NFL Friday Stoots six-pack: Rodgers, the Bengals and more

Should Aaron Rodgers stay on the sideline this week? Getty Images


The Friday Six Pack has a few thoughts from me from around the NFL and some thoughts on the Texans heading into the weekend. 

1. Aaron Rodgers would be foolish to play this weekend. The Vikings have one of the best defenses in football and will get after Rodgers as much if not more than the Bears. If a few weeks of rest will improve his situation Green Bay needs to take the opportunity. The Packers need to get as close to double-digit wins as possible and risking Rodgers in Week 2 isn't the way to do it. This is the exact reason they tried to upgrade their backup quarterback spot. Now, if for some reason rest wouldn't help Rodgers, play him until his leg falls off. 

2. Can the Bengals with the AFC North? Sure. Will they? Damn, they might! Having watched a good portion of both their games Andy Dalton actually looks like a consistently decent quarterback which hasn't always been the case especially lately. The Ravens certainly aren't winning this division with Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Browns aren't winning either. That leaves the Bengals and the Steelers. Is Pittsburgh going to rally around Le'Veon Bell's absence? Only can help so much. Conner isn't Bell but he sure looked good. 

3. We will all learn a lot more about the Steelers and Browns on Sunday. It won't tell us everything but if Pittsburgh struggles again the Bell absence might be a really tough obstacle. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs put it on the Chargers last week and they travel to the Steel City on Sunday. The other half of the opening weekend tie was Cleveland. The Browns head to New Orleans and face a disgraced Saints team who was embarrassed last week. If Cleveland plays the Saints close they actually might be an improved team. If the Saints blow them out, week one luck. 

4. If the Texans are close to being full strength at wide receiver the Texans might have an interesting roster decision or two to make. It seems they might have kept six wideouts with Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, and Sammie Coates all dealing with hamstring injuries early in the season. Coates was active last game. Fuller talked like he will be back tearing up the Titans like he always does. Coutee seems to be a little further away. Last year against the Titans saw Fuller catch two touchdowns on just four receptions. The Titans will have Adoree Jackson in his second year and Malcolm Butler is new to their secondary. 

5. Rishard Matthews and Luke Stocker are the only pass catchers with more than two years of experience on the Titans roster. The Texans may be short on significant depth at cornerback but Johnathan Joseph and Aaron Colvin are more than equipped to hold down this Titans passing attack on the outside while they figure out the inside attack. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur comes from the Rams who used a lot of three wide receiver sets. Shareece Wright and the safeties will have to account for the other wideout and Jonnu Smith, the second year player who is expected to get the majority of the tight end time for Tennessee. 

6. Deshaun Watson will showcase right away how much he can improve from week to week. It's been rare we have had to see Watson bounce back or even had the opportunity to ask it of him. He had so many dazzling performances last year there's a chance this is his first real NFL rebound opportunity. Bill O'Brien will be important here in helping Watson along and getting him comfortable with his gameplan early. Things to look for with Watson are quicker decision making to go along with trust in his offensive line. More than a few times Watson broke a pocket good enough to make a solid throw creating the appearance of bad offensive line play. 

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5 questions on the John Wall trade

The Rockets made a big move. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets point guard carousel continued to spin Wednesday night, as the Woj bomb-iest of Houston-related Woj bombs erupted in the Space City:

For the third year in a row, the Rockets will begin the season with a new point guard, in an attempt to finally find someone that can play alongside James Harden. Let's take a look at how the Rockets got to this point, and what it means moving forward.

What led to the trade?

Russell Westbrook simply wanted out. Westbrook is the type of player that needs to be the number one ball handler and that simply wasn't ever going to happen on a James Harden led team. Other reports cited Westbrook's frustration with the lack of accountability and casual atmosphere within the locker room. Ultimately if anyone was going to be moved between Harden and Westbrook, it was always going to be Westbrook.

Why John Wall?

This one is another fairly straightforward answer: they both have relatively similar contracts. Each is making an absurdly overpriced $40 million this season, and both were disgruntled with their current team. Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard tossed the idea around a few weeks ago, but couldn't find a deal they liked. It was reported that discussions resumed Wednesday afternoon and within a few hours the deal was done in an almost one-for-one swap.

How does Wall fit?

This is a little more complicated because it's not exactly known what head coach Stephen Silas' game plan is. It's also difficult to predict whether or not Harden will still be on the roster when the season starts. But let's assume that Harden takes the court for the Rockets and that Silas' system resembles something similar to what we've seen in Houston for the past few years. In that case, Wall would be a slight upgrade to Westbrook. Westbrook is more athletic than Wall, but when healthy Wall was no slouch. In addition he's a much better defensive player and has much better court vision than Westbrook. Westbrook's assists were usually a bailout after attacking the lane with his head down, while Wall is more likely to set up a teammate.

This isn't to say that Wall doesn't need the ball though. He's fairly ball dominant, but not nearly as much as Westbrook. Harden proved last season that he's capable of effectively playing off the ball if necessary, so it seems like a better fit from a distribution rate alone. If they can find that sweet spot like they did with Chris Paul and stagger the lineups so that each star gets their own time to create, there's potential for an improved Rockets team more reminiscent of their 2018 run than the past two years.

What are the best and worst case scenarios?

The worst case is that the Rockets were sold a lemon. Wall has potential to be an upgrade, but comes with huge risk. He last took the court in 2018, where he was sidelined with a knee injury. He subsequently ruptured his Achilles in an accident at his home while recovering from the knee injury, forcing Wall off the court for almost two years. It's possible an extremely unfortunate Wall reinjures something and completely derails the machinations of the trade. Even if he's recovered fully, it will take time to get him up to game speed which could frustrate Harden on a team that can't afford a slow start in their stacked conference. Harden has managed to cultivate drama with just about every co-star he's played with, so there's no reason to assume this attempt would go any better. If things turn sour, Harden could be out the door even quicker than expected.

The best case scenario is that Wall arrives ready to play team basketball and resembles the better part of his pre-injury form. Wall and Harden buy into Silas' new system, space the floor, and take turns carving up the lane with dribble drives and kick outs to players who can actually hit from distance. This version of the Rockets could potentially be a 3-seed in this year's Western Conference.

Who won the trade?

At the moment the Rockets. Not only did they remove at least one of their locker room distractions, but they also gain a first round pick. If Wall can stay healthy and Silas can keep both stars happy, this team should be a lot more fun to watch than last season's clunker.

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