OUR TOP STORY
If you’re a fan of a team that has competent leadership, consider yourself lucky. If you’re a fan of the Houston Texans, my condolences.
Anybody who knows anything about how the NFL (or pro sports in general) operates knew from the jump that Houston’s plan to go into the year without a general manager was going to be a disaster. A conglomeration of team personnel are all part of the decision-making process, and it’s probably safe to assume coach Bill O’Brien is calling some shots, too. That mess is what led the Texans to this weekend’s bevy of trades that put the franchise in a bind.
Obviously, the Texans had to move on from edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, as that relationship had become untenable. While widespread rumors indicated Miami was a front runner, Clowney rebuked that notion and was sent to Seattle instead. In exchange, the Texans received a third-round pick and two filler players.
That’s not far off what Houston had to give up to get running back Duke Johnson from Cleveland last month. When you consider positional value and player quality, those two returns shouldn’t be anywhere near equal. The Texans continue to defy logic, though, and now we’re here.
Houston and Miami did eventually complete a trade, this time with the Texans sending a pair of first rounders and more to the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills. The Dolphins are blatantly tanking, so while the move looks bizarre at least there’s a long-term goal. Meanwhile, the Texans thrusted themselves into win-now mode this weekend. Their offensive line is undoubtedly better with Tunsil, but with minimal draft capital in the next few years this is their best competitive window. It’s hardly a bad thing to position your team for a Super Bowl run, but this entire scenario could have been handled more effectively. Letting O’Brien be the main captain of a careening ship may be Houston’s biggest gamble of them all.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
*LeSean McCoy has been reunited with Andy Reid, as the six-time Pro Bowler agreed this weekend to a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s a low-risk move for the Chiefs, who truly have an embarrassment of riches in terms of offensive talent. They had plenty of cap space and clearly a willingness to bring in veterans/familiar players (see: Jeff Allen, De’Anthony Thomas). And it’s a chance for McCoy to rejuvenate his career as it winds down, as he should see some steady numbers given that he won’t be a defense’s focal point. On the flip side, McCoy’s 2018 was his worst season, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and less than 40 yards per game. Kansas City got a steal if McCoy can recreate some old magic, but that’s a big “if.”
*The Minnesota Vikings cut a kicker who they traded a fifth-round pick to get. In a league which constantly features team overthinking small decisions, this was a hysterically bad botch. It’s not like Minnesota is usually a haven for the kicking game, far from it, but even by Vikings standards this was comical. They still have Dan Bailey so their field goal kicking shouldn’t be dreadful. That said, the bizarre, ongoing kicker sagas in the NFC North are tightroping a fine line between comedy and tragedy.
*It’s hard to blame Melvin Gordon for wanting to get paid while he can and also lock up some job security. Simultaneously, it’s hard to blame the Los Angeles Chargers for not wanting to pay a premium for the league’s most replaceable position. The team has now given Gordon and his party freedom to seek a trade, so it’s going to be hard to see the young running back staying southern California for long. Somebody is going to pay Gordon something around what he wants, but teams are finally starting to wise up to the fact that building around running backs is bad business.
*The Texans are the biggest example in the NFL right now of a team operating without a plan. It’s impossible to say if the Oakland Raiders don’t have a plan, but it’s easy to say that if they do have one for their quarterbacks it doesn’t make any sense. Nathan Peterman, Jon Gruden’s beloved terrible quarterback, is getting stashed on injured reserve, but Oakland still has Deshone Kizer and Mike Glennon backing up Derek Carr. Add Peterman to the mix and you have one of the worst quarterback rooms of all time. This franchise is a disaster right now from the diva wide receivers down to the last-resort passers. Nobody embodies their stereotypes more than the Raiders.
KHALIL MACK DID WHAT THIS WEEK?
Generally, this section will be saved for a remarkable play, possibly by Khalil Mack but also potentially by other elite defenders. Defenses need love too, even in today’s NFL.
This week, though, it’s all about what Mack (and his teammates) didn’t do: play in the preseason. The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are kicking off the 100th season of NFL football this Thursday, and both teams enter the game without having played many (or any) of their starters during the exhibition slate. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this week that if Green Bay struggles, it won’t be because the starters sat out the preseason. He’s right.
The risks involved with playing in the preseason far outweigh the potential benefits. Rodgers doesn’t need 10 snaps in a game that doesn’t mean anything. The same goes for Mack. The same goes for Davante Adams or Eddie Jackson or any of the other important players on these teams. We’ll get our flashy highlights soon, no need to risk players getting significantly hurt in meaningless action for them.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Courtesy of /r/NFL on reddit this week, Thursday night’s Packers/Bears tilt could see the two franchises tie for the all-time wins record. The Bears, who are fourth all-time in winning percentage, have 778 wins, the most ever. The Packers (third in percentage) have 777 wins, second most ever. Sure, this is a prime example of the law of large numbers, but it’s still remarkable to consider. These teams have been playing for a century and are neck and neck in terms of success (head to head, anyway; the Packers have an edge in the most meaningful number, championships). There’s no better way to kick off the NFL’s centennial season.
WEEKLY RANKING: TOP 5 MOST INTERESTING WEEK 1 GAMES
- Packers/Bears – The oldest and best rivalry in the sport opens the season, with one of the best defenses doing battle against one of the most intriguing offenses. And, above anything else, it means NFL football is finally back.
- Steelers/Patriots – Regardless of how good the Chiefs are this year, the New England Patriots will rightfully be right there with them as Super Bowl favorites. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has a lot to prove to be considered a contender.
- Texans/Saints – The somewhat new-look Texans will take the field a mere week after adding a new left tackle. The Saints need to find out if they’re getting the Drew Brees of old or the one who showed up for the latter half of last season.
- Colts/Chargers – One team still hoping to challenge for a Super Bowl, another who unexpectedly lost its franchise quarterback and needs to find its way.
- Titans/Browns – It’s do-or-die time for all the Marcus Mariota stans out there (you’re not alone, friends), and his team has to match up with the unstoppable hype machine that is the Cleveland Browns to open the year.
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