Those of us at The Shop always spend the Sunday afternoon of Week 1 getting together for a season kickoff barbecue and our fair share of adult beverages to watch games and share smart talk about how we feel the coming season is going to lay out.
For a couple of the guys in our fantasy league, it’s a time to cry in their beer about how awful their teams are only one week into the season. For the rest of us, it was a chance to enjoy America’s most popular reality TV show and the NFL delivered in record numbers in Week 1.
Of the 14 games played on Thursday and Sunday, four of them were decided by one point, two of them were decided by two points and another game went to overtime before a winner was decided. Only three games had a winner that came away with a win of more than a touchdown and two of those were nine points wins for a Minnesota team that trailed by 10 points at halftime and a Houston team that was behind heading into the fourth quarter.
The only true blowout was Philadelphia beating down Cleveland 29-10, but anyone who endures Browns games on a regular basis has got used to that reality.
The closeness of the games has been basically chalked up to having all teams extremely healthy at the beginning of the season. The difference between a great team and a good team isn’t that much. The difference between a good team and a bad team is even less. It’s usually attrition that kills off contenders. You can only replace so many key players without feeling the strain. Just ask Dallas last year. Without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, the team struggled badly after entering the season with division title dreams.
However, what we witnessed Sunday may never happen again. Just going back one year points out that anomaly.
Of the 14 games heading into Monday night’s games, 10 of them were decided by six points or less. How does that compare to Week 1 of the 2015 season? Of the 16 games in Week 1, only five were decided by six points or less. Of the other 11 games, three were decided by seven and other games were decided by 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21 and 28 points. There were many more blowouts than close games.
The same was true in 2014. There were six games decided by six points or less in Week 1, while there were eight games decided by double-digit wins.
Was this just a one-week aberration or something we can expect all season long? Let’s hope it does continue because Week 1 was about as good as America’s top reality show gets.
- Just how good are the Patriots? The focus on the Sunday night game was on Tom Brady being out with a suspension. But, the Patriots offense was without Rob Gronkowski, longtime starting tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Volmer, they didn’t have their project top running back (Dion Lewis), starting linebacker Rob Ninkovich and were starting a third- and sixth-round rookies at guard. Yet, they came away with a road win against a team many believe will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Give me some of the Belichick Kool-Aid because I’d gladly gulp it down.
- How about we don’t Remember the Titans. Since the start of 2014 season, Tennessee is 2-15 in front of the paying customers – and both wins came against a relatively ratty Jacksonville team. For those dropping their hard-earned cash on tickets, parking, overpriced suds, team apparel and various other sundries, if they keep losing at home, NFL means Not For Long for the season ticket base.
- If this is in fact Larry Fitzgerald’s final season, those who are in charge of constructing busts for the Pro Football Hall of Fame may as well get started now and beat the rush.
- The Robert Griffin III era lasted all of one week in Cleveland. That’s for the memories, Bob.
- Let’s hear it for Lamar Miller. In the 14 games prior to Monday night, Miller was the only running back who ran for 100 yards in Week 1.
- In the battle of the rookie wide receivers, Round 1 has clearly gone to Will Fuller. Corey Coleman had 69 yards, but caught just two passes. Josh Doctson has missed all of the preseason with an Achilles injury, Laquon Treadwell was active, but never saw the field in Minnesota’s opener. Fuller caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Was That A Dab or a Choke? – The Carolina Panthers were favored to go into Denver and take out the champs in their rematch and, for much of the game, it looked that way. The Panthers led by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, the kind of stat a coach has a record of something big, a dash and something really small (like 17-1). From the start of the second half until less than 10 minutes remained in the game, the Panthers offense had the ball four times. They ran 13 plays and gained 38 yards, allowing a late-round QB drafted 249 picks later in his draft than Cam Newton was to come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
9. Breaking Bad in the Southwest – As we pointed out above, given the losses that the Patriots had on offense coming into last night’s cross-country road trip into the unfriendly confines of the University of Phoenix Stadium, this one should have been a blowout. By game time, the point spread with my bookie was pushing double digits. The fact that the Cardinals couldn’t put away a crippled team three times zones away from home was a shocking development for a team with its sights on the Super Bowl. Granted, a non-conference loss isn’t the end of the season and, when January rolls around, Arizona will likely still be playing, but this was one that got away from them that shouldn’t have.
8. It Will Take You All Day to Get a Hundred, A.D. – The Minnesota Vikings won their season opener without their offense scoring a point. Their defense scored 12 and their special teams scored 13. For Adrian Peterson, known as All Day, it was one of the worst days of his pro career. The Titans clearly came in with the idea of flooding the box to make others beat them and the results were chilling – 19 carries for 31 yards. Only once in his 10 NFL seasons, has he rushed 19 times or more and gained fewer yards – and that was in 2008. At that rate, to rush for 100 yards, Peterson would have needed to rush the ball 62 times. Tennessee may have given other defenses the blueprint to making Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill beat them.
