagles should absolutely not rush Wentz back.

The Eagles have shown they can win playoff games and Super Bowls with Nick Foles at quarterback. Putting their franchise savior in any potential danger whatsoever for meaningless regular season games (let’s be honest, Philly’s making the playoffs regardless) would be beyond stupid. I’d rather lose a game than risk injuring The Book of Wentz.

4. Patriots (W 27-20 vs. HOU)

What we learned: The Patriots could start your neighbor at receiver and still win.

Funny joke, but is it also possibly true? Going into their game against Houston, New England had three receivers on their active roster: Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson. Didn’t matter. Another win. Just signed Browns bust Corey Coleman. If anyone can revive his career, it’s Tom Brady.

What we learned again: Tom Brady is still defying time just fine.

Looked fine on Sunday. 277 and three scores. Brady will do Brady things.

5. Jaguars (W 20-15 @NYG)

What we learned: The Jaguars defense will return to the top 10.

Not much to add to this other than they gave up only 15 to a talented group of position players and Saquon Barkley, minus one breakout run, was contained.

What we learned again: The team’s offense is heavily reliant on one Leonard Fournette.

The team has little trust in Bortles to win them a game and for good reason. Fournette will be treated like a bell cow once again this season. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, he went and got injured in week one. If he misses substantial time, I expect the Jag offense to struggle. Sorry, but T.J. Yeldon is not Leonard Fournette.

6. Chiefs (W 38-28 @LAC)

What we learned: Patrick Mahomes is better for the Kansas City offense than Alex Smith.

The Chiefs already knew and most analysts already did but if there was any doubt about whether Mahomes’ arm strength was a huge factor in the Chiefs decision to move from Smith, that doubt has been eliminated. A four-touchdown debut was impressive.

What we learned again: Tyreek Hill is fast.

Said it in my sports report this week: Hill is a certified number one receiver now. His route running has improved since his appearance. If you haven’t, suggest you just watch some of the Chiefs tape from week one. It was quite something.

7. Falcons (L 18-12 @PHI)

What we learned: Julio is back.

Julio had a down campaign in 2017. I expected him to bounce back this season. Had a nice start.

What we learned again: The Falcons still suck in the red zone after a whole offseason to find a solution.

Steve Sarkisian, ladies and gents.

8. Giants (L 20-15 vs. JAC)

What we learned: Saquon Barkley is going to struggle this year.

Perhaps I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there, but hard to look at Barkley’s stat sheet on Sunday and be impressed. One amazing run, yes, but other than that? Nothing. Guess offensive lines are important after all.

What we learned again: Ben McAdoo should never be allowed near a football team at any level again.

The Giants are far better than their 2017 record suggested and McAdoo is why that’s the case. Losing to Jacksonville by 5 is a win for New York. They’re going to contend for a wild card this year.

9. Packers (W 24-23 vs. CHI)

What we learned: Aaron Rodgers is Superman.

Don’t think I need to add anything here.

What we learned again: The Packers are massively overrated.

Remove Rodgers from this team and it goes straight to the john. This team couldn’t float last year without Aaron and they weren’t gonna float against Chicago on Sunday night if he didn’t return. I hate putting the Packers in the top ten this week. They don’t deserve it. Mr. Rodgers was just so miraculous that it feels wrong not to give him a tip of the hat.

10. Bears (L 24-23 @GB)

What we learned: The Bears have a chance to repeat as a top-ten defense.

Last year Chicago was 10th in total yardage, seventh against the pass, 11th against the run and ninth in points against. They added Khalil Mack.

What we learned again: Khalil Mack is the best outside linebacker in the league.

Yes, better than Von Miller. Bears hit the jackpot on this one.

11. Texans (L 27-20 @NE)

What we learned: Houston is healthy.

Finally. Imagine the carnage that could be created with Watt and Clowney on the edge.

What we learned again: Deshaun Watson is not a finished product yet.

A player with tremendous upside made some costly mistakes. Still, a seven-point loss in Foxborough is a win for most organizations.

12. 49ers (L 24-16 @MIN)

What we learned: Jimmy Garroppolo is not elite yet.

Quarterbacks are able to show how good they are when they play defenses like Minnesota. Under 50% completion and three picks on Sunday.

What we learned again: The 49ers have a nice foundation in place and Shanahan knows what he’s doing.

Sadly, Shanahan’s Super Bowl debacle will follow him his entire career. He’s still one of the brightest minds in the game and they are a franchise moving in the right direction, though Jimmy G’s absurd contract could put the brakes on the train.

13. Chargers (L 38-28 vs. KC)

What we learned: The Chargers defense might be a weak spot.

Is the Chargers defense that bad or is Mahomes that good? We’ll have to wait and see.

What we learned again: Despite almost no media attention, Rivers is still playing quite well at an old age.

Football experts have talked about how much longer Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Ben and Eli are going to play and seem to repeatedly overlook Rivers. In addition to being a great fantasy signal caller year in and year out, Rivers continues to keep the Chargers relevant.

14. Jets (W 48-17 @DET)

What we learned: Starting Darnold was the right move.

For the record, I am completely against starting rookie quarterbacks in most cases. We’ve seen more that a couple quarterbacks’ careers end prematurely because they weren’t ready. Darnold looked ready.

What we learned again: Todd Bowles is the most underrated coach in the NFL.

The Jets did all they could to tank their roster last year and Bowles still kept the ship afloat. He’ll do more than keep it afloat this year.

15. Broncos (W 27-24 vs. SEA)

What we learned: Keenum is serviceable, likely not a long-term starter.

The Broncos gave Keenum a solid contract, one that gives him money he never had the chance to get previously while also not putting the money chests in a strait jacket. He had three touchdowns and three picks on Sunday.

What we learned again: Von Miller will lead the way.

Von Miller had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Seattle, bad offensive line or not. He’s still good. We’ll have to see if the Broncos defense follows suit this year.

16. Buccaneers (W 48-40 @NO)

What we learned: Ryan Fitzmagic is back.

