What a game on Thursday night. What. A. Game.
Obviously, I was wrong on how the Chiefs and Patriots would play. I predicted it to be a tight game, with the Patriots squeaking it out, and for a long, long time, I thought I would be right; the early score by the Patriots put a knot in my stomach, and when Kareem Hunt fumbled, I was resigned to a night not unlike the Steelers game from last year.
But the Chiefs battled back. They kept it close, played good defense, and despite approximately fifty penalties called against them, they took the lead and ran with it.
From how the Chiefs OL bullied the Patriots most of the night, it looks like the Patriot front seven might be weaker than most years, and especially with the loss of Dont'a Hightower, the Pats most veteran linebacker. Patriots receivers were also a troublesome spot, with the loss of Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell really showing in the disconnect and confusion that the Pats showed late in the game. While Philip Gaines was victimized throughout the night, a healthy pass-rush from the interior, as well as two late sacks from Justin Houston, helped salt the game away for the Chiefs, and the Boys from Arrowhead improved to 1-0, the best record in the NFL as of Friday morning.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm was killed, at least for me, by the Eric Berry injury. While Ron Parker and Dan Sorenson are capable players, neither will be able to fill the shoes of the best safety in the game, and we once again face an entire season without EB29. What could be a Hall of Fame career is, for the third time, put on hold by injury.
The Chiefs are coming back home this week to host Andy Reid's old team, and his old right-hand man Doug Pederson, and I've got the write-up coming. But first, let's look at how the week's games turned out. Note: my fantasy play of the game will be updated using standard scoring.
Week 1 Review
Jets @ Bills:
My Prediction: Jets 3, Bills 21
Actual Outcome: Jets 12, Bills 21
Fantasy play of the Game: LeSean McCoy, 15.9 pts.
Not a bad start, although picking against the Jets will be easy mode this year. The BIlls didn't look like world beaters, but the Jets are garbage, so the Buffalo Boys got to take one in their building. McCown is terrible, Tyrod looked fine, and the Bills are leading the AFC East for the first time ever (it feels like).
Jags @ Texans
My Prediction: Jags 10, Texans 16
Actual Outcome: Jags 29, Texans 7
Fantasy play of the Game: Lamar Miller, 9.6 pts.
So that came out of nowhere. Leonard Fournette had himself a nice day, and Blake Bortles fell backward into not throwing any picks (despite a 50% comp. percentage) and the Jaguars started off the season 1-0 with a good, resounding win over the Texans. The Texans OL looked very bad against the Jags "Sacksonville" defense (fantastic nickname) and Billy O'Brien once again benched his starting QB halfway through the season opener, sending Tom Savage to the showers for Deshaun Watson after the first half. Watson looked capable, and I'm intrigued to see him moving forward.
Steelers @ Browns
My Prediction: Steelers 30, Browns 7
Actual Outcome: Steelers 21, Browns 18
Fantasy play of the Game: Eh, go google this one yourselves
So the Browns actually played well in this one. The Steelers pass rush got home 7 times against Deshone Kizer, but Kizer played capably for a rookie in his first game. Le'Veon Bell looked out of sorts, and while Antonio Brown exploded (as he is wont to do) the Browns kept it closer than they usually do, scoring 8 points in the 4th quarter to bring it within 3. Maybe trusting the process works?
Cardinals @ Lions
My Prediction: Cardinals 14, Lions 17
Actual Outcome: Cardinals 23, Lions 35
Fantasy play of the Game: Marvin Jones Jr., 9.7 pts.
This game wasn't pretty to watch, as Carson Palmer looks washed and the Lions are, well, the Lions, but Matty Stafford had himself a day, tossing 4 TDs and leading the Lions to a comeback victory. David Johnson hurt his wrist and could miss half the season or more, so RIP to those of you who drafted him first overall (or dropped $70 on him in your auction draft). Worst case scenario for the Arizona Cardinals, and a promising showing for the Lions and their Highest Paid Player Ever.
Falcons @ Bears
My Prediction: Falcons 33, Bears 7
Actual Outcome: Falcons 23, Bears 17
Fantasy play of the Game: Tevin Coleman, 5.8 pts.
The Bears look surprisingly good this year! That defense looks like it could be frisky, and while Glennon sucks at QB, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard make a dynamic RB group that can take the pressure off of Trubisky when he inevitably enters midseason. The Falcons look less dynamic than they were last year (Steve Sarkisian as a OC? Really?) but they did enough on offense and defense to win, sacking Glennon on 4th down in the red zone to end the game.
Raiders @ Titans
My Prediction:Raiders 21, Titans 24
Actual Outcome: Raiders 26, Titans 16
Fantasy play of the Game: Eric Decker, 1.0 pts.
