Jumping to Conclusions with Texans and Packers
Andrew: Hello and welcome to another actual regular season of Scramble for the Ball, where this week finds your humble Scrambleteers declaring the Jaguars the worst franchise to ever afflict the sport, the Chiefs flat-out unbeatable, Jameis Winston rehabilitated into a surefire future Hall of Famer, and the Texans the pluckiest set of underdogs who ever did pluck. Yes, it's National Jump to Conclusions Week at Scramble HQ!
Bryan: A one-game sample size is too small to take away any reasonable conclusions, but it's also 100% of the data we have to work with right now. A recipe for the hottest of hot takes and an opportunity to say some truly dumb things about where the season is going. Football's back, baby! Yeah!
Andrew: Not that we ever needed an excuse to say dumb things about where the season is going. Just check our Lock of the Week and Double Survival results.
Honestly, the first conclusion I jumped to above really is the first conclusion I jumped to when watching this weekend's games. Being both British and my household's only driver for the morning school and work run, I slept through opening night. The first game I watched live, therefore, was Jaguars-Texans.
Bryan: My condolences.
Andrew: I feel worse for J.P. At least I still have the Saints. But my goodness, were the Jaguars terrible. That's no surprise, but this was meant to be at least somewhat different. Trevor Lawrence! Urban Meyer! A new era! I do feel, after watching, that Lawrence will come good. Otherwise, I am ... not encouraged. How, in a salary cap league, does one team screw up this badly, this consistently, for this long?
Bryan: For me, the result just confirms everything I feared about Urban Meyer coming into the year. I know you can't really judge a coach until you actually see the product on the field, but everything that happened this offseason was sending alarm bells ringing for me. Drafting a running back in the first round. Hiring and firing Chris Doyle. Bringing Tim Tebow in for ... you know, that was never really explained to me. The fine for violating league rules during OTAs. Meyer's press conference where he said he cut people because of their vaccination status, which got him in trouble with the NFLPA. None of this necessarily meant that the team would look bad on the field; it's all tangential and secondary stuff. But boy oh boy, did I have my concerns, and they were pretty much all confirmed within about 15 minutes of action.
Andrew: That's all part of my point, though. How does a franchise go from a general manager so bad that the NFLPA recommends its members not sign with them, to something worse?
Bryan: Tony Khan spending more time getting his wrestling promotion off the ground and not paying attention to his football team? Maybe Bryan Danielson and C.M. Punk can come in for Week 3 to play tight end.
Andrew: Suffice it to say, Lawrence's situation already has worrying Andrew Luck vibes. What is it with AFC South teams and squandering franchise quarterbacks?
Bryan: If our conclusion we're jumping to is "the Jaguars are the worst team in football," I think I'm going to have to sell that just a little bit, considering the Jets also exist and have now lost both their starting left tackle and their top pass-rusher. But If the conclusion we're jumping to is "the Jaguars are lost in the wilderness," then yes, I'm right there.
Andrew: I was impressed enough with Lawrence that I don't think they'll be the worst team in football for long. But as a franchise, man, they even give the Jets a run for their money.
Still, that is now way too many words on the Jaguars even for a Scramble column.
Bryan: Then let's talk about their opponent some! If the playoffs were to start today ... there'd be a lot of very unhappy fans around the league. But those fans wouldn't be in Houston, because as the standings and the tiebreakers currently fall, the Houston Texans would be the #1 seed in the AFC. The Legion of the Adequate rises to the top!
Andrew: If you're trying argue against a one-game regular season, I think you just won your argument.
Bryan: What, the "league ranking in points scored/points allowed" tiebreaker isn't conclusive enough for you? Pshaw.
Andrew: I admit, I was impressed with Tyrod Taylor. He made some incredible throws, and even some Deshaun Watson-esque plays. I was particularly entertained by him twisting K'Lavon Chaisson into a pretzel in the backfield before hitting a bomb to Brandin Cooks.
Tyrod Taylor looks good when he isn't benched for a random rookie QB every year.pic.twitter.com/bQoWNSplpO
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 12, 2021
Bryan: Taylor has been getting a raw deal ever since he was inexplicably benched for Nathan Peterman while in Buffalo. I'm happy to see him playing so well. It was just against the Jaguars, mind you, but we said in our over/under previews that the Texans had enough competent players that they could hang with the truly terrible franchises. I think Week 1 proved that quite nicely!
