Welcome to your Monday roundup of the best and worst of NFL Sunday — by which we mean the single very best thing and single very worst thing. Because the stuff in the middle doesn’t matter, really.
THE VERY BEST THING ABOUT THE NFL THIS WEEK: Surprises! Football, is a game of best-laid plans, and the best football is about what happens when those plans get shot to hell. The second-highest opening over-under line of Week 1 was Seattle at Green Bay, with a whopping 50.5 points expected. The game, of course, finished 17-9, Packers — so just about half of that total.
It’s hard to tell after one week if Green Bay’s defence is finally a worthy complement to Aaron Rodgers and company on offence, or if Seattle’s patchwork offensive line is just that horrific. It is fairly obvious, however, that both teams’ running games need a lot of work.
But as the first half nearly drew to a close in a 0–0 tie, it was thrilling to watch two of the NFL’s very best quarterbacks and their stellar supporting casts try to make the best of adverse conditions.
In the second half, Rodgers won the war by simply wearing down perhaps the best defence in football — using quick throws to mitigate the explosiveness of Seattle’s defensive line, employing a rejuvenated Randall Cobb in the slot receiver role he was born to play. He was sacked four times before halftime, and not once afterwards. Russell Wilson, meanwhile, was unable to use his legs to attack because they were needed to run for his life.
These are two good teams, so it was going to be a good game regardless — but one thing the NFL does better than almost any sport is allow fans to bear witness to the immediate results of recalculating a game plan on the fly. The Packers are going to win a lot of shootouts this season, but seeing them start off with a test of their defensive fortitude was a fine way to begin the year.
THE VERY WORST THING ABOUT THE NFL THIS WEEK: Scott Tolzien and friends. This, we promise, is not another rant about why Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job. That travesty has been covered extensively and well, and we’ll do our best not to mention his name here again. Besides, you’d need far more than one blackballed quarterback to explain away the epidemic of awful QBing that is slated to plague the 2017 season.
We knew coming into the year — thanks to all those pieces about why a certain athlete of outstanding moral convictions found himself unemployed — that there were a large assortment of ragtag quarterback committees ready to inflict damage on their own teams and deliver boons to all those fantasy players starting their opposing defences.
But even with such foreknowledge, the reality was something to behold. Consider the following lines:
- For the New York Jets: 26 of 39, for 187 yards, no TDs, 2 INTs. A QB rating of 56.3.
- For the Cincinnati Bengals: 16 of 31 for 170 yards, no TDs, 4(!) INTs. A QB rating of 28.4 (and a QBR of 0.7, which is sort of profound to contemplate).
- For the Houston Texans: 7 of 13 for 102 yards, 0 TDs; followed by 12 of 23 for 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. A combined total of 10 sacks, three lost fumbles and an average completion length of… 4.6 yards.
- And for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat the aforementioned Texans (making this the winning quarterback’s line): 11 of 21 for 125 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs.
You may have noticed Scott Tolzien wasn’t even on that list. Well, replacing Andrew Luck, the Mighty Tolz managed 128 yards and two interceptions. Unfortunately, both those interceptions were returned for touchdowns, and his team lost 46–9 to the Los Angeles Rams, who finished last season 4-12.
The saddest thing about all those lines is that they don’t all belong to particularly horrid teams. Sure, the Jets suck, but a quarterback with even half-decent NFL talent would make both the Texans and the Jaguars into legitimate threats. Each team has a fearsome defence, a stable of exciting receivers (minus the Jags’ Allen Robinson who suffered a season-ending injury yesterday) and the makings of a reliable running game — provided of course defences can’t just stack the box and dare them to throw.
The Bengals, meanwhile, have for years been good enough to get to the playoffs and lose because Andy Dalton is bad. So that’s three teams in just one conference rendered unwatchable by just one position.
So forget Kaepernick — if Jay Cutler can come out of retirement, so can Tony Romo, right? Please, Tony?