My first really bad fantasy play :( Anyway, the RAIDAHS were able to go into Tennessee and win a clean game against the Titans. Mariota played a good game, and Derek Carr played a better one as Marshawn Lynch made good work on limited touches and salted away the game for the Black and Silver. It's looking, to me, like the AFC runs through the West, and if the Chiefs can continue their winning ways against the Raiders, it might determine where the AFC Championship is hosted.
Ravens @ Bengals
My Prediction: Ravens 14, Bengals 20
Actual Outcome: Ravens 20, Bengals 0
Fantasy play of the Game: Tyler Eifert, 0.4 pts.
Andy Dalton played like the Andy Dalton of old, and the Ravens defense returned to a winning form as they pitched a shutout of the hapless Bengals. Maybe my optimism about Cincy was misplaced. Nothing much else to say, really.
Eagles @ Redskins
My Prediction: Eagles 12, Redskins 14
Actual Outcome: Eagles 30, Redskins 17
Fantasy play of the Game: Alshon Jeffery, 5.8 pts.
True to my word, I didn't watch this game at all. However, Carson Wentz had a pretty good day, and Kirk Cousins apparently looked mediocre. Oh well.
Colts @ Rams
My Prediction: Colts 3, Rams 9
Actual Outcome: Colts 9, Rams 46
Fantasy play of the Game: Greg Zuerlein, 17 pts.
The Rams just went nuts on the ineffective Colts, and Wade Philips' defense wreaked havoc all day as the Scott Tolzien-lead Colts were possibly the worst watch of the week. Goff played very well compared to last year, and showed why he was a number 1 overall pick, while coach Sean McVay coached circles around the soon to be fired Chuck Pagano. My theory that the Denver defense will regress without Philips seems to have some legs to it.
Panthers @ 49ers
My Prediction: Panthers 28, 49ers 17
Actual Outcome: Panthers 23, 49ers 3
Fantasy play of the Game: Christian McCaffery, 6.5 pts.
The Panthers were clearly superior to the rebuilding Niners, and while Cam Newton didn't have his best game, he did enough to let his team's playmakers take advantage. Brian Hoyer, AKA "I'm Only Here Until Kirk Cousins Signs With Us," still sucks.
Seahawks @ Packers
My Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 21
Actual Outcome: Seahawks 9, Packers 17
Fantasy play of the Game: Jimmy Graham, 0.8 pts.
The Seahawks lost in a snoozefest of a game, where their offensive line was truly offensive, they could not score points, and the defense holding Aaron Rodgers to a below average game still wasn't enough. I understand why Richard Sherman hates Russell Wilson now.
SNF: Giants @ Cowboys
My Prediction: Giants 26, Cowboys 17
Actual Outcome: 3, Cowboys 19
Fantasy play of the Game: Sterling Shepard, 5.0 pts.
OBJ missed the game, and it turns out he's the entire New York offense. I turned the game off to go write an essay, if that tells you anything about how poor this game was. Zeke was a monster, Witten hoovered up the touchdown that I needed Dez Bryant to score.
MNF: Saints @ Vikings
MNF: Chargers @ Broncos
Week Two Preview
Alright ladies and gents, let's hop right into this thing. The 1-0 Eagles travel to Arrowhead to face the 1-0 Chiefs, with student (Doug Pederson) against master (Andy Reid), Green against Red, Cheesesteak against Barbecue, and Evil against Good. I'm pumped.
The Philadelphia Eagles (whose battery-throwing, Santa-booing, Cheez Whiz-gobbling fans may be found at BleedingGreenNation.com) are coming into Arrowhead off of a convincing win against the Washington Redskins, where Carson Wentz (a huge draft crush of mine when he came out) threw two touchdown passes and 307 yards and looked like he took a major step from year one into year two. Wentz doesn't have much to work with in the passing game, with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor being his top two wide receivers, with Torrey Smith, Darren Sproles, and Zach Ertz around to get some targets here and there. They seem to me like a 9 win team this year, and I think there's a lot of different ways for the Chiefs to come out on top. (Side note: my favorite NFL name, Aziz Shittu, is on IR with the Eagles.)
First to mind is their thin secondary. Ronald Darby, who they had just recently traded for from the Bills, went down with a gruesome ankle injury (I won't be linking it, but it's not hard to find) and that leaves their top 3 CBS as Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Patrick Robinson. While I like Malcolm Jenkins at S, I'm not too worried about their CB group, which means that I think Tyreek Hill could be poised for another big day.
Another weakness the Chiefs should look to exploit is a lack of skill position talent on the offense. LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles are both in their 30s, and while Donnel Pumphrey looks good, I don't think he's ready for the big time quite yet, leaving the run game a potential weakness. Blount ran 14 times for 46 yards against a mediocre Skins defense, and while the Chiefs struggled against the run in New England, the Patriots' backs all look preferable to the Eagles'.
