KEY POINTS OF WEEK 1 IN THE NFL
Week 1 is in the bag. I decided to look at a few teams and players that stood out in a variety of ways. I couldn’t get to every team, so there are some omissions, but all of these stood out to me. Let us know what we missed by hitting us up on twitter.
Let’s look at week 1.
PRE-SEASON HYPE GONE WRONG.
I can look at this a number of ways. Let’s start with the teams we may have overestimated and there’s a few of them.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have been thrown around as Super-bowl contenders after a busy free agency period. Here at the Gents clubhouse we’ve had our concerns, with the general consensus being that maybe Ryan Grigson might not know what he’s doing and should have used the draft to add some much needed pass protection, as well as some interior bulk on the defence.
Now it’s fair to say that they will rarely go up against a defence as talented as this but still this team looked poor. It would be unfair to lump all of the Colts issues in this game on the offensive line, as it really looked like a collective effort to create this poor performance. The receivers couldn’t get open, in particular the new Colts Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett really struggled. A lack of attention to the run game pointed to poor game-planning by the Colts, which stems from the Colts biggest issue. A lack of depth. This is a team that seriously struggled in the pre-season, which generally you can’t tell a great deal from, but what you can see is that the backups on this team aren’t at the level they need to be. When I look at this team I see a cross between the “dream team”, Eagles and the 2013 Falcons. A lot of big names, but poor game-planning and a serious lack of depth could see them woefully underperform.
Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota were the sneaky playoff pick for nearly everyone, which I suppose makes it less sneaky. The thought was that, with the pieces they had last year, plus a returning Adrian Peterson, could be enough to make them a relevant team. But this week we all fell for what felt like the ultimate trap. The Niners lost a lot in the off-season, which has been well documented so I won’t go through it again. But the fact is we didn’t know what they were. So week 1 the trap is set. Minnesota go into San Francisco and look incredibly awkward. the offence just couldn’t get going. In the system they were running Adrian Peterson struggled. It just looked like with a new look offence, they really didn’t know what to do with him. I would compare it to handing someone the keys to an F1 car a week after passing their driving test. They know exactly how good it is but for the life of them have no idea how to handle it. The Vikings woes didn’t just rest on Peterson’s shoulders however. The offensive line is still awful, with the loss of starting center John Sullivan to the IR designated to return list and Loadholt out for the season, they lose their 2 best players. If you want an example of this, watch the clip of rookie TJ Clemmings help the Niners pass rush take down Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings just look like they’re not quite there yet. It feels like they have the pieces, but they just haven’t gelled. Personally I think Mike Zimmer described it best in his post-game interview, “Maybe we’re just not ready for prime time yet”, this Vikings team could be very good, but they’ve got a long way to go.
IT’S 1 GAME…
Sometimes it’s important to remember, that we’ve had 1 game. Game 1 is planned out for months and some teams clearly do it better than others. These are the teams that clearly still have some flaws.
St Louis Rams: Yes they did a great job against one of the highest rated teams in the league, but it wasn’t a perfect performance. Nick Foles coughed the ball up twice on his own and Isaiah Pead added a 3rd. It’s just the Seahawks couldn’t capitalise on it. That being said I do think this team is better than people originally thought. The defence is unreal. A front 7 with insane depth and a secondary that can capitalise on it. I actually liked Foles too on offence. Yes the Seahawks didn’t have Chancellor, but it still takes some talent to take advantage of that. Foles did that, putting the ball in areas that Chancellor would normally marshall and taking advantage of the fact that Earl Thomas can’t be in 2 places at once, doing a great job at keeping the ball away from him. The Rams played well, but you have to ask, could they do this against the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think so. I would love to see this team do well this season, but I’m going to reserve my judgement until I’ve seen a little more.
Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan did a great job at game planning against the Colts, putting pressure on Andrew Luck forcing him to make mistakes and on offence successfully moving the ball down field. However… I don’t think they’ll be able to do this every week and against teams with better defences they may struggle. This coming week’s game against the Patriots should be fairly interesting. The Pats on defence looked decidedly beatable, particularly against the run. If Tyrod Taylor can get it going against this team, I think I probably become more of a believer. But beating the Super bowl champs won’t be easy.
COULD BE SOMETHING SPECIAL
This is relative, so when you see some names, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re Super bowl bound, but definitely worthy of some attention.
Atlanta Falcons: I will go on record saying that I want to like this team. I’m a huge fan of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan and want nothing more than this to be the season they get some well-deserved love… and you know what, after watching the Eagles game, it might be time. The best receiver in the league conversation can be twisted a number of ways. The consensus pick is Antonio Brown and I myself even put him number 1 a couple of months back. However if I was to do it today, Julio would be number 1 with a bullet. He can line up anywhere and dominate against anyone. In this game he was covered by Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll and Walter Thurmond and caught 9 of 11 passes for 141 yards with 2 touchdowns. Matt Ryan’s stats in this game are marred by a couple of interceptions. It is worth remembering however that 1 of those was a truly freakish play from Kiko Alonso, reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr’s famous catch. The point is though that as good as these players are, it’s the rest of the team that kept them in this one. The defensive line deserves a lot of credit for keeping the run game as a non-factor. Although Matthews and Murray both had a TD they were kept for a combined 13 yards, forcing Bradford to throw the ball 52 times. The offensive line looked surprisingly good too. Matt Ryan rarely looked troubled by the defence and allowed him to move the ball downfield. They were by no means perfect, but against one of the top rated teams they did very well.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs might be the most complete team in the AFC West and dominated the Texans, despite a score line that flatters the AFC South team. Before I get carried away, I will point out that the Texans offence is woeful and seemed unable to capitalise on a defensive front that created a fair amount of pressure, but just by watching the Chiefs, it’s easy to tell that this is a team that can finally be competitive in a shootout. Alex Smith’s yards per attempt percentage overall has been 6.6 yards. From this game he had 7.4, along with 3 touchdowns (still none to a wide receiver) and zero interceptions. What has become clear is that this team has weapons finally. Charles, Kelce, Maclin, Davis and Thomas give the offence options that they simply haven’t had. So add this to an exceptional defence and you’ve got a team that could very well hang with the best. I love this team and genuinely believe they could have some playoff relevance.
