It looked as if Bears manager Matt Nagy overreacted on Sunday when he snatched starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from the game and put in Nick Foles. Of course, Trubisky hadn’t been great against the Falcons. And he had just launched an interception that kills cars. But we certainly saw him get worse, and besides, the Bears had started for a 2-0 with Trubisky under the center.
When Foles came in, I had started thinking about the weekly overreaction column and all I could think was that Nagy was trying to make fun of me. Here he was exaggerating before I even opened my Word document!
But then I looked again, figured out who the Bears were playing with, and decided that this one had a chance to look really good for Nagy. Which, in the end, it did.
The Bears must be the strangest team in the league right now. They are 3-0 and have no idea who their quarterback is. They returned from a 23-6 lead in the fourth quarter against the Lions in week 1. They nearly lost a 17-0 lead over a hideous looking Giants team in week 2. And then this.
So, what better place to start this week’s overreaction than in Chicago, where Nagy looked like she was trying to make the leap, but was really just making the right instance at the right time:
Mitchell Trubisky began his last game with the Bears
If Trubisky’s performance was the reason for the bench on Sunday, it’s hard to see how what followed could change Nagy’s mind. After the interception, Foles looked like his old Eagles Super Bowl MVP car. He finished 16 for 29 going through 188 yards and three touchdowns. He figured out how to find Allen Robinson, his best receiver, pretty much whenever he needed it. He was, for a brilliant quarter, everything the Bears want and need their quarterback to be if they want to compete for a spot in the NFC playoffs. If you were fed up with Trubisky in the third quarter, you moved all-in on Foles in the fourth.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. For sure, Foles will start next week against the Colts. But it’s a career backup that hasn’t always been the picture of health and he lost his starting quarterback competitions on four different teams, including his current squad less than a month ago. The Bears coaching staff thought enough of Trubisky’s progress by the end of August to give him the Foles post.
And here’s the important thing: Foles didn’t do anything on Sunday that Trubisky didn’t do against the Lions in week 1! Who says full-game Foles will look like fourth quarter Foles on Sunday. Yes, the Bears will try it. But its story indicates that at some point they will have to at least consider returning to pick number 2 in the 2017 draft.
I await my preseason prediction that each of these guys will start at least six games for the Bears this season. Trubisky is halfway there. How close will Foles get before they go back? And a better question: if they keep winning every game, does it matter?
NFC East is worse than ever
When all divisions are on the playground, NFC East is the one that everyone else makes fun of. “Your division is so bad, the team that had the best day on Sunday drew the Bengals!” Sick burn, more divisions, but the truth hurts.
The Eagles called and performed plays in the final moments of overtime against the Bengalis without trying to win – happy to tie one of the worst teams in the league even after a last-minute regulation comeback from their hard-fought full-back – and still earned half a game over all the other teams in the division. Washington and Dallas are tied for first place at 1-2. The only two wins NFC East have scored in three weeks are (1) against another NFC East team and (2) against the Falcons, who basically only use nine guys on defense in the fourth quarter.
NFC East is a three-week combined 2-9-1. That’s a .208 win rate – the second worst for any division after three weeks since the league went to eight divisions in 2002. 2002 AFC North was 2-8 after three weeks.
The verdict: NOT AN EXCEPTIONAL REACTION. I’m not ready to say the NFC East champion won’t have a winning record – 2002 AFC North ended with two teams above .500, and one of them was the Browns – but that’s not impossible.
The Cowboys have conceded 78 points in the past two weeks and their only win was a historic miracle. The Washington Fumble Team returned to beat the Eagles in week one, but have since turned the ball seven times in their two games. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has three touchdown passes, six interceptions and hasn’t scored 50.0 in total QBR in any of his three games. And the Giants just lost 36-9 to a team made up almost entirely of backup 49ers. I’m not sure math works that way, but it does possible that if you can’t beat a team’s backups, you can’t be considered one of the top 32 teams in the league.
It’s bad here on these NFC East streets, and none of these teams have had to play with the Ravens yet. (And everyone will.)
Adam Gase will be sacked if the Jets lose to Denver on Thursday night
Once again, the Giants have lost by four touchdowns to a team lacking at least nine starters, and there is legitimate debate in New York as to which team is worse. Gase made it to the playoffs in 2016, his first year as a Dolphins manager, but he’s 20-31 years old since then, and he’s confident his reputation as an offensive mastermind has suffered some success.
