Around the NFL, Week 1 Recap

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Another opening weekend in the National Football League has come and gone, and there were no shortage of storylines and exciting action to behold.  Fans everywhere have been waiting months for this moment and it is finally upon us – we can now rejoice.  Let’s take a look at the some of the results and rundown the major news and notes.

First off, let’s give credit where it’s due.  Many thought the Chiefs were in over their heads going into Houston as slight underdogs and facing a team that features possibly the most dominant defensive player in the NFL in JJ Watt.  Being down two starters on the offensive line also didn’t help matters, as the entire right side consisting of Jeff Allen and Eric Fisher sat out on Sunday.  They were replaced by 2nd-year player, French Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and tackle Jah Reid, who has been with the team for less than a week.  Hats off to those guys for standing their ground and playing well.  The local product out of Missouri, rookie Mitch Morse, also started at center and looked good as well. Pro Football Focus ranked his as the No. 1 Center in the NFL after week 1 – and that was after going up against veteran Vince Wilfork. KC controlled the majority of the game from the kickoff as Alex Smith went 22 of 33 passing for 243 yards and threw three touchdowns, two of which went to Travis Kelce in the first quarter. Kelce looks like he’s taking the next step forward and will be one of the top Tight End’s in the league for years to come. He has play-making ability galore for the position and it showed vs the Texans. It was also good to see Eric Berry back on the field, having gone through the struggles of cancer treatment and a few months ago not knowing if he would play at all this season…or ever again. Speedster DeAnthony Thomas, although not heavily involved in the offense yet (1 rush, 1 reception) nearly took back several punt returns for touchdowns. Surprisingly, Jamaal Charles was held to just 57 yards rushing on 15 attempts (3.6 average) but did have a receiving touchdown in the process and topped 100 yards in total offense. It was a good win, let’s hope they can keep things rolling this week on Thursday Night’s showdown at Arrowhead. Peyton Manning has won eight straight meetings against the Chiefs and KC hasn’t beaten Denver since 2012.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Many experts picked Indianapolis to be crowned conference champions and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Well, the Colts traveled to Buffalo as small 1-point favorites by kickoff and got a rude awakening as they were upset 27-14.  They seemed overwhelmed from the jump by a defense that stymied them all game long, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense never got in sync and Tyrod Taylor had a nice performance in his first game as the Bills starter. The Bills defense is legit, they brought pressure and blitzes from everywhere on the field, and have a very good secondary to cover the back end.  Indy looks to rebound in Week 2 at home on their fast track at Lucas Oil Stadium.  As for Buffalo, it will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum going forward when Brady and the Patriots roll into town. In answering Bills fans “we want Brady” chants, Brady said, “we’ll be there.” Head Coach Rex Ryan, however, would not take the bait, “I’m not going to pull a Bielema.” If you’re not aware, Bielema, now coach at Arkansas and formerly with Wisconsin, said (about Ohio State): “They play x number of ranked opponents on their schedule, we have 8 ranked opponents remaining on our schedule.”

Classic.

In St. Louis, the Rams had a huge win at home vs the Seahawks, 34-31,  in overtime. The defense is very impressive including rookie DL Aaron Donald, who is coming along quickly and already looks like a force. Nick Foles had a solid game in his debut as a Ram, and once they get Todd Gurley and Tre Mason back from injury, that should help bolster the backfield attack even more, as Jeff Fisher generally likes to establish a heavy ground game. STL heads east to face the Redskins on Sunday, and I predict their defense will swarm and bottle up a lackluster offense and career backup Kirk Cousins.

The Rookie QB Battle

Another “upset” took place as Heisman trophy winners Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft, respectively, faced off in the ultimate rookie showdown.  Mariota was simply on fire in the first half throwing 4 TD and once again besting Jameis, just as he did last season in the Rose Bowl when Oregon shredded Winston’s Florida State team. The Bucs were favored by 3 at home but apparently didn’t get the memo as they were defeated in blowout fashion, 42-14, in the quarterback’s debut in front of the home fans.  Tampa Bay has the pieces in place to have a good offense, but they need to improve rapidly after their showing against the Titans. They have size and talent at WR and Mike Evans could return this weekend or in Game 3. Doug Martin looks to have a bounce back season that mimics his rookie year. Winston did have 2 touchdown passes to TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, so it seems at least those two were on the same page.  I am interested in closely monitoring both Mariota and Winston this season to see their progression, and what direction both take after the effect of their early season duel.

Rivalry comes down to the finish on Sunday night

Dallas beat divisional foe New York in a controversial one-point game (27-26) Sunday Night after it looked like the Giants were going to come out with a win.  Much has been made about the fact that Eli Manning told RB Rashad Jennings “not to score” on the goal line to run out the clock in the final minutes. Then, Manning threw an incomplete pass on third down…stopping the clock. A touchdown there would have meant a 10-point lead for NY and the game being basically out of reach. It was an epic blunder by both the coaching staff and Manning, who was apparently trying to get cute with just under two minutes remaining in the game instead of taking the much needed touchdown. They settled for a FG and a 6-point advantage but left too much time on the clock as Tony Romo orchestrated the game winning 72-yard drive and marched the Cowboys down the field.  He threw an 11-yard passing score to Jason Witten with 7 seconds left, extra point good, Dallas wins by one after overcoming three turnovers.   

Arizona looks good with Palmer back in the fold

Bruce Arians has no problem going down field as the Cardinals possess the leagues best vertical passing attack, and with Carson Palmer back in action after returning from a torn ACL, the Cardinals did just that. Palmer threw 3 TD’s in a 31-19 victory over Drew Brees and the Saints. Brees had 355 yards but only one touchdown as they were held to FG’s most of the day. Palmer is now 14-2 in his last 16 starts and the Cards started 8-1 last season before he went down with the injury.  Starting RB Andre Ellington was injured and will now be replaced by Chris Johnson, who was recently acquired as a free agent and rookie David Johnson will get some touches on passing downs. Arizona could make some noise in a tough NFC West if they stay on this trajectory.  Those in fantasy needing a quality backup might look to add Palmer down the line if he continues to show well this season. Once reliable veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who has been inconsistent and trending downward the last few years, had a solid game with 6 catches for 87 yards. 

Broncos beat Ravens in a close call 

Peyton Manning didn’t look his best and if this a sign his skills (and career) are finally dwindling?  The Broncos have made their offense more vanilla under new head coach Gary Kubiak, and it showed on the field. Many have said he doesn’t have the zip on the ball and the same arm he once did, which makes sense considering he has said he doesn’t have all the feeling in his finger tips.  Thanks to Denver’s stout defense and Aqib Talib’s 51-yard pick-six, they still managed to win. Manning played behind an offensive line with four new players and mustered just 150 net yards, which was still more than counterpart Joe Flacco and the inconsistent Ravens offense. The Broncos O-line troubles (Peyton was sacked 4 times) could mean the Chiefs defensive could wreak havoc on Manning and confuse the long-time signal caller Thursday Night at Arrowhead in what looks to be a massive showdown of these two hated divisional rivals.  All eyes will be on this game in prime time and only time will tell if Peyton and his skills are truly on the decline. The game will be a big test for both teams, with someone looking to jump out to a 2-0 record early in the season.  
Misc, notes and injuries….
  • Fantasy owners cringed (me included) during the Cowboys-Giants game when Dez Bryant went to the locker room.  It was later revealed Bryant has a broken bone in his foot and will more than likely be out 6-8 weeks.  A big blow to those that kept him in Dynasty league or drafted him early.  

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