Regardless of how evil or immoral you think the NFL is, it kicked off its season yesterday with the typical drama you know and love (No need to feel guilty).
Before we get into my thoughts on Week 1, the general summation I have is that parity is abound everywhere. Ultimately not much separates a top 5 team from a top 20 team. Things like a crucial catch (see TE Lance Kendricks against Seattle) or clock mismanagement (See Big Blue in Dallas) are little things the good teams just get right over the mediocre.
The talent level disparity is not that great in the NFL to where most teams don’t have a chance. As cliche as it sounds, its all about management and clutch playmaking.
Also don’t judge a team based off of a Week 1 performance. If a team was utterly dominated in the opener (The Colts) or lost a close game (Seattle), it doesn’t mean they’ve regressed dramatically and have no contending shot now. It means they lost a game.
So please, refrain from the Hot Takes proclaiming seasons as over. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Anyway, let’s get to Week 1.
1). Bills Beatdown
Unless you’re Rex Ryan, yesterday’s 27-14 domination of the Colts by the Bills in a game that was never even that close, came out as quite the surprise.
The Colts, the supposed AFC favorite in a mediocre conference have quite the expectations coming into 2015, and boy did they look awful in trying to meet them yesterday afternoon.
With a 46.3 QB rating, Colts QB Andrew Luck (26/49, 249 yards, 2TD’s, 2INT’s) had the 3rd worst performance of his career as a dominant Bills front toyed with the Colts offensive lineup. While the Bills defense led by “Super” Mario Williams only had 2 sacks (only) along with only 5 QB hits (only), they were in Luck’s face all day. The constant mugging of the Colts receivers also proved to be quite impressive.
For all of the toys Indy picked up in the offseason to “put them over the top” like the aged WR Andre Johnson (4 rec, 24 yards) or RB Frank Gore (8 carries, 31 yards), this game was more about the Bills. Given the Colts status in the AFC South with all of those free division wins, they’ll be fine. However this might have been a slight sign of arrival of the Bills.
An offseason mired in QB controversy (or lack thereof), Rex Ryan anointed Tyrod Taylor as his starter, and for at least one week, Ryan looks like an offensive genius (Tough to type that).
Taylor wasn’t anything spectacular in a performance of 14/19 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown, but he was the exact game manager a talented team like Buffalo needs. He kept the Bills “on schedule”, made crucial throws when needed like a bomb 51 yard pass to WR Percy Harvin (Missed you) , and didn’t turn the ball over.
The Bills as constructed, will need to keep pace in a tough AFC East that went undefeated over the weekend, but given the talent on the roster, if Taylor can keep growing into this story, this team will be tough to more than simply shrug off.
They’re also probably going to go undefeated at home seeing that crowd yesterday, which is not a hot take.
2) Something Missing In Denver
In probably the ugliest debut game of Peyton Manning’s career, the Broncos defense made more plays than the Ravens front, dominating a disappointing looking “Trest-Coast offense” in a 19-13 Denver win (Trestman factor?).
The Ravens themselves had a bad day not just limited to the loss and a new offense, as All Pro OLB Terrell Suggs was lost for the season with a torn achilles (Sam Bradford sends his regards? And no, I don’t regret picking them for the Super Bowl). No this story was about the Broncos and their aged signal caller.
The concern for Denver never was going to be their defense given all of the talent on that side of the ball. Typically when you have Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward, Bradley Roby, and Aqib Talib etc. (who sealed the game with a pick 6 while also simultaneously having the highest voice of an NFL player I’ve ever heard) you have a potential to be dominant. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has himself quite the talented bunch.
While I cautioned for hot takes, watching the Broncos yesterday, you couldn’t help but think Peyton Manning was washed up or at least on his farewell tour.
He was quite average with only 175 passing yards and 0 TD passes, and skipped more than a few balls at the ground to his receivers. People have joked (I was one of those people) about his “noodle arm” in recent years, but man nowhere it was more visibly diminished than yesterday.
One gets flashbacks of Marino at the end in ’99 or Favre in ’10 where they just simply can’t keep up physically anymore.
I understand Denver was going to issue in more of a game management and ball control offense this year given the understanding of Manning’s limitations, but even I couldn’t have imagined this. And if he’s so limited, why is he throwing the ball unsuccessfully 40 times while RB’s Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson only get a combined 24 carries (Trestman inflicts both sides). Head Coach Gary Kubiak has some questions to answer.
