Oct. 06, 2016
NFL First Quarter Report
It’s only four weeks into the season and it’s still too early to really make sense of everything that has happened thus far in the NFL season. Here’s what we know thus far:
First Quarter Power Rankings
1. Denver Broncos (4-0): The reigning world champions of football are right where they ended the last season and their methods haven’t changed. Their defense still leads the way and has allowed them to seemingly coast to an undefeated start. During Week 4’s game against Tampa Bay, Denver lost Trevor Siemian went down with injury and it didn’t matter. As long as their offense doesn’t lose the game for them, they’ll be in every game this season.
2. New England Patriots (3-1): I’m sure the Patriots will take a 3-1 start without the services of Tom Brady. It didn’t seem to matter who was under center or who was missing from the lineup. Bill Belichick found a way to keep the everything on track. Now the real fun can begin with the QB returning to the team.
3. Minnesota Vikings (4-0): I lost faith in my preseason sleeper pick after they lost their starting quarterback and running back to injury. Looks like I hopped off the bandwagon too soon. The Vikings have two things going for them so far this season. The first is their defense, which I predicted would be dominant. The second is the one thing I didn’t account for: their depth. They can go seven or eight deep on the defensive line alone. Their running game is doing okay and it seems someone new is stepping up every game.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1): Other than an inexplicable no-show against the Eagles, the Steelers are off to a solid start this season. We got a taste of what their offense can do when all of their parts are in uniform when they took care of the Chiefs. The next four weeks will tell us more about the Steelers than their first four weeks.
5. Green Bay Packers (2-1): The Packers are almost up here due to their reputation more than their play. So far they’ve just been okay. Their defense in particular looked like the biggest liability on the team. Although they were hurt, they were far too vulnerable to the big play. Their offense will only get better from here.
6. Seattle Seahawks (3-1): Even with Russell Wilson hobbled, the Seahawks found a way to get to a good start. Their defense is still for real and their running backs do what they can to balance out the offense. The Seahawks are for real once gain.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0): The Eagles are one team that probably won’t be in the top-10 four weeks from now. However, you have to give them credit for how they’ve played to his point. Carson Wentz looked like a seasoned veteran during his first three starts and their defense has played far better than anyone expected. We’ll see how things continue for them as the schedule picks up.
8. Dallas Cowboys (3-1): Dak Prescott continues to impressive with his mistake free brand of football. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet and looks like the longterm answer at QB for Dallas. As expected, the Cowboys are relying on a style of play that got them to the divisional round of the playoffs two seasons ago. Mistake free play from QB, running the football and a defense that doesn’t break often.
9. Atlanta Falcons (3-1): This is a familiar position for the Falcons. If you recall, last year they started the season 6-1 before collapsing and finishing 8-8. Their offense is loaded with what looks to be an improved Matt Ryan, a dynamic duo in the backfield, and Julio Jones. Their defense is better than a year ago, but it’s still wait and see with this team.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2): While the Bengals are a good team, I do have one issue with them. Their two wins came against the Jets and the Dolphins. Their two losses are against the Broncos and the Steelers. They need to figure out how to win those types of games.
11. Oakland Raiders (3-1): Probably the only prediction that has gone right so far, the Raiders are the dark horse team we thought they were. Even with their defense playing inconsistently, you can see the future is bright in Oakland (or Vegas/LA). Derek Carr is emerging as a good QB to have in the clutch and Michael Crabtree is turning into the receiver we thought he was coming out of college. Another good note: the Raiders have won all of their games in the eastern time zone.
12. Houston Texans (3-1): I like this team. But I’d love them if J.J. Watt was healthy. The good news is Brick Osweiler, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Lamar Miller make up a good offensive unit. Even if Osweiler is playing poorly, he has enough around him to bail him out. Their defense will have to continue to step up without their leader around.
13. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): All of the Ravens games have been decided by six points or fewer, and only five teams have less fourth-quarter yardage than them. They’re a shaky 3-1 team at best. They’ll need to sort out their running game and play more consistent to be taken seriously.
14. Los Angeles Rams (3-1): Yes, the Los Angeles Rams are in first place in the NFC West. Yes, they’ve beaten both Seattle and Arizona so far this season. Case Keenum has become the unlikely hero on offense and their defense is adept at getting turnovers up front. Now the only question is if they can somehow get more than eight wins with Jeff Fisher.
15. Buffalo Bills (2-2): You gotta give Rex Ryan credit. After an 0-2 start and firing his offensive coordinator, the buzzards began circling in Buffalo. It seems like they’ve had new life ever since. They manhandled the Cardinals and shut out the Patriots. Their defense looks rejuvenated, Tyrod Taylor is improving and LeSean McCoy is an offensive asset once again.
16. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2): The Chiefs could just as easily be 1-3 this season. A normally good secondary was torched by Keenan Allen (before he got hurt) an Antonio Brown and their offense looks like it lacks punch. Jamaal Charles is definitely needed on that end. They’re either a good team that plays poorly or just a bad team. We’ll see what happens as the season goes on.
17. Arizona Cardinals (1-3): Okay, now it’s time to panic in Arizona. Where’s that big play offense they were known for last season? All of their first-quarter drives seem to end in punts. And to make matters worse, Carson Palmer got knocked out to their most recent game against Los Angeles. They constantly look like the softer team when they’re on the field. The only exception was when they beat up on Tampa Bay.
