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) Spider Y 2 Banana
It was a legitimate unknown if Jon Gruden would ever be able to equal the value of the massive contract he received to lure him out of broadcasting and onto the sidelines again, but this Raiders team is ROLLING. They’ve beaten both the Ravens and the Steelers, and survived two different overtime games, as well as an injury to RB Josh Jacobs, and they did it through quality playcalling on offense, and limiting themselves to two turnovers in their first three games. Derek Carr looks like he’s entering his prime, and the things TE Darren Waller forces defenses to do in order to keep him from being a one-man wrecking crew has freed up young Henry Ruggs to emerge as a legitimate star. Defensively, Maxx Crosby, a 4th round pick back in 2019, is becoming an absolute menace to opposing QBs, with two sacks and 12 QB hits.
2) The return of the REAL Sam Darnold
Pac-12 fans like me watched Sam Darnold flirt with a 60% completion percentage for three years on the New York Jets and were left wondering what on earth happened to the one-time stud Trojan QB. Three games into his tenure with the Carolina Panthers, he’s undefeated and has completed over 67% of his passes in three consecutive games. Yes he had Christian McCaffrey, and yes the addition of Hasson Reddick has taken the defense to the next level, but I’m telling you, he looks good. He’s going to be head-to-head against Dak Prescott this weekend, and Christian McCaffrey is hurt, so we’re undoubtedly going to find out if this really is the *real* Sam Darnold we’re seeing, or just an early-season mirage.
3) Justin Tucker the GOAT
Yes, Adam Vinatieri is great. But is he “kick a record long FG to win the game as time expires” great? Maybe he is, but his career long was 57, and Justin Tucker now has a 66-yard game-winner on his resume. What’s most incredible about Justin Tucker’s long-range accomplishment, is that he had come to be known as the guy you want kicking anything but a 50+ yard field goal, but improved his distance in the middle of his career to become someone without a weakness. Think about this- in 2018 and 2019, Tucker was a combined 8/19 from 50+ yards, but in the 19 games since then, he’s 10/11, including this aforementioned beauty.
4) JuCo Quarterbacks
It will never not boggle the mind that Aaron Rodgers spent time in Junior College. He’s the the most dangerous QB I’ve ever seen, and imagining him at 18 years old out there at Butte College just ruining the film of 21 year old defensive backs all over the Pacific coast sounds like a Hollywood fever dream. He’s rid our collective consciousness of his horrid week 1 performance by putting together two awesome performances in a row against Detroit and San Francisco to remind us that he’s the real MVP. But he’s not the only California QB to be overlooked and have to go the JuCo route who is now tearing up the NFL… Josh Allen is right there with him after putting together a stellar 2020, earning a massive contract extension, and now doing things like throwing for 358 yards, 4 touchdowns, and rushing for a touchdown against the Washington Football Team. You might think I’m being unreasonable by comparing Josh Allen to Aaron Rodgers (which I’ve been doing for 5 years now), but wait until Bryce Perkins gets a shot with the LA Rams- then you’re really going to see me go off the rails for Junior College-to-NFL signal callers.
The Cleveland Browns are good. Myles Garrett looks like a top-5 pass rusher, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt look like the best 1-2 punch at RB in the entire NFL, and Baker Mayfield isn’t doing anything to screw it up. Say this out loud- THE CLEVELAND BROWNS HAVE WON 14 OF THEIR LAST 20 GAMES. Surreal isn’t it? I don’t have them in the top 10 of my NFL Power rankings yet (see below), but if they win in Minnesota this weekend, it’ll be hard to justify keeping them out.
1-32 Power Rankings
Four Down: NFL Teams and Players Trending Down
1) Steel City
Pittsburgh is an awful place to have to try and go earn a win. Even as recently as last year, the Steelers went 7-1 in the regular season at home. But if you include last year’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers have now lost three in a row in front of their home fans, including a two-touchdown drubbing by the Cincinnati Bengals. If the ‘Burgh isn’t a clear advantage for Ben Roethlisberger and company, this is a terribly average football team that is about to embark on a long, painful season.
2) Matt Nagy
The entire city of Chicago wants Matt Nagy fired. All of Chicago’s four billion former residents that have retired to Arizona and Florida are throwing all the hard candy from their crystal dishes at the television every time they see him in a postgame press conference. Justin Fields struggled mightily in his first start, and has managed to get sacked 11 times in just a little over four quarters of action. If the Bears don’t defend Soldier Field this week against the 0-3 Detroit Lions, we might see the first coaching change of the season.
3) The New York Football??? Giants
Imagine booing the owner at a jersey retirement ceremony for the QB that brought your franchise its last two championships. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it, you can just watch:
I’m not sure what else to even write about the Giants. It doesn’t get worse than that.
4) Cold Colts
The Indianapolis Colts had an 11-win season last year, added Carson Wentz to replace Philip Rivers, and look like they don’t have an identity anymore. With road games coming up against the Dolphins and Ravens, it’s going to be a long, hard road back to .500. In their favor is an incredibly poor division that (as long as they beat Tennessee the next time around) they could still challenge to win.
The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t fooling anyone with that 1-2 record- they’re still incredibly stacked on both sides of the ball, but with Denver, Las Vegas, and the LA Chargers all on the come-up, they can’t afford to tinker around anymore. They need to be .500 heading into their game against Buffalo, or we might see last year’s 14-2 AFC representative facing a 1-4 start to their ensuing season.
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