The Point After: Big Winners and Losers of Week 1
Welcome to The Point After. In this ongoing series, I examine each match for the week, look at where the teams are and where they're heading.
As far as season openers go, this year was pretty exciting starting off with one of the best games I've seen in years. There were some surprising upsets and there were some even more surprising letdowns. So without wasting anymore time, here's The Point After.
New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers
Prediction: Green Bay over New Orleans
Result: Packers 42 Saints 34
The Point After
Is it possible that the season could have started with a better game? I doubt it. In fact, the game has a place as one of the best I’ve seen in years. Thursday night the Packers proved that there is not a championship hangover in Green Bay and they are ready to defend their Super Bowl title.
Aaron Rodgers played like the champion he is, throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He looked comfortable in the pocket and proved how accurate and dangerous he can be on the field completing 27-for-35. Rookie Randall Cobb also showed his stripes as took a kickoff return 108 yards for the score in the third quarter.
On the other side of the ball, Drew Brees (32-for-49) didn’t look too shabby himself racking up 419 yards and three touchdowns. Of course that’s not the problem the Big Easy will be asking themselves. Brees didn’t look protected in the pocket. He was sacked three times and rushed several passes. In the end, the Saints were only able to make one strike while in the red zone (1-for-5), while the Packers proved why they took home the trophy last year getting a perfect score in the red zone.
With a game as amazing as this you know it all had to come down to the very last play—zero seconds on the clock, ball on the 1-yard line and the Saints needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie up the game. Then, in a very strange choice, the Saints decided to go with a run play handing the ball to rookie Mark Ingram, who couldn’t break the plane.
So where will we see these two teams going? Well despite the loss the Saints took, they showed that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Look out for them to bring their best when the Bears visit New Orleans next week.
As for Green Bay, let’s just say if I were a Packers fan I wouldn’t be worried at all. Can they defend their Super Bowl title? If they play like they did on Thursday I’d say they stand a damn good shot. Look for them to pummel the Panthers next week in Carolina.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Prediction: Pittsburgh over Baltimore
Result: Steelers 7 Ravens 35
The Point After
I was very disappointed in this game. Disappointed because I expect more of a matchup and disappointed because I have the Steelers as my fantasy defense. Everything that the Thursday night opening game had this game lacked.
Joe Flacco looked quite impressive throwing for 224 yards and three touchdowns (17-for-29). He wasn’t rushed in the pocket and he proved that he was in control. Ray Rice is still the man in Baltimore, chewing up the Steelers D by racking up 107 yards and one touchdown. All in all, the Ravens really looked like a well-put together team.
The story was quite different for the Steelers. Big Ben didn’t seem to have any control at all throwing for 280 yards but a low 22-for-41 and one touchdown, and a crown jewel of three interceptions. Turnovers really summed this game up with four fumbles for the Steelers. In the end, there should be a lot of questions in the locker room for Pittsburgh as they barely put up a fight against the Ravens.
What’s up next on the menu? Well the Ravens march to Tennessee to face off with the Titans. Look for Baltimore to put up another W. For the Steelers, it’s back home to host the Seahawks. This game should prove to give them more confidence as they grab a win back home.
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears
Prediction: Atlanta over Chicago
Result: Falcons 12 Bears 30
The Point After
Much like the Steelers/Raven game, I expected the Falcons to put up more of a fight than they did. The Bears really looked solid in this game. Their defense came up big, driving Matt Ryan to the turf a total of five times. Two of those sacks came courtesy of Julius Peppers.
Brian Urlacher also had a great game picking off Matt Ryan to set up a 56-yard TD and in the third quarter picking up a fumble to score from 12 yards out. In the end, Jay Culter looked pretty good putting up 312 yards (22-for-32) two touchdown and one interception.
The Falcons have some issues they need to tackle. The offensive line couldn’t seem to keep Matt Ryan upright. Time after time they were beaten at the line and if it wasn’t a sack, a fumble or an interception it was a rushed pass. In fact, it looked so bad for Atlanta that the only time they were able to get into the end zone was on defense when Kroy Blermann was able to pick off Culter and bring it home. Ryan finished the night 31-for-47, 319 yards and no touchdowns.
Atlanta hosts the newly dubbed “dream team” Philadelphia next week. If these issues continue they don’t stand much of a chance against Michael Vick and Co. Look for the Eagles to add another W.
As for the Bears, they are off to New Orleans to face off with a probably pretty mad Drew Brees and the Saints. This game should prove to be a good one and I’m taking the New Orleans as they look to show their home crowd they’re still one of the elite.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Prediction: Cleveland over Cincinnati
Result: Browns 17 Bengals 27
The Point After
I really thought the Browns might have a good season this year, at least one they could look back on and say that they were moving in the right direction. However, after this game I’m afraid I can’t say that. The Bengals actually looked like a football team for a change. Bruce Gradkowski, in relief for injured rookie Andy Dalton, aired up a ball to A.J. Green who was completely uncovered by the Browns sloppy defense to score on a 41-yard TD. Gradkowski finished 5-for-12 and 92 yards and one touchdown.
For the Browns there are two numbers that matter – one and 12. That’s how many season openers they’ve won since 1999—one. Although I have to say that Colt McCoy still doesn’t look like he’s the answer for Cleveland, going 19-for-40, 213 yards and two touchdowns, he’s still got my vote when it comes to options. Pat Shurmur’s first year as head coach with the Browns isn’t looking all that hot, as they appeared disorganized and slapstick when it came to just about everything.
The Browns might get a little relief next week as they go to Indiana to face off with the troubled Colts. I think this is going to be a close game, but I am going to say that the Browns actually walk away with a hard-fought win.
The Bengals might have shocked the Browns (and most of the NFL world) with their win this Sunday but I don’t see the same thing happening in Denver. Look for Cincinnati to add its first of many losses as they visit the Mile High City.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Prediction: Houston over Indianapolis
Result: Texans 34 Colts 7
The Point After
There really was no chance for the Colts in this one. Without Peyton Manning at the helm, the ship is lost in rough waters. Kerry Collins, back from retirement, really couldn’t fill those shoes, going 16-for-31 and 197 yards and one touchdown. The only good thing I can see for the Colts is at least they weren’t shut out for the first time in ages.
The story was quite different for Matt Schaub who had his way with the Colts defense, going 17-for-24, 220 yards and one touchdown. Ben Tate, in for injured starter Arian Foster, also had great game rushing for 116 yards and one touchdown. In the end the Texans looked pretty solid but it’s hard to say where they might go when they face up against a healthier team.
The Texas should probably continue their winning streak as they head to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Even though Houston’s schedule is ranked as the 10th-hardest, with the Colts out of commission, look for Schaub and Co. to make a run for the playoffs.
As for Indy, there’s not much hope for this season in my opinion. The Browns visit the Colts next week and as I mentioned before, I’m taking Cleveland in that matchup. Having said that, Indy might want to hope for a win here as their schedule only gets harder and harder as the season progresses.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Prediction: Jacksonville over Tennessee
Result: Jaguars 16 Titans 14
The Point After
For two teams I’m not terribly interested in, this was an excitingly close game. Jacksonville really looked solid with Luke McCown under center, finishing 17-for-24 and 175 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew, who has returned from a knee injury, ran in for a touchdown and finished with 97 yards on 24 carries. With the Colts out of commission, the Jaguars might actually have a real shot at a playoff run.
For Tennessee this wasn’t a complete loss. If nothing else it did show that Matt Hasselbeck still has something left in the tank, finishing 21-for-34, 263 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t until a late-game interception by Dwight Lowery that put this game away. Kenny Britt was Hasselbeck’s main target and he racked up 136 yards with two touchdown catches.
Jacksonville will head to New York to face off with the Jets and if the Jets keep pulling off their game miracles then look for Jacksonville to walk away bruised and battered from this one. I’m talking Gang Green.
Matt Hasselbeck might have not looked all that bad in this game, but next week comes a real challenge for the Titans as the Ravens land in Tennessee. After watching the Ravens drop-kick the Steelers, I’m sticking with Flacco and Co.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction: Kansas City over Buffalo
Result: Chiefs 7 Bills 41
The Point After
Hmmmmmm. Yep. That really is the result. I’m not lying to you. Seriously, the Bills blew out the Chiefs in Kansas City. Do you want to know the last time the Bills opened a season with 40 or more points? Sept. 6th 1992 against the Los Angeles Rams. For the Chiefs it was even worse. It was their largest season-opening loss in franchise history and it was their worst home loss in over 35 years.
Ryan Fitzpatrick shows the NFL world that he’s actually a pro quarterback going 17-for-25, with 208 yards and four touchdowns. He looked focused and ready. Is there a new player in the AFC East? Maybe, just maybe. Scott Chandler was Fitzpatrick’s main target with another touchdown going to Steve Johnson.
Matt Cassel and Co. are probably in hiding after a game like this. He went 22-for-36, 119 yards and one touchdown—a touchdown that saved the even more horrible possibility of a shutout (if that would really have been that much more horrible). There better be a lot of questions being asked in Kansas City right now. If they aren’t able to contain Buffalo they’re in for a really hard ride through this season with the seventh-hardest schedule.
