Week 1 of the NFL season never fails to produce a handful of surprise twists. Such was the case again in 2014, as teams like Buffalo and Tennessee engineered impressive road upsets.
As a result, save for Seattle clocking in at No. 1 and Denver at No. 2, our latest Power Rankings include a rather substantial shuffling of the deck. Naturally, if past football history has taught us anything, it's that Week 1 conclusions will not last all that long. Away we go anyway ...
Well, clearly, to take down the Seahawks a team has to ... uh ... well, and then there's ... hmm ... In all honesty, if an absolutely dominant Week 1 victory over Green Bay is any indication, Seattle is going to cruise to home-field advantage in the playoffs. And Richard Sherman is going to take a nap during a game at some point this season because quarterbacks are so afraid of even looking his direction.
Peyton Manning now has beaten all 32 franchises in the league at least once, thanks to Sunday's 31-24 takedown of Indianapolis. Next up is a Kansas City team that Manning has owned in his career -- he is 9-1 against the Chiefs, the best mark for him against any team that he's faced at least 10 times.
Did we learn anything about the 49ers on Sunday? Not much, other than that their defenders gladly will take the football when Tony Romo throws it right at them. Given San Francisco's lack of proven depth at linebacker, DeMarco Murray's 5.4 yards-per-rush average is a little worrisome. Colin Kaepernick's play (16-for-23 for 201 yards and two touchdowns) is not.
"I don’t think you can just lose your mind out there," said Chip Kelly of being down 17 points, a veiled shot at the coaching methods of the USFL's Ol' Crazypants Jones.
Were the Bengals a far crummier team, Sunday's game in Baltimore would have been a classic recipe for heartbreak -- settle for five field goals on five first-half trips into the Ravens' territory, give up 16 unanswered, lose the lead on a deep ball late in the fourth quarter. But even though they needed a little good fortune on A.J. Green's deciding touchdown, the Bengals again reminded us all by winning in spite of those occurrences that they are far from mediocre.
Prior to Sunday, Derek Anderson had not won a game as a starter nor thrown a regular-season TD pass since Week 10 of the 2010 season, when he was QBing for the Cardinals. That's also the last year anyone other than Cam Newton won a game as Carolina's QB. (Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore and Brian St. Pierre combined to go 2-14 in '10, a record that gave Carolina first crack at Newton in the subsequent draft.)
Too early to declare a changing of the guard in the AFC East. But Sunday's Miami win over New England was at least a notice of possible eviction for the guard. The next three weeks feature games against Buffalo, Kansas City and Oakland. Could the Dolphins hit their bye week at 4-0?
The last three times that Larry Fitzgerald finished a game with just one catch all occurred in 2012. Arizona lost all of those games, capped by a 58-0 humiliation in Seattle. The Cardinals snapped that streak Monday night by defeating San Diego, though Fitzgerald's lone grab did extend his own amazing run of 150 consecutive games with a reception.
In Weeks 16 and 17 last season, the Saints allowed a combined 512 yards of offense to Carolina and Tampa Bay. In the playoffs they surrendered 533 yards total to Philadelphia and Seattle. Sunday in an OT loss at Atlanta, they were torched for 568 yards, 448 of which came through the air as the Falcons thrice rallied.
The season-opening setback has opened the floodgates for a little panic: Was trading Logan Mankins a mistake? Is the defense doomed to be a disappointment?! Is Tom Brady washed up?!?! The advice here: relax. Also, maybe prepare an emergency kit because an 0-2 start is definitely possible with a visit to Minnesota looming.
There has been one year -- one -- in the past 87 that both the Lions and Detroit Tigers made the playoffs in the same season (2011). Is it a bad omen for the Lions then that the Tigers pulled into a first-place tie with Kansas City on Tuesday night? Possibly, but both teams put on a show this week with the Lions dismantling the visiting Giants Monday night in Motown.
Fair enough, but this is supposed to be a pretty great Packers offense, too. It wasn't in Week 1.
Are the Falcons vastly improved from their 4-12 finish a season ago? On paper, especially on defense, the answer probably is no. Except in one area: health at the skill positions. Matt Ryan spread the ball around to nine different players Sunday, Julio Jones and Roddy White combining for 12 catches and 178 yards. While this defense might be a headache all year, a healthy passing attack will keep the Falcons in a lot of games and maybe even win some, as it did versus New Orleans.
Four sacks of Alex Smith, three interceptions from the Titans secondary, two Jake Locker touchdown passes and one road win (in a pear tree?). The schedule's manageable and the AFC South looks to be altogether average, so the Titans soon could be thinking about putting an end to their five-year playoff drought.
