NFL insider notes: Texans, Eagles, Vikings among teams exposed for who they really are, plus more from Week 3


It wasn’t that long ago when the Texans and Vikings and Eagles were playing postseason football games. I distinctly recall both Minnesota and Houston actually winning a playoff game.

I don’t think they’ll have to worry about such considerations in 2020. 

We all know the trite narrative about the previous season meaning nothing, and we all know the stats about six teams typically missing the playoffs a year after making it. Seems to me like a handful of NFL teams got exposed Sunday, meeting their fate much sooner than anyone would have cared to consider it. Sure, these teams will mess around and win some games and beat the dregs of the NFL when given the chance … but none are going to come close to the kind of seasons they hoped for or that their fans would have expected.

It’s not just all playoff teams, either — I heard a lot about how the Falcons would bounce back in 2020, and how that Giants offense was going to make some strides, but, um, nah, those are bad football teams that will remain bad for quite some time. Says here it’s only gonna get worse from here for this bunch. And after what most would consider the most controversial offseason in the NFL, including a bizarre trade with the Cardinals and having to make Laremy Tunsil the highest paid tackle in football, the Texans should be the posterboys for regression, failed experiments and early-season turmoil.

This team is 0-3, and, yeah, they’ve played a tough schedule with the Chiefs and Ravens and Steelers — but they have also been thoroughly outclassed for large stretches of every game, including the entire second half Sunday, when the scoreboard flattered them and they easily could have lost by double digits. They did not score in the second half, they lack a go-to weapon on offense (hello, De’Andre Hopkins!) and they continue to get their $40M QB blasted all over the field.

Heck, they started right away in Week 3, failing to block T.J. Watt on the opening snap! You figured they may have heard of him, what with all of the hype about him facing his brother, J.J., who plays for the Texans, but then again you never know. Bill O’Brien’s scheme has been in doubt for years — for good reason — he has been in the crosshairs of the analytics community for years — for good reason — but he is super chummy with the owner, which is all that really matters (until it doesn’t anymore).

Despite all that money on the offensive line, it remains a problem. The defense lacks bite and this team has been overpowered in the run game three weeks in a row. They get blasted in the second half of games and check out their opponents’ time of possession and rushing yards against them through three games:

Chiefs: 34:47, 166 yards
Ravens: 34:51, 230 yards
Steelers: 36:51, 169 yards

So, um, yeah, they have a problem. Allowing 465 ground yards in three games is terrible. Lucky for them they get the Vikings next week. So someone has to win (I guess, unless they tie). But the Titans and Packers also loom before a Week 8 bye and this team will be jockeying for a top-10 pick again before it’s back in the playoffs.

As for the Vikings, well, they finally found a passing game and Kirk Cousins completed downfield throws … but Mike Zimmer’s defense is a shell of what it once was, they don’t get stops or make plays when they need them, and their late loss to the Titans was soul-crushing. They led at home, 17-9 at the half and 24-12 and then 30-25, before Tennessee took the lead on a long field goal.

Of course, the final sequence on offense featured the Vikings’ porous offensive line getting whipped despite the Titans sitting back in a coverage shell and rushing only four. It featured a sack and a few near-interceptions on throw aways and a second-and-27 and a third-and-15. This loss wasn’t as comical and thorough as the two that preceded it, but it’s a total gut punch. The Vikings face the Seahawks after the Texans and the Packers after the Falcons. The poor play of the passing attack through two weeks got most of the attention, but the punchless defense is an even bigger issue.

As for the Eagles, do I really need to go into depth? They are 0-2-1 and got outclassed by rookie Joe Burrow and the winless Bengals and were lucky to get that tie. They are getting worked on both sides of the line of scrimmage and Carson Wentz looks totally lost. The NFC East stinks, but the Eagles are cooked, with the injuries compounding the situation. Looks late early in Philly.

The Giants offense was bad with Saquon Barkley, but without it, my goodness. Been trying to tell people this team will flirt with the first overall pick. The got systematically destroyed by the 49ers backups for four quarters. San Francisco held the ball for more than 22 minutes in the first half, ran 43 plays to 19 for the Giants and it only got worse from there. I don’t see many W’s for a team that still can’t play a lick of defense against teams that can play a lick of offense (so, like, keeping it close against Chicago Football Trubiskys in Week 2 doesn’t count).

So, who am I missing here?

Oh yeah, the Falcons — the latest team to make the Bears feel better about them than they should. No one blows leads like the Falcons. They also lead the league in overvaluing and overpaying their own talent and whispering every summer about how much better they’re going to be on defense this year, despite the same dudes picking the players and coaching the players. Okay.

The Falcons are 2-9 in September the past three years and seem intent on being irrelevant, again, by Halloween, except for in head coaching hot seats pools, in which they are a mainstay. It’s really that bad, again. But at least they have company.

Pats just wearing opponents down

The Patriots continue to road grade people. How about this for an end-of-the-first half drive: 12 plays, 86 yards, 5:04. They held the ball for 19 minutes in the first half and ran 41 plays to 21 for the Raiders, setting the stage for systematically wearing them down. It’s what they do and who they are and this Cam Newton thing is not going away.

Their games with the Bills are going to be something else. Amazing win by Buffalo, but I do have some concerns about that defense not being what it was a year ago. Getting Trumaine Edwards and Matt Milano back was huge for the linebacking group, and I am sure they will make a big impact as things progress, but that unit is not suffocating teams like it did in 2019. At least not yet.

More Week 3 insider notes

  • Deshaun Watson may have taken more absolute knockout blows than Joe Burrow, but it was close. If the Bengals can build even a half decent offensive line they will be dangerous. Burrow was knocked out for one play, came back in and just keeps fighting. They continue to run him out of spread formations and he is starting to get something cooking with Tee Higgins (though I remain a skeptic that A.J. Green is a factor anymore) … 
  • Darren Waller was obviously a focus of the Patriots defensive scheme, but that knee injury was definitely a factor, too. He did not make any impact and did not even have a target in the first half. He finished with two catches for nine yards after dominating in the Monday night win over the Saints
  • The Titans running game doesn’t look quite the same to me this year. Yards are tougher to come by, with the exodus of right tackle Jack Conklin perhaps a factor. Gutty win Sunday despite losing left tackle Taylor Lewan early on, and Ryan Tannehill is explosive downfield even without some of his premier weapons, but I do wonder if they will get back to cramming it down teams’ mouths like they did in the playoffs … 
  • Daniel Jones went 5-for-11 for 65 yards with a pick and a fumble in the first half. Sounds about right … 
  • Justin Herbert continued to flash better than I could have expected so soon, but man, those crushing turnovers hurt (like at the end of the first half) and it’s why they went with Tyrod Taylor in the first place. Taylor will very likely miss at least another week, but change will be in the air in L.A. again … 
  • Sam Darnold opening the game with a pick-six pretty much captures where that franchise is. Not sure if they are worse than the Giants. It’s a coin flip for me … 
  • Awful to see Chase Young have to go out so soon with a groin injury. Without a dominant front seven the WFT has NCIH to WIN more weeks.  





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