By Brandon Niles EBS Contributor
Week 1 of the NFL season always leads to overreactions. Panic strikes fans whose teams had disappointing starts, the offseason optimism crumbling in front of them. However, more often than not, the season progresses to the mean of expectations.
Certainly some teams and players will rise higher than pre-season expectations, while others will surely disappoint. For the most part though, as the old adage goes, it’s just Week 1.
That being said, these compelling storylines appear to be trends, more so than typical Week 1 anomalies:
Marcus Mariota: 2, Jameis Winston: 0
Week 1 treated us with a matchup between the top two picks in the draft, quarterbacks Marcus Mariota from the University of Oregon and Florida State University star Jameis Winston. When these two collegiate standouts met less than a year ago, Mariota won the battle in convincing fashion. Once again, Mariota, now with Tennessee, shined in a blowout victory for the Titans.
Winston may still have a bright career in front of him in Tampa Bay, but he struggled early and threw two picks, including one returned for a touchdown on the first pass of his career. His mistakes were only emphasized by the superb play of Mariota, who ended up with four touchdown passes and looked comfortable in the pocket. Both players have long roads ahead of them, but this week Mariota had a great start, while Winston ended the day with boos and jeers from his home crowd.
Peyton Manning finished with just 175 yards and an interception in his first outing of the season. Denver Broncos fans must be concerned about Manning, now 39, as he begins his 18th NFL season. He looked like a shell of himself over the final month last year, and on Sunday he picked up right where he left off. He demonstrated little arm strength, and his accuracy was dismal compared to his former self. It’s only Week 1, but of all the traditional overreacting that occurs this time of year, the “Is Peyton Manning done?” question rings the loudest.
Rex Ryan can coach
The Buffalo Bills shocked everyone by defeating the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts, using a 17-0 first half lead to cruise to a 27-14 victory. New head coach Rex Ryan’s ferocious defense proved too much for Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts offense. Meanwhile, the Bills offense, led by former Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, provided big plays early that deflated the Colts’ defensive efforts. Forcing Luck to throw two picks behind constant pressure led to the victory, and while it’s still early it seems clear after Week 1 that Ryan has the team headed in the right direction, and the defense on its way to being one of the best in the league.
In other games, we learned that the Patriots can still move the ball on offense, the Raiders still have a long ways to go, and the NFC West is going to be extremely competitive. We saw that the Packers are still a top team, Kansas City has an elite pass rush, and the Lions still have a hard time finishing games.
Some of the storylines from Week 1 will continue, while others will even out as the season progresses, but three things seem certain after the first slate of games: Marcus Mariota will grab headlines, Rex Ryan will keep the Bills playing hard, and we may be witnessing the final hurrah of Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. I can’t wait for the rest of the season.
Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.