NFL Football has returned, after a long and tenuous offseason full of controversy, questions of ethics and morality, and freaking Deflategate which would just not die.
But now, with week 1 in the rear-view, we can focus on the important things, like how the Dolphins continue the, in my belief, hugely important symbolic gesture of not standing for the national anthem. The movement is a great thing and should continue, because the national discussion it has sparked is necessary and has been held off for far too long. The country has a problem and if this is how we begin to address it, then Kaepernick’s done something worth while.
But enough about how politics is important everywhere, including in sports, let’s get to the actual football.
Carolina 20 vs. Denver 21
The Panthers opened their season like they ended their last: losing to the Denver Broncos with Cam Newton being exploited.
What happened to Newton is deplorable and the refs in that game need to be suspended (without pay), because he was targeted, and nothing was done to stop it. When your number one problem as a league is concussions, you can’t continue to let QBs (or any other player) get continually lined up for hits that would give CTE effects, not only to him but to the defensive players dishing out these hits. It was an awful event and a horrible way to start off the season.
The Panthers didn’t play well, and who can blame them when their QB likely had an unaddressed concussion throughout the second half. However, they got the game close, and only lost because kicker Graham Gano missed a PAT, which happened a lot in the last few days. That new PAT rule is still messing with kickers, so good job NFL of making that an exciting moment again. Now be more effective with CTE prevention please.
Minnesota 25 vs. Tennessee 16
The Vikings won this one handily, but here’s the thing – their offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in 145 minutes – that’s nearly two and a half games. Their kicker, Blair Walsh, missed two field goals and still came away with a better game than the offense, and the defense was the supporting structure of the team. People keep saying the defense isn’t as good as Denver’s was last year, and, while I believe that’s true, it’s kind of hard to believe when the defense is the only thing winning games, akin to what Denver did in the Super Bowl.
Chicago 14 vs. Houston 23
Well, Houston’s defense is working again. That’s bound to be one of the best this year, and they shut down an already lacking Bears defense, albeit a healthier one than last year, because both White and Jeffery are available, as well as their starting RB. Cutler’s a bad QB, and if Fox and Pace don’t realize it this year, they may never.
Houston’s offense is new, and it did its work as well, with Osweiler throwing for 200+ yards and 2 touchdowns. It’ll be interesting to see what Houston can do in the playoffs, because it seems the Colts are doomed defensively again (it seems like all the defensive backs on the team got hurt vs. the Lions), and if anything the Jaguars are a wild card threat.
Cleveland 10 vs. Philadelphia 29
Well, whatever hopes Cleveland had of a new QB disappeared quickly down the drain, as it seems RGIII, after not playing for a long time, has apparently been injured, suffering a shoulder injury.
The Cleveland defense isn’t much to look forward to either, as only Haden and Kruger remain good players on that side of the football.
For Philadelphia, however, after week 1 the story is entirely different: it seems like it’s found its QB again, as Carson Wentz threw for 270+ yards and 2 touchdowns, and Ryan Mathews rushed his way into the arms of Jason Peters, who set him down in the endzone, in the cutest play of week 1. (Watch that here)
The Eagles D didn’t have that much to do against a lacking Cleveland offense, but congratulations on holding them to 10 points.
Buffalo 7 vs. Baltimore 13
In the most offensively lacking matchup of the week, Baltimore beat Buffalo by tacking two field goals onto the touchdown that tied the Bills.
The two defenses clashed, and the Ravens were able to pull out a win because their drives lasted longer and their defense was the better, and with two sacks and one touchdown allowed, they did their jobs, as the offense was able to push for enough yardage to make the difference.
San Diego 27 vs. Kansas City 33
The Kansas City defense at first letdown the team, as they fell into a 21-3 hole in the first half, and then Alex Smith began functioning, becoming the quarterback he had not been before, one that can actually throw, one that can do work, and one that can get back into a 27 point tied game. He threw for 380 yards and 2 touchdowns, diving for a rushing TD in overtime, getting the Chiefs the win. Credit goes to the team for making adjustments in the second half. The Chargers couldn’t keep the lead, and it reflects poorly upon them just as it reflects well upon the Chiefs.
Oakland 35 vs. New Orleans 34
In the second one point difference game, Oakland came out and beat New Orleans after being down 24-10 in the third period, Oakland and New Orleans were both explosive on offense, and while Oakland’s defense is vastly superior, New Orleans offense was able to find their weaknesses and exploit them for big gains with their speedy wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.
The win came down to Oakland’s ability to capitalize on two point attempts and New Orleans’s kicker Shayne Graham missing two key kicks – a desperation field goal and a PAT.
Atlanta 24 vs. Tampa Bay 31
An inter-division matchup, the two teams faced off and offenses exploded as Jameis Winston threw for 4 touchdowns and Matt Ryan led a somewhat comeback, getting the team back from 31-13 to finish 31-24. The team was a fourth period completion away from maybe tying the game, but give credit to the Tampa Bay defense and Gerald McCoy for not allowing that completion.
