Quick Week 1 Review and Thursday Night Prediction

Posted: 09/16/2015 by levcohen in Football

Ever imagine a league in which the Titans are alone atop the AFC South and the Seahawks are the only NFC West team with a loss? Well, that’s what week one does. It confuses, confounds, and frustrates. And making broad assumptions from week one play is nearly as bad as doing the same from preseason play. If you had an idea about a certain team before the season, it’s probably more likely to be accurate than whatever you saw from the team in week one. Maybe 85-90% of your opinion should still solely be what you thought before the first week. With all of that said, take these five takeaways from week one with a grain of salt.

  • I’m not ready to say the Titans are going to make a playoff team, but I can say that Marcus Mariota is good. Now, I always preferred Mariota to Winston and thought the Hawaiian would be a good quarterback, but I didn’t think he’d look this good this quickly. Put the numbers (13-16, 209 yards, 4 TD) aside for a second, because those numbers really flatter him. The Buccaneers defense was terrible, and everything went right this week. But it’s Mariota’s confidence that really struck me, along with the fact that coach Ken Whisenhunt, normally a stickler for a traditional drop-back passer, has designed a playbook tailor-made for Mariota. I don’t think the Russell Wilson comparisons are fair just yet, but I certainly see it trending that way.
  • The Broncos’ offense is in trouble, but their defense is going to keep them in games. The week one DVOA numbers are staggering; the Broncos finished 30th in offensive DVOA and first defensively, and it wasn’t close. They put constant pressure on Joe Flacco, holding the Ravens to 173 yards and zero offensive touchdowns while forcing two turnovers. This is a legitimate top-three defense, and when the offense gets going a little bit, which it will (although probably not to top-five levels that had been expected), Denver’s going to be a scary team to play.
  • The AFC East is going to be a fun time. All four teams won, including good wins for New England (against Pittsburgh) and Buffalo (Indianapolis). They all won by more than a touchdown. Their average margin of victory was 12 points. I still don’t like the Jets, but I must admit that it looks like all four might be good enough to be playing meaningful games in December. The Patriots are and will remain top dogs, but the next three spots are totally up for grabs. The Bills look the best last week and the Dolphins looked the worst, but I still favor the Dolphins to win a wild card. Can the Bills do the same, giving the division three playoff teams?
  • Rumors of San Francisco’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It was easy to look at their horrible offseason and say they were done, but the running game, led by Carlos Hyde, looks very strong, and the passing game will have more dynamic weeks. The offense finished 5th in DVOA, thanks mostly to their 230 rushing yards. Meanwhile, the defense was pretty good too, holding Minnesota to three points and Adrian Peterson to just 31 yards. This defense, missing pieces and all, still has some talent, led by NaVorro Bowman, Eric Reid, and Antonie Bethea. I still don’t think the 49ers will be great this year, but .500? Definitely attainable, and I don’t think 3-13 is going to happen anytime soon.
  • The NFC South might be almost as bad this year as it was last season. The Buccaneers were terrible. The Saints’ defense might be the worst in football. The Panthers beat the Jaguars by 11, but they looked mediocre considering they had such a plush matchup. Carolina’s offense is going to be a major problem this year. The lone exception might be the Falcons, who won a nail-biter against the Eagles and showed an improved defense, at least in the first half. But this division can probably be won with a 9-7 record, if not worse.

10-6 straight up
6-9-1 against the spread
9-7 over/under

Upset picks: 2-2
Lock of the week: 1-0

Denver Broncos (1-0, 1-0 against the spread) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, 1-0):*
Spread: Chiefs favored by 3
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: These are both solid all-around teams, but this matchup really comes down to one thing: Peyton Manning. Is Manning done, or is he going to have a huge week? If the answer is something in between, as it usually is, I don’t know if the Broncos are going to have enough to beat the Chiefs, who have a good defense to go along with a suddenly-dynamic offense. Alex Smith had a great game last week, and hopefully Jamaal Charles can get more going on the ground this week even against a strong run defense. This was a tough one for me to pick, because while my gut is telling me to pick the Chiefs, I really want to avoid a week one overreaction. I liked the Broncos more a week ago, so I should probably like them more now. Give me Denver in a 23-20 game.
Broncos cover
Over

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