Week 1 in the NFL is a lot of things. Not only is it the most exciting and highly anticipated weekend of the year for many football fans, but it’s also the most difficult to predict. Most teams haven’t had any real competitive action since the previous calendar year, and many have since dramatically revamped their starting lineups. But with Week 1 now in the books, let’s take a look at some of the top storylines we’ve witnessed at this early point.
Cheater or not, Brady’s still going to beat you
This lesson has been learned time and time again when it comes to the Patriots. It doesn’t matter who is surrounding Tom Brady, more times than not, he’s going to win. Whether he’s throwing to Deion Branch and Troy Brown, Randy Moss and Wes Welker, or Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, the result is usually the same. With the climax of Deflate-Gate finally having passed and Brady’s four-game suspension being nullified, the two-time NFL MVP happily accepted his fourth Super Bowl ring before walking all over the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tune of a 25-32, 288 yard, four TD passing night. Maybe the Patriots’ history of getting caught cheating made it easy to silence all the noise surrounding them? Whatever the case, Brady showed us last Thursday that another tally in the old age category hasn’t slowed him down at all. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for one of his peers…
Broncos win, but Peyton looks more like Eli
“Hey, who was that guy throwing for the Broncos on Sunday? The one wearing the Peyton Manning jersey?” Those were my thoughts while watching Denver go on to an extremely ugly 19-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Since making the move from Indy to higher altitudes, Peyton has now gone 4-0 in Week 1, but a lot has changed in three years.
In 2012, coming off multiple neck surgeries which held him out for the entire 2011 season, Manning silenced all doubters by looking like his old self and going 19-26 for 253 yards and two scores in a 31-19 win over Pittsburgh. The following year, he kicked off the greatest offensive campaign in NFL history by throwing an NFL record-tying seven TDs in a 49-27 demolition of the defending champion Ravens. Last year, more of the same against his old Colts, throwing no picks for the third straight opener to go along with three six-pointers and a 31-24 win.
This past Sunday against Baltmore, well, Peyton didn’t look quite like Peyton. He missed open receivers down the field on more than one occasion and the only touchdown he threw was to Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. I’m not saying that we’re going to be seeing a drop in production of Kobe Bryant proportions from Manning this season, but I am saying that this is definitely not the same guy who I did my “Make a Puppet of your Favorite Hero Project” on in sixth grade, let alone the guy who broke every single-season offensive record in the book just TWO seasons ago. If his defense can keep playing this way though, I’m still picking the orange-haired horses to win the AFC West. #vinoclub
Dez Bryant out 4-6 weeks
Dez may or may not have “caught the ball” (yeah, he caught it) against the Green Bay Packers in last year’s NFC Championship game, but this past weekend he did indeed catch a broken foot to go along with his five receptions. Luckily for the Cowboys, they pulled off a rather miraculous 27-26 win over the New York Giants, who inexplicably told runningback Rashad Jennings NOT to score a touchdown in the final minutes that would have put the G-Men up by 10. Jerry’s World is the only NFC East team with a win after one week, but it could be in trouble without its top weapon.
Monday Night Spotlight Debuts and Return
Speaking of “top Cowboy weapons,” former Dallas runningback DeMarco Murray was one of several players to watch on Monday Night as he started in his new role with the Philadelphia Eagles. Last year’s top rusher started 2014 with an NFL record eight consecutive 100-yard games, but had a measly nine yards on eight carries in his debut with the Eagles, who lost a 26-24 heartbreaker to the Falcons.
Another exciting debutant on Monday Night was San Francisco’s Jarryd Hayne, the man famous for becoming the first to make the unprecedented jump from rugby star to NFL return man. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old Australian rookie misjudged his first punt, having the ball slip through his hands before being recovered by the Vikings special teams. If there ever is a sequel to Mark Wahlberg’s “Invincible,” Hayne just might not be in it.
While it wasn’t a debut for a certain runningback wearing the No. 28, it was a much-welcomed return. That’s right, Adrian Peterson made his glorious return to the field after missing the entire 2014 season due to suspension. I guess the Vikings were trying to show their faith in second year QB Teddy Bridgewater by throwing it on the first three plays of the game, but giving AD 10 carries for 31 yards in a 20-3 loss to the 49ers just isn’t going to cut it. Give the man the ball, he’s hungry!
Defense, Defense, Defense
Despite new starting runningback LeSean “Shady” McCoy carrying 17 times for only 41 yards, Head Coach Rex Ryan’s debut goes well as the Buffalo Bills open up a 21-0 lead over Andrew Luck and the Colts on their way to an impressive season-opening win.
Bolts overcome huge deficit at home
After going down 21-3 to the Detroit Lions, Philip Rivers and co. put up 30 straight points on their way to a 33-28 win. Danny Woodhead scores twice while Keenan Allen ties a franchise record with 15 catches for 166 yards.
Cardinals lose starting RB Andre Ellington but prevail in a 31-19 win over the Saints. Chris Johnson, the man formerly known as “CJ2K,” will be getting the start for Arizona moving forward.
Meanwhile, trailing 34-31 in overtime, the “almost” back-to-back champion Seattle Seahawks are faced with a 4th-and-1 near midfield against the St. Louis Rams. They’re going to pass it, right? Shockingly, the ball is handed to Marshawn Lynch, something that no one in the world, including all 11 players on the defensive side knew was going to happen. The Rams shut down “Beast Mode,” giving them an impressive win to open the season. Russell Wilson says after the game that it was the right decision, but everyone knows they should have thrown the ball.
Packers D holds the Bears
Without top receiver Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers was near perfect as usual, throwing three scores on 18-23 passing. A fourth quarter goal-line stand allowed Green Bay to hold on to its one-score lead and go on to win 31-23.
Rookie Bowl: Mariota vs. Winston
The battle between the top two picks in this year’s draft wasn’t much of a battle. No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston became the first quarterback since Brett Favre in 1991 to throw a pick six on his first pass attempt. Marcus Mariota, on the other hand, was near perfect, throwing four touchdowns and making it look easy on the way to a 42-14 win. I think we all know who’s winning the Rookie of the Year battle right now.
This article appeared on page 13 of September 17, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.