Week 1: it’s all you need to predict the remainder of the NFL season. Just look at last year; the 49ers crushed the Vikings in Week 1 and carried that momentum all the way to a playoff appearance. Washington, on the other hand, lost at home to the Dolphins, dooming their season from the get go.
Oh, what’s that you say, the Niners won five games all year and Washington took the NFC East? Well that doesn’t fit with the narrative I want to write so let’s pretend it didn’t happen.
Joking aside, Week 1 did give us our first look at all 32 teams in the NFL. There was some sloppy play, which is to be expected, but not many surprises in terms of outcome. When we look back in February, some of the performances will prove to be outliers – just like San Fran and Washington last season – but most will prove to be somewhat portentous of the year to come.
I’m not ready to change-up the Super Bowl futures and playoff odds just yet, but I am ready to look at which teams will be making leadership changes sooner rather than later, both on the field and off. More specifically, I’m setting the odds on which teams will bench their Week 1 starters and which will fire their head coaches first.
(Note: QBs replaced due to injury – such as RGIII – have been excluded.)
Shaun Hill (Vikings): 3/5
Hill led the Vikings to a Week 1 road win (25-16) over an improved Titans team. Or so you might think if you just looked at the box score. The Vikings won thanks to two defensive touchdowns and three total takeaways. Hill completed just 54.5-percent of his passes and didn’t engineer a single TD drive. Do you think that will get the job done in Week 2 when the Packers come to town? Me neither. But Sam Bradford has still only had a couple weeks to learn an entirely new offense. Mike Zimmer is remaining cagey for good reason.
Even if Hill gets the Week 2 start, Bradford will be the guy in Week 3, you’d have to think. They spent a lot to get him, after all.
Case Keenum (Rams): 4/1
If this was strictly a performance-based prop, Keenum would jump as the massive favorite. His 2016 debut (130 yards, 48.6 completion percentage, no touchdowns, two picks, two sacks) was worse than his 2015 finish. He doesn’t have much to work with on the outside. But even if he had Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, it would be the same story. Don’t expect the statue of David when you give the world’s finest clay to an infant with a morning star. (Also, DO NOT GIVE YOUR BABY A MORNING STAR! IT’S NOT AS FRIENDLY AS THE NAME WOULD SUGGEST.)
For some reason, the Rams are adamant that he’s still the starter for Week 2.
Blaine Gabbert (49ers): 12/1
How can Gabbert be third on the list when the Niners just beat the Rams 28-0? Because it looked like he tried to throw multiple pick-sixes. He’s not a good quarterback. That said, he finished with a clean stat line (22/35, one TD, no INTs), added some yards with his legs (43 yards on nine carries), and looked like a decent fit for Chip Kelly’s system.
The Niners are apt to get run over by Carolina in Week 2. It could be Kaepernick time thereafter, but not likely. The Week 1 win should buy Gabbert at least a few starts.
Tyrod Taylor (Bills): 25/1
Taylor wasn’t good in Week 1. The Bills had the worst offensive performance in the league on Sunday (160 total yards). But Buffalo has a bit invested in him. And EJ Manuel is the next man up. That’s a nice security blanket.
Jeff Fisher (Rams): 7/3
Everyone’s prepared to cut Fisher some slack for the Rams’ brutal offense. Drafting Jared Goff wasn’t his doing. It’s not really his fault that Case Keenum is the best QB on the roster. But still, a rope can only slacken so much, and getting shutout by the freakin’ Niners is testing those limits. Adding to the fire under Fisher’s feet, the supposedly stout front-seven got pushed around all night. The LA franchise doesn’t need to win the Super Bowl this year, but they do need to field a competitive team to keep the city interested when the honeymoon period wears off.
Mike McCoy (Chargers): 7/3
For a half, the Chargers looked to have flipped the script from 2015, racing to a 21-3 lead over KC. Then Keenan Allen suffered a season-ending injury and the Chiefs remembered they’re good. San Diego suffered a heartbreaking, one-score loss, making Week 1 look more like Week 18 from last season.
Blowing a massive lead doesn’t look good on any coach. Doing it against a division rival is even worse. McCoy was already on the hotseat. As the offense sputters without Allen in the weeks to come, he may have to answer with his (coaching) life.
Gus Bradley (Jaguars): 9/1
The Jags fought tooth and nail with the mighty Packers in Week 1 and almost came out on top. But they didn’t, and they rarely have under Bradley. If they can’t manage a win over the Chargers in Week 2, Gus will start seeing his visage on the chopping block again.
Chuck Pagano (Colts): 12/1
Slow starts continue to plague the Colts. They got down 21-3 early to Detroit and fell short in their comeback bid (39-35). Like Fisher, Pagano can’t really be blamed for the personnel shortcomings that have doomed this team. That’s on Ryan Grigson. But the team won’t take losing in the Andrew Luck era, even with a porous offensive line and an entire defense devoid of talent.
Rex Ryan (Bills): 15/1
If the Bills’ offensive struggles continue, Ryan is the more likely scapegoat than Taylor. But with Sammy Watkins laboring and the defense looking solid (despite key absences), he’s likely to last the season.
Mike Mularkey (Titans): 15/1
“Exotic smashmouth” got pillaged by the Vikings in Week 1. Mularkey has some job security thanks to Marcus Mariota, though. The franchise won’t want to change up the scenery too much for its QB of the future.
Photo credit: Johnmaxmena2 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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