Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 1
FOOTBALL. IS. BACK.
With Week 1 officially in the books, it’s now time to look back on the start of what should be an incredibly exciting season in the NFL. The games were incredible. I laughed, I cheered, I screamed, I nearly pulled my hair out, and I can’t wait until next week.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for the NFL season, but before we get into all the action and break it down, I should probably explain how this is going to work.
Each week, shortly after the Monday night games have reached their conclusion, I’ll have a breakdown of the week’s action. This weekly column will be posted on Tuesday afternoons, and will be called: Tuesday Afternoon Football. Obviously this week is the exception, so I don’t want to hear about how the first edition is being posted on a Wednesday. Now, I won’t just look at all the box scores and throw stats at you, because why would you want to read that. I’ll pick three stories from the week to break down, I’ll give out a couple awards, and I’ll provide an update from the locomotive of the Jimmy G hype train. Now, let’s jump into it.
Return of the Mack:
During the last several weeks, Khalil Mack essentially was a mythical figure. No one heard from him, no one saw him, and his name swirled in trade rumors before he eventually ended up getting shipped to Chicago to play with the Bears.
Mack, a former Defensive Player of the Year, is hands-down one of the best players in the entire NFL. That’s right, not a top defensive player, just a top player, period. He is the first player to be named to the All-Pro team at two different positions in the same season. He was the anchor of a defense that never was able to really put it all together during his tenure in Oakland. He was an oasis tucked away in the Atacama Desert.
He was in the midst of a holdout when he was traded, because he was massively underpaid. Due to the team’s unwillingness to pay a non-quarterback that much money or their inability to pay him the money simply because they don’t have it. Long-story short, he is now a Chicago Bear, and he is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
He made his debut with the Bears on Sunday night, his first time playing in one of the most storied rivalries in the NFL, against the Green Bay Packers. He had just been traded earlier in the week, so it would be understandable if he didn’t perform up to his standards. Whether it was a lack familiarity with the playbook/defensive scheme or rust from not having played in the preseason.
Khalil Mack had no trouble though, and he has no issue living up to his own lofty standards, and in fact, he proved that he will be worth every last penny of his new contract. He exceeded any reasonable expectations that people placed on him, and he exceeded any lofty expectations that were placed on him. He did it all.
In the first half, he absolutely terrorized the Green Bay Packers. He had a sack, a forced fumble, and a 27-yard pick six. He dominated, and while his presence was las pronounced in the second half, he still put together a legendary performance. He is the first Chicago Bear to record a sack, forced fumble, and pick-six in a half since 1950, and the first player to do it in a game since he did it a couple seasons ago.
Jon Gruden, Reggie McKenzie, and Mark Davis have to be kicking themselves, I know that any rational Raider fan is.
Khalil Mack looked like a man on a mission during Sunday’s game, and he might be the most unstoppable defensive force in the league.
The King of the (NFC) North
On the other side of Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears defense that looked deadly in the first half, was DeShone Kizer. After Aaron Rodgers went down with a knee injury, one that looked bad enough to potentially end his season.
Rodgers Missed nearly the entirety of last season with injuries, and was determined to not follow that same path this season. When he first entered the league, Aaron Rodgers sat for three years behind one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever take the field: Brett Favre.
Favre was an Iron Man, at one point starting 297 consecutive games, and while Rodgers is not the Iron Man that Favre was, he has an equal claim on the title of “Greatest Quarterback of All Time.”
When Rodgers returned to Sunday’s game, the Packers were down 0-17, and Chicago’s defense was humming. Chicago then extended their lead to 20-points before Rodgers decided it was unacceptable.
He led the Packers back, tossing an absolute DIME to Geronimo Allison for a 39-yard touchdown. He then connected with DeVante Adams for another score with nine minutes left in the game. The Bears kicked a field goal, and with less than three minutes left on the clock, the Chicago Bear had a 23-17 lead.
Too much time was on the clock though, maybe it would have been fine with an average quarterback, or even a regular above-average quarterback, but not Aaron Rodgers. His claim on being the greatest quarterback to ever live grew even more, as he connected with Randall Cobb on a crossing route which was taken 75-yards and gave the Packers a lead that they would not relinquish.
Perhaps the fact that Rodgers led a comeback from being down 20-0 is impressive enough for you, but there was an added level of difficulty. Rodgers looked as if was unable to put any pressure on his left knee, making him significantly less mobile, and making his throws not nearly as quick. He was able to overcome his bum-knee and lead the Packers to a win on ONE LEG.
If you weren’t convinced of Rodgers’ magical ability to will his team to wins by his previous actions, such as completing two hail-marys in the same season or winning a Super Bowl, you have to have been convinced now.
I was speechless at the time, I have never seen a performance as mystifying as that, given the circumstances, since Game 7 of the 2014 World Series when Madison Bumgarner picked up a five-inning save after throwing a complete-game shutout just two days prior.
It was truly stunning, and now the only conclusion that I am left with is that I have never seen a more impressive quarterback in my life than Aaron Rodgers.
Room for Fitzmagic in Jamies Winston’s Tampa Bay?
Jameis Winston got suspended during the offseason for some unfortunate events that took place with an Uber driver. He was suspended for three games, so starting in his place was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The backup QB is now playing on his seventh team since entering the league, and to open a season where many expected nothing more than terrible football from the Buccaneers, he delivered a gem to beat the New Orleans Saints 48-40.
Now, just saying that he won does not tell the whole story here. He was incredible, and looked like the greatest quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns while completing 75% of his passes, and on top of that, he ran for 36 yards and another touchdown.
