Another week of NFL action is in the books, with a few surprises headlined by Arizona’s 28-16 upset of Dallas while Miami made history in a 70-20 rout of Denver.
From big quarterback question marks to one signal-caller giving his franchise a reason to believe, here are some talking points to come out of the weekend’s action so far!
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BIG CALLS AT QUARTERBACK TO BE MADE FOR JETS, BEARS
They were two teams who had big expectations but for different reasons both Jets and Bears fans look set to endure even more pain this season.
In New York, the arrival of four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers was meant to be the final piece in the Super Bowl puzzle for a team stacked with talent on both sides of the ball.
But hope is a dangerous thing and it took just 75 seconds for it to be all taken away.
Now, the Jets look destined to waste another season where their defence is Super Bowl calibre and second-year wide receiver Garrett Wilson looks poised to take another leap.
But without competent quarterback play, the Jets seem destined for more disappointing results like Monday’s 15-10 loss to the Patriots.
With just under ten minutes left in the opening half Zach Wilson and the Jets offence was booed off the field as another drive quickly stalled, leaving the team with just six total yards through the game by that point.
The team had converted on just one of six third downs. Wilson, meanwhile, had completed four of nine passes for just 25 yards with a QB rating of 51.6.
Of course, not all of it is on Wilson with the Jets’ offensive line continuing to struggle which in turn also made it hard to get much going on the ground either.
What is clear though is that Wilson is not the answer either, which should have already been clear after last year’s experience with the back-up under centre.
It is a point ESPN’s Mina Kimes made after Rodgers went down and one that still rings true given the potential of the team as a whole with a “caretaker” quarterback as she suggested.
“To me, sticking with Wilson this year would be a big mistake,” Kimes said on ‘NFL Live’ at the time.
“The Jets showed us why it was a mistake last night because they showed the world they have a Super Bowl calibre defence and two of the best young playmakers in the NFL. They cannot afford to waste another season.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh remains insistent Wilson is still the guy, telling reporters the team’s struggles aren’t solely on the 24-year-old.
“We’re still early in the season,” Saleh said.
“We knew that even with Aaron at quarterback we knew that there was going to be some hiccups along the way because of the new offence. The new play-caller, the new [offensive] line, just new players on the offensive side of the ball.
“Now you’ve got this curveball that was sent to us and so they’re acclimating. They’re going to get better, but it’s still very early in the season.”
As for Chicago, there has been no injury but quarterback Justin Fields definitely does not look like he is going to take the leap many Bears fans would have been hoping for this season.
While early, Fields has looked a shell of himself and struggled again on Monday in a 41-10 blowout loss to the Chiefs.
Fields was 11-of-22 for 99 yards, one touchdown and one interception as the Bears managed just 203 yards of offence in the heavy defeat.
There were periods where Fields flashed the athleticism that made him such a devastating runner in the latter half of last season, scrambling out of the pocket for a few big gains.
It comes after Fields told reporters he didn’t feel as if he was “playing like” himself in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, describing his performance as “robotic” at times.
Those comments spoke to the juggling act that the Bears are dealing with right now as they attempt to work out whether Fields is the true franchise quarterback to lead them forward.
Designed runs may have brought the best out of Fields last season and made for some exciting highlights but Chicago still ended up losing more games than it won.
In going out and getting star receiver DJ Moore, the Bears clearly wanted to try and give Fields the best chance of succeeding while proving himself as a passer.
So far, the results are underwhelming. Fields has more interceptions (four) than he does touchdowns (three).
But maybe it is all worth it if it means more clarity on the team’s long-term quarterback picture.
The way they’re going, Chicago may end up unintentionally tanking its way to another top-two pick in the draft and a shot at either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
C.J. STROUD COULD BE THE ANSWER FOR TEXANS
One way or another, the Texans were going to get what would hopefully be a franchise-altering quarterback in last year’s draft.
And trailing the Indianapolis Colts 31-24 with just 50 seconds left on the clock, it looked like Houston would get its pick of the bunch having seemingly wrapped up the first overall slot.
But facing a 4th-and-20 in what on the surface looked like a meaningless game, the Texans literally threw away the No.1 pick with a touchdown and then successful two-point conversion.
That in turn saw the Chicago Bears gift-wrapped the top selection, which was later traded to the Carolina Panthers who took Alabama quarterback Bryce Young first overall.
Now, obviously it is far too early to say whether Young would have been the better choice but the Texans have certainly got to be impressed with what they’re seeing from their pick.
Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who the Texans took with the second overall pick in last year’s draft, has enjoyed an interception-free opening to his NFL career and on Monday, he helped Houston to its first win of the year.
Stroud completed 20 of 30 passes for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record at least 900 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and zero interceptions in their first three career starts.
Those numbers are courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. What makes them even more incredible though is the fact Stroud is playing behind a beaten-up offensive line.
