Last Week: 10-5-1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Friday 12.20pm NZT
Ah yes, now we’re getting somewhere. Week two of the season is always a notorious one, it’s where the overreactions from week one really sizzle and the convictions of those preseason predictions are really tested. The clever pundit will take that first round with a grain of salt – we don’t know the context of those performances yet because we don’t know which teams are good or not. Most tend not to though. Which is only human nature but some things don’t need to change and while the Panthers should be much better than they were against the Rams most weeks, Jameis Winston remains an interception machine and with three picks in a close loss to the Niners (it was 31-17 in the end but it was close most of the way) he has now thrown 61 of them since he entered the league.
Ben Roethlisberger is second with 60 interceptions but he’s also thrown 23 more touchdown passes than Winston and attempted 303 more passes with 2591 more passing yards. Blake Bortles is third with 58 and he’s not even a starter anymore. Nobody with at least 1500 pass attempts in that time has a worse pick percentage than Winston. If you count back to the 61 interceptions ago for Tom Brady you’re in the 2011 season. Russell Wilson debuted in 2012 and has only thrown 63 in total. Aaron Rodgers has only thrown 66 in the last ten seasons – Winston threw more in week one than Rodgers did in all 16 games in 2018. Oh and he also has 40 fumbles in his career, including two more against the Niners last week.
The fact is you can’t get away with that kinda wastefulness if you’re not also putting up huge points. Winston came into the season knowing his contract is up at the end of it and he’s playing for his future… this was a terrible way to start.
You know, I’m a big proponent of recognising greatness. One of the best things about following sports is the ability to see an athlete performing at the peak of their powers, doing things that only a handful of others on the entire planet are even capable of, let alone being able to deliver at a specific moment with the floodlights casting their focus upon you and the world watching on. Which is why I’m going to bring in a new weekly segment this season, it’s called…
This week in Cam Newton Fashion Choices…
I dunno about the hat or the headscarf or the frames or the short-sleeved suit jacket or the shirt or the pocket square or the brooch… but I like the waistcoat. And the hippie beads too, right on. A very strong start to the season from Cam Newton’s designers – this’ll be a tough one to follow but then the measure of true greatness is consistency, right?
Wildcard’s Pick: Panthers by 15
Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Right so Lamar Jackson is really good then. They were only playing the Dolphins aka the worst team in the NFL but it’s the way that he beat them that really stands out: with his arm. 25/32 passes for 405 yards with 5 scores and 0 interceptions… gotta tell ya he looked superb. That’s as many touchdown passes as he threw in all of his rookie season.
The hype with Jacko has been about his ability as a rushing quarterback but despite all the talk about how this new Ravens offence was gonna operate to incorporate that… he only ran three times for six yards in that game. It was a complete bluff and now future oppositions know that they’ve gotta respect this guy in all aspects. Jackson had 9.2 rush attempts per game last season, scoring five times with 695 yards on the ground so we already knew that he could be a productive option in that situation but I can’t get over what a great passer he looked like.
But yeah the one asterisk is that it was against a pitiful Dolphins team… and now this week the Ravens get to face the Cardinals who might not be a whole lot better. They surged back to tie with the Lions in week one but let’s not ignore that going into the fourth quarter Kyler Murray had completed 9/25 passes for 70 yards with an interception and four sacks. Then he threw 154 yards on 15/19 passing with two scores and a passer rating of 135.5 in the fourth quarter. Wasn’t able to keep that up in overtime and fair enough but that’s a weird discrepancy there which can only really be explained by the fact that they were playing the Detroit Lions who absolutely bottled that one, typically of the Lions. The Ravens are much better and this game will not be close.
I did like what I saw from Kyler Murray on the whole though… but god he’s so little! He’s like a wee widdle baby out there! A decent arm on him for a toddler though, to be fair.
Oh and shout out to Marquise Brown, the cousin of Antonio apparently, whose first two catches in the NFL were touchdowns and the dude went on to haul in 147 receiving yards. He was the first WR picked in the last draft and it’s already obvious why.
Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 17
Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
WEEK ONE OVERREACTIONS THAT I REFUSE TO MAKE BECAUSE IT’S ONLY WEEK ONE:
The Cleveland Browns are terrible again and it’s already time for the annual jersey burning ceremonies
Lamar Jackson for MVP!
The Patriots are gonna win it all again, probably go undefeated too, not really much point in even watching
The Steelers are doomed without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, that offence is wrecked
Mitch Trubisky is just Blake Bortles 2.0, holding his team’s system back with his inconsistency
The Raiders are better without Antonio Brown, they never even needed him, Derek Carr is a great quarterback and he gets the best out of his teammates
The Kansas City Chiefs will be much worse while Tyreek Hill is out injured
Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations just went through the roof!
