NFL Week 4 Cover-Two: Will Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater have the better starting debut?
Chris Burke and Doug Farrar discuss whether Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles will have the better starting debut, if the Raiders-Dolphins game will cost a coach his job and which team is in dire need of a win in Week 4.
Who performs better in his first regular-season start: Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles?
Chris Burke: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. This has as much to do with the matchups as anything. Whereas Bortles has to take the Jaguars to San Diego, up against a red-hot Chargers team. Like I said in this week's Tales of the Tape, Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will test Bridgewater via his shifting, amoeba defense. There are holes to be exploited, as both Drew Brees and the Cincinnati run game showed.
It would be preferable if both rookie quarterbacks had better situations around them -- Bortles will be behind a mess of an offensive line, with an injury-plagued receiving corps; Bridgewater's Vikings are still down the deactivated Adrian Peterson, and now TE Kyle Rudolph is ailing.
A friendlier environment tips the scales in Teddy's favor.
Doug Farrar: Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. While I really like what I've seen in Bridgewater, and believe he'll have a fine game against an Atlanta defense that really has trouble getting to the quarterback, Bortles intrigues me more against almost any defense for two reasons -- his ability to throw on the move and his fearlessness when hitting deep targets. Bortles has an unwavering belief in his deep arm, and he's very accurate when slinging the ball.
In addition, he's going to be far less impacted by Jacksonville's disastrous offensive line than Chad Henne was because he's able to create plays out of chaos... and at this point, the Jaguars' pass protection seems to be all about chaos. Bortles' style will lead to mistakes and turnovers, but I think he's a dynamic improviser, and that is what's needed in this particular offense.
Will the Oakland Raiders-Miami Dolphins game cost one coach his job?
Burke: If the Dolphins are on the losing end, maybe. Philbin may be on the verge of losing his team entirely. There were reports out of Miami last week that players were perturbed by the defensive game plan vs. Kansas City. Ryan Tannehill then told the media he would start in London, adding that Philbin's attempt to play coy on the quarterback issue caused a locker-room distraction.
On the other hand, even though the Raiders appear to be going nowhere fast, Derek Carr offers a glimmer of hope and there would be minimal benefit in cutting off Allen's rebuilding attempt after four games.
This is a Miami team that was expected to compete for a playoff spot in Philbin's third year -- they missed out in years one and two. But a loss to Oakland would leave the Dolphins 1-3 and riding a three-game losing streak. The requisite post-London bye week sort of sets up perfectly for an attempt to salvage the season by canning Philbin.
Farrar: Maybe not, but what is Joe Philbin doing? I don't know if Raiders head coach Dennis Allen will lose his job if his team loses this one to the Dolphins across the pond, but I do know that Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin seems to have issues with the overseer/CEO role that NFL head men must understand. There was his absolute befuddlement during the bullying scandal last year, and his handling of Tannehill's starting status this week has been an outright embarrassment. Philbin refused to commit to Tannehill as his starter, backup Matt Moore told the media that he hadn't taken any snaps in preparation for the Raiders, Tannehill came out and said publicly that he wished his coach had handled this better, and Philbin eventually had to make a sloppy mea culpa in which he still didn't clarify the situation.
Is Tannehill playing well? Not at all -- he's been a relative disappointment since the Dolphins selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft. But here, it's Philbin who has underperformed, and not for the first time. The Dolphins might want to take a look around at other options if this season starts to go under.
Team who needs to win in Week 4
Burke: New Orleans Saints. Carolina needed 12 victories to take the NFC South last season; Arizona missed the playoffs at 10-6. No matter how you slice it, the Saints are going to find themselves in a massive hole if they slip to 1-3 on Sunday night.
More than that, though, New Orleans' Rob Ryan-led defense badly needs to build off its Week 3 progress -- the Saints held Minnesota to 247 yards after after surrendering an average of 446 yards to Atlanta and Cleveland. The Cowboys offer far more tangible a threat than did Minnesota, with DeMarco Murray running the ball extremely well to complement a potent passing game.
These two teams met last season with the Saints rolling to a 49-17 victory. A repeat of that scoreline would be stunning given how the two teams have played this season.
"We’re really in a race to improve just like every other team in our league is," Sean Payton said. "We’re very early in the season. There’s a number of things that you can address on film that when you’re in weeks 14, 15 and 16 you hope you’re not seeing."
New Orleans better not wait that long to make its necessary corrections.
Farrar: Green Bay Packers. It's no secret that the Packers' offense is faltering of -- check this statistical breakdown for several reasons why -- and that's bad news for a Packers team that has relied heavily on Aaron Rodgers to carry the day despite defensive lapses and protection issues through the Mike McCarthy era.
This year, though, Rodgers has been stymied by predictable formations and play-calling, and an over-reliance on Jordy Nelson. The Bears will undoubtedly put Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Fuller on Nelson, and it really doesn't matter if the Chicago is woefully thin at the safety positions -- which they are -- if Rodgers doesn't test the defense downfield. He really didn't against the Lions last week, and that needs to change. If the Packers lose this one, they'll be 1-3, and 0-2 in the division, and nobody who follows the team will be "R-E-L-A-X-ing" as Rodgers has suggested.