NFL Roundtable: It's Tua time in Miami
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the National Football League. This week they weigh in on Tua Tagovailoa's shaky start, the Steelers' Super Bowl odds, and the league's midseason MVP.
Tua Tagovailoa won his first game as a starter. What were your impressions of the Dolphins QB?
Ashley: Tua is lucky Miami’s defense and special teams took enormous pressure off the rookie quarterback to generate points on offense. The Alabama product looked shaky in the first half, had some bad misses on intermediate and deep passes, and received a brutal introduction to NFL competition, when Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded a strip sack on Tua’s first dropback. Tua seemed to find some rhythm later in the game, but he didn’t look any better than Ryan Fitzpatrick as Miami’s starter.
James: Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t sharp, but Miami asked little of him after taking advantage of the unprepared Rams, who committed one mistake after another in the first half. Miami employed a very conservative approach by the midway point of the second quarter, basically sitting on an insurmountable lead the rest of the way, and ran just 48 plays in the dominant win. Tagovailoa completed only 12-of-22 passes for 95 yards, and missed some open passes, but it had the feel of a preseason game as Miami went through the motions in the second half. We’ll get a better gauge of Tagovailoa’s abilities against Arizona in Week 9.
Scott: The Dolphins moved to 4-3 with their victory versus the Rams in Week 8, but it had little to do with the play of rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa. The fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft struggled in his first start. The former University of Alabama star lost a fumble, missed some easy throws, and completed just 54.5% of his passes for 93 yards. He will need to play much better in Week 9 when Miami travels to Arizona to take on the Cardinals.
The Steelers are now 7-0 after downing the Ravens. Is Pittsburgh Super Bowl bound?
Ashley: No, I’m still not sold on the undefeated Steelers, even after a win against last year’s AFC North champion, Baltimore. Pittsburgh’s defense has been good against bad teams, but against Baltimore, it surrendered 457 yards, including 265 rushing. The Steelers offense hasn’t wowed me, and I don’t see them getting past a team like Kansas City in the playoffs.
James: I would describe it as a two-horse race between Kansas City and Pittsburgh. The Steelers showed their resiliency defeating Baltimore in Week 8, rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit and stopping the Ravens deep in their own territory on the game’s final drive. Pittsburgh has the necessary components to win a Super Bowl, but defending champion Kansas City would be a formidable adversary in the AFC title game. There’s little separating the teams presently in my estimation, but plenty of football still remains before the postseason.
Scott: The Steelers were out gained 457 to 221 in total yards, but took advantage of four Ravens turnovers to remain undefeated to start the season. There is no doubt that Pittsburgh is amongst the top contenders in the AFC, but I am not ready to crown them conference champions just yet. Their offense is still fairly inefficient and they are prone to giving up big pass plays against high quality aerial attacks. Kansas City is still the team to beat in the AFC.
We’re now at the midway point of the season. Who’s your pick for MVP?
Ashley: I still think the award is Russell Wilson’s to lose. Seattle’s defense is one of the worst in the league, and yet the Seahawks own just one loss because of Wilson’s leadership on offense. His 26 touchdown passes and 120.7 passer rating both rank first in the NFL, while his 2,151 passing yards rank fifth, behind four quarterbacks who have each played one more game than Wilson.
His poor outing in a road loss against the Cardinals hurt Wilson’s résumé some, but he bounced back for a win against division foe San Francisco, in which he completed 73% of his passes and recorded four more touchdown passes.
James: Russell Wilson. Seattle rebounded from their first loss with a convincing win over San Francisco, and Wilson led the way by completing 73% of his passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns. He’s thrown four or more touchdowns four times this season, and the 31-year-old has combined remarkable accuracy (71.5% completion) with a staggering 26 touchdowns through eight games. Wilson is on pace to throw the second-most touchdown passes in a single season, and he’s gunning for Peyton Manning’s record of 55 touchdown passes in 2013.
Scott: Russell Wilson is the clear cut MVP at the midway point of the 2020 season. Despite a poor defense, the Seahawks sit atop the incredibly strong NFC West with a record of 6-1. Wilson has thrown for 26 touchdowns and has led Seattle to an NFC leading 240 points scored through seven games. Barring an injury, the veteran signal caller should cruise to the Most Valuable Player award this year.