The Andrew Luck comeback theatrics are entertaining and all, but (hat tip to Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar for this one) Indianapolis now has found itself trailing by double digits in 19 of Luck's 36 NFL starts. You fellas want to try getting a couple early leads here and there?
I like to refer to what happened with the Steelers Sunday as The Walking Dead arc -- phenomenal start, mind-numbingly frustrating for a bit, then ultimately worth all the trouble. Fortunately for the Steelers, they were able to escape Hershel's farm at the absolute last moment ... er, I mean, to stop Brian Hoyer a couple of times.
The Vikings "expect great things" from Adrian Peterson as well, of course. The key, as happened Sunday, is continuing to get relatively decent things from quarterback Matt Cassel.
The run game fell just shy of 2,000 yards last season (1,965), good enough for a No. 13 ranking. After one week the Chargers sit 31st in that category, despite what appeared to be a workable matchup with Arizona. Take out a 20-yard Ryan Mathews carry and he, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown combined for 23 yards on 19 rushing attempts.
Is the NFL schedule-maker trying to avenge some past wrong committed by Rex Ryan? Did Ryan borrow Roger Goodell's private plane without asking? That win over Oakland almost set up as a must-have in Week 1, because here's what is to come for New York: at Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, at San Diego, Denver, at New England. Four playoff teams, plus two who barely missed last season.
Players generally loathe the quick turnarounds to Thursday night games. The Ravens might not mind all that much given Sunday's loss to Cincinnati and what has occurred off the field in the meantime.
Road win in Chicago; 1-0 record. All nice and good. Nothing will top the real headline in Buffalo this week, which is that Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula had reached an agreement to buy the team, almost assuredly meaning that the Bills are staying put. Bonus: The news led us to this Twitter gem from the Pegulas' daughter, Kelly:
The Bears blew up survivor pools everywhere by falling flat on their faces against the Bills. With four of their next six (and five of their next seven) on the road, Chicago could be out of the race before the midway point if it cannot get its act together.
Yeah. We know.
Sack? Check. Blocked kick? Check. Swatted pass, fumble recovery? Check and check. The Texans have played one game (a win over Washington) and we're already a mere forced fumble away from filling in the J.J. Watt Bingo card.
Doug Martin was outgained on the ground Sunday by Jorvorskie Lane, Bobby Rainey, Josh McCown and Derek Anderson. The Bucs might be able to chalk up both Martin's struggles and McCown's slow start to drawing Carolina's defense in Week 1. There should be better days ahead here ...
... and if there are not better days ahead here, then the Rams might challenge 0-16. Sunday's 28-point loss to Minnesota was about as thorough a loss as a team can take. A savior at quarterback is not walking through that door. Sure, Brett Favre might show his face, but only by accident as he spends his post-NFL career traveling the country looking for Bigfoot.
The Jaguars' Week 1 loss in Philadelphia was the Chad Henne-est game possible. He threw two early touchdown passes and a 46-yard pass to Allen Hurns. But he and the Jaguars' offense shut down for three quarters afterward, allowing Philadelphia to rip off 34 unanswered points.
You take the good, you take the bad, you slam your head against the wall and there you have the Cleveland Browns. A ton of positives for the Browns in the second half Sunday -- they erased a 27-3 deficit to tie Pittsburgh at 27, led by a resurgent Brian Hoyer and an unexpected running back tandem of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. They also stalled out in Steelers territory on a potential go-ahead drive, gave up a critical 20-yard pass in the waning seconds and lost at the buzzer on a 41-yard field goal.
Victor Cruz says that the Giants ought to throw him the football more. Presumably, he'll be paying attention if he gets those added reps. On at least a handful of Eli Manning's pass attempts Monday, the Giants' receivers and tight ends made it seem like they were ignoring Manning on purpose, like that old trick you'd pull on the playground when you wanted an annoying kid to go away.
Derek Carr played it safe for the most part Sunday, posting a paltry 4.7 yards-per-attempt average through the air but finishing with two touchdowns. Hopefully, the Raiders' linebacking corps is afforded the same development slack it appears Carr will get. With Khalil Mack joining 2013 draft pick Sio Moore and 2012 selection Miles Burris, Oakland might be able to build its defense around that unit.
All that talk about how being too conservative with Robert Griffin III would lead to RGIII looking like a shell of his former self? That's exactly what happened Sunday. Griffin completed 29-of-37 passes for a very healthy 78.4 completion percentage. Most of those connections, however, came on checkdowns or designed short passes, and Griffin ran for just two yards on three attempts. The end result: six points, a loss to Houston and more questions about Griffin's long-term future as the starter.
Jason Garrett has become the coaching version of gum stuck to your shoe -- there's apparently no way to get rid of it, short of throwing out the whole shoe. Jerry Jones (who has far bigger problems at the moment) has to reach that point eventually and just clean house.