Overreacting to Andrew Luck was a 2017 thing, remember? He was going to be back healthy for training camp. He was going to be back for the start of the season, for Week 2, for the second half ... too many he-was-gonnas to count. Luck didn't play in 2017, and the overreactions, as they do, ratcheted up. He's done. He'll never be the same. The Colts have wasted his prime.
Ah, we were all so young and naïve.
It's 2018, just about through 11 weeks, and it's time to start overreacting to Luck in the other direction. Andrew, congratulations. You are the lead item in this week's OVERREACTION MONDAY column.
Andrew Luck is a legitimate MVP candidate
Luck threw three touchdown passes in Sunday's victory over a Tennessee Titans team that smothered Tom Brady a week earlier. It is the seventh game in a row in which he has thrown at least three touchdown passes. The last time he had a single-game QBR under 92 (on a scale of 0-to-100, remember) was Oct. 14. The last time he took a sack was Oct. 4. The Colts, who were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league, are 5-5 and in the AFC wild-card picture.
Graziano's verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. I'm not saying he's a leading candidate, mind you. There are plenty of those, from Patrick Mahomes to Drew Brees to Todd Gurley to Ben Roethlisberger. If the season ended today, I couldn't advocate for Luck as the winner of the MVP award. But how can he not be in the discussion at this point? Only Mahomes has thrown more touchdown passes. Only Brees, Mahomes, Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky ranked ahead of Luck in Total QBR as of Sunday morning, and his went up. The Colts won only four games last year without him and already have five wins this year. Sure, there are other factors (not the least of which is his career-best pass protection), but it's hard to say Luck's return hasn't been valuable to his team. If nothing else, he looks like a front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year.
Joe Flacco has played his last snap for the Ravens
Rookie Lamar Jackson got his first start at quarterback, and the Ravens broke a three-game losing streak. Coincidence? That's the key question when considering what to do about Flacco when/if he returns from his hip injury. The offense obviously looks a lot different with Jackson running it than it did with Flacco running it, but it's not as if Baltimore was lighting the world on fire with Flacco behind center. They're still in the playoff hunt, with jobs other than Flacco's on the line, and will have to decide which guy gives them the best chance to win over their final six games..
Graziano's verdict: OVERREACTION. I'm a big Jackson fan and believe he'll be Baltimore's starter next year. My understanding is that they've been working on a new offense, centered more on Jackson's skill set, that will debut along with Jackson-as-starter. But it's clear that that's not ready yet, and Sunday's game plan was designed for a guy who's still coming along, especially as a passer. It's hard to imagine Baltimore muscling its way into this year's playoffs by running the ball 54 times again and throwing it 19. If Flacco's hip allows him to get back, I say he starts again this year before the team moves on in the offseason.
The Saints won't lose again until next September
All due respect to this week's brilliant Monday Night Football matchup, but what's going on in New Orleans has to be making the rest of the league wonder why it's even trying. The Saints blew out the Super Bowl champion Eagles 48-7 on Sunday, a week after dropping 51 points on the Bengals and two weeks after dropping 45 points on the previously unbeaten Rams. New Orleans has won nine games in a row since its season-opening loss to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs, and the Saints are playing as if that game made them mad at the whole entire world.
Graziano's verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Again, the Saints were my preseason pick to win it all, and I see no reason to move off of that pick at this point. The only reason to think the Saints won't run the table is that their schedule is pretty tough. They still have to play the almost-as-hot-as-they-are Steelers, plus the second-place Panthers twice in their final three games. Plus, they have a trip to Dallas, where the Cowboys are 3-1 this year. The rules of probability dictate that they're unlikely to win all of those tough matchups, not to mention a couple of playoff games and the Super Bowl. But five weeks ago, I don't think the rules of probability said they'd be averaging 39.6 points a game while sweeping through the Ravens/Vikings/Rams/Bengals/Eagles stretch of their schedule, either. The Saints don't seem to care much about probability ... or anything else right now.
The Houston Texans will get a first-round bye
The only team with a longer winning streak than the Texans' current seven is ... yeah, the Saints. With whom we just dealt. Houston's latest victory came Sunday on the road in Washington after Alex Smith got knocked out with a broken leg, Colt McCoy brought Washington back to take the lead, Ka'imi Fairbairn hit a 54-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter and Dustin Hopkins' 62-yard game-winning attempt fell short. The Texans are 7-3 and two games clear of the rest of the AFC South. Four of their remaining six games -- including the next three -- are at home, and they don't play another team all year that currently has a winning record.
Graziano's verdict: OVERREACTION. Full tip of the cap to a seven-game winning streak. That deserves respect. It's hard to win in the NFL, and it's crazy-hard to win literally every week. But the Texans' streak isn't the Saints' streak. It includes two overtime wins -- one in which the Colts went for it on fourth down in their own territory in overtime -- and a missed Broncos field goal. Houston's plus-34 point differential is worse than that of any other NFL division leader but Washington, so it's not as if they're dominating teams. Plus, the Chiefs and Steelers both currently have better records and the Patriots have the same one as the Texans do. Of those teams, which two do you expect to finish behind Houston when it's all said and done?
Aaron Rodgers will be playing for a new head coach in 2019
Week 11 started with a thriller in Seattle, but the butt end of that went to Green Bay, which lost to fall to 4-5-1 and 2.5 games out of first place. Rodgers has authored miracle finishes before, so that can't be ruled out. But with a 1-1-1 division record, both Chicago and Minnesota in front of them and their remaining games against those two teams on the road, the Packers are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for a second year in a row.
Graziano's verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. It is, unfortunately, the time of year when we must begin speculating about where the six to eight annual head-coaching openings are going to pop up. And unless the Packers do get into the playoffs somehow, the speculation among those in the league who follow these things is that Green Bay will move on from Mike McCarthy after 13 years, six division titles and one Super Bowl victory. If that happens, it's not crazy to imagine McCarthy moving right into another head-coaching job à la Andy Reid in 2013. The Browns' front office is loaded with former Green Bay guys -- just saying -- and that job already is open.