Pro Football Blog

By Stephen Juza

October 3rd, 2023

By Stephen Juza 10/3/2023 Week 4 Recap

With almost 25% of the season completed, let’s take stock of the state of the league and surprises that have occurred in the first month of the season.

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Surprise Contender:

While most of the division leaders we predicted to be there, Miami Dolphins, at 3-1, caught us off guard. While they had their epic game against the Denver Broncos two weeks ago where they scored 70 points, they had a bit of a return to earth after losing to Buffalo 48-20. Despite the loss, the offense has been impressive, and they are loaded with speed up and down the depth chart. The running back tandem of Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane has helped lift the Dolphins to the league-leading rushing attack.

If the Dolphins can keep this up, expect the team to be 5-1 before they take on the Philadelphia Eagles during Week 7 for their next opportunity for a statement win.

Surprise Dud:

Arguably the biggest disappointment throughout the first four games was the Cincinnati Bengals, who currently sit at 1-3. After finishing last year as the AFC’s #3 seed and losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, many people expected the Bengals to be right back in the thick of things in 2023.

However, quarterback Joe Burrow struggled in the first four games, posting some of his worst stats of his career. His completion percentage has dropped more than 10 percentage points since last year, while posting the lowest passing rating this season of any quarterback who has played all four games. Meanwhile, there may be some discontent in the locker room with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who expressed his frustration with his lack of opportunities after the latest loss to the Titans.

Biggest Injury:

The most impactful injury through four games has undoubtedly been to New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon four plays into his inaugural season with the Jets, causing the team to unexpectedly revert back to Zach Wilson. The Jets spent all offseason turning over the roster and coaching scheme to make Rodgers comfortable, only to have to pull an audible quickly.

The Jets had Super Bowl aspirations entering the season and are now having to reset expectations. While Zach Wilson played the best game of his NFL career on Sunday against the Chiefs, he ultimately turned the ball over at the worst time, fumbling the snap with an opportunity to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. If he can continue to play like he did against the Chiefs, the Jets may still be able to scrape out a wild card appearance. But it will remain a “what-if” season compared to what would have been with Rodgers at the helm.

Game of the Week:

Week 5’s game of the week is a matchup of two between the top teams in the NFC when the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers (4-0) on Sunday Night Football. This matchup pits the two best offenses against the two best defenses of the conference. This will also represent both teams' most difficult game so far in the young season.

The teams the Cowboys have beaten each have only one win on the season, so a victory against the 49ers would help to give them an early statement win and show they are truly a contender this season.

Coaching Hot Seat

While Bears coach Matt Eberflus tops our likelihood of being fired at the end of the season at 81% again, there are a few coaches that are contending for the top spot.

Brian Daboll:

With Monday’s latest loss to Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants head coach Norm Gerber now sits at 76% chance of being fired. While he won coach of the year in 2022, the Giants (1-3) are off to a terrible start to the season, sitting last in the NFC East. With consecutive road games against AFC East-leading Bills and Dolphins, the schedule won’t get easier for them.

Zac Taylor:

With the latest loss for the Bengals, Zac Taylor now ranks just below Daboll at a 68% chance to be fired if he can’t turn around the team. This was the first week that he scored above 50% for the season, and their best chance of a win in the coming weeks is next week against the Arizona Cardinals. After that, the Bengals face the Seahawks, 49ers, and the Bills, a combined 10-2 on the season.

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By Stephen Juza

September 28th, 2023

The third week of the NFL season saw countless great games across the league, the highest-scoring game in decades, and top teams in the league continued their trek towards a Super Bowl championship.

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So, what were the top takeaways from a packed Week 3?

The Dolphins Will Be Scary

Before the season, we wrote about how quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has posted incredibly strong advanced metrics, but his struggle has been staying on the field. Through three games, he’s second in the league in passing yards, with the highest average per completion, and the second most touchdowns. But the offense isn’t just Tagovailoa - last week their speedsters shined en route to 726 yards, an NFL record for the Super Bowl era, and the first 70 point game since 1966.

Even more remarkable, this offensive output was without Jaylen Waddle due to injury. Despite the injury, the Dolphins excelled at spreading the ball around. Five different players had more than fifty yards of offense while running backs De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert combined for eight touchdowns.

They won’t always be able to go up against a hapless team like the Broncos, but with so many offensive weapons, there are few teams that will be able to slow down this team.

