What's going on guys? Happy Thursday! I always enjoy TNF because it really kicks off what I know is going to be a fun few days of taking in as much football as humanly possible.
So starting today and every Thursday, I will pick my winner for the Thursday Night Football game, a 1pm game , a winner for a big 4pm game, a winner for the Sunday Night Football game, and a winner for the Monday Night Football game.
I spend my days calling and texting around to leagues sources which include players, coaches, and general managers to help me construct some of my picks and reasons. I’ll share as much as I can!
Leave a comment below if you disagree or think you have a better view!
Thursday Night Football
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans
Did anyone see this coming? Matt Rhule’s Panthers started the season shocking the world with their new quarterback Sam Darnold leading them to a 2-0 start. Most of their success, thanks to their stellar defensive play, something Carolina has been building for years. The organizatoin made it pretty well known through their draft picks the last few years they’ve been looking to bolster their D.
(in 2020, the Panthers picked all defensive players, becoming the first team in the common draft era — which began in 1967 — to spend each of its picks on defensive players. https://www.panthers.com/news/defensive-history-2020-draft-class)
The Panthers are one of seven teams to start out this season undefeated. Darnold not only looks better in Carolina’s colors, but he’s playing better. I keep hearing this one very well-known team executive’s voice in my head who told me months ago “Darnold can play. If I were running the Jets I would NOT trade him” Well, the Jets did!
Maybe its new coaching, maybe its leaving the bright lights of New York, maybe its playing for a team with the best social media account (shout out @Panthers), whatever it is, Darnold just seems...happier. We will see if his play continues to grow.
Then we have perhaps the bigger surprise. The Houston Texans. The team who had the most disastrous offseason, somehow started the season looking competitive. The first two games collectively they look…ok? I say that with a question mark because most of us counted them out based on the sheer fact that their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson isn’t playing at all. The attention this team was getting all offseason centered on Watson, ownership, and GM Nick Caserio was all a recipe for disaster, not a recipe for a team to play with effort and even win. Most of their off season moves looked as if they were tearing it down, to rebuild later. I spoke to a player on the Texans this week about their identity as a team and he told me “Nobody outside us knows what we are about. They think they know because of some of the drama but we are here to win”
While the Texans get an “A” for effort, without Tyrod Taylor under center, who was showing he could be a stater, rookie QB Davis Mills struggles and Sam Darnold looks sharp in a win.
The pick: Panthers
Chargers at Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes versus Justin Herbert is the closest thing we’ve had over the last few years to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Ok, that’s a little premature but it has potential to be a blockbuster matchup twice a year for the next decade.
Coming off a loss Sunday night against the Ravens, the Chiefs are going to be prepared and poised to get back on atop the AFC West. Mahomes told reporters that the team has moved on, and that Sunday’s game against the Chargers will be a test of the team’s resilience. Andy Reid acknowledged his team’s defense has faced some challenge when it comes to the fundamentals, like tackling. His team is giving up nearly 33 points per game (Ravens, Titans, Lions and Falcons fall behind them) and relying on the offense to carry them.
In his second year, Justin Herbert is showing no signs of a sophomore slump, piling up the passing yards. Despite some gaudy numbers, the Chargers have only scored 37 points through their first two games and have the 26th ranked scoring offense. Penalties have been their biggest issue and if this coaching staff can help their players clean this up, the Chargers can keep this one close. While that new coaching staff worries about penalties, Chiefs’ Andy Reid will most likely have a game plan ready, to remind folks the Chiefs have never lost back to back games since Patrick Mahomes took over at quarterback.
The pick: Kansas City
WHY CAN’T I STICK WITH MY OWN DIRECTIONS AND JUST PICK 1 BIG GAME AT 1! I COULDN’T DECIDE SO HERE IS MY BONUS GAME!
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton has been saying for months that he has something special in Jameis Winston. While many believe the bright offensive minded coach, the doubters struggle to get past thinking of Jameis Winston as “Mr. Picks”.
We saw the “new” New Orleans version of Jameis against the Packers. Conservative. Game manager. We saw the “old” Bucs Jameis against the Panthers. I can guarantee this, Payton WILL NOT allow Jameis to be undisciplined and sloppy. I expect a game plan that will make use of their run game which could also include Taysom Hill.
The Patriots haven’t required their rookie starting quarterback Mac Jones to do anything too sophisticated the first two weeks and don’t need to just yet. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went on the record to say “I trust him completely” when asked about the absence of their offense taking long shots downfield. I would imagine we will be seeing some of the playbook opening up as the rookie continues to get comfortable playing in the NFL. While Patriots are still finding themselves, the Saints core group is still intact.
Bill Parcells will without a doubt enjoy this matchup, I’ll go with Parcells favorite mentee Sean Payton here.
The pick: Saints
The Bucs at The Rams
Tom Brady finally gets to play in Los Angeles. He may have a home there but this will be the first time Brady goes Hollywood. There are 2 teams in the NFC who are 2-0 and went to the playoffs last year. The Bucs and The Rams. We could possibly see this matchup again in January for the NFC Championship game.
Both defenses are super talented. The Rams have the league's top cornerback tandem in Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. They have the best defensive player in football, Aaron Donald. (“We gotcha your back” I can’t get that NFL commercial out of my head)
The Buccaneers have edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett along with Devin White and Vita Vea. For both these teams, their quarterbacks have dictated the outcome of these games, offenses ruling, but this could be the game where Bucs DC Todd Bowles and Rams DC Raheem Morris become the stars of the show. If its Morris versus Brady?
Tommy keeps his team steady in LA.
The pick: Tampa Bay
The Philadelphia Eagles at the Dallas Cowboys
Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni has won many Philly fans over purely based on the Eagles T-shirts he wears daily. His “all in” attitude for the city makes it fun to watch but getting a little too cute, perhaps playing into the crowd, proved to be a big miss last week. With Philadelphia holding a 3-0 lead in the second quarter and facing a fourth-and-goal at the 49ers' 3-yard line, Sirianni called his version of the "Philly Special". It didn’t work...at all. There will be growing pains in Philly and that was probably one of them. The Eagles failed to convert on opportunities including the “Sirianni Special”, leaving at least 10 points on the table in their loss at home. On the other side of the ball, without Brandon Graham, who is out for the year, the defense is missing a major disruptor against this Cowboys’ high powered offense. Now for Dallas, despite holding the Chargers to 17 points, the Cowboys’ defense is nothing spectacular. They don’t have the same talented pass rush we saw with San Fran and will unlikely cause issues in Philly's red zone like we saw Sunday.
Dallas playing in their home opener, against a division rival, on Monday Night Football. Jerry wouldn’t want it any other way…yet something tells me the new head coach gets his first NFC East win.
The pick: Philly