The Eagles Linebackers is another position group where the Chiefs should be targeting. Mychal Kendricks is okay, but Bradham and Hicks are not guys that strike fear in the hearts of OCs across the league. Despite a scary Philly front four, the linebackers could be easy to victimize in the passing game.
The biggest focus for this game should be how the Chiefs offensive line matches up with the Eagles defensive line. Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham make a very scary front, with Cox being a top 5 DT in the league and Jernigan being able to match up well against nearly any OG in the league. The key to this game is how Witzmann, Morse, and LDT decide to handle Cox and Jernigan; Morse and Witzmann should probably be combo blocking one and leaving LDT either on an island or to double with Schwartz. I'm not keen on letting Witzmann solo block either of those guys, and as LDT is beginning to show elite level of play, I'd be comfortable with letting him test his mettle against some of the best. Our OTs match up well against Curry and Graham if the interior OL can at least slow down the behemoths in the middle of the line.
With how strong their DL is, I don't expect the Chiefs running game to do much this week; even though Kareem Hunt was highly effective against the Patriots, the Eagles have a tougher front to face off against, and I'd expect most of the running game to come in the forms of screens and outside zones.
I'm also very curious to see the Chiefs front seven against a strong Eagles OL. I have no doubt that Justin Houston will roast Lane Johnson, as he does so to every RT in the league, so the key matchups here will be Dee Ford against LT Jason Peters and former Eagle Bennie Logan against Travis Kelce's older brother, C Jason Kelce. Wentz is not as quick to throw as Tom Brady is, and with how our OLBs lived in the backfield on Thursday, I would be confident in saying that more sacks are coming this week than happened last week. Watch Chris Jones matching up against the Eagles OGs, as that could become very ugly quickly.
Chiefs Offense V Eagles Defense
I give the edge here to the Chiefs offense; even if Alex cools off from his hair-on-fire performance from last week, he should be able to find favorable matchups in Travis Kelce against anyone, Kareem Hunt against the Iggle LBs in coverage, and with how Tyreek Hill can take advantage of anyone in that secondary. The DL should be difficult for our OL to budge, for the reasons I listed earlier, but I don't think the Philly D is a world-beater.
Chiefs Defense V Eagles Offense
Again, I give the edge to the Chiefs. Our front seven should make life very difficult for Carson Wentz, and while Tom Brady picked on Gaines, I don't think Wentz will be able to as effectively. Peters is still Tha Gawd (I'm predicting a pick by Marcus Peters off of a pressured throw that sets the tone here) and Mitchell should have an easier time of it against the mediocre Philly WR corps. The way for the Eagles to attack our D would be at slot CB, but I just don't know who they'd line up there to take advantage of that matchup.
Another edge to the Chiefs. Hill and DAT are dynamic returners, and while Dusty didn't look very good against the Pats, I still think our coverage team is good enough to make up for it.
I've heard Philly fans describe Pederson as Diet Andy, and that makes a lot of sense, fat jokes aside; Doug shows a lot of the same tendencies as Reid with regard to clock management and offensive style, but without the true planning genius that Andy brings to the table. As Andy just outfoxed Belichick, I think that the Chiefs have the clear upper hand here.
How the Chiefs Can Win
Marcus Peters gets an early takeaway and the Chiefs gain an early lead by victimizing the Eagles LB corps. The offensive line manages to stay competitive against the stout Philly DL, letting Kareem Hunt gain chunks of yardage throughout the game, and Tyreek Hill has another huge play to build upon our lead, with the defense making it difficult for the Eagles to move down the field.
How the Eagles Can Win
The Philly defensive line takes advantage of our OL, with Fletcher Cox embarrassing Witzmann and Jernigan going blow-for-blow with Morse and LDT. Fisher or Schwartz play poorly, and Alex is forced into scrambling more than we'd like, with Malcolm Jenkins keeping Ty Hill from breaking off a big play in bracket coverage. Wentz isn't pressured very often behind his OL, and is able to target Gaines enough to get chunks of yardage, with Zach Ertz taking advantage of Berry's absence.
I think the Chiefs, in a rocking and rolling Arrowhead, blow this game open early and Bob Sutton does his magic against the young Wentz, and the Chiefs improve to 2-0 with a 24-10 win over the Eagles, with the Eagles scoring their only TD late in the 4th.
The Rest of the NFL
Thursday, 7:25 Arrowhead Time
Texans (0-1) @ Bengals (0-1): Texans 14, Bengals 9
The Texans and Bengals face off in the first crapfest TNF game of the year. I might watch it, but I highly doubt it. Fantasy play of the Game: D'Onta Foreman
Sunday, Noon Arrowhead Time
Bills (1-0) @ Panthers (1-0): Bills 13, Panthers 24
The AFC East leading Bills (LOL) go into Charlotte and face off against Cam Newton's NFC South-leading Panthers. The Bills are destined for 5 wins this year, while I believe the Panthers have a frisky defense and a good collection of playmakers.
