Welcome to the third installment of the Made-Up Mailbag. This week we received an avalanche of mail about the NFL’s wacky week three, so I decided to give the people want they want and dedicate the column to those questions.
Without further ado, this week’s Made-Up Mailbag:
Q. What in the world happened this weekend in the NFL? My game picks were way off. I feel like everything I learned in the first two weeks was a lie. Who can I trust anymore?
A. The NFL indeed had a crazy week. Nearly every game was an upset, a near upset, or a last-minute finish. Washington, the New York Jets, Buffalo, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Chicago all knocked off favored opponents. And they didn’t just knock them off, they annihilated them.
These six supposed underdogs won by an average of 17.5 points. Nobody could’ve seen that coming. Weeks like this one are a useful reminder of the massive week-to-week variance in the NFL. A small sample size is lethal too. Between the pre-season and the first two weeks we have learned a lot, but it’s poor practice to put too much stock into anything we see until after at least a couple weeks of byes.
Although, oftentimes we try and look at the game too objectively, myself included. Over the long run, with good process, this may lead to a greater than 51% success rate. However, every week we must consider that players are human. They have pride in their work and emotions will impact their play. Oakland wide receiver Amari Cooper went over to Washington cornerback Josh Norman during pre-game warm-ups and said he would put up 200 yards receiving on him. After the game, Norman was fired up having just held Cooper for one catch for a measly six yards in a dominating team performance defensively. It was evident Cooper’s pre-game banter had provided extra fuel to an already fiery Norman.
We have to consider that the football is a funny shaped ball and bounces in funny ways. Sometimes a tipped pass will be an interception and sometimes it will be a touchdown. We have to consider that each team has world class athletes who are among the best on the planet at what they do. Every player has the potential for a big game. While fans, gamblers, and fantasy football players alike can be frustrated by this variance ultimately, it’s what makes the game so much fun for us all.
Q. What was the biggest surprise for you this week? Giving you lots of options with this one.
A. This is definitely a difficult choice, but I’m going to go with the Thursday Night Football game. The Raiders’ no-show on Sunday Night Football, the Saints’ drubbing of the Panthers in Carolina, the Jets’ decisive victory (never thought I’d write that this season), the Bills’ upset of the Broncos, and especially the Bears’ overtime win over the Steelers all receive honorable mentions. None of them top the Rams and the 49ers turning in the game of the year-up to that point-in what was supposed to be another Thursday night snoozer.
Rams’ running back Todd Gurley awoke from his year-long slumber and erupted for three touchdowns. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was officially welcomed to his new team with a pair of touchdowns and over 100 receiving yards. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff led his team to 40 plus points for the second time in three games under new Head Coach and Miami alumni Sean McVay — the Rams only managed 40 plus points twice in five years under previous head coach Jeff Fisher!
Meanwhile, 49ers’ quarterback Brian Hoyer put on a show of his own by linking up with off-season addition wide receiver Pierre Garcon seven times for 142 yards. The 49ers scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to come up with a failed two-point conversion short of completing the comeback. It was a welcome offensive display following the disappointment of previous weeks, and it came courtesy of two of the league’s most maligned offenses. Luckily, it set the stage for surprising offensive explosions across the board.
Thanks for making it through another Made-Up Mailbag, and see you next time. Also, if you’d like to make the mailbag slightly less made-up, send me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Nschlete on Twitter.