You only get one chance to make a first impression. An employee at a new job is going to have a tough time getting on the boss’s good side if they’re forced to say “Oh, I’m sorry sir/ma’am, I didn’t see you standing there,” on their first day.
Luckily, in sports, first impressions are just that – impressions. There are ways to alter impressions so they are not definitive, namely by winning games. But in the timeless tradition of reactionary analysis – no matter how wrong it ends up being – here are my impressions of all 32 teams after Week 1.
The Raiders and Jets, whom I had pegged as the league’s worst teams, were each competitive with their young quarterbacks. Oakland almost pulled off the shocker in Indianapolis against the Colts as Terrelle Pryor looked competent as both a runner and passer. If they can keep Pryor and Darren McFadden healthy, the Raiders may force me to eat my words.
The Colts are going to be fine, despite the narrow 21-17 win. Andrew Luck was his usual efficient self and ran in from 19 yards for the game-winning score. That’s a playoff team.
The Jets are not a playoff team, but it doesn’t look like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are either. Geno Smith led the Jets to a walk-off 18-17 win at home against Tampa Bay. It’s a make or break season for quarterback Josh Freeman in Tampa and he looked to be leaning much closer to break.
The Saints got off to a good start with head coach Sean Payton back on the sideline, getting a 23-17 win against the Super Bowl contender Atlanta Falcons. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think New Orleans will prove to be the best team out of the NFC South, but I like both to make the playoffs.
The Panthers didn’t get much offense going in a 12-7 loss to the Seahawks and will need to provide Cam Newton more opportunities to make big plays if they are to be a playoff sleeper. But they did face the league’s best defense and my Super Bowl pick.
The 49ers and Packers rekindled their rivalry and San Francisco got the best of Green Bay in a 34-28 shootout (thanks to a little assistance from the refs). Colin Kaepernick proved to be no flash in the pan, throwing for over 400 yards. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin debuted with more than 200 receiving yards. All is well for the defending NFC champs, but Green Bay shouldn’t panic. The Pack were in the game and showed flashes of a great offense. They’ll still be the class of the NFC North.
The Bears got a good home win against the Bengals, who have their eyes on a deep playoff run. Chicago had just enough defense and forced three turnovers in the 24-21 win. The Bengals will be just fine and both these teams are in the league’s top 10.
The Vikings started strong, getting a 78-yard touchdown run from Adrian Peterson on his first carry of the season, but the Lions showed the offense they displayed two years ago for a 34-24 win. Detroit may be back in the playoff discussion if Reggie Bush and Matt Stafford can play 16 games.
The Steelers are in trouble – with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for center. Starting center Maurkice Pouncey will be out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the 16-9 loss to the Titans. Their struggling offense will be grasping at straws to even sniff a .500 record. The Titans showed they just may be feisty as a spoiler.
Despite getting smacked for 49 points on Thursday, the Ravens shouldn’t panic just yet. It’s tough to shake off the rust against a juggernaut like Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ receivers. I don’t expect Baltimore to make the playoffs, but they’ll still win their share of games.
Some thought the Browns would surprise in the AFC North, but they didn’t look very good against the Dolphins. Miami came away with the 23-10 win, though you wouldn’t know it from wide receiver Mike Wallace’s postgame reaction after just one catch in his Dolphin debut. I still believe Cleveland is a playoff contender, despite the slow start. I can’t say the same about Miami.
The Patriots survived a scare against the Bills, who almost got a W for quarterback EJ Manuel in his first NFL game. But New England rebounded in the fourth quarter and Tom Brady made the throws late. The Pats aren’t great, but they’re certainly good enough to run away with the AFC East. Manuel will make his share of mistakes, but Buffalo is better than advertised.
The Chiefs are good. The Jaguars stink. That’s about all you need to know. Andy Reid gets the 28-2 win in his Kansas City debut.
The Rams stole a win at home against the Cardinals, 27-24. I sense that being a common theme for Arizona this year. The offense will be pretty good, but I think they’ll have a disappointing record.
New coach, same outcome. The Chargers did what they always do: fail to close out games. San Diego gave up a 21-point lead in a 31-28 loss to the Texans. Houston hopes this gift of a win opens what will be a season that goes deep into 2014.
The Giants and Cowboys also did what they always do. New York turned it over six times and Dallas allowed enough big plays that it was still in doubt with two minutes to play. Any NFC East team can win that division, so not much can be learned from the Cowboys’ 36-31 win.
A lot was learned in the Eagles’ 33-27 win over the Redskins. Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s offense will work in the NFL and Washington was completely unprepared to handle it. As long as the Philly players are in shape to run that many plays each week, the Eagles could be way better than I expected.
Now exhale and get ready for Week 2.
• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI