The NFL’s weekend of parity unexpectedly began Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
After celebrating their fifth Super Bowl win in the last 16 seasons, the Patriots were promptly humbled at home by the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27, thanks to a career game from Alex Smith (28-35, 364 yards, four touchdown passes) and a breakthrough performance by rookie running back Kareem Hunt (246 total yards, three touchdowns).
After a turnover-filled, penalty-ridden Sunday that featured decimated offensive lines, poor quarterback play and more injuries, the Patriots must feel a little more confident in bouncing back, as the Chiefs do of winning the Super Bowl.
Football will always be awesome to me and to the millions of fans across the world, but how many good quarterbacks are there? Nine? Ten? How about great head coaches? That number is likely less.
The games are now closer, even if uglier, giving NFL RedZone viewers an exhilarating treat at the end of the 1pm eastern time slate of games each Sunday. But if Week 1 is any indication, although there is more parity between the middle-of-the-pack teams and bottom teams than ever before, expect the league’s five or six best teams to pull away by the season’s midway point.
Packers down Seahawks with defense
The Packers 17-9 victory over the Seahawks featured a patented Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson touchdown….but not much else offensively, as both teams struggled to find a rhythm thanks to mostly stingy defense from Seattle and poor offensive line play from Seattle.
That’s not to say Green Bay didn’t play well defensively, they were marvelous. In particular, Mike Daniels wrecked havoc on Wilson for the entirety of the game, showing why he’s one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football.
This is my NFC Championship Game preview, and one week of football won’t change that, but Seattle’s offensive line is beyond repair, leaving little hope that the unit will improve throughout the season. If I’m Seattle, I’m exploring other options at the tackle position. The Seahawks have zero weaknesses other than their offensive line, but that one weakness is so lopsided that it will be the team’s demise, if they are to fall short of their goal of winning Super Bowl LII. Instead of wasting an opportunity to compete for a championship, Seattle may even need to throw a first or second-round pick at Cleveland for Joe Thomas, who is still one of the best tackles at football at age 32.
As for the Packers, Rodgers remains at his peak. The Green Bay offense will only improve from here, and has the potential to be the best in football off Rodgers alone. Be it breaking up with Olivia Munn or his enlightening interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, everything seems eerily aligned for Rodgers to finally return to the Super Bowl.
Next week, the Packers will visit the Atlanta Falcons on national television to determine an early NFC frontrunner.
Cowboys stymie Giants
Two weeks ago, few would have predicted that Ezekiel Elliot would play and that Odell Beckham Jr. would not.
Elliot had a good game (24 carries, 104 rushing yards) and Dak Prescott took care of the ball as the Cowboys surprisingly let their defense do most of the work against the Giants.
For New York, Brandon Marshall looked slow, while Eli Manning looked as if his career is coming to an end. One week is way too early to speculate, but for the Giants to score just three points against the Cowboys is reason for concern.
With the Eagles seemingly talented enough to cause some trouble this season, the Giants need to re-group quickly in Week 2.
Parity Part II: Conference parity
Early indications (probably too early) are that the AFC and NFC may be even this year. The AFC was the much tougher conference for the bulk of the 2000’s, but the tide turned in 2011, when the NFC became the better group.
Now, by my measure, the conferences seem even. Both teams have four top tier contenders as of now, with other teams such as Baltimore, Carolina and the New York Giants possible joining these groups.
AFC- New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland
NFC- Atlanta, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas
Week 2’s Game of the Week
Green Bay at Atlanta
It’s fitting that the 2016 NFC Championship Game rematch will determine the early leader in the NFC for 2017.
The Falcons will look to open up their new stadium in grand fashion, after a lukewarm 23-17 win over the Bears.
The Packers will look to play better offensively against a similar defense in terms of scheme (Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was recently Seattle’s defensive coordinator). Defensively, they’ll look to continue their solid play against a much better offense.
I trust Rodgers more than I do Matt Ryan, but even with the way last year ended, the Falcons as a whole are now a playoff-experienced football team. The Falcons obviously have something to prove this year. Although I don’t think they’ll make it past the Divisional Round in January, I do think they’ll win this game and take control of the NFC early.
Atlanta 31 Green Bay 24