You get to Week 9 and you’re thinking about overreactions and you get to worrying a little bit. I mean, half a season has gone by at this point. Can our reactions really still be overreactions at this point? Or is the stuff that happens from here on out just the stuff that’s supposed to happen, and we’re reacting appropriately?
And then, someone goes and loses to the Dolphins, and Overreaction Monday is saved! For more, check out NFL Live at 2:30 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN and the ESPN app.
The Jets’ hiring of Adam Gase was a mistake
The Jets became the first team to lose to the Dolphins, whose front office has spent the past eight months willingly subverting the quality of its roster in an effort to amass as many 2020 and 2021 NFL draft picks as possible. This is an inexcusable loss, and it came in inexcusable fashion, at the hands of former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami built a 21-7 lead on three second-quarter FitzMagic touchdown throws and uncharacteristically held on, as the Jets scored nothing but field goals and a safety after the first quarter.
The Jets are now 1-7, which is the same record as the Dolphins, who — again — are not trying to field a competitive roster for this season.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. And this isn’t because of the record, or because of Gase’s inexcusable loss to his former team, though those certainly aren’t points in his favor. If the Jets were suffering through another miserable, Jets-ian season and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold were showing real progress, things wouldn’t look so bad for Gase.
Remember, he is supposed to be a quarterback guy, and one of the main reasons they fired defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles and brought in Gase was to help with Darnold’s development. Darnold appears to be regressing in some key ways, and if the Jets get to the end of this season and he’s not on an upward trajectory, that’s the indictment that could make Gase one-and-done.
The whole thing is a mess. The Jets’ big offensive line trade acquisition got released after feuding with the medical staff, their best defensive player is mad they answered the phone about him at the trade deadline and their big free-agent running back signing was upset a week ago about not getting enough touches. Gase moved out general manager Mike MacCagnan and handpicked Joe Douglas to replace him, so you’d think he has a lot of power and could survive this. But there’s a lot of time for it to get a lot uglier. And if it does, there could be major changes in Florham Park for the second offseason in a row.
The Dolphins messed up by winning
The flip side, of course, is that with the win, the Dolphins are no longer in line for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. The winless Bengals would hold that pick at this point, with the one-win Jets, Falcons and Washington right behind, depending on how the schedule shakes out. Imagine dropping from the No. 1 pick to the No. 5 pick in one afternoon!
Those who believe the Dolphins are “Tanking for Tua” or intentionally trying to get the No. 1 pick would surely say winning Sunday was a mistake.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Those who believe the Dolphins are “Tanking for Tua” or intentionally trying to get the No. 1 pick are wrong, and haven’t been reading the stuff I’ve been writing. (And shame on them for that. Their loss.)
This is not the NBA, where teams have to get the No. 1 pick so they can get a franchise-changing superstar. The Dolphins’ plan is not centered around picking first. It’s centered around picking as often as possible in the early rounds — or amassing those picks so they can move up to No. 1 or No. 2 or wherever they feel they need to get. The Dolphins have three first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2020, and two first-rounders and two second-rounders in 2021. They are set up to control both of those drafts, whether they end up with the first pick, the second pick, the eighth pick or whatever.
And yes, they need to get a quarterback, but (A) very few people around the league are certain at this point that Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa will be the No. 1 pick anyway, and (B) there are lots of avenues for getting a quarterback when a team has that many high picks. The Dolphins aren’t upset about winning that game, I promise you that. Not even in the front office.
The Browns are done
This was supposed to be the week the turnaround started. Cleveland was playing a Broncos team starting Brandon Allen at quarterback. The first-place Ravens were playing the Sunday night game against New England. The Steelers were playing the Colts without James Conner. This was the week for the Browns to shake off their miserable start to the season, gain ground on the rest of the AFC North and start a second-half run that made good on their preseason expectations.
They came up short. A failed fourth-down attempt in the final four minutes doomed their potential game-winning drive, and the Browns lost to the Broncos to fall to 2-6 at the midway point.
Ryan Clark and Tim Hasselbeck break down the Browns’ road loss to the Broncos, with Hasselbeck pointing to the culture for the team’s struggles.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. No team that started 2-6 has made the playoffs under the current playoff format, which began in 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Info. And if you were looking for hope for the Browns, you were pointing out Sunday morning that they were in line to face the second-easiest schedule of any team in the league over the final nine weeks. Even after Sunday, the rest of their schedule looks pretty soft.
The problem is, the Browns look like the soft part of those other teams’ schedules. The Broncos were part of the Browns’ soft schedule! You have to beat the Broncos, who have traded their best receiver and put their starting quarterback on IR over the past two weeks.
The Browns didn’t, and after the Ravens upset the Patriots, Cleveland is four full games behind first-place Baltimore and two behind the suddenly resurgent second-place Steelers. That’s a big hill to climb, soft schedule or not, and the Browns can only do it if they start to play better. After eight games, it’s clear that that’s a big “if.”
Gardner Minshew has started his last game of the season
Minshew Mania is nearing its end, as Nick Foles‘ much-ballyhooed and nattily mustachioed injury replacement threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles in the Jaguars’ 26-3 loss to the Texans in London. The Jags are now 4-5, two full games behind first-place Houston and a game and a half behind second-place Indianapolis in the AFC South.
And for all the hype about Minshew and the way he has helped the Jags win games in Foles’ absence, his Total QBR has been under 40 in three of his past four starts.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Foles, who signed a free-agent contract that included $45.125 million in full guarantees, was back at practice last week. The Jaguars are off in Week 10. Foles is eligible to return from injured reserve, and with two weeks to prepare as the starter, it makes complete sense for Jacksonville to switch back to the quarterback it identified in the offseason as the man for its franchise.
It’s fantastic that the Jags know they have a backup capable of playing in the league and winning games. It’s vital to have that, and frankly, Foles’ contract is proof, as he earned it by being maybe the best fill-in quarterback in NFL history in Philadelphia. But that’s the role for Minshew if Foles is healthy, and I believe that’s what the Jaguars will do in Week 11.
The Eagles will win the NFC East
Philly held off the Bears for a big 22-14 home victory Sunday and is now 5-4 — one game behind the first-place Cowboys, who play the Giants on Monday Night Football (8:15 ET on ESPN and the ESPN app). The Eagles have won two in a row and are getting healthier, and their schedule the rest of the way includes games against Washington and Miami and two still against the Giants. They get the Cowboys at home in Week 16, which could mean a chance to take the division from Dallas head-to-head depending on how other tiebreakers shake out.
You could make the case that the Eagles have survived the toughest part of their season and are set up for another second-half run.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Don’t get me wrong — they absolutely could win the division. History really favors them, actually, since Dallas won it last season and no team has repeated as NFC East champs since the Eagles did it in 2003 and ’04.
But the Eagles are anything but home-free here. They come out of the bye in two weeks with a pair of tough home games against the Patriots and Seahawks before moving into the softer portion of their schedule. DeSean Jackson was back Sunday but still doesn’t look all the way right. And even healthy, the secondary is going to be a question mark.
They’re talented enough to win it, for sure, and if Dallas somehow slips up and loses Monday night, Philly’s chances will improve a lot. But if Dallas wins, the Cowboys are 4-0 in the division, including a victory over Philadelphia. There is a long way to go in this race, and you can’t call the Eagles the favorites just yet.