NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week’s set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
NFL defenses have solved Lamar Jackson!
The signs of trouble for Lamar Jackson are not that he’s regressing in completion percentage, passing yards per game, passing yards per attempt, passer rating, sacks taken and rushing yards per game compared to his MVP 2019 season — well, OK, that’s actually a big part of it.
But one of the biggest red flags for Jackson is his struggle with turnovers. Jackson already has seven giveaways in 2020, just one fewer than he had in his entire 2019 season, when he tied for the fourth-fewest giveaways in the NFL. This season, Jackson is tied for the 10th-most among 32 qualified QBs.
The issue reared its ugly head in Sunday’s 28-24 loss to the division-rival Steelers. On paper, the Ravens should have won this game, given that they ran for a whopping 265 yards and handily outpaced Pittsburgh’s overall yardage output (457-221); entering Sunday, teams that rushed for at least 250 yards and doubled their opponent’s overall yardage total were 215-1-1 since 1933. Instead, Baltimore became just the third team in that span not to win despite checking both boxes, joining the 1967 Lions (who tied the Vikings) and 1944 Rams (who lost to Washington). The difference on Sunday was Jackson’s turnovers, which led to two of the four Steelers touchdowns: one came on Jackson’s first career pick-six and another came after his third-quarter interception, which gave the ball to the Steelers on the Ravens’ 21-yard line. Two plays later, the Steelers scored, regained momentum and ultimately pushed Jackson into unfamiliar territory: failing to close out a game in which he led at halftime. The loss snapped Jackson’s streak of 22 straight wins when leading through the opening two quarters. The QB now has as many losses in 2020 (two) as he did in all of 2019.
Justin Herbert should have been the No. 1 overall pick
I mean absolutely no disrespect to Joe Burrow, who did go first overall to the Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Justin Herbert, who went sixth overall to the Chargers, has simply been the best rookie QB this season.
Viewed side-by-side, the numbers speak for themselves:
- Herbert: 67.4 comp pct, 303.3 pass YPG, 15 pass TD, 5 INT, 104.5 passer rating
- Burrow: 67.0 comp pct, 284.0 pass YPG, 11 pass TD, 5 INT, 91.4 passer rating
Let’s dig deeper. Herbert is the first rookie since 1950 to notch at least 1,800 passing yards and 15 passing TD in their first six career starts. Even more impressively, Herbert and MVP candidate Russell Wilson are the only QBs averaging 300-plus passing yards per game while also recording a passer rating over 100 this season. A rookie has never recorded those metrics for a full season in the history of the NFL.
Dalvin Cook is coming for LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season rushing record
Why is this so impressive? Because even though he missed one game this season, Dalvin Cook still has LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season NFL record of 28 rushing TDs in his sights. Cook has a whopping 10 rushing TDs in six games this season, putting him two rushing TDs clear of the field — and the two players closest to him (Todd Gurley and Derrick Henry) have played at least one more game than Cook. That total ties Cook for the fourth-most in NFL history by a player in his first six games of the season; only running back royalty (Jim Brown had 14 in 1958, Emmitt Smith had 11 in 1995 and Shaun Alexander had 12 in his MVP season of 2005) have had more in that span.
Cook is currently on pace for 25 rushing TDs this season, and he stands to be helped by a favorable schedule. Seven of the Vikings’ nine remaining games are scheduled against teams ranked outside the top 10 in rushing TDs allowed, including five games against those that are among the worst in the league: the Jaguars (tied for 25th), the Lions (tied for 27th) twice, the Cowboys (tied for 27th) and the Panthers (tied for last).
Oh, and did I mention that Cook has a rushing TD in every game this season? That’s the longest active streak in the NFL.
2020 Patrick Mahomes is even BETTER than 2018 Patrick Mahomes
In the Chiefs’ 35-9 walloping of the Jets on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes became the eighth player since 1948 with 400-plus passing yards, five-plus passing TDs, 0 INTs and a completion percentage of at least 70 in a single game.
It was an incredible performance that had me pondering a scary thought: Is this the best version of Mahomes we’ve ever seen?
It is hard to imagine how Mahomes could top his MVP season of 2018, when he put up 5,097 passing yards and 50 passing TDs — although, to be fair, Peyton Manning hit those numbers in a season, too. But what if I told you the 2020 Mahomes has already done something no one else ever has by passing for 21 TDs against just one INT in the first eight games of a season?
What is even more impressive about Mahomes’ single INT is that he has attempted 284 passes, which is tied for the fourth-most in the NFL this season. Among the 12 QBs with 250-plus pass attempts, Drew Brees has the second-fewest INTs with three, while Carson Wentz (12) has the most.
Mahomes’ efficiency is also off the charts this season, as he’s boasting career highs in completion percentage (66.9) and passer rating (115.0).
Just think: Mahomes is combining volume with efficiency, ranking in the top two in passing TDs (21) and 300-yard games (four) and also second in passer rating (115.0) while posting that sparkling TD-to-INT ratio (21:1).
Alvin Kamara should have received Michael Thomas’ contract
Over the last two years, the Saints handed out big-money extensions to two premium offensive players, signing WR Michael Thomas to a five-year, $100 million deal (with $61 million fully guaranteed) before the 2019 season and inking RB Alvin Kamara to a five-year, $75 million pact (with $34 million fully guaranteed) in September of 2020.
The Saints gave the bigger contract to the wrong guy.
This season, Kamara is literally doing everything. He leads the NFL with 987 scrimmage yards and is the only player with at least 400 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. Kamara has accounted for 35.6 percent of the Saints’ scrimmage yards, by far the biggest share of any player in the NFL (next closest is Dalvin Cook, who’s accounted for 29.5 percent of the Vikings’ scrimmage yards).
Kamara has also filled Thomas’ void in the passing game, considering the All-Pro wide receiver has missed all but one contest so far in 2020. In Sunday’s win over the Bears, Kamara led the Saints in receiving yards for the third time this season. He has also accounted for 26.4 percent of the Saints’ targets, which is the highest share in a game among RBs by an incredible 9.3 percent, entering Monday Night Football.
Kamara has 55 receptions, which is more than any player in the NFL besides Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (57). You would have to go back to Roger Craig’s 1985 season to find the last running back to lead the NFL in receptions. What else did Craig do that year? He became the first running back ever with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season — something very much in reach for Kamara.
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