What the First Game of the Season told us

 

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

The Regular Season Opener between the Patriots and the Steelers was everything we expected it do be and more. Tom Brady came out more with more flare and vigor than most players do on Super Bowl Sunday. The fans, even in the torrential downpour of rain, shook Gillette Stadium with chants of “Brady, Brady, Brady” and “Where is Roger?” The Commissioner of course was not in attendance to see New England raise its 4th Super Bowl banner, thus signaling the end of last season and the start of a new one. And the New Year got off to a rip-roaring start.

Coming out of the gate, everyone expected to see two high power offenses battling it out, testing each other’s defenses; and that’s exactly what happened. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady came out guns blazing, moving the ball downfield with ease until one mistake cost both of their first drives to end without any points. That can mainly be attributed to the Steelers newly acquired kicker, Josh Scobee. Scobee missed his first two kicks from 46 and 44 with no wind to speak of, which might’ve cost the Steelers the game. They had great momentum going until the missed kicks, with DeAngelo Williams running wild against the Patriots defense. Williams was never the feature back when he was in Carolina, but he sure looked like one last night, going for 127 yards on 21 carries. For some reason, the Patriots kept giving him the outside edge, which he took advantage of all night long. Big Ben also looked sharp through the first half, completing some dimes to Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown. But the first 30 minutes and the game were dominated by Tom Brady and New England. Brady came out revved up, and it certainly showed. At one point, he completed 19 straight passes, 3 of them for touchdowns. His only miscue during the first half came on a sideline lob intended for Danny Amendola, but was overthrown by a hair and probably cost the Pats 6 points. However, Tom made up for it the next series, marching the offense downfield and eventually found an uncovered Rob Gronkowski for the 16-yard touchdown, the first of the NFL season. From then on out, it was Gronk’s world. The unstoppable tight end ran uncontrolled all over the field, amassing 94 yards and 3 TD’s on only 5 catches. Also, another one of Brady’s favorite targets had quite the night; Julian Edelman, a.k.a “Minitron”, almost effortlessly caught 11 passes for 97 yards, simply turning around and standing still to catch the pass. The biggest surprise of the night however was running back Dion Lewis looking like an established veteran, cutting back and breaking ankles all over the field. The former Colt and Brown accumulated 120 total yards from scrimmage, a stat the Pats have not seen consistently from a running back since the days of Danny Woodhead.

The defenses for both teams looked shaky at times, but the difference in the game was the Pats D bending, but not breaking. The Steelers got to the red zone several times but only managed one touchdown. Of course if they had Le’Veon Bell that stat might be a little different. Another example of bending not breaking was Malcolm Butler guarding Antonio Brown. Butler did all he could on a few plays but Brown still managed to somehow catch the ball, a feat we’re used to seeing. There were

times where the Super Bowl hero got flat out beat by Brown, but for the most part he defended him as well as he could’ve been expected to.

The first game of the season had all the qualities that make a great game: an amazing catch (Markus Wheaton’s toe tapper on the sideline), a close score, and offenses that were extremely fun to watch. Big Ben and Tom Terrific are two of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation, and they sure did prove it last night. And if this game was anything close to what we’ll see this year, we’re in for an outstanding season.

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Man on fire: Rob Gronkowkski

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Photo credit: Angie Six

Author: Jon Kuzma

Fantasy football owners who drafted Rob Gronkowski got to pop champagne after Gronkowski dominated against the Steelers in the regular season opener. Gronkowski finished the game with 3 touchdowns and looked untouchable for opposing defenders. The first thing that stands out when watching Gronkowski on the field is the fact that his size overwhelms defenses. Standing 6 feet tall and 6 inches Gronkowksi or “Gronk” as those close to him call him, is nearly the largest player on the field. That frame he boast creates a match up problem for defensive backs and linebackers that try to match up with the sixth year tight end. Having the best quarterback ever passing him the ball also adds a lot to the mix. Brady was able to locate Gronkowski unguarded several times during the game by hurrying the snap before the Steelers could adjust. Nearly every time Gronkowski made the Steelers pay, whether it was a pass up the sideline or a post route down the middle of the field. The Patriots also showed an interesting new two tight end personnel combination by pairing Scott Chandler with Gronk. The two ran a pick route with Gronk clearing Chandlers defender allowing Chandler to catch a touchdown pass for the Patriots. The play showed how even Gronk’s influence on the field can shift a defense and open up opportunities for other players. The defense is always sliding and adjusting coverage to Rob Gronkowski and that causes them to overcompensate at times. The final part of Gronkowski’s game that should be noted is his ability to go up above defenders and make the catch. Tom Brady knows he has to lob his passes to Gronkowki and use elevation and touch to help his tight end make plays. Gronk clearly did all night and that is why he brought home three touchdown receptions. A sign of what is to come this season for the best tight end in football.

