Now that the first week of the NFL has passed, it’s time to do what everyone loves to do: Overreact.
There were blowouts, shootouts and duds, so let’s try to make sense of what it all means for the Ravens and in the grand scope of the AFC.
The Ravens are even better than a year ago
Much has been said about the Ravens’ 38-6 thrashing of the Browns, but something that was clear on Sunday was that not only are the Ravens good once again, they might be better than a year ago.
While the score wasn’t as lopsided as last year’s 59-10 win over the Dolphins, or even a few other blowout wins from a year ago, they looked deeper, crisper and simply calmer than a year ago.
Lamar Jackson, who completed 20-of-25 passes, showed better poise on his passes than he ever had before. With precision passes down the field, he was a threat to throw the ball deep, as well as run the football. The reigning MVP may have gotten better.
The Ravens’ defense looks mighty strong as well, as the Ravens should be in for a deep playoff run.
There’s a clear 1-2 punch in the AFC
If there’s any team to take away the shine of the Ravens in 2020, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs.
With a 34-20 win over the Texans, they dominated from start to finish and showcased their new first-round draft choice, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, to the tune of 138 yards rushing on 25 carries. They had five receivers, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, register five or more catches with a touchdown.
That offense isn’t going away any time soon.
The defending champs made seemingly easy work of the Texans, who might have a breakout year from wideout Will Fuller. Otherwise, the offensive line could make for a long year in Houston as Deshaun Watson might be seemingly on his own.
Perhaps the two most popular Super Bowl selections were the Chiefs and the Ravens entering 2020. After a week, that gap between the have and have-nots seems to have only gotten bigger.
Pittsburgh’s pass rush
The Steelers are one of the most difficult teams in the AFC to evaluate.
On the one hand, they’ve got one of the best pass rushes in the league. In a Monday win over the Giants, they sacked Daniel Jones three times and had two interceptions. With so much speed on the back-end, they’re going to be a handful for any AFC offense this year.
On the other hand, their quarterback is 38-years-old and coming off major elbow surgery in his throwing arm, the oft-injured starting running back (James Conner) is injured once again and the right tackle (Zach Banner) has already been lost for the season. For an offense that was injured to the point of incompetence a season ago, it wasn’t a strong start.
They’ve added weapons both in the draft and injury recovery, so if they’re able to bring JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Chase Claypool together in the passing attack, they could be a dangerous unit.
But for now, the Steelers remain firmly in the “pretenders” category until they prove health and ability to put points on the board.
Bill is back
The Patriots are impossible to quit.
After losing Tom Brady, they completely revamped their offensive scheme to fit Cam Newton’s skillset. Newton beat the Dolphins with 75 yards rushing on 15 carries. He also threw for 155 yards on 15-of-19 passing.
The Patriots are going to have to win games based on a totally overhauled defensive unit. If they’re able to add another wide receiver, or get some contributions from rookies — of which there are nine on the current roster — they could be in contention once again.
While they clearly don’t have the skillset or ability of the Chiefs or Ravens, it’s impossible to count them out. Bill Belichick is back in what could be one his finest coaching jobs in New England.