Movie quote of the day:
“I didn’t want salmon! I said it four times!”
– Brennan Huff, “Step Brothers” (2008)
I did a similar post last week regarding which team stocks to buy or sell after the first month in college football. I’ve decided to do the same now that the first month of the NFL has wrapped up. We all know that teams like New England, Green Bay, Seattle, Pittsburgh, etc. are very good. So, I’ll choose teams that have surprised and disappointed so far and give my analysis.
Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – Sell
What happened to this team? Many people considered the Cardinals to be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Arizona’s defense has been good, but hasn’t been as good as many thought it would be. The Cardinals have struggled to stop the run – which was one of their strengths last year. The main reason for Arizona’s struggles has been because of the performance of Carson Palmer. His completion percentage is below 60 percent for the first time since 2008, he’s been sacked 12 times, and he’s thrown five interceptions. With Palmer in concussion protocol, it could get worse for the Cardinals. They’ll have to turn it around quick if they’re going to make the postseason.
Atlanta Falcons (3-1) – Buy
After getting off to a bad start in week one, Atlanta has quietly won three-straight games against decent competition. I’m starting to really like this team. The Falcons’ passing attack looks really good once again because of the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones connection. However, the Falcons have one of the more underrated rushing offenses with one of the best running back duos in the league with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. I’m not as sold on Atlanta’s defense though. The Falcons rank No. 30 in yards per game and No. 29 in points per game. I don’t think the Falcons’ below-average defense will hurt them too bad since the rest of the NFC South looks terrible.
Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Sell
Yes, this team is off to a great start. However, the combined record of the teams that Baltimore faced in the first three games is now 3-9 – and Baltimore struggled against each of those teams. Oakland was the first real team that the Ravens faced last week and it resulted in a loss at home. While Baltimore ranks toward the top of the league in total and scoring defense it’s another story for the offense. The Ravens’ offense is below average – ranking No. 19 in yards per game and No. 18 in points per game. The meat of Baltimore’s schedule is still to come and the Ravens still have to play Pittsburgh and Cincinnati twice.
Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Sell
Carolina is another team that many considered a favorite to win the NFC and compete for second-straight Super Bowl. However, the Panthers have been hit with a bunch of injuries early. Carolina’s offense has sputtered because the offensive line can’t protect Cam Newton – who has been sacked 13 times and thrown five picks in just four games. The Panthers’ defense was once elite but hasn’t been spectacular this season – particularly in the passing game. Carolina’s defense has only registered nine sacks so far, and their secondary has been burned a lot because of it. Carolina’s struggles could continue because the Panthers still have road trips to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Seattle.
Denver Broncos (4-0) – Buy
After many – including myself – thought Denver would fall off the face of the world this season, Denver is proving everyone wrong. The Broncos are picking up exactly where they left off last year after winning Super Bowl 50. Denver’s defense is still spectacular and the best in the league. Trevor Siemian has been a great story so far, and has done a fantastic job of leading the Broncos’ offense. Denver’s offensive line has been impressive – giving up just nine sacks and helping pave the way for a good rushing offense. The Broncos still have to play Oakland and Kansas City twice, but I think this team is still really good.
Indianapolis Colts (1-3) – Sell
I feel bad for Andrew Luck. He doesn’t have much to work with in Indianapolis. He has a roster that I would say is one of the top-five worst rosters in the NFL. The Colts’ offensive line can’t keep him upright – giving up 15 sacks in four games. Luck does have some weapons on the perimeter, but when the line can’t protect you it’s tough to get them the ball. The Colts’ defense is awful too. They rank No. 18 in rushing defense, No. 25 in passing defense, No. 24 in total defense, and No. 29 in scoring defense. Even though Indianapolis plays in the easiest division in the NFL, the front office is dysfunctional and I don’t see this team going anywhere anytime soon.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) – Buy
Kansas City is off to a slow start, but I’m not ready to give up on this team. The Chiefs have a good offense and Andy Reid is a great coach and one of the best offensive minds in the league. I expect Kansas City’s defense to improve as the season goes on after the coaching staff can adjust to not having Justin Houston on the field. The two games Kansas City has lost have come on the road against tough opponents. They have a bye week this week and then the schedule gets more favorable. The Chiefs will play teams with a combined record of 8-16 in their next six games. Kansas City is going to be fine.
Los Angeles Rams (3-1) – Buy
This team has made a complete 360 in the last three weeks after the disastrous performance on Monday Night Football in week one. The Rams have beat Seattle at home and Tampa Bay and Arizona on the road during this winning streak. The Rams haven’t been able to get Todd Gurley going in the run game, but the passing game has started to develop with Case Keenum in recent weeks. Running the ball effectively sometimes takes time and I expect Los Angeles to get it fixed eventually. The main reason for the Rams’ success has been because of the performance of their defense. Los Angeles has given up just 48 points in the last three weeks. I still don’t like the way Los Angeles has treated Jared Goff though, but I have to give credit to Jeff Fisher. He’s done a great coaching job and since the Rams have already beat Seattle once and with the decline of Arizona, the Rams might have a decent chance of winning the NFC West division.
New York Jets (1-3) – Sell
A lot of people thought the Jets would have a decent chance of making the playoffs this season after just missing out last year. However, the Jets are just as dysfunctional as ever. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been horrible the last two weeks, throwing nine (!) interceptions. The Jets’ offense is struggling because of Fitzpatrick’s play. The Jets’ defense was once a strength, but they’re having trouble keeping teams out of the end zone – giving up 26.3 points per game. I expect it to only get worse because the Jets still have some tough opponents left on the schedule – including New England twice and Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – Buy
I’m starting to buy into Philadelphia. Yes, the Eagles played weak opponents in their first two games, but then they demolished a very good Pittsburgh team in week three. Doug Pederson has done a fantastic job with Philadelphia’s offense so far. Carson Wentz looks like a future All-Pro, they have a pretty good offensive line, and a plethora of running backs. However, the real story is the Eagles’ defense. In the previous three years, Philadelphia ranked toward the bottom in scoring defense. It’s been totally different so far this season as the Eagles rank No. 1 in scoring defense – giving up just nine points per game. It’s still early and the Eagles haven’t really been tested defensively outside of Pittsburgh. I expect the Eagles to have their struggles soon because six of their next nine games are on the road, but I think this team is the front runner to win the NFC East right now.
Thanks for reading
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