It is always hard to know how much to read into the offseason and preseason, and then there is a tendency to overreact to the week one results so I’m going to go through the opening slate of games and work through whether I would be worried or not if I was a fan of that team.
Carolina Panthers 20
Denver Broncos 21
The Broncos will be happy to have got a win following the same formula as last year. In fact, the offence looked like it flowed better now that it was working how Gary Kubiak would draw it up if he wasn’t making allowances of an ageing Peyton Manning. The defence still looks good and they will be hoping this is just the start of the defence of last year’s Super Bowl
Fans of the Panthers shouldn’t over react to this loss as Trevor Simian did not look like a rookie, and they did get some pressure, but the offence looked better with the return of Kelvin Benjamin. They can’t keep running Cam Newton as much, particularly with the headshots he was taking or he won’t finish the season, but they are not too far behind yet.
Tamp Bay Buccaneers 31
Atlanta Falcons 24
Getting off to a losing start against a divisional rival is not a great way to start the year, and with the streaky play of last year still a memory, the Falcons will need to sort the defence if they are to do better. Still, Mohammed Sanu leading receivers with eighty yards and a touchdown from five catches gives hope the offence might be more balanced this year.
The Buccaneers got the season off to a good start, with Jameis Winston take a step forward and we will see how far this is going to go, but it looks headed in the right direction now.
Buffalo Bills 7
Baltimore Ravens 13
The Bills got off to a slow start, with an offence that was worryingly unproductive with only one hundred and sixty yards of offence I get the feeling that things are not going to go well in Buffalo, but there is plenty of time to turn it round.
The Ravens ground out a win, and look to have some receivers for Joe Flacco to throw long to this year, but I don’t know if they are going to compete for the playoffs this year.
Chicago Bears 14
Houston Texans 23
The Texans got the win despite barely any production from JJ Watt, but Brock Ossweiler threw for a pair of touchdowns and two hundred yards with one interception. I’m still waiting to see how Ossweiler settles into the offence and this was only against the Bears, but as the only team with a win in the AFC South the Texans have to be happy enough with their start to the season.
The Bears are still a team in transition, and whilst the defence definitely looks like it is heading in the right direction, particularly with their linebackers, this was not the defence that would allow us to truly evaluate how they are progressing.
Cincinnati Bengals 23
New York Jets 22
The Jets biggest worry will be that they didn’t win this game, but their defensive front looked fearsome getting seven sacks, and there offence did enough to win the game if they had not had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point. The addition of Steve McLendon from the Steelers certainly was a potent addition to the already formidable decfensive line, and Quincy Enunwa was effective at receiver give the Fitzpatrick more options to throw to.
The Bengals struggled with protection on offence, but AJ Green and Andy Dalton did enough to win, whilst the defence limited the Jets receivers to relatively modest totals. This was not an easy way to open the season, and they will be very happy to have got the win as they head on to Pittsburgh for one of the marquee matchups of week two.
Cleveland Browns 10
Philidelphia Eagles 29
The Eagles got off to a better start than I was expecting, and whilst I’m not prepared to declare him the future after one game against a poor Browns team, Carson Wentz got his NFL career off to a winning start. He looked poised in the pocket as he registered a triple digit passer rating, justifying the faith the font office had in him when they traded Sam Bradford away. The defence is likely to take a little time to settle in, but Fletcher Cox has already registered his first sack of the season, and I wouldn’t bet against Jim Schwartz forming them into a strong unit.
The Browns thought that they could turn round Robert Griffin’s career, but sadly the oft injured quarterback broke the coracoid bone in his left shoulder, which may or may not require surgery. Already the Browns are saying that he will miss at least the next eight games. This might lead to an improvement in the passing game given that Josh McCown is a very competent backup who will throw a more accurate pass and so we’ll likely see more than the heave it up to Coleman or Pryor of RGIII. Both receivers are raw but intriguing prospects. I’m still prepared to back the process in the long run, but it does look as if this season is going to be painful and there will be some who will be wondering about their decision to trade the number two pick and not take Wentz given how good he looked in his first game.
The Jaguars gave a very creditable account of themselves, but ultimately lost against a Packers team that are still finding their way. Still, the only team in their division to get a win were the Texans and they won’t be worried too much about this loss unless it becomes a habit.
The Packers offence still looked a bit like it did last season, but it is perhaps not surprising that Jordy Nelson is still knocking off the rust as he comes back from last year’s significant injury. They look to be favourites for the division, but they will want the offence to improve over the coming weeks.
The worry for the Titans is that they went into half time with a ten-zero lead, and ended up losing the game as their defence fell apart. I’m not necessary sold on exotic smash-mouth football as I don’t believe you setup the pass with the run, but that you setup your offence by being convincingly dangerous at both running and passing the football. I do like that the Titans are trying to do something different in terms of the trend in the league being passing offence, but you need the play-action deep threat to make sure that the opposition don’t just stuff the box. There’s a version of this offence that can work, look how effectively the Panthers run the ball with a myriad of options, but I’m not sure the Titan’s are there yet.
We knew that the Vikings’ defence was good, and they kept the team in this game, but it is slightly worrying that Adrian Peterson only got thirty-one yards on nineteen carries. Still, Stefon Diggs did manage over a hundred yards receiving and with a bit more time to settle Sam Bradford in, the Vikings will hope to be competitive in their new stadium, even if the Packers are not the easiest of visitors.
