So, how about the quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft class? After a Sam Darnold’s strong Week 1 outing, Baker Mayfield stole the show versus Donald in his debut last Thursday night. Josh Rosen was seen as the best pro-ready QB in the draft, and stepped in late with a chance at a his own Brett Favre-like moment on Sunday, but despite looking fairly poised, the Cardinals fell to the Bears. Lamar Jackson is more of a project, but has the potential to be electrifying either next year or the year after.
Then, there’s Josh Allen.
Seen as someone with a cannon arm and an abundance of raw talent, most were ready to suggest an unbelievably rough season with a chance at 0-16 for Allen and the lowly Bills’ roster.
But in just his second start, Allen and the Bills pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the NFL regular season, via a 27-6 thumping of the Vikings in Minnesota.
So what now? Well, the Bills still might yield the worst roster in football, so expectations for the remainder of Allen’s rookie year will have to be tempered a bit. But with a show of toughness, leadership and the ability to scramble and to find players downfield, the Bills should be ecstatic with the performance that their QB of the future displayed on Sunday.
It’s way too early to judge, but could the this draft class of QBs someday challenge the legendary 1983 and 2004 classes? We’ll revisit in about five years.
The next face of the NFL?
Another week, another step toward a record-setting season for phenom QB Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. In first home game, Mahomes and his talented supporting cast gave fans a glimpse of how they might be for the next decade-plus. Viewed as another superstar-QB-to-be, Jimmy Garoppolo and his underwhelming group of offensive talent were no match for the sweltering-hot Chiefs, despite a formidable second-half push.
Garoppolo is still in the hunt for the league’s next best QB, but he missed a couple throws to open receivers, and ultimately left the game with what looks to be a torn ACL. That’s a bummer for the league and it’s fans.
Meanwhile Mahomes made jaw-dropping touchdown throws, including one on a scramble that mirrored somebody playing with Michael Vick in EA Sports’ ‘Madden 2004.’
For now, Mahomes is next-in-line to take over as the league’s best QB, passing Garoppolo, Carson Wentz and others. And that’s with just three games played in his first season as the team’s franchise QB. The Chiefs have the NFL’s best set of offensive weapons, and they got off to a 5-0 start with Alex Smith last year before swooning their way down the playoff picture, eventually losing at home to the Titans in an AFC Wild Card Game.
But this is different. Mahomes is clearly better than Smith, and is surely the engine that makes this offense go. Even with the overload of talent, it’s the young QB and his remarkable playmaking ability that has the Chiefs thinking Super Bowl. Through three games, Mahomes has thrown for a record 13 touchdown passes, with zero interceptions. Eventually, more game tape (for defensive coordinators to study) and cold weather will surely slow him down, but will keep pace enough to lead the Chiefs to the AFC’s No. 1 seed and win NFL MVP?
In two weeks, the Chiefs begin a two-game stretch that may decide the top of the AFC’s playoff picture:
at New England
The game against the Patriots will be on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, giving the entire country a chance to see Mahomes face off with Tom Brady and the defending AFC champs.
The AFC’s early frontrunner will be decided than, and all eyes will be on Mahomes for that two-week stretch, if everyone isn’t following along with his monster season already.
Is Carson Wentz the new Andrew Luck?
The Colts and Eagles played their way into a close battle, that resulted in a lukewarm win by the defending Super Bowl champs, 20-16, in Carson Wentz’s return. Wentz was average against a much-improved Colts defense, while Luck had an on-and-off game against the Eagles much-aligned pass rush.
The most obvious similarity between the teams is former Eagles’ QB coach Frank Reich now occupying Indy’s head coaching job. But what about the quarterbacks? Both are near-perfect prototypes that were selected No. 1 (Luck) and No. 2 (Wentz) overall in their respective drafts. They both began to set the league on fire before a major injury hurt their progress. Luck led the league with 42 touchdown passes in 2014 while leading a below-average Colts roster to the AFC Championship Game. Wentz was setting the league ablaze last season, and would certainly have won the NFL MVP award over Tom Brady had he remained healthy.
Luck hasn’t quite looked the same since that 2014 season, and he’s missed just about the last two seasons with a shoulder injury. He’s easing back into his old self, but clearly has yet to produce as he did during his Year 3, where he was being anointed as the NFL’s next king-to-be at QB.
Wentz similarly looked the same last season, but tore his ACL, which has in turn limited his mobility, which is a major hallmark of his play. Luck’s shoulder injury is a bit more severe, as it involves his passing skills. So much, apparently, that he had to be replaced by backup QB Jacoby Brissett when the Colts needed a Hail Mary attempt to the end zone around midfield.
Time will tell if Luck can return to where he should be by now, and if Wentz can return to his Year 2 form by the end of his Year 3. But looking at their career arcs thus far, there is a similarity.
- In the Battle for Los Angeles (or “Hollywood Bowl”), the Rams outpaced the Chargers, as the team looks like the best in football through three weeks. With Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense getting most of the headlines, last year’s No. 1 offense should not be forgotten. Jared Goff has seemingly taken a huge step forward in Year 3, and Brandin Cooks has proven to be a massive acquisition as an upgrade at WR1, the spot held by Sammy Watkins last year. Watkins is now with the Chiefs.
- In Chip Kelly-like fashion, both Jon Gruden and Adam Gase have somewhat gutted their teams in hopes of changing the culture and attitude. Gruden’s Raiders have been competitive, but have blown three fourth-quarter leads to drop to 0-3, while the Dolphins have survived a few close games to head to 3-0, with a 10-point fourth quarter comeback to beat Gruden’s Raiders on Sunday. Gruden’s decision to rid the Raiders of Khalil Mack (who is the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year at the moment) and others has not helped the team. Gase’s decision to get rid of Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and others has paid off, as the team has displayed an obvious increase in mental toughness compared to recent seasons. The Dolphins (3-0) now travel to New England to take on the Patriots in a huge contest in Foxboro.
- Speaking of the Patriots, I felt it best to not lead the column with their apparent demise (again), but instead to gather my thoughts and produce a special column on their situation to you all. I’ll have that done by Tuesday morning. Stay tuned.