Football

Headline hype: Why some early season NFL stories will ultimately prove to be illusions

Well, Tom Brady is washed up. And his relationship with Bill Belichick is irreparable.

The New England Patriots as we know it are finished.

On the flip side, it’s time to get Hall of Fame jackets ready for Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes. Indeed, the Browns’ and Chiefs’ respective quarterbacks are the future of the NFL. And then there’s the Bucs’ Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Fitzmagic as they’re calling him), who might not be a first-ballot hall of famer after Monday night’s performance, but he’s surely destined for Canton now, right?

And yes, the league is ruined because of new, touchier roughing the passer penalties.

Those are just some of the spicy headlines circulating just three weeks into the NFL season.

Wait, what’s that playing in my head? Yes, it’s the famous “Hold up” line by Nate Dogg in Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode.”

Pump the breaks. Slow down. Stop.

Even for the NFL, it’s way too early to start making major assumptions. We’re through Week 3, guys. That’s three games. And while none of those were literal headlines, they were indicative of the overhyping that’s going on already.

The exaggeration really started to seep into my brain Thursday night, when Mayfield indeed was incredible in leading the Browns to a comeback win over the New York Jets after coming in for a concussed Tyrod Taylor. From my couch, I could feel the buzz in FirstEnergy Stadium (fitting name for how Thursday night played out) change when the No. 1 draft pick lined up under center.

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David Wetzel, The Sun News sports columnist Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

He was electric. He was shooting darts everywhere. He looked like a machine built to lift the Browns from the doldrums of the last two seasons when they won a combined one game. He looked like the savior.

And the media sure bought in during halftime analysis, postgame analysis and next-day analysis. By then, I was exhausted by it all. It was one game, folks. But now he’s the starter and soon we’ll find out how he follows it up. And in the coming years we’ll see if opposing defenses can adjust and figure him out (think Dak Prescott) or not.

Geographically, Canton isn’t far from Cleveland, but can we please wait a little bit before the enshrinement?

Mahomes, on the other hand, has done it over three games. Yes, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s been amazing, no doubt. But three games isn’t a huge sample size for a guy starting for the first time after watching from the sidelines in his first season as a backup. Here’s a unique idea: How about we wait and see?

Now for the doom and gloom.

Everyone seems to be writing the Patriots off already. Tom Brady is 41, the team is 1-2 and it’s coming off back-to-back losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. There’s a disconnect between Belichick and Brady. The sky is falling - that’s what we’re hearing already.

Chill. If there’s any team that can right the ship it’s this one. A 1-2 start isn’t ideal, but all this team needs to have a shot is to make the playoffs, and I can’t remember a time when it didn’t. So keep doubting the Patriots if you want, but I feel like we’re all going to wake up later this season and see them sitting at 11-5.

And then there’s Clay Matthews. He’s essentially become the face of the new, stricter roughing the passer rulings. He has a legitimate beef, especially after being called for it this past weekend when he sacked Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, who also acknowledged the calls this year have been a bit puzzling.

It’s time to break out the flags for quarterbacks to wear, right? Or maybe two-hand touch for QBs only? Relax.

The NFL has reportedly scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss the calls.

Lastly, let’s talk about the Bearded One (no, not James Harden), good ole Fitzmagic. The guy has been a rock star; heck, he even dressed like one in Week 2’s postgame press conference. But can he keep it up?

It’s hard to tell considering his up-and-down track record over his career. But even with a three-interception first half on Monday night, he nearly rallied the Bucs to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers as Tampa Bay lost 30-27 despite trailing 30-10 at halftime. As the magic was seeming to wear off and the return of Jameis Winston from a three-game suspension came nearer, poof, the magician reappeared.

It seems Fitzpatrick will keep the job for at least one more week, though Dirk Koetter has been vague in answering that question thus far.

But, as with all these cases, it’s important to remember one thing: The NFL always has a way of balancing itself out.

Few things are ever as good as they seem and rarely are they as bad as they appear. The NFL in a lot of ways is like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average; no matter how hot or cold they start, they always seem to wind up where they always do.

That’s not to say the NFL repeats itself every year. Instead, it repeats itself each year by having few guarantees, which in recent years have been teams such as the Patriots and Steelers. But outside of that, surprise is the norm. But so are flukes.

Therefore, while you sit there and watch as players and teams are anointed the best thing since sliced bread each week, take it with a grain of salt. Things aren’t always as they appear, and it’s a long season.

The overreactions will continue because that’s just what happens when a sport has so much media attention. For now, I’m going to merely enjoy watching the games and try not to turn into Nostradamus.

We can talk again in 14 weeks. Until then, enjoy the show.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295
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