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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

What we Learned From Week One of the NFL Season

Week one of the NFL season is officially in the books. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a crazier start to the season. We saw gunslinger Nathan Peterman tear apart the Baltimore Ravens defense to the tune of 5/18 24 yards, zero TDs, and two INTS. We saw the Cleveland Browns snap a 17-game losing streak in the most Browns way ever: a tie. The tie improved Hue Jackson’s record as the Browns head coach, to a stellar 1-31-1. Jon Gruden displayed the worth of his historic contract with a suspect 0-1 start. Now that the dust has settled on week one, here’s what we learned from this wild first week of football.

Fitzmania Is Back!

If I told you that Drew Brees threw for 439 yards, 3 TDs, and put up 40 points at home against the Buccaneers, you’d think the Saints won in a blowout. Nope, not if journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had anything to say about it.

Ryan Fitzpatrick brought a little of his 2015 New York Jets magic to the Superdome on Sunday by throwing for 417 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTS, leading the Buccaneers to a 48-40 upset win over the Saints. His performance on Sunday was easily the biggest surprise of the week.

While the chances are low that Fitzpatrick is going to be able to repeat this performance next Sunday against the Eagles, if he can somehow put up similar numbers and lead the Buccaneers to a win against the defending world champions, then don’t be surprised if the chatter begins about whether Fitzpatrick will take the starting job away from the suspended Jameis Winston.

Chris Thompson is the NFL’s best kept secret

Chris Thompson showed no rust from his broken leg that ended his 2017 breakout season. In the Redskins dominant win over the Cardinals, Thompson showed off his versatile skill-set while running for 65 yards on five carries, adding 63 receiving yards on six receptions, and a TD.

The Redskins are clearly a very different offense when Chris Thompson is on the field. Before Thompson’s season abruptly ended in 2017, he was leading the Redskins in both rushing and receiving yards. After week one, Alex Smith has more than one reason to trust Chris Thompson, so look for the swiss army knife to quickly become the go-to guy on offense.

Teams will soon figure out that in order to stop Washington’s offense, they’re going to have to slow down Thompson first.

Alvin Kamara is a certified playmaker

Coming into the 2018 season, there were skeptics who believed Alvin Kamara would take a step back after his sensational rookie season. But after this week’s performance, he has silenced his doubters. Kamara totaled 3 TDs and 141 total yards on only 17 touches. Kamara looked as slippery as ever, and was the focal point of the Saints offense with Mark Ingram sidelined.

Kamara’s stats benefitted from the Saints being down most of the game. It’s easy to see that Kamara’s 2017 season was no fluke. While he only had eight carries, Kamara excelled in the passing game, proving that he is not just a great runner but a great receiver as well.

Even with the suspended Mark Ingram set to come back after week four, expect Kamara to still put up monster numbers week in and week out this season. AK41 has proven to be a special talent and the Saints will get him involved anyway they can.

Aaron Rodgers is a bad, bad man.

When Aaron Rodgers went down grabbing his knee early in the second quarter against the Bears, I thought his season was over. The way his knee bent while getting hit did’t look good. To everyone’s disbelief, Rodgers started the second half at QB for the Packers.

The Packers went into the third quarter down by 20 with the Bears defense looking overpowering, and with Rodgers virtually on one leg, there was little hope for a comeback. But then Rodgers proceeded to lead one of the most impressive comebacks in recent memory. Rodgers, off one leg, made throws that no other QB in the NFL could make. He simply picked apart the talented Bears defense in the second half before connecting with Randall Cobb for a 75 yard touchdown late in the 4th quarter to give the Packers a 24-23 win over the Bears.

Rodgers did not waste any time postgame to address his status for their week two game – simply stating: “I’m playing next week.” The rest of the NFL has been put on notice. Rodgers is back, he’s motivated, and boy is he dangerous.

The New York Jets are not a laughing stock anymore.

Coming into Monday night, the headline of the Lions-Jets game was the debut of the highly touted rookie QB Sam Darnold. When Darnold’s first snap as a pro was a pick six, things did not look good for the former USC QB. However, Darnold was quickly able to settle in after the early blunder and had himself a stellar debut going 16 for 21, with 198 yards, and 2 TDs.

Darnold looked like he had full command of the Jets offense. His ability to have a short term memory and not dwell on mistakes will bode well for the young player and for the Jets. It looks as if the Jets may have finally landed a franchise QB.

As impressive as Darnold’s debut was, the biggest takeaway I took from the Jets 48-17 blowout win over the Lions was the Jets defense. The Jets defense looked ferocious, causing Matt Stafford to throw five interceptions including one pick six. They looked as if they knew every play the Lions were going to run. Linebacker Darron Lee, who had two interceptions, said the Jet’s defense was confident they “knew [Stafford’s] signals.”

“We were calling out their plays as [Stafford] was getting up to the line.” – Jets Linebacker, Darron Lee

Jamal Adams was also all over the field last night. The 2017 first round pick is quickly developing into one of the best safeties in the NFL. With Adams roaming the secondary and Leonard Williams leading the charge at defensive line for the Jets on Monday night, the team’s performance may not have been a fluke. With all this young talent coming together, the Jets are no longer a joke.

-Sean

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