OUR SPORTS WORLD
If you're an NFL fan, it's easy to overreact after the first week. When you win big, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did, it's easy to think big things might be in store. When you lose big, like the Buffalo Bills did, it's easy to look forward to basketball season. But as we've seen year in and year out, one great week does not a season make.
Except for you, Buffalo. You guys are toast.
So after nearly twelve hours of surfing through the NFL package, here are some of my observations about the NFL's opening week starting with (sigh) my team...
1) It looks like nothing has changed with the Los Angeles Chargers of San Diego. Not-so-special teams gave up a 91 yard punt return to Tyreek Hill and then later, rookie JJ Jones muffed, then fumbled a punt leading to another Kansas City score. Chargers receivers dropped five passes, three of which should have been touchdowns. And a defense billed as one of the league's most underrated made yet another young QB look like the second coming of John Elway. The worst of it all, as badly as they played, they still had a (small) chance at winning the game...until yet another kick sailed wide of the uprights. There's still plenty to like with the talent on this team, but until they show they can actually close out wins, it's still the same old, same old.
2) Speaking of closers, Aaron Rodgers showed why he's the most talented QB in the NFL. Period. Rodgers spent the entire second half in the shotgun because of his knee injury and came back to beat a very game Chicago Bears team. I still think there's more to his injury and it will be a problem all season.
As for the Bears, once Khaili Mack and Roquan Smith get acclimated with the scheme, Chicago could surprise this year. Mitchell Trubisky was good at times, but his inexperience showed as Green Bay mounted their comeback. Matt Nagy's play calls were innovative early and very conservative down the stretch. But there's hope there in Chi-town.
3) If you're a Browns fan, you're probably okay with how Cleveland played against the Steelers. But if you're a Browns fan and you heard what Jabrill Peppers said after the game, you love him.
"We didn't win, man," he said. "It's all about winning. Nobody cares about draws or ties. We were in position to win this game countless times and we've just got to make the plays we're supposed to make."
I like that he's salty after the non-loss. The Browns forced six Steelers turnovers, three of them in the fourth quarter/overtime, but only managed just one TD off them. Myles Garrett and rookie Denzel Ward were great, but a penalty by Garrett cost them late in the game. Tyrod Taylor didn't play well, was sacked seven times, and held the ball too long at times. This young team made the mistakes young teams do, but they hung tough with Pittsburgh. Better days are ahead for Cleveland.
4) I get that Le'veon Bell wants to be paid what he's worth. And even if he returns in week ten as has been reported, he wants to split time and lower his workload. But it's clear that the Steelers have already made their choice. James Conner had 192 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns starting in Bell's place. I understand that Bell is a special player, but teams have already spilt their running back duties between two or three players. I don't know how many teams will give a big contract to a running back who'll be 28 when he signs.
5) Matthew Stafford oscillates back and forth being being a good quarterback and below average a bit too much for me. The fourth pick he threw against the Jets was on a deep seam. A corner and safety were already converging on the ball with a linebacker waiting in deep coverage. Stafford didn't see the field well all game long and because he's got such a strong arm, he threaded the ball where he probably shouldn't.
6) Leonard Fournette's hamstring pull should be a big cause of concern in Jacksonville.
7) Tampa Bay put up 31 points on the New Orleans Saints to end the season last year. On opening week, they scored 31 in the first half. Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting for the suspended Jameis Winston, was 21 of 28, 417 yards, 4 TD's and one rushing TD.
8) Deshaun Watson fumbled his first snap and missed a wide open receiver in the end zone on fourth down against the Patriots. Watson is very talented, but might need a few more games to shake off the rust. The Texans' defense looked pretty rusty too, but maybe that was just Tom Brady making them look bad.
9) It looks like the Ravens will use Lamar Jackson the way the Steelers used Kordell Stewart. Baltimore used Jackson mostly as a decoy, but I think that will change once offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg designs a few more plays for him.
10) Dallas was 2 of 11 on third down against the Carolina Panthers and didn't have a play longer than twenty yards. Without any receivers to scare defenses, Ezekiel Elliott shouldn't expect many holes to run through.
11) Jets fans have reason to be hopeful, but should temper their enthusiasm.
12) I think 49ers fans have tempered their enthusiasm, but should remain hopeful.
13) After the loss to Kansas City, Chargers QB Philip Rivers said, "I compare the NFL season to the Tour de France. It’s all the stages, and that’s what the NFL season is to me. There are sixteen stages you get. You make sure you better win your fair share of them."
The second stage of the NFL race for the Chargers is in Buffalo. If I could use the same analogy, the Bills aren't exactly like riding up the Alps.