It was the best game of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career and while I sadly didn’t get to watch his performance live or in its entirety, the highlights were quite something. Whether Fitzpatrick is Fitzmagic or Fitztragic, he’s always entertaining.

What we learned again: DeSean Jackson’s not dead yet.

Jackson has never been the same player since leaving Philadelphia but has continued to be a deep threat. He’s still a playmaker.

17. Panthers (W 16-8 vs. DAL)

What we learned: Norm Turner and the offense didn’t have the greatest start.

Dallas had essentially a secondary of freshmen last year. Yes, the Carolina receivers aren’t threatening but this was a game you’d like to see Cam pour it on. Didn’t happen. I’m not going to discredit the Cowboys front seven but I expected more from Carolina.

What we learned again: Panthers still have one of the best front sevens in football.

Have been for a few years and still are. Kuechly is still the league’s best mike.

18. Ravens (W 47-3 vs. BUF)

What we learned: The Ravens gave Flacco all the weapons this offseason.

If he performs like he has the last few years, he’s gone and it’s on to the age of Lamar. Week one was against one of the worst the NFL has to offer. Let’s try to contain our excitement.

What we learned again: The Ravens defense is still strong.

Yes, some new faces have moved into the linebacker spots but a lot of these young additions are performing well. Weddle and Tony Jefferson are one of the best safety combos in the league.

19. Bengals (W 34-23 @IND)

What we learned: The offense is improved.

Who could have known that having an offensive line probably would have helped the team last year?

What we learned again: Marvin Lewis is still coaching the Bengals.

You’d think they would have fired the guy for incompetence or for even a fresh direction but no, Marvin Lewis is still there.

20. Steelers (T 21-21 @CLE)

What we learned: Ben Roethlisberger is at the end of the road.

I think we knew it last year but Ben is closer to the twilight stage of his career than football fans would care to admit. He looked plain awful on Sunday and I still don’t know how the guy didn’t get benched.

What we learned again: The Steelers window is closing.

The Steelers, at their best, are always known for their stout defense. That is not the case right now. The defense is bend don’t break and each year looks closer to breaking. Ben is nearing the end. I don’t care what he says. He doesn’t have five years left. They are talented on the offensive line and have one of the best position groups in the league but the years of Peyton, Ben and Brady owning the AFC are over.

21. Seahawks (L 27-24 @DEN)

What we learned: Russell Wilson is Seattle’s savior.

Not a lot of reasons to watch this team. The offensive line is still among the league’s worst and I still don’t know what Seattle was thinking drafting a back in the first round. Doug Baldwin has gone down with injury. Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham are gone. We’ve seen Wilson do his fair share of theatrics. He’ll have to do more than that if Seattle’s gonna make the postseason.

What we learned again: Earl Thomas needs paid.

Given the depth of the defense, unsure why Seattle is hesitating to pay this man. Sometimes, you don’t pay the man. This isn’t one of those times. You lose Thomas and this defense will morph into a turnstile.

22. Saints (L 48-40 vs. TB)

What we learned: Drew Brees can still throw footballs.

Last year was not Brees’ strongest year but I don’t think there were many people concerned about his production this year. If there were, they are likely silenced now.

What we learned again: The Saints are back to their old ways.

I talked about it in my quarterback breakdown last week. The Saints defense has never been consistently good during the Sean Payton era. I am on the record as saying Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy are the two most overrated coaches in professional football. The defense got cooked all day by Tampa Bay. Was Fitzmagic excellent? Of course, but some of those scores were simple blown coverages deep. Looks like we’re back to trying to outscore teams again.

23. Redskins (W 24-6 @ARI)

What we learned: The Redskins are not definitely going to finish at the bottom of the division.

It is the solid bet but given how bad Dallas played, they could fight for third.

What we learned again: Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Famer.

On Sunday, AP surpassed 12,000 yards and 100 career rushing touchdowns. I’ve been an AP fan his entire career. I’m hoping he has a few games left in him.

24. Browns (T 21-21 vs. PIT)

What we learned: Myles Garrett is the most valuable player in Cleveland.

Jarvis Landry may be the most talented player but Garrett is far and away its most valuable. He was blowing past tackles repeatedly on Sunday and recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles. Cleveland, a team that hasn’t given a player a long-term extension since who knows when, should definitely give this guy all the money.

What we learned again: Baker Mayfield will start this season and Hue Jackson should start packing.

Tyrod Taylor is a serviceable quarterback but looked off on Sunday. Had some simple misthrows in the flats and was mostly unimpressive. Hue is on the way out because his team had six takeaways and still couldn’t win. Unsure how much more Hue needs to fail at his job before he’s finally given the ax.

25. Cowboys (L 16-8 @CAR)

What we learned: The Cowboys will have a front row seat at the NFL Draft.

They may be just outside the top ten but it’s hard to see Dallas being that far off. The team struggled to get past midfield let alone score. The front seven for the Cowboys is strong enough to win them some games but a lack of game planning Sunday was evident.

What we learned again: Cowboys management took a huge L this offseason and wasted a year of Dak’s rookie contract.

Losing Witten to retirement was inevitable. Cutting Dez was the right move. His best days were behind him and he was no longer meeting the value of his signing price. These were the additions Cowboys management made to replace that production: Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and third-round pick Michael Gallup. Given the immense savings they got from those former two moves, the Cowboys had to reinvest those funds into the receiving core. They did not and teams are not going to respect those players. They’re going to stack the box and Elliott is going to struggle at times because of it. Dallas will be without center Travis Frederick for likely the whole year. Rather than build around their proclaimed franchise starter, they’ve left him in the cold.

26. Dolphins (W 27-20 vs. TEN)

What we learned: Ryan Tannehill’s receivers this year are DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola.

Good luck with that.

What we learned again: The Dolphins are the epitome of treading water.

Funny pun, but really unsure what they’re going for here. Looks like a tanking to me but other times looks they’re trying. Either way, looks like the bottom of the AFC East.

27. Titans (L 27-20 @MIA)

What we learned: Derrick Henry has not been given the keys to the backfield.

Dion Lewis and Henry had about a 50-50 split on Sunday, so if you drafted either of them and expected something else, oops on you.