Andrew: I'd still urge caution on the Texans, because even most bad professional franchises cover and tackle far better than the Jaguars do. I still suspect the Texans will be bad. Just not quite Jaguars bad.
Bryan: But will they be Packers bad? Because speaking of jumping to conclusions, Green Bay just had the worst game ever by a defending conference championship team, wiped off the map by Jameis Winston and the new-look New Orleans Saints, brought to you by LASIK.
Andrew: That would be a very similar Saints team to the one that beat the Buccaneers by the same score last year. That worked out just great, for all concerned.
I really don't know what to make of that result. On the one hand, I feel vindicated for much of my Winston commentary not just this offseason but going back to his Buccaneers days. I have maintained that Winston is a starting-caliber quarterback, and a pretty good one in the right circumstances.
Bryan: You can tell that Winston learned a bunch sitting and watching Drew Brees for a year. Winston's five touchdown passes came with just 148 passing yards, which is a new record for fewest yards ever in a five-touchdown game, beating out a pair of passers from 1962 and MVP-year Lamar Jackson.
Andrew: Right. That's on the other hand. This feels like a bit of a fluke, a game that got out of control in a way that normally wouldn't happen. I certainly don't think there's that sort of gulf between these teams. Plus, the Saints lost another three starters, likely for some time, on the shallowest roster they have had in a long while.
Bryan: I'd agree that the score doesn't reflect the gap between the two teams, although I don't think I'd go so far as to say it was a fluke. Winston looked a lot like what you expect out of a Saints quarterback in a Sean Payton offense, and still uncorked a bomb late in the game for the fifth touchdown, ruining our dreams of a four-touchdown, sub-100-yard day. If—and this is a one-game sample size, so massive heaps of salt—but if Winston can come within spitting distance of the efficiency Drew Brees had over the last couple of seasons, and can couple with it an arm strength that Brees said goodbye to long ago, maybe the Saints can make it a round further in the playoffs before getting absolutely crushed.
Bryan: As for the Packers, well, you're right in that bad games happen to good teams, and the Buccaneers-Saints game from last season is a perfect example of that. But as for Aaron Rodgers specifically? Man, I'm not so sure. I have the Loser League Review piece coming out today, and I talk at quite a length about Rodgers and his terrible outing. To make a long story short: Pro Bowl-caliber passers do not, generally, have days like that; the last player to have so poor a day from a fantasy perspective and still make the Pro Bowl was Teddy Bridgewater as a fifth alternate back in 2016. Worse still, it's quite possible the Saints have provided a blueprint to slow down Rodgers, if not necessarily to the extent he got shut down on Sunday.
Rodgers struggled somewhat against two-high safeties even during his MVP campaign last year. The Saints stuck in two-high basically all game long, and Rodgers did not cope with it well. The way you beat that is by running the ball, as the defense has taken a safety out of the box ... but the Saints' defensive line overwhelmed the point of attack, and the Packers couldn't get anything going there either. I don't think we'll see another sub-150-yard passing day from Rodgers this season, but I'm not quite sure Packers fans can fully R-E-L-A-X quite yet.
Andrew: They can at least take solace in the fact that they're still tied for the NFC North lead. That division took such a beating this weekend that Lions fans might have come out of it the most optimistic. Sure, for 58 minutes they had their doors blown off by the 49ers, but they proved that there is absolutely no quit in that roster. That's as close as I can remember seeing a team come to nailing the 8-8-8 24-point comeback, and they would have done it in less than two minutes.
Bryan: You can make a ton of excuses there—oh, the 49ers had injuries; oh, they were playing prevent; oh, they took their starters off the field—but Lions teams have played against excuse-ridden defenses before and looked terrible. I cannot overstate how impressed I was by Dan Campbell and his team on Sunday—not necessarily on the field so much as in their strategy and refusal to quit. Going for it constantly on fourth down is key for a team that is frankly outmatched in a talent sense, and the fact that they kept going despite being blown out of the water in the first half says a ton about their character. My jump to conclusions statement here would be that Campbell had the best debut of any of the rookie coaches, despite Nick Sirianni, David Culley, and Brandon Staley all coming out of Week 1 with wins.