No team gained fewer yards last season than the Jets, and only Washington scored fewer points. The Jets entered the league in yards last Sunday and only added 260 in the blowout loss to the Colts. Their 37 points in three games so far is the lowest total in the league – one point behind those aforementioned Giants. And perhaps the most damning case against Gase is the way guys like Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake, DeVante Parker and Robby Anderson have played since they parted ways with him.
The verdict: NOT AN EXCEPTIONAL REACTION. The Broncos team played by the Jets on Thursday is also 0-3 and scored just 40 points. But Denver had to play Sunday without his injured starting quarterback and his best wide receiver. The Jets, yes, are extremely impressed on the catcher, but even so, Sam Darnold’s third year should have been one in which he showed real progress. On Sunday, he passed 17 of 29 for 168 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, two of which were returned for Colts’ touchdowns.
Kalen Ballage tries to override a Colts defender, but instead takes two big hits and is stopped in his path.
The Jets swapped and took Darnold No. 3 in the overall 2018 project ranking, and they have an option decision for the fifth year to be made on him this spring. He needs to show growth if they plan to commit to him beyond 2021, and if they end up with the first pick in the draft, their fans will want them to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and start over from the position. This is not a good place for a coach to fill.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported this Sunday morning that property was getting restless and Gase’s place was getting warmer. If the Jets are 0-4 after Thursday night, they have 10 days before the next game and time to make a change if they wish. Jet defensive coordinator Gregg Williams went 5-3 as interim coach of the Browns after firing Hue Jackson two years ago – I’m just saying.
Deshaun Watson’s crew made a match on Sunday but failed to hold out against Pittsburgh, and the Texans are 0-3 for the second time in three years. Tennessee lead AFC South 3-0, closely followed 2-1 in Indianapolis, and both appear to be legitimate contenders. After an offseason in which coach / general manager Bill O’Brien took a lot of heat from trading best wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a contract dispute, the slow start doesn’t help anyone give him the benefit of the doubt.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Remember a couple of seconds ago when I said the Texans were 0-3 for the second time in three years? Yes, well, they bounced back and won the division in 2018. And four of the last five years have won it. You can beat on O’Brien’s GM decisions if you want, but as a manager he has proven he can make the playoffs.
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The Texans still have the best quarterback in the division, despite Ryan Tannehill’s sparkling start. And it’s entirely possible that the three teams that have played so far – Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh – are the top three teams in the entire league. What did they do to make programmers so angry with them? I swear, when I checked their schedule as I wrote this, I almost expected their next two games to be against Buffalo and Seattle. I’m not.
Texans, however, are undoubtedly going through the hardest part of their schedule. They have two head-to-head games against each of their division opponents. There are seven playoff seats in each conference this season. And they’ve been here before. It’s too early to panic in Houston.
Drew Brees is part of the problem in New Orleans
The Saints lost to the Packers on Sunday night to drop to 1-2, six days after losing to the Raiders in Las Vegas. Their 41-year-old quarterback looked sharper than he was in week 2, but he still seemed reluctant to throw out, and running back Alvin Kamara did most of his yardage work for him after the catch. Kamara had 57 yards after catching on his 52-yard touchdown catch. Think about it. Brees entered the game with an average of 4.81 yards per attempt, and on Sunday night he averaged 4.61. They are really low numbers and they are moving in the wrong direction.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. This was very close, but I’m giving the future Hall of Famer the benefit of the doubt. At this point Brees won’t win games on arm strength. No shame in this. But if he can be precise and smart and handle the attack on pace, he has enough bright players around him to make it work. Michael Thomas, who set an NFL record with 149 captures in a season a year ago, has missed his last two games due to injury and is expected to return soon. Tight final Jared Cook left Sunday’s first-half game with an injury.
The Saints’ 25 penalties for 336 yards this season. feeling like a bigger reason for their current situation. Once the rest of the Saints offense is complete, we should see a better and more consistent Brees and a New Orleans team bouncing back from its 1-2 start and contending for the NFC South title as we all expected. I could be wrong, but I think, given the circumstances, it’s too early to give up Brees in 2020.