What we learned again: Marcus Mariota is likely not a franchise quarterback.

Year two was nice: 26/9 touchdown/interception split and nearly 3,500 yards. For a quarterback who’s not known for his arm, that’s great. Last year? 13/15 and a 79.3 rating.

28. Colts (L 34-23 vs. CIN)

What we learned: Andrew Luck is back to throwing footballs.

I’m a Luck fan myself and seeing him throwing footballs again was glorious.

What we learned again: The Colts still suck.

Turns out the return of your franchise quarterback is not enough to make your team not suck. Indy went and blew a 14-point lead on Sunday.

29. Raiders (L 33-13 vs. LAR)

What we learned: Derek Carr can be cut in 2019 for $7.5 dead cap.

After winning my MVP award for the 2016 season (28-6 TD/INT and all the fourth-quarter comebacks), Carr took a clear step back last year and did not get off to a great start this year. I wouldn’t say cutting Carr is absolutely the right move at this moment but if Carr plays like he did last year, I think you have to consider it.

What we learned again: The Raiders are the dumbest team in football right now.

You traded Khalil Mack.

30. Lions (L 48-17 vs. NYJ)

What we learned: The Lions were not prepared and that reflects on their coach.

They were apparently so unprepared that it’s been reported that Stafford, instead of using code, started yelling “screen” at his own teammates to change the play.

What we learned again: The Lions still don’t know what running is.

You’d think after all these years they’d learn something. Guess Detroit’s gonna Detroit.

31. Cardinals (L 24-6 vs. WAS)

What we learned: The Cardinals will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.

David Johnson is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Arizona. We shouldn’t forget about Larry Fitzgerald either but often times a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. The Cardinals are gonna be bad and the only reason to watch them, aside from watching Fitz’ retirement tour and DJ’s return, is seeing if Rosen comes to play.

What we learned again: Sam Bradford is one of the most overrated players in the history of professional football.

Once again, Bradford spent most of a season on injured reserve and once again he got paid during free agency and once again he sucked in the first game of a season. I wonder how many times this carousel of madness goes around before someone finally cuts the cord.

32. Bills (L 47-3 @BAL)

What we learned: The Bills will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.

All of those offseason moves foreshadowing a grand tanking have finally come to fruition. What Sean McDermott now has in Buffalo is bare bones. The team lost three starters from their offensive line last year which means Shady McCoy will struggle to do much of anything and that’s if he isn’t put on the exempt list before that. Buffalo was 31st in passing last year and look like a strong candidate to repeat in that category.

What we learned again: Nathan Peterman is not an NFL quarterback.

I’m unsure what the line is between having a job and not having a job in the NFL but whatever that line is, Peterman has carpet bombed it. Trading McCarron looks like a poor decision right now, though who knows how much better McCarron really is.

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Tim Sports Report for 2018 NFL Week 1

Top 5

  1. LB Khalil Mack Sack, FF, FR, INT, TD @GB in first half

Quite possibly the greatest game ever played by a defensive player putting on a new uniform for the first time. Nice going, Oakland!

2. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 21/28 for 417, 4 TDs, 156.3 passer rating, 12 carries for 36 yards, TD @NO

Fitzmagic might be back. I nearly took the Saints for eliminator before remembering the ghost of Ryan Fitzmagic and boy, did he put on a show. Fitzmagic had six career games with four touchdowns and his first with five came this past Sunday. For those keeping track, Mr. Winston has two games with four or more touchdowns, the same amount of games in which he has thrown four or more interceptions since coming into the league.

3. WR Tyreek Hill 7 receptions for 169, 2 TDs, return TD @LAC

Tyreek Hill has evolved from playmaker to certified WR1.

4. WR Michael Thomas 16 receptions for 180 yards, TD, Fmb vs. TB

Michael Thomas, at this rate, might keep Brees from retiring for another five years. Hard to leave professional football when you have this guy on your team.

5. RB James Conner 31 carries for 135, 2 TDs, Fmb, 5 receptions for 57 yards (192 scrimmage yards) @CLE

Beating cancer is but only one saga of James Conner’s story. Sunday was a heartwarming tale of not just an athlete but a person battling through adversity and excelling at the highest level. Had it not been for a costly fumble that cost his team momentum and served as the turning point in the contest, he would have been higher on this list.

Worst of the Worst

5. TEN@MIA sets record for longest-game in NFL history at seven hours, eight minutes due to delays.

Watching any portion of football that Blaine Gabbert is playing in probably already feels agonizing. Imagine how long this game must have actually felt for anyone that stuck around for the whole thing.

4. Lions give up 31 points in third quarter to Jets and first-time starter Sam Darnold.

Giving up 31 points in one quarter to any team is a rather large L. Giving that total up to an offense led by a rookie quarterback? Well, that’s….something. Matt Patricia has given up 89 points in his last two games.

3. Falcons fail to score from goal line five times against Eagles.

I’m sure Steve Sarkisian knows more about football than I do. With that said, a team with as high-powered an offense as the Falcons going 0-5 (yup, Philly gave them a free play, too) from the goal line is inexcusable if not borderline laughable. Matt Ryan also seems incapable of throwing touchdowns to Julio Jones anymore.

2. PIT@CLE

We’re only one week through the NFL season and Steelers @ Browns is already a strong contender for worst game of the 2018 season. No one likes to see a tie in the NFL but this game was rampant with such gross mismanagement and on-field incompetence that it felt like a mercy when the clock finally hit zero. Roethlisberger had three interceptions and two fumbles and Tyrod Taylor was sacked seven times and had more than a few missed throws.

  1. QB Nathan Peterman 5/18 for 24, 2 INTs, 0.0 passer rating @BAL

You will likely never see a game where a quarterback ended with a ZERO passer rating ever again. The NFL won’t do it but they should enshrine the jersey he wore for this game in the Hall of Fame.

