Week one, in the books. It was a rough, weird week. There are only a few teams feeling on the top of the world. Some are troubled but confident. And others are feeling that same impending sense of panic you get when you live in New York City during a disaster movie. For a one bye-week with the relative health the beginning of the season brings, this week posted some brutal scores with very few 200 point performances. A couple of quick quarterback hooks and bad injuries compound things further.
Here at the report, the general take is this: Don’t overreact to week 1. Fortunately, for all that it’s the first week, it means even less this year than in most years because it is only a single week rather than our typical inaugural double. Things will bet back to normal soon.
That said, there are some teams who have a reason to panic. I’m here to break it down for you.
Game of the Week: Detroit Lions 227 over Arizona Cardinals 201
Good game. The eventual NFC West champ vs. the eventual NFC North champ. Aside from the Giants, the two highest scores in the NFC. Same as it ever was. And what was the difference? 35.4 points from Tyreek Hill. Did I mention in the off-season that the Super Bowl Champions got Tyreek Hill? Look, this was a really excellent game. Both teams played really well. You could say that a pair of close misses to Torrey Smith and a zero to Run DMC were the game, but you could also say that 25 points from Jalen Mills kept the Cardinals in it. In the end, this was a hard fought game where both teams came to play and the Lions demonstrated why they are the team to beat in the NFC – too many weapons who can have a big game any given week.
LA Rams: The Rams are going to have trouble scoring. This is absolutely true. But TJ Watt is the real deal, the rest of the defense stepped up as well, and young receivers like Zay Jones are going to improve as the year goes on. LA isn’t going to be a great team this year, but that defense showed me it has staying power, and I like this team to absolute irritate the competitors and maybe even still a game or two as the year goes on.
Smoke and Mirrors:
Jacksonville Jaguars: Hidden behind the week’s biggest update, a thrashing of the Super Bowl contending Houston Texans, is how the Jaguars got there. Kareem Hunt’s 52 points aren’t going to happen everybody. Nor is the defense, however stout, going to intercept two passes (including a Ryan Kerrigan pick six), force two fumbles, and pick off another one. It’s good news that Cooper Kupp and Danny Amendola look like they are going to be targeted heavily, and Marqise Lee may see more targets with Allen Robinson’s injury, but this is still a team without a quarterback and that I expect to return to earth next week.
Kansas City Chiefs: Yes the Chiefs led week #1 in scoring in an obliteration of the Patriots. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that huge chunks of it came from a 33 point outing by Alex Smith, a combined 66 points from its Linebackers, and a Fumble returned for a TD by a defensive lineman. Where did it not come from? Running back, safety, and WR4. The Chiefs can’t expect repeat performances on the plus side, and the things they needed verdicts on all came back negative. A twin challenge at division rival Oakland and NFC contender Philadelphia loom.
Chill, you’ll be Fine
Houston Texans: David Johnson out 2-3 months is rough. Painful. But all told? No team is better equipped to handle a loss to a stud RB than Houston. Jacksonville had a buzzsaw week. Chris Hogan will play better, the defense will generate more big plays (only 1 sack and 1 turnover for a group that accumulated 41 combined tackles), and DJ will be back. If anything, Austin Hooper’s big day has to be an encouraging sign of things to come, even if it all came on only two catches. It’s never good to lose week one, never good to lose a stud back, and never good to drop a divisional game. But the Texans will be fine, and this game won’t matter in the least come week 1 of the playoffs.
Oakland Raiders: Frustrating start for the Raiders, who drop a winnable home game to Tennessee to open a tough schedule. And yes, there are concerns at the back end of the offense, where guys like Jalen Richard and Benjamin Watson did nothing to justify the Raiders faith in them. But Oakland’s week 1 challenges are more like Houston’s – 1 sack and 1 turnover combined among starting defensive players getting a lot of minutes – that’s going to improve by regression to the mean. And guys like Tyler Eifert, Dez Bryant, and Jordan Matthews are going to get theirs. Dropping a game they should have won by a narrow margin hurts, but Oakland will be fine.
