BY ADRIAN JARDING | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
For nine fan bases in the NFL, the season opener was not a homecoming treat. Nine home loses in week one was the most there has been since 2006 (11).
For those fans whose team lost, you need not fret.
All 16 teams that lost will make changes, and many will turn their play around.
That being said, there are three key points that were learned from Kickoff Weekend.
1. Just win baby: The Raiders are for real
Coming into the season, I told everyone around me to jump on the Raiders bandwagon. Sure their defense is still going through some patchwork, but they have studs all over the field on both sides of the ball.
Sure enough, week one they got scheduled to play the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. Since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006, they have only lost 19% of their home games.
Now, their defense is abhorrently bad. So bad, that the 34 points posted by Drew Brees and company was not enough to win.
Nevertheless, the Raiders scored a big win.
Quarterback Derek Carr was brilliant, throwing for 319 yards and one touchdown while also completing 63% of his passes.
They added 175 yards on the ground, which is very solid.
Head coach Jack Del Rio’s defense did just enough to steal a victory, because Drew Brees put on a clinic.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Raiders were down 24-13. After 30 more points were scored by both sides, the game came down to a key decision that made would’ve made Al Davis have a grin the size of a slick watermelon (Bill King reference).
Down 34-33, Del Rio decided to go for two points instead of tying the game and play into overtime.
Derek Carr lofted a pass to Michael Crabtree (who made up for the last time he played in the Superdome), he caught the ball, Raiders win.
This is a different Raiders team than we have seen for the past 14 years. A team with confidence, good coaching and young talent.
ESPN said that they had a 44% chance to win if they went for two. It’s good to know that they aren’t head coaches.
2. The NFC West is a mess
On paper, this is the most competitive division in football. In reality, that’s a different story.
The Seahawks offense looked very lackluster, but still found a way to get a victory over Miami.
The depthless 49ers shutout a poorly coached Rams team.
Lastly, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson were the only two players from the Cardinals who showed up in a loss against a decimated Patriots squad.
What in the wide world of sports happened?
Cry heresy, but I don’t believe this division is very good.
Arizona is inconsistent, and they aren’t tough enough to compete with the best.
Seattle has yet to fully recover from Super Bowl XLIX, and probably never will.
San Fransisco as an organization is a mess, from Jed York to Colin Kaepernick.
The Rams got a new city, a new quarterback, as well a young and talented team. Now, they need a new head coach.
I picked the Seahawks to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI, and that they would lose to the Steelers. I also predicted before the season, that they would be the only team from the NFC West in the playoffs.
If football was determined by looking at rosters and stats alone, Tom Brady may very well have six rings by now, or none at all.
3. Special teams matters
The old adage is that offense wins games, and defense wins championships. Well, where does special teams fit into this?
Matt Prater almost cost the Lions the game with a missed PAT. He then won the game on a field goal.
Chandler Catanzaro broke the hearts of America with a missed game-winning kick against the Patriots on Sunday night.
Graham Gano missed a chip shot after a bizarre Carolina drive.
Special teams largely affected the outcome of six games in week one.
Every year, there are always games and situations that require a crucial special teams play. The best teams cover all three facets of the game.
Stephen Gostkowski rarely screws up for the Patriots. The Colts have old reliable Adam Vinatieri. Seattle already has a blocked field goal this year, which ended up being a huge difference maker as they beat the Miami Dolphins 12-10 (Miami blocked their last PAT).
In a game where points and strategy are crucial, you cannot ignore the importance of special teams.
Say whatever you want about the movie Draft Day (it was laughably unrealistic), but one of the few facets that I loved was how Sonny Weaver Jr. wanted to obtain a special teams player in the last trade.
Ivan Reitman got that one right.
Fun fact of the week:
J.J. Watt and Antonio Brown both played for Central Michigan, the school that has garnered so much controversy even a non-college football fan heard about the last play.