September 11, 2012
The overriding theme after week one of the NFL season is overreaction. Fans of wining teams are all projecting their club in the Super Bowl, while fans of losing teams are thinking high draft pick. It is often said that in the NFL more than any other sport your record is exactly who you are, but for the first week or two of the season that is simply not true. For proof just remember back to 2003 when the Patriots went into Buffalo on opening day and got smacked 31-0. By the end of that regular season the Bills were 6-10 while the Patriots were 14-2 and on their way to winning the Lombardi Trophy.
With all that said here are 5 teams who lost on opening day who will still make some noise in 2012:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were able to hang with a very talented Atlanta Falcons team for just over a half before a Ryan Succop field goal hit the upright and Kansas City imploded. The Falcons scored the next 20 points by clamping down defensively and forcing Matt Cassel (who had looked every bit Matt Ryan’s equal) into some horrible decisions. Chiefs fans should take heart from the performance though as the team was without 4 defensive starters, including Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers who are among the red and golds primary play makers. By getting these players back healthy, and by cutting out the slew of negative yard run plays which occurred in the second half, the Chiefs will be able to contend for the AFC West Title.
Green Bay Packers
The level of panic for the Packers is entirely based on how good you think the San Francisco 49ers are. Though seeing Alex Smith at the helm of a successful NFL team is still a little strange, the way the 49ers are built is so different from the way modern day offenses have gone that it is hugely effective. The 49ers are exactly the team you would build to beat the Pack, they can run the ball all day and stop the run effectively. Luckily for the Packers the only other team built this way is Baltimore, and as Green Bay come up against more finesse based ball clubs their lethal aerial attack will come back strong. The passing game is always the area of the game which takes the longest to kick into gear after the off season, and when Aaron Rodgers gets his timing back with his receivers Green Bay will score points in bunches. The lack of a ground game is a concern, but it has been that way for the last two years and the Pack haven’t exactly been troubled by it.
New Orleans Saints
So, it looks like a head coach is important in the NFL after all. The Saints ran into a buzz saw by the name of Robert Griffin III, and without the experience of Sean Payton on the sidelines they were unable to make the adjustments needed to slow the Washington Redskins down. Griffin III has a unique skill set which will give opposing teams fits through the first half of the season as they game plan ways to slow him down and make him one dimensional. Tie that in with an abject pass rushing performance from the Saints defensive line and a surprising off day by 6 time Pro Bowler Drew Brees and you had a recipe for disaster in the Superdome. Brees and the Saints will not play this bad again this season, they just need a week or two to adapt to the coaching situation which they forced upon themselves.
New York Giants
The Giants have become as synonymous with slow starts as the San Diego Chargers, but the G-Men have shown that they know exactly how to time their peak perfectly at the end of an arduous NFL campaign. Though the secondary depth looks like it is going to be an issue for the second straight season (Kevin Ogletree is still wide open) as the rest of the defense gets healthy the Giants will improve. In truth the Giants did a lot right on Wednesday night, and against teams with a less elusive quarterback than Tony Romo (ie. most of them) Jason Pierre-Paul and co. would have had much more fun in the offensive backfield. Even on the Cowboys biggest run play of the night the Giants essentially had DeMarco Murray stooped before he broke out of containment with ridiculous second and third efforts. On this night the oppositions stars outperformed the Giants starts, that won’t happen every Sunday.
The Steelers have the schedule makers to thank for a week 1 date with Peyton’s destiny in Denver. Manning was always going to put on a show on opening day, in part because of questions surrounding him and in part because he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. With the emotion and expectation surrounding the field at Mile High it was going to take a Herculean effort for Pittsburgh to escape Denver with a win. Look at the game closely though and you will see signs that Pittsburgh are going to be just fine. Ben Roethlisberger was accurate, especially when on the move, and when his timing with the holdout affected Mike Wallace returns the Steelers will be explosive. The Heinz Field faithful will also be hoping to see more of the slimmed down and exciting looking Johnathan Dwyer who far outperformed Isaac Redman on the night.