With the Seahawks fully entrenched in their bye week, this is a good time to take a look at the rest of the NFL. Yep, I know: there is, in fact, more to the NFL than what's taking place in Seattle. And, despite what you may think, it consists of more than Odell Beckham, Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick’s body position during the national anthem.
There are actual interesting stories out there. So, let’s highlight them.
Sam Bradford: We could highlight the entire Minnesota Vikings franchise here, to be honest. They lost their franchise backfield to start the season (Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater), and they are fighting the unimaginable hangover that persists from their playoff loss to the Seahawks last season. Now, they’re relying on the oft-damaged legs, arms, and mental state of Sam Bradford.
Yes, that Sam Bradford.
But I, for one, am not surprised at the turn of events. Because Bradford’s coordinator, Norv Turner, is the true quarterback whisperer. Football people much smarter than myself talked openly about the impact Turner could have on the career of Bradford; a 4-0 start, efficient play, and a revitalized career later, turns out they were right.
Los Angeles Rams: To be honest, four weeks ago, there was no way to envision the Rams being on the positive part of the list. An opening night loss to the 49ers – 28-0 – was as ugly and deflating as the score suggests. The franchise’s long-awaited return to the City of Angels thankfully (for them) fared better when they took down Seattle in their first home game since 1994. Since then they've managed, behind an suffocating defense, to get to 3-1 and, for the moment at least, keep the attention of the ever-fickle LA audience.
Not everyone is buying in, but so far, despite the frightening absence of #1 overall pick Jared Goff, things look good for the Rams.
New England’s (other, other) QBs: I’m not going to mention (insert normal starting QBs name here). He’ll be back this week. You’ll hear enough.
The real story of the Patriots this season, in which they’ve been reduced to starting their third-string rookie quarterback, has been that they don’t miss a beat. At all. Ever. Jimmy Garopplo, the supposed heir apparent to The Hair, in his first ever start? Dominant win, on the road, against supposed NFC West favorite Arizona.
Jacoby Brissett, the rookie, lightly regarded, from an unsuccessful NC State program? Why not. 2-1 as a starter, despite a laundry list of injuries. People can openly acknowledge their vitriol toward the Patriot Way, but it’s time to stop. They simply know what they’re doing. And now, that guy is coming back.
Dallas Cowboys' rookies: This may be the most surprising story of the season. Dak Prescott was certainly well-regarded in college; he single-handedly turned the Mississippi State program around. But he showed questionable judgment leading up to the draft, fell to the fourth round and was viewed by many as a whiff for the Cowboys, a franchise in desperate need of a quality backup to Tony Rome.
And now, here we are.
At 3-1, with a close loss in the opening week to the Giants their only blemish, Prescott, along with first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott, have completely revitalized a dormant organization. Prescott has been all that the ever-daring Romo wasn’t: smooth, turnover-free and efficient.
Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing, giving Cowboys fans electrifying visions back to the early-90s. When you combine Dez Bryant, it’s hard not to look at the core of Prescott, Elliott, and Bryant as the 21st-century version of…nah, can’t make that comparison yet. But, boy…Dallas has something special brewing.
I almost included Jimmy Graham in this list, as he even cracked Pro Football Focus’s list for top-10 players last week, but something tells me he’ll get plenty of love going forward.
The season is merely a quarter over, but themes are starting to be set. The usuals – Seattle, New England, and Denver – are legit. The other usuals – Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Detroit – are bad. John Elway may be the best GM in the league. Seattle and Denver will battle to the end for the league’s best defense – but both have warts (hello, Seahawks’ offensive line!).
It’s too early to make predictions, especially considering some of the presumed favorites (Carolina, Arizona) have looked nothing like we thought. But if the first four weeks are any indication, this season is headed for a turbulent finish.