As much as it might pain some people to hear, this is a very talented roster that is held back by Peyton Manning. Despite all of his success in running the offense, if Denver had someone more physically capable, they might be the AFC favorite.
For now, you can’t trust Manning as Denver has another more than capable if not better defense coming up on Thursday against Kansas City. The far cries of 50 TD passes are long gone.
Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have to be salivating. (That’d be weird though)
3) Carroll Carousel
Man, and people thought the meme of Carroll not handing it off to Marshawn Lynch on the 1 yard line in the Super Bowl was stupid. This might have topped it.
If this game’s questionable decision came in the Super Bowl, Carroll would have been run over even more roughshod. In an OT 34-31 loss to the Rams, where 2nd year safety Dion Bailey (Kam Chancellor is laughing all the way to the bank) allowed Rams TE Lance Kendricks to tie the game to send it to OT, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll came to the forefront again.
At the start of OT, instead of kicking deep, Carroll elected to onside kick to attain possession, which of course completely backfired, as St Louis only had to go 30 yards to kick a field goal that became the eventual game winner.
What isn’t concerning is where Seattle goes from here. They’re not done. The urgency to sign S Kam Chancellor definitely becomes greater now (Just give him his $$$) as the Seahawks defense just didn’t look the same, but they should be the same great team team.
One has to wonder where Carroll’s thought process has been the last two games Seattle has played in. Aggressiveness and being cute works in ways when executed well, but when not, you’re going to be crucified, especially when that questionable coach decision isn’t needed. Carroll has arguably the most talented roster in the NFL, and while a great coach (USC misses you), all he has to do is keep the train rolling and put them in position to succeed. He hasn’t done that recently (Should we ask Marshawn Lynch for comment?) and that will be something to watch.
Still, its one game, with one loss to a division rival that with a semi competent QB in Nick Foles (297 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) (Napoleon Dynamite!) has probably become the 2nd best team in the NFC West. No harm no foul.
I mean just look at that defensive front that’s probably the best in the NFL. It most prominently features Aaron Donald, who had 9 tackles, 3 TFL, and 2 sacks, leading a lineup that hit Seahawks QB Russell Wilson nine times and was in his face all day. The Rams actually look like a factor.
After building for so long after years and years of 6-10 to 8-8 finishes, Rams coach Jeff Fisher may have finally found his mark (or maybe the mediocre coach just stole the one game from Seattle he steals every year).
Needless to say, Seattle will be fine as long as everything hums along, but they probably have their work cut out for them in more new ways than one.
4) Romo Is Clutch, And Manning Up In Dallas
Of course with Carroll’s awful decision, NO ONE thought there would be anything else stupid done the rest of the day, right? This is the NFL! No way things are mismanaged and lost sight of!
In the Cowboys 27-26 win over the Giants, where New York’s sieve defense created 17 points and two defensive TD’s off of Cowboy turnovers, Giants coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning put on a show in the waning moments.
Ironically as NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth praised Tom Coughlin for always having the Giants prepared for “big games” (WHAT ARE YOU DOING CHRIS??), he helped the Giants blow the game a few plays later.
Getting down near the goal line with a chance to ice the game with about 1:40 to go and a 23-20 lead, the Giants elected to pass instead of run the ball when Dallas had no timeouts. As Eli Manning (Is he any different than Joe Flacco?) sailed the ball out of the back of the end zone instead of laying down to keep the clock rolling, the motions for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory were set.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo promptly drove Dallas down the field 76 yards in 1:28 and threw the game winning score to TE Jason Witten (All timer). We can put an end to the Romo choking meme too in case you didn’t know.
All Pro Cowboys WR Dez Bryant also broke his foot and will be out at least a month but you wouldn’t know it from this celebration of the clutch Romo……
With two long drives in the 4th quarter to complete the comeback last night and 28 overall game winning drives in his career (best in the NFL), Romo has ascended to the pantheon of the best whether the media or Twitter tells you that or not.
No, here the Giants choked and its hard who to place the blame on one person, so I’ll just go with the multitude of everybody.
Tom Coughlin, as the head coach who allowed a pass in that situation, given his experience and tenure in the league. (The stupidity of NFL coaches never ceases to amaze me).
Ben McAdoo, as the offensive coordinator, who called a pass in the same situation not thinking about clock management at all.
