NY Giants @ Arizona (+5.5)
Power Rankings: NY Giants 26, Arizona 32
Keys to the game: When the Giants have the ball
The model is attacking another shit game. It does not care about your entertainment levels, it only cares about your wallet.
The Giants are coming across an embarrassing 40-0 ass kicking at the hands of the Cowboys. The good news for the Giants is hardly anyone watched it -- the Sunday Night game drew only 42 million viewers. Looking ahead to week 2, they find themselves in a prime opportunity for redemption against the Cardinals. In the offseason, the Cardinals lost their three impact players from their defensive line: JJ Watt (retirement), Zach Allen (Broncos), and Markus Golden (Steelers). They then made little attempt to replace any of them, signaling that they are in full on tank-for-Caleb mode (have we come up with a clever meme for this yet?). Their secondary has zero redeeming qualities, save for S Budda Baker. For the Giants to put up points, they simply need to exist. The Giants offense is hardly scary - featuring a good-but-not-great Daniel Jones, an offensive line that has struggled (with a big exception for dominant LT Andrew Thomas), and a group of skill position players that remain unproven. Saquon Barkley's prowess as a running back is undeniable, but the contemporary NFL landscape demands a better offensive line for running backs to truly shine. There's some hope that RT Evan Neal - the 7th overall pick in the 2022 draft -- will breakout after a tough rookie season, but I'll need to see it before I believe in it.
When the Cardinals have the ball:
The Cardinals' offensive unit seems to mirror the tanking sentiment of their defense. Starting with quarterback Josh Dobbs, a 7-year pro with stints on six different teams, his recent acquisition by Arizona on August 24th left little time for a substantial preseason integration. In his first game with the Cardinals, Dobbs managed 4.4 yards per attempt, garnering a poor 44.4 grade from PFF. The challenge amplifies with Arizona's struggling offensive line, among the poorest in the league.
The Cardinals made attempts to shield Dobbs through play-action and quick, short passes, as evidenced by 21 of his 30 attempts being shorter than 10 yards. This strategy effectively maintained his pocket integrity, facing pressure on only 26.5% of dropbacks, a notable feat against a formidable Commanders defensive line. However, this week presents another daunting matchup, with the Giants boasting one of the league's stronger defensive lines, spearheaded by the formidable tackle tandem of Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, complemented by the skills of Kayvon Thibodeaux on the edge.
Despite losing DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason, the Cardinals hoffensive arsenal of Hollywood Brown, Rondale Moore, and TE Zach Ertz should provide an advantageous edge against the struggling Giants secondary. The quick passing game is likely to be a key strategy, considering the Giants' subpar defensive performance. On the other hand, RB James Conner may find it challenging to gain traction due to the mismatch in the trenches, limiting his support and opportunities.
San Francisco @ LA Rams (+8.0)
Power rankings: SF 2, LA Rams 24
Keys to the game: When the 49ers have the ball
The 49ers undeniably boast one of the league's top-tier offenses. While I remain somewhat skeptical about Brock Purdy, given his last overall selection in the 2022 draft and limited NFL experience, what's indisputable is the effectiveness of Kyle Shanahan's system. This system, combined with arguably the NFL's most talented group of skill position players, including Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey, sets the stage for success. Purdy, while unproven, seems poised to embrace a game-manager role within this system, showing early promise.
However, the offensive line has faced its share of struggles, particularly in the interior. Losing RT Mike McGlinchey to the Broncos during the offseason leaves only LT Trent Williams as a proven asset. On the opposing side, DT Aaron Donald remains a menacing force on defense, with a favorable matchup against the 49ers' interior line. Nonetheless, he cannot carry the defense on his own, surrounded by a group of inexperienced, youthful players.
The 49ers enter the game with a significant advantage in their skill position players against a Rams secondary that ranks among the league's weakest. Purdy may not need to worry excessively about Donald, and even if Donald manages to disrupt the game, the combination of a strong run game and quick passes should more than compensate for any potential challenges.
