Week 1 of the NFL season brought a ton of wild action and surprising results. The NFL rarely fails to deliver, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. It also shouldn’t be a surprise if some of the things we saw in Week 1 end up being a mirage and don’t play out over the course of the year.
With that in mind, let’s find some potential overreactions to the first week of the season and figure out whether or not they’re legitimate.
Kyler Murray is ready for an MVP season
Following on the heels of 2018 (Patrick Mahomes) and 2019 (Lamar Jackson), everyone wanted to crown a young, hyper-athletic quarterback to make a massive leap forward in 2020 and take home the hardware. The top choice was Kyler Murray, but the Cardinals didn’t even make the playoffs. A shoulder injury derailed the Cardinals’ playoff hopes and Kyler’s overall performance and dammed up the 2021 hype for the Arizona QB. Sunday’s throttling of the Titans opened those floodgates — Kyler was magical against Tennessee en route to a five-touchdown game (four passing and one rushing). He was flying all over the field, like he had unlimited turbo boost and making some absurd throws, including one of two scores to Christian Kirk.
This was on third and short and ended up being the kill-shot for Arizona. Kyler didn’t even step into the throw — he took his drop-back and launched off his back foot.
It wasn’t the exact mechanics you want from your quarterback, but clearly Kirk had his man beat and Kyler knew he just needed to get the ball into the end zone. That’s remarkable arm strength and accuracy from that body position. It’s Mahomes-esque, honestly. Add in that skillset with a quick-twitch burst he possesses in his legs, and it’s easy to see why people start foaming at the mouth for a huge leap from Kyler.
You know how players raise the ball in the air when they know they’re getting across the goal line as a runner? Kyler did it on a bootleg earlier in the game … from the 10-yard line.
OK, fine, it was the 8.5-yard line but you get the point.
The Titans defense might very well be horrendous. But that feels a lot more like an overreaction than the idea of Kyler launching into a different tier as a quarterback this season.
Jameis Winston is an upgrade over Drew Brees
Skepticism always surrounds Jameis Winston, one of the more polarizing quarterbacks in recent years. And even with preseason evidence of his potential success in the Saints offense, there were still plenty of questions being asked. Winston answered those in Week 1 with an impressive regular season performance against a key NFL rival, as the Saints whipped the Packers 38-3 (good news, Green Bay, you beat Tampa Bay by almost the same score — 38-10 — last year and they won the title, so maybe it’s a sign).
Winston’s yardage total wasn’t gaudy, but I would posit that’s a good thing. He was efficient, he was smart and he was largely mistake-free. People scoffed when I suggested Winston could be an upgrade over Drew Brees, but Winston’s PFF passing grade from Week 1 would have qualified as Brees’ second-highest mark of the entire 2020 season.
The former No. 1 overall pick only attempted a single pass beyond 20 yards — his late, let’s get him over 100 passing yards and really bury these guys touchdown throw to Deonte Harris — but he was lethal on intermediate throws, going 5 of 6 on throws between 10 and 20 yards, with three of those passes going for touchdowns, per Next Gen Stats.
Early in the game, when Winston didn’t see something he liked, instead of forcing throws or trying to scramble around and buy time, he just took off running. It was a different component of his game. He looked hellbent on not making mistakes, almost as if Sean Payton’s mantra about his quarterbacks not making mistakes had been laser-etched into Winston’s brain. Or maybe Payton just brainwashed him. That would explain his postgame quote.
It’s all sunshine, roses and delicious finger-crossed W’s when there’s no mistakes and the Saints are rolling. Faced with tougher defenses, will Winston continue to take what he’s being given and not revert into the Jameis of old? I’m optimistic for his 2021 season because Payton is a QB Whisperer and it appears Winston bought into changing the way he plays. If that’s the case, the Saints are going to look like the most undervalued team of the entire offseason.
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Aaron Rodgers is orchestrating a conspiracy
This is my favorite overreaction/insane take of the year by far. Not just in sports, but in life. I like to call it ArodAnon: essentially Rodgers returned to the Packers despite wanting a trade in order to take down the organization from the inside. He’s back to stink the joint up and get everyone fired. It’s only fitting he looks exactly like Rust Cohle.
I *think* I am joking about this idea, but there are a lot of people out there mentioning and, it would appear, some taking it seriously.
