Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NFL Week 1: 5 Things We Learned

Off the heels of an amazing sports weekend and ensuing two nights, in which the Cowboys pulled off a miracle, the Rangers grabbed first place and I won my 2nd straight basketball championship in the old farts rec league, it's time to reflect on week 1 of the NFL.

Without further ado, here are my 5 takeaways from week 1:

1. Coaching Matters

When you watch a lot of Jason Garrett, it's easy to devalue coaching. But, good coaching seemed to be the prevailing takeaway from week one. Look no further than former Seattle defensive coach Dan Quinn, now head coach of the Falcons. Quinn did a complete 180 with that Atlanta defense in week 1, which contained and even at times dominated the hyped Philly offense for much of Monday night.

Then, there's Eric Mangini, the defensive coordinator for the 49ers. A team with more retirements in an offseason than I can remember, Mangini's niners held an upstart Vikings team to 3 points on Monday night. Is it a coincidence that he was on those vaunted Patriots defensive staffs? I think not.

The last coach I want to give props to is Jeff Fisher. Often forgot about, and perhaps remembered most by my generation for his controversial situation with Vince Young in Tennessee, Fisher led the Rams to an impressive overtime victory over Seattle on Sunday. There's a reason this guy has been a coach in the NFL for 30 years. With an elite defense and finally some playmakers on offense, now might be the time for Fisher to get back into the spotlight and lead the Rams to future success.

2. Kansas City is the Future, and Maybe, the Present, of the AFC West

Over the last 3 seasons, everyone has wavered from picking the Broncos to 100% win the division to marking a certain season as Peyton Manning's downfall. As Manning gets older and older, it's hard to imagine he can keep up the pace of extraordinary stats and play on the field, but he has proved the naysayers wrong so far. That is, until maybe, right now.

I don't want to make too much of week 1, but he looked mediocre against the Ravens. Now, some of that certainly is attributed to an inexperienced offensive line, but regardless, the man is 39 years old and doesn't have feeling in some of his fingers.

So, as we begin to think about who will be the future of the AFC West, many previously thought San Diego, with Rivers. However, the new prevailing thought seems to be Kansas City, and for good reason! Their defense has some big-time, All-Pro playmakers, their offense finally has some additional talent at the skill positions and they have a mastermind of a head coach. Alex Smith is good for this team and can certainly lead them to playoffs, but it will be tough for them to go very deep because he can't throw the long ball. However, they have the pieces in place to make it possible. Only time will tell, but their week 1 showing and recent progress in the last couple years lead me to believe that they the present and the future of the division.

3. Teams Still Cannot Figure Out Late-Game Clock Management and Play Calling

It's almost unfathomable to me just how often teams mess this up. You prepare for hours and days for a game, play almost the entire game, and then lose it on one poor decision or a complete screw up on clock management. Both happened for the G-men on Sunday night. It's usually my Cowboys who are doing the gifting, but not that night.

In just one play, the G-men saved the Cowboys very valuable time, points and yardage that allowed them to miraculously win by 1 point, when Romo connected with Witten for a TD with 7 seconds left.

In my mind, clock management and play calling is what separates the good from the bad, and even the good from the great. Some of it is human nature, but some of it is just flat out inexcusable.

4. AFC East is Truly Up for Grabs

Many will pick New England to run through the division again, and for good reason. But, watch out for the Dolphins, Jets and Bills. All won Sunday, with the latter two winning in blowout fashion. All 3 also improved by leaps in bounds in the offseason, just in terms of the stars and potential superstars they acquired.

Rex Ryan getting out of New York and going to Buffalo helped both teams. He is one of the league's best defensive minds, and he inherits a better, and dare I say, elite defense. On the other side, New York gets a fresh start with Revis and Cromartie back, and Ivory getting to run over people in volume, something Rex Ryan didn't allow for before. As for Miami, they didn't look great against Washington, but many believe they are the most talented of the three, and the best candidate to knock off New England.

This should be a very interesting division now, and for years to come!

5. Predictions are Just That

If Sunday proved anything, it's that predictions are just predictions. Maybe they come to fruition, or maybe we need to step off the gas. The hyped Eagles and Cowboys didn't look very good, and neither did Miami and Indy.

Week 1 proved that it truly is a new season, and maybe, not a predictable one. From Mariota playing well, to Buffalo upsetting Indy, to St. Louis shocking Seattle, and everything in between, it truly feels like a fresh start. And, hey, a little parity never hurts!

Here's to a great season!