Somehow, some way, we are roughly one quarter of the way through the NFL regular season already. This weekend’s games provided highs, lows and questions for all NFL teams.
Here are my takeaways.
Daniel Jones is BALLING
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Giants hold a measly 1-3 record. This isn’t me talking about the future of the Giants organization as a whole, as that is still very much up in the air. My main takeaway from watching their games is that they may just have something with Danny Dimes at quarterback.
Jones has made significant improvements on his year over year numbers from his first two years to his start this year.
The only category in which he has not improved vastly is the touchdown category, which is volatile from year-to-year. Something tells me that at this pace, he is going to get hot at some point and start putting up more points.
The biggest knock on Jones to start his career was his inability to protect the ball. Through four games, he has only one interception that came on a hail mary to end the first half of Sunday’s game against the Saints. Dennis Allens’ Saints defense was averaging 2.3 turnovers caused per game in their first three weeks, and all they could manage against the Giants was a hail mary interception. Incredible.
Three of the top-seven QB Ratings of his career have come in 2021, as well as three of the top-five completion percentages. Jones was making some throws on Sunday that I didn’t know he would ever be capable of completing.
One of the places that I see the largest leap in Jones’ production is in the sack category. He was sacked zero times against the Saints despite being pressured on 21% of his drop backs. This directly correlates to how his nuance in the pocket has vastly improved in his third year as a starter.
If Jones can keep up this pace for the rest of the season, Giants fans can finally complain about the one thousand other things wrong with their team instead of zeroing in on their quarterback.
Tyreek Hill proves again why he is the best receiver in the league
I have been saying for a while that Tyreek Hill is the best receiver in the league. Sure, Davante Adams runs crisper routes, DeAndre Hopkins has better hands, etc., but NOBODY demands as much attention on a week-to-week basis than Tyreek Hill.
He finished Sunday vs. Philadelphia with 12 targets, 11 receptions, 186 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles have a lackluster secondary to begin with, but what made it even worse is that they seemingly had no gameplan to stop Tyreek Hill.
As a Patriots fan, I have seen defensive mastermind Bill Belichick with the Defensive Player of the Year (Stephon Gilmore) double Tyreek Hill in every single matchup they have had. The Eagles, however, did not quite do that.
In the red zone, the Eagles went man-t0-man in base personnel, which led to a linebacker being in single coverage on Tyreek Hill. That matchup went just about how you would expect it did.
They were single-covering Tyreek Hill all day, and he responded with almost 200 yards of offense and three touchdowns. That in and of itself shows why he is the best receiver in the league. Nobody else in the NFL gets the Tyreek Hill treatment, and when other teams treat him like just a guy, he makes you pay.
Hill has caught 30 passes this year, 21 of which have gone for first downs (70%). That is an asset that no one else in the league can afford.
Go debate a wall.
The Titans might be screwed
At the most elementary level, the Titans NEED to score points to win games. In fact, when they don’t score points, they generally lose games.
Since the start of the 2020 season, the Titans are 10-1 in games where they score 30 or more points. On the flip side, during the same span, they are a measly 3-7 when they score below 30 points.
Their defensive ineptitude over the years has been a relatively underrated storyline of the past two years because of the ascension of Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown and the domination of the ground game with Derrick Henry. They didn’t have a problem scoring points in 2020, averaging 30.7 points per game (4th in the NFL).
Some, including myself, questioned how negative the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith would truly be in the offseason, but it was swept under the rug after the trade for Julio Jones.
Well, turns out, it was a rather large problem. The Titans are averaging five less points per game (25.8) under Todd Downing and their red zone touchdown efficiency has plummeted from 75% in 2020 to 50% in 2021. They can move the ball relatively easily with Henry on the ground, but ending drives with field goals as opposed to touchdowns is the difference between winning and losing games this year, as we saw on Sunday.
The Titans already hit their low point of the season on Sunday, after falling to the reeling Jets. As long as their defense is allowing other teams to score at the high clip they have been so far (27.8 points per game allowed), and their offense isn’t putting points on the board, they are going to continue to falter and lose games.
Jaycee Horn loss proves to be a significant blow to the Panthers defense
The story of the Panthers-Cowboys duel on Sunday was the Cowboys running game, but here is why that falls on the shoulders of the Jaycee Horn injury.
The Cowboys deploy arguably the league’s most dangerous and prolific passing attack, and without their main cover guy, the Panthers defense had to make adjustments.
Going into Sunday, the Panthers were only allowing opposing teams to rush for an average of 45 yards per game. On Sunday, they allowed 245 rushing yards to the Cowboys.
Have to give most of the credit to the Cowboys offensive line and running backs, but the Panthers had to completely change their defensive front in an attempt to drop more guys into coverage to make up for the loss of Horn. As a result, they were daring the Cowboys to run the ball .
Well, run the ball they did. Averaging 7.2 yards per carry is good in college football, it is relatively unheard of in the NFL, especially to the league’s best run defense through the first three weeks.
We see now that the Panthers have recognized this as a huge problem, as they have now traded for former first-round CB C.J. Henderson and former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.
If those guys can play to the form that they are capable of, this Panthers defense should be fine in the long-run. If not, then watch out.