This season I’m running out a MMQB style column where I look at eight things that happened in Sunday’s games. I will break it down into four surprises, and four things that were absolutely expected. Let’s get right to it.
Surprise Thing One: The Dolphins are the worst team in football
After a respectable showing last week in New England that wasn’t pretty, but got the job done, the Dolphins vomited all over themselves and the surrounding counties. In what might end up being the single worst performance of any team this season, the Dolphins failed to execute their plan at every possible level, sprinkled in some terrible coaching decisions and lost to a Bills team that didn’t play that well either by 35. The only upside to this showing was the fact that it can only count as one loss, when it should have counted for four. Are the Dolphins really the worst team in football? this week they were, but overall… no. However, this game showed definitively they are not a serious contender. Their offensive line is a bottom five unit with no real hope of improving. If you can’t run or pass block, you can’t be good. The end.
Surprise Thing Two: The curious case of the COVID coaches
After lighting the world on fire in their week 1 demolition of the Packers in Jacksonville, the Saints made their way to Carolina (which Carolina… YOU DON’T KNOW). It… did not go well. They got crushed. There seem to be some mitigating circumstances here.
That’s a lot of injuries for one week in. Beyond that, a consortium of coaches contracted COVID causing collective concern for a continuity crisis with calamitous complications. How much did the injuries and 8 missing coaches contribute to this horrendous showing? Are the Panthers good? Was it a let down game? Regardless, the jury is very out on this mysterious Saints team. Remember, this is the same team that beat the Bucs 38-3 last year but also lost 26-9 to the Falcons. If you know what any of this means, please… help me.
Surprise Thing Three: The Kansas City Chiefs… destroyers of the spread
The Chiefs are an incredible 1-10 in their last 11 regular season games ATS (against the spread). This is almost as incredible as their ability to win games without covering. There are a lot of reasons for this. First, their defense is simply not that good. It hasn’t really ever been great, but the signing of Tyrann Mathieu (who had two picks last night) papered over a lot of holes that are now coming undone. Second, their offense is good, especially when coming from behind. It is less good when ahead. They lack the pieces to salt away a lead by running down the clock and going 10 yards at a time. Third, the public sees the gaudy highlights and assumes the Chiefs are totally unstoppable. They almost never lose too, so you would be forgiven for not noticing the first two things, which means they are pushing the spreads up. The Super Bowl loss highlighted a lot of their issues, but it seemed like they were addressed in the offseason. Yet two weeks into the season, they are 0-2 ATS, and only 1-1 in real life. They are a DNB (do not bet) until further notice.
Surprise Thing Four: The Cowboys and Chargers play a defensive slug-fest
I would not be surprised to find that a lot of people played the over on this game, but with an over/under of 55, this game never even got within sniffing distance of that total, and it nearly went to OT had last week’s actual goat not become a metaphorical GOAT (never has one word meant such completely opposite things) with a 56 yard game-winning field goal. So what happened? This was supposed to be the fun game of the week (a title easily claimed by Chiefs/Ravens in another prime time showstopper). What happened is a lot of bad discipline. First, the penalties. A total of 20 totaling almost 200 yards between the two teams. Both teams made numerous critical drive killing errors. After barely running the ball on Thursday night, the Cowboys racked up nearly 200 yards on the ground, and the Chargers got almost 100. That keeps the plays short and the clock moving. Mix in 4 sacks and 3 turnovers, and you have a shortage of points. I didn’t even mention the Cowboys wasting 30 seconds for no reason at the end of the game because they got bailed out by the kicker. Sloppy play has dogged both of these franchises the last few years, and it’s holding them back again this year.
Expected Thing One: The Blair Walsh Project
It’s been several years now since Blair Walsh was the kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, but the curse of his leg’s soul remains in the hardened concrete below the fake plastic grass and dirt at whatever the new Metrodome is called. He never really left. This week, his spirit infected the soul of someone named Greg Joseph. But it goes beyond that. Watch as his spirit infects the souls of these local radio announcers, who miss their call, wide left.
This is part of a broader history for the Vikings. I feel sad for the Vikings who have played ok the first two weeks, and have been bitten at the buzzer, first by the Bengals game winning kick, then their own missed kick. Better days would seem to be ahead for this hard luck team, but based on the found footage so far, it might be time for some… outside assistance.
Expected thing two: Derrick Henry is not human
This is a picture of Derrick Henry next to another running back. That running back could literally operate Derrick Henry from inside of Derrick Henry if Derrick Henry was an exo-suit. I genuinely think the Army should consider Derrick Henry exo-suits. This week he threw the struggling Titans on his very, very broad back and literally carried them to a win they did not deserve against the Seahawks. How many times can he do this? I don’t know, but we are going to find out. Without Taylor Lewan (or even worse, with him playing and being hurt), Ryan Tannehill’s horrific pocket presence is being exposed (yet another strip sack fumble this week). Every play Tannehill doesn’t hand the ball to Henry is scary. So I expect to see a LOT of Henry moving forward. This week was no exception. If you own him in fantasy, congrats, because, until his body explodes, he’s gonna get 25 carries a week at a minimum.
Expected thing three: The Jets are ruining another talented rookie QB
The reason the above tweet is funny, is that the previous Jets “talented rookie QB who didn’t develop” TM was famously recorded saying he was “seeing ghosts” while throwing a collection of INTs to the Pats a few years ago. History seems to be repeating itself. Usually when that happens, people haven’t been paying attention to history to learn from it. Here are some names. Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, Geno Smith, and Mark Sanchez. Outside of a rogue year of Ryan Fitzpatrick (what team doesn’t have one), those are the last 4 QBs to be drafted, developed and started by the Jets in the last 12 years. They have 143 TDs and 149 INTs for the Jets. Only Darnold had a positive career TD to INT ratio. This is over 12 years. Patrick Mahomes has 120-24 in the last 3 years and two games this year. Why are the Jets so bad at this. There have been multiple coaches and GMs in that time. The answer is that the organization as a whole is poisonous. They never provide good skill options for these quarterbacks. They often operate behind bad offensive lines. The coaches they hire are often defensive minds: Robert Salah (defense), Adam Gase (bad at everything), Todd Bowles (defense), Rex Ryan (defense), Eric Mangini (defense), Herm Edwards (defense). These QBs can’t develop because the Jets coaches have no idea how to develop them. Until they change how they operate at the top, it’s just going to keep happening.
Expected thing four: Being a young quarterback in the NFL is really hard.
Look at this list: Tua Tagovailoa (injured), Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Zach Wilson, Justin Herbert, David Mills. These players are all rookies or second year players who lost and played poorly (Herbert was the best of them). Justin Fields and Mac Jones both played in winning efforts, but Fields was not good, and Mac Jones threw for 186 yards on 22 completions and no TDs, which is basically nothing. All he did was not throw 4 INTs, which… made him the young MVP of the week. Congrats to Mac Jones on not throwing 4 INTs. Look, several of these guys will probably go on to be really good in this league, but the reality is that being a star QB in this league is not about having a great week or two or 8. It’s about being consistent and not making mistakes week in and week out. Outside of Mac Jones (and Tua who was quickly injured), this group poured on the INTs. The rules may still favor offense, but the game favors veterans.