Ah, Week 1. Nothing stokes the overreaction fires like the first week of the NFL season. At this moment, there are 15 teams whose fans want someone fired and 15 whose fans are entering "Super Bowl LII" into a StubHub search bar, you know, just to see.
(There are also two teams whose fans have yet to see them play because of a hurricane, and we all obviously wish those fans well during a difficult time.)
But it's the job of those of us in the media who cover the league to present things to you in perspective -- not to overreact, but to coolly assess, based on our reporting, what looks like a real concern and what doesn't. Other than the significant injuries, nothing that happened Sunday has to have a lasting effect -- positive or negative -- on your team's season.
On to the first 2017 season edition of a weekly column I started last year:
Some of these offensive lines need more time
Remember back in March, when all those offensive linemen were signing huge free-agent deals? Well, that was because teams were desperate. We saw why Sunday.
The Texans were soundly whipped all day by Calais Campbell's Jaguars, who should have received gift baskets from Houston holdout Duane Brown. The Giants couldn't keep a depleted Cowboys front off Eli Manning, who's a mess when he doesn't trust his protection. The Bengals and Seahawks had as-expected issues at tackle. The Titans' line, so dominant in the running game in 2016, continues to leak a bit in pass protection. The Packers let Aaron Rodgers get hit a few too many times.
That's only a partial list, and if your team is on it, it has work to do. It's not doomed, mind you -- it just has work to do. We see offensive lines get better as the season goes on. Seattle's line always looks awful to start the season. Some years it gets better. Some years (like it did 2016) it never does. With so few reliable lines around the league right now, it's possible the story of this season will be about which teams figure out their problems up front and which ones don't.
Example: Giants fans can moan about their team "not addressing" the line, but two of their starters are first-rounders and one is a high second-rounder. Ereck Flowers was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 draft. That is addressing the line. If Flowers can't get better, the Giants should have major problems on offense, and they will, even once Odell Beckham Jr. returns. But players do improve, and problems do get solved. This is a problem a lot of teams have, and the ones that can't solve it are going to have a hard time getting to January.
On the flip side: Did you see some of those defenses?
Right? The Jaguars had 10 sacks, including 3.5 in the first half by Campbell. Baltimore shut out division-rival Cincinnati. Carolina flashed the potential to dominate on D the way it did in its Super Bowl run of 2015. Green Bay kept the Seahawks out of the end zone, though that might have been more of a Seahawks thing than a Packers thing. It was the fourth time in Seattle's past 10 road games that the Seahawks failed to score a touchdown.
Which of course raises the question of where to assign credit and blame. We know Wade Phillips is a defensive mastermind, but do the Rams run back two interceptions for touchdowns Sunday if Scott Tolzien isn't playing quarterback for the Colts? Would Dallas have been able to push the Giants around so much if Beckham didn't have a sprained ankle? Honestly, one of the better defensive performances of the weekend was probably the Browns holding the Steelers' high-octane offense to 290 yards and 14 points (one of Pittsburgh's three touchdowns came on a blocked punt) without Myles Garrett. That's building-block stuff for a young group.
As for the rest of them? I'd say you can buy Carolina because it's not far removed from a dominant defensive season and because the young cornerbacks weathered some bad growing pains last season and came out stronger for it. I'm also buying Baltimore because of the caliber of its veteran personnel up front and in the secondary (though I'm hedging a little because of the reliance on rookie pass-rushers). Green Bay and Dallas, I'd like to see do it again before buying in. Same with Jacksonville, even though the talent is clearly there on paper at all three levels. It just feels like we've been let down one too many times by that franchise. And the Rams? They won't get Tolzien every week, of course, but I'm a Phillips believer, and this defense will get Aaron Donald back in Week 2. Optimism isn't totally unjustified here.
The Raiders may be here to stay
Oakland went 12-4 last season and had no shot in the playoffs because Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16. With major questions on defense, the Raiders have been pegged in some places as a step-back team for 2017. And they might well turn out to be. But going into Tennessee and playing the kind of opener they played -- no turnovers, sticking with the game plan on both sides of the ball, exerting their will in the fourth quarter -- says a lot of very good things about where the Raiders are from a maturity standpoint. The Titans are a popular pick this season, and Oakland went in Sunday and reminded everybody that doesn't mean much until you show it. Oakland was Tennessee a year ago and showed it, and the Raiders might just keep it up.
Terrelle Pryor Sr. is a work in progress
There's panic in Washington after Kirk Cousins dropped a 33.8 Total QBR in the opener. Washington lost receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, and the main replacement was Pryor, who caught only six of his 11 targets for 66 yards on Sunday. Cousins and Pryor need time to get in sync, and it's worth remembering that this is only the second year as a full-time receiver for Pryor, a former college quarterback.
"I think I've got a lot to work on," Pryor told me when I was at Washington's training camp last month. He said he gives himself one technique point to focus on in every practice and believes he is still evolving as a receiver. Now, this is a supremely talented athlete who had 77 catches for 1,007 yards in Cleveland in 2016, and there's plenty of reason to think he can be the weapon Washington needs him to be -- especially as Jordan Reed gets healthier and things come together around Cousins. I wouldn't worry about the Washington offense long term, but it might take a few weeks before it starts humming.
Reason for optimism on some of these young players
Someone with the Bears told me a couple of weeks ago that Tarik Cohen would be "this year's Tyreek Hill," so determined was Chicago that it could use him to effect in a variety of roles. The 5-foot-6 playmaker had five carries for 66 yards and eight catches for 47 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff has a chance to take a big step forward under Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur and this Rams coaching staff. Things were jumbled for Goff as a rookie, as the Rams' previous staff didn't offer a coherent offensive philosophy and had too many voices in the 2016 No. 1 overall pick's head. Things are more streamlined under the new staff, and that should offer Goff a real chance to advance. Whether he does or not remains to be seen.
Same with DeShone Kizer in Cleveland, where Hue Jackson is somehow able to scheme open guys like Ricardo Louis and Seth DeValve, and Kizer seems tough and mature enough to handle his growing pains. Is he an accurate enough thrower to succeed? Maybe, maybe not. But it'll be fun to find out.
The Cardinals are on a tightrope
There might not be a team more built for this season than Arizona, which has one of the league's oldest rosters and didn't expect the down year it had in 2016. That's is why the David Johnson injury is so crushing. It's obvious that Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are close to the end, and the Cardinals are desperate to wring one more great year out of this group. This was a team capable of winning the division but also of going off a cliff. You hope the Johnson injury doesn't push them off the cliff.
The Dolphins-Buccaneers' lost bye week is NOT a big deal
Seriously, folks. If you needed the pictures from post-hurricane Florida to convince you that canceling the game in Miami and moving to their shared Week 11 bye was the right thing to do, I can't help you. The way the storm kept shifting its path throughout the weekend is the exact reason the league was right Wednesday to tell the people who work for those teams, "Don't worry about football this weekend." There are more important things. And sure, the players will miss having the bye. But in the grand scheme of things, this was a no-brainer.