Each week during the NFL season, UnafraidShow.com will take you through the four NFL teams/players that are trending up, as well as the ones that are headed for a crash. Let’s get to it:
Four Up: NFL Teams and Players Trending Up
1) The Saints Go Marching
Jameis Winston is filling some enormous shoes, while trying to throw out his previous pair. On Sunday, he managed to do both, playing relatively mistake free football, and helping the New Orleans Saints completely demolish the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay had come into New Orleans having scored 30+ points in five consecutive road games, and the Saints defense, bolstered by sacks from Tanoh Kpassagnon and Marcus Davenport, and interceptions by Paulson Adebo and Marcus Williams, has sent a signal to the rest of the NFL that the Saints aren’t going to have to win by shootout.
2) Same Old Tom and Gronk
We wrote about last Thursday’s electric NFL season opener, and once the dust settled on the entire weekend, it was clear that Tampa Bay still stood out as one of the most impressive teams of week 1. Of course everyone expects a defending Super Bowl champion to still have some gas left in the tank, but the Buccaneers came out with an even bigger tank, overflowing with high grade premium fuel. Antonio Brown looks better than he did last year. The Bucs run defense looks better than it did last year. And for the third time in the last seven games, Tom Brady found his old pal Rob Gronkowski in the end zone more than once. If for any reason Tampa wasn’t your Super Bowl favorite heading into 2021, it might be time to change your mind.
3) The Cardinals Take Flight
The Arizona Cardinals had the most eyebrow raising additions, as well as departures, leading up to the 2021 season. While the hype around this team remains minimal, as Arizona isn’t exactly the sexiest market for national talking heads, the week one thrashing of the Tennessee Titans on the road has caused quite a stir. Whether it’s Chandler Jones taking out his frustration with his contract situation on Taylor Lewan and Ryan Tannehill, or Kyler Murray finding both DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk for two scores each, you have to wonder if the Cardinals largest margin of victory in a season opener since the 1960’s is a flash in the pan, or a sign of things to come.
4) The AFC West
I definitely did not think that the NFC West would go undefeated in week 1. Especially when the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the Cleveland Browns by two scores in the fourth quarter, and the Las Vegas Raiders trailed the Baltimore Ravens by a TD with six minutes left in their Sunday night matchup, but here we are. The emergence of Justin Herbert at QB for the Los Angeles Chargers might make this the most entertaining division in all of football this year, especially if Von Miller and the Denver Broncos defense keeps them in games enough for Teddy Bridgewater and Melvin Gordon to work some magic, the way they did against the Giants on Sunday.
I know they lost, but I was impressed with both Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, and Browns QB Baker Mayfield’s progress. Our own George Wrighster believes that Dak Prescott is currently a top-5 NFL QB, and if he repeats his week 1 performance a few more times, I’m not sure I’ll be able to disagree. You have to throw Rams Head Coach Sean McVay on this list as well, because Matt Stafford’s play at QB is making him look like even more of a genius than he’s purported to be. Oh, and in case you forgot, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin still knows what he’s doing. Pittsburgh’s win over Buffalo should be a strong warning to the rest of the AFC North division that the Steelers aren’t quite dead yet. And why not give a shout out to the Houston Texans, who many thought would be circling the drain this year… a lot of season left, but as it stands right now, Tyrod Taylor and company are undefeated. Last but certainly not least, if you’re going to face an entire offseason of rumors that the Eagles are looking to replace you as the starter before you ever really get the chance to prove yourself, you might as well go out and dominate the way that Jalen Hurts did.
Four Down: NFL Teams and Players Trending Down
1) Aaron Rodgers
If you’re going to spend an entire offseason letting rumors and reports of your discontent run unchecked, and then you’re going to grant an interview to Erin Andrews further explaining your dissatisfaction with your status as the QB of the Green Bay Packers, you don’t get to be shocked when the team you’ve made it abundantly clear you don’t want to play with isn’t showing up on the field to support you. If Aaron Rodgers isn’t able to convince the Green Bay Packers to rally around him in his last year there, he’s going to have to be the one to do the rallying. Either he swallows his pride, or he’s going to swallow a few more five touchdown defeats.
2) Minnesota Vikings
Never has a team been more emblematic of the phrase “playing to the level of your competition” than the Kirk Cousins-led Minnesota Vikings. The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t a bad football team, but they’re certainly not as talented as the Vikings, and the idea that they’d need to come from behind to force overtime (and still lose!) to an offense that features Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who have an average combined age of 23-years-old, has to infuriate Skol nation.
3) Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans wasted an all-time great offense last season by surrendering over 30 points eight different times. So how’d they kick off 2021? How about putting the brakes on that offense while still leaking like a sieve in the secondary? It doesn’t look like Ryan Tannehill is the guy you want trying to play you back into a game from behind, and when you have your franchise left tackle publicly thanking the defensive end that beat him five different times for “exposing” him? YIKES.
4) Atlanta Falcons
When your salary cap situation is so bad that you have to let the best receiver in franchise history walk away, you probably aren’t going to earn much praise for having your longest play from scrimmage be 18 yards… at home… against a team defense that was in the bottom half of the league in both total yards and points allowed last year.
The top two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, weren’t a disaster in their season debuts, but outside of Aaron Rodgers, they finished second and third on the weekend as far as the worst completion percentage. Wilson, while he looked decent at times against Carolina, was sacked six times in his debut. If the Jets don’t protect their investment, who is on pace to take 26 more sacks than David Carr did in 2002, a record that still stands to this day, then they’re going to likely be scouting top QBs for the second draft in a row.
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