Although Ray Rice‘s release and suspension currently dominates headlines, the first weekend of the NFL season had several intriguing matchups, including some that left many in the football community scratching their heads.
The Lions just lowered the boom on Eli Manning‘s Giants in this season’s first Monday Night Football matchup. The Giants’ secondary had no answer for Calvin Johnson, and eventually fell 35-14 as their offense stagnated, picking up less than 2.5 yards per carry on the ground. Should the Bears and Packers be worried about Detroit? Or is this Giants team just destined to become the NFC East’s doormat this year?
Many thought that the Falcons were one of football’s unluckiest teams last season. Injuries prevented the team’s offensive playmaking core of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Steven Jackson from ever taking the field together. Atlanta was a popular bounce-back candidate heading into this season, and the team’ supporters were vindicated early by the Falcons’ 37-34 victory over the Saints this past weekend. Are the Falcons a serious playoff contender? Or were they overachieving?
The Patriots just went to the AFC Title Game last season without injured stars Sebastian Vollmer, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Rob Gronkowski. The team would additionally lose Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib to a leg injury in the second quarter of that game against the Broncos. On top of returning all of those impact starters, Bill Belichick‘s squad was strengthened when Darrelle Revis was brought in to fill the the vacated cornerback position after Talib signed with the Broncos in free agency. These new-look Patriots flopped big-time this weekend in the form of a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins. Are the Dolphins for real? Or did they just catch the high-octane Patriots machine before it was firing on all cylinders?
The Bills made some of the biggest waves of the offseason when they traded up on draft night to select Sammy Watkins fourth overall. The win-now move was a clear signal to Bills fans that Doug Marrone intends to contend in his second season at the helm of the team. Although the Watkins move drew some criticism in the spring, the Bills silenced some of those critics by leaving Chicago with a 23-20 victory. The Bears, a popular playoff projection candidate, came into the game with the league’s scariest receiving duo in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall and a revived pass rush led by Jared Allen. Are Marrone’s Bills going to make noise in the AFC East this season? Or are they going to fall back down to earth next weekend against the Dolphins?
The Titans’ lead was never in doubt on Sunday as the team cruised to a 26-10 victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City this weekend. The Chiefs’ infamous Wild Card meltdown to the Colts last season left confirmed what many skeptics already suspected of Andy Reid‘s squad: that they had vastly overachieved in 2013 thanks largely to the easiest schedule in the NFL. The Titans were expected to rock the boat in a weak AFC South this year, but this commanding victory on the road against a reigning playoff team raised some eyebrows. Are Jake Locker and the Titans going to keep up their winning form? Or did they just take advantage of a highly overrated Chiefs’ team?
Will we see one or more of these teams in the postseason? Do you think any other surprise winners from Week 1 are legit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!