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10 things to look out for this upcoming season:

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Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

10. Will Jadeveon Clowney become the pro football player we all expect him to be?

Clowney missed most of last year and only registered 7 combined tackles. The guy is a freak of nature but can he truly put it all together and become an effective pro? Only time will tell.

9. Will Jaboo win?

Jameis Winston aka Jaboo has a lot of weight on his shoulders after being selected with the first overall pick. Will he live up to expectations with the Bucs? After a shaky preseason this is defintely something to keep an eye on.

8. Which team will end up securing a Los Angles bid?

The Rams, Chargers, and Raiders all hope to relocate in the mega Los Angeles market. What team will actually solidify that right though? While it’s almost certain that a team will be in L.A shortly, it will be interesting to see which of the three makes the most compelling push.

7. Can Drew Brees throw for his fifth 5,000 yard season?

It’s no secret that Drew Brees has been one of the league’s most prolific passers. Will he be able to do the unimaginable and throw for his 5th 5,000 yard season. With the Saints seeing a return of investment from promising young receivers like Brandin Cooks anything is possible.

6. After a one year hiatus how will Adrian Peterson fair?

Adrian Peterson has been one of the best running back’s the league has ever seen. Will he be able to keep up that high level of play after a year away from the game due to legal issues? The Minnesota Vikings sure hope so.

5. Will Peyton Manning regress into a shell of what he used to be?

Peyton Manning has struggled in the later half of his last few seasons. The veteran quarterback seems to be feeling the effects of three neck operations and variety of NFL hits. Manning might be on his last ride for the Broncos, does he go out on top (or at least in a respectable manner) or does he continue to regress into a less than serviceable player.

4. Did the Packers do enough to get to the next level?

The lost of Jordy Nelson is already going to set this team back. However there is always hope with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Can the team figure out how to put the puzzle together without the key piece of Nelson? This will be an interesting topic to watch down the stretch.

3. Can the Seahawks keep the band together?

The Seahawks are already prepared to enter the season without standout safety Kam Chancellor. The team seems to be having some issues with its cohesion and keeping everyone happy. How will this effect the team’s morale? More importantly will they return to their third straight Super Bowl?

2. Will Roger Goodell finally get what is coming to him?

With the mess that Roger Goodell has made of pro football, one has to ask will he ever get what is coming to him? Maybe not from spygate however it’s almost guaranteed that Mr. Goodell will have another slip up. I mean he has had several during his tenure. Will the league finally pull the plug on the outlandish commissioner if he has another?

  1. Will Tom Brady achieve the great feat of winning his 5th Super Bowl Ring?

It’s no secret Tom Brady is the arguably the best quarterback ever. Since Tom terrific took over for Drew Bledsoe during his second season, he has been nothing short of outstanding. Amassing 4 Super Bowl wins, 3 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards, 2 league Most Valuable Player awards, and 10 Pro Bowl selections. Not too bad.

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What to expect from the Regular Season Opener

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

For nearly 6 months, the fans of the NFL have waited desperately for the talks of Deflategate and free agency to come to a halt. We’ve endured numerous preseason injuries, holdouts, and arrests and now all we’re looking for is some real, genuine, exhilarating football to be played. And now, at long last, that wait has come to an end. The Patriots play host to the Steelers tomorrow night on the biggest stage since the Super Bowl, and the energy is going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.

