One of my favorite new NFL traditions is the abundance of overreactions following Week 1 of the NFL Season. These topics dominate the radio waves, social media feeds, podcast discussions and barroom debates. Now, I am not at all suggesting I am above this practice. Therefore, I am compelled to share my observations (or overreactions) from Week 1.
Bills and Cardinals will be forced to play their Josh’s sooner than later
Buffalo and Arizona look destined for very long seasons. What else do they common? They invested top-ten picks in quarterbacks (which also happen to be named Josh). Most teams prefer the scenario where the rookie QB doesn’t have to play right away. But if their performances in Week 1 are a sign of things to come, the Bills and Cardinals could be out of playoff contention by October. Assuming that will be the case, there won’t be any logical reason for the rookie QBs to maintain clipboard duties. These teams clearly invested these picks with the hopes of finding their next franchise quarterbacks, and I anticipate both will make their debuts very soon. Even if neither is “the guy”, the sooner they play, the sooner they will have an answer.
Andrew Luck can’t carry the Colts
Indy is rejoicing with the return of Andrew Luck. Make no mistake about it; having a franchise QB is the most valuable asset in the NFL. And give Colts credit for having that. However, I can’t quite be jealous of a franchise that went from Manning to Luck seamlessly, but I digress. However, despite having the QB back and healthy, the rest of the roster is still a lot to be desired. There’s no doubt an elite quarterback can cover up for a team’s flaws. But based off Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, that task looks insurmountable for Luck. A 7-9 finish looks like the ceiling for the Colts. Hopefully, the 2019 offseason leads to a more concerted effort to build around their star QB. Don’t get me wrong, I like what the Colts did this past draft, with their high pick investments in the offensive line. But, I doubt that will be enough to get the Colts back into contention this season.
The Giants will be haunted by passing on Sam Darnold
For the record, I am a big fan of Saquon Barkley. I’d go as far to say he has superstar potential. But even if he reaches his full potential, I have a tough time believing that selecting Barkley with the #2 overall pick over Sam Darnold will end up being the correct, long-term decision. It would generous to say Eli Manning’s best years are behind him. He looks cooked and the Giants are kidding themselves if they think he can reclaim the Super Bowl magic. I have a hard enough time justifying the use of a draft pick that high on a running back when you consider the shelf-life of the position and overall impact on a team’s success these days. Maybe if the Giants were a locked and loaded Super Bowl contender with a franchise QB in his prime, I could get behind adding a player like Barkley as the “missing piece”. But the Giants are coming off a 3-13 season with a 37-year starting quarterback. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned how Darnold dazzled in his NFL debut on Monday Night Football, a broadcast that had to be a tough watch for every Giants fan.
The Ravens are a legit AFC contender
This might seem like a foolish suggestion, considering my very low opinion of the Bills, who they dismantled in Week 1. But that win aside, there is a lot to like about the Ravens. They have a dominant defense and vastly improved offensive line. Baltimore has also revamped their receiving core with guys like John Brown and Michael Crabtree. Everyone including Flacco himself knows that he has been a disappointment since signing that huge contract following the 2012 Super Bowl victory. But there are three reasons why I am optimistic that he will have a good 2018. First, he appears to be completely healthy, which wasn’t the case in 2017. Secondly, he is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL, something that should pair well with the weapons in the passing game. Lastly, I’m a believer in the idea that a fire it can light under a QB after the team drafts a quarterback in the first round of the draft.
Winning isn’t a priority for the Raiders
As I wrote in my most recent post, I do not have very high expectations for Oakland in 2018, despite the Jon Gruden hype. They traded away their best player a week before the season in exchange for nothing that will help them in 2018. I get the sense that Jon Gruden isn’t a major Derek Carr fan, despite his time in the MNF booth leading us to believe he loved every player in the NFL. For Gruden, he has an easy out if the Raiders fail to make the playoffs: That he didn’t draft Carr. His contract is manageable in that they will be able to cut him after next season without a significant cap penalty. I can very easily foresee a scenario where the Raiders finish with 4-6 wins, thus are able to use a high pick on a QB in 2019 with the intention for that to be the lame-duck year for Carr. Then Gruden gets to draft his guy, and build the team the way he likes as they start fresh in Sin City.