The Chiefs are off to Detroit to face off with the Lions and after today's game I’m going to go with Matt Stafford and Co. If the Chiefs choke again against the Lions next week look for a downward spiral this season.
I’m not going to hand the Bills an easy walk here just because they blew out the Chiefs. Having said that, I’m going to go with the Bills at home as they host the almost always inconsistent Oakland Raiders.
Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams
Prediction: Philadelphia over St. Louis
Result: Eagles 31 Rams 13
The Point After
The “dream team” is on the move. Yes, anyone who was questioning whether Philadelphia was going to gel has had their doubts answered in this game. Michael Vick showed his usual tricks going 14-for-32, 187 passing yards, 98 rushing yards and two touchdowns. DeSean Jackson had 102 receiving yards with one touchdown and LeSean McCoy rushed in for two touchdowns. The Eagles really are looking like a whirlwind force. As long as Vick can stay healthy there’s a good chance we’ll see them in the playoffs.
The Rams really didn’t stand much of a chance in this matchup. In truth, I’ve never been a strong believer in Sam Bradford. He put up some mediocre numbers at 17-for-30, 188 yards and zero touchdowns. The Rams really have a hard road ahead of them and if they aren’t able to keep Bradford upright (five sacks in this game) they aren’t going to see too many wins.
The “dream team” continues its road games as they head to Atlanta. If the Falcons play like they played today then the Eagles should have no problem pummeling them into the ground. I’m picking Vick and Co. to win this one.
The Rams won’t get much time to lick their wounds as they head to New York to face off with the Giants. Although Eli and Co. didn’t look that great this week, I’m going with New York to take away this win.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Prediction: Tampa Bay over Detroit
Result: Buccaneers 20 Lions 27
The Point After
In what I would say was a surprising win, Matt Stafford led his Lions to a strong win over the Buccaneers. Stafford showed he’s not to be messed with in the pocket, going 24-for-33, 305 yards and three touchdowns. He threw one interception that was deflected by intended receiver Will Heller into the arms of Aqib Talib who returned it for a touchdown. This win marks their fifth consecutive win since the 2010 season. I said it several times last season and I’ll say it again: The era of losses may be coming to an end in Detroit.
Tampa Bay can’t walk away with much positive from this game. They only managed one touchdown until there were two minutes left to the game and the win was already Detroit’s. Josh Freeman went 28-for-43, 259 yards and one touchdown. I expected more from the Buccs and if they don’t tighten up their game, they are going to have a long hard road ahead of them.
Next week Detroit takes on the Chiefs at home. Having watched the surprising crushing defeat that Kansas City took at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, I’m going to go with Stafford and Co. to continue their winning streak.
The Buccaneers must have an angel watching over them because they’re off to visit the Vikings and this should prove to a great game for Tampa to get its act together. I see Tampa Bay walking away with the win here.
Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers
Prediction: San Diego over Minnesota
Result: Chargers 24 Vikings 17
The Point After
I pity the fantasy owners who have Donovan McNabb. If you can believe it, McNabb went for an unbelievable 39 total yards (7-for-15)! If you think that’s bad, Adrian Peterson brought up the rear with 98 yards, averaging 6.1 per carry. If there’s any team in the whole league that looks to have some serious problems (except Indy) it would have to be the Vikings. We all knew that last season was an all-or-nothing season and it turned out to be nothing. Now back to the drawing board as they pick up the pieces and hope to at least get out of this season on the positive side.
On the other side of the ball, Philip Rivers looked very much in command of the game going 33-for-48, 335 yards and two touchdowns. San Diego has always been a threat for the AFC West and a possible playoff contender. This year they need to keep up the same energy. One of their biggest faults is starting strong and finishing weak. If Rivers can keep his game high and continue to pass like he did in this game, look out for them as December rolls around.
The Vikings don’t have an easy ride ahead of them but they’ll hope to find a little solace when the Buccaneers come to town next week. Having said that, I believe that Donovan McNabb is all but done. I’m taking Tampa in this matchup.
For the Chargers it’s off to Foxboro for a head-to-head with the Patriots. These two teams love to play each other hard and it should be a great game. I’m going with my boys and saying Brady hands the Chargers their first loss. As if you thought I’d go any other way.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Prediction: San Francisco over Seattle
Result: 49ers 33 Seahawks 17
The Point After
The 49ers really stole the game away in the fourth quarter when Ted Ginn Jr. returned not one but two kicks for TD to help San Francisco break away from a narrow game to take the win. Alex Smith didn’t look too bad in the pocket going 15-for-20 and 124 yards, but it still remains to be seen if the 49ers are going to be the team to beat in the NFC West.
