The Weekly Kickoff with Geoff Schwartz: NFL Week 3
Editor’s note: The Weekly Kickoff is a weekly column from the pen of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Check back every week for the latest edition.
Folks, look at us. Already entering week three of the NFL season. And while it’s a long campaign, there’s no reason we can’t declare Super Bowl contenders after two weeks. There are 11 teams that sit at 2-0, so let’s go through them to see which are contenders, dependers or pretenders.
Duh. They’ve looked outstanding to start the season, as I suspected they would. They were my pick to win the Super Bowl because I thought they’d be on a mission this season after failing the last two postseasons. Lamar Jackson is BETTER (yes I know) through two games this season than last season when he won the MVP. He leads the NFL in yards per attempt while being second in completion percentage, just above 80%! Add in a defense that’s third in DVOA and they are a monster.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs looked asleep at the wheel in an overtime win against the Chargers in Los Angeles. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss and with the Ravens on deck for Monday Night Football, I’d expect to see KC looking like it should. The Chiefs still have the best player in the NFL and with him under center, they will always have a chance.
Los Angeles Rams
I was off on the Rams this season. I thought they’d struggle because Sean McVay had shown no ability to change his offensive scheme to fit his offensive line. I was wrong. He has changed, which has lead to a better rushing attack, which in turn leads to Jared Goff being in play action passing situations. The defense is sitting at 14th in DVOA and in yards per play, so there’s still room for improvement there. But if they continue to play this well as a team, and I think they do this weekend against the Bills, they are totally a contender.
“Let Russ Cook” has lead the Seahawks to the best offense in the first two weeks of the season. Seattle finally let Russell Wilson be its offense and it’s paying off. My concern for this team is their defense, which isn’t good. And if the Seahawks have a playoff game where Wilson is just off a touch, can their defense make enough plays to win the game? That’s my question. But in the end, they are a contender with Mr Unlimited running the offense.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is playing mad. They drafted his replacement and he’s been on fire this season. The Packers have the number 1-ranked DVOA offense after two weeks. Now they head to New Orleans for a big test against an angry Saints team who got embarrassed last weekend in Vegas. Just like Seattle, I worry about the Packers’ defense. Unlike Seattle, Green Bay has a pass rush so that gives me some excitement for their Super Bowl prospects.
I loved the Steelers coming into the season so I’m not surprised they started 2-0. However, it’s been an ugly 2-0. They played just OK for the first half against the Giants and then played down to a backup QB last weekend. Pittsburgh’s defense still is elite, creating tons of pressure and making life tough for quarterbacks. The offense has looked disjointed just a bit, which is expected as Ben Roethlisberger returns from injury. If the offense continues to improve, they have a chance to head back into the contenders section.
I might have to eat my words on Josh Allen, but I’ll refer you to this article. It’s worth your time to read. The Bills have also played two of the worst teams in the NFL this season. Now they get the Rams at home, the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs over the next four weeks. We will know more about Josh Allen after that. But as usual, the Bills are extremely well coached and great on defense. Both of those won’t ever change with Buffalo’s coaching staff.
Along with the Buffalo Bills, the Titans’ offensive coordinator is doing an outstanding job of scheming the action for Ryan Tannehill, which has lead to the 9th-rated offense after two weeks. The defense is just middle-of-the-pack, and the Titans struggled to beat the Broncos and Jaguars. I don’t believe they can win the Super Bowl.
I don’t like putting the Cardinals here because they aren’t supposed to be Super Bowl contenders this season. They are building an offense around Kyler Murray, who continues to play well, even with an offense that’s just been middle-of-the-road. Murray is 16th in expected points added, but they’ve started with the 49ers and Washington Football Team’s defenses, both of which are outstanding. The Cardinals should continue to get better.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders’ defense is ranked 30th in DVOA. That’s not good. The offense is about to have a rude awakening facing the Patriots this weekend. Here’s a good stat about Derek Carr’s fast start: He’s is averaging 6.2 air yards per attempt this season (4th-lowest in the NFL), but averages 17.7 air yards per attempt when targeting rookie Henry Ruggs III. In other words, Carr averages 4.6 air yards per attempt to receivers other than Ruggs III.
Mitch Trubisky is 24th in completion percentage over expectation + expected points added. I know, I know, that’s a handful, but it’s a great measure to figure out which quarterbacks are efficient or not. The Bears’ offense also clocks in at 24th in DVOA, and that’s against the Lions and Giants, both poor teams. Chicago’s defense is good, but yeah, I’m not taking the Bears.