In these weekly previews, I’ll highlight the results that I found shocking from the previous week, as well as preview the game I am most looking forward to from the weekend ahead. As we get later into the season, I may add some other sections to this, including playoff positioning and a look forward to the upcoming draft.
Surprising Results from Week 1
Based on my personal preseason expectations, three game results stood out to me during the first week of the season:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 – New Orleans Saints 40
As indicated in my NFC South preview, I viewed the Saints as the preeminent team in the division, while the Bucs were going to tread water while Jameis Winston missed the first few games of the season. Instead, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to a victory in the Superdome, throwing for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, while not getting sacked or turning the ball over. The Saints’ defense of their NFL South title faces an uphill climb now that they are 0-1 in division games after the first game of the season. The Saints supposedly improved defense from last season was nowhere to be found, and it looks like they are still shaking off their loss in the Minnesota Miracle from the end of last season. A game against the Browns should help them right the ship, but even that is not a guarantee after their performance in Week 1 (more on them in a minute).
New York Jets 48 – Detroit Lions 17
In a game between what I viewed as third–place teams, the Jets blew the game wide open in the third quarter, scoring 31 points in Detroit. Sam Darnold made his debut for the Jets and looked like the quarterback of the present and future, though early struggles led many to question starting the 3rd overall pick from the latest draft. Matt Stafford, on the other hand, looked terrible all game, eventually giving way to backup Matt Cassell, who didn’t fare nearly as well. Was this game a sign that the Jets are going to be better than originally thought? I don’t know, and a divisional game against the Dolphins this week should answer some of those questions. The Lions, on the other hand, head to San Francisco after the Jimmy Gs lost their first game under his stewardship, hope it was just Week 1 bugs that can be corrected. Otherwise, it is going to be another long season for the Motor City.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21 – Cleveland Browns 21
In spite of a performance from newly minted Defensive Player of the Week TJ Watt, the Steelers could not hold of the Browns, who got their first positive result in a game since they won their lone game in Week 16 of the 2016 season (remember, they went 0-16 last year after going 1-15 the year prior). It was the first time they had a positive result in a Week 1 game since 2004, a win against the Baltimore Ravens that kicked off a 4-12 season. I personally had the Browns going 1-15 again this year, but I expected their lone win to come against the Panthers in Week 14, so they are already ahead of where I thought they would be at this point. As for the Steelers, there is no chance that they go 5-1 in the division this season, and they have to hope that the rain was to blame for their poor performance in the second half and overtime, and not the absence of All-Pro running back (and holdout) Le’Veon Bell.
Week 2 Game of the Week
A couple of great looking games to choose from this week, but I think the game to watch will be the Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers. After Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a comeback victory against the Bears on one leg, the Packers (and Rodgers) hope to prove that they are to be reckoned with in the NFC this week. I picked them to win the division, as well as the conference, and if Aaron Rodgers can stay healthy – a bit of an iffy proposition already due to his already injured leg – they have a chance. The Vikings, on the other hand, want to improve on last season themselves, and an early season win against the Packers could put them in the driver’s seat to do so.
Other interesting games are the Chiefs at the Steelers (to see if the Browns game was a sign of things to come from Ben Roethlisberger), the Patriots at the Jaguars (two defending division champions and a playoff rematch), and the Dolphins at the Jets, if only to see if either team will put up much of a fight against the Patriots this year. An ugly game that doesn’t sound appealing at all will be the Texans at the Titans.
Until next time…