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The first Monday of the NFL season. There’s arguably no bigger “overreaction day” on the entire sports calendar. After months of zero information (essentially), we finally saw teams on the field playing games that matter.
However, teams played just one game each. Every NFL team plays a 17-game schedule. That means that Week 1 accounts for less than 6% of the entire season.
People in the sports media are going to arrive at wild conclusions based on that small amount of information. What if you walked into a used car dealership and the salesperson said, “Hey, here’s 5.9% of the total information about this car. You ready to buy?”
Or if you met a future spouse and got to know 5.9% of their personality? Ready to slap on — or accept — a ring? Of course not. That would be incredibly irresponsible.
But here we are, every season, making decisions based on 5.9% of the information. Nonsense.
Let’s take a look at some of the vast overreactions seen across the landscape and break them down.
Tua Tagovailoa is better than Justin Herbert and a Top 5 NFL quarterback
The Miami Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa with the #5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Chargers picked Justin Herbert with the very next selection. Most smart football people understand that the Dolphins made a mistake.
However, after Tua “out-dueled” Herbert on Sunday, the overreactions are pouring in. “Tua is better than Herbert.” “He’s a winner and Herbert is not.”
Tagovailoa threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns. That’s great. But if you watched the game, you’d know how many of those yards came from throwing to a WIDE OPEN Tyreek Hill. The Chargers defense could not cover Hill. Like at all.
Yes, Tua made some nice throws. I’ve always said that in the right situation, Tua is an effective NFL quarterback. He’s not an elite athlete and doesn’t have elite arm talent, but he’s smart and aware. That’s important. If you put him on, say, the Houston Texans, we wouldn’t be having these conversations.
That’s the benefit of being in a good system with two elite wide receivers. Tua did exactly what he was supposed to do. He’s probably a fringe Top 10 guy when healthy. But let’s chill with the reaction talking about him elevating the Dolphins offense. Justin Herbert is still a better quarterback. One game doesn’t change that.
The Bengals paid Joe Burrow and now he stinks
The Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow agreed to a record-setting contract extension just prior to the season. He’s objectively the second-best quarterback in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes. One bad game doesn’t change that.
But here we go, looking to drop Burrow. There are many caveats to why the Bengals played so poorly on Sunday. The weather was terrible and Burrow missed basically all of training camp and the preseason. Cincinnati’s offense line couldn’t block a phone number.
And it’s not like Cleveland’s quarterback, Deshaun Watson, played a ton better. He only threw for 154 yards on 55% completions and had a terrible interception. It was a sloppy game all around.
But there’s no need to panic. Burrow and the Bengals are going to be fine. This is a team that’s 10-3 from Week 10 on over the past two seasons (and one of the losses came in a meaningless Week 18 game that Burrow didn’t start). Sleep on them now at your own peril.
Also, don’t overrate the Browns after one game. They’re favorites on the road at Pittsburgh next week and that’s a perfect spot to take advantage of an overreacting market.
Trevor Lawrence is a legitimate NFL MVP threat
Don’t get me wrong: I like Trevor Lawrence a lot. I believe he’s absolutely a Top 10 NFL quarterback and he’s better than Tua Tagovailoa. This is more of a rebuke of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re a team getting a lot of buzz and after Calvin Ridley went off in his first game, people are gassing up the hype train.
But they beat the Indianapolis Colts, expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, led by a rookie quarterback. And they didn’t beat them convincingly, either. This is a game that was in doubt for a long time.
The Jaguars still have too many issues. Outside of Ridley, no pass catcher really threatens defenses. Zay Jones played a nice game but c’mon. He’s still Zay Jones. A very nice player, but not someone defensive coordinators give too much thought about in preparation.
And the Jaguars offensive line is still a mess. Yes, they get Cam Robinson back in Week 5. That’s going to help. But the Jaguars posted -9.8 expected offensive points (according to Pro Football Reference) on Sunday against a very average Colts defense. That was among the ten worst teams in the league. It was their defense taking advantage of a rookie QB that really helped them win the game.
I’m not ready to crown Lawrence or the Jags after that performance.
NFL Quick Hits
Those were some of the extreme takes out there that I wanted to address. But there are some smaller ones that I want to hit quickly, mostly with regard to people under-reacting.
Mild concern about the Philadelphia Eagles, Jalen Hurts
The Philadelphia Eagles offense did not look impressive at all. Jalen Hurts looked more like the quarterback the Eagles weren’t sure about prior to last season rather than the one who helped the team reach the Super Bowl. This is not to say the Eagles aren’t going to be good, but I think the overreacting about Hurts after last season was exactly that — overreaction.
Justin Fields is still the guy he’s always been
I’ve been trying to warn you all about Justin Fields. The MVP buzz was ludicrous and remains that. He’s not a great NFL quarterback. Fields is an elite athlete with a strong arm. But he’s inaccurate, indecisive and lacks basic awareness. He proved it once again on Sunday, despite all the talk about this being his chance to finally break out.
He faced a middle-of-the-road Green Bay Packers defense at home and struggled mightily. According to Next Gen Stats, Fields expected completion percentage was 75%. Yet he only completed 65% of his passes. And that was while averaging just three air yards per throw, the second-lowest number in the league (ahead of only Desmond Ridder). He’s exactly the same player he’s always been.
Not giving up on Captain Kirk and the Vikings yet
I know everyone wants me to jump off the Minnesota Vikings bandwagon, but I’m not going to. They lost at home to Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not good. But they lost the turnover battle 3-0 and still only lost the game by a field goal. Not time to panic. Yet.
Funny to see Sean Payton lose his first game as head coach of the Denver Broncos
I’m not going to overreact, but as someone who does not believe Sean Payton is an elite NFL head coach, I did take some joy in watching the Broncos lose at home to the Las Vegas Raiders. Josh McDaniels is a worse head coach and he beat Payton head-to-head on the road in Week 1.
Payton trash-talked Nathaniel Hackett and made it seem like his version was going to be so much different, particularly on offense. But they scored just 16 points. I don’t believe the Broncos are going to be good this year, as I’ve written, so it’s not really an overreaction. They are who I thought they were. It does feel good, though.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak