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I thought it would be fun to take a look back at how 2017 started...what we were feeling, what seemed important, how did the initial reads of the situation turn out when you look back at them the following year. I'm re-reading all my Week 1 recaps from 2017 just to study what happened out of the gates and where it all went from there to start projecting 2018 Week 1/early seasons scenarios for our annual 'Faux' Computer Simulation of the upcoming season that we do every May/June.
With little football to chew on in May, here's a snack...reheated goodness from Week 1 last season, and we'll re-post all the Week 1 games from 2017 every day throughout May -- posted as-is/as-was...
This game represented one of two glaring instances in Week 1 where everyone in the football analysis community thinks exactly alike on a situation, because that's what they do, and they're almost always wrong. The Week 1 results from two games was so obviously in the other direction of their beliefs – but 'they' failed to see it and just excoriated their widely-held-belief team for not doing what they believed. Houston got crushed by Jacksonville in this game but the analysis of it is more – "How pathetic is Houston getting crushed by the lowly, terrible, disastrous, embarrassing Jacksonville Jaguars? At least, the New England Patriots had the decency to lose to a good team. But Houston is obviously all messed up because they lost to the barely-should-be-allowed-in-the-league Jacksonville Jaguars". So, THEY'RE all looking at this game and analyzing what's wrong with Houston and what does Houston need to fix. No focus on how good the Jaguars have made themselves.
The same thing was done in the Giants–Cowboys game. The same thing was missed in both games. The football analysis community has totally missed how good the Cowboys and Jaguars defenses really are. These people supposedly watched these games and study the league for a living. I know they probably didn't watch the Jacksonville game at all, but I know they did watch the Sunday nighter with Dallas–Giants. It was right in front of their faces in plain sight Sunday night and they still can't see yet. They still rushed to microphones and computers on Monday to tell you how bad the losing team in these two games was. It's pretty pathetic when you think about it.
As I have been preaching since free agency, once the Jaguars signed A.J. Bouye, a shutdown corner stolen from their Week 1 opponent, the Texans, that the Jaguars and achieved something rare in the NFL – they now possessed two shutdown corners working every play. Jalen Ramsey and Bouye. Somehow THEIR Pro Football Focus bullet points didn't lead the football media to the same conclusion. It should've been beyond obvious. Not only do the Jaguars possess, arguably, one of the two best cornerback tandems in the league, but they signed Cardinals ace defender Calais Campbell this off-season as well. They also added Barry Church to the secondary from Dallas. 2016 offseason, they added top DL free agent Malik Jackson. They already had top linebackers in place. The Jaguars have smartly or unwittingly assembled a semi-dream team on defense. Anyone that studies football for a living should have at least suspected the possibilities. Instead, most every football analyst is clutching their pearls at how bad the Texans looked…maybe it was all the floods being a distraction. I heard that mentioned more than once. The topper to all of this is the entire fantasy expert community is now running to talk about how good the Jacksonville defense MIGHT be. In fantasy, you needed to know that information months ago – not after a record-setting Week 1. You're welcome. Go look at our draft guide commentary and projections…and everything I wrote about it this summer.
Here's how terrible coaching football minds work, and I absolutely believe most serious fantasy fans study and know more about the players than the actual people drawing big paychecks to analyze it or coach it do...I'm not kidding with this next part…
The Texans changed quarterbacks at halftime, which may have been the worst decision any head coach made in the entire NFL in Week 1…and maybe the worst this entire 2017. I don't say that to defend Tom Savage because I'm pro-Savage and anti-Deshaun Watson. I mean that from a purely NFL standpoint, from a management standpoint. The preseason was beyond obvious Tom Savage is the best quarterback Houston has for 2017. He comes with flaws, but on a team that thinks they're a playoff caliber unit – Savage was the right call. It wasn't even close. No one believes Savage is a worthy NFL quarterback, except a few high-end minds like a Mike Lombardi. You can't say it out loud because the 99%ers in football media will castigate you for going opposite what they all decided on a player. So, Savage has the unenviable task of being the quarterback on a team that no one supports the choice – not even the fan base.