Then Eli Manning, as the 10 year vet QB with 2 Super Bowls who didn’t have the presence of mind to just lay down and take a sack to keep the clock running as the play was blown up.
All of the big powers of Big Blue had a part, and while its only one loss, it could have been a jump start over a division rival you will likely contend with all year. The Giants had a Cowboys team who played erratic and out of place most of the night, dead to rights. A basic gifted win.
Missed opportunities. The Giants used to capitalize on those. (Tom Brady fondly remembers them).
5) Mariota The Actual “Messiah”?
I made jokes here recently calling Titans QB Marcus Mariota “THE MESSIAH” because I thought it was unfair to place all the hopes of turning a franchise around like the Titans in one year.
Maybe I was wrong? At least for now.
In the Titans 42-14 win over the Bucs, Mariota had more touchdown passes than incompletions (13/16, 209 yards, 4 TD’s). He even got to sit in the 4th quarter given things were going so well. (IN HIS DEBUT)
One has to keep in mind he was playing the Bucs defense that isn’t exactly the most cohesive (Lovie Smith defensive guru HAHAHAHA). Nonetheless it was impressive to see the poise and accuracy of a rookie in his first professional game. In contrast, fellow top pick Bucs QB Jameis Winston (16/33, 210 yards, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s) also in his debut, completely folded under the pressure in throwing a pick 6 on his very first NFL pass and overall showing plenty of NFL rookie jitters.
The contrast in calmness and overall rookie performance was jarring. Mariota takes Round 1 by a knockout, I guess.
While it wasn’t Oregon (which may be a plus), Mariota played well in an actual NFL scheme where the Titans didn’t scale things back too much for him, which made it all the more impressive.
Its still an uphill battle for Tennessee to even compete this year and in the future given the lack of overall talent, but at least for one week with Mariota, it looks like they’re well on their way.
Maybe he can be the “Messiah” after all.
Offensive Player Of The Week: Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Steelers
- 25/32, 288 yards, 4 TD’s, 143.8 QB Rating
- Given the whole “DeflateGate” controversy (still such a dumb name), you didn’t really expect Tom Brady to miss a beat on banner night for New England, did you?
- The future First Ballot Hall Of Famer (and “Uggs” model) was flawless in shredding apart an underwhelming Steelers defense to set the 2015 season into motion.
Defensive Player Of The Week: Rams DT Aaron Donald vs Seahawks
- 9 Tackles, 3 Tackles for loss, 2 sacks
- The 2nd year All Pro and reigning Defensive Rookie Of The Year was all over the field Sunday.
- As the primary instrumental reason in the Rams upset over Seattle, Donald was the best player on the field, (That speaks volumes, come at me Richard Sherman) dominating a young Seattle offensive line to harass Seahawks QB Russell Wilson relentlessly.
Goat(s) of the Week: Saints defense vs. Cardinals
- 31 points, 427 yards allowed, 0 Turnovers Forced
- For all of the talk of the Saints improved defense and “dominant” secondary, we can’t forget this is New Orleans, in that they never have a consistently dominant defense.
- Cardinals QB Carson Palmer shredded apart a newly minted secondary featuring talents like Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis, who are regarded as some of the best at their positions in the league, to the tune of 3 TD’s, 307 yards, and a 122.8 QB rating.
- If the Saints are going to “Ground and Pound”, this certainly wasn’t a good start.
Monday Night Picks: DOUBLEHEADER
Eagles 34, Falcons 31
Two teams that can’t play defense with speed all over the field. Philadelphia gets the edge because they probably have more talent on defense, while rookie Atlanta OLB Vic Beasley can’t do it all by himself.
Vikings 23, 49ers 16
God, the Niners are going to be so bad this year. I almost feel bad for QB Colin Kaepernick, but then I don’t. Minnesota’s on the rise, but they still have some kinks to work out.
Please don’t hype Adrian Peterson’s return like it matters. Please.
Robert Zeglinski is an aspiring sportswriter who absolutely loves all the nitty gritty that comes with pro sports. He is currently attending Aurora University in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigZags82 or reach him through email (email@example.com) for questions or feedback.
(Sources: wgrz.com, baltimore.cbslocal.com, cbsnews.com, cbslocal.com, heavy.com, usatoday.com, torontosun.com, theadvocate.com, NFL)