The first Sunday of the NFL season has passed and some teams are already on the outside looking in, while others exhale a sigh of relief as their offeason roster moves panned out.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Panic
Le’Veon Bell’s interim replacement shined in his starting debut for the Steelers, as fans watched second-year back James Conner rack up 135 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a nice 57 yards receiving. Last season, no one would have been surprised to see Bell put those numbers up against the Browns, but to have James Connor outperform expectations was a real treat in such a poor game Steeler’s fans.
In a game that pitted the former AFC North champions against only the second team ever to go 0-16 in a season, many thought a blowout would occur. After blowing a 21-7 lead in the 4th quarter, the Steelers found themselves tied with the Browns 21-21 at the end of overtime. The Steelers turned the ball over six times.
Perhaps most concerning was that aging quarterback Ben Rothlisberger threw three interceptions to a Cleveland defense who is known for giving up points. With Bell not being the issue, and Connor playing his best, a tie with the Browns is more than enough reason for Steeler fans panic.
Buffalo Bills: Really Panic
The Bills made the bold move to announce second year quarterback Nathan Peterman as their starting quarterback for week one of the season. That proved to be a mistake, as the Bills offense failed to do much of anything in a 47-3 loss to an average Baltimore Ravens team. Peterman carried over his first year problem of taking care of the ball, throwing two interceptions to start the season.
Furthermore, the Bills made an even worse decision by pulling Peterman out of the game and throwing developing rookie quarterback Josh Allen to the wolves. Allen managed to put together a a drive that ended in a field goal, and managed not to turn the ball over in his one quarter of action.
Clearly, Buffalo needs to reevaluate their quarterback situation and many other positions on both sides of the ball, and next week’s game against the also-average LA Chargers will be a good litmus test as to how bad the Bills really are.
Jameis Winston: Slightly Panic
Maybe the most surprising stat line after week was posted by backup Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The 35-year-old threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another against a Saints team who was supposed to be developing their defense. Fitzpatrick threw with ease, only missing on just seven of his 28 attempts. Former first round draft pick and currently suspended quarterback Jameis Winston watched as his backup put up numbers that he failed to match last year.
It is unclear whether Fitzpatrick will be able to keep this type of play up for the rest of Winston’s three-game suspension, but if so there will be an interesting decision for head coach Dirk Koetter. In other words, Fitz-magic or Fitz-tragic?
Chicago Bears: Rejoice
The Chicago Bears have had a tough go of it over the last few years, finishing last in their division most seasons. A week ago, the bold prediction was that this team may go 0-16 this season, but even after losing week one those odds have decreased tremendously.
In a 24-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday night, the Bears held their own, carrying a 20-7 lead for a large portion of the game only to lose it in the fourth quarter. A loss is a loss, but a close loss to Aaron Rodgers shows improvement for the Bears.
Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky proved he could take care of the ball, while throwing a high percentage of completions and newly acquired defensive powerhouse Khalil Mack was a menace all night.
Good things are happening for the Bears franchise, and if there were a different Packer QB at the helm Sunday night, the outcome may have surprised many.
Houston Texans: Don’t Panic Yet
The Texans lost what looked to be a close one to the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots 27-20. But those who watched the game may have a few concerns for the Texans. Houston’s franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson played his first regular season game since coming off ACL surgery last season, and he looked rather timid.
The former first round pick completed only 50% of his pass attempts and tossed a bad throw into the end zone during the second quarter into double coverage that wound up being intercepted. These miscues could be chalked up to an impressive Patriot pass rush or the fact the Watson’s confidence is not back yet from his injury, regardless of how his knee feels physically.
The odds are Watson will recover and be a force in the league this season, but the Texan coaching staff should be weary of history repeating itself.
Robert Griffin III, former first round pick of the Washington Redskins, played the same style as Watson, had similar individual rookie success as Watson, and had the same knee injury as Watson after his first season. Griffin is now a third-string quarterback who never recovered his skills. The Texans are hoping things turn out differently for Watson.
New England Patriots: Rejoice
Many analysts have been eagerly anticipating the so called “cliff game” for Patriots 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady. With his favorite weapon Julian Edelman suspended for four games, ensuring his second favorite target Rob Gronkowsi would be double teamed, the odds were pointing for this game to be the eye opening match to signal the end of Brady’s career.
But Brady had different ideas, as he proceeded to throw for 277 yards and three touchdowns before relaxing on the throttle in the second half. He still managed to get the ball to a double teamed Gronk seven times for 123 yards and the first touchdown of the season. As icing on the cake, Brady utilized receivers Phillip Dorsett and James Devlin to combine for 11 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots do not have all their weapons and still managed to easily beat a youthful team. Maybe Tom Brady’s claim to play until he is 45 has some truth to it after all.
New York Jets: Maybe Rejoice?
Monday night, the Jets blew out the Lions 48-17 in a matchup that might be deceptive to some fans of the ascending Jets offense. The Jets may have put up 48 points, but the score could’ve been much less if the punt return for a touchdown and five turnovers by the Lions offense disappeared. The Jets defense and special teams shined in their debut, and while rookie Sam Darnold didn’t disappoint, he managed to fit himself right in the gray area in his first game.
Darnold threw for just under 200 yards while completing 16 of his 21 pass attempts, connecting two of those for touchdowns. An impressive showcase was dampened by an early interception, but it ended up not factoring into a blowout game.
Darnold was able to play the role of game manager while guiding his team to a victory behind a stout defensive performance.
The rookie’s career seems to be off to a good start, but the continuation of his success will result on how much the Jets need to rely on him. If Darold can sit back and develop as his team carries him there is hope for this Jets offense, if Darnold is asked to throw the ball 40 times a game, the future may be bleak.
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