Here we are, only in the second week of the season and we already have the first RnF special. The opener saw many big time, sure fire quarterbacks post lack luster numbers while some undrafted options completely lit up the opposition. Will these trends continue? Do we already have QB1s moving into QB2 territory? Are injuries and age finally catching up with household names? Let’s dive in.
Buffalo and Carolina: Cam Newton
The numbers that Newton posted may leave you to believe that Newton is back. In a game that didn’t require the offense to keep the pedal to the metal much after half time, Newton still posted 171 yards with two touchdowns. What the numbers don’t tell you is that Russell Shepard had a freak show spin move out of a tackle and scampered away for a 40 yard score. That one play accounted for the majority of Newton’s production. Additionally, Newton dropped back untouched and fired away at an absolutely wide open Ed Dickson in the end zone. Unfortunately, Newton sent the ball sailing a mile over Dickson’s head. He was constantly stretching his shoulder out and seemed uncomfortable at times. Many are arguing it was simply rust and some adjustment period will right his ship. Let’s see how Newton looks with a week of real action and full practice participation. Newton could gain some momentum against a weakened Buffalo defense or his struggles could continue, causing Newton’s tentative grasp on QB1 billing to loosen.
Chicago and Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston
Everyone will be extremely excited to see what exactly they got out of the Tampa Bay draft stock. Not only did owners draft the offensive weapons with major expectations but they were forced to eat the first week of the season due to the NFL’s ineptitude of solving simple problems. Winston matured in big way between seasons one and two and this year looks to be the best of the three on paper. Not only will he have the burner DeSean Jackson at his disposal but we’ll get our first look at first round pick O.J. Howard. This could be a huge statement game for Winston. A QB1 opening after a week of extra rest and practice would go a long way toward his potential value jump. However, the other path that the Bucs could potentially go down is that of the Washington Redskins. Tampa could end up out of sync with their new parts as they don’t appear to fit the scheme they had hoped for. Either Winston comes out swinging, meshing perfectly with his new options or he looks as out of rhythm and as discombobulated as Kirk Cousins did against Philadelphia.
Detroit and New York Giants: Eli Manning
Goodness gracious did the Giants’ offense look terrible on Sunday Night Football. Without Odell Beckham, Manning continuously went for the easy dump off passes and failed to move the ball downfield. Without anything on the roster that resembles a rushing threat, the entire offensive outlook for the Giants rests solely on Manning’s shoulders. Eli did not look up to the task against the Cowboys and that could spell trouble for any drafted New York option for the 2017 season. With Beckham practicing this week, Manning should have his top option available and the other pieces should fall into place. If Beckham can immediately jump back into the role of Superman on the outside, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard should see less defensive coverage with more production. As long as Beckham suits up, they’ll be no excuse to lean on here. He’ll have his full complement of receiving options and he’ll be squaring off against a defense that couldn’t stop a high school quarterback. If Manning can’t do it here there may not be a week remaining on the schedule you can rely on him.
Washington and Los Angeles: Kirk Cousins
Cousins was awful in the Week one match up against the Eagles. Yes, his receivers weren’t bailing him out but guess what, that’s not changing any time soon. Is Jordan Reed‘s fractured toe going to get better or worse the more he plays on it? Hmm…. We may have to consult a team doctor for that answer but Web MD says no. Is Terrelle Pryor suddenly going to shake his case of the “yips”? That’s not likely to occur in one week’s time. Oh, and Jamison Crowder looks to be playing off a hip issue that maybe only Isaiah Thomas (NBA reference) could relate to. Not only are the receivers struggling with their own issues, but Cousins is getting smashed in the pocket. The offensive line isn’t slowing anyone down and the running game doesn’t exist. Cousins looks nervous and in turn is throwing the ball early and with less than ideal placement. If he can’t rebound a little bit here he’ll likely find himself staring down the barrel of turning into a match up based starter only.
Minnesota and Pittsburgh: Sam Bradford
We’ll preface this by stating that we do understand Bradford’s numbers came against the Saints. The Saints haven’t fielded a decent defense in what seems like an eternity so everyone’s numbers are always inflated. With that in mind, a 350 yard game with 3 touchdowns is nothing to discount. Bradford looks far more confident in his second year with the team and has the added benefit of working with the starters all throughout the preseason. Not only did Bradford reestablish last year’s elite connection with tight end Kyle Rudolph, but he and Stefon Diggs looked like they were totally on the same wave length. With the new element of a true running game and an excellent dump off option in Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen looking like he can do whatever he pleases, Diggs taking the top of of defenses, and Rudolph as a security blanket, Bradford looks poised to continue with great numbers throughout 2017. He needs to keep pushing the ball downfield and avoid turning back into the game manager, check down artist he was last season. If Bradford keeps this up, he should be in for his best season as a pro.