For Seattle, their special teams are probably going to have a real talking-to after that showing. Although both returns were pretty amazing for Ginn, the second one he should have been down around the 30 and then again in the Seahawks territory. Tarvaris Jackson had decent showing going 21-for-37, 197 yards and two touchdowns. In the horrible NFC West everyone’s a contender right until the last snap of the regular season.
The 49ers stay at home to host the Cowboys next week. Tony Romo and Co. are probably out for revenge and I just don’t see Smith standing up to the pressure. I’m going to take the Cowboys in this matchup.
The Seahawks travel to the land of the terrible towel and face off with the Steelers. I’m afraid to say that Seattle fans will be seeing another loss come their way as the Steelers look to put things back together in Pittsburgh.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
Prediction: New York over Washington
Result: Giants 14 Redskins 28
The Point After
I have to be honest and say I was really questioning Mike Shanahan’s decision to put Rex Grossman under center. Obviously Grossman proved me wrong. Rex went 21-for-34, 305 yards and two touchdowns. If we continue to see this kind of performance from Grossman, we might actually see a revitalized Washington Redskins.
The Giants shouldn’t feel too down on themselves for this loss. Although Eli didn’t have a groundbreaking game and did throw the pick that really changed the momentum in favor of the Redskins, in my opinion they just looked rusty. Eli Manning went 18-for-32 and 268 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw was able to cap a drive for a TD but only walked away with 44 yards.
The Cardinals come to Washington next week to face up against the Redskins. I never thought I’d be saying this, at least while Shanahan was in charge, but I like the Redskins in this matchup. Of course the final call on this one will be a game-time decision.
The Giants get to go home and face up against the Rams. I really don’t see Bradford bringing anything new to this matchup, so I’m taking Eli and Co. for the win next week.
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals
Prediction: Arizona over Carolina
Result: Cardinals 28 Panthers 21
The Point After
Just when it looked like the Panthers might have victory in their grasp, Kevin Kolb and his Cardinals pulled the rug out from under them. Kevin Kolb went 18-for-27, 309 yards and two touchdowns. With special teams seemingly making some pretty nice plays in these season opening games, this was no different with rookie Patrick Peterson taking back a punt 89 yards for the TD. The Cardinals didn’t look solid but they showed that even when they’re down they aren’t out.
Carolina fans don’t despair. Sure it’s another loss, but Cam Newton didn’t look too bad under center. He finished the night 24-for-37, 422 yards and two touchdowns. Those are some good numbers in my book. In fact, Newton became the first rookie in NFL history to break 400 yards in a season opener. Sadly the Panthers have one of the toughest schedules. So even if this season turns out to be a bust, look out for those surprise wins.
Next week the Cardinals go off to Washington to face up with a newly revitalized Redskins. This matchup might prove to be a great game. Reserving a final call for game time, I’m going to put some faith in the Redskins and call this in their favor.
The Panthers probably aren’t looking forward to this week as they face up with the dangerous Packers. Despite very good numbers, Cam Newton and Co. just won’t be able to hold off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets
Prediction: New York over Dallas
Result: Jets 27 Dallas 24
The Point After
As with so many games this Sunday, special teams really decided this game. With just five minutes left in the game, Joe McKnight blocked a punt and Isaiah Trufant returned the ball 18 yards for the score. Still, the Cowboys weren’t out. That is until Tony Romo was intercepted by Darrelle Revis with 59 seconds left to the game setting up the winning 50-yard kick by Nick Folk.
Despite the narrow win, the Jets didn’t look very solid to me. Mark Sanchez didn’t look protected in the pocket and was pressed to the turf four times. Sanchez finished the night 26-for-44, 335 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Rex Ryan might be shooting his mouth off again about how they’re going to walk away with the trophy but if they play even remotely like this against, say the Packers, they’ll be going home empty-handed.
Dallas had this game in the bag. Sometimes it seems that Gang Green always have a way to pull off some sort of last-second miracle. In this case that miracle in came in the way of Tony Romo who, for unimaginable reasons, threw into traffic and was picked off by Revis. Romo finished the night 23-for-36, 342 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys looked fairly solid for the most part of the game but they weren’t able to close it out. If Romo can’t handle the heat, maybe he shouldn’t be in the kitchen.
Next week the Jets host the Jaguars. This time around the Jets should try and take control of the game rather than leaving it up to the flip of a lucky coin. I’ll cautiously take the Jets in the matchup.
Dallas fly to the Bay Area to take on the 49ers. Tony Romo and Co. should use this game to get their groove back. I’m taking the Cowboys in the matchup.
The Point After
All in all, I was pretty pleased with the opening season games. Some very surprising upsets and some early leaders have emerged. Next week should prove to be even more interesting as several teams look to reclaim their pride and others look to continue on track. I’ll have the Monday night games covered next week.
And that’s The Point After.