Jameis Winston’s career in Tampa Bay is over… oh no wait that one’s true
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 10
Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Three passing TDs and a win for Marcus Mariota was exactly what he needed to kickstart a definitive season for him in this contract year. The opposite of what Jameis Winston did for the Buccs. It was a 75-yard TD run from Derrick Henry that really busted it open for the Titans but Mariota was solid and reliable enough to see them through. More of that and he’s in a good place.
Meanwhile Jacoby Brissett, this dude that so many people were like: oh but he’s really well prepared so the Colts can get by without Andrew Luck, no worries! Yeah that fella, he completed at better than three outta four passes and threw a couple TDs while his yardage was only down because Marlon Mack had such a barnstormer on the ground and they pushed a talented Chargers team pretty far. So… there you go. I was sceptical before and I’m still sceptical now but that’s a pass mark for week one.
Two teams, two quarterbacks in particular, with a lot of question marks about them coming into the 2019 season and in their own ways they did pretty well with the first steps. I get the feeling this game against each other will tell us a lot more about where each is really at though.
Wildcard’s Pick: Colts by 3
Sn Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Niners by 6
Washington R*dskins (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
[puffs out chest, looks up at sky, cups hands to mouth]
HOW ABOUT DEM COWBOYS!!!
Oh man was that a gorgeous bit of gridiron viewing. The Giants are mud but that offence around Dak was glorious. Funny what a bit of scheme, a bit of movement, and multiple options on a play can do for a quarterback with a skillset like Dak Prescott. This was the second most passing yards he’s had in a game in his whole career (he threw 455 yards against the Eagles last year but with two picks and 22 more pass attempts than this game) and the second time he’s throw four touchdown passes in a game – the last being week 17 of 2018 also against the G-Men. Back to back, Dak.
You had a breakout game from Michael Gallup the second year receiver as well as Amari Cooper getting open consistently and Zeke Elliot doing the rough stuff for those close yards and with Prescott playing as well as he did here this is suddenly a Cowboys offence to fear. Best part? Not a single sack after Prescott was dropped 56 times last season. That offensive line is healthy once more, Travis Frederick is back, and I bloody told ya the Cowboys were gonna be good this year. Only drama is whether they’re better than the Eagles... that NFC East already looks like a two horse race (then again that was already true in preseason). By the way the Cowboys are 10-0 when Prescott throws 275+ yards in his career.
The man who orchestrated this delightful offence? Kellen Moore. Who looks about fifteen years old.
In truth he’s actually 30… which is still seven years younger than Jason Witten. Which leads me to the obligatory…
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 12
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Houston Texans (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Nick Foles signed a 4yr/$88m deal back in March to bring in a new era for them moving on from old mate Blake Bortles and hoping that the Super Bowl MVP could take them to the next level. And for Foles it was a big deal too, not only for the cash but for his reputation having failed to make a positive impact the last time he left the warm embrace of the Philadelphia Eagles… ‘warm embrace’ probably isn’t the right phrase, more like heavily-guarded bunker but you get the idea.
So for Foles to go down with a broken collarbone in the first quarter of the first game just plain sucks. Whatever you think of Foles as a quarterback, and I was pretty sure he’d be a big upgrade on Bortles at the very least, this dude was at a pivotal place in his career and now he’ll miss more games than he plays this year at the very best scenario. He’s on IR and can’t return until at least week ten at the start of November. The Jags traded for a new backup by flipping a fifth-rounder to the Steelers for some rando called Josh Dobbs.
Ah but ‘tis in times of frightful darkness when new heroes doth emerge.
Ladies and gentlemen… Mr Gardner Flint Minshew II…
This fella was a sixth-round draft pick a few months ago, probably the least prepared backup quarterback in the league this year and I’ll be honest and say I’d never even heard of him until he threw that first pass, and he proceeds to throw 275 yards on 22/25 completions with two TDs and a pick. That’s handy considering he might have to start the next 8-10 games for this team (although remember the Chiefs were leading the whole way in that game and they’re not exactly the most feared defence either – the Jags are still in a rough spot here).
But I’m more interested in the character. The moustache, the bandanas, the sunglasses… he looks like he should have been a band member on the film Almost Famous. Born forty years earlier and he could have been a roadie for Led Zeppelin. Also he might be Gardner Minshew II but there isn’t actually a Gardner Minshew I, his dad was named Flint and just liked the idea of Gardner the Second for some reason. You think that’s weird? His granddad wanted to name him Beowulf.
Then there’s also the nude stretching, the sense of humour, and also apparently he’s real smart. Bagged a 42 score on the wonderlic test which I tried out myself to see if I could beat and got pretty pissed off at the thing to be honest because I thought I was doing really well until I realised I was running out of time. They only give you 12 minutes to answer 50 questions and I scored 32 with like a dozen left unanswered… so we’ll call this one a moral draw, aye Gards?
