24 Sep Stromme’s Takes: 2016 NFL First Impressions
By: Mike Stromme
First impressions, the vain of our existence, are they not?
Meeting someone for the first time sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. Whether it’s a “wet-noodle” handshake, spilling a drink on the first date or even something as fundamental as not properly greeting a person can really throw off your rapport with someone. Needless to say, first impressions are a big deal in social situations.
The same theory holds true in the NFL. The first two weeks of the NFL season play a major role in forming public opinion of a team. An 0-2 slide in the first three weeks of September are magnified ten-fold in comparison to an 0-2 in the first two weeks of November. If you don’t believe me, go look at the guy in your fantasy league who just blew half his FAAB budget on Quincy Enunwa. Nothing against Quincy Enunwa, I’m sure he’ll sustain WR2 numbers despite being the the WR3 on his own team, but you get my point.
Even look back to last year. The Minnesota Vikings walked into Levi’s Stadium in Week 1 and lost 20-3 to the San Francisco 49ers. Not that this was a vote of confidence to the Niners, most of us knew they were going to be bad, but it was a major detriment to Mike Zimmer’s squad. The public didn’t take them seriously again until Week 16 when they blew-out the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.
This is exactly how teams “sneak up” on the general public. They watch a “sleeper team” lay an egg in the first two weeks, and make assumptions. But then again, some first impressions hold-true…
Anyways, here is my first impressions of each and every team in the NFL. Here’s to hoping that they don’t hold true.
They lost a tough game against the New England Patriots at home, then came back and seemingly put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in their place last week. To me, this team is still solid all around, still my pick to win the Division, the NFC and the Super Bowl, those feelings haven’t wavered. What does have me worried, even for a little bit, is the secondary. More specifically, the corner playing opposite Patrick Peterson, rookie Brandon Williams. He clearly has the athletic pedigree (former Texas A&M running back) but is far too-raw to be making a meaningful impact for this team. This has created a revolving door of sorts for this team at CB, which could play a factor later on in the season.
Just when I peg this team to be fraudulent after laying an egg in their home opener to a divisional opponent, the travel cross-country and upset the Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole. While the offense will still put up (fantasy) numbers, its tough to trust this defense; 59 points allowed in games one and two combined is a clear indication as to why.
My reservations in regards to this team were more of a concern of longevity, not talent. Sure, hosting the Bills Week 1 and going into Cleveland in Week 2 and coming out of it 2-0 is adequate, but almost expected. With so many ageing players at so many key positions, this team will probably still be closer to 6-10 than 10-6 in my eyes. But, 7-9 seems a little more apt; expect some regression.
To me, the jury is still kinda, sorta out on this team. Personally, I think firing OC Greg Roman was a panic move. Sure, the offense struggled in Baltimore, but Roman’s play-calling wasn’t the issue in TNF’s 2016 debut; Roman called a great game. Too many costly penalties and mental errors early in the game gassed the Bills’ defense early, loosening them for later on in the game. The key to getting this team going is taking leads early in the game, paired with the defense keeping the opposing offense off the field in the first half. The ground game is strong enough to ward-off any late comeback. However, the key ingredient to a comeback is, of course, a LEAD. They’re not a playoff team, but they can still play some teams tough.
This team picked-off right where they left off. However, right where they left-off doesn’t have the soft schedule the 2015 squad had. Pair that with a secondary that’s considerably downgraded from last year, Jonathan Stewart is already banged-up and the fact that Cam Newton is already taking some considerable hits and you have a team that could show some chinks in the armour later on in the season. Still my pick for the division though, front-seven is still one of the best in the NFL. Plus, Kelvin Benjamin. Like I said in the preseason, the Panthers a good team, not a great one
The new linebacking core has shown me something, as the wide receivers have as well. Both of those areas have improved with the additions of Danny Trevathan, Jerell Freeman and Leonard Floyd. Getting a healthy Kevin White has helped this team offensively as well. However, there’s still the same ol’ Cutler, same ol’ O-Line and the secondary doesn’t seem to be improving. The Lions, Vikings and Packers are all well-ahead of this team. The injuries are starting to pile-up as well, the Bears better watch themselves. 0-2 can turn into 0-4 damn-quick.
Really tough to evaluate this team based on their schedule thus far. They walked into the Meadowlands and played a tough game with the Jets in their home opener (on 9/11 to boot), and had their Wild Card rematch with the Steelers on their home turf in their 2016 home debut. All and all, they played two playoff-caliber teams in their respective territories and came out 1-1. Not bad at all. My opinion has not wavered, this team is still going to win 10+ games and take the North.