Reason to panic
Chicago Bears: That won’t get it done. The offense didn’t look sneaky for the Bears. It looked ordinary, or worse. Four points for Hoyer. 3 for Brandon Marshall. 6 for Gresham. 7 for Forte. Nothing for Wheaton. Only Terrance West lived up to his billing. The scary part is that these don’t seem like natural reversions. Hoyer and the SF offense looked like the disaster we’ve come to expect, Brandon Marshall and Eli aren’t even reading the same book, let alone getting close to the same page, Gresham is what he is, and Forte is old and in a platoon. To their credit, the Bears are addressing their issues, bringing in Emmanuel Sanders to replace the injured Cameron Meredith. But they can’t be happy in Halas Hall about how week 1 played out.
Indianapolis Colts: Ye gods. Indy has had scoring problems for the last three years. Their offense has depended on two players – Andrew Luck and Julian Edelman. And, of course, where do the injuries strike? Edelman is gone for the year. Nobody knows what’s up with Luck. And in their absence. Mercy. The Colts managed a TOTAL of 20 offensive points, with more than half (10.5) coming from Alvin Kamara. To be clear, no less than 51 individual PLAYERS scored more points than the entire Colts offense put together. If we remove Kamara, this number jumps to 280, including 4 punters. Yes, 280 individual players (almost ten per team!), including 4 punters, scored more points than 6 of the colts top 7 offensive players combined. This isn’t getting better until (if!) Luck gets back, and even then, it’s not getting good. This could be the worst offensive team in RDFL history by a wide margin.
Pittsburgh Steelers: So this will get better. Roethlisberger will score more than 16 points. Le’Veon Bell will return to his stud form. And if we’re talking about starting defensive squads missing out on the big play by luck, the Steelers D put together 34 tackles without a single turnover or sack. It will get a bit better. But enough better? The defensive question marks weren’t answered, the secondary looks mediocre, Fournette’s performance relegated even a healthy Yeldon to handcuff status, and with the exception of lone bright spot Jesse James, the supporting offensive cast doesn’t look like it will have much opportunity. Things will get a lot better for the Steelers than they were in week 1, but winning the AFC North suddenly no longer seems like a sure thing.
New England Patriots: On the one hand, the news on offense was really good. Charles Clay asserted himself well and Nelson Agholor had a breakout day. James White is going to be involved on the Patriots offense, and Mike Gillislee is on pace for a bajillion touchdowns. Despite down days for the geriatric duo of Brady and Gore, this team looks like it could put up a lot of points. On the flip side, the defense has proved itself sustainably terrible, with only three double digit performances, a pair of zeros, and Eric Berry lost for the year. The Pats are legit. But that defense will keep them from being a true threat to the Bills.
Big Games in Week #2:
Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers: Possible Super Bowl Preview? In week #2? Yes please. Both the Bills and the Panthers took care of week #1 business as expected, but less overwhelmingly than either felt comfortable with, especially Buffalo. Now they meet each other in a game that is both showdown and get-right game. The winner feels great. The loser suddenly has some questions.
Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants: I love double weeks! Week #2 has a couple of doozies. This is a potential NFC Championship game showdown – and much more of a clash, as both Detroit and New York put up strong week #1 performances. The loser here doesn’t have question marks. But the winner has the inside track to top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns: Of course there’s a big game in the AFC North. There’s ALWAYS a big game in the AFC North because all the teams are in convention. And here we go. Baltimore looked more impressive in week 1 (pre-forfeit), but Cleveland had the bigger win, knocking off Pittsburgh. Whichever team takes this game will grab early control of the North race, pending Cincinnati’s results. A bit like saying “will have sprinted to the lead at the half mile mark of the marathon”, but hey. It’s a lead.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders: Divisional showdown #1 between KC and Oakland comes in week 2, with the winner likely taking control of the AFC West race. KC looked like the better team in week one, but a reversal in week 2 could have the Raiders up by a game with a tiebreaker in hand.