Monday 23 October 2017 / 03:30 PM

Airing it Out: NFL Week 1

The NFL’s tagline this week was “Back to Football” and I must say – don’t mind if I do.

Plenty of exciting stuff from the first week of regular season play and I hope you enjoy our new format for Airing it Out. This column is a work in progress and similar to how you don’t stop trying to build the perfect hamburger just because you’ve found a combo that’s delicious, we’ll keep cranking out better ways to get you the NFL news you deserve.

So let’s get to it.

Tasty Tidbits from Week 1

Three Super Bowl hopefuls looked less than in championship form for the opening week, but that only goes to show that winning in the NFL isn’t as easy as plugging in all the right names on your roster sheet.

Peyton Manning (and the rest of the Broncos’ offense) struggled to do much of anything with Gary Kubiak’s new offense. Fortunately for Denver, the defense was able to put some points on the board to eke out a close win over the visiting Ravens.

The #18 finished up 24 of 40 with 0 TDs and 1 INT.

It’s just one game, but the numbers and the tape do follow in line with the narrative that Manning might just not have the gas in the tank to drive all the way to San Francisco.

His teammates are behind him – but what choice do they have?

Speaking of facts matching narratives, the Seahawks’ offensive line looked just as awful as expected. Russell Wilson was running for his life most of the contest, making it all but impossible to fully utilize his new weapon, Jimmy Graham. The two did connect for 51 yards and a score, but those aren’t Graham-esque numbers.

To be fair, the Rams’ defensive front is arguably the best in the game and these two teams have played close games in St. Louis in each of the past four seasons (with the Rams taking three of the four) but it’s never a good thing to start the season off falling to a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2003.

But the big news was Rex Ryan and the Bills all but routing the Indianapolis Colts.

Buffalo’s defense looked to be in midseason form and they did a number on the vaunted Indianapolis offense. In a season where Andrew Luck is meant to supplant all-time greats Brady, Brees and Manning as the #2 guy in the league behind Aaron Rodgers, he looked like a rookie out there running from the Buffalo front.

Is this team for real? I’d say yes. Particularly if Tyrod Taylor keeps the ball rolling.

But let’s not forget…16 of Tyrod’s 22 passes were thrown to targets less than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. I don’t want to take anything away from the young man’s game but it’s pretty tough to play quarterback in the NFL without midrange and deep threats.

Either way, this is the happiest we’ve seen fans in Buffalo since Jim Kelly beat cancer.

And how about the San Francisco defense? New faces or not, the 49ers looked to be in their old form. They had All Day’s number all night long, holding Adrian Peterson to a paltry 31 yards in prime time Monday night.

The Niners were supposed to suck and the Vikes were supposed to be good. Whoops. At least for one game I was way off on that one.

 

But then again…one week does not a season make.

Offensive Player of the Week

Rob Gronkowski may be the Most Valuable Player on the New England Patriots. Sure, if Brady truly went down they’d be in real trouble, but without Gronk their offense just isn’t the same.

With just 5 catches the tight end dominated the Steelers, racking up 94 yards and 3 touchdowns (1, 6 & 16 yards).

He’s a beast. That’s all there is to it.

Honourable mention for Carlos Hyde. He led the league with 168 yards on 26 carries with 2 touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Week

Aaron Donald led all DTs in tackles and sacks and Seattle didn’t have an answer for him all day.

Especially on the 4th and 1 stop in overtime that sealed the victory.

Team on the Rise

The Kansas City Chiefs looked damn good this week. Much better than their division rival Broncos.

And why?

Alex Smith.

The oft snubbed quarterback tossed 243 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against a tough Houston defense en route to an easy win.

If Smith can finally live up to his #1 overall pick pedigree this offense could be tough to stop. Jamaal Charles had a quiet day, with just 57 yards on 16 attempts, but he doesn’t have quiet days often.

Kansas City’s defense looked solid as well as the Texans couldn’t get anything going at all until garbage time.

Team on the Decline

A few solid choices for this dubious honor.

Along with Seattle and Indy both losing games where they were favored, the Eagles disappointed as did the Vikings, Steelers and Lions.

But all of these teams should be in a great position to rebound and not let opening losses dictate the season.

The Raiders, however, looked awful at home when the Silver & Black had supposedly turned a corner.

The Bengals are a talented team, no doubt, but any time you get down 33 to zip in front of your home crowd you know something’s missing.

It may seem counterintuitive to say Oakland is on the decline. I mean, where is there to go when you’re already at the bottom – but for a club that was supposedly in a position to make strides, you’ve got to at least be moderately competitive. They weren’t. They got their asses handed to them.

Just in Case You Missed It

  • Johnny Manziel got in and he threw his first NFL touchdown. He then went on to stink the rest of the game and lose. Poor Browns.
  • Terrell Suggs is out for the season for the Ravens with a torn Achilles. This is a huge blow for a team many predicted to make a deep postseason run.
  • Dez Bryant, TY Hilton and Desean Jackson all were injured. Not a good day for wideouts.
  • Marcus Mariota set an NFL record with 4 touchdown passes in the first half of his NFL debut. It’s just the Bucs but the Titans looked pretty good on Sunday, notching 42 points, more than any other team in the league.

 

Games to Look Forward to in Week 2

Broncos at Chiefs – Sorry Chargers fans, but the battle for the AFC West starts here. Over the past few seasons the KC-DEN tilt is always a good one. Arrowhead won’t be the best place for Manning to attempt to get back on track. I see the Chiefs taking this one by a touchdown.

 

Patriots at Bills – Can Rex Ryan dispatch of another AFC powerhouse two weeks in a row? Buffalo has lost 21 of their last 23 meetings against the World Champs so let’s not count any chickens before they hatch – but one of those wins was last December in Foxboro.

 

Seahawks at Packers – In a rematch of last season’s epic NFC Championship Seattle will have their work cut out for them if they hope to avoid going 0-2 on the season. Without question you can slide this game into the “can’t miss” category.

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Michael Airhart

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