It’s Week 3, and that now-retired imfamous Browns jersey with all the starting QBs from Tim Couch-present would have two new names: Robert Griffin III and Cody Kessler (Josh McCown was previously added). Like I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m a Hue Jackson believer, but even he has his limits. Three starting QBs in three weeks? This might get a little rough for the Browns. That defense wasn’t built to handle all this slack. I was anticipating a healthier RGIII, guess I should have thought that one through… Oh, and Corey Coleman broke his hand in practice this week… Better crack a Dog Bite Beer or six Browns fans, it’s going to be a long one…
Honestly, this is a different team with Dak Prescott at the helm. I, for one, like the change. The Cowboys under Prescott, are a ball-control, safe-play, balanced attack on the offensive side of the ball. Which sounds boring, but it’s what’s best for this team. Through his first 75 NFL passing attempts, Presscott has thrown exactly ZERO interceptions; a refreshing change from the gun slinging Tony Romo. The best way to not expose a sub-par pass rush, is to keep them off the field. And, that’s what the Cowboys have done to borderline perfection thus far. Keep up the good work!
Trevor Siemian reminds me of Peyton Manning. Not the 1998-2013 Peyton Manning, but the 2015 version. To put things in layman terms: he hasn’t impressed me. It’s only a matter of time before Paxton Lynch gets his chance. But, until then, a stellar defense that seems to pick-up where they left off last season and an inspired C.J. Anderson can carry the load.
So far, this team has impressed me. Matthew Stafford is taking over as the undisputed leader of this squad, and is doing a hell of a job. Sure, they let the Tennessee Titans creep back and take what was rightfully theirs in Week 2, but hey, it happens. This team has impressed me offensively, despite the departure of Calvin Johnson. Defensively, they have some guys (Ziggy Ansah, DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay, Haloti Ngata) that can keep this team afloat. Call me crazy, but this team can compete for a Wild Card spot.
Green Bay Packers:
Everybody and their mom (myself included) wants the Green Bay Packers to be an elite team in the NFL. They have the QB, the QB has the weapons and the defense has multiple playmakers. On paper, they should be alright, right? Well, what if I told you that they started out 1-1 and Aaron Rodgers has yet to crack the 215 passing yard mark in a game this season? Would that worry you? It doesn’t worry me much, but it warrants some thought given the way the Packers played last season after their 6-0 start to 2015. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…
The re-vamped Texans are 2-0 and Lamar Miller is averaging 95 yards a game.. but just 3.6 yards per carry. The defense is allowing just 13 points a game and J.J. Watt looks like his super-human self. Everything is awesome in the heart of Texas… For now. Let’s see how Brock Osweiler holds-up through 16 games before we jump to conclusions on his massive contract. I’m still holding reservations, but I could be in the minority at this point; this team looks good.
Edit: According to their performance on Thursday night (or, lack their of), I’m holding onto those reservations.
The Indianapolis Colts are: Andrew Luck, his favourite receiver and Vontae Davis (honourable mention: D’Qwell Jackson). This defense is weak, depleated and soft; and it’s only Week 3. There’s no pass rush, rushing attack, offensive line, secondary (given that Vontae Davis hasn’t made his 2016 debut yet) or anybody stopping the run. If this team isn’t careful, they could end-up behind the eight-ball damn quick. And at 0-2, the shit clock is a tickin’. They need to pick things up soon before they become the 2015 San Diego Chargers.
I still have faith in this team. Getting blown-out in San Diego isn’t necessarily a good look. But hey, they played the Packers tough the week before. And personally, I believe that the Jaguar team we saw in Week 1 is closer to the real Jaguar team than the showing we all witnessed in Week 2. All I’m saying is, don’t give up on this team quite yet, there’s too much young talent to throw in the towel just yet. However, if 0-2 turns in to 0-4 or 1-3, my tender feelings may turn to shame and regret.
Kansas City Chiefs:
To me, this team is still a safe-bet to take the AFC West. However, the injuries on the defensive side of the ball are starting to concern me. But as long as Alex Smith continues to play things safe along with a productive run game, there’s no reason to expect this team not to be competitive in most contests this season.
Los Angeles Rams:
Defensively, this team is much closer to their Week 2 performance to their Week 1 “showing”. They’ll be solid on the in the trenches, their receivers a little underrated (especially once rookies Pharaoh Cooper and Nick Spence get healthy), but for the love of god… START JARED GOFF!!!! Man, I’d hate to be a sports talk radio host in the greater Los Angeles area… I’m sure that’s all they scream about.
Not gunna lie, I did not expect the defensive front to gel as quick as they did. They really impressed me in Week 1, not so much in Week 2. The Dolphins are the epitome of mediocrity, they are what all 8-8, 9-7, 7-9 teams aspire to be. They’ll show up some weeks (Week 1) and won’t other weeks (Week 2, fourth quarter aside). This team really is what it is, to use a cliche.
No Teddy, no A.P.? No problem. I have total faith in Sam Bradford, this coaching staff, Stephon Diggs and this incredible young defense. They’ve really impressed me these first two weeks, taking down Green Bay at home was a huge statement to the rest of the league. I have a feeling that Sam Bradford apologists (such as myself) will be yelling “SEE! I TOLD YA HE WAS GOOD!” at any chance we get. This team is a legitimate threat, and still my pick to win the division.
