There were a lot of good things about that opening weekend in the NFL. We don't care about those right now. There were some things that were as bad as expected. Don't care about those either. What we want to focus on here are five situations where there were varying degrees of hope that were, more or less, shattered by what happened in the opening game. These aren't situations of pure doom - alright, two of them might be - but areas of major concern. If these teams can't address the issues they have then it is going to be a long year for them - and a pleasing year of betting against them for handicappers:
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Peyton's not right: We have seen Peyton Manning look so good for so long. That's what makes this first game, on the heels of the end of last season, so striking. He was barely a shadow of his former self. He didn't score a touchdown. He only got into the redzone once, and that was late in the game. His deep passing was an unpredictable adventure. When he should have been getting aggressive he was looking for the short out. I get that it is only the first week, and he is chief among those telling us not to panic and that this is a process. While I respect that, it doesn't tell the whole story. The fact is that after an offseason, and a relatively easy preseason, he is healthier now than he is likely to be all year. If that is how he throws when he is feeling good then being banged up, as he was late last year, doesn't seem like a promising prospect. He also doesn't have the tools to work with that he has had - he'd kill for Wes Welker right about now. And there is that offensive line. Ugh. That would be a concern for any QB, but for one that would struggle to outrun many grandmas it's a real issue. I have been bearish about Manning for a while, and early indications are that that is just the way to be this year. He's smart and experienced enough that if anyone can turn things around it's him, but I'm sure not betting on that happening. Getting old is a bitch.
Where's the progress is Jacksonville?: The way the season ended two years ago, I thought we were at the start of some progress for the Jaguars. I wasn't expecting miracles or anything, but I had faith in the leadership and thought they were trending upwards - hopefully in a way that would be very useful to bet on. Now, though, I'm left to wonder where the progress is. Blake Bortles was underwhelming against Carolina, but it's not entirely his fault. His offense is totally lacking in creativity or flair. It's just not good, and not talented enough. The defense has flashes, but not consistency. This just looks like a team that is running in mud all the time, and they aren't doing anything about it. This team just isn't good enough, and it already looks like yet another lost season.
Has Jack Del Rio ever coached before?: I've long contended that Marvin Lewis is the worst coach in the NFL. It hasn't been close. Del Rio is giving early indications that he intends to challenge my conviction. From the opening snap to the late-game decision to leave Charles Woodson in to get injured when the game was way out of hand, Del Rio made poor decisions in bulk. He has had a long offseason in charge, but his team looked totally and completely unprepared. The quarterbacking was awful. Playcalling was terrible. Execution didn't exist. Morale was very low. It was a disgrace. Injuries were a concern - Derek Carr was just one of several to miss game time - but far from the reason it all happened. It was embarrassing. This team was never going to be good this year, but they should be able to be better than that. Heck, about 20 college teams could have been better than that. Can they get things back on track, or did we see a window into a horrifying season?
Cleveland… what can you say?: At this point I don't even have the energy anymore to go into depth about this team. Josh McCown was just okay, then he got hurt. Johnny Football became a turnover factory - a pick and two forced fumbles lost. The offense is a joke. The defense made the Jets look like the Patriots. The freaking Jets! What a mess of a team. Who would have guessed that changing head coaches every few weeks and running your roster without a plan or a clue would lead to long-term problems with the organization. I should close with a question about what the future holds for this team, but we all know what the answer is. Man, am I glad I don't live in Cleveland.
Indy's mental game: What was that? I don't have a problem with losing in Buffalo in that spot. The Bills fans were fired up for the debut of the Rex Ryan era, and that was a brutal place to play as a result. What I don't like, though, is how a team that is supposed to be as good as the Colts are looked so bad while losing. Andrew Luck was bad - as bad as he can be. Receivers weren't catching - and were often fumbling it after they caught it. The running backs must have missed the flight to Buffalo. The defense was often flat footed. It was a team that looked like they had no interest in being there. This team wants to pretend that this is their year, but that is not how contenders look coming out of the gate. You can say that maybe the lack of clarity around the future of head coach Chuck Pagano was distraction, but look how Tom Brady performed in the shadow of a much bigger distraction. As Peyton Manning would say, it was only one game - but what a concerning game it was.
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