By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
I’m not sure how it happened. Just like the rest of 2020, the first quarter of the season has flown by. It is hard to believe that we are already a quarter of the way through the 2020 season, and yet, it seems like it’s been forever since preseason was canceled.
While the NFL seemed to have a good handle on the COVID-19 protocols, and the season would go off without much of a hitch, this last week has proven that they aren’t completely out of the woods.
We have seen some fans in the stands, but most are still empty, which in turn has seemed to have spurred on a scoring frenzy in the games. The 2020 season so far has the highest average score of any season in history. No fans, no fan noise, no interference in offensive communications.
With the exception of injuries, the AFC West has had a pretty decent start to the season, especially if you have a quarterback named Mahomes. While two teams only have a single win under their belt, they have all fought hard and kept most of the games pretty close.
Let’s take a look at how each team is fairing in this first quarter, and what the next few games may bring.
Kansas City Chiefs 4-0
The undefeated Chiefs are exactly what most thought they would be in 2020…a Super Bowl contender. While they haven’t dominated every game, needing overtime and a 58-yard kick to save the game against the Los Angeles Chargers, they are definitely a team with more upside than down.
QB Patrick Mahomes has already thrown for over 1100 yards and has 11 touchdowns on the year. While their game against the New England Patriots wasn’t a showcase for him, he has proven that he can rise to just about any occasion to find the win.
Tight end Travis Kelce has a team-leading 297 receiving yards, but that isn’t a surprise knowing he is one of Mahomes’ favorite targets. I think what is surprising is the revitalization of the running game in KC. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a huge part of the season’s success with 304 rushing yards, averaging 4.3 yards a carry.
Looking ahead to the next couple of weeks, the Chiefs have two divisional matches and a big Thursday Night Football game against the also undefeated Buffalo Bills. The Thursday night game could be their toughest match up so far and should be a fantastic game.
Las Vegas Raiders 2-2
The Raiders started out HOT! They fought through and won a tough game against the Carolina Panthers, then against the odds, beat a very talented New Orleans Saints team by 10 points. They then cooled a bit as they ran headfirst into two strong opponents in the Patriots and Bills.
Second-year RB Josh Jacobs looks as fantastic as he did last year, with 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. Like the Chiefs, the Raiders top receiver is also their top tight end, Darren Waller who has 247 yards and a TD. The QB question marks seem to have settled itself in Las Vegas. QB Derek Carr has just under 1100 yards, with 8 TDs, with a completion rate of 73%.
The team did have an issue, but it was off the field. The team was fined, along with several players, due to violating COVID-19 rules the NFL had set down. Multiple players were at a large gathering/charity function where the guests weren’t wearing masks, and neither were the players. This caused quite a stir among NFL brass, seeing as the league had been doing so well up to then.
Coming up for the Raiders is a long list of tough games. In the next few weeks, they face Kansas City, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cleveland Browns. All three games are must-wins if they plan to keep up with the division-leading Chiefs.
Denver Broncos 1-3
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the Denver Broncos just can’t catch a break. They currently have 11 players on injured reserve. They are “more injured” than any other time in team history. And yet…this team is SO talented. Or should have been, or maybe still will be. Until some of these players get back, we won’t know.
Denver has had 3 QBs lead this team in 4 games, Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Jeff Driskel. Between them, they have thrown for almost 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. A solid start, if it was just one QB. Rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is exactly as advertised. And while he only has 1 touchdown, he is averaging 15 yards a catch. The addition of Melvin Gordon has been a huge boost to the offense, which with Lock going down, a good running game is essential.
The Broncos defense has also shown itself to be more than just defensive end Von Miller, who is out for the season. They have 10 sacks on the season, 20 tackles for loss, and seem to be getting stronger each game.
If Denver is smart, they won’t rush back their players from injury. If they play the long game and do it right, this team could be good down the stretch, and very good next year.
The next few games are going to be a tall order for this beat-up team, but I wouldn’t put it past them to win one or two.
Los Angeles Chargers 1-3
It’s hard to be mad at the Chargers for their 1-3 record. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first week, then almost beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a surprise week 2 battle. And then in week 4, rookie QB Justin Herbert outplayed THE Tom Brady for 3 quarters…before Brady turned into the Brady we know and won out in the end. This team has surprised many and given hope to the franchise’s fans.
While the way Herbert took over the helm from QB Tyrod Taylor was sad, Taylor’s lung was punctured by a team doctor, it has shown that Herbert is their QB of the future. The rookie out of Oregon had an 80% completion rate against Tampa Bay and had a 137 rating. He has looked more than solid in every game he has played, with the exception of a few rookie mistakes.
Having a strong run game has helped. RBs Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, they have 422 rushing yards. Add in the forever young WR Keenan Allen and fantasy football darling TE Hunter Henry, this team’s offense has a lot of weapons and star power. And while their defense hasn’t been as crushing as many thought it would be, it has been enough to allow this team to stay in games until the end.
While the Chargers face the Saints next week, they then have a few favorable games in the weeks following. I don’t expect them to stay a one-win team for long.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG