The first four weeks of the 2015-16 NFL season has come and gone, and I hope my readers are enjoying it. I sure am. I always think that there’s no need for Soap Operas, when the NFL provides so much drama all by itself. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady got his ridiculous 4 game suspension vacated by Judge Richard Berman, and has led the defending Super Bowl Champions on a “Screw You” tour. There has already been a coaching change. Several popular pre-season Super Bowl picks stumbled out of the starting gate. I mean, there’s so much drama to discuss, and there are 12 more games to play.
In this blog, I will be discussing these storylines at this point in the season. I realize that only 4 games have been played, and quite a bit can happen in the 12 games remaining. However, there is already tons to discuss. I will comment on the good,the bad, and the ugly, of the first quarter of the 2015-16 NFL season.
THE PATRIOTS ON A RAMPAGE:
After enduring one of the dumbest off season scandals in the 95 years of the history of the NFL, the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are on a rampage. With QB Tom Brady having his ridiculous four game suspension overturned in court, this team is motivated to take on all comers. This is awesome.
On opening night, the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 28-21. The Buffalo Bills were bullied by the Patriots, 40-32. The woeful Jacksonville Jaguars got smashed by a score of 51-17. Tom Brady is playing out of his mind. At this point, he has 9 TDs and 0 INTs. I’m amazed at how he is still playing at such a high level at 38.
SEVEN UNDEFEATED TEAMS:
There are six undefeated teams at this point in the season. They are the following: The New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Denver Broncos. With the exception of the Patriots, (3-0), who had a bye week during week 4, all teams are 4 and 0. I’m not surprised at the Patriots or the Packers. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been outstanding. He’s on the road to another MVP season, as is Brady. Will Brady and Rodgers FINALLY clash in the Super Bowl? That remains to be seen.
The Bengals, at this point, look fantastic in all three phases of the game. So far, QB Andy Dalton is having agreat start. Geno Atkins is back to his old self. The entire offense is clicking. The caveat with the Bengals is, of course, the playoffs. The head coach/QB combination of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton has yet to win a playoff game. I’m personally leaning towards Marvin Lewis’ tendency to get very conservative in playoff games as the culprit. We will have to see.
I don’t know what to make of the other three undefeated teams. Denver is pretty much being carried by its defense. QB Peyton Manning and the offense are feeling their way around head coach Gary Kubiak’s new system. Denver’s first four opponents also folded up like cheap suits late in games.
The Atlanta Falcons look great under new head coach Dan Quinn. WR Julio Jones has been lights out. Will a disgruntled Roddy White undermine their progress? The Carolina Panthers have surprised me. My question is how long QB Cam Newton can keep being the one carrying this team on his back.
TOP QUARTERBACKS INJURED:
The pundits keep stressing how important it is to have a quality backup QB. With several starting QBs going down due to various injuries, the pundits are right about that. Chicago Bears lost QB Jay Cutler due to a hamstring injury. QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints missed a week with a sprained shoulder. Cleveland Browns QB Josh McCown missed a week due to a concussion. Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo is missing several weeks because he broke his clavicle. Most recently, Pittsburgh Steelers signal caller Ben Roethlisberger is expected to miss at least 4 weeks due to a bone bruise, and an MCL tear.
The results haven’t been great , and the marquee value of the game is diminished. That’s why teams need great offensive line play. With Romo out, the Cowboys are 0-2 under Brandon Weeden. With Roethlisberger out, the Steelers are 0-1 under Michael Vick. The Saints were already 0-2, and when Luke McCown took over for Brees, the team lost. The Bears were 0-3, as Jimmy Clausen took over for the injured Cutler. Cutler returned week 4, and led the team to a narrow victory over the Oakland Raiders. I am not blaming the losses solely on the backup QBs, mind you. I am saying it’s important to have a good backup.
Four games into the season, and I am a bit shocked to see some of the projected Super Bowl contenders stumbling out of the gate. Many experts had projected the Indianapolis Colts, the Green Bay Packers (your’s truly), the Seattle Seahawks, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens. There were a few that had New England as well (your’s truly). Well, so far, the Patriots and the Packers are doing well. However, what on earth has happened to the others?
The Seattle Seahawks has had a crazy start. I know they had the off season contract issue with Kam Chancellor, but the team could not come together and win? Their defense needed him that badly? This Seattle defense without Kam Chancellor reminds me of the Steelers defense which fell apart when Troy Polamalu wasn’t in the lineup. How did they lose to the St. Louis Rams? It is a division game. You have to win those, Kam or no Kam. The loss to Green Bay could come back to bite them, come playoff time. The Seahawks need to fix that offensive line, as they can’t have QB Russell Wilson running around like a chicken with his head chopped off. TE Jimmy Graham is on the team, right? Can they use him a little?