I also have a communications degree for what it’s worth. I feel like Gardner and I should be friends.
Anyway, here’s the link to a wonderlic test so you can have a crack yourself. Just remember that clock is ticking, aye. Also I realised after that you can use a pen and paper to help figure things out (but not a calculator) which probably would’ve saved me a lot of time. I’d try again but they’re all the same questions.
Guts to the Texans. They were fantastic against the Saints and would have won that thing easy were it not that they were playing, you know, the Saints. And I was watching on my phone while I took the dog out to piss when they scored that go-ahead touchdown, Deshaun Watson to Kenny Stills for 37 yards with 37 seconds remaining… and I straight away thought they’d buggered up by leaving too much time on the clock. How many QBs can you say that about with 37 seconds left? Only Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, probably. Sure enough Will Lutz knocked one over from 58 yards as time expired and the Saints won the most entertaining game of week one. But stick to the long term processes here folks. These Texans are going to win a lot of games in 2019, starting with this one.
(They’ll need it too, this is a brutal opening schedule for the Texans. After this it’s: Chargers (A), Panthers, Falcons, Chiefs (A) – though the balance is more in their favour near the end where they should win five of their last six so back the Texans to finish strong and if they’re 5-5 in two months then they’re in a good place).
Wildcard’s Pick: Texans by 6
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
The Vikings beat the Falcons 28-12, having lead 28-0 going into garbage time, with Kirk Cousins putting up a line like this:
8/10 COMP | 98 YDS | 1 TD | 0 INT | 140.8 RATE
This is a guy who threw 30 TDs last season and has logged at least 4000 yards in each of the last four seasons since he became a starter. Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan are the only two others who have done that (even Drew Brees only had 3992, snapping a 12-year streak).
The reason they were able to do that was because Dalvin Cook was absolutely superb with 111 rush yards on 21 attempts with two scores and five rushes for first down – plus an impressive 70 of those yards came after contact. It’s a bit of a dramatic shift if this is the pass/run balance they’re looking at this season but hey if it keeps Kirk Cousins in check then I’m all for it. Not sure this is a strategy that’ll hold up against the best teams though and the Packers are in that category, methinks.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 9
Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
It was bad enough watching the Pittsburgh Steelers receivers completely unable to find space and separation all night against the Patriots, while watching the Pats picking up yardage at will looking supremely well drilled already and this with Antonio Brown still to be added to things. It was bad enough as the score slipped further and further away and there was nothing Big Ben could do about it. That was bad enough. But this play was the icing on the cake…
Hahahahahahahahaha… [pause for breath]… hahahahahahaha!
Sneaky massive game here because the Steelers need that bounce back win at home after what they served up last week but the Seahawks are pretty good this season. Not as good in week one as I thought they might be but Russell Wilson delivered the goods and got them home. Not sure how I feel about them going into Pitt though… might have to pick against ya this time Rusty, don’t take it personally. It’s all part of that not overreacting to week one results thing.
Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 2
Buffalo Bills (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Giants by 3
New England Patriots (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Mike Florio/PFT: “Losing 59-10 at any level of football leaves a mark. In Miami, it’s sparking a mutiny. Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, multiple Dolphins players contacted their agents after Sunday’s season-opening blowout loss and directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere. The players believe that the coaching staff, despite claiming that they intend to try to win, aren’t serious about competing and winning and by all appearances have bought into the notion that the Dolphins will take their lumps now in the hopes of laying the foundation via high draft picks for building a successful team later.”
Multiple players requesting trades. After one game. One terrible and horrific game in which they were thoroughly destroyed by an up and coming quarterback and now this week they get to play against a New England Patriots offence that looked incredible in week one. Let’s be honest, the Dolphins are tanking, they just can’t admit that they’re tanking because it’s ugly.
But freaking out and aborting the plan mid-tank is even worse than tanking in the first place. Not that either of them are good ideas – I hate tanking and I don’t see the point of it when the draft is such a lottery anyway. The way to prioritise the draft isn’t by getting the highest possible pick it’s by getting the most picks so that you can roll the dice on more prospects, increasing your chances of something special coming up. So yeah, I don’t blame those players one bit for wanting off a sinking ship when this is a league with a huge physical toll and relatively short careers. What’s the point for them going through this? There is none. It’s just a silly situation the Fins have gotten themselves into.
Let me just scribble down a full list of things I’m going to enjoy seeing as the Patriots annihilate this Dolphins team by 70 points…
Nope, I’ve got nothing.
Wildcard’s Pick: Pats by 70
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)
Monday 8.05am NZT
Eh, what do you need Antonio Brown for anyway when you’ve got Josh Jacobs? Just hand it off and away you go. First player since LaDanian Tomlinson to have 100+ yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs on NFL debut.
