It seems like only yesterday the Denver Broncos squeaked out a 21-20 victory versus the Carolina Panthers. Heading into Week 5, the 2016 campaign is as unpredictable as ever. Here are three things to take away through the first quarter of the season.
Return of the Purple People Eaters?
When Teddy Bridgewater just days before kickoff, the Minnesota Vikings season was in jeopardy. When Adrian Peterson went down on September 18th against the Green Bay Packers, their season was all but over. Or so we thought.
The Vikings defense were able to limit the Packers to just fourteen points to the surprise of everyone. Sam Bradford was able to generate enough points to seal the win in their home opener.
The following week, they turned the tables against the Carolina Panthers. After falling behind 10-2 in the first quarter, the defense the ball out of Kelvin Benjamin’ hands and the Panthers scoreless for the rest of the game. Bradford and company pounded the defense into submission in route to the Panthers’ first home loss since November 2014. The Vikings trounced the New York Giants to be 4-0 on the season at the quarter point.
It’s too early to tell if the Vikings will win the division again as they don’t have Bridgewater and Peterson at the helm. But it looks promising as their defense has held 3 Super Bowl quarterbacks to fourteen or less points and a competent offense. If they can steady the course through the season, the Purple Eaters may rule the Old Norse once again.
We chalked up the season opener loss against the Denver Broncos to simply losing to a better team. But in the weeks since that game, the Carolina Panthers don’t seem like themselves.
The Panthers looked like their old selves against a lesser team in the San Francisco 49ers. But the arrival of the Vikings in week 3 soon changed their tune.
The Vikings, like the Broncos, got physical with the Panthers which opened a can of works for the home team. Cam Newton turned the ball over three times and was shut out for the remainder of the game. Things only got worse the following week.
In a feat that surprised many, the vaunted Panthers defense had no answer for Julio Jones as he went 12 receptions for 300 yards. The Panthers even had the Falcons’ bottom tier defense looking somewhat competent as they couldn’t get into a rhythm. A Newton-less Panthers team fell to 1-3 in an embarrassing lost.
The Panthers are going into week 5 with the possibly of Newton being out due to a concussion. To complicate the situation, they’re starting two rookie cornerbacks against stellar tight end Mike Evans. Monday night will show us if the Panthers will keep it pounding or suffer the same fate as previous Super Bowl runner-ups.
Rookies of the Quarter
Everyone expected Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz to start the season due to injuries and trades. No one expected them to come out the gate with a winning record.
Wentz put a solid performance against the Cleveland Browns at home and had a good showing versus the Bears. But his coming out party came against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He threw for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns to assist the Eagles upsetting the Steelers 34-3. What made the game even more impressive is that Wentz registered zero turnovers against the stout Steelers defense.
Prescott almost managed to win his season opener against the Giants had it not been for bad clock management in the closing minutes of game. But he made up for that as he marched the Dallas Cowboys down the field for the game-winning touchdown against the Washington Redskins. Not surprisingly, he was able to handle the Chicago Bears with relative ease but his resolve became apparent against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Down 14-0 early, Prescott led a comeback that resulted in the Cowboys third straight win and growing support from Cowboys fans for the young quarterback.
When it comes to rookie quarterbacks, it’s far too early to know if Wentz and Prescott will pan out in this difficult league. But if they can continue to learn and grow, we may see both players shine beyond the 2016 season.
The first quarter of the 2016 season has given us good teams that have gone bad and bad teams that have become good. One can only imagine what the next four weeks will bring NFL fans everywhere.