By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — And so it was, right there, smack dab in the middle of September 2019. It was The Week The Quarterback Died.
OK, OK, OK, died is a little strong. Nobody’s dead. But what in the wide world of sports is going on with the state of NFL quarterbacking in 2019?
Ben Roethlisberger? Done. Drew Brees? Shelved. Eli Manning? Benched. Sam Darnold? Smooched. Cam Newton? Perpetually ailing.
What happened to the age of protecting quarterbacks?
It’s really quite a stunning development that before Week 3 even kicks off, we’re looking at seven teams who are likely to start a quarterback that they did not intend to start. That’s more than 20 percent of the league, and we’re only 12.5 percent of the way through the schedule.
Perhaps you’d prefer to not include Andrew Luck in that equation, but still. The Jets will be on quarterback No. 3 on Sunday in Foxboro; Carson Wentz spent Sunday night making America (and spotters) wonder if he was injured; the Dolphins, Bears and Vikings might prefer to see their starters miss a week or two; the Texans are playing with fire with Deshaun Watson (10 sacks); the Kyler Murray experience is off to a rather slow start; and Matt Ryan can’t stop throwing interceptions.
In the age of the quarterback, in the era of inflated passing stats, in a time when defenses aren’t allowed to hit QBs … we’re off to a rough start here in 2019.
Thankfully, though, through it all, we’ve still got Gardner Minshew II. Thank goodness.
From a personal standpoint, I’m surviving, after an 8-8 Week 2. Now the season has officially begun, and we’re not operating from a tremendous deficit here in picks land. Let’s go!
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
JACKSONVILLE (+1.5) over Tennessee
I’m worried about My Jags™, if we’re being honest. I don’t think they respect their head coach, and I don’t necessarily blame them. Jalen Ramsey’s as good as gone. Gardner Minshew II can only do so much, you know?
But what’s most troubling is that we’re getting Titans-Jags on a Thursday night, and we’re not going to have pee-colored uniforms, and we’re not going to have two-tone helmets, and we’re not going to have Blake Bortles. Is life even worth living under such conditions?
The answer is yes. But barely so.
DALLAS (-21.5) over Miami
New York Jets (+23) over NEW ENGLAND
Let’s start with the big boys. The big dawgs. The heavy hitters. The 20-plus-point favorites.
This one’s pretty simple. I like the Cowboys to cover because they’re pretty good, and also because the Dolphins might be the worst team of all time.
I like the Patriots to win big, but I think the Jets/Gregg Williams’ style of, shall we say, aggressive tackle football will prevent the Patriots from putting up another 40-burger. It might actually be 28-6, and then everyone will be like, “ZOMG, isn’t scary and crazy how good they are at making those lines?” while ignoring the dozen or so games where the line wasn’t even close.
Oh, plus, Luke Falk is the GOAT. Guy might go off.
INDIANAPOLIS (-2) over Atlanta
The battle of teams that are … OK? Fun.
Jacoby Brissett is actually a delight to watch. He plays with such a joie de vivre. In a game like this, that’s enough for me.
KANSAS CITY (-6.5) over Baltimore
The Chiefs are, I believe, in that territory where you could/should probably take them 16 times this year and probably walk away with a good record. Maybe the Ravens prove to be a worthy adversary. Maybe. But it’s not worth veering away from that general principle.
BUFFALO (-6) over Cincinnati
Sometimes you pick with your head. Other times you pick with your heart. This one right here is all about heart.
If you have any semblance of a soul, then you want — nay, you NEED — the Bills to improve to 3-0 on the young season, thus sending those body-slamming, well-lubricated fans into complete delirium for a full week, leading up to their Week 4 hosting of the mighty New England Patriots. Oh my goodness gracious, that would be so lovely.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals? Let’s empty the bucket with everything that everyone feels about the Cincinnati Bengals in September of 2019. Here we go. Let’s do it.
Their helmets are … unique?
MINNESOTA (-8.5) over Oakland
If the Vikings don’t win this game by two touchdowns, then Kirk Cousins has got to go. I mean that He’s got to vacate the premises. He’ll have to load up his 2015 Toyota Corolla and head north of the border. It simply has got to happen.
GREEN BAY (-8) over Denver
The Broncos have played TWO (2) American football games this season.
The Broncos have scored TWO (2) American football touchdowns this season.
ONE (1) of those touchdowns came in the final minutes, when they were trailing 24-9.
(We’re going to have to bust out the grimace emoji, folks.)
PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) over Detroit
At some point, the Eagles are going to be impressive. Right?
ARIZONA (+2.5) over Carolina
Worst game of the week? Worst game of the week.
TAMPA BAY (-6.5) over New York Giants
The Bucs appear capable of winning some football games. The Giants? We can’t really say the same, now can we? Unless Daniel Jones can also play defense, I don’t see the QB shift as a magical season-changer.
Houston (+3) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers had a good run. They were the best team in the AFC last year, which didn’t prove to be very meaningful when January rolled around. They’ll always have that win in K.C. That was a cool win.
But like most every team that has risen over the years, it appears as though the Chargers are in the midst of falling. It was a good run.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) over Pittsburgh
I’ve got a developing, bold, BRAVE take that Mason Rudolph might actually be better than Ben Roethlisberger. HOW ABOUT THAT?
As such, I kind of wanted to take Pittsburgh this week in my, “Wow, Michael Is So Smart, And So Brave, And Such An Inspiration, I Want To Be Him” Pick of the Week. Alas, their defense, it gives me pause. Multiple pauses, even.
SEATTLE (-4) over New Orleans
Imagine if you’re starting your first real game at quarterback since 2015, for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, and you have to do it in a stadium so loud that it’s given fits to just about every quarterback who’s ever visited. That would seem like a challenge.
Los Angeles Rams (-3) over CLEVELAND
That aforementioned category about picking a team safely 16 times that applies to the Chiefs? It also applies to the Rams. (And the Patriots, when they’re not dealing with a 22-point spread.)
Baker Mayfield needs to have a BAKER MAYFIELD game soon, though. Monday night was so thoroughly unimpressive. If it weren’t for a one-hander and an Olympic sprint from Odell Beckham Jr., it would’ve been downright ugly. Considering Cleveland has roughly 41 nationally televised games this season, I think I speak for all when I say … hopefully Baker Mayfield is better than that.
WASHINGTON (-4) over Chicago
The Chicago Bears’ offense has one touchdown. The 49ers’ and Patriots’ defenses have each scored two touchdowns.
It’s a Monday. Night. Party.
(Early bedtime on Monday, East Coast football fans.)
Last week: 8-8