Tomorrow, in most people’s minds, is going to be more than a game. It’s going to be a celebration for Patriots Nation, who gets to see their team raise its 4th Super Bowl banner in 15 years. The New England faithful also get to see their quarterback, Tom Brady, play with more fire and anger than ever before. Fresh off a win in court against Roger Goodell and the NFL, expect to see an entirely different Tom Terrific. However, this game isn’t just about Brady. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the more consistent teams in the league since the early 2000’s, and plan to keep that persona alive with a stacked offense led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’veon Bell. Bell is suspended for tomorrow’s game unfortunately for Pittsburgh, making newly acquired running back DeAngelo Williams the prime starter for the Steelers. The Terrible Towel’s also don’t have the services of their starting center, Maurkice Pouncey, which is a fairly significant loss up front since the last time the team lost him they went 8-8. Also, the Pittsburgh defense is something to keep a close eye on tomorrow night. Long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left for Tennessee, leaving the Steelers D with a big question mark on it. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick and the Pats take advantage of the weaknesses of Pittsburgh’s defense and which part of it they will target the most. However, Steel City isn’t the only defense with questions surrounding it. New England lost some key members on defense this past offseason-Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Browner- and even though people within the Patriots organization feel like they’ve gained enough pieces to help minimize those losses, it’ll be fascinating to see if New England did indeed get their defense to where it was last year. Malcolm Brown, drafted 32nd overall, will try to fill the enormous shoes of longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork, which won’t be an easy task by any means. Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown will attempt to keep the Pats secondary a strong point, also not an easy task with Antonio Brown on the field. But an extremely strong linebacker corps could help overcome some of the defense’s weaknesses.

A key matchup that many people are going to be looking forward to watching is Antonio Brown vs. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Brown is debatably the best receiver in the NFL, boasting lightning quick speed and terrific hands. Butler is a somewhat proven player who is being thrust into the Patriots number one cornerback spot, previously filled by Darrelle Revis. Last year, Butler proved himself to be a reliable defensive back but can he be the player the Pats need him to be? Antonio Brown will determine that when they line up across from each other tomorrow at Gillette Stadium. Brown is definitely one of the hardest players in the

league to cover, and Butler’s skills will be pushed to the absolute max tomorrow night when he tries to defend him.

All in all, tomorrow could turn out to be one of the best games of the season. Two AFC powerhouses battling it out under the lights on Primetime television promise a hard fought and intense game. Big Ben and Antonio Brown are not an easy tandem to stop, but it seems like the Patriots D is up for the challenge. Tom Brady takes the field as the starter for New England for the 14th straight time and never has he had a bigger chip on his shoulder. With versatile weapons Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and a trio of pass-catching running backs, the Steelers D should expect to have their hands full. This game should go down to the wire with both teams matching up nicely, making for an epic and memorable season opener.

Prediction: New England 27 Pittsburgh 20

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Jameis Winston must improve as an overall passer but the tools are there:

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Photo credit: Kevin Thomson

Author: Jon Kuzma

Jameis Winston looked shaky as a passer in preseason action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking much more comfortable with his feet. The rookie quarterback out of Florida State often relied on his running skills when the play broke down in preseason action, which is not a good sign for him in terms of his progression as a quarterback. Quarterbacks at the NFL level must be able to trust their reads and have a quick release before the defensive pressure gets to them. Jamies was evading the pressure by rolling out and buying time, or scrambling to the edge during plays. The first thing he must further develop is that ability to sit in the pocket and deliver all of the throws downfield. He never had a problem like this at the collegiate level and it was odd to see him developing these habits now as a pro. Despite all of that criticism, he did score two touchdowns rushing so you can’t completely knock him for those efforts. It’s just that 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions passing wise over those 4 preseason games is not the production that will elevate the Buc’s in the regular season. The team is depending on Winston to step up and live up to that role as franchise savior. He has big time weapons in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson that depend on an adequate quarterback to deliver the ball to them. Winston has all the tools as far as size, accuracy, and arm strength go. Now he has to put it all together on the field. To be fair he is still a rookie, but the Buc’s need him to grow up right now in order for them to have the success they’d like. If Winston can become that player they will be a force in the NFC South for years to come.

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