Steelers Recap

I honestly hate to have to talk about this game at all. As I mentioned above, it’s a contender for worst game of the 2018 season. Big Ben picked up where left off at the beginning of last year: looking like he came out of a retirement home. Three interceptions and two fumbles against the Browns defense is pitiful, plain and simple. Are the Browns improved? Of course. Does that mean he has an excuse? Absolutely not. Only two players impressed me on Sunday: James Conner, who squeaked into the top five, and T.J. Watt, who had 10 tackles, three sacks and blocked what would have been a game-winning field goal for Cleveland.

Week one went about as bad as it could go for Pittsburgh. Home against Kansas City means they have every opportunity to bounce back. Starting 0-2 with their back half of the schedule upcoming might prove too big a hurdle to hop over. Still, I simply can’t bet on this team based off that performance. I’ll take Kansas City and hope I’m wrong.

Game of the Week: Patriots @ Jaguars

A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game should be a trailblazer. I’m actually leaning Jacksonville in this game but that is fully dependent on Fournette’s status. No Fournette and it’s hard to see Jacksonville winning this game. On the other hand, if New England’s defense plays like last year, maybe not. As of now, taking Jacksonville.

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Matt Ryan and the Quarterback Conundrum

“You need a great franchise quarterback to win a championship” might be the most popular fallacy in professional sports. It is paraded by media pundits, analysts, broadcasters and fans alike. The position is likely the most worshipped in the arena of athletics and not by a close margin either. Quarterbacks are automatically leaders of their team regardless of overall performance or character and all victories and defeats are brought to their doorstep. In exchange for this undeserved attention, franchises throw bank vaults at them, which is not sound financial strategy. Franchises are hamstrung by disastrous quarterback contracts regularly, a problem that they themselves are responsible for manifesting. We saw a new one occur this summer.

The Falcons signed 33-year-old Matt Ryan to a five-year deal with an annual average value (AAV) of $30 million, including $100 million guaranteed. A reminder that the current salary cap number for teams is 177. Starting in his age 35 season, Ryan will have a cap hit above $30 million for the final four seasons of the deal, meaning Ryan will take up a penny under 17% of the team’s finances.

To give that type of money to a player that isn’t even the most valuable athlete on his own offense is financially irresponsible. Matt Ryan is the Andy Dalton of the NFC but with more talent. Dalton will never win an MVP award or have the ceiling that Ryan has, but it’s also true that Ryan, like Dalton, has made a career of chucking the football to a top-five receiver. Colin Cowherd did a segment on this last year. Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton had virtually the same season in 2017, the season after Matt Ryan led an air strike on NFL defenses. Look at the stats comparison if you remove Ryan’s MVP season:

In nine seasons (minus MVP), Ryan averages 7.29 yards per attempt, 64% completion, 24.7 touchdowns,13.2 interceptions and a passer rating of 90.5.

In seven seasons, Dalton averages 7.21 yards per attempt, 62.8% completion, 23.9 touchdowns, 13.3 interceptions and a passer rating of 88.7.

Eerily similar numbers, eh?ill

I’m a Matt Ryan fan myself and follow Atlanta but this is a contract that will hamstring the franchise from reaching another chance at a championship. Investing that much into one player simply isn’t smart business.

If we take a look at 2017 cap hits, we’ll find that 13 of the top 20 highest cap hits belonged to quarterbacks. Of those 13, take a guess how many made the playoffs. 13 is nearly half the league and we’re probably talking about the best guys at their position. If quarterback is truly the most valued position, it’s probably high. At least seven, right?

Four. The answer is four.

  1. Joe Flacco tops the list at $24.5 million and threw for barely 3,000 yards, only 18 TDs to 13 INTs, and had a yards per attempt average of 5.72 (32nd).
  2. Carson Palmer. Arizona paid 37-year-old Carson Palmer $17.5 million ($24 million cap hit) to play six and a half games and produce old man numbers during them. *Vomits off stage
  3. Kirk Cousins performs at an above-average level (over 4,000 yards, 27/13 TD/INT) on yet another franchise tag ($23.9) and the Redskins go nowhere.
  4. Matt Ryan ($23.75) makes the playoffs with a rich Atlanta roster before they implode on their final play of the divisional round against the Eagles. If you’re just now reading, Ryan is rewarded with the richest contract in NFL history.
  5. Aaron Rodgers ($20.3) predictably breaks after getting slammed to the turf repeatedly with no offensive line help. Packers have no team past Rodgers and detonate.
  6. Ryan Tannehill ($20.3) considers himself a doctor and decides not to get surgery on a knee injury following the 2016 season. He promptly tears it before the 2017 preseason. Rest in peace, Miami. Hopefully you can find a better quarterba-Jay Cutler?!
  7. Cam Newton ($20.16) continues his trend of attending the playoffs every other year. He ends the regular season with a completion percentage of 59.1 and 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Not exactly super, though he did run for 754 on a 5.4 clip.
  8. Poor Eli. ($19.7) Young Eli’s receiving core is murdered and Eli is left throwing the ball for the remainder of the year to chicklets Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Left tackle Ereck Flowers impersonates a chew toy and his coach becomes a dark hole sucking all kinds of garbage into the orifice on his face. 3-13.
  9. The Colts front office is still dealing with the repercussions of not protecting their franchise quarterback who took them from winless to 11-5 in his rookie year. Cheer up, Indy. Maybe Andrew Luck ($19.4) will throw a football again this decade. *chatter off-screen. Wait, he threw a football?! He played in a preseason game?! Indy, you might be back in business!
  10. Drew Brees ($19) throws for a little over 4,300 yards, his fewest in over a decade, and only 23 touchdowns, his fewest since 2003. Sean Payton finally figures out that putting a defense on the field might be a formula for success. And look! They found running backs, too! What an insane carriage of ideas. Too bad about the Minneapolis Miracle, huh?
  11. Big Ben ($18.2) spends the first half of the season looking like he just came out of a nursing home, completing a smidge over 61% and throwing 10 touchdowns to nine picks in his first eight games. Ben gets his act together for the second half, the Steelers go 13-3 and then go full Steelers and blow a playoff game to Jacksonville in which they give up 45 points to Blake freaking Bortles. Ben, to his credit, threw for 469 yards and five tuddies in that game.
  12. Rivers ($18) finishes second in the league in passing (4,515 yards) and throws 28 touchdowns to 10 picks. However, the Chargers can’t find anyone who can kick a field goal at the beginning of the season, losing them two games in the final seconds. They also started 0-4 to miss out on a playoff spot. It’s 2018 and Philip Rivers has twice as many kids as he does playoff wins in his 14-year career.
  13. Sam Bradford? Oh, Jesus, seriously? Yup, the china doll of the NFL had an $18 million cap hit. Say what you will about Bradford, he gets paid an enormous amount of money to spend time on injured reserve every year. Don’t worry, the Cardinals didn’t learn a damn thing from Palmer. They gave Bradford $20 million to spend a year on their IR.