When the Rams have the ball:
The Rams' offense came out firing on all cylinders in an impressive display, putting up a solid 30 points against a struggling Seahawks defense. The linchpin of this success was the stellar performance by Matthew Stafford, showcasing elite play with an impressive 8.9 yards per attempt. Stafford's ability to maintain a high average depth of target (11.3) while still boasting an impressive completion percentage (63.2%) highlights his skill and precision. PFF rewarded him with a stellar grade of 91.1, acknowledging his five big-time throws and a flawless record of zero turnover-worthy plays. While Stafford has shown to have that level of play in his arsenal, consistency remains his enemy.
Among the standouts was Puka Nacua, a rookie wide receiver from BYU, who was selected 179th overall in this years draft. Nacua hauled in 10 of 14 targets for 119 yards. Though it's early to draw conclusions about a 5th round rookie after just one game, it was at the very least a glimmer of hope among a group of skill position players that looks horrid on paper with Cooper Kupp (hamstring) on IR.
Looking ahead, the Rams face a tougher challenge against the 49ers, particularly in the trenches. San Francisco's acquisitions, including Javon Hargrave from the Eagles, alongside Arik Armstead, form a formidable duo at tackle. Along with Nick Bosa and his fancy new contract, the 49ers pass rush is a brutal mismatch against a bad Rams offensive line. Additionally, the Rams' skill position players will face a formidable 49ers secondary, anchored by CB Charvarius Ward and an impressive safety tandem in Talanoa Hufanga and Tashuan Gipson, further emphasizing the challenge that lies ahead.
In closing, 8 is a lot of fucking points.
Miami @ New England (+2.5)
Power rankings: Miami 9, New England 18
Keys to the game: When Miami has the ball
The Dolphins truly showcased their offensive prowess in their last game, putting up an impressive 36 points against the Chargers. The dynamic wide receiver duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle has proven to be simply too much speed and skill for defenses to handle, as long as QB Tua Tagovailoa remains in good health. The impending return of LT Terron Armstead (back/ankle/knee) is a significant boost for the Dolphins' offensive line that is lackluster at the 4 other positions.
However, facing the Patriots' defense presents a formidable challenge, especially their defensive line boasting strong edge presences like Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, along with the disruptive force of DT Christian Barmore. Barmore's potential breakout third season is highly anticipated after a strong finish to his second year, evident from his impactful performance in the 2023 season debut, garnering 4 pressures on 22 pass-rushing snaps.
On the defensive back end, the Patriots boast a solid secondary, anchored by a deep safety room featuring Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers, Adrian Phillips, and corner-turned-safety Jalen Mills. However, a cause for concern lies within the cornerback room, where despite having a dependable starter in Jon Jones and the promising debut of Christian Gonzalez (the 17th overall selection in this year's draft), it seems daunting to envision a scenario where they can effectively contain the explosive Waddle/Hill combination.
Patriots fans have eagerly anticipated the impact of offensive-minded coach Bill O'Brien on their team's lackluster 2022 offense. The signs from their week 1 performance against a formidable Eagles defense suggested that this optimism might indeed be justified. Despite falling behind 16-0 early on (which was due to noisy plays, such as a tipped interception and fumble), the Patriots displayed resilience and almost orchestrated a comeback. It showcased the potential for a more dynamic offensive approach. They were aggressive on 4th down and pushed the ball down the field, a welcome sign after witnessing a far too conservative approach last year.
However, the Patriots' offensive challenges primarily stem from their offensive line, which has been plagued by injuries throughout the offseason. Guards Cole Strange (ankle) and Mike Onwenu (also ankle) both missed week 1 and are questionable for week 2, but appear to be on the right side of questionable after each logging 3 limited sessions. LT Trent Brown suffered a concussion last week and appears unlikely to play. This situation plays into the advantage of a talented Dolphins defensive front, featuring standouts like DE Bradley Chubb, DE Jaelan Phillips, DT Zach Sieler, and DT Christian Wilkins, making them a formidable force in the trenches.
While the Dolphins secondary does have vulnerabilities, notably due to the loss of Jalen Ramsey to a torn meniscus, they still have key players like CB Xavien Howard and S Jevon Holland, providing a solid foundation in the defensive backfield. The Patriots will need to adopt a strategy of spreading the ball effectively, leveraging their impact players despite lacking a dominant standout. This approach should enable them to capitalize on the weaknesses in the Dolphins' secondary and keep the offense competitive.