Thursday Night Football was an official middle finger to what we thought we knew about the NFL. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets were supposed to come in on short weeks, duke it out for a close game and leave the offense in the locker room. Instead, we got a 37-31 shootout, with the visiting Jets stealing the mild upset.
The Bills are severely depleted defensively, but after holding the Ravens to just 13 points in a tough week one road loss, we thought their defense still had some bite. Considering Ryan freaking Fitzpatrick just took the revenge narrative to a whole new level with nearly 400 yards through the air in a win, we’d say something wasn’t right with the Bills defensively.
Maybe we should have seen it coming. Buffalo is without three key defensive players, their quarterback can’t consistently make easy throws and their head coach if more bravado than common sense.
While we didn’t see Buffalo’s defense falling apart after just one week, we still think there are a plethora of observations around the league that make good sense. Let’s rattle off some one-liners to assess the state of each squad:
New England Patriots – They’re not at 100%.
There isn’t much bad you can say about a team that just went into Arizona and won a hard-fought game. We can point out the obvious, though. This team is severely depleted on the surface, as they have Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich out with suspensions, Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) isn’t fully healthy and scat-back Dion Lewis (knee) may not be back until mid-season.
The Pats are still 1-0 and get their next three games at home, but let’s not act like they’re totally fine. They still need to keep playing their tails off to overcome some massive losses.
New York Jets – Darrelle Revis is off the island.
The Jets barely lost in week one and came out and took care of the Bills on TNF, but there is still a huge issue with this team: their top cornerback is no longer elite.
We saw Revis get burned by A.J. Green in week one and brushed it off because, ya know, it’s freaking A.J. Green. But getting torched by something called a Marquise Goodwin and then later admitting he didn’t know the guy was a track star is just ridiculous.
Even I knew the guy was fast as balls, Darrelle.
While Revis not properly scouting the guys he’s facing is beyond troubling and in that “Donovan McNabb didn’t know his own damn league had ties” neighborhood, what is more puzzling is how a guy who used to be put out on Revis Island can’t stop anybody at the moment.
If that continues, a would-be strong Jets defense could be in serious trouble.
Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill isn’t the guy.
Yikes, this one is tough to swallow, but we probably need to face the music: Ryan Tannehill is fine, but he’s not necessarily “good” and he damn sure isn’t elite.
True, facing a great Seahawks defense and staying close on the road in week one gets you a pat on the back and “atta boy”, but if Tannehill was really there, we would have seem more in such a huge setting. More importantly, it’s tough to expect to see more going forward.
Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan’s defense isn’t any good.
This can be for a variety of reasons and maybe it’s not all on Rex Ryan. Tyrod Taylor and the offense don’t collectively look to be at their best, Rob Ryan is a turd and the Bills have indeed been dealing with some hefty injuries and suspensions on the defensive side of the football.
That’s cool, but how do you explain giving up 37 points to Ryan Fitzpatrick at home? You don’t, is the thing.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Not a damn thing.
I’m not a Steelers fan or a fan of the AFC North or even the AFC, so I have no stock here. It’s only been one week, but my heavens were the Steelers impressive in a total beatdown of the Redskins.
We knew the offense was going to be amazing, but we didn’t know to what lengths. Even without Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller, this offense hung 38 points on a team on the road and probably could have done even more damage.
Oh, and they’re playing defense. So, that’s just great, says the entire AFC and everyone ever.
Cleveland Browns – RG3 getting hurt was a good thing.
Yeah, that’s when you know you’re in trouble and quite possibly delusional – when your top quarterback goes on injured reserve and you’re two ticks away from throwing a parade.
RG3 was probably trash all along and it’s true that Josh McCown is a more steady upgrade, but that’s the point. If anyone thinks for a second Cleveland is winning more than four games in 2016 because Josh freaking McCown is back in the saddle, they need to find the nearest mental institution and check themselves in.
Cincinnati Bengals – A bunch of stuff – maybe.
Week one went pretty well for the Bengals – so well, that they won and all of the huge issues stemming from the worst off-season known to man haven’t yet popped up.
Losing offensive coordinator Hue Jackson
Losing two key WRs in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu
Losing star TE Tyler Eifert for half the year with an ankle injury
Yeah, on paper it looks all of the bad. Maybe it still will be, but the Bengals are 1-0 and have a huge week two battle with the Steelers. Perhaps things will unfold this week.
Baltimore Ravens – Steve Smith is their #1 wide receiver.
I could have gone numerous directions here, like they don’t have a true featured running back or that Breshad Perriman is hurt again, but let’s just roll with the easy one: their top wide receiver is 37 and coming off a never-successfully-returned-from-ever-in-like-seriously-ever torn Achilles.
Maybe Smith will defy all odds, logic and science and it’ll go great, but I feel like we need to point out the fact that Joe Flacco wasn’t awesome in week one and pretty much had one lucky bomb to Mike Wallace and that was it. This, against a Bills defense that went on to allow Ryan Fitzpatrick career all over their hapless souls.
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck is all alone and stuff.
Anyone who slammed Andrew Luck for sucking or being overrated needs to never speak again. Never, I say!
The dude was awesome in week one, as he absolutely carved up what many thought as a solid Lions defense to the tune of 385 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he didn’t turn the ball over, like, at all.
That’s great, but the point here is Luck is going to have to be balls to the wall amazing all year if the Colts are going to win many games. Not only is his pass protection still sketchy, he has a 100-year old starting running back and his defense (head coach Chuck Pagano’s specialty) was as horrid as ever.
Houston Texans – Brock Osweiler is still tough to trust.
The main knock on Brock Osweiler has been that he’s too “meh” and that’s exactly what we got out of him for, oh, about three quarters in week one. Houston’s defense is still top notch and new running back Lamar Miller looked fantastic.
The lone standing blemish? Osweiler still looks like a backup pretending to be a starter. Maybe he’ll get more comfortable and crush it, but through one week it’s easy to say we don’t necessarily buy him as the answer under center just yet.
Tennessee Titans – Sweet offense, Titans.
Tennessee proudly stated that their offense would be a nice blend of smashmouth running and explosive plays, and we didn’t exactly see either in week one. They really just dinked and dunked their way to early points and then couldn’t survive two costly turnovers that got returned for scores.
It’s true the Vikings defense is pretty good, but we were hoping for me. So, is this offense going to be the mediocre unit we saw last week that needs an elite defensive showing to get a win, or will Mike Mularkey and co. get the last laugh?
Jacksonville Jaguars – No such thing as moral victories.
The biggest issue with the Jags right now is any believe that simply hanging with superior teams is cool. Jacksonville can’t run the ball still and their improving defense is only great in flashes, but the biggest problem is believing that close is good enough. That, accompanied by their inability to finish close games.
Jacksonville was at home against the Packers and had the ball in scoring position with time on the clock. They didn’t come through, and afterward everyone was like “hey, they almost did it”. No one cares about almost anything in the NFL. Hopefully the Jaguars learn that and move on from it quickly.
Denver Broncos – Trevor Siemian, maybe.
Siemian is without a doubt the long strand of hair hanging from your face that you missed when shaving – but he doesn’t have to be. He was not that bad at all in a big week one over the Panthers and he did just enough to allow C.J. Anderson to bust heads and the elite Denver defense to take control.
The question is if he’ll unravel and weigh this team down in the end, or if he can be better than just a game manager and continue to shock us all. For now, he’s their weak link and we’ll just have to wait and see if he can keep it together.
Kansas City Chiefs – Not having Justin Houston.
The Chiefs did survive a week one scare from the rival Chargers, but not before falling into a hole thanks to an under-performing defense. It’s tough to look at that and not feel like the absence of stud pass rusher Justin Houston (knee) has something to do with it.
Houston, one of 22 sacks in 2014, is out until November and missed a ton of time last year, as well. KC got by without him in 2015, but in week one got just one sack. If the lack of pressure bleeds into the rest of the defense going forward, this could be a huge problem.
Oakland Raiders – They might be lucky.
The Raiders certainly can put up points and they were quite bold to go for two in a big week one win in New Orleans, but it’s fair to say so far they’re just lucky.
Even if they’re not, we need to note a slow-footed secondary that got ripped apart in the air. If that’s a trend, the Raiders better hope they have all kinds of luck.
San Diego Chargers – Failure to close.
San Diego is consistent, if nothing else. They’re either notorious for starting off slow or choking things away late. Whether it’s a game or the actual season, it seems every week and every year the Chargers just can’t offer a complete effort.
That was the case in week one, when they shocked everyone by taking a big lead on the road against the Chiefs, but then lost in overtime. We’ll see in week two if that brutal trend continues at home against the Jaguars.
New York Giants – We are not impressed.
The defense looks better, Eli and the passing game is good and Rashad Jennings might work as the main running back. But we saw all of this work against a Cowboys team that was led by two key rookies on offense and absent several defensive bodies due to suspension.
Anytime you beat a divisional foe on the road, that’s pretty nice, but in this circumstance we probably needed to see more. A week two home battle with the Saints should tell us more about the G-Men.
Philadelphia Eagles – They beat the Browns.
The only thing worse than no confidence is too much confidence. Carson Wentz and these young Eagles may have the latter after completely dismantling the Browns in week one. That’s not really an accomplishment, and for them to avoid disaster, they need to accept that.
In week two the level of competition isn’t insanely high against the Bears, but it should represent Philly’s first true challenge.
Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo is a ghost.
The Cowboys simply do not win without Tony Romo, who is once again down with an injury. In fact, in the last 15 games where Romo didn’t suit up, the ‘Boys are a sparkling 1-14.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are two talented rookies, but they don’t know how to win yet. Until/unless Romo can work his back back, Dallas could flounder.
Washington Redskins – All of the fluke.
Washington can’t defend or run the ball right now, but that really just plays into the fact that it’s starting to look quite possible their fun 2015 run to the top of the NFC East was a fluke.
It doesn’t help that Kirk Cousins was awful and they went up against a really good Steelers team in week one, but from top to bottom they did not look good.
Green Bay Packers – Where is the air?
Green Bay is 1-0 after winning a tough road game, but there are some serious issues with this team – one many feel is a legit Super Bowl contender. For one, am I the only one who didn’t think Eddie Lacy looked at all trimmed down? He ran decently, but I expected more.
Okay, let’s focus. The real issue with the Packers is Aaron Rodgers’ perceived inability to fire the deep ball and connect. It’s true they probably didn’t want to rush Jordy Nelson back into deep plays, but that element continues to be missing from this offense.
After the struggles they had a year ago, there’s no doubt they’ll need to find that long ball magic again if they’re to be anything more than a team that happens to be in the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings – Yo, Adrian!
That’s a Rocky shout out for ya, folks. But really, Adrian Peterson looked like he fell off a cliff in week one, as he struggled to a paltry 31 yards off of 19 rushes.
Peterson’s awful week one showing is certainly layered. The line was giving him lanes, he wasn’t hitting the holes and his bad quarterback play didn’t help matters. Still, Peterson didn’t make anything out of his 19 chances and you expect more from a brute like that. It will certainly be interesting to see if he can find more (or less?) success in a huge game against the Packers on Sunday Night Football this week.
Detroit Lions – Where’s the defense?
Detroit had a pretty stingy defense for much of 2015, but it was nowhere to be found in week one. The Lions still sniffed out the run pretty well, but they may have serious issues if they are giving up almost 400 yards and four scores on a regular basis like they did last week.
It’s not every week you face Andrew Luck on the road, of course. Detroit gets a chance to prove their pass defense isn’t total garbage when they take on the Titans at home in week two.
Chicago Bears – Cutler can’t protect himself.
