With 6 weeks down, and 10 to go in the 2019 NFL season, I believe it is time for a little summary/look ahead to what has happened so far, and what may happen in the remainder of the season. After a good third of the season, there are a fairly clear top 5 teams in the league competing for the Lombardi Trophy, with a pretty clear bottom 5 competing for the services of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa as the #1 Pick in the 2020 Draft.
First, let’s look at some surprises:
1. The San Francisco 49ers:
True to Richard Sherman’s request, I will stick with my initial opinion of San Francisco. I really don’t know how they are undefeated, but Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman have put the NFL on notice. Jimmy G hasn’t necessarily been electric, but he has been efficient and effective in his role as QB and team captain. Even though no one should be surprised that the 49ers have the second best defense in football considering they have five, yes five, first round picks on their defensive line alone, yet we all still are. Well besides Richard Sherman. I remember reading an article at the beginning of the year where Sherman and GM John Lynch said this was the year the team would explode, and I passed it off as Richard Sherman’s confidence and nothing more. Apparently that bravado Sherman brought for years in Seattle has carried down the coast to San Fran, and they appear to be here to stay.
2. Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints defense:
When Drew Brees went down with his thumb injury, even though I like the style of play Bridgewater brings to the table, I did not think the Saints would go on a 4-0 run with Teddy at the helm. Bridgewater absolutely is an above average backup quarterback in the NFL, but he has played at an effective starter pace while also being carried by a resurgent Saints defense. While statistically the Saints have not been an upper tier defensive unit, they have had some impressive performances. They held the Bucs to 24 points after their massive 58 point explosion the week before. They held the Jaguars and America’s new favorite mustache wearing QB to 6, allowing Bridgewater to do what he does best: Be efficient. With 4 out of their next 6 games against bottom 10 teams, the Saints could easily come out of week 12 sitting at 10-2, with a comfortable NFC south lead and in clear contention for a bye when Drew Brees comes back from thumb surgery.
3. Lamar Jackson:
No one denied the explosive nature of Lamar Jackson coming out of college, but barely anyone saw this rookie campaign coming. Jackson last week set an NFL record, being the first QB to throw for 200 yards and run for 150 yards in a regular season game. Jackson is averaging around 75 yards rushing and 325 yards passing a game, over 400 yards from scrimmage per game. Jackson’s dynamic running and passing arsenal has opened huge running lanes for Mark Ingram II to average 5 yards/carry, and has created easy checkdown throws to tight end Mark Andrews, as well as bring the safeties down and clear the field for deep balls to Hollywood Brown. I think a lot of Jackson’s success draws from the mentorship of his backup QB Robert Griffin III. The Ravens were very smart to bring RG3 into the quarterback room and allow him to teach Jackson and give him an opportunity to show the young QB all the aspects of being a running AND throwing QB, something Griffin wasn’t given as a rookie in Washington.
Disappointments? Sad Surprises? Anyway here we go..
1. The Packers lack of offensive weapons:
For years the Green Bay Packers have wasted Aaron Rodgers because of their utter lack of defense. Well now with Smith and Smith leading the Packers defense to glory, it appears the Packers have neglected the offensive side of the football for the first time since Rodgers has been QB. With Davante Adams down due to a turf toe injury, the Packers charged into week 6 against the Lions on Monday night Football with Marques Valdes-Scantling as their #1 receiver. Even though MVS got some valuable lessons from Randy Moss this offseason, only so much can be done by one guy who for the most part was blanketed by Darius Slay all evening. After the departure of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and years ago Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver. All those explosive weapons Rodgers had at his disposal years ago, are now gone. Rodgers does have a dynamic running game with Aaron Jones, who leads the NFl in rushing TDs. and Jamaal Williams at halfback, but when down 13 off the bat against Detroit, running only does so much. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst did a fantastic job of addressing defensive needs through free agency and the draft, it is time to do the same for the offense. Aaron Rodgers is 35 years old, and their window is closing. The time to act is now.
2. The NFC East’s mediocrity:
The NFC East currently has the worst record for a division leader(s) in football, and has two of the worst teams in the Giants and Redskins. Granted, the Giants have been without Barkley and gave the Patriots a good fight for maybe half a game, but the Redskins are just plain bad. The Cowboys, after starting 3-0, have dropped 3 straight including a historic and embarrassing loss to the Jets. America’s Favorite Team beat down on 3 bad teams to begin the season, lost to two good teams, and then forgot to beat down on the Jets with Sam Darnold returning from mano. Meanwhile, the Eagles have been quite mediocre, looking like a Superbowl team one week, then getting run over by the Vikings the next. Either the Cowboys or the Eagles will win the division, that is clear. At this point, it is a flip of a coin who will leave the East on top.
3. The LA Rams:
Fresh off a Superbowl loss to the Patriots, the Rams are showing the effects of an extended season. Jared Goff does not look good, Todd Gurley is no longer worth his massive contract, and their defense outside of Aaron Donald has not looked like the 2018 Rams. After being completely so-so through 6 games, the Rams made a splash to acquire star corner Jalen Ramsey and Browns center Austiin Corbett. With upgrades on the O-line and in their secondary, one can hope the Rams will return to their glorious and powerful form. In a division with the surging 49ers and the Seahawks, the future looks dim for La.
Boy do I love football. From fans hating referees, as usual, for calls no matter who they go for, to rookies making huge impacts and veterans falling off, the game is ever changing and evolving. With contenders for the Lombardi and contenders for Tua clearly seperating themselves, the marathon has just begun. Who will come out on top this year? Only time will tell.