If you look further, you’ll find only six of the top 20 highest cap hits for quarterbacks made the playoffs. Those other seven names?

  1. Alex Smith ($16.9) has a career year only for Kansas City to go full Kansas City in the playoffs and blow an 18-point lead in yet another home playoff game.
  2. The first year of Matt Stafford’s megadeal only brings a $16.5 cap hit, but with Detroit still not knowing what a running back is, the Lions predictably miss the playoffs again. Cheer up, Detroit. This season Stafford’s cap hit jumps to $26.5.
  3. After an MVP-caliber season, Derek Carr ($15.7) returns from injury to play average football, throwing for just under 3,500 and a touchdown-interception split of 22/13. Next season, his cap hit jumps to $25.
  4. The Cincinnati front office learns you need an offensive line to play football. Andy Dalton ($15.7) gets sandwiched all season and the Bengals look to be worse than Cleveland this upcoming campaign. The Bengals could cut Dalton and start McCarron, oh wait.
  5. Russell Wilson ($14.6) is a one-man offense behind an offensive line that’s still garbage and a defense that is losing cohesiveness. Our franchise quarterback looks far less important when his defense can’t stop DeShaun Watson from turning them into a fajita. Seattle will spend the offseason dismantling the Legion of Boom. At least they drafted a lineman…in the fifth.
  6. Mike Glennon (man, this one didn’t age well, huh?) takes his $14 million cap hit behind and sits it on the bench behind novice Mitchell Trubisky. Money well spent!
  7. Tom Brady ($14.0) does Tom Brady things, wins MVP, takes team to Super Bowl. Give that man all the money.

If you look at production, you could argue most quarterbacks weren’t even the best player on their own team this past season. The list of signal callers who were is rather short:

Rivers, Smith (this one is debatable given Hunt led league in rushing), Brady, Stafford, Wilson, Wentz, Cousins. Only three (Smith, Brady, Wentz) made the playoffs.

A team built around a quarterback is not a guaranteed victory for front offices, even if that quarterback delivers in effectiveness. Rivers has been an above average quarterback nearly his entire career and has only four playoff wins to show for it. Teams seem to forget that building around said quarterback is vital and if you devote too much of your deposit box to them, it’s difficult to do that.

Other teams simply don’t build for some reason. The idea Aaron Rodgers has made only one Super Bowl is inexcusable. Maybe if Green Bay could’ve looked at a stat sheet years ago and realized defensive coordinator Dom Capers was disastrous in big games and the running game was dwindling, they could have changed that. Instead, Cheeseheads are left watching Green Bay get ousted too early in the playoffs or seeing how incompetent their coaching staff/team really is when Rodgers is taken out of the picture. Green Bay is an example of what goes wrong when you get a franchise quarterback and then don’t do anything of substance after that. A team this fully reliant on one player is doomed for failure (See Indy, and God bless Detroit if Stafford ever misses a season.)

At this point, Green Bay and Detroit are carbon copies of each other. Green Bay has seen its death grip on the NFC North slip away to a more complete roster in Minnesota. Rodgers will get an extension and stay in Green Bay (called it) and then Matt and Aaron will try to throw their teams to victory single-handedly for the remainder of their careers while Minnesota finally discovers the formula to playoff success and makes an appearance in a Super Bowl. Giving Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed contract is risky but a necessary signing if the Vikings want to get over the hump. Also, the team isn’t putting its entire body weight on Cousins’ shoulders and has shown it can win with a backup quarterback and runner on the field for a majority of a campaign. Imagine the level of lethality this team can reach with a healthy Cousins and Dalvin Cook. Also, Cousins contract is only three years, so if the signing doesn’t go as planned, Minnesota can move on to another option without putting their piggy bank in a vice grip.

Football is a team sport, not a quarterback one. Complete teams win championships, not quarterbacks. That is not to say a team can’t win a championship with a great quarterback. Great quarterbacks have been winning titles for a while but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a plethora of examples where they did it by themselves. The great John Elway couldn’t win one without Terrell Davis’ help. Dan Marino went on a historic passing tear in his sophomore season, won MVP and took his team to a Super Bowl before getting pounced on by the 49ers dyansty. He never got to another one.

It’s actually far easier to find a team who carried a quarterback to a Super Bowl: 2015 Broncos, 2006 Steelers, 2003 Bucs and let’s not forget about Trent Dilfer and the 2000 Ravens.

Teams predicated on quarterback success often falter in big moments because it’s difficult for one man to do it all. Look at the Colts with Andrew Luck. Drafted first overall by a winless team, he took Indy to 11-5 and a wild-card game. The next season, he advanced them to the divisional round and the year after that to the AFC Championship game, one of the most impressive starts to a career in quite a while. He was given a massive extension, which he had earned and which was the right move for the franchise. Problem is, during all these playoff runs, Indy management had done little to build the team around Luck. In 2013, they drafted defensive end Bjoern Warner, a bust. In general, the entire class was a robust failure. In 2015, they reached for receiver Philip Dorsett, a receiver that didn’t play out his rookie deal with Indy he was so unwanted. Their second choice, cornerback D’Joun Smith, played a total of five game for the Colts. At one point, general manager Ryan Grigson blamed Andrew Luck’s extension for his inability to put together a competent defense.

