The Amazing, Good, Sad and Embarrassing

Updated: September 19th 2018

The first two weeks of the NFL season are in the books.  If you need a brief overview of what happened, this is the place.  The article looks at some of the outstanding players and teams so far to some of the worst with a couple more topics thrown in.

The Amazing

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes

“FitzMagic” is back!  The Harvard-grad leads the NFL after two weeks in passing yards with over 400 per game, in passer rating (151.5), and yards per attempt (13.4) which is almost three more than any other quarterback.  The “Beard” performed this monumental feat despite playing against two defenses which were top-8 in Football Outsider’s pass efficiency last season.  DeSean Jackson provides a big reason for Fitzpatrick’s early success.  The 31 year old is proving his doubters wrong by setting up big plays for Fitzpatrick getting easy deep separation with his game-changing speed.  Jackson leads the league in receiving yards on only nine targets catching each one for a gaudy 30.6 yards per reception.

Not to be outdone, the Kansas City second-year playcaller is setting records early in 2018.  Mahomes already racked up ten touchdowns without throwing an interception leading the Chiefs to a 2-0 start.  He is receiving good pass protection and the assortment of offensive targets makes big plays possible on every snap.  It is a truly outstanding start to his career.

The Good

NFL Passing

Offenses sometimes start slowly the first few weeks of the season thanks to limited practices in the preseason.  That is not the case this year where teams are putting up video game offensive numbers early.  I talked about the expected increase in passing prior to the season but we have witnessed a massive overcorrection so far.  Tom Brady led the NFL in passing last year at 286 yards per game.  There are eleven quarterbacks averaging more so far this year.  Eleven quarterbacks have passer ratings in excess of 100 this season while only five managed that feat last year.  Yardage and scoring are broadly up throughout the league.  This is a great NFL for those who worship offensive football.

Los Angeles Rams

There was some concern out there the Rams might regress somewhat after an amazing 2017.  We must keep in mind the opponents played so far but the early results suggest the concern is unwarranted.  Los Angeles dismantled the Raiders and Arizona on the way to a league-leading +54 point differential.  The Rams rank no worse than 7th in yardage and scoring for both offense and defense highlighted by allowing a league best 6.5 points per game.  The major offseason additions of Cooks, Suh, Peters, and Talib appear to have integrated nicely at this point making for a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.

The Sad

Josh Gordon

The Gordon saga with the Browns finally came to an end this week after a suspension fueled tumultuous time in Cleveland filled with off the field issues.  The hope and promise of a player who led the league in receiving five years ago never fully materialized again for the Browns.  The fact that Gordon is still on an exclusive rights free agent contract seven years after being drafted tells all you need to know about his struggles.  He was traded to New England Monday.  Everyone hopes he succeeds with the Patriots but that concern is a distant second in comparison to hoping he gets his life in order away from the football field.

Buffalo Bills

Many people envisioned the Bills taking a major step backward after winning nine games and making an improbable playoff bid in 2017. The playoff birth was a mirage masking a Buffalo team finishing with a -57 point differential and ranking just 20th in Football Outsiders team efficiency.  The Bills’ coaching staff understood this was not a playoff-worthy roster and started a complete takedown.  The process will be even uglier than most envisioned.  The offensive side of the ball features one of the worst offensive lines in the league after losing two top linemen to retirement and trading a third away.  There are no receiving options which scare any team.  The only real offensive weapon, LeSean McCoy, just suffered a rib injury.  The Bills were even forced to put rookie Josh Allen into the starting lineup after Nathan Peterman predictably was benched yet again.  A mediocre Bills’ defense crumbled under the pressure of an incompetent offense this year yielding a league worst 39 points per game.  Things are so bad Vontae Davis gave up millions to retire at halftime of week two.  Things will get better in Buffalo but 2018 will be a struggle.

The Embarrassing

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona was competitive last year despite big losses during the season.  The Cardinals went 8-8 in 2017 without David Johnson for most of the year while also starting either Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton for over half the season.  New head coach Steve Wilks and the rest of the coaching staff has managed to make a complete mess in Arizona so far this season.  The Cardinals have been outscored by a combined 58 to 6 tally in two lifeless outings on the way to a 0-2 start.  New quarterback Sam Bradford accumulated 346 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions in his last full start for Minnesota.  He has a combined 246 yards and zero touchdowns with two interceptions in two starts for Arizona this year.  This looks like a team destined for a complete top to bottom rebuild with everyone from players to coaches in danger.

Honorable mention: Detroit Lions.  The Lions are another competitive team from last season with a new head coach, Matt Patricia, whom struggled mightily in two games.  The 9-7 team from 2017 has not been close in two contests, including being blown out at home against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, with players already calling out the new coaching staff.  It could be a rough year for Detroit in a solid NFC conference.

The Giants Offensive Line

Anyone watching the New York-Dallas game Sunday night should easily recognize the huge discrepancy between offensive lines.  Dak Prescott was able to sit back in clean pockets for much of the night while Eli Manning was under constant pressure for almost every dropback forcing short quick dumpoffs and ugly throws.  The Giants’ line struggles continued to the run game where Saquon Barkley was continuously required to make defenders miss nearly as soon as he touched the ball.  New York will not compete this season if new head coach Pat Shurmur does not fix the dreadful offensive line, no matter the wealth of talent at the skill positions.

NFL “Roughing the Passer” Issue

Defenders may not hit the quarterback in the head, or the knees, or the mid-section, or land on them, or pick them up, or…   You get the picture.  What are defenders supposed to do?  Put their hand up as a stop sign and hope the quarterback falls to the ground out of fear?  There is simply no reasonable way for defenders to tackle quarterbacks without being at risk of penalty at this time.  The NFL has vastly overcorrected thanks to high-profile injuries at quarterback last season.  The recent Matthews’ penalty is just the most recent example of the problem that costs teams wins.  The NFL must make a decision as to whether quarterbacks are actual football players or porcelain dolls in need of protection at all costs.  Acknowledge the dangers of the sport and go back to calling the most egregious hits if it is the former.  Use a touch rule or flags to eliminate hitting of quarterbacks altogether If it is the latter.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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