If you’re holding a BetMGM ticket on the over for the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers or Tennessee Titans season win total, you weren’t feeling very good on Sunday night.
There were a few teams that looked absolutely awful in Week 1. We see that every season in Week 1. Some of those teams go on and have fine seasons, and we look back on the season opener as a weird anomaly.
For some teams, Week 1 is an announcement that it’s about to be a long season.
There were 16 teams that went 0-1 in Week 1, and some of the losses were shocking. Let’s gauge our concern level on them.
No big deal
All of these teams either lost to very good teams, lost a close game or aren’t expected to be very good anyway: Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Football Team, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears.
All of those teams aren’t happy to be 0-1, but there wasn’t anything too shocking about any of them losing in Week 1.
Obviously, the Ravens had a close loss and the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t bad. There was no shame in losing an overtime game on “Monday Night Football.” But there’s still reason for concern. The defense uncharacteristically gave up 491 yards. Other than a fluky end-zone interception in overtime, the Ravens couldn’t get a stop when they needed it late in the game. We all know about their injuries. And now the Kansas City Chiefs come to town in Week 2. The Ravens are a reliable franchise, but there were some issues exposed in the loss. The lack of a star pass rusher and the loss of cornerback Marcus Peters might prove to be big problems, and perhaps we saw the first signs of that Monday.
Panic level: Moderate
Green Bay Packers
Oh, that was bad. The Packers had never lost by 35 points in an Aaron Rodgers start before. It was all miserable: run offense, pass offense, defense, coaching. Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire wrote extensively on how the New Orleans Saints’ zone defense with two deep safeties really threw off Rodgers, and that’s not a new trend. Other teams will copy that. The Packers’ loss to the Saints doesn’t erase how good Green Bay has been for the past two seasons. But it was such a blowout that it’s at least a bit troubling. We’ll give the Packers, who were 13-3 each of the past two seasons, a pass for one bad game. They’re 10.5-point favorites against the Detroit Lions, and that’s a time to get right. If the Packers struggle with the Lions, we’ll crank up the concern.
Panic level: Not too high (yet)
The Titans were a division favorite (and still might be), but they had some troubling signs before the season. The defense was bad. The offense had stars but not much depth. Tennessee lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who was credited with the Titans’ offensive renaissance the past two seasons. Still, nobody expected them to look that bad on opening day. The Arizona Cardinals beat Tennessee in every way possible. The Titans lost 38-13. Even Derrick Henry, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown were mostly quiet. The defense was as awful as feared. It couldn’t block up front. The Titans are 5.5-point underdogs this week at the Seattle Seahawks, and I’ll be on the Tennessee side, hoping to get some value on a Week 1 overreaction, but it’s very possible the Titans take a big step back this season. If you’re going to have a below-average defense you better have a good offense. Between the coordinator change, the offensive line looking bad and at least some skepticism that Jones will start to decline fast, maybe Tennessee won’t have the great offense we were anticipating.
Panic level: Pretty high
The Falcons were favored by 3 points in Week 1 and failed to cover the spread by 29 points. Whoops. It’s not like the Falcons were expected to be great, but they weren’t expected to be horrible either. It was a struggle for Atlanta in the preseason too. Arthur Smith had a good run in Tennessee, but he also had Derrick Henry to fuel his play action-heavy scheme. Matt Ryan looked pretty bad and at 36, he’s about at the age in which we need to be concerned. The Falcons were expected to bounce back after a rough 2020 season filled with close losses, but it didn’t look that way. There aren’t enough playmakers on offense and the defense isn’t very good either.
Panic level: High
The “plexiglass principle,” invented by famed baseball statistician Bill James, says that when a team has a big improvement in one season, it’s bound to come back a bit the next season. This applies to players too. Well, the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen took a huge step forward last season. Maybe what we saw Sunday was the pullback of regression. Allen never made a comfortable throw against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have a great defense, but Allen didn’t struggle like that against Pittsburgh last season. He didn’t really struggle against anyone last season. For now I’m staying strong on the Bills. The defense did look very good, and that’s overshadowed in a loss. Pittsburgh will be perhaps the toughest defensive challenge Buffalo’s offense will face all season. This is still a Super Bowl contender, but with more concerns than we had a week ago. A Week 2 game, in which the Bills are 3.5-point favorites at the Miami Dolphins, will be telling.
Panic level: Low, but subject to change
The Colts, for all of their issues in August, still entered the season with a win total at about 9 or 10. Then they lost 28-16 to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 and are 4-point underdogs at home to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.
A loss on Sunday wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially in a bad AFC South, but it’s not ideal. The Colts gave up some big plays to Russell Wilson, which hasn’t been a problem before for a well-coached defense. The offensive line wasn’t great last week, and that’s a concern because Indianapolis never really solved its left tackle spot in the offseason. The Colts didn’t play bad (Carson Wentz actually looked fairly good when he wasn’t under a lot of pressure), but they didn’t play well either. And the next three games are at Titans, at Dolphins, at Ravens. This could get away from them in a hurry if they lay an egg Sunday.
Panic level: Rising