By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Blake Bortles got a job this week. Nick Mullens played some ball last weekend. Teddy Bridgewater is living with $33 million guaranteed on his $63 million contract. Philip Rivers was a free agent for about five seconds before getting handed $25 million. Nathan Peterman, Matt Schaub, Geno Smith (!), Matt Barkley, Andy Dalton, and Chase Daniel all remain gainfully employed NFL quarterbacks.
All of this is to say … some strange decisions on quarterbacks are made around the NFL on a regular basis. If there’s any one constant about this unpredictable lead, it’s that executives and coaches will continue to beef their decisions on the most important position in team sports.
And if Cam Newton continues on his current path, he’s going to make those beefings look beefier than any beefings that have been beefed before.
I’ll stop saying beefed now, but after watching Cam Newton for two games this season, there should be very little doubt that he is still capable of playing quarterback at an extremely high level in the NFL. He won’t stand among Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers as an MVP candidate, most likely. No. But he will be right in that next group, and he will continue to be a unique dual threat, and he will continue to win football games.
And he will be doing it for a base salary of a little over $1 million.
Health was, obviously, concern No. 1, 2 and 3 regarding Newton in the offseason. Health concerns led to the Panthers dumping the face of their franchise, in order to throw cash at the aforementioned Bridgewater. (Bridgewater has the Panthers sitting at 0-2, with one touchdown pass and two interceptions thus far.) Health concerns then led to every team treating Newton like discarded roadside garbage for three-plus months.
To be clear, the New England Patriots were one of those teams, but that wasn’t without reason. The team was left with almost no salary cap space for the bulk of their spring, thus keeping them out of the running from signing just about anyone. It’s likely, then, that Bill Belichick kindly let Newton’s agent know that if the NFL MVP-caliber deal never materialized, the Patriots would offer what they could. And by the end of June, with not one other offer out there, Newton took the bare minimum from the Patriots.
It’s funny how downright lucky the Patriots were to have landed a player like Newton in late June for free, as a Brian Hoyer-Jarrett Stidham year in 2020 just lacks a certain level of juice that the season has with the imposing No. 1 standing in the shotgun in those snazzy new jerseys.
But it’s a whole lot funnier that not one NFL evaluator looked at the 6-foot-5, 245-pound, highly motivated Newton and thought, “You know what … it’s worth a shot.”
Minnesota could have admitted its Kirk Cousins mistake, or at least tried to make him better with a legitimate competition. Philly could have done the same with Carson Wentz. Maybe the Giants aren’t ready to give up on Daniel Jones … but maybe Newton for 2020 makes them a whole lot more viable. Same with the Chargers. The Broncos surely wish they had Cam Newton right now (though there’s a lot to like about Bortles, really, if you’ll just kindly agree to attend my no-obligation, three-hour seminar).
Obviously — obviously, obviously, obviously — it’s early. If Newton gets hurt, then this is all largely for naught. That’s the case for Newton, just as it is for anyone in the NFL.
But so far, there have been three undeniable aspects to Newton that are making a whole lot of people believe in his potential this year: his running, his passing, and his attitude.
The running — despite the results of Sunday’s final play — is obvious. He has 122 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, tying him for the NFL lead in rushing scores. His 4.7-yard average per carry is effective.
The passing wasn’t there in Week 1, leading some to believe he’d be used primarily as a runner. Oh, you fools. Newton was 30-for-44 for 397 yards in Seattle. That was the third-highest single-game passing total of his entire dang career. The performance included some dimes, some moments of elite escapability and vision, and a should-have-been-the-game-winning-touchdown scene near the end.
Throwing shoulder looks decently strong, if you were to ask me.
And then there’s the attitude. The marriage of Newton and Bill Belichick made many question if it could work. Newton himself was among those doubters. But the quarterback has said and done everything right. He’s inspired his teammates, who all love him and voted him a captain. He’s still himself — sharing workout videos, wearing fancy clothing, speaking his mind — but he’s still very much a Patriot.
It’s been quite the scene so far. If it continues through October and November and December and even January … then man oh man oh man, it’s going to get a whole lot funnier.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
Miami (+3) over JACKSONVILLE
A matchup of Florida’s most OK-ish football teams. Gotta love it, folks.
Chicago (+3) over ATLANTA
It’s interesting that the 2-0 team is an underdog against the 0-2 team. It’s more interesting that the team coached by Dan Quinn after a Dan Quinn-esque meltdown that would even make Dan Quinn blush is favored at all.
BUFFALO (-2) over Los Angeles Rams
This one is totally made with my heart, because I want to see the Bills improve to 3-0, because the world is better when the Bills are 3-0, and because we all need the world to be a better place.
Don’t screw it up, Jared Goff. Thank you in advance.
Washington Football Team (+7) over CLEVELAND
Like, I’m hoping that at some point — maybe by Week 6 — I can write “Washington Football Team” without guffawing at its absurdity. Their team name was a point of controversy forever; they didn’t have a backup team name in the chamber in case it finally came time to change? And then they couldn’t even think quickly enough to come up with anything so they had to settle on “FOOTBALL TEAM”?
