What You Should Actually Worry About After the NFL’s First Sunday

Overreacting to the first week of the NFL season is slightly less dangerous to your health than overreacting to something in the NFL preseason—though you could consider both in the same family of destructive decisions, sort of the way smoking and drinking sugary carbonated drinks seem to get grouped together.

There’s a chance the Cardinals offense moves faster. The Browns are probably going to be fine. Lamar Jackson might not throw for five touchdowns a game.

But there are a few emerging storylines or issues that you can get worked up about. Statistically, some of this stuff has staying power and after 1/17th of the NFL regular season, here’s what we feel might linger beyond just one game…

1. The Dolphins are going to have to address their tanking strategy before the entire roster stages mutiny

The 59–10 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, while also an indication of how far Lamar Jackson has come in a year, was entirely pathetic by the Dolphins. In the wake of that drubbing, a Pro Football Talk report on Sunday night indicated that players have already been contacting their agents and “directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere.” Even if that turns out not to be as widespread, a large swath of the team certainly played like it. It’s simple to see what an emotionally gutted NFL roster looks like, and as players become more aware of the fact that they’re simply paving stone for a Miami team far, far away from where they are now, they’re more likely to consider personal health and longevity elsewhere first.

Brian Flores has skated by despite his prodding of Kenny Stills, which ultimately ended in a trade to Houston. He dealt the franchise’s cornerstone left tackle, who was the only thing protecting the evaluation project at quarterback, Josh Rosen (who isn’t starting, anyway). Obviously the long-term strategy is to burn it all down, but as a head coach, you have to possess the emotional finesse to build it back up again without much emotional equity from your remaining player base.

2. The Giants are tiptoeing around the edge of “irreparably broken”

Pat Shurmur’s offense put to bed the fears that they would overwork star running back Saquon Barkley in a loss to the Cowboys on Sunday by … essentially not using him. He had fewer than 10 touches heading into the midway point of the third quarter, despite averaging more than 10 yards a carry and almost 10 yards a catch.

The team has already cost themselves so many rebuilding opportunities by perpetually affixing temporary bandages to the roster in an effort to appease Eli Manning. The issue now, though, is that they are legitimately squandering the prime of a truly special player. Look at the production arcs for running backs after the age of 24 and tell me that isn’t the window of opportunity the Giants should truly be worried about.

Golden Tate coming back isn’t going to fix anything beyond another reliable target that Manning can’t maximize in the context of this offense. Every week that they delay the inevitable transition is just another week where Barkley is out there getting taxed like a workhorse starting pitcher without an offense behind him. Maybe Daniel Jones isn’t the answer, but he needs a large enough sample size to make that determination clear.

3. The Steelers miss their signature playmakers

The Patriots are going to destroy people this year, and I do believe the AFC North will take on the mucky logjam typical of a down-year NFC East. But you can’t look at this Steelers team and believe that they are better off without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, assuming that Brown simply ratcheted up his antics to escape two undesirable situations. There are a lot of times in life when you look back on something and wonder if you could have said or done something differently and how the outcome might have changed. And while it appears the Steelers did some heavy emotional lifting with Brown throughout the later stages of his Steelers career, the fallout has made clear that there are two sides of every story, and that there’s another version of this reality in which Brown caught 10 passes for 200 yards last night against the Patriots.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: What’s happening with Todd Gurley? … What’s happening with Baker Mayfield and the Browns? … The world’s best recap of Sunday’s action.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: The king, Jonathan Jones, explains the rose colored visors you’ve been seeing around the NFL (Kyler Murray’s wearing one). … Thinking a lot today about Don Banks, and what a great story he would have written off of whatever game he was covering. … The Raiders are melting, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. A view from inside the Dolphins’ locker room.

2. In case you haven’t heard, there’s been 100 years of professional football.

3. Adrian Peterson’s days may be numbered in Washington.

4. What went wrong in Carolina? It’s Christian McCaffrey and … not a whole lot else.

5. A Mike Zimmer fever dream comes alive and devours the Falcons.

THE KICKER

We’re not even through one week yet. How does it feel?

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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