Neil Reynolds' Week 3 Mailbag

Two weeks of NFL action are in the books and I'm still not sure what some of these teams are or what they are going to become. I guess that's why they play the games! What is amazing to me is that it took just two weeks to knock 25 teams from the realms of the undefeated. There are just seven clubs yet to suffer a defeat in 2021. Parity reigns in today's NFL.

What are the chances of the Buccaneers vs Rams being an NFC Championship Game later in the season? - @BigLad1080

I would say there is every chance of that happening. While I have uncertainties about a large number of teams as we move towards the end of September, I trust the Bucs and the Rams to still be among the strongest in the league at the end of January.

This game has some serious star power and both teams are balanced with outstanding talent on each side of the ball. Tom Brady's weapons go about eight deep and the defense has playmakers such as Shaq Barrett and Devin White who can turn a game on its head.

The Rams are getting everything they hoped for and then some from quarterback Matthew Stafford. His connection with Cooper Kupp already looks special. Defensively, Aaron Donald could be a real pest to Brady in this game so Tampa center Ryan Jensen needs a big game. I love the way Jalen Ramsey is being moved around the defensive formation and cannot wait to see if he matches up with Gronk on Sunday.

Does bad coaching hold back quarterbacks? Thinking Sam Darnold and Ryan Tannehill here. – Craig (@ACasualBantam)

Absolutely. The two you mentioned there were coached by Adam Gase and I think we've all established he is not a quarterback whisperer. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time when Peyton Manning was in Denver. And do we really think Gase was in charge in that offensive meeting room? Those were Peyton's meetings.

Coaching matter with all players but even more so with the quarterback. You can be the most talented quarterback in the world, but if you're not put in the right situations in terms of the system, play-calls and players around you; you're going to struggle. Tannehill is a great example. He has thrived with a strong running game opening things up for him in the passing game. He never had anything like that in Miami.

When you think of some of the most dominant dynasties in NFL history, the head coach-quarterback combination led the way. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. That should tell you everything you need to know about the importance of the coach and quarterback being on the same page.

If you could have covered one game in NFL history, which would it be? – Richard Gage

I love a bit of weather-related football and I love my NFL history, so I would have to go back to the 1967 NFL Championship Game played on a brutally-cold New Year's Eve at Lambeau Field where the Green Bay Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys.

I would have woken up on the morning of the game and placed my steaming coffee cup on the ledge of my closed hotel room window, only to see the coffee freeze right there on the spot. (That actually happened to a reporter preparing to cover the game).

I would have stepped onto the hallowed turf at Lambeau Field during the pre-game warmups and gasped at the -26 degrees Celsius temperature that actually dropped to feel like -44 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. I would have kicked at the rock solid, ice-covered dirt and wondered how anybody could play in such conditions. And then I would have raced for the warmth of the press box, laughing at the sight of referee Norm Schachter having his metal whistle freeze to his lips as he blew for the opening kickoff!

Perched above the action, I would watch in wonder at players who couldn't even start their cars just hours earlier and were catching lifts from passing fans in order to get to the stadium. And I would have scooched to the edge of my seat as the Packers threw all their chips into the middle of the table, calling a quarterback sneak for Bart Starr with the championship on the line. As Starr dived into the endzone to win the game with 13 seconds remaining, I would have taken a moment to look at the waning sun falling behind the stands at Lambeau Field. And then I would have begun typing furiously to describe one of the greatest games ever played.

Is there any hope for the Detroit Lions? Please… pretty please! – Lenny Gamble

I went long on the previous answer so need to keep this one brief. No!

Seriously, it is going to take time. Head coach Dan Campbell doesn't seem to have the X's and O's as his main focus right now and nor should he. The priority has to be to change the culture in Detroit. The Lions have been losing for far too long and it's time to stop letting people kick you around. They have to fight back.

They may not have the weapons for the fightback just yet, but as long as they get the attitude in place; Campbell can add the pieces in the coming years. They picked up a lot of draft picks while taking Jared Goff off the Rams' payroll. Quarterback could be one of those positions they address in the near future even though they have Goff under center.

Do you think the Minnesota Vikings will stick with head coach Mike Zimmer if this is another poor season or will they part ways? – Keith (@Graffititongue)

I do believe that Mike Zimmer is on a warming seat and I think there is a good chance he will be the fall guy if this season comes apart at the seams. The Vikings could be 2-0 right now but they are 0-2 and I am reminded that good teams so often find ways to win close contests.

Zimmer has coached seven full seasons in Minnesota but has only delivered trips to the playoffs in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 campaigns. And each of those turned into a huge negative.

The 2015 season ended with Blair Walsh hooking a makeable short field goal wide left at home to Seattle. The 2017 campaign was filled with so much promise. The Vikings went 13-3 in the regular season and advanced to the NFC title game thanks to the Minneapolis Miracle win over New Orleans. But then they failed to show up when 60 minutes from the Super Bowl, losing 38-7 to Philadelphia. The 2019 season did produce a playoff win for Kirk Cousins (on the road at New Orleans) but was quickly followed with a tame exit in San Francisco.

When your positives are also some of the biggest negatives, that is a problem. And when your perceived strength – defense – is becoming a weakness, that is another big concern.

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