If that’s not the most corporate American story of all time, then I don’t know what is.
Anyway, this game features the 30th-ranked passing offense against the 29th-ranked passing offense. That’s fun.
MINNESOTA (+2.5) over Tennessee
It’s admittedly a tough draw for the Vikings, who are going to be fighting like hell to avoid falling to 0-3 and essentially having their season ended before October even begins. No doubt about that.
But the Titans haven’t exactly found their 2019 fifth gear just yet, despite the 2-0 record. You have to believe the Vikings are good enough to last through September.
Houston (+4) over PITTSBURGH
I freakin’ love picking against Houston, man. I really do. Sadly, I feel like they’re in a similar position as Minnesota, where they’re not so bad as to fall to 0-3. Houston also got a rough deal with the schedule, getting Kansas City and Baltimore to start the season. That should be illegal.
NEW ENGLAND (-6) over Las Vegas
I mean, I don’t think you can write the intro that I wrote and then pick the man to lose this week.
In the “How Is That Possible?” department, did you know that this will be just the second time Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick have stood on opposing sidelines since the Snow Bowl? That’s pretty wild, folks, because the Snow Bowl was played in January of 2002, which … (checks calendar) … yup, that was a long time ago.
(The first time they met after that history-altering night came in 2005, when Gruden’s Bucs visited the Patriots on a cold December afternoon. The Patriots won 28-0. Tom Brady threw a touchdown to offensive lineman Tom Ashworth. Chris Simms got sacked seven times. Doug Flutie came in late to kneel the ball twice. Turns out that was a long time ago, too!)
NEW YORK GIANTS (+4) over San Francisco
It’s as if this line did not catch the news about all of the 49ers’ injuries.
Not my problem.
PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) over Cincinnati
Do the Eagles stink? The Eagles might stink. Major stink potential emanating from Philadelphia.
They don’t stink enough to make me worry too much about this one, but if Joe Burrow pulls that backdoor cover magic for a second straight week, I also won’t be surprised.
INDIANAPOLIS (-11) over New York Jets
Last week, I wrote this: “There may end up being a number that’s too high this year for a Jets opponent to cover. I can assure you: 6.5 is not it.”
The Jets then went out and lost by 18 points to one-half of a 49ers team.
So this week, I will write this: There may end up being a number that’s too high this year for a Jets opponent to cover. I can assure you: 11 is not it.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-6.5) over Carolina Panthers
On one side, you have a team that lost its starting quarterback due to a doctor accidentally puncturing his lung before kickoff.
On the other side, you have a team that just lost the man who accounts for something like 97.8 percent of their yards from scrimmage.
Tough call, really. But I don’t love the chances of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady being able to cook up a McCaffrey-less game plan here. How could you?
Tampa Bay (-6.5) over DENVER
This is most certainly a me problem, but the Bucs are way more boring than I anticipated they’d be. I was hoping for some E-LEC-TRICITY out of the chute. Instead they’ve been in two real grrrrrrinds. (I think that game against Carolina is still being played? Can we get a check to see if it ended?)
Anyways. Denver has lost its best player and then its starting quarterback in the past two weeks. Can the ever-inspiring Vic Fangio lead them out of trouble?
Probably not. You know?
Arizona (-5.5) over MATT PATRICIA’S DETROIT LIONS
As a reminder, Matt Patricia took credit for one of the best fourth-quarter play calls in NFL history, so he is unimpeachable.
Like this guy right here?
Matt Patricia, who was hired to build a defense and change the culture, is coaching up a no-energy unit that's dead last in ESPN's pass rush win rate. It's not close either.
29. Giants 33%
30. Rams 32%
31. Bengals 30%
32. Lions 19%https://t.co/kH8jaZThlz
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) September 23, 2020
That guy is not respecting the rules.
His football team happens to be 0-2, outscored by 42 points in their last five quarters played. But, again, Malcolm Butler made a one-in-a-million play one time, so please, don’t dare questions Patricia’s methods out there in Detroit. Those are the rules. Follow them. Thank you.
SEATTLE (-5.5) over Dallas
That’s the pick.
Green Bay (+3) over NEW ORLEANS
The whole “Drew Brees in prime time” thing is officially over. Should be a big night for Aaron Rodgers, though. He’s having a decent little start to his season, with 604 passing yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. A nice night of dominating in prime time should elevate him to the level of being discussed on all of the national shows about potentially being “back.”
And really, kids, that’s why they play the game.
BALTIMORE (-3.5) over Kansas City
We’re wheeling this one out in Week 3? Really? So soon? OK, if you say so.
I personally would have stored this one for sometime in mid-November, but as is the case with most matters, nobody asked me.
It’s a tough call with the game, as picking against the Chiefs on any given week is an objectively stupid thing to do. But their defense has had a few problems. Granted, the Ravens’ lone problem has been turning the ball over, so it’s possible that they work each other out. But in the made-up stats department, the Ravens look like they’re entering 2020 with a little bit more edge. If they end up winning, I’ll look super smart. If they lose, I will never again acknowledge what I said.
Yeah baby. Football season is back.
Last week: 9-7