Andrew: Oof, that is quite an assertion, considering Sirianni's team not only won, but picked up the second-biggest win of the weekend, 32-6.
Bryan: I am preparing to eat some Eagle-shaped crow, yes, considering I had the Eagles tabbed as the team earning the top draft pick in our staff predictions. We got some guff for not really covering the Eagles-Falcons game during Audibles, but I mean, c'mon! It was the Eagles! And the Falcons! During a crowded early window! I thought both teams would be terrible, and it looks like I am at least half right. Trust me when I say I'll be giving the Eagles a much closer look this week. I'm not quite ready to say that my pick was terrible here; one game where an offense sliced up a team with a thousand papercuts (Jalen Hurts was 13-for-14 on short passes with the lowest average depth of target in the league) and where a defense took advantage of an offensive line made out of warm Jell-O does not a season make. But if I'm going to look stupid this year—and I always find a way to do that—the Eagles look like the ones that will do it to me.
Andrew: I'm more shocked by just how bad the Falcons were. I have always rated the Eagles offensive and defensive lines; it was the quarterback and receivers that had me skeptical. Atlanta looked like a team that was completely unprepared for the physicality of their opponent. Considering Arthur Smith's history in Tennessee, that was a real stunner. I expected the Falcons defense to struggle to generate a pass rush—their edge rushers looked like one of the very weakest units in football to me when we were writing over/unders—but they couldn't block anybody either. If that's a sign of things to come, they really should have taken Matt Ryan's successor in April, like many of us said they should. I suspect they'll get better, but that's partly because they can't get much worse. I, for one, can't wait until they play the Jaguars in Week 12.
Bryan: From one Eastern division to another, then. What do you make of the Bills sputtering against the Steelers? A sign that 2019 Josh Allen has returned to terrorize Buffalo once again? Or just Pittsburgh, our top-projected defense, being a tough draw for anyone? I'm about 80% on the latter and 20% on the former. A little regression from 2020 Allen wouldn't be a surprise, considering that Allen's 2020 would be a career year for 95% of quarterbacks in league history. But those cornerbacks and that pass rush the Steelers can pull out will make anyone look a little jumpy.
Andrew: On Twitter, Allen's one of those hot-button topics you only push when you want things to explode into flames. It seems like when you say the word "regression," everybody thinks you mean he'll suddenly be terrible again. I believe we can be confident that won't be the case. But as you note, 2020 was so good that just about anybody would struggle to live up to it. Buffalo's still one of the favorites in the AFC, and the clear favorite in the AFC East. A one-score loss to a franchise that never has a bad team doesn't change that.
However, Pittsburgh might have just demonstrated that they're a fitter horse than most of us suspected. There have been some rumblings that this could be the year everything falls apart there, mainly because Ben Roethlisberger's arm appears to be suffering from Brees-Rivers syndrome. However, that defense dragged Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges to 8-6, and this year's edition appears even better. If Cleveland can sustain their Week 1 performance level, and Cincinnati really is better with Joe Burrow, that division battle is going to be a doozy.
Bryan: And don't forget Baltimore, who I expect to bounce back a little after one of the craziest Monday Night games I can remember. I called the AFC North the division with the highest potential, and we may have four ... well, not necessarily good in Cincinnati's case, but non-bad teams fighting to the wire. That should be entertaining!
But the Browns and Ravens losses stop the AFC North from calling themselves the best division in football after one week. No, the best football is clearly played out West. As things stand right now, all four AFC West teams, sitting at 1-0, would make the postseason, a feat which has never been done before. Not to be outmatched, all four NFC West teams are 1-0 as well, with the Seahawks being the odd man out of the postseason because of the quality of the top teams in the South. It was a good weekend of football for fans who have to get in front of the TV at 10 in the morning to watch early games. What body clock?
Andrew: One of those is no surprise. If you'd told me one division went 4-0 in Week 1, the NFC West is the division I would have guessed. What caught me out was how comfortably they did it. I wasn't confident Arizona would beat Tennessee, but I thought that would be close enough that the Cardinals could snatch it. Yeah, they kinda snatched it just barely. I always expected Seattle, San Francisco, and the L.A. Rams to win their games, but they also completely dominated them, late-game craziness in Detroit aside.
