We start by reflecting on the first week of the 2020 NFL season. Most teams — kickers aside — looked to be in shape despite the absence of a preseason, although some appear more dangerous than others. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins is making the Arizona Cardinals very fun to watch, and a healthy Cam Newton is showing why the power run is so hard to defend against in New England. On the flip side, Tom Brady continued his streak of throwing interceptions, and Carson Wentz had maybe the worst day of any quarterback; the Philadelphia Eagles certainly had the worst drop in terms of our Elo ratings. There’s still a lot to learn about how every team is going to perform this season, but the entire Hot Takedown crew is united in hoping that Washington permanently adopts the clunky, quaint “Football Team” nickname. It really is fun to say.
Next, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter Chris Herring joins to talk about what’s ahead for the Houston Rockets now that they’ve crashed out of the NBA playoffs. The short answer is that they don’t have a ton of good options. They went all in on winning this year with the addition of Russell Westbrook, whose inefficiency as a shooter undoes a lot of the statistically minded style of play that former coach Mike D’Antoni championed. Chris doesn’t think a new coach alone will keep Houston in contention. They don’t have a ton of room to maneuver, either, with the contracts they’re still on the hook for. Unthinkable as it may seem, now might the time for the Rockets to at least see what trading James Harden would get them. Otherwise, they’re a bit stuck.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Sara digs into what the WNBA’s playoff system would look like transposed onto a different league. The WNBA’s setup heavily favors top seeds — who get two byes, as the Nos. 3 through 8 seeds battle it out in single-elimination matchups — maybe more than any other major sports league’s playoffs. While this certainly feels fairer for basketball than a more series-focused sport like baseball, Sara thought it would be fun to see how the 2019 MLB postseason could have played out if the seeding really mattered. That it led to the Minnesota Twins making the World Series is purely coincidental.
What we’re looking at this week: