Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week 1 NFL Notes

As far back as 2012 I had the audacity to assert that phenomenon of the “read-option” or “zone-read” quarterback was not the “wave of the future,” but a gimmick that would take a few years for NFL defenses to adjust to. I’ve been proven largely correct; Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl, and yet just a few short years later he is sitting on a bench. The Browns, starting the Redskins’ former “wave of the future” quarterback, Robert Griffin III, were blown-out by the Eagles and a “conventional” quarterback, a rookie out of North Dakota State who was third on the depth chart when training camp started. RG3 blamed his poor performance on an injured shoulder, which I suppose is better than an injured knee, which I’m sure will be soon in arriving.  Interesting, another failed “wave,” Terrell Pryor, is now a wide receiver for the Browns, and even caught three passes.

Packers 27 Jaguars 23 I told a fellow Packer fan that I am very concerned about the Packers this season, and this victory did not ease that concern. Aaron Rodgers might have an array of “weapons” now that Jordy Nelson is back, but that doesn’t mean he is back to his “old self.” 20-34 for 199 yards is not a “good” performance by his lofty standards. Despite a 29-yard TD reception, Davante Adams remains an unreliable target. Nelson caught six passes, but for only 32 yards, with a long of just 8 yards. The Packers had three drives of plus-70 yards, yet managed just 70 yards the rest of the game. The Jaguars Blake Bortles threw for 320 yards, but being an “average” quarterback, he couldn’t convert on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 on consecutive plays at the end of the game deep in Packer territory—after a Packer fourth-down interception was nullified by a stupid holding call not even perpetrated on the intended receiver. 

Seahawks 12 Dolphins 10 You know the Seahawks won when you hear firecrackers (or was it gunshots?) going off after the game. I admit I hate Pete Carroll’s team. The only time I “favored” the Seahawks was when they played the Broncos in the Super Bowl, because I hate Peyton Manning more than I hate the entire Seahawks team. This is a game the Seahawks deserved to lose at home; but you know, the Dolphins are not a very good team, and they needed to consider a future without Ryan Tannehill last year. The Seahawks out-gained the Dolphins 352 to 222, yet they came within a whisker of losing 10-6. Knowing the local media, Russell Wilson will be crowned the “hero” of this “victory,” but he was ineffective throughout the entire game until the Dolphins’ predictable defensive meltdown in the final minutes. Despite his size and propensity to run, Wilson has yet to suffer a serious injury; in this game he “hurt” his ankle, and one wonders just how long his good fortune will continue.

Broncos 21 Panthers 20 In the Super Bowl rematch, Cam “Superman” Newton came-up just short of “redemption,” with Graham Gano missing a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds. Credit will go to the Broncos’ defense for making life miserable for Newton, who complained afterwards of hits to his noggin that were not flagged. Broncos newcomer Trevor Siemian was not particularly good, but that was not unexpected, since the Panthers’ defense isn’t any slouch, either. Siemian played more like “boy” than “boy wonder” most of the time he was on the field, and this is what would more likely have been the story line if the Panthers had won the game. But with this loss, the questions people had about Newton before should resurface; did he shoot his “wad” last season, to return to regressing as he had appeared to be doing before? 

Ravens 13 Bills 7 Tyrod Taylor is in his second season as a starting quarterback, and all he did was lead his team to 160  measly yards of total offense. When your defense holds a team with a $20+ million quarterback to 13 points on their own home turf and you still can’t win, then it is time to consider one’s options. Unfortunately for Rex Ryan, those “options” are EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones; if he had picked up Mark Sanchez, he might at least have a “quarterback” option.

Texans 23 Bears 14 I remember way back when that Jay Cutler was being compared to Brett Favre. I’m not sure what people were thinking back then, or what the people who are paying him $22 million this season are thinking. All I know is that Cutler has never been the quarterback that the Bears expected him to be, and there is no reason to believe he ever will be.

Buccaneers 31 Falcons 24 Jameis Winston exceeded expectations as a rookie, and had an impressive second-season debut against the Falcons, leading four long touchdown drives in the victory. The Falcons, on the other hand, continue to be an enigma. This is a team with an “elite” quarterback who on paper is on a career record-breaking course. Yet he lacks that ability to perform when his team most needs him to. And even with the Seahawks’ former Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator as coach, the team remains predictable in its substandard performance.

Vikings 25 Titans 16 The Titans actually led in this game 10-0 in the first quarter. But the Vikings’ Shawn Hill, in relief of the injured Teddy Bridgewater, didn’t turn the ball over, the same which cannot be said of the Titans’ Marcus Mariota, whose committed two mistakes which were directly converted into touchdowns, and were the difference in an otherwise sloppy game which saw Adrian Peterson gain just 31 yards on 19 carries. 

Bengals 23 Jets 22 Matt Forte may finally be out of Chicago, but he shouldn’t be expecting to be playing in the Super Bowl any time soon, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to throw the ball to the wrong team during two-minute drills. Andy Dalton threw for a lot of yards, which isn’t any big surprise; what also isn’t a big surprise is that despite all the effort, the Bengals still just barely snared victory from the jaws of defeat. 

Raiders 35 Saints 34 In a game that combined for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense, the Raiders gained nearly half of theirs and two-thirds of their points in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees threw for 423 yards; this is a guy who is 37 and just an inch taller than Russell Wilson, and would have five 5,000-yard passing seasons if he had not missed a game last season. Why are the Saints then not a contender year-after-year? Probably because in 7 of the past 10 years the Saints' defense has ranked in the bottom quarter of the league.

Chiefs 33 Chargers 27 When Alex Smith completes 34 passes for 363 yards in just one game, you know the opponent’s in trouble. The Chargers squandered a 24-3 lead in the third quarter, and lost in OT when Smith actually ran the ball in from two-yards out.

Lions 39 Colts 35 Matthew Stafford actually seems to have improved with Megatron retired, completing passes to eight different receivers. But the Lions still nearly blew a 21-3 lead away, with Andrew Luck—throwing for 385 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions—rallying the Colts to a 35-34 lead with less than a minute to play. But unlike the old days, this time the Lions didn’t just fold-up their tents and go home early, winning the game in the final seconds.

Giants 20 Cowboys 19 This is hardly the “statement” game for the Giants that commentators are claiming it is. If this is any example of how their season is going to progress, they ought to be somewhat concerned. The Giants are the only team in the NFC East with an “elite” quarterback who is at least standing upright, although the Giants have not been in the playoff in five years. Eli Manning threw for only 203 yards and the Giants were actually out-gained by Dak-what’s-his-name and the Cowboys, but the inability to throw the ball past five yards of the line of scrimmage doomed the Cowboys in the final minute when they only needed a field goal to win.

Patriots 23 Cardinals 21 The Cardinals are supposed to be “Super Bowl” bound this season, and one expected that a home win against a Tom Brady-less Patriots team to be at least a modest “statement” game—rather than an embarrassing defeat. A couple of gift turnovers kept the Cardinals in the game at all, and victory was lost before the missed field goal in the final minute by the failure of the defense to hold on two third-and-long downs on the drive that led to the Patriots' gamewinner.

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