Bryan: By DVOA, the NFC West ranks second, fourth, fifth and sixth at the moment. DAVE's a little less kind, but this is Jump to Conclusions week; DAVE'S not here, man. A combined DVOA of 192.1% would shatter the record for best division in DVOA history. Color me ever so slightly skeptical that all four teams will look like world-beaters every week, but we have four legitimate playoff contenders here, with every one of them hitting at least 46.4% in our post-Week 1 odds. It's going to be a long season, but in a more positive way than that phrase is generally used.
Andrew: The AFC West is a little more of a surprise, specifically because of the Raiders. That Monday night game was wild, and a perfect example of the randomness of football. The Ravens had never lost a regular-season game they led by 14 points under John Harbaugh until Lamar Jackson lost a fumble in overtime at his own end of the field.
Bryan: I continue to understand nothing about the Las Vegas Raiders. Nothing.
Andrew: I'm still not convinced there's much to understand. Heck, I even called them beating the Ravens in the relevant over/unders column, while pointing out that they'll follow it up by losing to less talented opponents later in the year. They're not dissimilar to the Titans in terms of how they're built, though the two arrived at that though somewhat different processes. They'll be a tough opponent for most sides, but they're still well behind the top teams in the conference.
The Chargers win also caught me out, though I should have known that would happen when you picked against them in Lock of the Week. Never pick a Chargers game, neither for nor against. A win in Washington is impressive, regardless of Ryan Fitzpatrick being knocked out of the game.
Bryan: You could make a strong argument—and Week 1's DVOA would back you up, albeit with the usual caveats about Week 1 strength—that the defending AFC champion Chiefs played the worst of the four teams in the division last week. I will admit, I have less faith in the AFC West than I do in their NFC counterparts, but it was quite a statement made by both the Chargers and Raiders, not to mention the Broncos, now with competent quarterback play.
We have been accused of loving Teddy Bridgewater too much, and far be it from me not to play into that stereotype.
Andrew: Denver's win was impressive, achieved exactly the way I'd expect them to achieve it. No fireworks, little fanfare, just an efficient, effective team performance. Vic Fangio's defense will be a tough opponent for any team, so it just needs the offense to hold up their end. They'll have tougher opponents than the Giants, for sure, but it's a good start.
Bryan: Baseline Competence: The Teddy Bridgewater Story. Coming to theaters this fall.
Let's wrap it up with this. It seems like every year, there's one Week 1 game that makes no sense when you come back and look at it at the end of the year. Last season, that was the Jaguars beating the Colts 27-20 behind the Power of the Mustache. Not satisfied with 1-0, Jacksonville promptly went on to lose their next 15 games, while the Colts rebounded to earn a playoff slot. The question is—which game was it this year?
Andrew: Hmm. That's a tough question. Instinctively, I'd say Bengals over Vikings or Raiders over Ravens, but an overtime loss on the road isn't exactly a total shock even for a good team. I think I might circle back to the start of this article. The Packers are way better than a 38-3 shellacking would suggest. The Saints won't quite live up to that hype. When the Packers finish above the Saints in the standings, everybody will look back on that result as just another week 1 whoopsie.
Bryan: You make a strong case, but I am going to go for one of those overtime losses. I think by the time January rolls around, we'll forget that the Ravens were coming off of losing so many players in such a short period of time. Given time to react, John Harbaugh's men will rebound to a double-digit-win season, while the Raiders will ricochet all over the place, winning games they should lose and losing games they should win. We'll scratch our heads, remember the last two minutes and overtime, and then move along.
Andrew: That sounds entirely in keeping with our expectations for both teams. National Jump to Conclusions week, my left foot.
Keep Choppin' Wood
We at Scramble HQ don't remember another week quite like this one for late, game-changing fumbles.
- In Detroit, Deebo Samuel fumbled on a reception late in the fourth quarter to give the Lions one final shot at an extraordinary comeback … though being the Lions, they ultimately fell short.
- In New England, Damien Harris fumbled with the Patriots trailing, but in range for a potential game-winning field goal. After recovering, the Dolphins were able to run out the rest of the clock.
