Opening Sunday is in the books, and if you’re like me, you couldn’t help but keep thinking yesterday about how each game and team affected the Patriots. That’s just the way I’m wired – care about the 4 main professional leagues because I love watching the sports themselves, but always have my own team in the back of my mind with every game that I watch. Here are a few main points about yesterday.
- First, everyone needs to stop saying that Denver isn’t much of a threat anymore because Peyton Manning has seriously declined. It seems kinda weird for me to say this because I do think Manning has taken a big step back from 2 years ago or even last September and October. But those who are saying Denver is done clearly don’t know a ton about football or are not watching as closely as they pretend. Denver’s defense is still awesome, as Football Outsiders projects Denver to have the 3rd best defensive DVOA by year’s end. And while the Broncos’ O line isn’t as good, either, the running game and Manning’s passing game are still going to be at least slightly above average. Remember, while Denver didn’t score an offensive touchdown yesterday, they did get far enough inside Ravens territory 4 times for those field goals, and the odds say that some of those drives will be TDs in the future. I doubt that the Pats and Broncos will be clearly in their own tier of AFC contenders like they’ve been for the past 2 years (and also 2012 until the Ravens kicked it to another gear in the playoffs), but they’re still a force to be reckoned with for the Pats.
- The AFC East is damn good. The Dolphins were the only underwhelming team yesterday, only beating the Redskins by 7, but they’ll be a decent team. The Jets dodged a bullet with the Antonio Cromartie injury, and it would have helped the Pats a lot when facing the Jets, because Brady is an expert at avoiding one amazing cornerback to pick on another. (See: Super Bowl 49). But remember, the Jets did face the Browns yesterday, and their offense won’t look that good against an NFL team. The Bills, though, looked great against a probable contender. That defense is scary, and I’m not looking forward to the Pats and their lineup of 3 interior offensive linemen who weren’t starting on an NFL team last year go up against the Bills.
- I’ve said it before, but Indianapolis was really, really stupid for spending their cap space on Frank Gore and Andre Johnson instead of in the trenches and the secondary. Gore’s line was 8 carries for 31 yards, and Johnson went catchless. This is why the Colts don’t scare me in the playoffs.
- Baltimore losing was a big deal. They also lost Suggs for the year, but it was still clear from yesterday that the team can play with the best. As bad as the quality of the game was, the Ravens still went to Denver and came within a possible pass interference call of winning. I’m the most afraid of them in the playoffs, and seeing their record open up at 0-1 with Oakland on their horizon next week is a welcome sight.