Welcome to my first semi-occuring column with the BOFA news organization - SageBow's Stewings. These will be full of musings and ruminations of what I'm thinking so far this season about various topics. Hope you enjoy!
MVP - MVP - MVP
The race is on for the Most Valuable Player award, and in the driver's seat it has to be Kansas City's QB Ryan Harris. A perfect start to the season for the Chiefs, including wins over Miami and Jacksonville, has the City of Fountain's gushing in awe of their young signal caller. He's been unstoppable, relying on second year local boy WR Daniel Hobbs and veteran TE Spec Davidson with the bulk of his targets. Even rookie speedster WR Ryan Childs has been an early contributor. Still, you wonder how long this streak can last. Week 7 and Week 8 sees the Chiefs traveling north to face the Lions and Packers in back to back weeks.
Perennial favorite QB Christian Skaggs is close behind. Though the Panther's record has them at .500, it's been no fault of Skaggs. 1450 yards, 15 touchdowns, and the team has a jaw dropping 129 points for, 3rd in the league. The Panthers see a well needed bye to refresh after a dominating performance against the seemingly hapless Tampa Bay Bucs, but Week 6 has them running into the Detroit Lions. If Skaggs performs against Keyshawn and crew, Ryan Harris needs to watch his back.
Speaking of the Lions, good lord. Perhaps the most balanced offense in the league, LeCount has been sharp, throwing 7 TDs to 5 different players and 0 picks. Kenyon Randall leads the league in rushing. CB Keyshawn Thompson and OLB Cameron Jones highlight the best defense in the league, with only 37 points against despite facing fearsome QBs like Aaron Devereaux and Darrell Murphy. This may hurt them in the MVP race, but can anyone really stop this team?
It'd be criminal to not list one of the best players in the league despite his position and team's record. DE Carlos Washington has not taken a step back since his Defensive Player of the Year campaign in 2022. Going up against a murderer's row of offensive linemen like OT Brandon Reamon, OT Walter Adair, OT Marcellus Peterson, and OT Ryan Robinson, Washington somehow 5 sacks, 3 TFLs, and 1 FF through 4 weeks. Despite looking disappointing through the first 4 weeks, the Steelers have won and loss their games perfectly matching the SageBow El Formulo Preseason Predictions. I see this team winning their next 5 games.
A number of rookies have made a great impact for their teams, but QB Marcus Black has shined immediately for the Ravens. His scintillating performance against the Browns in Week 4 highlights his ability to pass and run and he's been simply unstoppable. There are extended concerns about the offensive line in front of him (Baltimore's line is rated 32nd in the NFL) and if Black keeps taking these hits (13 sacks against) how long can he really stay healthy and confident? Ravens have time to sort out around this franchise piece, and so far Black looks to be a long term solution in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, 2nd round pick ILB Devin Frazier has quickly become the punishing leader and tone setter for one of the best defenses in the league. The Falcons have the 2nd best defense by points, and Frazier's communication to his teammates and own ability at making the plays has been a big piece of that. It looks like the Falcons picked up a great piece here to go along with Early Davis, Darius Jones, and the timeless David Wilburn.
Can't end this section without discussing Viking's first rounder OT Shane McCord. The big mauler out of Georgia has ransacked opposing defensive linemen and is a big reason why the Brian Vardell has only gone down 6 times this season. His best performance was a Week 1 clash against New York Giant DE Khairi Bryant. McCord beat down the elite defensive lineman repeatedly in a huge coming out party for the former Bulldog. The much maligned rookie season for RB Evan Grant seems to have turned a corner as he now averages 4.84 yards per carry and has scored 3 touchdowns this season, much due to the big bruiser on the right side of the Viking's line.
Sign of the Times
The Dallas Cowboys' leading rusher has 100 yards on the season. Meanwhile, four different receivers have over 100 yards, and QB Graham Burnett is quietly putting together a Pro Bowl level season deep in the heart of Texas. The former Sooner gunslinger is the only surviving starting quarterback of a putrid 2020 class, and has found himself a comfort zone sitting behind the best offensive line in football throwing to weapons like Rodney Montgomery and rookie sensation DeAndre Felder. Can Burnett keep up this start? If he can, the NFCE looks to be in trouble. The Eagles, Redskins, and Giants all allow over 225 passing yards per game. Burnett currently averages 330, and if he can sort out his penchant at turning the ball over, we could be seeing the rise of an elite QB.
Put Him in Bubble Wrap
Nick Hall's been around long enough that we know his tendencies. Yes, he's a gunslinger, an aircraft carrier of passing destruction to opposing secondaries. Yes, he is Mr. 4th Quarter, and the amount of mental trauma he's given to opposing fans late in the game is basis for a large class-action lawsuit. But we can't keep overlooking the other obvious. He holds on to the ball trying to gamble and make the play, and his offensive line just isn't good enough for that anymore. Hall has been sacked a staggering 62 times over 1 and 1/4 seasons. He's willing his team to win games, but at some point the hits are going to get to him. Football is a violent sport, and Hall is getting tee'd off by the likes of Bronco's DT Frank Williams and Charger's OLB Shane Easley multiple times a year. When you hit the quarterback, you tend to win games, and the record is starting to reflect this through the early going of 2023.