I love the opening week of football season. It’s like being reunited with old friends, and being reminded that, for all the time you spent apart, they haven’t really changed at all. To wit:
- Ndamukong Suh is still a psycho: Different team, huge contract, still dirty. Perhaps my most frequent target over the past four years, mainly because he makes it so easy. Why the NFL chose not to fine or suspend this multiple repeat offender for knocking off Alfred Morris’s helmet is beyond me. I mean, he had to be at least “generally aware” of what he was doing, right?
- Dez Bryant makes headlines for not playing: Signs a huge contract, needs to leave the game IN THE FIRST QUARTER because he’s dehydrated. I’ve written in the past about Bryant’s poor conditioning and petulance, but I thought he was past this. Now he’s out with a broken bone in his foot. Could that have to do with not being in shape?
- Sometimes, bad is bad: The Raiders and Bucs got thumped at home, the Browns got smoked by the Jets, and the Lions did just enough to get their fans’ hopes up before losing.
- Winners win: Playoff teams from last year looking good; The Pats, Pack, Cards, Bengals, and Broncs (at least on defence).
- Hey, some of these guys are still pretty good: Romo, Rivers, Rodgers, and Brady. Matt Forte. Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. JJ Watt, Justin Houston, Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib.
Welcome back, NFL.
And a special welcome back to one of my favourite broadcasting teams, Fox’s Troy Aikman and Joe Buck (with Erin Andrews, but the less said about her, the better), who were in fine form during the Bears-Packers tilt. Some highlights:
- Andrews talks about Alshon Jeffrey being on a “pitch count.” I’ve heard this analogy already a few times recently, and I’m already sick of it, for what I hope are obvious reasons. When the terrible Andrews starts using it, then you know it’s time to move on.
- Buck and Aikman discuss Roger Goodell. Yes, Roger, we’re all happy to focus on football again. Too bad some asshole turned the offseason into a circus for some reason.
- Just prior to a Chicago onside kick, Aikman, after having sat next to an asshole all afternoon, can’t help but allude to assholes on the Green Bay sideline.
- And what’s with the hipster Joe Buck? At some point during the broadcast, he decided that he needed to add glasses to better look the part. I’m surprised he didn’t stand up to show us his corduroys and Converse sneakers. Will he ride into the booth on an old-timey bicycle next week?
Texans at Panthers
So, should I start worrying about picking Houston to win the South yet? After an exhaustive competition throughout training camp and the preseason, Houston Coach Bill O’Brien settled on Brian Hoyer to be the team’s starting QB. Hoyer struggled in week one, albeit against a good defence with a great pass rush, and O’Brien, looking to salvage the game, put Ryan Mallett in. Now, instead of going back to Hoyer in week two, O’Brien is switching to Mallett. I think that this is a mistake; besides looking indecisive, and potentially eroding player confidence, O’Brien has painted himself into a corner should Mallett struggle. Speaking of struggling, Carolina won last week, but hardly looked impressive against a Jags team that didn’t play very well. Any success that the Panthers have this season will be because of the defence, and with the concussed Luke Kuechly potentially not being available this week, I’m grudgingly picking the visitors. Winner: Texans
49ers at Steelers
The ‘niners looked good in their home opener against a flat Vikings squad, but going into Pittsburgh and stealing a win will prove to be too tall an order. RB DeAngelo Williams performance last week against the Pats must have been a huge relief with LeVeon Bell suspended until week three. Winner: Steelers
Buccaneers at Saints
Neither of these teams were particularly impressive in week one. Drew Brees failed to produce many points, despite throwing the ball almost 50 times. The Bucs’ highly regarded rookie QB was terrible in his debut, and without FSU and the Tallahassee police to cover it up, everyone knows about it. To be honest, I don’t care much for either one of them. Winner: Saints
Lions at Vikings