Bears (0-1) @ Bucs (0-0): Bears 10, Bucs 28
The season opener for the Buccaneers, at home, a week after the hurricane hit. While the Texans laid an egg coming off a natural disaster, Jameis Winston should be able to put together some nice drives this week and take the game handily. Fantasy play of the Game: Cameron Brate.
Vikings (1-0) @ Steelers (1-0): Vikings 17, Steelers 19
The Vikings defense looks good this year! I may have said that last year as well, but hopefully Babyface Bradford doesn't doom his team this time around. Either way, I think the Steelers have the more balanced team, with a potentially dynamic offense (again) and a young defense. Look for a close defensive battle here, broken open by a long Le'Veon Bell run for a TD late in the game. Fantasy play of the game: Martavis Bryant.
Cardinals (0-1) @ Colts (0-1): Cardinals 30, Colts 6
The Cards may have lost David Johnson, but the Colts are absolutely dreadful. Indianapolis might be starting Jacoby "Jake Brisket" Brissett, who looked mediocre for the Pats last year, and are still missing Vontae Davis as of press time. Friendly reminder: the Colts got carved up by Jared Frigging Goff last week. Cards in a laugher. Fantasy play of the Game: Carson Palmer.
Patriots (0-1) @ Saints (0-1): Patriots 42, Saints 39
The Battle of the Cellar Dwellers! This should be a shootout between the best QB of all time and Tom Brady, the homecoming/revenge game for Brandin Cooks, and both QBs should be angry after getting embarrassed last week. Give me some of this. Fantasy play of the Game: Brandin Cooks.
Browns (0-1) @ Ravens (1-0): Browns 17, Ravens 20
The Cleveland Browns head off to Baltimore (NSFW link) to face off against a Ravens team that reminds me of old; mediocre QB play and a good defense. I think The Browns end up at 5 wins this year, and this won't be one of them. Fantasy play of the Game: Jeremy Maclin (miss u bby).
Titans (0-1) @ Jaguars (1-0): Titans 24, Jaguars 9
The Jags defense just laid waste to the Texans and has people buying into the hype, so it's just about time for Marcus Mariota to come in and crush those Duval dreams. Fantasy play of the Game: Corey Davis.
3:05 Arrowhead Time
Jets (0-1) @ Raiders (1-0): Jets 3, Raiders 33
Ugh. Those poor, poor Jets. Fantasy play of the Game: Seth Roberts.
Dolphins (0-0) @ Chargers (0-1): Dolphins 16, Chargers 28
Jay Cutler, who like all good old guys retired to Miami, opens his season in Los Angeles' minature football stadium against the Chargers, who probably want to make a statement in their first home game. They will. Fantasy play of the Game: Davante Parker.
Cowboys (1-0) @ Broncos (1-0): Cowboys 24, Broncos 21
Both of these teams looked good in the opening week, even if the Cowboys were playing the OBJ-less Giants. I think that the key to the game is the Cowboys defense and the Broncos OL; if the Broncos can keep Siemien clean, Dallas will have a hard time. I'm expecting the Cowboys suspension-riddled DL to get home a couple of times. Fantasy play of the Game: C.J. Anderson.
49ers (0-1) @ Seahawks (0-1): 49ers 9, Seahawks 21
The Seahawks offensive line will be the worst in the NFL again, and I expect the 9ers surprisingly good DL to pressure Russell Wilson a lot. However, the 9ers still blow. Fantasy play of the Game: Paul Richardson.
Redskins (0-1) @ Rams (1-0): Redskins 14, Rams 24
I'm calling for an upset here! The Rams defense continues its winning ways against Kirk Cousins, who has decided to suck this year to escape the cursed Washington franchise. Fantasy play of the Game: Sammy Watkins.
Packers (1-0) @ Falcons (1-0): Packers 28, Falcons 21
The Falcons had trouble keeping the Bears at bay, and their offense looked boring last week; thanks a lot, Steve Sarkisian. Packers should have a good time in Hotlanta this week, although a late score by the Dirty Birds will make it look closer than it was. Fantasy play of the Game: Austin Hooper.
Monday Night Football
Lions (1-0) @ Giants (0-1): Lions 21, Giants 0
This game hinges on OBJ's health, If he's back, they should win. If he's not, they get the doors blown off of them. I'm predicting he won't be back.
Should be a good week of football, and I'm excited. Won't be able to watch the Chiefs at all this week because of work, but I'm sure it'll be a hard-fought game with a lot of good twists and turns. H/T to sunny D for the suggestion to focus on OL/DL matchups more this week, and thank you to everyone who rec'd last week's column. Enjoy the games, guys, because the Chiefs are on the warpath once again.