New England Patriots:
Let’s face it, Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. In the 1.75 ish games Jimmy Garoppolo played this season, he looked more like Brady than that creepy-ass mask Wes Welker and Bleacher Report had at Gillette Stadium. I’m leaning towards the “Bill made Tom” crowd, the man is a legend. All this team needs to do is patch things together with Brady and Jimmy G out and they could be a lock to take the number one seed going into the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints:
To quote the late, great Dennis Green… “They ARE who we THOUGHT THEY WERE!”. This team is almost is the same team that’s been here for the last few years, throw up a bunch of points at home and hope the other team scores less. This defense is still pretty bad.
New York Giants:
Like the Miami Dolphins, this defense has gelled quicker than I thought it would. Despite getting dominated in terms of time of possession in Dallas Week 1, they managed to limit the Cowboys to just 19 points. They also held the high-scoring New Orleans offense to a measly 13 points. The offense is much-improved in the passing game with the additions of a health Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. This team might be the class of the NFC East.
New York Jets:
The Jets played a close game with a playoff-caliber Cincinnati Bengals, then went to Orchard Park, NY and made their inner-state divisional rivals look like table-smashing fools. They’re absolutely lethal offensively, and the defense is still a solid asset. One concern I do have about this team, is the play of future Hall of Fame CB Darrelle Revis, he’s getting beat by the likes of Greg Salas now, not a good look.
Everybody’s preseason darling still looks like last year’s team. Young, inexperienced but explosive. Love the guts Jack Del Rio showed in New Orleans, too bad their defense hasn’t shown any guts whatsoever. Losing to an East Coast team in their home opener is borderline inexcusable, that game against Atlanta was a must-have for this squad. There’s still some growing to do in the Bay Area.
Carson Wentz has been nothing but solid since coming into the league. He’s already starting to pay dividends for this Eagle squad. I love the way that HC Doug Pederson is running this offense, almost as much as I love what Jim Schwartz did to this defensive front. Now, their schedule doesn’t get any easier (next five games: Steelers, Lions, Redskins, Vikings and Cowboys). Still, I really like what I’m seeing out of this team.
No Bell, no Bryant, no Green, no Heath? No problem. This team is still one of the most offensively lethal teams in football. They still look like the same team we’ve seen over the last few years and their 2-0 for the first time since 2011. As long as Ben stays healthy, and that’s a HUGE if, this team should be a shoe-in for January football.
San Diego Chargers:
Personally, I feel like the Chargers’ Week 2 blowout win was a bit of an anomaly. This team is probably closer to the team we saw in Week 1 against the Chiefs. Even with Woodhead and Allen lost for the year, this team will still put up points. If the defense can shape together, and they have the potential to do this, the San Diego Chargers could be a very solid football club. Love the group of young linebackers this team employs, Jason Verrett is one of the better up-and-coming CBs in the league and if Joey Bosa shows any sort of growth at all, this team could be solid on both sides of the ball.
San Francisco 49ers:
Chip Kelly has made a larger impact on this team than I expected. Blaine Gabbert is a much better fit for this offense than I ever imagined him to be, especially with the mobility. The defensive front with Armstead and Buckner are going to be the Wilkerson and Richardson of the West Coast. Overall, they’re better than I expected them to be, I don’t think they’ll be the worst team in football anymore.
Personally, I don’t think Russell Wilson is 100% healthy; it’s hindering his performance on the football field. That being said, the Seahawks are 1-1 after facing two teams with the ability to rush the QB. Wilson will get healthy, this offense will take off, the defense is still talented and there’s not much to worry about. Oh, and look for Marshawn Lynch to rejoin this team. No tangible proof or report to back me up, just a hunch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Look amazing one week, look the polar opposite the next; the growing pains with a young team can be painful. They’re probably somewhere in the middle of what happened in Week 1 and Week 2. I’m still a Jameis believer, I’m still a believer in this defense and I’m still a believer in this team; they can make some noise.
This team will be a scrappy team to play against, as per their Week 2 win in Detroit. They’ll run the ball a ton, make high-percentage plays in the passing game and dominate the time of possession battle.They’ll still probably lose more games than they win, but I think they’ll be a scrappy bunch all season long.
Personally, I think Kirk Cousins is starting to feel the heat. He doesn’t seem, to me, like the same QB we saw in 2015. I mean, he was no Joe Montana to begin with, but at least he had accuracy on his side. Cousins finished 2015 with a 69.9% completion percentage. Through the first two games of 2016, 65.2% completion percentage with 1-3 TD-INT ratio. There’s aready whispers of decention in this locker room too. I’m feeling a little nervous about my whole “Redskins repeat in this division” preseason proclamation, I’ll say that much.