Eagles and 49ers continue their march toward an NFC Championship Rematch

The Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers are now the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFC. The 49ers have been very consistent en route to the top scoring team in the NFC, scoring exactly 30 points in each game. Meanwhile, the Eagles are only a shade behind them with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the conference at 84 points.

While it’s early in the season, both teams are putting themselves in early position for a deep playoff run, sitting atop their conference, using the same successful formula that put them in the NFC Championship Game last season.

Without Aaron Rodgers, the Jets are atrocious

I’ve never seen a swing-for-the-fences move backfire so spectacularly, so early in a season. All offseason long, the Jets were dark-horse contenders. There were some questions if Aaron Rodgers had started to decline or if his 2022 season was an anomaly. The Jets offensive line was also considered a weak point. All of that came to a screeching halt after only four plays when Rodgers went down with his Achilles injury. In comes Zach Wilson, a quarterback who time and time again has shown he’s not an NFL caliber quarterback. While the team managed an overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, there were questions on what the Jets should do to proceed.

Unfortunately, the team’s hands were tied - now that the season had started, all the capable veteran quarterbacks were on a roster. Beyond that, experienced backups, such as Gardner Minshew or Andy Dalton, were virtually untouchable because their respective teams also valued an experienced backup for their young quarterback. That’s even before you get into the discussion of what the Jets have at their trade disposal (spoiler, not much).

Head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas will likely be fired after yet another bad season behind a very talented team. Their only hope is that Wilson turns things around and shows talent that made him a second overall pick in the draft just a few short years ago.

Games to Watch This Week:

There are two excellent divisional matchups that fans need to watch this upcoming week.

The first is tonight, when the Lions take on the Packers. With both teams sitting at 2-1, it will offer a great chance to take early control of the division with the other two teams floundering at 0-3. The Packers have been far more secure with the football, only turning the ball over once all season, and this could be the deciding factor in the divisional matchup. Expect the Packers to secure the home victory.

The second divisional matchup kicks off Sunday afternoon when the Dolphins take on the Bills. As the two highest scoring offenses match up, with the Dolphins coming off one of the most dominating performances ever seen, everyone is eager to watch how they respond. The team hopes to have Waddle back in the lineup to help fuel the offense, and that should be enough to topple the Bills for control of the AFC East.

Coaches on the Hot Seat:

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears (81% Chance of being fired)

On top of our coaching hot seat report is Eberflus again. After yet another loss, his likelihood of being fired has crept up to 81%. This week could be their best shot at a win for a little while when they play at home against the Denver Broncos. Eberflus needs to right the ship quickly for his team, otherwise it may be an early offseason for him.

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By Stephen Juza

September 21st, 2023

As the third week of the NFL approaches, which are the top games that you should build your sports calendar around in the coming days?

Thursday Night: Giants at 49ers

The NFL week kicks off with one of this week’s top matchups when the New York Giants (1-1) travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers (2-0). The 49ers have looked like the best team in the league so far, winning both of their games on the road. They have the third best scoring offense and defense, and have excelled in all facets of the game.

The Giants came into this season with higher expectations after last season's Wild Card appearance, but had a very slow start, losing 40-0 against the Cowboys and starting down 20-0 against the Cardinals. They were able to come back and beat the Cardinals, giving life to their team, but can they keep the momentum with a short week of preparation? It will be difficult without their best offensive weapon after running back Saquon Barkley was ruled out with an ankle injury.

Sunday Afternoon: Saints at Packers

Both the New Orleans Saints (2-0) and the Green Bay Packers (1-1) have pleasantly surprised fans to start the NFL season. Both teams are tied for the division lead entering Week 3. For the Saints, the NFC South was expected to be wide open this season as every single team was breaking in a new starting quarterback, and that’s held true through the first two games.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love has looked strong in his first two games as the leader of the Packers, with six touchdowns (T-1 in the league) with zero interceptions. He leads the second ranked offense in the league, averaging 31 points a game. They lost a nail-biter of a game last week against the undefeated Falcons, 25-24, and look to rebound against another NFC South team this week.

Monday Night: Eagles at Buccaneers

The game of the week kicks off a Monday Night double-header when the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0). Regarding the Eagles, their ability to dominate the running game on both sides of the ball has been instrumental in their success so far this season. They’ve rushed for the second most yards through two weeks, while their defense is ranked first in rush defense.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are also tied for their division lead behind new quarterback, Baker Mayfield. He has big shoes to fill, replacing future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. However, the Bucs key to the game lies with their rush defense. While the Eagles have the second ranked rushing offense, the Bucs have the second ranked rushing defense. It will be a battle of strengths in Tampa Monday night, with the victor continuing their undefeated season.