Cincinnati 23 vs. New York (Jets) 22
In yet another one point game, the Bengals narrowly beat out the Jets to get a first week win, tying themselves with Baltimore and Pittsburgh super early.
The Bengals, after stumbling offensively, came up big with a distance field goal and their defense did work when they needed them most, including stopping a field goal after an early interception of Dalton and intercepting Fitzpatrick when the Jets had the ball down a point with 45 seconds to go.
The Bengals o-line was the major weakness for the team, as they allowed seven sacks to a pass rushing Jets D.
The Jets were simply outmatched because of the Bengal’s defensive ability to come up when it counted most, and Fitzpatrick and the Jets will need to fix that if they want to get more wins this season to make a threat for the playoffs.
Green Bay 27 vs. Jacksonville 23
There were so many bobbled passes on the Jacksonville side, but the Packers didn’t have the same problem. The Green Bay defense had an interception and nearly had another one off the Jaguars receivers grasping problems, and it made the difference in the game. Aaron Rodger’s throw, where he’s nearly sacked and still escaped, is another reminder of the might that the Packers QB has, and confirms my irrational like of him. Watch that play here.
The Packers defense was able to contain the Jaguars offense just enough to win the game, and as long as that keeps happening the Packers will keep winning.
Seattle 12 vs. Miami 10
The Dolphins were unable to stop the Seahawks when it mattered most, and it seems the secondary will need to work harder next week as that’s where Seattle beat the Dolphins offensively.
Miami was able to get a few points during the course of the game, but not enough to contend with the Seahawks. Their defense stepped up to a great QB in Russell Wilson, and the Seattle offense was held to only one touchdown and two field goals.
New York (Giants) 20 vs. Dallas 19
The Cowboys were unable to close the game, and lost to the Giants on a crucial field goal. If Dez Bryant had held on to the football on his attempted touchdown, the game could have ended that much differently, but the Cowboys ended up relying primarily upon kicker Dan Bailey.
New York got the ball going through the air, and WRs, including Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and the recently returned Victor Cruz were all crucial in the game and elevated the Giants above the Cowboys.
The game came down to offense, and the Giants were just one point better than the Cowboys.
Detroit 39 vs. Indianapolis 35
In the first game back from the offseason, there were major questions about both teams. How would Andrew Luck perform after missing much of last season? How would the Lions do offensively without Calvin Johnson? The answer to both questions was quite well.
The battle came down to whose defense was the worst, as both secondaries look depleted and both quarterbacks took advantage of the situation. Ultimately, it was a Matt Prater kick after missing a PAT that decided the game for the Lions, and the safety on the kick return moments after was icing on the cake.
Unfortunately for the Lions, it doesn’t seem like Indianapolis and its injured secondary was much of a test, and the Lions will still have to prove themselves offensively against better teams, and the defense will look to redeem themselves against the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts looked lost when not on offense, and their problems with the secondary only worsened after losing a few members to injury throughout the game. It seems like Andrew Luck will be dragging that defense wherever he goes, and the test for him will be to see if he can drag them to any wins.
New England 23 vs. Arizona 21
In the most surprising game of the week, the Patriots narrowly beat the Cardinals after a missed kick from Chandler Catanzaro.
Without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the New England offense was able to move the ball because of young backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo and WR Julian Edelman. The team also received help from many members of the offense, including the offensive line who stepped up and allowed the young QB to get his throws off.
The Cardinals looked better in the second half, but the only thing working offensively was Carson Palmer’s connection to Larry Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald ended up with multiple touchdowns.
The defense wasn’t as good as it should have been, especially since the D was a lot healthier than predicted a year ago (Tyrann Mathieu, perhaps the Cardinals’ best defensive player, was back from an injury that could have kept him out til November).
Pittsburgh 38 vs. Washington 16
After giving up three potential drives early in the game and only allowing 6 points on said drive, the Steelers came up big winning by 22 points.
Washington was unable to capitalize on good drives and turnovers, and it ultimately cost them the game. The running game did not get going and the passing game wasn’t enough against the capable Pittsburgh defense.
Pittsburgh’s offense worked because despite not having Martavius Bryant or LeVeon Bell, the tools they did have on offense were able to drive past a weak Washington defense and compiled a ton of points, more than enough for the victory in the first Monday game.
San Francisco 28 vs. Los Angeles 0
The most lopsided game this week was the one that shouldn’t have been. The 49ers aren’t this good, but the Rams offense seemed out of place and the defense couldn’t stay off the field.
Case Keenum blew the game by giving up turnovers and the Rams defense gave them none of their own. Even Todd Gurley didn’t look good in the game.
The 49ers were able to get their offense going, especially through the run game with Carlos Hyde.