Week 1 Of The NFL Season Is In The Books. What Have We Learned From The First Week Of The Season?
Before the season starts, educated guesses run amok about what is going to happen in the NFL. Then the real games happen, and information can actually be used to back up or change assumptions. Lessons are to be learned everywhere, here’s what to take out of the week 1 match ups.
Carolina Panthers 20 @ Denver Broncos 21
The Broncos defense is real- After the Denver defense all but carried the team to a Super Bowl title last season, free agency saw two key members in Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan leave in free agency. The defense picked up in week 1 where they left off. Although the defensive line didn’t get the push they got against the Panthers in the Super Bowl, they still gave the Panthers offense fits and took care of business.
Kevin Benjamin Will Be A Star For The Panthers This Season- After missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL, Benjamin came back with a vengeance. Benjamin hung tough against a stout Broncos secondary and had 6 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. With a true number one receiver again, the Panthers could have a better offense then they had last year when Cam Newton was named MVP. Benjamin could be the Comeback Player of the Year.
Green Bay Packers 27 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Aaron Rodgers IS the best quarterback in the NFL right now- Bold statement, especially coming this week when Aaron Rodgers only threw for 199 yards. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a much improved team in 2016, especially on defense. The pass Aaron Rodgers made to Davante Adams for a touchdown with under a minute to go in the first half was a thing of beauty. While being pulled down by a defender, Rodgers made a cross body throw and put the ball right on the money for the touchdown. YouTube the play if you haven’t seen it yet.
The Jaguars Are For Real In 2016- The Jaguars defense was revamped in the off season and held Aaron Rodgers to 199 passing, no small feat. They also kept the Packers as a team to under 100 yards on the ground. The passing game picked up where it left off last year, and Blake Bortles looked good. The running game left much to be desired, but Chris Ivory spent the game in the hospital and figures to be a huge part of the Jags rushing attack. They fell just short of beating one of the best teams in the league, and will be in the playoff conversation come December.
San Diego Chargers 27 @ Kansas City Chiefs 33 (OT)
The Chargers Offense Lives and Dies By Keenan Allen- The Chargers got off to a hot start in this contest and had a 21-3 lead before Keenan Allen suffered a season ending ACL tear. After the injury, the Chargers were only able to muster two field goals, and eventually lost the game in overtime. Last season the Chargers only won one game without Allen in the lineup. The Chargers need to find a way to adjust to life without Keenan Allen.
Year after year, Alex Smith continues to be underrated- Since joining the Chiefs Smith has thrown 63 touchdowns to 21 interceptions, good for a 3:1 ratio. Those aren’t Aaron Rodgers numbers, but it deserves respect. Smith also has the ability to make big plays with his legs, an important skill to extend drives. The Chefs comeback bid on Sunday was impressive, and Alex Smith was a big part of it. If the Chefs are going to make noise this season and in the playoffs, it will be because of Alex Smith
Oakland Raiders 35 @ New Orleans Saints 34
The Raiders may have started a trend- How can you not like what the Raiders did in Sunday’s game? After being down 24-10 in the third quarter, the Raiders stormed back to win by scoring a touchdown with 47 seconds left. That isn’t even the exciting part. The Raiders actually took the lead by successfully converting a two point conversion instead of going for the extra point to tie it, and why not? With the extra point being pushed back it’s not a sure thing anymore, as evident by the number of misses in the opening week. More teams may take the Raiders boldness and two point conversions could be on the rise.
These Saints are ‘the same old Saints’- New year, same story. The offense is championship caliber, while the defense is, well not. Scoring 34 points should earn you the win more times than not, but that may not be the case for the 2016 Saints. They have the weapons and quarterback to put up points week after week, but it may be another long season if the defense doesn’t find a way to tighten up.
Cincinnati Bengals 23 @ New York Jets 22
A.J. Green isn’t worried about the Bengals losing other receiving options- When the Bengals lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to free agency, there were talks about A.J. Green’s production taking a hit. That’s all it was though, talk. Green caught everything thrown near him Sunday and tortured Darrelle Revis all game long. Green finished with 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. If his production is going to take a hit this year, it didn’t happen on Sunday.
The Jets defensive line is better than advertised- The Jets played a good game overall on Sunday. They missed an extra point and had a 22 yard field goal blocked, a four point swing that could have changed the result in the game. The Jets defensive lineman were definitely in mid season form picking up 6 sacks (7 but one was by a linebacker) and helped keep the Bengals running game at bay holding them to 58 yards on the ground.
Cleveland Browns 10 @ Philadelphia Eagles 29
Robert Griffin III is not the answer for the Browns- This may be an early call as RG3 only played one game for the Browns, but he wasn’t all that productive. He also got injured again and was placed on the IR with designation to return. If this team even sniffs success with Josh McCown at the helm, this may be RG3’s one and only year with the Browns, as they will use their high draft pick to once again select the next franchise quarterback.
