Your friendly neighborhood Tuesday Morning Double-Back is…back. Huzzah!
Go Fins Go!
As is tradition here at KTN (or at least it was until I stopped doing it last year. Never again.), we’ll start the proceedings with a few words on my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. I proclaimed they would win and take no credit for the prediction as I felt our chances were as slim as Tom Brady’s significant other. Alas, after a porous first half that our defense managed to keep from turning into a total rout, Knowshon Moreno took the team on his back, Cameron Wake made two pivotal strip-sacks and Ryan Tannehill found his stride in a 33-20 victory of momentous proportions. This is the type of win, against your most difficult division rival, to open your season, that teams can use as fuel for a notable fire going forward. The Dolphins, after one game, are better than they were at any point in 2013.
Catching Our Collective Breath
There wasn’t a game (okay, maybe the Jets-Raiders didn’t exactly burst off the screen) that didn’t grasp my attention on Sunday.
Since so much took place (and when doesn’t it seem like so much on kickoff weekend?), I’m going to break down the performances in tiers from “outstanding” to “time to worry”, in terms of how well (or not so well) the teams did in their victories (or defeats).
Not to continue to toot my own horn, but it cannot be overstated that the Dolphins, in beating the Patriots, started the season on an unbelievably high note. Losing Dannell Ellerbee for the season is probably going to hurt, and losing fellow LB Koa Misi for an unknown length of time won’t help either, but the backups played soundly and the confidence level of this team has to be high after one game.
It was a few days earlier, but the Seahawks simply manhandled one of their toughest conference foes on Thursday night. The Packers had moments, but so few and far between that the Seahawks looked like they had actually improved since winning the Superbowl last year. Frightening.
I made mention of the Buffalo Bills being a breakout candidate this year, but I simply didn’t see it coming in Chicago against a Bears team that has as impressive of an offensive arsenal as any team not playing in Denver. Buffalo’s overtime victory came from a team effort, which is exactly what has been missing from the Bills for the past…20 years? If they can maintain this level of play, no one on their schedule will be unbeatable.
This is borderline outstanding, but the Steelers are working with a somewhat fresh slate from 2013, despite many of the same names across the roster. Their disappointing campaign last year led many to believe them in a decline, while the Browns, with big offseason/draft acquisitions and a new coaching staff, seemed to be in an upswing. Pittsburgh controlled most of the 60 minutes in this game and should only be concerned with allowing the Browns to make a game of it down the stretch. No small concern, but still, a big divisional statement for a team many had written off before the first whistle blew.
Considering what they had to work with, and lacking their superstar QB, the Carolina Panthers went back to basics against an improved Tampa Bay squad on Sunday. Relying heavily on their stable of running backs and a potent defense, Carolina maintained ball control, got some solid work from backup QB Derek Anderson and continuously disrupted the Bucs’ offensive plans. The score doesn’t quite tell the story of this game, but like the aforementioned Steelers, the Panthers cannot allow their competition to stick around after tossing them around for the majority of a game. Hopefully the return of Newton and their dedication to full balanced football can keep that from happening with regularity.
Oh, and the Falcons beating the Saints? Biggest upset of the week. Hell of a game, great outcome for Atlanta, and that’s all I have to say about that. For now…
It had the potential to separate two good teams into one very good team, but last night’s Chargers-Cardinals bout ended up asking more questions than it answered for either squad. Still, despite the struggles of two potent offenses, the Cardinals proved they could stay efficient and still play solid defense despite the offseason losses, suspensions and injuries. They’re still in play in the NFC West so long as they can close out games like this, but some more punch would be nice to see.
The Rams’ inefficiencies on offense kept me from including the Vikings’ blowout victory in the ‘Outstanding’ category, but I do believe this is an excellent taste of what their future opponents are going to have to deal with. A much more stout defense under the wing of head coach Mike Zimmer, and an explosive offense directed by OC Norv Turner. Very early, it seems that Minnesota has a real shot at taking the NFC North.
This goes to both teams, as the Broncos managed to stifle any last-second Luck Magic while the Colts managed to keep the game respectable towards the end when it was anything but for three and a half quarters. Indianapolis has an uphill climb with the recent news of Robert Mathis’ torn Achilles, but they showed heart on defense and held a powerful offense within range of their own. That counts for something. The Broncos, on the other hand, should have played better, and get this spot mostly for the win and also for the potential that their new defensive acquisitions showed. Once that defense comes together, it might be game over for the rest of the AFC.
They Were Who We Thought They Were
In victory, the Bengals, Texans, Titans, Jets, Eagles, 49ers and Lions won games they should have won, so nothing overly spectacular there. In the case of the Bengals and Titans, their opponents were worthy on paper but simply didn’t show up to offer much competition.
Despite their losses, the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Browns, Colts and Chargers are very much capable of bouncing back. The Browns in particular showed incredible resiliency for a young squad, and should continue to improve going forward.
Time To Worry
The trouble in Baltimore doesn’t begin and end with the Ray Rice fiasco, as anyone who watched their stumbling effort against their biggest divisional threat can attest. The Bears need to be concerned about the potency and mistakes of their offense under Jay Cutler, who still seems to be able to look elite and horrible in the same game, sometimes in the same offensive series. The Redskins have no excuses for their embarrassing efforts against Houston, and if they’re going to turn it around, it has to start with Robert Griffin III not playing scared. Because he still is.
The Chiefs are literally falling apart before our eyes. It’s going to take some very crafty coaching from Big Red to keep that ship afloat.
The Raiders kept it respectable, but the Jets did them some favors, and neither team can count on such things every week to help them along.
The Jaguars looked incredibly sound for two quarters, and then reverted to their old selves in a 34-0 second half. It’s hard to be optimistic when you perform a 180 of that magnitude.
The Rams are offensively challenged.
The Cowboys are just challenged. In every way imaginable.
The Bucs were playing against a great defense with a new offensive scheme and new pieces, but something about their performance over 4 quarters rubbed me the wrong way. It was almost as if they couldn’t decide how, or why, they wanted to win…until it was too late.
The Giants, after one game’s worth of ineptitude, have the look of a 2-win squad.
QB Of The Week: Matty Ice is back in black…and red.
RB Of The Week: Knowshon Moreno. Put his offense on his back and willed them to victory. Miami hasn’t had a running back do that since Ricky Williams wasn’t sampling the world’s varieties of marijuana.
WR Of The Week: I’m giving this to Megatron because, well, he deserves it. But a very honorable mention to Percy Harvin, who is still as terrifyingly good as he was a couple of years ago.
Offensive Line Of The Week: Minnesota Vikings. You mean, nobody on the Rams recorded a sack? That doesn’t happen much these days. Kudos to the league’s most underrated O-Line.
Defensive Performance Of The Week: Buffalo Bills. Holding the Bears to 20 is no small feat, and the Bills’ defensive line were everywhere, while their secondary came up big when it counted.
Goat Of The Week: RG3. Watch him, and realize, he’s tentative, indecisive, and at this point, the 2nd best QB on the Redskins roster. When you were paid for with three years’ worth of top-tier draft prospects, that is 100% unacceptable.
Coaching Performance Of The Week: Chip Kelly. Totally manhandled after one half, Kelly, I imagine, instilled calm, confidence and an entirely new gameplan for his Eagles and the results were on the scoreboard by the final whistle. With Chip, you feel the Eagles can never fall too far behind as long as there’s time on the clock.
The Ravens have a fast turnaround against another divisional foe as Pittsburgh comes to town on Thursday night. With all the Ray Rice drama swirling, coach John Harbaugh is going to have to get his team centered and forgetful about their disappointing loss on Sunday…fast.
The Dolphins are going to face a test against a Bills team they’ve struggled against in recent years.
The Jaguars and Redskins will compete to see who can make the most mistakes and still win a football game.
In possible bounceback game, can the Cowboys, Patriots, Saints, Chargers, Packers and Bears rebound against solid competition?
Answers: No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No. Check the schedule for all the reasons you need.
Falcons and Bengals is going to be a good one.
Eagles and Colts should be even better.
I’ve seen many, many things in my years of watching NFL football, but I’ve never seen someone get kicked in the face. At least, not in the way Antonio Brown kicked Browns’ punter Spencer Lanning while returning a kick. It looked like a scripted scene from an action movie, and it will be thankfully revisited by multiple sports media outlets for weeks.
The first week of an NFL season tells us things. Some of these things are sweet lies, some are bitter truths, and some are just simple facts that you have to accept. You know how to figure out which is which?
You watch 15 more games.
Let’s see what happens, shall we?