The Indianapolis Colts are a mess. This team is a huge favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. It was thought with the additions of former Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson and former San Fancisco 49ers RB Frank Gore, along with the young QB Andrew Luck running the offense, the Colts were picked to break through, and wind up in the Super Bowl. Well, they lost their first two games to the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. They barely defeated their division rival, the Tennessee Titans, and lucked out against the hapless JacksonvilleJaguars.
I know Andrew Luck has a sprained shoulder, and backup QB Matthew Hasselbeck took over for week 4. However, that offensive line needs to be fixed. I have lost count on how many offensive line combinations that Luck has played behind. Andre Johnson and Frank Gore don’t appear to be as effective, as of yet. Andrew Luck also needs to find a way to eliminate the interceptions. At this stage of his career, he should be much better than that
That run defense has been horrendous. Colts GM Rigson has done a terrible job at getting this team where it needs to be. This team is lucky that they’re in a terrible division.
The Dallas Cowboys are becoming the Dallas “Owboys.” I’m sure this is not how owner Jerry Jones envisioned this season. The team has lost top WR Dez Bryant to a foot injury. Tony Romo is out with a broken clavicle. LB Sean Lee suffered a concussion, but is expected back against the Patriots. The team lost several other players to injury. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. They come at the inopportune time. Can the Cowboys get back into contention? From looking at their schedule, starting with the New England Patriots, it will be difficult. It also depends on how long it takes to get players back.
In speaking of the Week 5 Patriots game, their DE Greg Hardy, who’s returning from a domestic violence suspension, made clueless remarks about returning “guns a’blazing” and about Tom Brady’s wife. Trust me. Hardy’s idiotic comments won’t help matters for the Cowboys. Hardy came off as creepy, and crude. I mean, like Tom Brady and the Patriots need more bulletin board material. It is quite obvious that Greg Hardy has no self-awareness, and didn’t learn anything from his suspension, either.
What has happened to the Baltimore Ravens? I thought, according to coach John Harbaugh, that QB Joe Flacco was “the best quarterback in the NFL.” What has happened? DE Terrell Suggs unfortunately tears his Achilles, and the defense crashes. It looks like the entire team has crashed. Now, WR Steve Smith, Sr. is hurt, and blames the wrong player. The Ravens are 1-3. RB Justin Forsett seems to have found his groove, so maybe there’s some hope
THE NFC (L)EAST
Does anyone want to win the NFC East, or as I call it, the NFC LEAST. This was a tough, heart pounding division between the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington. I used to love watching these four teams go at it. Now, I don’t know what to think.
The Giants blew the first two games. That’s not an argument. The Giants should have won the week 1 matchup with the Cowboys. QB Eli Manning should have taken a sack, or have had a run play call. The Giants then handed the next game to the Falcons, because they once again could not close the deal. They should be 4-0.
I’ve already addressed the Cowboys, so I will talk about the Eagles. I am going to hold off judgment until I see more. So far, they’re a dumpster fire. I think Chip Kelly has outsmarted himself. He got rid of a ton of players, so he could implement his scheme. However, I don’t think he has the right players to run the scheme he wants to run. RB Demarco Murray is not an West to East guy. The offensive line is not blocking well enough.
Washington is a huge dump. I don’t think they’re going to be a contender as long as Dan Snyder is the owner. I don’t. The Robert Griffin III situation is one of the main reasons. I don’t think Snyder wants to admit he made a mistake giving up the draft picks to get RGIII. It is quite obvious that the RGIII pick was a mistake. There is fault on all sides. The team needs to move on from RGIII. I mean, they’re 2-2 with Kirk Cousins, but with the team they have, I don’t think they’re going anywhere.
REX RYAN’S BIG MOUTH
If you thought former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan learned to to tone things down as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills, you were wrong. Hey, that’s how the man is. He’s a big bully, who thinks he can win games by building a team of bullies. The sad thing is that being emotional and a loudmouth will only get you so far.
MIAMI DOLPHINS FIASCO
So, it took a trip to London for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to make a coaching change. It also appears that QB Ryan Tannehill has a bit of an attitude issue. Out went coach Joe Philbin, and in comes TE coach Dan Campbell as interim head coach. As of this writing, DB coach Lou Anarumo replaced now former defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle
I blame all this on Stephen Ross. Who pays a free agent like Ndamukong Suh a huge contract like that, and instantly thinks that is going to deliver your team a Super Bowl? QB Ryan Tannehill got an extension, and I don’t see him as the next Dan Marino. Tannehill has a hissy fit over some scout team players intercepting him? Tannehill is supposed to be the leader. Is this for real? Suh is either freelancing, or Coyle was clueless as how to use him. As for Philbin, he was not head coach material. We will have to see what this interim staff does the rest of the season. I do think that Mr. Ross needs better advisors.