Coaches on the Hot Seat:

Before the season started, we announced the Game Over Report, a predictive model that scores a coach’s likelihood being fired. Each season, around five coaches decide to part ways with their head coach and search for greener pastures. So which coaches are feeling the heat early in the season?

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears

Leading the report with an 86% chance of being fired if the season were to end today, and it’s easy to see why. The team has started 0-2, went 3-14 in his first season, and the starting quarterback is now openly questioning the coaching staff. While it’s early in the season, the Bears will need to turn things around quickly for Eberflus to have a chance to come back for a third season.

Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers

Entering the season, the Chargers were primed for another wild card run. While they likely weren’t good enough to top the Chiefs for an AFC West title, they looked to be an easy choice for second place and another wild card appearance. While their offense has been good enough to keep them in games, ranked sixth in total points, their defense continues to be holding the team back. Entering Week 3, no team has given up more yards than the Chargers. Not a good look for a former defensive coordinator, who now has a 73% chance of being fired.

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September 13th, 2023

The NFL saw the exit of top stars after last season, with Tom Brady, Devin McCourty, A.J. Green, and J.J. Watt hanging their boots after a successful career. However, the older players are leaving the scene for young stars like Micah Parsons, Justin Jefferson, and Sauce Gardner across the league to emerge and take the stage.

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Micah Parsons, Edge (Dallas Cowboys)

Parsons had another strong year as a pass rusher after continuing his excellent play from his rookie season. Registering a 92.0 pass-rush grade and 23.4% pass-rush win percentage according to Pro-Football-Focus in 2022, Parsons has established himself as one of the most impactful players in the NFL, age regardless.

Justin Jefferson, WR (Minnesota Vikings)

For the Minnesota Vikings for three years running, Justin Jefferson has demonstrated exceptional performances, earning commendable evaluations. His performances in the last three years have recorded at least a 90+ grade. He is therefore unparalleled among NFL receivers and stands head and shoulders above many others his age based on dominance and consistency.

Tristan Wirfs, OT (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Although Wirfs’ overall grade dipped from his 2022 performance from 84.3 to 83.1, his pass-blocking grade spiked to a near-elite 89.1. The stand-out Tampa Bay offensive tackle allowed only six total pressures on 696 pass-blocking snaps, consistently putting up strong play that can help him properly transition from right tackle to left tackle during the 2023 season.

Ja’Marr Chase, WR (Cincinnati Bengals)

Chase received grades during his first two professional seasons, registering 86.1 in 2021 and 85.2 in 2022. He’s recorded 3,000 receiving yards and 25 receiving touchdowns over the same period. With explosive plays of at least 20 yards, Chase is sure to be one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.

Sauce Gardner, CB (New York Jets)

Sauce Garder has displayed such an impressive outing in his rookie year that we've decided to include him in this list. The New York Jets cornerback registered an elite 90.0 coverage grade with 20 forced incompletions and less than 400 receiving yards allowed on 613 total coverage snaps. Remember that despite being targeted constantly (74 times), Sauce remained a shutdown player throughout the 2022 season.

Creed Humprey, C (Kansas City Chiefs)

Humprey has remained as rock solid as you'd expect a young offensive lineman to be. He's registered consecutive elite performances in 2021 and 2022, registering 91.8 and 89.9 respectively. On over 1,400 true pass-blocking snaps played, Humprey gave up only 28 total pressures and one sack over the last two seasons!

Patrick Surtain II, CB (Denver Broncos)

Patrick’s 66.3 coverage grade in 2021 was immense for a rookie cornerback (bar Sauce Gardner’s unbelievable feat). However, his 2022 86.7 coverage grade was what the fans expect from a player getting into elitism. Patrick allowed only 47 passing yards in coverage with eight forced incompletions.

Rashawn Slater, OT (Los Angeles Chargers)

No thanks to his injury during the 2022 season, Slater would have likely recorded a better outing. Ending his rookie year with an 83.6 overall grade on over 1,000 snaps played, the Los Angeles offensive tackle has cemented himself among the NFL International Series tops in his age range. Undoubtedly, a healthy season for the Northwestern graduate will be at the top of his priorities going into the 2023 season.