Again, this isn’t real. Aaron Rodgers wants to win a Super Bowl. He wants to light up the NFL like he did last year en route to winning MVP. He’s not tanking this year to get everyone fired. Even if he did … everyone isn’t getting fired. Who’s firing them? Maude from Cedarburg?
More likely this is a case of the Saints coming in hot, playing great defense, pressuring Rodgers and the Packers not having any rapport early in the season as a result of what was a tumultuous offseason and a lack of work together in the preseason.
Expect a quick bounce-back against the Lions next week on Monday night. If it somehow doesn’t happen, though, cue up the P-Arod talk.
The NFC East is wide open
Heading into the year, the widespread belief amongst football observers was this division was a two-horse race between Washington and Dallas, with the Giants potentially playing the role of sleeper and the Eagles rebuilding after trading Carson Wentz. Not so fast, my friend.
Things got a pretty big shakeup over Week 1, with Ryan Fitzpatrick suffering a hip injury which will sideline him for several weeks minimum (WFT put him on IR Monday). Washington is declining to acquire Cam Newton at this time, so it’s Taylor Heinicke time. Heinicke was actually really good in the playoffs and acquitted himself pretty well against the Chargers on Sunday. It’s possible this isn’t a massive downgrade, but it certainly should remind us of the fragility of NFL teams — so many of us loved Washington because of Fitzmagic’s addition and now, poof, it’s gone.
Meanwhile, the Eagles offense looked awesome under Jalen Hurts and with Nick Sirianni pulling the trigger. The next few weeks will tell us whether that was the Eagles being good or the Falcons being terrible (those things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive either) but I’m inclined to give Philly the benefit of the doubt.
Hurts was given some really good RPO plays to utilize his legs and get him the best looks possible, Miles Sanders looked explosive and the receiving trio of DeVonta Smith/Jalen Reagor/Dallas Goedert looks like a legitimately top-end trio. Smith, in particular, took over the game for a stretch in the middle as the Eagles extended their lead. Hurts and Co. could have hung 50 points if the Falcons bothered to show up on offense at all. Keep an eye on that officiating crew moving forward — they called a TON of penalties in this game against both offenses: 26 for 188 total yards between the two teams. Even if the penalties were committed, that’s a TON and makes me think it could have been specific crew related.
At any rate, I digress. The Eagles are going to be a problem in this division. So are the Cowboys, as long as they can pass protect and keep Dak Prescott on the field. Washington you can’t write off knowing what we saw last year.
So what about the Giants? I wouldn’t blame Giants fans for panicking after a disastrous home debut but I think we need to give the Broncos defense some credit. At various points we saw flashes from the defense, flashes from the receivers (Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton all popped at points) and Daniel Jones was, well, himself. If the Giants can’t protect him, he probably won’t avoid turnovers, but he had some chances in this one and the Denver defense was just too much. I’m lowest on the Giants of all these teams now, but let’s see how they look Thursday night before we just completely give up on them.
There’s a long way to go in this division.
The Urban Meyer experiment is a disaster
Maybe the biggest stage for an overreaction in the NFL during Week 1. Some of us were all over the Texans (you would have been too if you listened to the Pick Six Podcast) because it doesn’t make sense for the Jaguars to be favored on the road coming off a one-win season with a rookie quarterback and rookie coach. The Texans are a team full of NFL players and there are a lot of veterans there and they put it on Jacksonville in a bad way.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns but he also had three picks and put up a ton of garbage time stats. Jacksonville essentially gave up 37 points to Tyrod Taylor, Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks. If that defense is this bad against Houston, it’s going to get obliterated by more dangerous offenses. Which means we’re going to see Lawrence throw roughly 700 times this year.
It certainly doesn’t appear there’s gonna be balance on this offense — Carlos Hyde led the team with nine carries for 44 yards. Is that the plan? Let Carlos Hyde eat? Because that doesn’t feel like a great way to dominate on the ground.
Before the games on Sunday, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported people are already sick of Urban’s college-style coaching approach in Jacksonville. Losing a bunch of games is going to go over poorly with Meyer and Lawrence. They’ve never dealt with it before.
Could everything unravel in Jacksonville as the losses pile up? Is this Steve Spurrier 2.0? It’s way too early to call the experiment a failure. There are always odd Week 1 results that end up being outliers after all. But Jags fans should have their radar up for how the team responds to future struggles.