Not that it will matter one little bit against the Chiefs. Patty Mahomes picking up where he left off, Sammy Watkins running all over the show, LeSean McCoy doing some sneaky things, points on top of points on top of points… too good. Too good for Jon Gruden at least. I’m looking forward to their game against Baltimore in week three, now that’s when things get funky.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 20
New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
Monday 8.25am NZT
What’s there to say? Quite possibly the two best teams in the NFC getting at it in week two. The two teams that competed in the NFC Championship game last season, a game which went to overtime and even then, I mean… you may remember this particular moment of controversy…
It’s actually hilarious that they didn’t call that. It’s maybe the most obvious pass interference I’ve ever seen, he literally flattened him. Dude got horizontal – it’s insane. Problem was maybe that it was too obvious and even the refs didn’t believe what they’d just seen. Sad thing there is that I honestly think the Saints would have had a much better chance of stopping the Patriots in the Super Bowl too. So it goes.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 3
Chicago Bears (0-1) at Denver Broncos (0-1)
Monday 8.25am NZT
QUARTERBACK A: 26/45 COMP | 228 YDS | 0 TD | 1 INT | 4.1 AY/A | 62.1 RATE
QUARTERBACK B: 21/31 COMP | 268 YDS | 1 TD | 0 INT | 9.3 AY/A | 105.3 RATE
The first guy is Mitch Trubisky against the Packers, the second is Joe Flacco against the Raiders. Both were losses but one was clearly a lot more effective than the other. In terms of passer ratings both Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson were perfect in week one, while Flacco comes in midtable in what was a pretty impressive week for most QBs – 17 blokes threw multiple scores and only four had multiple picks – but poor old Trubisky came in second to last, sandwiched between Baker Mayfield and Jameis Winston who each threw three interceptions.
Not a good start for the Bears then, who could hardly move the ball, and now come up against a Broncos defence that is supposed to be pretty excellent… although 22/26 completions from Derek Carr suggests maybe not as good as first anticipated. Somehow I still don’t think there’ll be many points in this one though… and it’s a pretty big game because for two teams built on strong defences, well those types of teams need to be playing from in front and starting 0-2 is kinda the opposite of that. I leaning Broncos with that sweet home field advantage but it could go either way.
Wildcard’s Pick: Broncos by 3
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Monday 12.20pm NZT
Yeah, well, I’ll be pissed off too if you give the Eagles an easy run like you did the Vikes.
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 6
Cleveland Browns (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
Tuesday 12.15pm NZT
Okay so we might have jumped the gun on the Cleveland Browns a tad there. Or… you might have, I dunno. But I picked them to miss the playoffs last week and I still think a young team like this needs time to learn and develop. Odell Beckham Jr and his $350k watch don’t change the fact that Baker Mayfield is only in his second season as an NFL quarterback, with a second-year RB behind him as well – and no matter how many confident words come out of that camp we all know that words are wind and actions speak a whole lot louder. But what’s hilarious is now seeing people going the opposite way on the Browns. This is such an American thing. Overreact in the first place, then react to the initial overreaction by overreacting in the opposite direction. In reality this is probably an 8-8 team that might push for the playoffs with a couple lucky wins but more likely next season is the time they’ll strike.
I realise that Baker Mayfield threw three picks last week, and I realise that OBJ’s determination to wear a watch worth more than my entire life’s earnings combined is an extremely dumb hill to die on and a bit of a distraction to the team, and I realise that their offensive line looked like a bit of a mess, and I realise they gave up waaaaay too many penalties… but nothing put me off the prospect of the Browns going deep this season more than actually seeing Freddie Kitchens and learning that he was literally a used car salesman.
Not even joking, this was from the official broadcast…
Considering that a lot of the hype around this team has been self-enforced by their own constant chatter about belief and confidence (Baker’s gonna Bake)… that all makes a lot more sense now that I know their coach used to convince people to spend thousands of dollars on dud vehicles back in the day. Not only that but his wife’s name is Ginger according to google. I mean, we’re a trailer park away from a decent sitcom pilot here.
Nah but for real, the Browns lost that game 43-13 but it was 15-13 late in the third quarter before Derrick Henry skipped through untouched for a 75-yard score and it promptly got ugly. But it was their own mistakes that got them in that trouble. Cut the penalties, reduce the sacks and interceptions, get the ball in the hands of their running back more early on, and a New York Jets team that couldn’t even hold a 16-0 lead against Josh Allen and the Bills won’t have much of a chance.
Wildcard’s Pick: Browns by 10
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. As well as scribbling down these extended and somewhat tongue-in-cheek NFL picks each week he is also, allegedly, a member of a small elite basketball audience and not the wider sports community.
You’re not getting a whole lot other NFL coverage from Aotearoa out there so support ya mates at TNC on Patreon if you rate what we do and wanna see more of it
Also helpful: whacking an ad whenever you read something worthwhile
Keep cool but care