CeeDee Lamb, WR (Dallas Cowboys)

Lamb has been an immediate impact receiver for the Dallas Cowboys since his debut season. Recording just under 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie years, Lamb has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, his receiving grades have spiked, jumping from 72.6 in 2020 to 84.8 in 2021 and 87.0 in 2022. Save Justin Jefferson, Lamb has recorded more explosive plays of 20 yards or more since 2021 than any other player, old or young, in the NFL.

Andrew Thomas, OT (New York Giants)

Andrew registered a significant leap in his sophomore season in 2022, recording a jump from his 2021 78.9 grade to an elite 90.3 in 2022. Initially a first-round (4th pick overall) draft choice by the Giants in 2020, Andrew Thomas also registered an 89.9 pass-blocking grade in 2022, one of the highest in the league, allowing only seven sacks or hits on 700 pass-blocking snaps. This should provide a sufficient explanation if anyone wondered why Andrew Thomas got a record-setting contract with the Giants.

Trevor Lawrence, QB (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Lawrence has made immense progress over the last season under head coach Doug Pederson. The quarterback's skill was demonstrated in 2022, elevating him to the top spot among draught prospects in 2021. Lawrence led the Jaguars to their first playoff win since the 2017 season when Todd Wash coordinated the defense. However, the future looks bright for Jacksonville with Lawrence on the roster as he looks poised to improve his game.

Christian Barmore, IDL (New England Patriots)

Barmore makes this list because of how his impact jumps out when you watch him from the screen. The defensive tackle has wreaked havoc on opposing sides, making contributions that his stat line will heavily underrepresent (2.5 sacks in 10 games in the 2022 season). Although Barmore, 23, is frequently disregarded, the Patriots consider him to be a treasure.

Summing Up

These young stars take the top stage among their peers, displaying impressive performances in their budding careers. There are undoubtedly other young players putting out their A-game in the league, and fans can expect more from this new crop of NFL stars.

By Stephen Juza

September 12th, 2023

Last Thursday saw the start of the 2023 NFL Season, when the Detroit Lions traveled to Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. After a months-long offseason, we finally had meaningful football back in our life this past weekend. So what are the top things we learned after Week 1?

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Lions continue to roll

Halfway through the last year, the Lions were 1-6, and things looked bleak for Dan Campbell’s future. Since then, they closed out the season winning eight of their next ten games and half a game out of the playoffs. So how would they respond to the increased hype for 2023?

Traveling to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and coming home with a win. True, the Chiefs were without their second and third best players, but you can only play against the players that are on the field. The Lions showed promise, coming back from a 14-7 halftime deficit to clinch the win in the fourth quarter.

Purdy picks up where he left off

The San Francisco 49ers season came to an unfortunate end last season in the NFC Championship game after their entire QB room ended up injured. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy burst out of the injury-stricken depth chart to start the final five games of the regular season and lead the team into the playoffs. He suffered a torn UCL in their final game, but had to continue playing since no other QB was healthy. So how would he look after an offseason as the starter?

Pretty sharp. The 49ers topped the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-7 with Purdy picking up right where he left off last season. 220 yards through the air, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. When he’s that efficient, the 49ers will be hard to topple. Christian McCaffery averaged almost seven yards a carry for 152 yards on the ground. The one area they need to clean up for next week is ball security - the 49ers fumbled three times.

Jets’ defense is scary, but the offense is limited by the QB position

After an entire offseason of hype for the New York Jets came crashing to earth just four offensive snaps into the game when Aaron Rodgers went down with an Achilles injury and missed the rest of the game. The Jets’ defense looked incredible, forcing Josh Allen into four turnovers and limiting last year’s second-ranked offense to only one offensive touchdown.

The Jets offense at times was hard to watch. Breece Hall had a few spectacular runs, and Garrett Wilson had a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch. But with Rodgers now missing the rest of the season, the team will need to add another quarterback on the roster or face a long season with Zach Wilson back at the helm.

Rough week for the new head coaches

This past offseason saw five head coaches hired with a wide range of expectations entering the season. Each of the five will need to wait until Week 2 to earn their first victory with their new team.

Sean Payton entered with the most expectations by virtue of his past success with the Saints, but the Broncos fell by a single point to the division rival Las Vegas Raiders. Frank Reich’s debut with the new rookie quarterback Bryce Young was spoiled by the Atlanta Falcons. Expectations may be lower for the trio of rookie head coaches (2999 does not exist, Shane Steichen, and Jonathan Gannon), but all hoped for a brighter start to their coaching careers, after having such success as a coordinator last season.

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