With the first week of professional football in the books, we have quite a bit of reflecting to do. An entire offseason of guessing how each team will look when the lights come on has finally come to fruition, and man, do some of those predictions look bad. Though each team has only played one game, Tuesday seems like enough time to make some blanket statements based on the 60 or so minutes (or what felt like 1,000 minutes for the Lions-Cardinals tie) of football that we’ve seen from each team so far. Here are my three [over]reactions:
The Bears look far from a playoff team
The Bears took the majority of football fans by surprise when they put together a 12-4 season under first-year head coach Matt Nagy, who went on to win 2018 NFL Coach of the Year. The addition of Khalil Mack put their defense over the top, and the development of Mitchell Trubisky into a solid game manager made the Bears the three-seed in the NFC.
One missed field goal in a playoff game later, and three points is all they could muster at home against a Packers’ defense that allowed 25 points per game (11th most in NFL) in 2018. It is worth mentioning that the Packers did a lot to improve defensively like revamping the coaching staff, spending two first round picks on that side of the ball and signing two pass rushers (Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith) and a safety (Adrian Amos), who combined for 2.5 sacks and an interception in the trio’s Green Bay debuts. But this was their first test as a unit against real competition, and it came together way too nicely to give them 100 percent of the credit for the Bears’ inability to run their offense.
Though people are always quick to blame the quarterback when a team fails to put up points, Trubisky was in a tough spot all game. Chicago couldn’t find much success running the ball with running backs Mike Davis or David Montgomery, who combined for 11 carries for 37 yards and relied heavily on Trubisky to get yards through the air without the defense respecting the ground game. He completed just 26 of 45 pass attempts for 228 yards and one interception. He was also sacked five times.
The offensive line needs to be better for the Bears’ offense to make anything happen. Trubisky isn’t one of the special quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, who can make plays happen through the air, even without a running game to keep the defense honest or a line to keep his pocket clean. If the Bears want to return to the playoffs and make it further than the first round, the five big guys up front need to do their jobs. Otherwise, this team is going to regress a lot from a successful 2018.
The Browns were crowned FAR too soon
Months and months of hype and sky-high expectations for a long-suffering franchise finally came together to a 30 point loss to the Tennessee-freaking-Titans. So you’re telling me Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t a saving grace? Shocking.
After the game, Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker channeled his inner Dennis Green. “We didn’t even circle this game… They are who we thought they were, if you want to crown them, crown them,” Walker said. Getting punked by Tennessee is not a good look for the Dawg Pound.
Vegas had Baker Mayfield tied with Rodgers and trailing just Patrick Mahomes and Carson Wentz in NFL MVP betting odds before the season began. That slotted him just ahead of last season’s runner-up Drew Brees and the greatest to ever do it, Tom Brady… LOL. This was after his rookie year in which he played 14 games, throwing for 266 yards per game (3725 total), 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While those stats are impressive for a rookie, way too much was expected this season of the former No. 1 overall pick.
Mayfield threw three interceptions, and as a team, the Browns committed 18 penalties against Tennessee in front of their home crowd. Undisciplined mistakes killed Cleveland in their season debut, but that shouldn’t be a big surprise considering how young this team is. Sure, there’s a lot of talent on this roster, but the players harnessing that talent will need to mature and grow before they’re ready to win football games, let alone win the division or make the playoffs.
The Patriots are (once again) Super Bowl favorites
Bill Belichick, you brilliant man, you did it again. This Patriots team managed to improve after winning the Super Bowl last February, despite losing Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gonskowski. On Sunday Night Football, a 42-year-old football-throwing technician systematically dismantled Pittsburgh’s defense on the way to a 33-3 victory.
Brady went 24-36 for 341 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. He made throws – such as a third-quarter deep touch pass to Josh Gordon surrounded by three Steelers’ defensive backs — that showed the world that he’s still got it. He also threw two pretty touchdowns to Phillip Dorsett on go routes up the middle of the field. Imagine what Brady will be able to do with new toy Antonio Brown next week going forward…
As much as I’d love to, I can’t give Tommy all of the credit. This New England defense picked up right where they left off last season. They look like one of Belichick’s best defenses he’s ever assembled. Though they only recorded one sack and their lone forced turnover came in garbage time, they followed Belichick’s classic “bend don’t break” model. The Patriots forced five punts, two turnovers on downs and had an impressive goal line stand that resulted in a 19-yard field goal. The Steelers were just 3-12 on converting third downs.
Top to bottom, this is one of the most talented Patriots teams that I’ve ever seen. The addition of Brown can do one of just two things: Put New England’s offense over the top with many dangerous weapons at Brady’s disposal like Randy Moss, or not pan out and get cut like Chad Ochocinco. One thing that he won’t do is destroy the Patriots from within. The culture that Belichick and Brady have created in New England is far too strong for any one player to ruin. So, sit back and enjoy the show.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.