Monday, September 14, 2015

NFL 2015 Week 1 Snap Judgments

....or, "Let's All Jump to Unfair and Premature Conclusions On What We Know About Each Team."

It's always kind of silly to have any kind of serious reactions to Week 1 of an NFL season since the good teams separate themselves from the bad teams until at least a month into the season.  Supposedly good teams like Seattle, Indianapolis, and Baltimore all lost, while potentially weaker teams like the Jets and Tennessee both had hugely lopsided victories.  The one truly notable talking point in Week 1 is that there are always a couple serious season-ending injuries, and this week was no exception.  Having said all that, let's dive right in....

1. I didn't give the Bills nearly enough thought or credit prior to Sunday.  The Bills' defense is stronger, faster, and meaner than anything I could have expected, and shame on me for not expecting that.  They had a solid defense before Rex Ryan was hired as their new head coach, but they played some crazy tenacity by making Andrew Luck uncomfortable in the pocket all day long.  The Colts didn't even get on the board until well after the game was decided, and their overall weaknesses as a team were exposed even further when the Bills rushed for 147 yards on them (though it felt like a whole lot more than that).

2. The MVP of the Week is Marcus Mariota.  Speaking of failing to give proper thought or credit, Marcus Mariota had one of the greatest rookie QB debuts in NFL history, throwing for four touchdown passes in the first half.  I'm not going to back down from my prediction that Jameis Winston will break the rookie QB touchdown record, but for at least one Sunday, Mariota looked like a proven veteran QB and Winston looked every bit like the rookie he is.

3. The Rams could be one of the upstart teams in the NFC.  The Rams already had a fierce defense with Aaron Donald, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Robert Quinn, and Michael Brockers, but what they lacked is consistent QB play because Sam Bradford always found new and interesting ways to end his season abruptly.  Enter Nick Foles, and the Rams suddenly look balanced and dangerous in the NFC West.  They'll get even better once Todd Gurley can take the field, but it's fair to point out that despite the loss, Cary Williams unquestionably had the play of the day.

4. We are in for another season of ridiculous drama in Washington.  I hope everyone is happy with hearing about the ongoing circus that is the Redskins, because we are bound to read more about the ridiculous RGIII story line.  The worst part is that even if the Redskins do cut him (as they should), the drama won't end there.  There will still be dysfunction between owner Dan Snyder and head coach Jay Gruden as they argue over what direction the team should take.  Kirk Cousins was serviceable for most of Sunday, save a pick-6 to Brice McCain that was ultimately a game deciding play, but there's no way to know right now whether he's the long term quarterback.

Oh, and Keenan Robinson is going to kill someone making tackles like this one.  It's amazing that Jarvis Landry was able to still play the rest of the game.

5. The Goat of the Week is Tom Coughlin.  Football 101: If your football team possesses the lead late in the game and the opposition has used up all its timeouts, just run the football until the clock hits 0:00.  So why, when the Giants were up with 1:43 to play, did Tom Coughlin call for a pass play on a 3rd and 1?  Moreover, Eli Manning still threw the ball instead of taking a sack to keep the clock running.  To his credit, Tom Coughlin took the heat for the bumbled play call, as did Eli.

6. Losing Terrell Suggs is no small issue, but the Ravens can absorb his absence.  The Ravens already placed second-year player Brent Urban on the IR-designated to return, so even if Suggs miraculously healed by January, he couldn't return to the team.  They do have enough other pass rushers that they can handle losing him, starting with rookie Za'Darius Smith.  However, the other notable injuries from Sunday - namely Luke Kuechly's concussion and Dez Bryant's fractured foot - could actually have larger impacts on their respective teams than Suggs, despite their anticipated returns coming far sooner than Suggs.

7. The Chiefs' wide receivers may never catch another touchdown pass.  It's ancient history in football years since the last time a wide receiver caught a touchdown pass, and even the addition of Jeremy Maclin may not do much to fix that issue.  And yet, they're still one of the better teams in the AFC since they have playmakers like Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce (who did catch two TDs, and made of the greatest touchdown celebrations you'll ever see) and a stout defense.  How often can anyone say a team's wide receiving corps can be literally taken out of a football game week in and week out, and still not be completely terrible?

8. No Jordy Nelson means no problem for the Packers.  I somewhat suspect that I had put the kiss of death on the Packers this year because I had picked them to win the Super Bowl, and then a matter of days later, Jordy Nelson tore his ACL.  Normally such a devastating loss to a crucial offensive player is a season-changer, but Aaron Rodgers is one of those few QBs in the league who just makes his guys around him better.  Instead, they grabbed James Jones off the scrap heap, and all he did was make two TD catches on the day.  I wasn't ever that concerned for their season even after Nelson went down, even though part of me wondered if I had inadvertently sent the football gods after them.  But hey, this entire post has all been about unfair and premature conclusions, so that's just one more to the mix.