If there is something to count on at the beginning of every NFL season, it is over performing teams and players. That means you can count on overreactions from fans as well.
The first quarter of the season is nothing more than an extension of the preseason. Trey Wingo put it beautifully so I will quote him here…
“Understand the trade off NFL teams are making with the new normal in preseason: Teams are deciding rusty and healthy is better than ready and injured.”
That being said, we have to sift through the fool’s gold in the early part of every season. As of now, nine teams remain unblemished at 2-0 and another nine franchises are trying to capture their first win. Those who sit in the middle probably dropped a game they shouldn’t have. The reality is some of these teams will bounce back and some will fall hard.
Heading in to Week 3 of 2018, here is a small sample size of some of the biggest examples to that.
- Bengals 2-0 – Missed Postseason
- Dolphins 2-0 – Missed Postseason
- Seahawks 0-2 – Made Postseason
- Patriots 1-1 – Lost to Jaguars
- Saints 1-1 – Lost to Buccaneers
Week 3 of 2017 had some similar situations.
- Saints 0-2 – Made Postseason
- Ravens, Lions and Broncos all 2-0 – Missed Postseason
That being said, with teams still trying to figure things out, another byproduct is over performing from certain players. It mostly stems from the quarterback position. I wanted to write a column breaking down some contenders and pretenders thus far. I am sure I will look back and think “wow I was wrong” on some while maybe I was right on others.
Last season, I thought for sure Patrick Mahomes was coming back down to Earth at some point…WRONG. I was right on Ryan Fitzpatrick though. So here we go…
Green Bay Packers – Contender
At the end of the day, this team has Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback. They also have a defense that has looked damn good in their first two games. If they can keep playing like they are and minimize opponent scores, they have the right guy on the other side to win many games.
Buffalo Bills – Pretender
They own New York at least. I would love to see them do well because I like Josh Allen. They may do that because of a favorable schedule to some degree. They have another game this week against the Bengals that seems very winnable giving their porous run D. So Bills could end up 3-0, but I am not sold on them doing anything above or beyond the hunt for a 6th seed. That is probably their ceiling. If they do make it, they get bounced quick and hard.
Seattle Seahawks – Contender
I don’t feel as strong about them as I did toward the end of last season thanks to two wins they escaped inferior teams with. That being said, they still have Pete Caroll and Russell Wilson who have never dipped below 9-7. That 9-7 team was easily the worst roster in the league. It is hard to gamble against them. I will say contender by default. It’s a bit of cop out here. Deal with it.
San Francisco 49ers – Contender
They beat up two below average teams on the road, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt because they were in fact on the road. The defense is looking real good up front and they’re putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. I still believe in Jimmy G. I don’t know that they make the playoffs because of the crowded division. But maybe we see another year of three teams from the same division heading to the postseason. I still see them with a winning record.
Baltimore Ravens – Pretender
The defense won’t be as dominant as last year. It all falls on the shoulders of Lamar Jackson. They will go as far as he takes them. Only this time, he won’t have a defense to carry him if and when he flops. They have a tough slate of games coming up in the next six weeks. We will find out real soon.
Dallas Cowboys – Contender
As long as they have Zeke and control the clock and line of scrimmage, they will be fine. The big thing this year is Dak now has some receiving options which makes that offense very dangerous. Because they can keep defenses on the field, they can mask their average defense.
As of right now, there are a number of quarterbacks who have been quite efficient passing thus far with 11 guys who’s quarterback rating is 100.0 or better. Looking at that list, you can take off Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes (Although I will talk about him anyway). Those guys have put together multiple seasons of quality play minus Mahomes. However, the latter has an MVP for a reason.
Among the other names sniffing the top are the following:
- Lamar Jackson
- Dak Prescott
- Marcus Mariota
- Gardner Minshew
- Case Keenum
- Jacoby Brissett
- Jimmy Garoppolo
Lamar Jackson – Falls
He couldn’t throw very well last year which is why they operated a glorified high school offense with him and Gus Edwards. His supporting cast on offense is better in 2019, but I will take it to the bank that he is going to crash hard back down to Earth. He’s just not that accurate and I think he is over-performing on a monumental level.
Dak Prescott – Remains
Obviously the numbers now are gaudy and they will fall to some degree, but I do think Dak finishes the year with top 7-8 season at worst. He may even end up in the MVP discussion. The offense is a well oiled machine with Zeke at running back plus a handful of formidable receivers like Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. I think because of that, he will put together his most consistent year to date.
Marcus Mariota – Falls
His rating may be good. But the QBR is low thanks to a low workload. There is no way in hell he finishes the season as one of the top guys. If he does, it is a classic case of game managing. But I don’t think he will put together that consistent of a year. At the end, he will be near the bottom as per usual.
Gardner Minshew – Both
I like Minshew a lot. He is a good quarterback and he is also an American hero. That matters. In all seriousness, he is playing for a bad football team in the Jags. Because of that, he probably looks better on paper than he should. That being said, I hope the Jags can get their shit together and build around him.
Case Keenum – Falls
He’s a better game manager than Mariota so the fall won’t be as hard. He had his run with Minnesota two seasons ago. He is a decent quarterback. Remaining near the top though, his body of work over the course of his career says otherwise. This also isn’t a team built like Minnesota. By years end, he’s floating near the bottom half.
Jacoby Brissett – Both
The third game manager of the group, Brisset has looked pretty good thus far. I expect the Colts to rely more on the shoulders of their running game led by Marlon Mack. The offensive line can move people so run the ball and eat the clock. They took a big loss with Andrew Luck retiring. I do think Brissett can help the team remain competitive given the style of play and roster they have. Right now based on the inflated numbers, he sits middle of the pack and I think he can maintain middle of the pack numbers.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Rise
I already established I believe in him. It was unfortunate he got injured last year. This San Fran team looks solid and they are also led by Kyle Shanahan. Much like Dak, I think he could potentially finish in the top 10 this season.
Patrick Mahomes – The Guy is Not Human
Last year, I waited for the fall. It just never happened. Now this year he is on pace for 50+ TDs again and 6,000 yards. Six freaking thousand! Because of what happened last year, I just don’t know that he actually slows down. Andy Reid knows how to milk the best out of quarterbacks and it is not even a contest (even as a massive Donovan McNabb fan) who his best guy under center is. It is damn hard not to love the Chiefs because of him.