There’s no overreaction like a Week 1 NFL overreaction, and we’re here for it. The emotions that emanate from Week 1 games are the absolute best. You’ve spent a whole offseason planning, expecting and hoping, and you’re willing to judge all of those plans, expectations and hopes based on one game. It makes no sense at all, but it’s beautiful. It’s the grease that makes the engine of NFL fandom run.
Let’s get right to it. What broad, sweeping conclusions are being drawn after one game? Are they overreactions or not?
Holy cow. The Ravens spent the offseason telling us Jackson would improve as a passer, but (A) teams say stuff like that all the time whether it’s true or not, and (B) did you see that??? The Baltimore Ravens quarterback took a flamethrower to the woebegone Miami Dolphins, completing 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters. He carried the ball only three times for 6 yards. They turned the dude into Peyton Manning in a single offseason!
The verdict: OVERREACTION. But it’s not completely insane. Jackson has the talent to compete for an award such as this at some point. Although we need to see him throw the ball against a better team than Miami before we make any conclusions about him being “fixed,” the fact that this passing performance lived within Jackson at all is cause for short-term and long-term optimism.
The Cowboys are going to have to pay Dak Prescott BIG money
Prescott, somewhat incredibly, entered this season without a contract extension. He has one year and $2 million left on his contract, making him one of the great bargains in the game if he has a middle-of-the-pack quarterback season. But there was nothing middling about Prescott’s 2019 debut, in which he went 25-for-32 for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the Dallas Cowboys‘ 35-17 victory over the New York Giants. The Cowboys have a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, and reviews on Prescott’s offseason have been glowing. Sunday did nothing to quell the hype.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Prescott entered the league at the same time as Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, who this offseason signed contract extensions that average $32 million and $33.5 million per year, respectively. Goff has been to the Super Bowl, so if the Cowboys want to say Prescott shouldn’t make more than Goff does, fair enough.
But Prescott plays in the same division as Wentz, has won the NFC East twice in three years, has stayed healthy and has played in three playoff games, winning one of them. If Prescott and his agent see Wentz’s deal as his floor, they have a case. And sure, he did what he did Sunday against an overmatched Giants defense, but if he stacks up a few performances like this one, the price is only going up.
Dak Prescott says nothing is easy in the NFL, but there is a ton of trust with his teammates because of all the talent on offense.
The Browns will miss the playoffs
For a few days, it looked as if the Chicago Bears would be the biggest letdown of Week 1. But the Cleveland Browns waded in on Sunday afternoon and bellowed, “Hold my beer!” Cleveland committed 18 penalties for 182 yards, and Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions in a hideous 43-13 home-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. A teetering Jenga tower of offseason hype went clattering all over the floor, and the entire city of Cleveland stepped on the pieces in bare feet. Meanwhile, the defending division champs won a road game by 49 points.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Of course. If you liked the Browns’ chances Sunday morning, there’s no reason to kiss them goodbye after one game. That’s true of literally every team, other than maybe the ones that lost starting quarterbacks or other key players to major injuries, and the Browns are no exception.
I’ve thought for a while that there’s a range of potential outcomes for this team this season, and the main question is about gelling under an unproven coaching staff. Sunday did nothing to assuage those concerns, but there’s still a ton of talent there and 15 more games to turn it around.
The Jaguars have no chance without Nick Foles
Signing Foles to play quarterback this offseason was supposed to supply the Jacksonville Jaguars with their missing piece. But he broke his clavicle on his first touchdown pass of the season and is out indefinitely. Backup Gardner Minshew came in and went an eye-popping 22-for-25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but the Jags couldn’t hang with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Now they’re 0-1 and down a starting QB.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. No offense to the nattily mustachioed Mr. Minshew, but he isn’t going to get to play against a Steve Spagnuolo defense every week.
He has talent and promise, and the coaching staff likes him a lot. But he’s a rookie and likely prone to rookie mistakes. The point of replacing Blake Bortles with Foles was to minimize mistakes at the quarterback position and allow the defense and the run game to win like they did in 2017. Foles’ injury brings uncertainty back to the vital spot at which the Jaguars thought they’d erased it.
The Vikings can make the playoffs without throwing the ball
Kirk Cousins was 8-for-10 for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Minnesota Vikings‘ 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He was not injured. He was not benched. He was the only person who threw a pass for the Vikings on Sunday, which means, yes, they threw only 10 passes. The Vikings ran the ball 38 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Coach Mike Zimmer said all offseason that he wanted to run the ball, and he was, apparently, not kidding.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. All right, so 10 passes in a game isn’t a sustainable 2019 model, but this victory over what looked to be a decent Falcons team before the season started is proof that the Vikings can lean on their run game and their defense and still win games.
I talked to Zimmer in training camp, and he said, “Everybody thinks I want to win games 10-7. I really don’t care. I just want to win games.” The Vikings believe their line is a strong run-blocking unit, that Dalvin Cook is a superstar talent at running back and that they can outperform their 2018 finish by cleaning up the way they play in the fourth quarter of games. They’re good enough on defense to pull that off, and if Cook can stay healthy, their model can absolutely work.