You think the coach would want to get Savage's confidence up because it's going to be a long season. The Texans might be able to make the playoffs if he played decent football and your defense comes through...even though you let one of your best defensive players walked right to another team in your division, now across the field from you in Week 1 shoving it in your face. The Texans couldn't move the ball effectively (really, they couldn’t protect on top of the great Jags defense) against Jacksonville in the first half, so Bill O'Brien makes a QB change. I wish I knew this for sure, but I would nearly guarantee that O'Brien's thought process was – "I guess Tom will never be an NFL QB because we can't even score on disgusting, unworthy, nonsensical Jacksonville. We gave him a chance, and he blew it." Even Bill O'Brien and his staff don't respect Jacksonville – because the football analyst community doesn't. In a panic and misinformed, O'Brien has opened up the gates to a quarterback controversy because one of the best defenses in football crushed his vanilla, unimaginative, untalented offense missing its top blocker for two quarters. An incredible over reaction to the situation – something you only do if you follow what the football intelligentsia says…they say Tom Savage isn't good and the Jacksonville Jaguars are bad. The season basically ended for Houston at halftime of Week 1. The team across from them in this game is arguably the best team in their division, definitely better than the Texans. Houston is not winning this division led by Deshaun Watson (or Tom Savage).
Can I also note, I never want to hear anyone discuss what they think a football team's motivations are? All pre-game, all you heard about this game was how Houston was going to come out so fired up because of the flood-related things and all the money J.J. Watt raised – and the Texans came out and were swallowed up and spit out by Jacksonville right away. The Atlanta Falcons did not come out angry to disprove the Super Bowl loss…they were technically beaten by the Bears…except for the final score. The Patriots lavish Super Bowl celebration at home pre-game did not ignite the team to new levels Thursday night either.
Fantasy player notes…
-- Those who had Allen Robinson (1-17-0/1) as a sleeper or hopeful for 2017 lost him one catch into the season. He was a guy I started drafting a few times in round five, when he fell, in redrafts after I lost my Spencer Ware or Cameron Meredith option there. Basically, whatever I drafted in the fifth or sixth round of drafts this preseason are doomed – get ready for the Bilal Powell bubonic plague diagnosis.
If you ask the question – "Well who is a smart pick up here? Who is the Jags #1 wide receiver now? I would tell you to not worry about it too much.
The Jaguars have no intention of throwing the football. Doug Marrone has literally come out and said he would prefer if Blake Bortles threw the ball zero times in a game. All he wants to do is run the ball. In addition, he has no real quarterbacks to get excited about anyway. The combination of low volume and no QB talent and a great defense…means limited throws.
As long as Bortles is QB those key throws, especially in the end zone, are going to Allen Hurns (3-42-0/4). Hurns is a pretty talented, good-sized WR. He'll work as a WR3, but don’t move heaven and earth to get him.
Marqise Lee will see some targets/touches but not much for TDs.
Keelan Cole (0-0-0/2) is a sleeper we have liked but he missed a red zone/possible TD catch in his brief appearance. Cole has been a disappointment the past three games since splashing onto the scene the first couple weeks of the preseason.
-- One quick thing on Deshaun Watson (12-23 for 102 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) from this game. Before his TD pass, the Texans only score…Watson threw a bad red zone INT, but it was called back. It was a horrible throw. The Texans are lucky not to have been shutout and Watson with 2 INTs and no TDs.
-- Leonard Fournette (26-100-1, 3-24-0/3) was better than I hoped…and my hopes were high as it was. If you want to toss the word 'Beast' around…it should go here. Punishing runner. Quick feet. Much better hands than we saw in 2016 at pre-draft workouts. All you could ask for with Fournette…it showed itself here.
-- If Bill O'Brien is so gung ho to pull the QB because of poor performance…when the hell is he going to bench Lamar Miller (17-65-0)? That guy's been a waste of money for going on two years now.
Hey, genius coach…you know how you were getting killed in this game? Ummm, why not give D'Onta Foreman (1-4-0) carries/touches late in the blowout and see what happens? I know he was OK to play because you gave him A carry in the 2nd quarter. *If I find out Foreman got hurt, I take that back.
-- Myles Jack (14 tackles and 1.5 TFL) had a game high 14 tackles…the guy I said can’t tackle. I watched this game and I swear I never saw him make a real tackle. One of his TFLs came with him gingerly pushing a guy headed out of bounds…out of bounds.
Hey, if speed leads to being the guy to push people out of bounds can rack these kinds of IDP numbers…I'm game. I wouldn’t count on it.
-- J.J. Watt (1 tackle) had a quiet game. I went back and re-watched some of his work. Everything looked fine. He was getting after the QB but was handled decently by the Jags.
Where Jadeveon Clowney (1 tackle) was in this game, I have no idea.
Snap Counts of interest...
2 = D'Onta Foreman
50 = Tyler Ervin
39 = Leonard Fournette
25 = Chris Ivory
0 = Corey Grant
28 = Zach Cunningham
9 = Dylan Cole
53 = Marqise Lee
7 = Arrelious Benn
19 = Keelan Cole