Nothing from Week 1 should be weighted too heavily. Let’s remember that as we breakdown the NFL’s opening weekend. Here’s Tony Romo being thankful for Eli Manning’s most generous gift. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
We overreact to Week 1 every season and 2015 is no exception. “The Seahawks are done,” someone told me yesterday. “Buffalo is winning the AFC East,” said another. And my favorite of the day, “The Cowboys will be lucky to win 5 games.” Pump those brakes, people. Pump those brakes. Did we already forget how badly the Cowboys were pummeled last year on opening weekend? The team that did the pummeling (49ers) was a disaster by season’s end and the Cowboys came within a disputed call of the NFC Championship Game. The Chiefs finished one game out of the AFC Playoffs despite getting crushed by the Titans. The Titans won once more all season. Need more proof? The Patriots were outscored 23-0 in the 2nd half of Week 1 last season en route to an ugly loss in Miami. Miami missed the playoffs. The Patriots, if I recall correctly, had some playoff success. Enjoy that football is back, take a deep breath, and wait another 3 or 4 weeks before putting a bow on a team’s 2015 season.
Sources tell me Chip Kelly has offered the Titans Fletcher Cox, DeMarco Murray, Mychal Kenricks, a future first, and Dario Saric for Marcus Mariota. As talks continue, it’s possible Chip quits the Eagles to voluntarily join the Titans coaching staff. I’ll keep you updated as this story continues to develop.
Though the NFL season started this week, offenses in Denver didn’t get the memo. Denver and Baltimore combined for 392 yards, 27 1st downs, and 18 points – barely surpassing the offensive output of their defenses (14 points). There was one – ONE! red zone trip the entire afternoon and it occurred late in the 4th quarter with less than five minutes to play. For reference, Philip Rivers accounted for more yards than the Ravens and Broncos combined. Three teams amassed more than 27 first downs. And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I miss defensive struggles. Obviously, the offenses weren’t at their best, but both defenses were great. While I don’t hate the offensive explosion in recent years, it’s always nice to see an old school outing ruled by defense.
If you missed it, the potential game-clinching drive by Denver in the 4th was a thing of beauty. 17 plays, 81 yards, eating up nearly 11 minutes of clock while clinging to a 3 point lead. Though the Broncos only added a field goal, it was the type of drive every offense dreams off when holding onto a 4th quarter lead.
Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford played their respective roles to perfection Sunday. Both performed well enough to give their teams 2nd half leads over favored opponents before watching it fall apart as a result of their own miscues. Cutler threw a backbreaking interception late in the 4th with the Bears down 8 that ultimately ended the game. Stafford double-downed with two costly interceptions on consecutive drives while nursing an 8 point 3rd quarter lead. Despite a hot start, Stafford and the Lions would eventually surrender what was once a 21-3 lead. It wasn’t until garbage time that Stafford and the Lions put an end to a 30-0 run by the Chargers.
For Cutler and Stafford, this could be the last year they’re afforded to prove themselves as franchise quarterbacks. In fact, if Cutler doesn’t pull a rabbit out of his hat soon, his days as a starting NFL QB are numbered. The Lions may be more lenient with Stafford given his age, but he’s declined since his breakout 2011 season.
Now that football is back, let’s remember the most important thing about the NFL:
Usually the Power Rankings go here, but it’s not worth ranking teams until October, at the earliest. Instead, let’s rank the most obnoxious fan bases from Week 1.
1. Eagles fans – If I had a dollar for every time someone told me the NFC East is garbage and the Eagles will walk away with the division I could fund my own campaign for President.
2. Cowboys fans – From full-fledged panic to arrogant gusto in less than 20 minutes. No fan base celebrates an ugly victory like those lovable folks in Dallas.
3. Bills fans – To some degree, Buffalo fans deserve to gloat. They’ve suffered enough. I regret including them on this list. My apologies.
4. Eagles fans – You’re doing a great job of making sure Terrell Suggs knows his injury was a direct result of the questionable hit he put on Sam Bradford in the preseason. I’m absolutely, positively, 100% confident each and every one of you would repeat the things you put on Twitter to Suggs’ face. If only I could witness such a thing.
5. Redskins fans – For three solid quarters Washington fans LOVED throwing their “dominating” performance over the Dolphins in our doubting faces. After three Miami scores in 5 minutes, all was quiet around our nation’s capital.
The more I watch Eli Manning the more I wonder how he fell into those two Super Bowl trophies. No doubt, he was great throughout those playoff runs, but for the most part, the rest of his career has been a head-scratcher, to say the least. As Manning rolled out of the pocket on 3rd and goal with under 1:43 to go in the 4th quarter, I yelled, “No!, Run the ball!” Then I remembered Manning was pretty clutch en route to winning two titles so I thought, “He knows to just lay down if nothing is there. Right?!?! OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS HE DOING?!?!?!” Sure enough, two-time champion and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw the ball away and stopped the clock, affording the Dallas Cowboys an extra 40 seconds. That’s not it, though. Look at the time left on the play clock at the time the ball was snapped on the Giants five snaps with a running clock on that drive; 11 seconds, 17, 10, 5. That’s 43 seconds. Combine that with the 40 seconds gifted by Eli on the throw away and that’s 1:23. Instead of the Cowboys starting their final drive with 1:29 on the clock, they’re dead in the water with less than 10 seconds. Whoops.
Tony Romo was exceptional Sunday night. That Dallas receiving crew is a hot mess without Dez Bryant and Romo still went 36/45 for 350 and 3 TD. That final drive was a thing of beauty. Not an ounce of panic. Also, Howard Eskin (and countless Eagles fans) said Sam Bradford is a better quarterback than Romo. Um, no.
I wish I tweeted this. So great.
Deflating losses for the Colts and Ravens.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) September 13, 2015
Injuries were one of Sunday’s most unfortunate outcomes. The curse against top receivers continued as Dez Bryant and T.Y. Hilton joined Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin on the inured list, albeit for less time. The season-ending Terrell Suggs injury is a big one to a Baltimore defense that looked dominant Sunday. Even at 32, Suggs remains one of the league’s premiere pass rushers. Andre Ellington and Antonio Cromartie are awaiting MRIs for non-contact injuries, but it’s not looking promising, especially for Ellington. Football is great. Injuries are the worst.
Further proof that, despite fame and monstrous contracts, quarterbacks are just kickers with better arms.
MVP: Tom Brady
Runner Up: Bills Defense, Tony Romo
Left off Ballot: Steelers Secondary