Tennessee Titans: Do I think this team will have a long playoff run? No. Do I think they could make the playoffs? erm, probably not. Are they relevant finally? Yes… yes they are. Despite saying that I don’t think they could make the playoffs, they easily looked like the best team in a woeful division this week. I’ll talk about Mariota later, but there is no doubt that he’s improved this team. The fact is though that on both sides of the ball team look the best they’ve looked in at least 5 years. On defence I think Dick LeBeau will receive some credit for simply being there, but some credit needs to go the players themselves, for finally getting their head round the 3-4 system that took them so long to get used to last season. Even players that I thought were woeful last year looked good this year, with Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepping up in the secondary. On offence the line looked solid and thanks to some decent QB play there is a chance that Bishop Sankey might be able to do something. This team were my least favourite in the league last year. Now they might be the only team I have any time for in the AFC South.
Detroit Lions: There are some serious problems on this team, with the biggest in my opinion being the quarterback. Stafford completed only 3 of 10 passes further than 10 yards. Stafford managed to target both Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, which is good being that my biggest issue with Stafford being that he tends to stare down his number 1 receiver. However, a combination of a lack of accuracy and the Chargers excellent secondary meant that he only connected with them 6 times out of a potential 13 times. All of Detroit’s yardage came from yards after catch the running backs Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah providing 112 of Stafford’s 246 yards. Speaking of Abdullah, he looks great, I have no doubt that this team can run the ball. But maybe if you’ve got Tate or Johnson in your fantasy, it might be worth seeing what you can get from them in a trade. Finally, Keenan Allen had an insane amount of success against this defence running the same play over and over. This is a problem.
New Orlean Saints: Here’s the problem with the Saints. They want to win games with their running backs. But if your defence sucks, you simply can’t do that. The Saints realized that the hard way this week as they went down early against the Cardinals, forcing Drew Brees to throw the ball. Which he did… 48 times. This team can’t win games like that anymore. It’s simply not built that way. This team will live and (more than likely), die by their defence. I fully expect Rob Ryan to be out of a job at the end of the year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I’m not going to go into too much detail, but this team looks remarkably similar to last year. They simply haven’t made enough changes. Oh and Lovie, stop bringing in Bears defensive backs. They’re not very good.
NOT CONCERNING… YET
There are 2 teams that will probably come good, so it’s just not worth worrying about yet.
Seattle Seahawks: They lost a close game, where in truth they had been gifted a number of chances. That is a worry. Also the secondary just looks completely different without Chancellor. However this team has some definite talent. Jimmy Graham is a redzone threat in weeks where they’ll complete more than 25% of their redzone chances. The mere threat of Tyler Lockett should become enough for punters to be worried about him, at which point they start messing up. This coupled with a dominant defence (which it will definitely be), should guarantee the offence is generally given pretty good field position. Speaking of the defence, it still looks good, but is clearly missing Chancellor. He WILL come back at which point they should look good. This is a blip Seahawks fans, nothing more.
Philadelphia Eagles: 2x new running backs, 1 x new QB. It was never going to be easy. I do have faith in this being the best team in the division still. There were flashes of brilliance. Jordan Matthews had an excellent game bar a big mistake at the end. Sproles is an effective change of pace back that is hard to deal with. The running backs will get it going, it just might take some time. Hopefully Bradford can stay healthy.
PLAYERS OF NOTE
Marcus Mariota: He has been outstanding, with a truly amazing start to the season. Personally I think his best trait is his ability to correct mistakes. Look at everything he was up against in pre-season, then look at how quickly he corrected them. There were a few unreal moments in his game against the Bucs, my favourite being an unreal play action pass that sold everyone including the cameraman. However… can we put the brakes on the hype a little bit. It’s one game and he’s already being measured for a yellow jacket. Let’s see how he’s done after a few games. I have no doubt that he will have an exceptional season, but come on… let’s see a little more first.
Jameis Winston: I still think he probably comes good, but maybe not this season, with this head coach. A huge ceiling, but it might be a rocky road. Oh and can we stop comparing him to Brett Favre just because he threw a pick 6 with his first throw.
Julio Jones: My number 1 receiver in the league, I’ve already spoken about him.
Jordan Matthews: Heart-breaking end to the game last night for the 2nd year player, but definitely more positives than negatives. Chin up Matthews, you’re on the verge of a very good season.
Johnny Manziel: Is it me or is that touchdown throw remarkably similar to the throws he made in pre-season? Is it possible that it’s one scripted play that he knows before reverting to his old self? This could be a problem.
Aaron Donald: he looks like a grown up. The dude got an insane amount of pressure. Big season coming for the 2nd year defensive tackle.
Brandon Williams: He was referred to by John Harbaugh as “the best nose tackle in the league”. He might be right.
Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte: Both had great games this week and both could be the top 2 running backs in the league this year, with Bell missing 2 games, Peterson taking a while to settle in and Demarco Murray on a new team. Forte could finally get the credit he deserves.
That’s all I got. There are other things I could have mentioned. Like how I think the Bears did quite well despite losing, or how both the Broncos and Ravens both looked pretty ordinary on offence, or how I have completely lost faith in the Jags. But by this point I’ve already taken up far too much of your time.