Jay Cutler catches a lot of heat, but for all of his still existing flaws, he wasn’t half bad in a tough road game against the Texans. In fact, he had the Bears up until late in the game and played a borderline flawless first half.
It wasn’t until the second half when things really fell apart, with Chicago’s receivers running bad routes and the o-line allowing him to get the snot beaten out of him. The offensive line needs to be better, and if it is, the Cutler we saw in the first half of week one just might be able to impress.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The defense needs work.
Jameis Winston looked like a golden god and Doug Martin will pick his spots, so there isn’t anything bad to say about Tampa Bay’s balanced offense. It’s the defensive side of the ball we don’t love, as the Bucs forced zero turnovers and let Matt Ryan do as he pleased in a week one shootout.
The Bucs could be a playoff sleeper on the shoulders of Winston, but if that defense can’t be better, they’re not going anywhere.
Atlanta Falcons – Nowhere to run.
As we just noted, the Falcons can sling the ball through the air. Their main issue, of course, is a lethargic running game. Tevin Coleman made an impact as a pass-catcher, but he and Devonta Freeman were completely wrapped up on the ground.
The Falcons have two able-bodied rushers and nothing to show for it. If they ever want to get anywhere in 2016, that needs to change.
Carolina Panthers – Run defense took a step back.
Carolina didn’t have it easy in week one, but they still got destroyed on the ground (148 rushing yards). This is a serious step back for a unit that was 4th against the run a year ago and is seen as an overall elite group.
Again, on the road in week one, the Panthers didn’t have the best circumstances. However, they did not do well against the ground game at all and if that is a continued theme, they’re going to have serious issues on defense.
New Orleans Saints – Rob Ryan left.
I kid, I kid. By default, that should have helped New Orleans’ defense. Surprisingly, it did not, as the Saints opened 2016 looking as swiss cheese-like as ever.
It wasn’t one facet, either. The Saints were truly terrible against both the run and pass, ranking dead last on the ground in week one and 25th against the pass. None of that is good, which puts a ton of pressure on Drew Brees and co. to perform at an insanely high level every single week.
Seattle Seahawks – Russell’s ankle.
It might be too early to tell if the Seahawks are slow starters, if Wilson’s ankle injury really held him back or if Miami’s defense is just that good. Heck, maybe it’s all of the above.
Seattle is only just now getting running back Thomas Rawls going, so the only thing holding them back could be the health of their star quarterback. Wilson needs his mobility to be effective at a high level, so hopefully his ankle issue isn’t serious.
San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert. That is all.
Carlos Hyde looked a bit like a boss and San Francisco’s defense was surprisingly dominant, leaving the glaring problem to be fairly obvious: Blaine Gabbert isn’t good.
Gabbert can run a bit and did execute Chip Kelly’s offense well enough to beat quite possibly the worst team ever, but he proved yet again that he is not an NFL quarterback.
Also, how is Colin Kaepernick or anyone else that’s not named Case Keenum not starting ahead of this guy? No, I’m asking. Tell me.
Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer’s brain.
I don’t know if this is the same Carson Palmer we’re used to. His week one numbers were fine, but if you watched him against the Patriots, he just didn’t look ready to pick apart an NFL defense.
Palmer took three bad sacks and really only chased after one deep ball on the night, leaving me to wonder if he’s truly over the horrors of his disastrous NFC title game performance. I’m thinking not, but a big week two battle with the Buccaneers will reveal more.
Los Angeles Rams – Dumpster. Fire.
Light this thing up and let it burn. Jeff Fisher probably shouldn’t be coaching this team (or any team), the offensive line looks horrific, Tavon Austin is their prized passing game weapon and Todd Gurley is a wasted stud with all of the horrors going on around him.
The defense wasn’t even good, as they let Blaine Gabbert run all over them. We haven’t even gotten to Case Keenum, who truly set the quarterback position back a few years with one of the worst performances we’ve ever seen.
None of what we saw from the Rams from week one was good, and we can’t imagine it getting any better.
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