Staff writer Colton Molesky gives an update on what’s happening in the NFL this season
Another week is in the books and I am here to break down the games into some digestible nuggets. Plenty of teams played very tight games, which does not speak to the dominance of one team over the rest of the league, but has made for some fascinating football. While a lot happened, here are the top two takeaways from the weekend.
Rookie Running Backs Are Stealing The Show – Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt is leading the league with 502 yards on the ground, with Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook hot on his heels before the unfortunate injury. Chicago has Tarik Cohen looking great as a speedy pass-catching back, while Joe Mixon stepped into a loaded Cincinnati backfield and stole the show. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey has looked great as a receiver, much the same as Alvin Kamara adding another pass-catching dimension in the New Orleans offense. Even under-the-radar players like running back Wayne Gallman stepping into the New York Giants’ depleted backfield and impressing immediately in his first chance at playing time.
The crop of running backs coming in is flooding the league with versatile talent that is changing the landscape of the game. Only a few seasons ago, having the backfield of a team like Detroit, with three backs in Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and Zach Zenner would be an outlier. However, most teams now have at least two to three backs that split time on the field and bring a new dynamic, along with depth, to their team. The outlier now is a team like Dallas, who has their workhorse running back in Ezekiel Elliot and not much else to speak of. While this is a trend that the league was moving towards, the huge amount of talent coming in this year has moved a lot of teams that way more quickly.
Nobody Is That Good… And It Is Great – At first, it looked like teams were struggling with less practice because of CBA rules paired with no starters really playing in preseason due to injury fears. Then it seemed like some teams needed a chance to adjust and regroup. Then it really looked like some teams were separating away from the rest. Now it looks like every team has at least one major flaw, but is that bad?
Sure the Kansas City Chiefs are flawless, in record, but their offense looked sluggish when they were unable to hit the big play, barely grabbing a victory over Washington. The New England Patriots have a terrible defense. The Atlanta Falcons cannot stop turning the ball over. The Carolina Panthers have looked terrible on offense against everyone except the Patriots (and you, me and my sister could put up 30 points on them). The Seattle Seahawks have no offensive line–none.
Every team has a big problem, but we still have had some really great weeks of football. The fact of the matter is, when everyone has at least one obvious problem, one glaring hole to take advantage of, it keeps the league interesting and the separation of power to a minimum.
“But Colton! My team was perfect before an injury! That is part of the problem and not my team’s fault!” Actually it is though. Building a complete roster and staying healthy is very much a skill. Say what you want about the Patriots defense– if they suffer an injury to a running back or offensive linemen, they adjust. They use another player, or run the offense a different way to compensate. Pivoting during the season is part of the game, just like injury. So to all the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raider fans, injury is a part of the game, you are right, and right now it is one of your glaring problems. Adjust, pivot and try to get the next guy ready. We will all learn about our teams this season, a lot will hinge on the coaches and back ends of the roster as much as the starters if changes are to be made for both injury and field problems alike.