Detroit got off to a fast start against San Diego in week one, but faded in typical fashion, giving up 30 straight points. The Vikings laid an egg on Monday Night Football, particularly on offence. I expect better this week from Bridgewater, Peterson, et al. Winner: Vikings
Cardinals at Bears
The Bears gave a spirited effort against Green Bay in week one. Unfortunately, Cutler’s liable to throw a couple of picks this week as he faces defence with a much better pass rush and secondary. Carson Palmer looked good in his return for the Cards, which bodes well for their playoff hopes. Winner: Cardinals
Patriots at Bills
That Buffalo defensive front sure did a number on Andrew Luck and the Colts. I’m sure Belichick, Brady, and the rest of the Pats have seen it. Rex Ryan will have his troops fired up to beat New England. There’s such a thing as being too excited, though. For this contest, I’m going with cool and methodical. Winner: Patriots
Chargers at Bengals
In my season picks column, I talked about the Cincy offence being too talented to fail, and there was a lot of good things to see in week one. RB tandem Hill and Bernard were as advertised, with the former churning out 19 carries and a couple of scores, while the latter chipped in with 63 yards on the ground plus 6 catches. As well, Bengals fans have to feel good about a game where TE Tyler Eifert plays so well that AJ Green is almost an afterthought. San Diego, fresh off a huge comeback victory, will provide a stiff test, but a Bengals team this good playing at home is a pretty sure bet. Winner: Bengals
Titans at Browns
Well, well, well… if the early returns are any indication, picking that Mariota kid just might turn out to be a pretty big deal. It’s amazing what can happen when a guy comes into the league and actually puts learning how to play the game ahead of things like trademarking his nickname, building his brand, doing commercials, and partying his way into rehab. The only bright side to Josh McCown’s injury (if there ever can be a bright side) is that the Browns are just that much closer to having Austin Davis behind Center. Now that guy’s a real gamer. Winner: Titans
Falcons at Giants
Only a few years ago, the Giants dominated this matchup with confidence and a mean pass rush. Well, there’s not much of a pass rush now, and confidence must be waning after how badly they blue it last week in Dallas. The Falcons hung in and beat Philly on Monday Night, and I like their odds of going to 2-0. That Giants offence is bland; it needs a little salsa. Winner: Falcons
The Rams’ defensive front absolutely terrorized Russell Wilson last week. Look for them to continue the mayhem on the road this week. Winner: Rams
Dolphins at Jaguars
The new-look Dolphins’ D was adequate in its debut, but the offence will have to be significantly better if this team hopes to make waves in the AFC East this year. A trip to Jacksonville should do the trick; Miami can’t pin its hopes on getting bailed out by punt return TDs every week. Winner: Dolphins
Ravens at Raiders
Talk about a week one disaster for Baltimore; their offence got shut down in a winnable game, and their defence lost its best player for the season. They’d better not sleep on these Raiders, or they could find themselves at 0-2. Winner: Ravens
Cowboys at Eagles
The Cowboys came back from the dead, (granted, with some help from the Giants), and now must face life without Dez for the foreseeable future. Philly started slowly and played sloppily in Atlanta, but showed some signs of life. Perhaps the southern hospitality was too weird for the Iggles. They should be much more comfortable in the unfriendly confines of “The (Missing) Linc,” as their quick-paced offence wears down the depleted Dallas D. Winner: Eagles
Seahawks at Packers
The Rams beat Seattle with a punishing pass rush, just enough defence, and some luck. Green Bay will have to do it with offence. The Pack had the Seahawks on the ropes in last year’s playoffs before choking away the game. Gone is Jordy Nelson, but I’ll take Aaron Rodgers, on two good wheels, against a shadow of the Legion of Boom. Winner: Packers
Jets at Colts
The Jets looked great against a Cleveland team that couldn’t mount much resistance. Though Indy’s defence is nothing to write home about, they should at least be able to fire back on offence, and they will be highly motivated to not look as bad at home as they did in Buffalo. Winner: Colts