Carson Wentz has the tools to make the Eagles a better team- Again, an early call, but Wentz was dropping dimes on Sunday and was poised in the pocket. The Browns front office had to be kicking themselves knowing Wentz could have been theirs if they did not trade their number two overall pick to the Eagles. Wentz finished the day 22 of 37 for 278 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Not a bad rookie debut.
Minnesota Vikings 25 @ Tennessee Titans 16
If the Vikings are going to win, it will be because of the defense- When Teddy Bridgewater went down, a drop in offensive production was to be expected. The offense couldn’t score any touchdowns on Sunday, but that didn’t stop the defense from creating their own points. The Vikings defense created three turnovers, and turned two of them into touchdowns. Sam Bradford should be up to speed this week and may get the nod over Shaun Hill. Until the Vikings prove they have a passing game, teams will continue to stack the box to contain Adrian Peterson. In the meantime, the Vikings defense may be their best offense.
Tajae Sharpe may be the wide receiver the Titans have been looking for- Saying it has been a long time since the Titans have had a true number one receiver would be an understatement. They may have just struck gold with their 2016 5th round choice. Sharpe impressed the Titans so much in training camp and the preseason, that the Titans felt comfortable in trading away their second round pick from last year, wide receiver Dorial Beckham-Green. Against a good Vikings defense, Sharpe finished with seven catches for 76 yards in his NFL debut.
Chicago Bears 14 @ Houston Texans 23
The Bears need to find a way to protect Jay Cutler- Jay Cutler spent a lot of time under pressure in this contest, being sacked five times, and none of them were by J.J. Watt. Cutler has had his issue with turnovers and poor decisions in the past, and the offensive line having him run for his life all game isn’t going to do him any favors. Alshon Jeffery looks good coming off an injury plagued 2015 campaign, and if the Bears want to be competitive they need to find a way to give Cutler time.
Will Fuller could be the piece that completes the puzzle- The Houston Texans underwent a face lift this off season, bringing in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to obtain a more potent offense. They also used their first round draft pick to snag Will Fuller from Notre Dame. Fuller dropped a potential touchdown pass early in the game, but instead of dwelling on it and letting it affect his game like most rookies would, he shook it off and finished strong including nabbing the go ahead touchdown. A reliable target on the other side of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins could go a long way to the development of Osweiler and the Texans offense.
Buffalo Bills 7 @ Baltimore Ravens 13
The Bills may have been hasty in extending Tyrod Taylor- Taylor played well in his first season starting for the Buffalo Bills last season. Not great, but good. The Bills decided to extend him for his performance last season, and he didn’t live up to the contract in week one. Yes, he spent a lot of the afternoon avoiding a pretty solid pass rush from the Ravens, but 111 yards passing is unacceptable in the NFL. He needs to play better as the Bills can opt out of his contract after this season. If the Bills miss the playoffs, Rex and Tyrod will both be looking for jobs next off season.
With all eyes on the offense, the Ravens most improved unit might be the defense- With the return of Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Justin Forsett to the offense after all had season ending injuries last season, it was the defense that came up big. They held the Bills to just 160 net yards, 65 on the ground and 95 through the air. They also kept the Bills at a 23% conversion rate on third down. If the defense can play near this level throughout the season, the Ravens will make noise in the AFC North.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 @ Atlanta Falcons 24
The hype behind Kwon Alexander last year was not just talk- With all the hype behind the NFC offensive Player of the Week, and rightfully so, Jamesis Winston wasn’t the only star in this game. In his rookie campaign, Kwon seemed to be the talk of the town with how well he played. With the Bucs 6-6 last season, Alexander was suspended for the final four games and the Bucs lost all four of them to finish 6-10 instead of making a playoff run. Kwon let the Falcons know he was back by being all over the field finishing with 15 tackles, two assist, and a sack. The defense wasn’t stellar Sunday, but they made plays when they needed to late in the game, and Kwon was a big part of that.
Potent offense, sketchy defense, same song and dance- New season, same story. Muhamad Sanu seems to be a great addition as a number two receiver, and the offense can put up points. The defense however, is having trouble stopping the opposition from putting up points, as Jamesis Winston threw for four touchdowns on them. Dan Quinn and Richard Smith better find ways to improve the defense, or it’s going to be long season.
Seattle Seahawks 12 @ Miami Dolphins 10
The Legion of Boom is open for another year of business- Another year, another season that opposing offenses look to solve the complex puzzle that is the Seattle Seahawks defense. The LOB held the Dolphins offense to a mere 214 net yards and gave the Dolphins fits all day long. Take away the late 86 yard touchdown drive by the Dolphins, and they were untouchable. If Seattle’s defense keeps the pace, and they have proven they can do so in the past, Seattle will once again be legit Super Bowl contenders.
