3-Wide is a weekly feature in which theScore’s NFL editors debate the hot topics around the league. Grab a cold towel and brace for hot takes.
Will the Patriots go undefeated?
Arun Srinivasan: There’s no margin of error here, but the Patriots possess a very good chance of becoming the first undefeated team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. It’s the lone accomplishment that has eluded Tom Brady, who came so close to reaching this feat in 2008, before being upset by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Look at it this way: A 14-2 Patriots team that won the Super Bowl just became significantly better during the offseason. The Patriots are completely locked in and operate in another tier right now, and will go unbeaten.
Mitch Sanderson: I’ll say no. It’s certainly conceivable as they will be rightfully favored in every game they play this season, but the unpredictability of the NFL will take down the Patriots at least once. The Browns shouldn’t have won any games last season, but they did. The Patriots play the Broncos, Raiders, and Steelers in the second half of the season, as well as two games against the Bills, who have been known to surprise New England from time to time. The Patriots also know that 16-0 is overrated if there’s no Super Bowl attached.
David P. Woods: Of course not. It’s nearly impossible to go undefeated, as history has shown us, and despite their offseason additions the Patriots are far from a perfect team. The defense is suspect, with the pass-rush a potentially major weak point, and there are several teams on the Patriots’ schedule capable of exploiting this. A 12-14 win season that earns the Patriots yet another first-round playoff bye is realistic, but 16-0 is not.
Are the Titans the AFC South favorite?
Sanderson: With the addition of Eric Decker, the Titans have become the most well-rounded offense in the division. They looked destined to take the AFC South last year before Marcus Mariota’s injury. With the uncertainty of the Texans’ quarterback position and the large amount of turnover on the Colts’ roster, the Titans are ready to start hot and keep control as the new division favorites.
Woods: It’s hard to pick a favorite in a division that in recent years has featured some very poor play. The Titans look to have the best offense on paper (they might have the best offensive line, running backs, and receiving corps in the division – and is Marcus Mariota really so far behind Andrew Luck for the title of best passer?), but the Titans’ defense is far from a lock to perform. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have built a defensive unit that has the chance to be elite, and the prospect of a healthy J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the field together for the Texans still looms.
Srinivasan: In a matter of 17 months, the Titans have undergone a drastic renovation and are well-positioned to capture the AFC South. Mariota is poised for a true breakout campaign and should push Andrew Luck as the division’s best quarterback. The Titans are well-balanced on both sides of the ball and made a number of quiet, astute upgrades. With the rest of the division sporting question marks of their own, the Titans may be the safest bet in the always-volatile AFC South.
Was it too early to make Derek Carr the NFL’s highest-paid player?
Woods: Yes, but the Raiders had no choice but to do it anyhow. Carr is a tier below the NFL’s elite quarterbacks and there is reason to believe he will never ascend to that level. Carr is still too loose with his mechanics and throws too many interceptable passes for someone with his level of elite blocking. But this is how quarterback contracts work; every subsequent top-12 quarterback who signs breaks the record. Carr won’t stay on top for long with Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins both likely to get new deals in the near future.
Srinivasan: It’s not too early to make Carr the NFL’s highest-paid player as the quarterback is directly responsible for the Raiders’ turnaround from laughingstock to Super Bowl contender. At 26, Carr is just entering his prime and is positioned to lead the Raiders into the playoffs for several years to come. There’s no point in alienating your foundational piece for no reason and general manager Reggie McKenzie should be lauded for being proactive, in giving Carr the deal he deserves.
Sanderson: One winning season and one 30-touchdown campaign should not warrant the highest salary in the league for a fourth-year quarterback, but the current climate of the quarterback position in the NFL requires a deal gets done now. The Raiders were going to have to spend big on Carr at some point and if they waited much longer, the price would be higher. Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan could all drive the salary bar up in the next calendar year, so if the Raiders let Carr play out his deal and stick the franchise tag on him in 2018, they would need to spend even more to lock him up long term.
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