The NFL season always seems to go by in a flash. We’re sitting now in the beginning of October and the season is already a quarter over. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams are the only teams that remain undefeated. There is still plenty of football left to play and the league is still wide open, but here are my biggest surprises from the first quarter of the season.
Mahomes Mania and Ryan FitzMagic
There were few believers in Patrick Mahomes going into the season, and I can’t say that I was one of them. The young quarterback with one NFL start to his name was given the keys to Chiefs organization, and I don’t even think his biggest believers expected what he’s managed to accomplished in his first four games of 2018. Mahomes had three more touchdowns than any other quarterback in the league and he’s averaging 300 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per game (heading into Week 5(. He’s also the number one quarterback in fantasy football. His most impressive stats, however, are his zero losses and zero interceptions.
Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to pop up and turn into Fitzmagic every now and then, and momentarily blow everyone’s mind before fading away and going back into hiding. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a season with three straight 400 yard games, he opened the season by beating the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints (The reigning Super Bowl champions and the team that missed the NFC championship by a miracle), and he threw 11 touchdowns through three games. It only took one football half of Jameis Winston’s eligibility though, for Fitzpatrick to return to mortal form and reclaim his spot on the bench, where he’ll likely spend the rest of the season (short of an injury to Winston).
Miami Dolphins 3-1 start
Before the season, the Miami Dolphins were thought to be among the worst teams in the league, with a roster devoid of any real talent. They had a mediocre quarterback coming back from a torn ACL, a defense with no real identity, and they lost Jarvis Landry, their biggest offensive playmaker, in the offseason. To everyone’s surprise, the Dolphins opened up the season with three straight victories against the Lions, the Jets, and the Raiders. It isn’t that they beat anyone good, but surely all three of those teams marked their matchup with Miami as a “winnable” game. In Week four, the Dolphins were brought back down to earth and were blown out by the New England Patriots, but it appears they have enough talent on their roster to make a playoff push.
The Vikings’ 2-2-1 start
The Minnesota Vikings made it to the NFC Championship game last year, they had the best defense in the league in terms of total yards given up, and then they upgraded at quarterback in the offseason when they signed Kirk Cousins to a three year deal. How have they started the season so poorly? You can argue they lost and tied to tough teams like the Rams and the Packers, but they were blown out by the Buffalo Bills, who are basically the laughing stock of the league. Most of the Vikings issues stem from their offensive line. Cousins leads the league in dropbacks under pressure, and has been sacked 13 times in four games. Pro Football Focus ranks the Vikings 24th in run blocking and 27th in pass blocking. If you can’t win in the trenches, it’s hard to get anything started. I believe the Vikings have too strong of a roster to for their season to be over this early, but their 1-2-1 start was nothing short of shocking. They did just beat the defending Super Bowl champs in Philadelphia, which could be a building block in their attempt to get back to their 2018 form.
The Le’Veon Bell saga
You can’t have a conversation about the first quarter of the season without talking about Le’Veon Bell’s hold out. It wasn’t until the last few days of the offseason that it became apparent he wasn’t going to play, and it’s been a guessing game until this week when it was reported that he will rejoin the Pittsburgh Steelers during their Week 7 bye and be back on the field in Week 8. Bell is among the best players in the game when he’s on the field, but he may have done irreparable damage to his relationship with the Steelers organization and his teammates. As of now, the Steelers are actively looking for trade partners.