The Dolphins offense needs to find a running game to have any success- The Dolphins offense, besides their sole touchdown drive of the day, was almost non-existent. The Dolphins have to find an identity in the running game in order to establish the pass. Averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the ground isn’t going to cut it, although it was against a tough Seattle defense. They play against the Patriots next week and they better find success on the ground if they want to avoid an 0-2 start.
New York Giants 20 @ Dallas Cowboys 19
The reformed Giants defense did everything in their power to give away this game- With all the money the Giants spent in the off season, they wanted to avoid giving away games at the end. True they did win a close one here, but if the Cowboys did a better job of clock management at the end of the game, it may have been a different story. If the Giants want to take the NFC East crown this year, they better find a better chemistry together. Chemistry is built over time so although there should be no panic, it should be a cause of concern.
Dak Prescott will keep the Cowboys competitive- Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott built upon his impressive preseason by having a decent opening day performance. Although he didn’t throw for a touchdown, he stayed calm and cool in a close game and may have led his team to victory if his receivers did a better job of clock management at the end of the game. There is plenty of room for improvement, but Prescott appears poised to be the successor of oft-injured quarterback Tony Romo.
Detroit Lions 39 @ Indianapolis Colts 35
Post-Calvin Johnson Matthew Stafford is going to be just fine- With Calvin Johnson retiring this off season, many thought the Lions would be taking a huge step backwards. So far, so good as Stafford put up 340 yards to go with three touchdowns to three different receivers. The Lions put up 39 points and picked up the win, something they didn’t do last season until their sixth game.
Healthy Andrew Luck can hang with the best of them, even if we forgot- Andrew luck spent most of 2015 on the sidelines, and even when he did play his was mostly ineffective due to nagging injuries. Luck used his 2016 debut to remind everyone just who he is. Luck played a near flawless game as he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He spread the ball around nicely finding eight different receivers with passes. If the Colts can find a way to play at least a little defense, the Colts could pick up where they left off in 2014.
New England Patriots 23 @ Arizona Cardinals 21
Doubting Bill Belichick is not a good idea- Everyone was guilty of this, including Patriots fans. No Tom Brady, no Rob Gronkowski, no chance against the Arizona Cardinals. Well Belichick created a game plan that allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to be successful against the Cardinals defense in the desert. He did everything to put his team in a position to win a game that virtually no one, including Vegas who made the Pats a nine point underdog, thought they could pull out. Don’t doubt the mad genius ever again.
Larry Fitzgerald may never show his age- With reports emerging that this could be Fitz’s last season, he sure didn’t look like he was getting any older. Larry made some amazing catches in this contest and caught the touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to put the Cardinals ahead. Fitzgerald is one of, if not the most, sure handed receivers in the league. He only dropped one ball all of last season, and is on pace to have yet again another successful year for the redbirds. He finished the day with eight grabs for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38 @ Washington Redskins 16
No Le’Veon Bell, no Martavis Bryant, no problem- Suspensions can’t hold down the Steelers as both the offense and defense looked impressive in this contest. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 300 yards, DeAngelo Williams had 143 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, and Antonio Brown was, well Antonio Brown with eight catches for 126 yards and two scores. The defense did a good job of stalling drives and keeping the Redskins out of the end zone. The Steelers are rolling already, a scary thought.
The Redskins better find a way to stop the run and fast- Last season, the Redskins had trouble stopping the run. Much the same this year after the Steelers ran all over the Skins defense. If the Redskins want any chance of having back to back playoff seasons for the first time since the late 90’s, they better learn to stop the run, and fast. Last year they got away with a weak run defense in the weak NFC East, but the division is much improved this season, and they need to step up their game to compete once again this year.
Los Angeles Rams 0 @ San Francisco 49ers 28
There is no logical reason to not start Jared Goff right now- The Rams traded up in the 2016 NFL draft to select Jared Goff with the number one overall pick. Having him sit and learn behind a veteran makes sense if you have a seasoned veteran and they are playing well. The Rams have neither of those things, and after the Rams offense put up a goose egg on a team that isn’t exactly top notch, there is zero reasons for Goff to not gain some starting experience he could use to become the quarterback of the future. The fans need something to be excited about, and Case Keenum isn’t going to sell any tickets.
Chip Kelly’s Offense may just work in San Francisco- The 49ers offense wasn’t projected to be anything to write home about, but it seems the upbeat tempo of Chip Kelly’s style of offense may just work in the Bay area. The strength of the Rams is their defense, and the 49ers put up 28 points on them. If quarterback Blaine Gabbert can find a way to stretch the field a little more, the 49ers could surprise a lot of people
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