San Diego Chargers 27
Kansas City Chiefs 33
The Chiefs defence is banged up, and I am somewhat worried about their loss of Sean Smith over the offseason as the secondary only really came together last season once he returned from injury. Still, it does seem that Andy Reid has the trust of his players, and Alex Smith looked very good as he led the Chiefs back in the second half to win the game.
The Chargers were doing so well in until their injury curse struck again when they lost Keenan Allen and things just seemed to fall apart for them. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t’ concerned for their season, but they do seem to have improved from last year and it is too early to write them off yet.
Oakland Raiders 35
New Orleans Saints 34
As I feared, the Saints defence was porous as it doesn’t look to have improved significantly from last year and so it looks to be another season of Drew Brees trying score enough points to keep them in games, but how this will go I do not know.
The Raiders got off to a winning start, and there is no shame in giving up points to a Drew Brees led offence, but they will want to be more in control of games if they are to push for playoff this season, but things are definitely looking like they are heading in the right direction. I love the aggression of going for the two point conversion to win the game, and the NFL is a better league for having the Raiders be competitive.
Miami Dolphins 10
Seattle Seahawks 12
The Seahawks offensive line is indeed a problem, which in this game held them back and got Russell Wilson a sprained ankle. The defence is still going to be good, and they will be competitive, but we will have to see if the offensive line is bad enough to be an Achilles heels. For the record, I loved their approach to the national anthem, by standing arm in arm they made a strong statement of unity.
The Dolphins should have won this game, but for a dropped pass by Kenny Stills and blocked field goal, but the defence did enough to stifle the Seahawks even if the offence sputtered. The worry for me is how that defence is going to fair against better passing teams, and we’ll know more when we see how they do against the Patriots.
New York Giants 20
Dallas Cowboys 19
The Cowboys got a solid performance from Dak Prescott, who didn’t turn the football over and kept them in the game, but Ezekiel Elliot struggled to match up to the expectation placed upon the rookie running back. These are one of the teams that I’m not sure how to read because there are too many unknowns, and not being sure how the Giants are going to be this season, I’ll just have to see how they go over the next couple of weeks.
It appears that I was overly sceptical about the Giants offseason moves, and whilst I’m not saying I was entirely wrong, their defence does appear to have been better than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to finally getting to see them play to see for myself, and so I might have to watch them soon.
Detroit Lions 39
Indianapolis Colts 35
The Colts will be relieved that Andrew Luck looked like the quarterback that everyone expects him to be, but the defence looks to be a problem, at least until they Vontae Davis back and even then this unit could cause them problems. It is good to see Luck playing well, and he is a lot younger than Brees so there is plenty of time to win a Super Bowl, but the Colts really need to build consistently around him if they want to make the most of having a second franchise quarterback in a row.
The Detroit Lions won this game off the back of a more assertive performance by Matthew Stafford, who made the most of the balance that Marvin Jones and Golden Tate gave him at receiver. We will have to see how the defence shapes up, but I have faith that under Jim Bob Cooter the offence will continue to develop.
New England Patriots 23
Arizona Cardinals 21
The Cardinals will be incredibly disappointed to lose this game against the Patriots given the players they were missing. However, whilst Carson Palmer was not looking the sharpest he ever has, the Cardinals should have won this game were it not for another missed field goal and both Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson looked great. The secondary looked like they were struggling opposite Patrick Peterson, but I have faith the defence will improve as this coaching staff will not let things stand still and are too good.
What else can we say about the Patriots? The game plan worked as usual, the offence did enough despite the players they were missing, whilst the defence once again is really good with Chris Long enjoying life on a competitive team. With the most difficult game of the four without Brady out the way, it’s very possible that they could be 4-0 by the time he returns.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38
The big story I missed during the podcast recording was the amount of money Washington paid Josh Norman to have him playing zone whilst Antonio Brown ran riot on the other side of the field. I have heard some ex-players questioning why he didn’t demand to cover Brown, but I confess it would not a challenge I would fancy. I wasn’t expecting Kirk Cousins to maintain the form he had at the end of last season, but he will need to be more consistent if he is to help Washington get back to the playoffs.
I knew the Steelers were going to be scary once they got all their players back, but they didn’t even wait for that with a performance that underlines just how good Antonio Brown is, and the skill Ben Roethlisberger has in finding him deep. They already look like one of the teams to beat in the AFC so of course the Bengals are visiting next week in what should be one of the games of week two. Yes I am nervous already.
Los Angeles Rams 0
San Francisco 49ers 28
The 49ers surprised everyone by not just being competitive, but by shutting out the Rams offence as they ran out easy winner in this one. The fact that Dan wants me to watch the coaching tape to find out what happens says everything, but whilst I’m not totally changing my mind on how they will do this season, clearly they are going to be more competitive than I expected this season and I am curious to see how the team develop under Chip Kelly and what he has learned after his experience in Philidelphia.
The Rams didn’t even manage agricultural manure seven and nine football. The offence clearly sputtered, with some very worrying running figures for Todd Gurley stretching back to the tail of last season. The big question that is going to surround them is that the first round quarterback that they traded for didn’t even dress for this game. I am not actually totally against this, as they gain nothing by throwing Jared Goff in before he is ready, and everything to lose, but I’m sure no one will be happy about this state of affairs. We learned through Hard Knocks that the Rams’ defensive line coach is pretty terrifying, and so I’m sure they will be better next week. In fact, given the Rams will be playing their first game in LA, Jeff Fisher will be hoping for a big response from his players.
Finally let’s take a look at tonight’s game:
Jets @ Bills (-0.5)
With all that I have written above, I can only pick the Jets to win this one, especially getting half a point.
Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Jets