7. Gone and Soon Forgotten – In a week where the fans were treated to a lot of close games in the NFL, the only blowout in the first 14 games through Sunday night was Cleveland getting hammered 29-10 by the Philadelphia Eagles, who most in the know believe wins are going to be hard to come by after trading their starting quarterback so they would have a pick on opening night of the 2017 draft in their town. Not only did Cleveland allow an opponent to hold the ball for almost 40 minutes, but it was against a rookie from North Dakota State. It only gets worse when they face real competition.
6. Welcome to Fantasy Island – There has always been a aura surrounding Darrelle Revis. They call it Revis Island. It’s a nasty place – kind of like Alcatraz. You’re walking on the way in. You leave on a slab. Fantasy owners who drafted A.J. Green weren’t dissuaded from playing him. Why not? He’s the top WR on any owner who drafted him. On Sunday, he was targeted 10 times when going nose-to-nose with Revis. He caught all 10 passes for 160 yards and scored a touchdown. There is a Hall of Fame bust waiting for Revis five years after he retires, but, if Sunday was any indication, that day may be coming sooner than later. Perhaps the automatic benching of fantasy receivers being welcomed to Revis Island may have to take a different course this year.
5. Skipping On Your Bills – It seemed ironic that, on the day we mourned the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, the Buffalo Bills haven’t made the playoffs since the Twin Towers were still standing. In their season opener – the first with the comic team of Ryan & Ryan in charge of both sides of the ball, Buffalo managed just 160 yards against a Baltimore team that isn’t viewed by most as a team that can make vacation plans on Jan. 3. The Bills have nine offensive drives. Five of them were three-and-out. The offense averaged five yards per pass attempt and 2.7 yards per rush. Bills fans will write it off as one of 16 games. Then again, they’ve been writing off losses for long damned time.
4. So Much for the Dak Attack – Nobody was more hyped in the preseason that Dak Prescott. He was putting up numbers against vanilla defenses in meaningless game, but he had to face a real defense. The Giants knew what they were up against and brought the heat to force Prescott’s hand. Of his 25 completions, 17 of them were to catch-and-fall specialist Jason Witten and the poor man’s Julian Edelman (Cole Beasley). Those 17 catches covered just 131 yards – an average of 7.7 yards per catch. Ezekiel Elliott ran 20 times for just 51 yards with a long run of eight yards on 20 chances. For those who annually drink the blue Kool Aid, a home loss to the Giants isn’t a great way to get the New World Order underway in Big D. Oh yeah, and Dez had one catch for eight yards and the first salsa dance in three years came on the star. Ouch!
3. Atlanta Is Burning – One week into the season and Tampa Bay is alone atop the NFC South after they dominated Atlanta’s run game. Matt Ryan is a good QB, but you don’t want him throwing for 300 yards too often in this offense. The Bucs have been a bottom-feeder in the NFC South for some time, but, they sit by themselves as the unquestioned early-September kings of the NFC South. Falcons fans weaned on 2015 were waiting for the other shoe to drop. They didn’t expect it in Week 1. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined to rush 19 times for 42 yards. You don’t win many games that way and the Falcons blew a chance at home to be the top dog in the South. Instead, they not only are tied for last in the division, they’re officially in last with a home division loss on their record.
2. Good Thing It’s Your Last Year – Just in time for election season, the San Diego Chargers got off to a great start to what may end up being its final year in Southern Cali because, any time you ask California voters to subsidize billionaires, you may as well be asking voters to make arson legal. They led the Chiefs 24-3 – a 21-point lead with 21 minutes to play. Somehow, they found way to piss it down their leg. San Diego’s last four possessions resulted in one missed field goal and three punts. Kansas City’s last four drives resulted in three touchdowns and a field goal. And Keenan Allen is D.O.A. for a second straight year. Stay classy, San Diego.
1. I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners Than Cry With the Saints – Coming into the 2016 season, one of the primary concerns as to whether New Orleans could ever make it back to the Super Bowl was that, its defense is uglier than three miles of bad road. Drew Brees did his part, showing once again that he’s a Hall of QB. It was thought that the Saints would need to consistently score 30 points a game to win. They scored 34 on Sunday. They lost. At home. To Oakland. Of the 35 points they gave up, 22 came in the fourth quarter, including a gutsy call by Jack Del Rio that showed more desperation than gamesmanship. But a win is a win no matter how you get it. A home loss to the Raiders is a bad sign for the Saints moving forward.