Buy or Sell: NFL Week 1 Hot Takes

By WATSON1019
Sep. 13, 2017

Welcome back, NFL! And welcome back to all of the speculation, analysis, and predictions that each week will bring. As you’ll be able to tell by the length of this article, Week 1 left a heavy impression. So, in this edition of Reckless Hot Takes, I:

- Fire a head coach

- Dismiss a quarterback who hasn’t even started a game yet

- Believe that a perfect record will be achieved this season

- And more!

I added a new element this year: Buy or Sell. This is an indication of how I see a team trending. In short, “Buy” is good, and “Sell” is bad. So let’s get right into the good stuff.

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer looked his age on Sunday, throwing three interceptions on 48 pass attempts. That said, he had no help on the ground, as the Cardinals amassed fewer than 50 yards rushing—something that only happened once last season (a Week 7 loss to Carolina, in which Palmer committed two turnovers). With Johnson out for at least two months, things aren’t looking good for Arizona.

Verdict: Sell

Atlanta Falcons: Put an asterisk by this W, folks. Chicago had the defending Super Bowl champions dead to rights and--oh wait, that’s right, Atlanta blew that massive lead and ended up losing the Super Bowl. Excuse the typo. Anyways, Chicago would have won this game if not for Jordan Howard’s brick-hands. Atlanta fans don’t need to panic yet, but next week’s matchup against the Packers should provide an indication of whether the Falcons are due for a regression this season.

Verdict: Buy, for now

Baltimore Ravens: How do you make it irrelevant that your quarterback missed all of training camp and preseason? Simple, ask nearly nothing of him. The Raven’s defense racked up 4 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery in route to shutting out the Cincinnati offense. This allowed Joe Flacco to coast (in elite fashion) to an easy win in Sunday’s most boring game. You do you, Baltimore.

Verdict: Buy

Buffalo Bills: There’s not a lot to say here. Buffalo, you know who you are this season. To put it politely, though, we’ll just say you’re “rebuilding”. No one who beats the Jets this year deserves praise, they just get to be spared from ridicule. So congrats.

Verdict: Sell

Carolina Panthers: Carolina’s defense looks ready to rebound after a sloppy 2016 campaign. San Francisco is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but it was still impressive to see how aggressively Carolina stonewalled the new Shanahan offense—the Panthers allowed only one drive of over 36 yards (that one drive lasted 49 yards and resulted in a field goal). Christian McCaffrey adds an extra dimension to the offense that will be exciting to watch as offensive coordinator Mike Shula formulates more ways to use him. Ultimately, though, the outcome of this season comes down to Cam Newton’s health. Newton still doesn’t look back to 100%. Panther fans should hope that that’s due to rust, rather than the surgery.

Verdict: Buy

Chicago Bears: It’s going to be a frustrating year in Chicago. The Bears’ defense looks formidable enough to keep the team in close games, but when your offense consists of an overpaid, mediocre quarterback throwing the ball to no-name receivers, you won’t find yourself winning many of those games. I give Glennon five games. If the Bears are 1-4 are worse at that point, Trubisky is in. Then he can throw to the no-name receivers.

Verdict: Sell

Cincinnati Bengals: Stat of the Day: Andy Dalton achieved a Total QBR of 0.6, which lands him in the bottom four all-time QBRs in the history of the statistic. So without further ado, I am proclaiming this the year that everything officially falls apart for Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis is going to get fired, and the Bengals will begin truly searching for Dalton’s replacement. Cincinnati management knows that AJ Green’s contract expires after the 2019 season, and they need to give the perennially wasted talent a reason to want to stick around.

Verdict: Sell

Cleveland Browns: DeShone Kizer is the real deal. In his first true NFL start, Kizer nearly led the Browns to a surprise win over the Steelers. He might have done it, too, if not for Myles Garrett’s absence, the Steelers’ touchdown off of a blocked punt, and Kenny Britt’s inexcusable drop late in the game. Basically, Kizer learned that he’s going to have to put a lot more points on the board in order to make up for all the typical Cleveland stuff that’s going to happen.

Verdict: Buy, with caution

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys showed that they are still the team to beat in the NFC East. Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott played his typical brand of mistake-free football, and Should-Be-Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott chipped away at the stout New York defense. The offensive line’s consistency is going to be crucial as the Cowboys face the Broncos, Cardinals, and Rams over the next three weeks.

Verdict: Buy

Denver Broncos: Though Trevor Siemian still appears to be the Broncos’ limiting factor, he made some impressive throws on Monday night. Siemian appears to have grown over the past year, so I’m not prepared to say that he’ll singlehandedly prevent Denver from reaching the Super Bowl down the road. Denver’s defense is still vicious, as it had Philip Rivers fighting for his life all evening. The Broncos tried to give the game away in the 4th quarter with 2 turnovers, but for the second season in a row, they began their season by benefiting from their opponent’s missed field goal.

