Before Thursday's opening night in the NFL, I had some divisional rankings in my head: a few unconventional picks, a few very conventional picks, and 99% uncertainty:
Steelers (but close)
Patriots Jets Bills Dolphins
AFC SOUTH Texans Titans Colts Jags
Raiders (maybe close)
My, how a single week changes unchecked speculation. SOMEHOW a bunch of teams that looked bad came out all right, and more than the few teams watching the throne suddenly looked like peasants.
So what were the biggest flips and flops during Week 1? And who now is going to win the Superbowl? And why are we bothering to make brash claims about the future other than to display our own self-confidence? Some of these questions will be answered.
The biggest winners were three of my pre-season predictions. Buffalo gets an honorable mention for looking pretty good while scoring 41 over the brain-dead looking Chiefs. Odd how the SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN best-looking (aka most facially symmetric) team in the league just destroyed the worst-looking team. Similarly, the Jets eked out a close win over Dallas, the Chargers beat Minnesota handily, and even the Raiders didn’t look too bad against Denver. Offensively, the Dolphins had a decent game, too, but none of these teams looked as good Baltimore, New England, and Houston.
Houston, who won against a Colts team that looked not only headless without Peyton but truly phallus-less, earned the third-best win of week one.
Reggie Wayne was the only Colt who stayed in form, reeling in over 100 yards and his (futile) 70th franchise TD. Even without Arian Foster Houston dominated on all sides of the ball. Andre and Schaub did the job and showed that they have the power they’ve always wanted, and again, this is WITHOUT ARIAN FOSTER. They hit the Colts historically bad rushing defense for 167 yards WITHOUT ARIAN FOSTER. It’s not the biggest win, only because the Colts looked so bad, but it’s a good sign for the Texans that they can play all around. Mario Williams and Brian Cushing are leading a defensive squad with serious potential. That’s all Schaub and Co. needed to take their division.
Even though they lost Kevin Walter for a couple weeks with a collarbone injury, and tight end Owen Daniels wasn’t a big factor, this is going to be their year.
New England really showed up on offense against the Dolphins, who were actually looking pretty good after the first half (as only allowing Brady 14 points is now “pretty good” for two quarters). Then Brady threw an INT for a touchdown and Miami tied the game.
New England must’ve remembered, “Hey, we don’t lose games on offense, and we have two beastly tight ends.” Even after losing their starting center, Brady still hooked up with every guy on his team and that was just in the locker room at the half. Brady ran this game. Hernandez and Gronkowski were unstoppable, Welker too. The stats show it all: Brady threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs, a franchise and Monday Night Football record. 99 of those yards came on a single end-to-end pass to Welker. After stopping the Dolphins on fourth down to more or less seal the game, Brady connected with Welker to tie an NFL record and crush Miami’s spirit. The Dolphins kept playing and getting some nice passes (Henne finished with 416 yards, 2 passing TDs, and a rushing TD himself). In the end, it didn’t matter. Both defenses played soft, as those numbers suggest, but the Patriots score like Wilt Chamberlain anyway.
As someone somewhere put it, Brady is now on pace to rack up over 8,700 yards this season. Will he do it?! Just because I jokingly asked that question, I think he probably will now...what a joke.
NewRo's best bro
That leaves the most impressive win with the Ravens and their offensive superstar: Ray “FedEx” Rice. With former Texan block machine Vonta Leach busting ahead for him, Rice dominated the air and ground: 149 all-purpose yards and two TDs. Lee Evans played decoy (no catches), allowing Boldin some huge clutch catches. Even Ricky Williams got some good action as Rice and Flacco led the Ravens to a 35-7 victory over the humbled Steelers.
Big Ben, on the other hand, led the Steelers into a whopping SEVEN turnovers. That’s some vintage 2001 league-murdering Ravens D right there. Too fast, too strong. Ed Reed alone, that old bastard, got two INTs. The Steelers didn’t look good, but unlike the Colts, it was far more because the Ravens looked unstoppable. They allowed Mike Wallace over a hundred yards only after the game was effectively over. Now, the Titans and Rams in the next two weeks will shed some light on the Ravens future, but we won’t really know until October 2nd when Baltimore faces the Jets: is this Ravens team Superbowl-bound as they look? Well, they sure look it.