This claim was complete nonsense. These were their defensive rankings, beginning during Luck’s rookie year:

Yards/Pass/Rush/PPG

2012 26th 21st 29th 21st

2013 20th 13th 26th 9th

2014 11th 12th 17th 16th

2015 26th 24th 25th 25th

2016 30th 27th 25th 22nd

 

You’ll notice the year they were passable, in 2014, is the year they made it to the AFC Championship game, once again, on the shoulder of one Andrew Luck. Without Luck, we’ve seen what the Colts are: garbage. Quarterbacks hide a team’s flaws. They don’t cure them.

Drew Brees has had a similar problem with the Saints. A player of his caliber should have made it to more than one Super Bowl by now.

Look at those defensive rankings!

Yards/Pass/Rush/PPG

’06 11th 3rd 23rd 13th<—-Nice start!

’07 26th 30th 13th 25th<–Straight to garbage, huh?

’08 23rd 23rd 17th 26th<–Not trying anymore?

’09 25th 26th 21st 20th<–We have Brees! What is defense?

’10 4th 4th 16th 7th<——Got to be a Super Bowl here, right? No? It was the ’09 season?

’11 24th 30th 12th 13th<–Nice PPG! Lose to a better defense in the 49ers.

’12 32nd 31st 32nd 31st<-Here’s where it gets a lot of fun.

’13 4th 2nd 19th 4th<—–Good defensive year lost due to running into Legion of Boom.

’14 31st 25th 29th 28th<–Back to not trying again, I see.

’15 31st 31st 31st 32nd<–Sean Payton is a great coach!

’16 27th 32nd 14th 31st<-Why run on this team when we can throw them into oblivion?

’17 17th 15th 16th 10th<-Minneapolis Miracle time!

Imagine what the Saints’ reputation would be if Drew Brees didn’t throw for 4,500 nearly every year during his time in New Orleans. Remove Brees from Louisiana and Payton doesn’t have a job in three years, maybe less, and Saints fans’ only respite is watching who they pick with their top-five slot in the draft. People aren’t kidding when they call Brees the heart of New Orleans. If he wasn’t there, New Orleans would be a corpse.

 

Sadly, Rodgers, Luck and Brees have seen their careers mostly wasted to this point. Rodgers and Brees are likely going to visit Canton and yet they both have only one Lombardi. Luck still has time to change his fortunes if he can ever get his shoulder to operate again. I’m rooting for it, even if the Colts franchise clearly doesn’t deserve him.

Stafford also belongs on this list. Not a Hall of Fame talent, but a gunslinger who has deserved better. Detroit wasted the prime years of Stafford to Calvin, including taking one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game into a winless season and so much turmoil that Megatron would rather not play football than continue to play in Motor City. The last time the Lions were tenth or better in rushing, Barry Sanders was playing football. Let’s see how the Lions have done since then.

’98 10th<—–Man, that Barry dude is so good. Hope he never retires. *Immediately retires

’99 28th<—–It will take us some time to recover from the loss of Barry.

’00 20th<—–See, improvement! We’re gonna be fine.

’01 28th<—–Oh, God. 2-14. Hope this doesn’t happen again any time soon.

’02 29th<—–We’re gonna be fine. Joey Harrington is the future!

’03 32nd<—-Man, we’ve spent four of five years in the bottom five in rushing. Starting to miss Barry, now. Receiver Charles Rogers at number two will help us though!

’04 19th<—–Roy Williams looks like an elite receiver. Kevin Jones is the savior of Detroit!

’05 26th<—–It’s just a sophomore slump for Kevin. He’ll be fine.

’06 32nd<—-Oh geez, we need some help. How about Brian Calhoun! *tears ACL, ends career

’07 31st<—–Look, we’ve gone from 3-13 to 7-9. We’re on the verge of greatness!

’08 30th<—–Oh, God. A winless season. Where did it go wrong? We better get Calvin some help. He looks pissed.

’09 24th<—–Matt Stafford is a generational talent. Stafford to Calvin is gonna be one of the greatest connections in pro football history.

’10 23rd<—–Suh is a tank and Jahvid Best is a phenom. The days of not having a running game are finally behind us.

’11 29th<—–We made the playoffs for the first time since Barry! We got Mikel Leshoure! We are bound for great-(demolished by New Orleans).

’12 23rd<—–10-6 to 4-12 was quite a fall but Ryan Broyles is the best receiver college football has ever seen. We’ll finally have another option for Matt!

’13 17th<—–Reggie Bush is gonna become the GOAT for us. This is the team to break the streak!

’14 28th<—–We haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. We’re finally gonna (Cowboys crush Motor City dreams 24-20).

’15 32nd<—-Last in rushing again? Geez, starting to think this might be the problem. Oh, no. We made Calvin quit, too?

’16 30th<—-We got Nebraska star Ameer Abdullah! The streak will finally… *placed on season-ending IR.

’17 32nd<— *flips table, exits stage left

12 times in the bottom five in the last 20 seasons and seven times in the bottom three in the last 15. Gross mismanagement, plain and simple.

 

Build around your team. There’s more to the game then quarterbacks.

Teams with quarterbacks on their rookie deals are the easiest to manage because they don’t have the money invested in their signal caller. Look at the Eagles. Wentz had a cap hit of a little over $6 million in 2017 and was my MVP for the season. In addition to the incredible value they got from his performance, they allocated their savings in the trenches and now have a top-five offensive and defensive line.

Dak Prescott’s entire rookie deal will cost the Cowboys less than $3 million, savings they’ve invested in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. Extensions for these three stalwarts wouldn’t have been possible if Dak had Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2018 cap hit of $37 million.

And let’s say, for sake of argument, that Dak ends up being average over the course of his deal. (In 2017, Dak threw for 3,324 and a 88.6 rating (16th), regressing from a rookie year that made him a candidate for offensive player of the year.) It still would be a win for the organization because they now have three regular All-Pro players locked on their roster.

Deshaun Watson has a cap hit of $6 million and if he performs like he did during his unfortunately short rookie year, the team will have a serious shot at a playoff run by the end of his rookie contract.

