It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sorry, Christmas.
That’s right. Football is back, baby.
There’s a lot to talk about after the first fourteen games of the season, including a second-string RB looking like a starter, a surprise in the NFC South, a losing streak being broken without a win, and a crazy comeback on Sunday Night Football. Let’s jump right in.
Saints Drop Opener to Bucs, “Fitzmagic”
Final: Buccaneers 48, Saints 40
In the opener of his fourteenth season, veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick- starting in place of the suspended Jameis Winston- looked good. “Fitzmagic,” as Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter referred to him, completed 21 of 28 for 417 passing yards and five total TD’s. Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense were able to keep up the pace in the first half, but struggled in the second half, punting twice and giving up a fumble on their first three possessions. Only getting 43 running yards the whole game certainly did not help wither. But their defense was perhaps the worst aspect of the game, allowing two different Tampa receivers to collect 100-plus yards. The Saints’ D struggled to generate pressure, giving Fitzpatrick plenty of time in the pocket.
If I’m a Saints fan, I’m not panicking too much after this game. They haven’t won a season opener since 2013, and they made it to the divisional round of the playoffs last year (a game that we all remember quite well). At the same time, if the Saints have any hope to reach the playoffs, their defense has a lot of improving to do.
Browns’ Losing Streak Ends; Winless Streak Continues
Final: Browns 21, Steelers 21
A wild game in Cleveland. The Browns very well could have gotten their first W since December 24, 2016, had they not wasted the first three out of their six takeaways. Cleveland’s O-line also struggled to defend Tyrod Taylor from Pittsburgh’s defense. Taylor only completed 15 of 40, throwing for 197 yards.
Pittsburgh’s offense struggled, too. Big Ben Roethlisberger had 335 passing yards, but he also threw three interceptions, and their offense gave up three fumbles. The bright spot in the Steelers’ offense was James Conner, who is starting at running back while Le’Veon Bell continues his holdout. Conner ran for 135 yards on 31 attempts and scored two touchdowns.
The Steelers looked like they were finally going to put the game away with just under two minutes left in overtime, but Chris Boswell’s potential game-winning 42-yard field goal went wide left.
Side note: only the Cleveland Browns could end a losing streak and still not win a game.
The Patriots Won
Final: Patriots 27, Texans 20
Tom Brady was good. Deshaun Watson was bad. Gronk was Gronk. The Patriots’ O-line was good; The Texans’ was essentially nonexistant. Better luck next week, Houston.
Jags beat Giants in Saquon’s Rookie Debut
Final: Jaguars 20, Giants 15
Remember that time last year that the Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship, and then only lost to New England by four? Those same Jags are back and looking to go even further this year. However, their offense suffered a major blow when Leonard Fournette exited the game with a hamstring injury. In his place, T.J. Yeldon ran for 51 yards on 14 attempts and scored a one-yard receiving TD. The Jaguars’ defense looked strong, with one pick-six, a fumble recovery, and two sacks. On the other side, the Giants, who went 3-13 last year, couldn’t get much going on offense as Eli Manning was under pressure all day. Manning was held to a moderate 23 completions for 224 yards. Their only touchdown was Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard run for his first NFL TD. But aside from that breakaway run, Saquon started slow, averaging just 2.24 yards per carry. It’s safe to say that the “Sacksonville” defense won the game for them.
Ravens Pummel Bills
Final: Ravens 47, Bills 3
Why in the world did I start Buffalo’s defense in Fantasy?? Not much else to say here. Nathan Peterman did Nathan Peterman things, throwing two interceptions. Rookie QB Josh Allen did get some playing time, going 6 of 15 for 74 yards. The Bills only had 153 receiving yards and 70 rushing yards. It might be a long season for the Bills.
Aaron Rodgers Gets Injured, Leads Packers to Wild Comeback Win at Lambeau
Final: Packers 24, Bears 23
As a Lions fan, it pains me to write about any sort of Packers’ success. (Actually, I was really hoping both teams would lose.) But it’s impossible to deny the greatness of Aaron Rodgers, especially after Sunday night’s game. Rodgers took a bad hit on his leg in the first half, and all the Pack fans held their breaths and their cheesehead hats as he was carted off the field. DeShone Kizer would come in to replace him. But lo and behold, who should limp back out onto the field for the second half, with his team down 17-0, but the “discount double-check” man himself. Rodgers would throw for three touchdowns in the 4th quarter, including the game-winning 75-yarder to Randall Cobb with twenty-six seconds on the clock. Boy, did Lambeau go nuts.
The Bears looked great in the first half. The biggest story for the Monsters of the Midway was the debut of newly-acquired Khalil Mack from Oakland. Mack was DeShone Kizer’s worst nightmare; he strip-sacked Kizer on a third-and-goal and recovered the fumble, and then on the next drive he picked Kizer off and took it all the way to the house. The last player to have a game like Khalil Mack’s was, well, Khalil Mack back in week 12 of 2016. It’s safe to say that John Gruden is kicking himself in the Bay Area.
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Week 1 will wrap up with a Monday Night Football double-header featuring the Lions facing off against Sam Darnold and the Jets, followed by John Gruden’s return to Oakland as the Raiders take on the Rams. Call me a homer, but I like the Lions’ chances at home against the Jets. And with them facing the Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers in Weeks 3, 4, and 5, respectively, the Lions sure could use some momentum at the start. As for the Rams-Raiders, I’m high on the Rams this year. I think Todd Gurley is going to be a monster, and I can see L.A. reaching the playoffs for the second straight season.