- In sudden-death overtime in Cincinnati, the Vikings advanced deep into Bengals territory, but Dalvin Cook lost possession; instead, it was the Bengals who drove for the game-winning field goal.
- Finally, in overtime against the Raiders, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson lost the ball on a sack in his own territory, and the Raiders recovered to drive for the game-winning touchdown (more on that later).
The debatable nature of the call against Cook tilts us toward Jackson for this award, but this was evidently not an isolated problem. Hold onto the ball, guys.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
We have not been slow to criticize Zac Taylor in this column over the past few seasons, but credit where credit is due: in overtime against Minnesota, Taylor made one of the boldest calls of Week 1. Following the Cook fumble, a Joe Mixon run on third-and-1 was stuffed to bring up fourth-and-1 near midfield. Not only did the Bengals go for it, Taylor trusted Joe Burrow to pass if he liked the look. Having audibled to the pass, Burrow found C.J. Uzomah for a 32-yard gain that not only handily converted, but also got the Bengals into range for the winning field goal.
The Vikings were absolutely prepared for this to be play-action, which confirms what Zimmer said after the game. Woods just lost Uzomah pic.twitter.com/7ffazKjLlw
— Arif Hasan, football season enjoyer 🏈 (@ArifHasanNFL) September 13, 2021
Two plays later, Evan McPherson sealed an impressive victory, giving Taylor's team a winning record for the first time in his head coaching career.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
Look, nobody really expected the Sam Darnold revenge game in Carolina to be an offensive explosion, but it's possible to take defense-and-field-position beyond the bounds of good sense. In the first quarter, with the game scoreless, the Panthers faced fourth-and-6 from the Jets' 33-yard line. Even if we accept that analytics hasn't yet won the battle for fourth-and-medium in long field goal range, most coaches would consider a 51-yard field goal makeable. Heck, the Panthers had Joey Slye try two kicks from his own half last season! Not so with Ryan Santoso. Matt Rhule instead elected to have his team punt. From the opposition's 33-yard line. Braxton Berrios made the fair catch at the 15 for a net gain of just 18 yards.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
This offseason, we heaped praise on Brian Daboll's play calling last year for Buffalo. Today, however, we must ask ... what the hell was this?
that's one hell of a fourth-and-1 play you have got there, Bills pic.twitter.com/opQgGfelAb
— Christian D'Andrea needs help to buy Ale Asylum (@TrainIsland) September 12, 2021
The immediate answer was that the Bills were trying to pull off a cheeky throwback, like this one they did in 2004 against the Seahawks.
It would have looked beautiful if it worked though
Willis Mcgahee 30yd TD on 4th and 1 pic.twitter.com/UZNsPkmNbJ
— Cornpop? (@idontknowzak) September 13, 2021
OK, so it's not stupid-crazy. We have a few notes, though.
First of all, Josh Allen is a better runner than Drew Bledsoe; he already had three successful draw plays in the game and has shown some significant wheels in the past, so just plowing forward was a stronger-than-usual option for the Bills. Secondly, Allen does a terrible job of selling the fake; compare it to Bledsoe and it's worlds apart. Thirdly, the second clip comes from the midpoint of an absolute demolition of Seattle, not in a tightly contested ballgame. The play is fun and it's showboaty ... and it's low-percentage. Cameron Sutton isn't even fooled for a tenth of a second, and so the play was dead before it ever began. Burn this play, Buffalo.
'Football is Easier With Two Working Lungs' Fantasy Player of the Week
Oh, everyone spent all offseason slamming the Houston Texans—and for good reason, too! The Legion of the Adequate found themselves dead last in power rankings around the Interwebs, with the vast majority of observers writing them off as a lost cause before the year even began. No one told Tyrod Taylor, mind you. Last seen having his lung punctured by an inattentive doctor, Taylor took those low expectations and destroyed them. Taylor put up his biggest numbers since 2017, throwing for 291 yards and a pair of scores as the Texans "crockpotted" the Jaguars, to quote Rivers McCown. Most Sundays for Taylor and the Texans will be long and painful, but they'll always have Week 1.