This is how you build a football team. You want to be the 49ers and go mad spending on an unproven commodity? Be my guest. You’re gonna have a hard time building a roster. Yes, that quarterback might bring you out of the swamps of depression but one player will have a hard time pulling you out of the quicksands of mediocrity. You want $30 million quarterbacks? Go for it. Just know history and the numbers aren’t on your side.

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One Team, One Jersey: Buffalo Bills

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

Following the sad exposition that was talking about the Oakland Raiders before the new regime, we now move to the desolate tundra of Buffalo, a franchise that has also been mired in mismanagement for decades. Before this past season, the Bills last playoff game was in 1999 when Doug Flutie was quarterback. Yes, this Doug Flutie.

To be honest, I used to have a Doug Flutie Bills jersey that I sadly outgrew and it’s one I’d like to bring back to the collection. He was a fan favorite in Buffalo and as we all know, completed one of the greatest upsets in sports history. I always felt that Flutie had been slighted because of his stature and took that to heart, that people diminish you for things that are inconsequential to your ability. I’d respect a Flutie jersey but for this series, we need to pick someone current.

Buffalo has made a habit of building their roster through free agency for years and so picking a jersey for the Bills will be no easy task. There was Drew Bledsoe, T.O., Kyle Orton, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Kelvin Benjamin.

While the Bills have had some blunders in the draft as well (J.P. Losman, E.J. Manuel, John McCargo, Aaron Maybin),  the ones that they did hit on they’ve repeatedly decided not to keep, such as Marshawn Lynch, Donte Whitner, Paul Posluszny, and more recently, Stephon Gilmore, Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn and Ronald Darby. They actually have a propensity to trade away players selected with high draft picks.

Those last moves I mentioned had to be done to help start this new rebuild, but it is a story we’ve seen before and fairly recently with Buffalo as well. Historically, teams that don’t draft well in the NFL don’t do well and teams that build their teams through free agency on a regular basis don’t do well either.

The Bills have seemingly given up on the franchise player. They shouldn’t. It got them this guy.

With few franchise players to choose from, LeSean McCoy is the obvious choice. The six-time Pro Bowler spent three of those years in Buffalo, but McCoy spent most of his career in Philly and I myself still view him as an Eagle. He has not lost a step since he was traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso during Chip Kelly’s demolition of the Philly roster. Man, that trade was a doozy for Philly, wasn’t it?

He’s been the lead man on one of the most imposing ground games in football and remains the same slippery runner that he was when he was drafted out of Pittsburgh in 2009. By the way, what an awful draft class 2009 was.

The deciding factor, for me, is that McCoy might be the best running back the Eagles ever had. He currently holds the franchise record for rushing yards. So, as of now, that takes McCoy off the table.

Perhaps no jersey embodies the Buffalo Bills as well as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watch some lowlights and you might come to grasp a morsel of the type of torture that Bills fans have had to go through. Fitzpatrick was a serviceable quarterback in Buffalo and as I wrote years back, he was improving at the time.

Jokes aside, it really is hard to find a jersey on this team because of the insane amount of roster turnover. Linebacker Preston Brown had 281 tackles in his last two seasons but left for Cincinnati. As I said earlier, Darby and Dareus are gone and left tackle Cordy Glenn wasn’t an exceptional tackle before being traded to Cincinnati. Tyrod Taylor played most of his career in Baltimore and wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. That leaves us with only two real options.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams is the longest tenured Bill, having been with the team for his entire 12-year career. As I believe I mentioned before, I have a lot of respect for a player who stays with one franchise and does all he can for the betterment of the team. Players like these also become staples of their community and childhood idols.

Tre’Davious White was one of the strongest rookies last season, starring as a number one corner for Buffalo. Someone that looked more geared for a slot position did better than expected on the outside but whether his production is sustainable is still a question mark. White doesn’t have the same burst or speed that got Marshon Lattimore a Defensive Rookie of the Year. He didn’t demonstrate the explosiveness in college to be able to play strong off coverage, but Tre’Davious White is the future in Buffalo.

My pick: Tre’Davious White. My jersey: Home Blue.

Image result for tre'davious white jersey free use

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BVF Round 3: The Road

Book Vs. Film returns with The Road, a piece of classic American literature. Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer winner is a trek through the terrain of the human spirit. If you read my review of John Hillcoat’s film, you know I tipped my cards before putting this piece together. The film adaptation struggles to find its footing.

When I was in school, The Road was one of my favorite works. I’ve always been fascinated by the human psyche. Literature has a way of discerning character, catapulting emotion and transporting the portraits of our minds to one another. That emptiness and that heart, in this portfolio, is a transferal of the very thing that keeps us going in our darkest hours. The Road, in the case of a father dragging his own blood through the dust, is a world on its final threads, the mental landscape of a relationship burning on the outskirts. It’s desolate, destroyed to the point of hollowness. Nothing grows any longer. There’s only one tree left and the man must keep it alive. Without the tree, there is no life and no reason to continue on.

I’d love to go further into my appreciation for McCarthy’s piece, but I honestly said all I had to say in a thorough critique of the remaking of this apocalyptic tale.

In most cases, films will have better visuals than words on paper but in this case, even Hillcoat’s film falls short there. He spends a lot of time on his cinematography but a writer as keen as McCarthy bests him in spectacle as well as narrative. To beat a a literary mind, Hillcoat would need to do something impressive behind the camera and it simply doesn’t happen. He decides to pass on the black and white noir look, something I think would have added a lot to the hopelessness of the situation. The film also lacks the narrative constraint that a movie is afforded. A novel is wide with its strokes while film can make short, but more impactful strokes to hammer its points home. We never get that here.

A super short piece for Book Vs. Film this time around, but I’m ready to move on to the next piece. You just can’t skip out on a Pulitzer winner.

BVF Round 1: I Am Legend

BVF Round 2: The Martian

One Team, One Jersey: Oakland Raiders

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

Since Rich Gannon’s MVP season in 2002, the Oakland Raiders have been one of the most dysfunctional franchises in professional sports. Randy Moss’ tenure in black was a disappointment. So was Carson Palmer’s.

