Way-Too-Early NFL Overreactions After Week 1
It's time for NFL overreactions.
If there's never a bad time for mock drafts these days, there's certainly not a bad time for overreactions. That's especially true now that fans have just witnessed the opening salvo of the 2021 season.
The Week 1 schedule offered some big surprises and disappointments, both on individual and team levels. Making long-term projections based on those results is a recipe for some misses, but we trudge on anyway.
Here are some noteworthy way-too-early overreactions from Week 1.
Repeat Time in Tampa Bay
Fans didn't need to actually see Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the field in Week 1 to think this, right?
Tampa Bay worked some magic in the front office this offseason to retain last year's championship core. Brady is back. So are Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett—you get the point.
But the on-field performance in Week 1 only confirmed the thought. Brady casually tossed four touchdown passes in the Thursday opener, besting the Dallas Cowboys 31-29. Gronk, Godwin and Brown each caught at least one TD pass, with the prime-looking Brown leading the team in receiving with 121 yards on a 24.2 yards-per-catch average.
Granted, the defense did cough up nearly 30 points, something it only did three times last year. But Dallas isn't the typical offense the Buccaneers will face. Dak Prescott is elite, and the skill positions around him are stacked. Odds are these two will see each other again in the playoffs.
Brady looking like he's playing some of the best ball of his career at the age of 44 while surrounded by this crop of talent is a bad sign for the rest of the league. A would-be contender like Dallas was a hurdle, and the Buccaneers cleared it. Meanwhile, a legitimate threat like Green Bay got blown out on opening weekend, while Kansas City and Buffalo looked vulnerable, too.
Trevor Lawrence Not Pulling a Burrow or Herbert
Getting blown out of the water by the dramatically rebuilding Houston Texans probably wasn't what most envisioned from No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence right out of the gates.
Maybe fans have just been spoiled in recent years by strong performances from first-round passers such as Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.
But Lawrence, sometimes cited as the best of any of those names as a prospect, had three touchdown passes and three interceptions in a 37-21 loss to Houston on Sunday. One of those featured a defensive back watching Lawrence's eyes the whole way before cutting over and making an easy pick.
The Texans have arguably the worst roster in the league, which makes the showing concerning. Lawrence also has to operate in an Urban Meyer-led attack that asked him to attempt 51 passes to just 16 overall rushing attempts. Considering Burrow only threw five picks over 10 games as a rookie and Herbert 10 over 15, the turnover hiccups raise a red flag.
Over the long term, Lawrence could end up being just fine. But one week in, the signs hint that he won't match the rookie-year hype.
Kyler Murray and Cardinals Are Heavyweight Contenders
Go ahead and write Kyler Murray's name in pen on the MVP favorites list.
He looked on the right path as a sophomore last year, completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,971 yards and 26 touchdowns.
But Murray took things to a whole different level in Week 1, posting a 21-of-32 line with 289 yards and four touchdowns against one interception during a 38-13 whipping of the Tennessee Titans.
And this isn't just about Murray. His Arizona Cardinals across the board raised some serious eyebrows during the performance. DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk split the four touchdown receptions and a Chandler Jones-led defense—he posted five sacks—held Derrick Henry to 58 yards on a 3.4 per-carry average.
Murray's continued ascension means they have the most important thing of all for contention—an elite, playmaking quarterback.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles Could Run the NFC East
The NFC East infamously sent a team with a losing record to the playoffs last season, making it easy to suggest the Dallas Cowboys could run away with the division if healthy in 2021.
Apparently, the Philadelphia Eagles have other plans.
Those Eagles rode plenty of questions into a Week 1 encounter with the Atlanta Falcons, with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts being the biggest of all.
Hurts answered by posting a 27-of-35 line with 264 yards and a trio of touchdowns, each to a different player. He attempted 35 passes to 31 team rushes (5.6 yards per carry) in what amounted to a balanced attack, and a game defense on the road held Matt Ryan to 164 yards on a 4.7 average, which is no small feat.
NFC East favorites Washington and Dallas went down on opening weekend. If this is the taste of what's to come, the Eagles could make a run in a division that might not be that much improved, after all.
Bengals Might Be AFC's Best Worst-to-First Contender
It seems like every year a team goes from the cellar to at least flirting with playoff contention, and this year's best candidate might just be the Cincinnati Bengals.
The offense looked great Sunday, as Joe Burrow went 20-of-27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Joe Mixon ran for 127 yards and a score (4.4 average), and fifth overall pick Ja'Marr Chase caught five passes for 101 yards and a score.
But Cincinnati spent a lot of time rebuilding the defense this offseason as well, signing defensive end Trey Hendrickson and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. The result was three sacks of Kirk Cousins and holding elite runner Dalvin Cook to 61 yards and a score on 20 carries (3.1 average), plus forcing him to fumble in overtime while the Vikings were on the edge of field-goal range.
Granted, the Bengals did blow a 21-7 lead. But some of that was Zac Taylor inexplicably going for it on a fourth down from his own 30 and failing, which led to a quick Vikings score and a stunning momentum shift.
The Bengals still have a tough climb in the AFC North, but they have a franchise passer, plenty of weapons and a defense that is suddenly good at applying consistent pressure.
The WR Class Is Indeed off to a Historic Start
Chase wasn't the only first-round wideout to put on a show in Week 1.
Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle, the draft's sixth overall pick right behind Chase, caught four passes for 61 yards and Tua Tagovailoa's only touchdown throw during a 17-16 win over the New England Patriots.
Tenth overall pick DeVonta Smith didn't show much of a problem quickly adapting and matching the hype either. During Philadelphia's 32-6 trouncing of the Falcons, he led all wideouts with 71 yards and a touchdown on six catches.
Going into this year's draft, the wideout class, especially at the top, was hyped more than most we've seen in recent years. The big three from the class proved that right out of the gates, and it's only fitting all three are helping young, potential franchise passers on rising teams.