While all 417 yards were impressive on their own, perhaps the more impressive part of that statistic is that Jameis Winston, the franchise QB who has been suspended, has never topped that number in an NFL game, and has only topped 400 yards one time.
So, I think this question begs to be asked now: In a season in which many expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be one of, if now the, worst teams in the league, Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to guide the team to a win over a team that many predicted to win their division...should the Bucs utilize Fitzpatrick as their everyday quarterback and start the process of moving on from Jameis?
Now that question is a complicated one, but what the question really boils down to is this: Has Jameis Winston’s on-field performances made his off-field issues more tolerable, or is it not worth the headache at this point?
I am not saying that Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 36 years old, should be given a long-term deal to be the started for the Bucs. What I am saying is that he may be a nice stopgap quarterback for a team that might just need a hard reset.
The Buccaneers finished last season with a record of 5-11, and the season before that they were 9-7, which was their lone season with a record above .500 since 2010. Simply put, Jameis Winston has been unable to carry his team the way a franchise quarterback has been traditionally expected to.
On the other hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a track record of team success, but has had a better individual season than Jameis. His best season was back in 2015 with the New York Jets, and he led them to a 10-6 record. He threw for 3,905 yards, and 31 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Winston’s best season saw him throw for 4,090 yards 28 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. The Bucs went 9-7 that season.
So at their peak, the difference between the two can be negligible. While basing this potentially franchise-altering decision on just one week of gameplay is tough, I think that if Ryan Fitzpatrick can perform anywhere close to way he did in week one in one of the next two games, then he should take over as the starting quarterback.
That decision is not just to help the team win, but also to make Jameis have to take a good long look at himself and compete for the starting job once again. While it may be a tough pill to swallow in the short term, it could pay massive dividends in the long run and allow Jameis to be the quarterback that Tampa Bay wants him to be.
Views from the Locomotive of the Jimmy G Hype Train:
This was a rough week for those of us who have hitched their wagons to the Jimmy Garoppolo hype train. The San Francisco 49ers marched into Minnesota to take on the Vikings, who are going to be one of the best teams in the NFL this season. Jimmy G lost his first game as a starter, 24-16, so the gag about him being the de-facto greatest quarterback of all time now is no longer accurate. He still might be the most handsome quarterback of all time though.
Jimmy threw fro 261 yards and one touchdown, but threw three interceptions. He completed just 45.5% of his passes, and while that was a rough game for him, I feel like it’s way too early to just label him as a bust or say that his contract was not worth it. Yes, it’s true he didn’t play his best game, but there were several other major contributing factors to the loss. This isn’t just me completely defending him and making excuses, but if that’s what it sounds like, so be it.
There was no way that the 49ers were supposed to win that football game. The Vikings have one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL, and the 49ers don’t. The Vikings were almost completely healthy, whereas the 49ers were nowhere near healthy, and that situation didn’t get any better as the game went on.
The 49ers were without Reuben Foster, who is serving a two-week suspension. They lost Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL in the last practice of the preseason. Malcolm Smith didn’t play, and the offensive line suffered two injuries during the game which resulted in them having Mike McGlinchey, a tackle, have to play guard. Marquise Goodwin suffered a leg injury in the first quarter which kept him out for most of the game. The offense was as much of a mess as it has been with Garoppolo under center.
Despite all that mess, Jimmy G still managed to throw for over 250 yards, and while he did only throw one touchdown, that touchdown was fucking magnificent. He escaped the pressure of the LOADED Vikings defensive line and threw a strike to Dante Pettis in the back of the end zone.
He should have had more than one touchdown pass though, and that isn’t just saying the expectations, it’s just what should have happened. Pettis dropped a touchdown earlier in the game, George Kittle dropped a wide-open pass that was almost guaranteed to be a 50-yard touchdown, and Pierre Garcon had a ball knocked out of his hands in the end zone. The dropped ball by Kittle was especially devastating because Jimmy G threw a pick-six on the very next snap.
I was particularly hurt by the not-great performance this week, not because I have so much energy invested in hyping up Jimmy G as the GOAT, but also because my fantasy football team is named: Garoppolypse Now, and I started him over Kirk Cousins. Kirk Cousins, now the QB of the Vikings, had a very good game while beating my beloved 49ers.
It is what it is though, you can’t put all the blame on the receivers, Jimmy G didn’t have a great game, and the Vikings are one of the best team in the league. There is no real reason to overreact, and I’ll only really be worried if the offense is stagnant against the Detroit Lions this week.
CK Collusion QB of the Week:
This award will be given out to the quarterback who played like a backup quarterback in a starting quarterback position, or to a quarterback who is deemed “simply better” than a particular quarterback who has not been on an NFL roster for over a season. We all know who that quarterback is, and we know why he really isn’t on a roster, but this weekly quarterback helps prove his collusion case with each snap he takes.
That’s a very long-winded, convoluted way of saying this: this QB played so badly that Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer should be able to show their stat line to a judge and it would prove that the owners are colluding to keep him out of the league.
Winner: Nathan Peterman, who had a quarterback rating of 0.0, completed just 5/18 passes for 24 yards, threw no touchdowns and two interceptions. He did all of this while the Buffalo Bills got absolutely mollywhopped by the Baltimore Ravens.
There will be weekly awards added and taken away as the season progresses, but the CK Collusion QB of the week will be named every week until the end of the year.
Week 1 of the NFL season was fantastic, with great games taking place all weekend. It was probably the most memorable first week that I can remember, and Week 2 should be even better, and it all kicks off on Thursday with the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Baltimore Ravens. The Week 2 edition of Tuesday Afternoon Football will go up on Tuesday, September 18.