In the five seasons following their Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay, Oakland accrued a record of 19-61. The Black and Silver wouldn’t have another winning season until 2016. During that span, the Raiders were 63-145.

It was a historic level of incompetence, not just for Oakland, but for the NFL. Looking at their draft boards, the sight doesn’t get any prettier.

In 2000, they spent a first-rounder on a kicker. Let that sink in.

In 2004, they drafted tackle Robert Gallery second overall. After being talked up as one of the best offensive lineman to come out of college in years, Gallery would fail to make a Pro Bowl and struggle with sacks during his entire career.

In 2007, they drafted JaMarcus Russell, likely the biggest bust in NFL history, ahead of the receiver known as Megatron, Joe Thomas and Adrian Peterson. In 31 games, Russell threw for a little over 4,000 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, was sacked 70 times and fumbled on 25 occasions. He constantly dealt with conditioning issues, eventually ballooning to 290 pounds going into minicamp, and it was released after his NFL career that he struggled with an addiction to codeine.

In 2008, they drafted two-time Heisman finalist Darren McFadden, a running back that never became the franchise player they had hoped for. McFadden broke the 1,000 yard plateau twice in his 10-year career, once with Oakland. During his tenure, he dealt with lingering issues, including an ongoing case of turf toe.

In 2009, they spent the seventh overall pick on speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey, ending perhaps the worst back-to-back-to-back first round selections in the history of the NFL. Heyward-Bey was drafted purely because of his speed and that speed did not aid his route running technique. In his four years in Oakland, Heyward-Bey registered 140 receptions for 2,071 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But the streak would continue. In 2010, they drafted Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, a Butkus award winner and national champion. McClain never proved to be an elite linebacker, eventually going on a Facebook rant talking about how much he wanted out of Oakland. He had a brief resurgence in Dallas before violating the league’s substance-abuse policy multiple times and earning an indefinite suspension. During his time in the spotlight, he built quite the rap sheet, including a codeine addiction, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, discharging a firearm inside city limits, menacing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, providing an officer with false ID, firearm and drug charges and possible arson.

So after being drafted in the second round of 2014 by Oakland, Derek Carr was already shadowed by the past of his older brother, David. Drafted first overall in 2002 by the newly-formed Houston Texans, David Carr never became the franchise stalwart he was supposed to become.

It’s worth noting how weak the 2002 draft was. Of the 32 first-rounders, only 10 would make a Pro Bowl. Of the 261 picks that year, only 20 made it to Hawaii in their careers. Of course, there were productive players that never made it to a Pro Bowl, such as Deshaun Foster, who led Carolina in rushing for many years, eventually becoming the franchise record holder, and Deion Branch, who was Brady’s top target for a few seasons and a Super Bowl MVP.

Overall, though, 2002 was a bad draft and so to label the elder Carr a bust seems a tad unfair. He had no offensive line as the franchise set league records for sacks allowed (He was sacked a belittling 76 times his rookie season). The truth remains that David was one of the most disappointing top picks in league history and for that reason there was a bit of ho-hum when Derek Carr was drafted as one of the early selections in the second round. It seemed doomed to end the same way for the Raiders.

It did not.

After an MVP-caliber season in 2016, Carr looked like a franchise quarterback, pulling off late game-winning touchdown drives on a weekly basis. Sadly, what looked like a team geared for a serious playoff run fell short in the wild card round to Houston. Carr suffered a broken fibula in the second-to-last week in the season and did not get to start that game, but in his best season, Carr finished with just under 4,000 yards, a 63.8 completion percentage, 28 touchdowns to six interceptions and a passer rating of 96.7.

Up to this point, Carr’s career has progressed in a similar path to Andrew Luck’s. His team heavily relies on him and the distance he can carry that team with define his legacy as a franchise quarterback. Unlike Luck, however, he has a dominant receiver in Amari Cooper, one of the best offensive lines in the league and one of the league’s most dominant predators in Khalil Mack. General manager Reggie McKenzie has given Carr all the tools he needs to succeed and it’s now up to him to turn his own talents and those around him into a championship contender. After a disappointing 6-10 season coming off a contract extension that made him one of the highest-paid players in the league, McKenzie has now swapped Michael Crabtree for longtime Packer receiver Jordy Nelson and brought in coach Jon Gruden. Anything short of a playoff win in 2018 would be a disappointment for the Black Hole.

Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper make arguably the best receiver duo in the NFL, which should make for a lethal air raid. Amari Cooper became the first rookie receiver in Raiders history to notch 1,000 receiving yards in 2015 after being drafted fourth overall. He was dominating NFL prospects in college and has continued to do so at the professional level. But he also had a disappointing 2017, totaling only 48 receptions and 680 yards. How Carr and Cooper perform these next two years will determine if the AC/DC connection will be one of the most productive quarterback-receiver mashups in Raider history or if it will be another reminder of high draft picks that never meshed the way ownership hoped.

Remove the blitzkrieg taking place on the offensive side of the ball and you have a lone wolf seemingly keeping the defense from imploding. Khalil Mack might be the league’s top edge rusher and years into his career has not run into a wall he can’t speed past or bull over. He is a wrecking ball for opposing defenses.

He won Defensive Player of the Year in only his third season and has piled over 40 sacks and 300 tackles thus far in his career. He’s the most valuable player to the defense and it’s a unit that holds on by a thread year after year, routinely near the bottom third in most defensive categories. In 2016 during his DPOY season, the Raiders had 25 sacks, fewest in the NFL. The last time Oakland allowed under 5,600 yards was 2010, when the Raiders were tenth in the league in yards allowed with 5,165. If they want to be a true contender, getting a capable defense to back up that rapid fire offense is the way to do it and they won’t accomplish that without Mack. Better get that extension taken care of quick.

Carr is a nice story, Cooper has the traits of a top-tier star but Khalil Mack is a gridiron terrorist.

My pick: Khalil Mack. My jersey: Color Rush Silver.

Image result for khalil mack color rush jersey, free use

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