Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Week 1 Thoughts

Normally my ramblings on the weekend's games will come on Monday, but since I'm not in regular season form yet, we'll push the content back just a bit. 

My wife and I were going to try and have our 2.5-year-old son pick last week's games. We started with the Thursday night game (on Sunday morning). Here's how that went.
Her: "Who's going to win? Ravens or Broncos?"
Him: "Baseball"
Her: "Who's going to win? The purple team or the blue team?"
Him: "Green team!"

We then gave up. Luckily for me, because he would have absolutely crushed me.

Week 1 is always funny. There is nothing to go on to determine how each of the 32 teams in the league will fair except
- The preseason games
- The real games from last year
and both of these indicators are fraught with issues. Relying on last year to determine what happens this year is helpful, but only up to a point. Players change teams, coaches get fired and hired, and players get better or worse with age. Relying on the preseason to tell you much of anything is foolish, as nobody cares about the preseason, except when injuries happen. 

But now we have one giant data point on all 32 teams, so let's revisit some of our initial assumptions, compare them against this data point, over-react, and then try to determine just how much truth is in that over-reaction. How does that sound? It sure sounds better to me than going and tallying up how many of my picks I got right.  

Game: Bears 24, Bengals 21
Over-reaction: Andy Dalton will continue to hold back a playoff team from going any further.
Well, it certainly isn't good when you finish a game with more interceptions than Jay Cutler. Look, Dalton is a game manager, albeit one with a very shiny toy in AJ Green. His numbers aren't going to wow you, but he did complete 26 of his 33 passes. That type of efficiency is what Cincinnati needs from their limited quarterback. In fairness, he also led the Bengals to 340 yards of offense and 21 points. The problem was 3 turnovers (including 2 Dalton picks). 

Game: Dolphins 23, Browns 10
Over-reaction: The Browns' bandwagon careening off a cliff into Lake Erie...then catching on fire.
That didn't last long. Three interceptions from Brandon Weeden won't make Browns fans feel comfortable with their quarterback situation. But let's step back from the edge a bit. Miami's defensive front is quite good. The Browns couldn't run the ball, which meant the game rested on Weeden's shoulders. That's not how the offense is designed (and for good reason). Most defensive lines won't be able to wreak that kind of havoc on Cleveland's offensive line. 

Game: Lions 34, Vikings 24
Over-reaction: Minnesota is even more of a one-man team than last year.
Let's see, 236 yards, 3 picks for Ponder. I think this one's actually correct. 

Game: Colts 21, Raiders 17
Over-reaction: The Radiers have found a quarterback!
Terrelle Pryor did lead the Raiders to the lead in the 4th quarter, and he did lead the league in yardage in week 1. Of course, it was rushing yardage. No, this game was more of a referendum on the Colts' defense, which is still going to struggle this year. 

Game: Saints 23, Falcons 17
Over-reaction: Sean Payton is the difference between deep playoff runs and a below-.500 season
Well, Sean Payton, some additions to the New Orleans defense, a new defensive coordinator, and Roddy White essentially being too injured to play combine to make a big difference, sure. This game disappointed me in that I expected each team to score 15-20 more points. 

Game: Jets 18, Buccaneers 17
Over-reaction: The Jets won't be as bad as we thought.
This may be true, and New York's defense will be the reason if so. But the takeaway is Bucs fans should be very worried about their team being in the hands of Josh Freeman. There is no reason that game should have been close enough for Lavonte David's stupid penalty to help decide it.

Game: Titans 16, Steelers 9
Over-reaction: The Steelers are in for an ugly down year.
The result of this game isn't enough to jump to that conclusion, but the loss of their center, Pouncey, for the year is a big blow. I can't see them falling off a cliff, but if offered a mulligan on picking them for the playoffs, I'd take it. 

Game: Chiefs 28, Jaguars 2
Over-reaction: Forget the Raiders and Jets, the Jaguars are all but on the clock.
Getting Gabbert out of there and putting Henne in should make the offense closer to competent, but yeah, this team looks bad. Because of that, I'm not sure what we can say about the Chiefs based on this game. 

Game: Patriots 23, Bills 21
Over-reaction: The Patriots' ceiling is much lower than what most of us expected.
I wouldn't worry too much about the Pats. I still say no one else in that division is close to them so they should be able to coast into the playoffs. Amendola already having groin trouble is concerning, as is Vereen being out for a 4-6 week stretch. This team needs Gronk back because it's obvious Brady doesn't trust the young additions to the passing game right now. 

Game: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
Over-reaction: Jump off the Seahawks' Super Bowl bandwagon.
The Panthers are better defensively than I gave them credit for. Stopping Seattle from running the ball is a big deal. That being said, the difference between the Super Bowl and a playoff run for the Seahawks is probably getting some home games in the playoffs. To get those, they need to win the division. They were half a game away last year despite losing 4 road games to teams that finished with losing records. Last year's team would have lost this game, but this year's team found a way to win. 

Game: Rams 27, Cardinals 24
Over-reaction: Jared Cook is breaking out in a big way.
I had to strecth a bit for this over-reaction, as this game played out almost exactly how most expected. Arizona isn't a pushover anymore, but they're still going to struggle to get many wins, especially in that division. 

Game: Cowboys 36, Giants 31
Over-reaction: Oh my God, Eli Manning and Tony Romo switched bodies!!!
I'm not sure what is more concerning, that the Giants turned the ball over 6 times (including 3 Eli interceptions, which included a very Romo-like one on a screen pass to open the game), or that Dallas ended up winning by only 5 points. Oh, and speaking as a David Wilson fantasy owner, enough already, David! Figure out how to hold on to the ^&%$ing ball!

Game: Eagles 33, Redskins 27
Over-reaction: Chip Kelly is going to veni vidi vici the NFL.
That offense sure was fun to watch, wasn't it. And some of those holes LeSean McCoy was running through were huge. That being said, the Eagles got all of 7 points in the second half, and none in the last 28:30 of game time. The Eagles will be competitive, and fun to watch, but a) Michael Vick won't hold up for 16 games and b) they aren't going to conquer the league. RG3 had some serious rust showing last night. Hopefully he shakes that off sooner rather than later because he wasn't the same player he was last season.

Game: Texans 31, Chargers 28
Over-reaction: What's wrong with Houston? A 3 point win over the Chargers?
Worse yet, they were down 28-7 at one point. I'm going to chalk this one up to a good team that simply took a half of regular season play to get going. Then again, I didn't pick this team to go to the Super Bowl.

Finally, watch this video, it shows 2 "touchdown catches", one by Calvin Johnson and one by Victor Cruz. The NFL has a rule that if the receiver is going to the ground in the process of making the catch, the receiver must maintain possession all the way through the process of going to the ground. Calvin's catch was overturned to an incompletion, but Cruz's catch was allowed to stand. I have no idea why.

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