Spectacular throw-and-catch to Cooks under pressure by Taylor pic.twitter.com/n6nAyACrIt
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 12, 2021
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
We had half a dozen Lions, most notably Jamaal Williams, cued up for this award until their little garbage-time comeback became an actual comeback attempt, putting a brief bolt of fear into the 49ers. So, out of respect, they get the honor of not being relegated to a garbage award for meaningless plays. Instead, we turn to Ryan Tannehill, who kept getting the Titans to within two scores for much of the game, only for the Cardinals to immediately turn around and make a three-score game of things once more. After DeAndre Hopkins' second touchdown of the game early in the second quarter, Tannehill went 18-for-30 for 197 yards, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another. I'm not sure what odds you could have gotten before the season for Tannehill to be the team's leading scorer on the ground, but who needs Derrick Henry, anyway?
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
Green Bay suffered the biggest loss of the weekend, but it should be easy enough to find comfort for a team that played in the conference championship this past January. Less so for the team that picked fifth overall; the Falcons' 32-6 defeat at the hands of the Eagles was an abject disaster from start to finish, with Atlanta being overwhelmed on both offense and defense by a physically superior opponent. Lead back Mike Davis was held under 50 yards on just 3.3 yards per carry. With Julio Jones out of town, supposed No. 2 receiver Russell Gage had no catches on two targets. Second-year Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for three touchdowns, each to a different receiver, with no turnovers and just one sack. The performance was ugly, the statistics were ugly, but at least rookie tight end Kyle Pitts stepped straight into an active role on the Falcons offense: Pitts tied for the team lead with eight targets, which also tied him with Noah Fant and Rob Gronkowski as the third-most targeted tight end of Week 1 behind T.J. Hockenson and Darren Waller. It is notoriously difficult for rookie tight ends to be productive, but it sure looks like the Falcons will try to buck that trend under tight end-friendly head coach Arthur Smith.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
We had a long spiel about Joe Burrow and his audible on fourth-and-1 to give the Bengals their first win of the season, and how cool that was. We were set to go to print with that, and then Monday night happened, and more specifically, the last two minutes of regulation and overtime happened, and the world went crazy. Let's skip 58 minutes ahead and recap all the huge plays that happened:
- With the score tied at 24, Lamar Jackson scrambles 28 yards up the middle to get into range for a long field goal attempt from Justin Tucker. The Ravens drain the clock to 0:42 and Tucker nails the kick. Ravens lead 27-24 and the Raiders have to march down the field with no timeouts left.
- Bryan Edwards, who had been held catchless all game, hauls in not one, but two huge receptions to give Daniel Carlson a shot at a 55-yard game-tying kick as the clock expires, and Carlson responds. 27-27, and we're going to overtime.
- The Raiders get the ball to start OT and, after a big pass to Hunter Renfrow, Carr finds Edwards again for the third time in five minutes. Edwards gets past Chris Westry and stretches for the goal line. Touchdown Las Vegas, game over, everyone comes onto the field for handshakes and hugs.
- But wait! Replay shows that Edwards was down inside the 1-yard line, so we have to go through the motions of the Raiders gaining the last 18 inches. Out trots the vaunted Las Vegas red zone offense, which gets stuffed on a sneak, called for a false start on a hard count, and throws an incomplete pass, and then is somehow, unbelievably, intercepted in the end zone. Ravens ball, and they just need a field goal to win.
That was going to be the game-changing play; even if the Ravens ran out of time, going from celebrating a win to an interception in the end zone definitely counts for any criteria we could possibly dream of. But on the ensuing drive, Lamar Jackson was re-introduced to one Carl Nassib.
THE RAIDERS GET ANOTHER CHANCE.
— NFL (@NFL) September 14, 2021
This wasn't a one-highlight night for Nassib, either; he had been getting some solid pressure throughout the game. This sack-fumble, though, was the game-winner. Not a bad highlight for someone who, just by playing in Monday's game, broke a lot of barriers for guys like Bryan.
Not that the craziness was over, mind you. We still had to have a delay of game on a potential game-winning field goal from Las Vegas, and then a Ravens zero blitz which allowed Zay Jones to slip past everyone and actually score the winning touchdown. And so ended one of the craziest football games you will ever see.
