A Changing of the Guard
As soon as the New York Giants traded up to achieve their number-one target with the 6th overall pick in this year's draft, the writing was on the wall for Eli Manning. At first, the idea was to give Daniel Jones, the 22-year-old rookie, at least a year in Manning’s shadow. The goal was for him to learn the playbook and ease into his role as the future for Big Blue, however, going 0-2 in the first two games combined with Jones’ impressive showing in pre-season seemed to have changed head coach, Pat Shurmur's mind.
Time will tell whether throwing this rookie into a shaky situation with that unstable offensive line while receivers, Golden Tate and Stirling Shepherd are both out injured was a good idea or not. Shurmur was unequivocal, however, in his response to the decision saying, “This is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli”. Where does this leave the two time Super Bowl winner Manning apart from the bench? That is unclear.
Though the move might not bring instant results, it’s worth remembering the fall of 2004 when Manning (supposedly doing what Jones was meant to do in shadowing Kurt Warner) took the reigns as a starter in his rookie year earlier than planned. They finished 6-10 that season but things did get better for the blue half of NYC.
A Change for the Steelers
September is a funny month, nothing is won and nothing is lost. It acts as a sort of bridge between pre-season and business time. Though it looks bad to have a zero in front of a 0-2 record, it’s no more disastrous than losing two games in week six and week seven. Fans will overreact all the same because they only ever want to win while the Steelers have been used to winning in recent years.
As Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger held his elbow on Sunday on his way out of the game against Seattle, the whole of Pittsburgh reacted as you would expect; especially now that it has been confirmed that Big Ben will miss the rest of the season with the injury.
In a relentless 16-game NFL season, it means opportunity knocks for Mason Rudolph who has - unlike Daniel Jones at the Giants - waited in the wings since joining the Steelers as a third-round pick in the 2018 draft. The 49ers are the visitors this Sunday. Week four watches the Steelers play the Bengals before an AFC North showdown with the impressive-looking Ravens. If Rudolph can lift the Steelers to 3-2 after that game, maybe Pittsburgh will see September for what it really was.
Seahawks flying low into New Orleans
The Seahawks must be eyeing a playoff spot in a tight NFC West. Despite going 2-0 in the opening two weeks - including their win against the Steelers - they have allowed 46 points against them, scoring just 49. To bring that into perspective, the Arizona Cardinals have a point for and against the record of 44-50 in losing both of their games this year.
Such fine margins mean a loss or two is approaching fast or improvement is in the post. The Seahawks will need it to be the latter and they will need it soon. Whilst an impending game against New Orleans would not be most teams' idea of good opponents to use as a springboard into improvement, maybe this is a good week to do it. Saints' quarterback, Drew Brees, looks to be out until around week ten with a thumb injury, leaving an offense that hasn’t quite clicked yet on the back foot.
Saints backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, is likely to start in Brees’ place but it is the Seahawks' Russel Wilson who must be making the headlines come Sunday night if the Seahawks are to challenge the Rams and the resurgent 49ers in the West.
Chiefs vs Ravens
This is probably the best-looking tie of the weekend - two offenses capable of scoring almost at will, two quarterbacks with eyes on a deep playoff run, the league MVP-award coming in Winter, and two head coaches who have tailored their offenses to the strengths of their young stars.
Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback and last year's MVP Patrick Mahomes will have no intentions of being overshadowed by Baltimore’s second-year quarterback, Lamar Jackson, but this is a game with the promise of an offensive shoot-out worthy of a John Wick movie.
After the first two games of the season, the Chiefs are the best offensive team in terms of passing. The Ravens have topped the offense charts in rushing yards - many of them down to Jackson himself. Defensively, however, the Ravens see themselves as the second-best in the league after two weeks behind the Patriots. The Ravens did play the woeful Dolphins in the first week though. Either way, despite the talent behind both teams' offensive lines, a couple of big defensive plays could tip the balance in this game.
In complete contrast to both the Ravens and the Chiefs, everyone knows the Bears defense is beyond good - it is the reason they were able to make it to a double-doink against the post from the NFC Championship game last year.
In their two games thus far, they have held the Packers to 10 points - a feat not many will equal this year - and the Broncos to 14 points. They won only one of those games, however. On Sunday they needed a last gasp field goal to beat the Broncos 16-14 with 10 of those points coming from new kicker Eddy Pineiro’s boot.
A defense that fierce is only as good in winning games as an offense able to take advantage of relatively low targets. The Bears, driven by third-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, have not yet looked ready. Closing out week three against Washington on Monday night, the Bears offense must click together fast. If Trubisky can repay the faith they have shown in him, he could become the glue to make it happen. Trubisky still has time on his side but in terms of this season, well, October isn’t that far away.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale