By Hamish Girvan
The NFL season kicked off in a semi normal way on September 7th. The draft went virtual this year in a COVID impacted world, very successfully, and as an event it seemed to be more compelling than the usual hoopla of a live audience and staged event.
Then there were no pre season games – which may have played a part in the number of season ending injuries in the first 4 weeks (more on that later)
The reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs easily accounted for the Houston Texans in the season opener, and seemed to have confirmed their place as the favourites to repeat this season already going 4-0 in their first four games – and also setting a NFL record of winning their first 4 games of a season for the 4th consecutive season.
(Alex Smith was the quarterback in the first season of that run by the way)
There have of course been some teams that have defied predictions and are looking well and truly on form for a playoff run and beyond. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks are two teams of note.
Then there are the others. The Houston Texans after losing their first 4 on the trot fired their Head Coach and General Manager Bill O’Brien this week despite having a star quarterback in Deshaun Watson to run with. O’Brien’s dual role was never going to work. The Dallas Cowboys have also faltered despite scoring an average of 31.5 points in each game have still managed to lose 3 out of 4 games, despite firing their Head Coach at the end of last season. Jason Garrett was replaced by ex Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy who spent his season out of work studying film in his basement. Obviously the film he watched never focused on how the defensive side of the game should work.
The teams that last season were disappointing may have finally clicked. The Cleveland Browns may finally have a coach that can get through the franchises’ historical dysfunction and have so far won 3 out of 4. The Buffalo Bills having a perfect 4-0 record might finally be able to bury their divisional win hatchet, now that the New England Patriots look like their ownership of the division may be waning, and may have the best chance to take it out this season.
The injury rates have been cruel for some. Star running back and Fantasy Football favourite Christian McCaffery of the Carolina Panthers was injured in the second game of the season and will miss a few games and the Browns Nick Chubb is now out for most of the season after picking up an MCL injury last week. Both are top tier running backs who will leave a massive void in both team’s offences.
In terms of COVID there have been a few issues however not quite as bad as predicted. The Tennessee Titans had their week 4 game postponed after 3 of their players tested positive and New England quarterback Cam Newton also succumbed to the virus and is definitely out for a couple of weeks which led to a 24 hour delay of their match up against the Chiefs this week.
The MVP race is surprisingly being led by Seattle Quarterback Russell Wilson who had back to his mercurial best and and both his play and game leadership have set the Seahawks off to a flyer.
The offensive rookie of the year is no.1 pick in the draft this year, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow who has already thrown over 1100 yards and 7 touchdowns in his first 4 games.
The off-season move of Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be kicking into gear as he looks to be hitting his straps in the last two games after a shaky start. The irony of it all if he gets his new team to the playoffs would not be not a bad effort for a 43 year old, as his old team the New England Patriots although competitive are struggling may now be regretting not trying harder to keep him.
The first quarter of the season has been relatively strong from a spectacle viewpoint with some high scores however as the winter months kick in so should the defensive effort of a number of teams. Calls that the NFL should have been played in more of a bubble scenario like the NBA are so far looking OK as is. Let’s hope that any further pandemic issues don’t defer the season before half time.
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