Verdict: Buy

Detroit Lions: A lot of people are down on the Lions this year. After all, they pulled off a lot of close wins last season, a trend which isn’t sustainable. Though I don’t see the Lions as a serious playoff threat, they are going to be a difficult opponent every week—just ask the Cardinals, who didn’t expect such a strong defensive performance out of Detroit. Of course, all this means is that the Lions will be a glorified stumbling block for real playoff teams this season.

Verdict: Sell

Green Bay Packers: Could this be the year that the Packers’ defense actually helps Aaron Rodgers make it to the big stage? I’m still not sold. Don’t overreact to an impressive showing against a Seattle team that is notorious for starting slowly. The Falcons, Cowboys, and Saints will all provide more honest gauges of Green Bay’s defense. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers continues to impress as the best quarterback in the NFL. He will be one of the few quarterbacks to manage over 300 yards against Seattle this season. Yeah yeah yeah, I know Jeremy Lane was out. But no, I don’t think it would have mattered much.

Verdict: Buy

Houston Texans: Well that was as disappointing as an opening game can be. Tom Savage’s confidence in his mastery of the offense… J.J. Watt’s dramatic return to the team… After so much hype, it felt like Houston would find a way to take strides forward. And then Houston fans found themselves exactly where they were last year—a talented defense bottlenecked by a lack of quarterback talent. And what’s worse is that Jacksonville is suddenly capable of blowing them out. Houston is making the wise decision by naming Deshaun Watson the starter, because Tom Savage clearly isn’t the answer, and Houston needs to find out what their rookie 1st Rounder is truly capable of. Needless to say, the Texans will be going back to the QB drawing board in next year’s draft.

Verdict: Sell

Indianapolis Colts: I’d like to send a special thank-you to Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis offense. Their level of incompetence fueled an impressive fantasy performance for the Rams defense and sealed my team’s victory. With Scott Tolzien (probably) abandoned in the Los Angeles airport, Jacoby Brissett will likely get the “opportunity” to start against Arizona. It’s going to be tough sledding until Andrew Luck returns. This is why you take care of your starting quarterback, folks.

Verdict: Sell

Jacksonville Jaguars: We see you, Jacksonville. That defense is looking pretty solid, and Leonard Fournette is ready to take over as the centerpiece of the offense. That said, not a lot should be taken from this win. Jacksonville benefited from playing against two quarterbacks competing to see who could turn the ball over more. Jacksonville’s first test comes next week against the team to beat in the AFC South—the Tennessee Titans.

Verdict: Buy, with caution

Kansas City Chiefs (Rant of the Week Special!): Nobody saw that coming, and you should distance yourself from anyone who says they did, because they’re lying. Chiefs fans have got to be ecstatic, but allow me to bring you back to earth: You will never win a Super Bowl with Alex Smith. Let’s put things into perspective, people. Alex Smith has been game manager extraordinaire since 2005—he’s not going to suddenly turn into a stud quarterback. Sure, he put up impressive numbers on Thursday night, but he has done that many times before. In fact, let’s take a look back at the dead horse of a game that was beat throughout that opening matchup—Week 4 of the 2014-2015 season. The Chiefs destroyed the Patriots in humiliating fashion, winning by a score of 41-14. Smith went 20-for-26 with 248 yards passing and three touchdowns. Those numbers don’t pop off the page like Thursday night’s numbers do, but the stats are impressive nonetheless. So how did Kansas City do that year?

They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, while New England went on to win the Super Bowl. Deep down, Chiefs fans, I know that you know it—you will be an impressive regular season team, but that’s it. Enjoy that Kareem Hunt kid, though.

Verdict: Buy, but with realistic expectations

Los Angeles Chargers: Poor Philip Rivers. He must be so accustomed to this script. He scraps and scraps to keep his team in the game, and it all comes down to the final drive. Nine of the Chargers’ eleven losses last season were decided by 8 or fewer points. This was by no means an embarrassing loss, but Los Angeles’ new team needs to win at least half of its conference schedule in order to stay afloat in the AFC West. And if they can’t beat Miami next week, it’s a bad sign.

Verdict: Sell, reluctantly

Los Angeles Rams: Congratulations to Jared Goff on his first win as an NFL starter. After ending last season on 7 straight losses, Goff and his teammates needed a confidence boot, and the Colts were very willing to oblige. Fans should obviously not expect this level of offensive and defensive dominance throughout the season. Keep an eye on the LA backfield. If Gurley continues to struggle to make plays (receptions aside), backup Malcolm Brown might start to see more touches, even though the lack of rushing production is primarily due to a subpar offensive line.

Verdict: Buy, though ready to sell in an instant

Minnesota Vikings: Attention World: The Vikings finally have a functional offensive line. Though the Saints don’t have a shutdown defense, it is clear that Minnesota pushed the right buttons during the offseason. Whether we saw the “real” Sam Bradford on Monday night is still to be determined, however. Bradford posted 346 yards and 3 touchdowns on 84% passing—a jaw-dropping stat line that has already made half of Minnesota forget about Teddy Bridgewater. Things will get tougher next week against the aggressive Pittsburgh defense.

Verdict: Buy

New England Patriots: I’ll start by saying that New England is a no-doubt playoff team that will finish with at least 12 wins. Look at all of the following criticisms in light of that. This team has been overrated and surrounded by hyperbole since they were named the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl this season. I nearly blew a gasket when I heard one analyst remark that the Patriots have the best wide receiver corps in the league even without Julian Edelman. Reality check: Brandin Cooks is not Randy Moss. Danny Amendola is good, but he’s still a rung lower than Edelman. Chris Hogan couldn’t achieve any separation in the Chiefs’ secondary. Brady’s best receiver is still a juiced-up polar bear who can’t stay healthy for more than a few weeks. The Patriots will be a great team this year, but they’ve got some chemistry building to do.

Verdict: Buy

New Orleans Saints: When your defense gets revamped and your quarterback is Drews Brees, you expect to look like a playoff team. The Saints looked far from that on Monday night. Brees struggled against the tough Minnesota secondary, and the confusing running-back-by-committee situation proved to be ineffective. Sean Payton needs to decide who will be the primary back, and quickly.

Verdict: Sell

New York Giants: On paper, the Giants look menacing. They’ve got big-name players on both sides of the ball, but they just can’t quite seem to be able to pull it together offensively. Eli Manning is wasting his final years behind an inept offensive line. New York has a lot to figure out if it wants to have a chance against true contenders like Dallas. I don’t know if the return of Odell alone will be enough to save this team.

Verdict: Sell

New York Jets: I’m rooting hard for this team to achieve perfection. 0-16 is possible, New York! Believe!

Verdict: Not even worth selling, just throw it away

Oakland Raiders: This is the year that Oakland puts themselves back into the Super Bowl discussion. Offensively, Derek Carr has grown into a trustworthy signal-caller. Marshawn Lynch, who appears to be as agile and powerful as ever, provides a formidable threat on the ground. And if the Raiders’ defense can continue to bend but not break, there’s not a lot that will stand in this team’s way.

Verdict: Buy

Philadelphia Eagles: Though the Redskins by no means had the game in hand when Kirk Cousins “fumbled”, the Eagles know that they caught a lucky break. This was a great start for Philadelphia, as Carson Wentz showed some growth, and the defense hounded Cousins all day. Every conference game is important in the rising NFC East. Though it seems that every team is playing second fiddle to Dallas, Wild Card spots are up for grabs. If the Giants don’t rise to their potential, Carson Wentz will be making his first trip to the playoffs this year.

Verdict: Buy

Pittsburgh Steelers: The only thing that felt right about that win over Cleveland was Antonio Brown’s stat line—11 receptions for 182 yards. Every time Brown had the ball in his hands, the difference in his talent level was clearly visible. Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell looked pedestrian against a Cleveland front that was surprisingly stout. Bell, of course, will rebound to his usual, dominant self. Defensively, rookie T.J. Watt showed why he was the clear choice to start over James Harrison. Watt tied for the team lead in tackles, recorded two sacks, and snagged an interception from future star DeShone Kizer (yes, shameless plug of one of my earlier predictions).

Verdict: Buy

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers had a few impressive moments but ultimately failed to get their offense off the ground. New head coach Kyle Shanahan appears to have brought a sense of stability to the team, but we will see if that lasts with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Looking at San Francisco’s arduous schedule, it might not be until Week 4 that they score their first touchdown.

Verdict: Sell

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are going to start the season poorly. It’s just what they do. However, it is concerning to see that Seattle’s offensive line may actually be worse than they were last season. Thankfully, the Seahawks are the clear favorites to win the NFC West this year, so they have some time to figure out how to put points on the board without putting Russell Wilson’s health at risk again. Let’s take a moment to recognize the longevity of Seattle’s presence among the top NFL teams. Both the 49ers and Cardinals rose to and fell from prominence over the last few years, but Seattle has remained a constant contender.

Verdict: Buy

Tennessee Titans: Tennessee fans ought to be frustrated with how much their team struggled in the red zone. The Titans drove to within 10 yards of the endzone three times but only came away with 13 points. Had they been able to punch it in for 6 all three times, it would have changed the tone of the game entirely. Apart from one 21-yard rush, Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry did no favors for Marcus Mariota, who generated 80.6% of the team’s offensive production. The Titans have the AFC South in the palm of their hands if they can get their ground attack going.

Verdict: Buy

Washington Redskins: Washington is a talented team, but it just doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough. If Kirk Cousins can’t find a way to both be a playmaker and take care of the football, the Redskins will be stuck at the bottom of the NFC East for years. And don’t hold your breath, but Samaje Perine will be the Redskins’ majority running back by Week 5.

Verdict: Sell