Written by Stephen Brown III
Football is back, which means there’s a lot to dissect from the first week of action. Some things went as expected and as usual, some did not. Let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways from the opening weekend of football.
1. Tom Brady might finally be getting exposed
I’ve been saying for years that Tom Brady has been on the decline. But the Patriots coaching, Oline, and defense have propped him up. This was apparent on Sunday. Bruce Arians’ offense has always been predicated on a more vertical attack. Whether it’s deep verticals or intermediate routes like digs, posts, corners, or deep outs, Tom Brady will be expected to push the ball downfield in this offense. While he made a couple of nice tosses, he looked lackluster otherwise. He threw a pick on a deeper route to Mike Evans (which Arians said was due to Brady misreading the defense) and threw a pick-six on a pass with absolutely no zip on an out route to the sidelines. This offense will be fine because of the sheer amount of firepower. However, this team might be destined for a wild card berth rather than a one seed and a Super Bowl.
2. Tom’s replacement looked just fine
The Patriots replaced Tom Brady with former MVP Cam Newton. Some were skeptical of the signing considering the type of injury Newton was coming off us. But, Newton silenced the doubters and put up a solid performance against a Miami defense that, while not elite, shouldn’t be too terrible this year. The offense looked exactly how I expected: a lot of short, high percentage passes by Newton and a lot of runs. Newton was 15/19 passing for 155 yards and was also the Patriots’ leading rusher with 15 carries for 75 yards and 2 TDs. While it certainly wasn’t an earth-shattering, MVP type performance, it was an efficient performance that, if the Patriots defense holds up, will get them a lot of wins.
3. The NFC East is wide open
The Eagles and Cowboys were supposed to be the two beasts of the east this year. However, the Eagles’ injury woes are already plaguing them. For their first game, they were missing three starting offensive linemen, their star rookie Miles Sanders, and later in the game, they lost their backup running back, Boston Scott. The offensive line issues were apparent, as Wentz was sacked 8 times and, had it not been for his escapability and mobility, would’ve easily surpassed double-digit sacks. After getting outscored 27-0 by Washington in the second half, the Eagles have a lot of work to do if they want to win the East. As for the Cowboys, they also looked pretty lackluster. While Dak and Zeke looked fine, the offense as a whole just didn’t seem to really click. Also, there were some questionable coaching decisions by Mike McCarthy, such as not kicking a field goal down 3 in a game where your offense is struggling to move the ball. Just remember this: after week 1, the Washington Football Team is in sole possession of first place.
4. New Place, same Phillip Rivers
Many felt that the Jaguars were in Tank for Trevor mode. And with how good the Colts looked on paper, this game should’ve been a blowout. However, Gardner Minshew said, “Hey, don’t forget about me!”, and turned in an efficient performance of 19/20 for 173 yards and 3 TDs. And of course, when driving to take the lead late in the game, Phillip Rivers looked like the Rivers of old and threw a bad interception to essentially seal the game. I still expect the Colts to finish ahead of the Jags but if they want a shot at the division, Rivers needs to step it up.
5. The Bears’ QB issues are solved(?)
I’m a Bears’ fan, so I watched a lot of this game. In the first three quarters, Mitch Trubisky looked like he picked up where he left off: errant throws, bad decisions, and the occasional nice play that made you think, “Well maybe he’s the answer”. And then, something clicked in the fourth quarter. Down 17, Trubisky looked like an MVP candidate. He started hitting open receivers and his TD pass to take the lead in the fourth to Anthony Miller was an absolute dime. Hopefully, the first three quarters were just nerves and Trubisky will play every game as he did in the fourth quarter. If he does, the Bears team will be dangerous.
6. Aaron Rodgers is out to prove something
Remember when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers’ replacement in the first round this year? Well, Rodgers let the team know what they won’t be seeing Jordan Love any time soon. Even though the Vikings aren’t as good on defense as in years’ past, they are still pretty solid. That didn’t matter though, as Rodgers carved up this defense like it was a 7 on 7 drill. Devante Adams was still his number 1 target but the other targets were spread out to guys like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Jamaal Williams, and Aaron Jones (who each had four catches). If this is the product of Rodgers being comfortable in the second year of this system, then this Packers’ team could be one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.
7. The Super Bowl hangover begins
The Cardinals were a dark horse pick to make the playoffs and they made an early statement in week 1. Kyler Murray and the offense looked solid against a stout defense and the defense held up against what was a solid offensive attack a year ago. DeAndre Hopkins looked very comfortable, hauling in 14 of 16 targets for 151 yards. Kyler Murry led the team in rushing, running 13 times for 91 yards and a TD. The Cardinals found the most success last year when they let Kyler run. If he can be productive in the air and on the ground, and if this defense can keep looking like it did, this Cardinals team might make a run at this division.