Bryan: Week 1 was tough all around, with plenty of upsets and unexpected results around the league, so your humble Scramblers going 1-1 on our initial locks is a solid, if unspectacular, result. As Andrew said, the Jaguars should not have been road favorites against anybody, and while it would be safe to say that he didn't expect the Texans to look like world-beaters, a win is a win! As for me, Washington fought valiantly but futilely. I'd blame that less on Ryan Fitzpatrick getting hurt and more on a porous third-down defense—the Chargers managed to drain the last 6:30 off the clock, which is absolutely insane—but I don't feel too dumb for assuming the Football Team would look decent in their opener.
Also this week, our Double Survival journey begins! For those who are new or have otherwise forgotten, each week, Andrew and I pick two teams to win straight up. The catch? We have to pick all 32 teams once, and only once, over the next 16 weeks. Anyone can find a win for the Chiefs or Buccaneers. We may have just seen the best chance for the Texans pass us by.
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
Records to Date
Andrew: Grab the Cardinals while they're hot; discard the Vikings while they're not. Though I do think the Vikings are better than an overtime road loss to the Bengals would indicate, the Cardinals tend to make hot starts to the season under Kliff Kingsbury, and the Vikings weren't exactly at the races in the second half in Cincy. The Cardinals can get out to an early lead here and let their pass rush get to work against another poor offensive line. Minnesota will improve as the season goes on, but this could be a rough September. Arizona (-4.5) over Minnesota.
Bryan: I'm taking the Miami Dolphins (+3.5) at home against the Bills. I get that much of the Week 1 concern about Josh Allen comes from facing what we expect to be a very tough defense in Pittsburgh, but there were enough inaccurate throws and questionable decisions to at least give Buffalo fans some pause. You can chalk a lot of that up to Pittsburgh's excellent cornerbacks and great pass rush ... but the problem is, the Dolphins also have excellent cornerbacks, and while they don't have a pass-rusher of T.J. Watt's quality, Brian Flores does an excellent job scheming up pressure from all sides. I'm not convinced they can stop the run, but Buffalo doesn't run the ball anyway, so that's a wash. Will Fuller comes back, too, to help the Miami offense. And, since the line gives you the extra half-point, I cover whether the Bills win by three or the Dolphins win by three. I'll take it!
Double Survival League
Andrew: Hey, it's the return of the game where we try to guess the league's whipping boys and pick as many opponents against them as possible! Based on my Week 1 viewing experience, I don't want to pick anybody this week who has yet to play the Jaguars, and I do want to pick whichever team is playing the Jaguars this week. That means I'm going with a Denver Broncos team that is good enough to compete with far better opponents, but that doesn't have an easier-looking game on their schedule.
The Green Bay Packers do not get to play the Jaguars this season, but they will be stinging from a loss in Jacksonville nonetheless after their 38-3 beatdown against the displaced Saints. They'll make amends with a victory over a Lions team that, though they made it shockingly competitive late in Week 1, were still getting blown out for 58 minutes at home by a team with basically no cornerbacks.
Bryan: The game praised in the comments for the tortured twists of logic we use to justify our picks is back! Far be it from me to disappoint my many fan.
I'm opening with the Cleveland Browns, who get a nice cushion after their loss to the Chiefs last week. They get to host the Texans, which is, on paper, their easiest matchup of the year. The "Tyrod Taylor revenge game!" is not enough to flip my thinking there, and the Browns no longer deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence as the aforementioned Jaguars. Heck, the Browns outplayed the Chiefs by VOA; I have just a slight hunch that they'll be able to handle the Texans, AFC lead or no AFC lead.
Slightly more risky is my second pick, the Washington Football Team. With Ryan Fitzpatrick out, the WFTs have to go to Taylor Heinicke under center, which obviously is somewhat less than ideal. But Heinicke has shown moderate hot streaks from time to time; he ranked 15th in DYAR this week despite no practice time and only entering the game midway through the second quarter. Plus, I'm going with a new rule, at least for now: I'm only picking NFC East teams at home against other NFC East teams until the division proves conclusively that it's not as much of a dumpster fire as it was a season ago. With the Cowboys at least hinting that they could find their 2019 form again, and the Eagles surprising many with a very sharp performance in Week 1, that leaves me with Big Blue. See, I told you my logic could be as twisted as ever.