18. Washington Redskins (2-2): Washington is back on track after an 0-2 season, but neither of their wins have been that impressive. They survived against the Giants and the Browns. They should’ve blew the Browns away, but weren’t capable. Their offense is prone to disappearing and their defense hasn’t improved as much as people thought it would with Josh Norman in the fold.
19. New York Giants (2-2): The Eli Manning/Odell Beckham Jr. dynamic is interesting when you think about. I’m sure they get along fine, but the fact that one is easily flustered and the other seems oblivious to high-level pressure is kind of funny. All of that aside, the Giants need to find a running game fast. Having a one dimensional offense is hurting them right now. Until that changes, they’ll struggle to beat the better teams in the NFL.
20. Carolina Panthers (1-3): It may be time to panic in Carolina as well. Cam Newton is getting beaten up on nearly a weekly basis. There’s no dancing, no smiling and no team pictures going on now. Teams are sick of it. The same guy Newton taunted early in Sunday’s game is the same guy who knocked him out of the game. Furthermore, their secondary is weak as Julio Jones demonstrated to us. It’s gut check time for the Panthers.
21. New York Jets (1-3): The Jets have a quarterback problem (again). Ryan Fitzpatrick is a liability. I never thought I’d say it, but maybe it’s time to put Geno Smith in there. The offense and defense have the capability to compete, but it doesn’t matter when your quarterback is throwing a seasons worth of interceptions in four weeks.
22. Detroit Lions (1-3): Any defense that can make Brian Hoyer look like a hall of fame caliber player is troubled. That’s what’s keeping them down so far. Their offense can explode at any moment during a game, but their defense can’t stop anyone. Maybe that will change when Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy return to the roster.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): The Jameis Winston bandwagon careened off the road and exploded after a Week 4 loss to the Broncos. Simply put, this team just isn’t ready yet. Week 1 seems like a year ago.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3): Jacksonville hasn’t won a game in this country in nearly a year. What was once thought to be an up and coming team with loads of young talent. Now they’re just a young team that has a lot of growing up to do.
25. Indianapolis Colts (1-3): The same problems have plagued this team for years, but now Andrew Luck and the offense cannot hide them any longer. The Colts defense is an abomination and their offense line still cannot defend their quarterback. It looks like Colts fans are in for a long season.
26. New Orleans Saints (1-3): Break out the brown-paper bags because the Aints are back. Much like the Colts, the Saints offense cannot hide their bad defense unless they’re playing a team inferior to themselves. Saints management needs to copy John Elway’s blueprint if they want to maximize the remainder of Drew Brees’ career.
27. Tennessee Titans (1-3): Marcus Mariota has yet to show any development and it shows. He has all of the physical tools you can ask for, but needs to develop his ability in the pocket. Right now, they’re a poor mans 2005 Falcons. They have a three-headed running attack, but not much else going for them.
28. San Diego Chargers (1-3): If the game is close in the fourth quarter, you can expect the Chargers to find a way to lose it. All of their losses are due to late game collapses that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Their running game is weak and lacks depth, their defense struggles far too often and the injuries keep piling up. Philip Rivers is no longer capable of putting this team on his back, but for some reason the Chargers keep looking for him to do so.
29. San Francisco 49ers (1-3): Another rudderless team in California is the 49ers. They’re more known for what their backup quarterback is doing than what their team is doing on the field. They have no pass rush worth speaking of and their offense is basically waiting for Colin Kaepernick to step in.
30. Chicago Bears (1-3): It’s clear this team will be rebuilding once the season is over. Jay Cutler may have already played his last game in a Bears uniform. I hear the city of Chicago is already planning a parade.
31. Miami Dolphins (1-3): The Dolphins have been outclassed in just about every game they’ve played. Their leading rusher has only 75 yards this season. Ryan Tannehill looks like his game fell off a cliff. Most of their defense looks like they’re already planning offseason vacations. Expect this team to be blown up once the season is over.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4): Terrelle is the best receiver and quarterback on this team. That pretty much says it all for the Browns.
First Quarter Accolades
Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Through four games, Ryan has 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He does what is necessary for his team to win. With a suspect defense occupying the same locker room, Ryan has thrown the ball all over his opponents and had done so in a consistent manner. He’s been great so far.
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller
The reigning Super Bowl MVP has already notched 5.5 sacks a forced fumble, one pass deflected and 15 total tackles on the season. His presence alone makes an impact on opposing defenses.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Carson Wentz
No surprise here. Not only is the production there, but the wins have been rolling in as Wentz led the Eagles to 3-0 before their bye in Week 4.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey looks every bit as good as advertised for the Jaguars. He’s already a standout enough in coverage that quarterbacks aren’t willing to test him. And if they do, it’s for incredibly short chunks of yardage. He may want to reconsider who he talks trash to though. Steve Smith Sr. isn’t the one to try that with.
Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer
Just over a week before the start of the regular season, Zimmer and the Vikings lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the year to a knee injury. They just went out and got Sam Bradford acclimated to the system in record time while also winning a game with Shaun Hill at quarterback. To make his job even harder, Zimmer also lost Adrian Peterson to a knee injury as well. And yet, the Vikings haven’t slowed down yet.