The offensive line was much-improved in the 37-17 win over the Jaguars in Week 3 but before then Stroud had faced the third-highest pressure rate (44.4 per cent) in his two games in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats.
One of the biggest question marks over Stroud as a prospect heading into the NFL was how he would handle the pressure of playing behind a sub-par offensive line.
Stroud excelled at Ohio State when he was kept clean in the pocket, recording a 71.7 per cent completion rate and throwing 35 touchdowns.
Those numbers dipped dramatically to 41.3 per cent and six when under pressure according to PFF.
Stroud has already impressed with his composure under pressure in the NFL, coming up with the right plays and building a strong connection with fellow rookie receiver Tank Dell.
Texans tight end Brevin Jordan told ESPN that the win over the Colts at the end of last season was “the best thing that happened to the Houston Texans’ franchise”.
“We drafted the right guy,” Jordan said.
“Man, he’s a leader. He’s a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he’s unbelievable.”
PAYTON’S BRONCOS COACHING JAB BACKFIRES BIG TIME
Sean Payton did not hold back in his assessment of Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching performance last season.
“It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL,” Denver’s new head coach told USA Today earlier this summer.
Well, you can guess what some of the headlines in the media looked like in the aftermath of the Broncos’ historic 70-20 loss to the Dolphins on Monday.
“Broncos’ 70-20 loss to Dolphins ‘one of the worst coaching jobs in NFL history,’ as Sean Payton might say,” wrote Paul Klee of the Denver Gazette.
“Worst coaching job in NFL history? Sean Payton, that now belongs to you,” read a headline from The Denver Post’s Matt Schubert.
So much was made last year of Russell Wilson’s struggles and while it certainly contributed to a disappointing season that otherwise promised so much, the veteran quarterback can’t get any of the blame for Monday’s 50-point defeat.
Rather, this one was on the Denver defence. Last year it was one of the team’s saving graces. Now, it allowed a Dolphins team to score a touchdown on 10 off their first 12 possessions.
This was a Miami team without its second best offensive weapon in Jaylen Waddle, who missed the game after being ruled out with a concussion.
You’d think that would be even more of a reason for the Broncos defence to zero in on the other top receiver in this Dolphins offence.
You know, Tyreek Hill — one of the NFL’s premier speedsters who entered Monday’s game with 24 receptions, 255 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 15.9 yards per catch.
Yet Hill was left wide open to score on Miami’s opening drive of the game, using his speed to take it home 54 yards and set the tone for what was a dark day for Denver.
“Obviously, that was embarrassing and tough to watch,” Payton said post-game.
“It’d be one thing to say ‘Hey we’re going to get on to the next game,’ but we have to watch that tape. Tomorrow will be tough for a lot of players. Tough for us too as coaches.”
Obviously pressure will be on defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, whose hiring as defensive coordinator four years after being fired by the Broncos was already questioned at the time.
But given Payton’s comments in the offseason, he too better hope the Broncos turn things around fast.
Games against the struggling Bears and Jets in the next fortnight should give Denver a chance of doing just that.
DOLPHINS ON TRACK FOR A HISTORIC YEAR ON OFFENCE?
Speaking of the Dolphins, they already made history on Monday with the highest total score since 1966 when Washington put 72 on the New York Giants.
Miami also put up 726 yards of offence in the win, which was an NFL record. But the scary part for the rest of the NFL is this could just be the start.
And what is particularly impressive is the different ways that the Dolphins can pull apart opposition defences.
Entering this season we already knew this would be one of the most high-powered offences in the league, with star receiver duo Hill and Waddle leading the way.
Take Miami’s Week 1 win over the Chargers, where the Dolphins torched Los Angeles through the air as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns.
Hill had 11 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns in that game, more than three times the 60 yards Miami managed on the ground in the 36-34 win.
Against Denver though, it wasn’t just Hill making his mark with 157 yards and a touchdown.
Rather, Miami found plenty of success on the ground too as Raheem Mostert and rookie De’Von Achane combined for 285 yards and five touchdowns.
Even rookie third-string running back Chris Brooks, who hadn’t had a single carry before Monday’s game, rushed nine times for 66 yards in the blowout win.
“This doesn’t compare to anything I’ve seen or been a part of,” said Tagovailoa post-game.
“It just talks about the resilience of our team. Although we were up going into halftime, I’m very proud of the guys and the way they continued to play. No one took their foot off the gas. Everyone continued to play and that’s the result that we got.”
With Tagovailoa healthy the Dolphins are every chance of going deep into the post-season, which will only work in the quarterback’s favour given he has not yet agreed to an extension with Miami.
The Dolphins will also eventually have new cornerback Jalen Ramsey (knee) return to the frame at some point in the season while running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is also expected back in October.
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