The football season is just 17 games old ... but it's not too soon to make snap judgments about the season-long fates of each team.
I kid -- kind of. Anyone who thinks they have the league figured out after Week 1 is a fool. That said, if you've followed these teams closely throughout the offseason, then watched what's unfolded so far, it's not too early to come up with some early working theories. Here are mine.
It's not too early to say that ... everything might be different for the New York Jets now
Full disclosure -- and you might already know this by now -- but I am a Jets fan. I've been one for 30 years. It has mostly been terrible. Also terrible: The first pass of Sam Darnold's professional career. The pick-six put the Jets in an early hole against the Lions and left every LSJF (Long-Suffering Jets Fan) thinking the same thing: Dear God, we got sucked in again.
But Darnold settled down and played the remaining 59 minutes of the blowout win in Detroit like a 10-year pro. His combination of accuracy, touch, mobility and resolve was a revelation. Darnold looks every bit the future star, and we watched this on the same night that Todd Bowles -- now in his fourth year on the job in Gotham -- finally rolled out the type of Todd Bowles defense he was known for in his Arizona days. Pairing a promising young quarterback with an opportunistic young defense makes for a frisky stew.
It's not too early to say that ... the Bears probably made the worst play call of the season
The Bears had it. The game was theirs. NBC was peppering America with sideline shots of Aaron Rodgers every 12 seconds, but the Packers' unstoppable quarterback would remain bolted to the sideline if Chicago could successfully execute one more play. Third-and-2, Green Bay's 14-yard line. Under three minutes to play. A 20-17 lead. Jordan Howard's previous two runs had gone for 22 and 11 yards. The Packers' defense was clearly wearing down and here was Matt Nagy's chance to knock it out. Instead, Mitch Trubisky lined up in shotgun, rolled to his right and threw incomplete in the direction of a receiver who was covered and several yards short of the sticks.
Nagy then opted to kick the field goal on 4th-and-2, inviting Aaron Rodgers -- on one leg but by now in pure superhero mode -- back on the field facing a six-point deficit. Three plays later, the Packers were ahead for good. It's too easy to second-guess a coach when things go wrong, but sometimes the best move is the most obvious one. Give Jordan Howard the ball -- twice if you have to. Trust your offensive line. Win the damn game.
It's not too early to say that ... Fitzmagic is back, baby!
You can't say this doesn't feel familiar. Ryan Fitzpatrick emerges from a humble understudy role, steps into the starting lineup and proceeds to shred the opposition with brainiac-level ease. Everyone is shocked, a bunch of Harvard jokes are made, Fitzpatrick charms the local media with his easy joviality and his team makes a spirited run toward the playoffs. They never actually get there, and Fitzpatrick eventually turns back into a pumpkin, but on balance, everyone will look back on the experience and smile.
History is instructive. Do not discount the possibility Jameis Winston will remain out of action when he returns from suspension in Week 4. The Bucs remain (understandably) salty about their franchise quarterback and the alluring effects of Fitzmagic can linger for months. Yes, it would not at all be a shock if Fitzpatrick throws three picks in a loss to the Eagles on Sunday. But you should also be prepared for a scenario in which Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in every relevant passing category on Monday morning. The Beard is weird.
It's not too early to say that ... the Bills royally messed up their quarterback room
On Sept. 1, the Bills traded AJ McCarron to the Raiders. The move happened on the same day the Raiders sent Khalil Mack to the Bears, so a relatively minor transaction involving a backup quarterback barely moved the needle. But even in the moment, it seemed like a curious move by the Bills. Buffalo had signed McCarron in March and drafted Josh Allen a month later. The generally-held understanding was that Allen was a raw prospect who would greatly benefit from a redshirt year -- or something close to it. With McCarron and Nathan Peterman on the roster, Buffalo would be able to protect and groom their prized first-round pick during his rookie season.
But the decision to trade McCarron changed the dynamic. Suddenly, there was a lot of pressure on Nathan Peterman to be competent ... and Nathan Peterman had already showed signs that competency wasn't really his thing. Sure enough, Peterman cratered against the Ravens last Sunday. (Going forward, a 0.0 passer rating will be called a Peterman.) After the 47-3 loss, coach Sean McDermott -- clearly backed into a corner -- announced that Allen would start in Week 2 against the Chargers. So much for the rookie cocoon of security. McDermott told the media this week he'd go to his grave feeling it was the right decision to start Peterman. But can he say the same about trading McCarron, the team's only other safety net to protect the kid? None of this feels like it will end well.