It’s only week three, but it feels like I’ve already lived this NFL season for forty lifetimes. Twenty of those were during last week’s Vikings game (Oh, we’ll get there). It’s important to not overreact to anything that happens in the first few weeks of the season. Teams are still adjusting to offseason changes, players and schemes seem to change on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still panic! Let’s check out the Panic Meter on some of the NFL’s hottest topics
Jon Gruden’s tenure in Oakland
Here is a fun hypothetical: You are Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders. You are in need of a head coach and the best player on your team, a recent Defensive Player of the Year, wants a contract extension. You would probably want to pay the guy who actually goes on the field right? Well, if you are actually Mark Davis, you would probably make the absolutely wrong decision! Hiring Jon Gruden, who hasn’t coached in the NFL in ten years, and giving him a ten-year, $100 million dollar contract was an absolutely bizarre decision, which fits right into a rich tradition of Raiders football. But then neglecting to pay Khalil Mack and damaging the relationship so badly you have to trade him is absolutely dumbfounding. Mack has been transformative immediately for the Bears, who suddenly could be making a stealth run for a Wild Card spot. Oakland’s play in the opening weeks has varied between mediocre and awful, and Gruden had the audacity to mention at his press conference that they have “gotta do something to get more pressure”. According to my calculations, the Raiders still have 9.875 years left of this, and it’s going to cost them $98.75 million dollars. The Raiders are scheduled to move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season, and I’m starting to get the feeling that Gruden shouldn’t even bother looking at any Nevada real estate.
Panic Meter for Raider fans: 9/10
Every Single Kicker in the NFL
Apparently the only place to work with more turnover than the current White House is being an NFL kicker (ZING!). But in reality, football is a sport dominated by guys who are strong, fast and athletic. Nevertheless, game after game is decided by guys who are not strong, not fast and not particularly athletic. Daniel Carlson and Zane Gonzalez had bad games. They probably should be replaced. But it’s still a correction for something that should have been avoided in the first place. Carlson was largely kept over the incumbent Kai Forbath due to his cheaper contract, and didn’t exactly light the world on fire during the preseason, where he also missed two field goals in a game against the Seahawks. In regards to Gonzalez, all I’ll say is this: his head coach has one win in thirty-four tries. That’s a pretty bad conversion rate if you ask me.
Panic Meter for the employed NFL kickers: 4/10 (unless you miss more than one field goal. Then just pack your bags)
Speaking of the Browns and Vikings, how in the world is it possible that a professional football game can end in a tie? The NFL actually reduced the time for overtime this past offseason as well! I will be utterly flabbergasted if there is not some kind of rule change introduced for this in the near future.
Panic Meter for the NFL: 7/10
Everyone in the NFC West besides the Rams
The 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals are in for a long year. The Rams have looked absolutely dominant in their two wins so far this year, and they are lucky enough to face these teams five more times this year! The offense is still humming like last year. This team just has the defense to match.
Panic Meter for the NFC West: 10/10
The Race for the Number 1 Pick
It’s been only two weeks, but the race for last is already heating up! If you read my week three picks, you already know this, but the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills are incredibly bad. Bills’ cornerback Vontae Davis retired at HALFTIME(!) of their week two game. At least they scored twenty points — in garbage time, but who’s keeping track when you’re this bad? Their biggest “rival” has scored six total points! The Cardinals have scored one single time in two weeks. I wrote last week about how it’s absolutely bonkers that Sam Bradford is still a starting QB in the NFL, but at some point, just let Josh Rosen play. The interesting factor in this race, is the fact that neither of these teams particularly need a QB. Both drafted their probable franchise guy this past spring. This is a great sign for the New York Giants, a likely destination for a top-five draft pick that’s in need of a quarterback.
Panic Meter for Cardinals and Bills: 1/10 (They should honestly just try to lose for the rest of the year, get that number one)
Quarterback controversy in Philly and Tampa
For the Eagles, I’m using the term controversy lightly. Without context, benching the Super Bowl MVP after two games might be weird, but in this case context is everything. Nick Foles played spectacularly on Philly’s run to Super Bowl 52, but he has not looked remotely the same this year. Replacing him is Carson Wentz, the NFL’s leading candidate for the MVP in 2017 before getting hurt. It’s not out of the question for Wentz to be rusty — or downright bad — in his return, but it’s a welcome return for all.
Panic Meter for Philly: 2.5/10
LOCK OF THE WEEK: Tampa Bay (+3) over Pittsburgh
Thank god for Ryan “FitzMagic” “Swagpatrick” “Conor McPatrick” Fitzpatrick. The world’s hairiest Harvard grad is cooking. Fitzpatrick has jumpstarted the previously uninspiring Tampa Bay offense to the tune of nine touchdowns (eight passing and one rushing), all while throwing doubt over the man he was supposed to be backing up. Jameis Winston, the 2015 number one overall pick, is currently serving a three game suspension due to a 2017 groping incident. Winston also wasn’t lighting the world on fire last year, and has yet to lead the Buccaneers to the playoffs. Fitz has already shown that he has established a rapport with Desean Jackson, as evidenced by long touchdown passes in back-to-back games. He is also benefiting from the improved play of O.J. Howard and Mike Evans. If the Buccaneers can come away with a week three win, Jameis might have to get used to the bench.
Overall, I just think this line is fishy. It’s not that the Buccaneers have proved that they are a Super Bowl or even playoff-caliber team. It’s just that Pittsburgh hasn’t looked like the Steelers. After walking away from a week one hack job with a tie, they let Mahomes and the Chiefs come in to Heinz Field and have a field day. I have a hard time seeing them being able to go into Florida and come out with a win, much less covering the spread. Let Fitz cook.
Standings after Week 2
Abby: My Toilet
Reason: The Cleveland Browns have won one (1!) game since December 13, 2015, and they are FAVORED in a professional football game. Pretty funny if you ask me.
Reason: This game is a tough one to crack. Neither team has looked particularly impressive, and both teams are used to playing in a dome. I’ll take Atlanta, not feel good about it, and hope the Saints defense are the team we’ve seen this season, and not the improved unit from last year.
Kansas City (-5.5)
Reason: Pat Mahomes. Know the name. I am really, really, really, really trying not to overreact to the games so far, but… this Chiefs team is unbelievably athletic, and are a real candidate to win 13 or more games. I’m not sure I believe in their defense, but Mahomes unlocks every single offensive weapon in their arsenal. They’ve made the Steelers and Chargers (both top ten defensive teams in 2017) look like they were in slow motion.
Reason: The Dolphins starting the season 3 and 0 would be shocking, but go take a look at their schedule. I’ll wait… This team is a legitimate threat to win ten games. Two games each against the Bills and Jets, winnable games in both Houston and Indianapolis, and home contests with the Raiders, Bears, and Lions. Steal one game against the Patriots, and we could be looking at the worst playoff team since the Bills made it last year.
Reason: Speaking of the Bills! Let me just say one thing about this pick. I think the Vikings will win the game. I think they will win by 10 to 15 points. The Bills are absolutely horrid. They had a player retire at halftime of their game last week. THEY HAD A PLAYER RETIRE AT HALFTIME OF A GAME. But! I cannot in good faith, bet any amount of money on the Vikings (for at least one week) after last week’s absolute turd. Daniel Carlson, I’m sure you are a fine man. But there is a reason saying the words “Blair” or “Walsh” are jailable offenses in the state of Minnesota. Good riddance.
Philadelphia (no line)
Reason: Wentz Back! I would be surprised if a line is released at any time for this game, but with a healthy Carson Wentz, the Eagles are favored by somewhere between 5 and 8 points. Please don’t bet on this game, but watch and hope for an exciting game between Wentz and Andrew Luck.
Green Bay (-2.5)
Reason: Washington is a putrid football team. Aaron Rodgers could probably put up three TD passes if both of his knees were removed.
Reason: On a serious note, I hope the Carolinas are okay. The Panthers should be able to benefit from an emotional crowd to ride to a victory
Jacksonville (no line)
Reason: Distill the essence of Blake Bortles into a liquid, put it in an IV drip, and stick the needle directly into my heart. GIVE ME EVERY OUNCE OF BORTLES.
Reason: Denver is not the most surprising, but probably the worst, remaining undefeated team. Baltimore is a talented team that will rebound from a wonky Thursday night game, because Thursday Night Football is so stupid.
Reason: Text me if Saquon Barkley scores. Otherwise, don’t ever think about/watch this game. Outside of Buffalo, Eli Manning might be the worst starting quarterback in the league.
LA Rams (-7)
Reason: The battle for Los Angeles! What an absolute hose job for the Chargers to have to play the Chiefs and Rams in the first three weeks. Luckily for them, they are about to hit a soft spot in their schedule. Don’t be surprised if they rip off six straight wins over the next month and a half.
Reason: Here is a stat for all you advanced analytics nerds: The Cardinals have scored a total of six points this year. Will they double that number this week? I doubt it.
Reason: Wow. Only two years ago, this would have been an awesome game. I hope Russell Wilson survives the season with his crappy offensive line.
New England (-7)
Reason: Am I worried about the Patriots? Nah. They have been doing this for too long. This seems like a perfect bounce back game. New Lions coach, and former Patriots defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia is possibly the worst hire of the offseason.
Reason: LOCK OF THE WEEK