American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: Neil Reynolds picks six story lines from Week One
Last Updated: 11/09/19 12:30pm
That’s the first full Sunday of the 2019 NFL season in the books and, as always, it served up plenty of talking points. Here are my views on the big story lines and performances.
Titans flip the script
For months we have eagerly awaited the unveiling of a Cleveland Browns team laden with superstars such as quarterback Baker Mayfield, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry; and defensive stud Myles Garrett. The Tennessee Titans - their week-one opponents - were supposed to be a mere after-thought and were only supposed to fly to Cleveland to make up the numbers.
But the visitors won and handily by a 43-13 scoreline. The Browns were stifled by a fierce Titans defense that recorded five sacks and three interceptions. But what was more worrying was that Cleveland did just as much to beat themselves, committing a shocking 18 penalties. New head coach Freddie Kitchens has a big week ahead to get his team - which still needs to learn how to win consistently and with discipline - straightened out
Lamar Jackson a changed player?
NBC Sports' Peter King joined our coverage at halftime of our second game on Sunday night and told me Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did very little running during training camp. Remember, 2018 Jackson rushed an average of 17 times per game while only throwing in the region of 21 or 22 passes. His passing left a lot to be desired as a rookie but not on Sunday night.
In a 59-10 shellacking of the terrible Miami Dolphins, Lamar hit on 17 of 20 attempts for 324 yards and five touchdowns. It was a spectacular showing but we need to see more because the Dolphins might just be the worst team in the league. It was so easy for the Ravens that backup passer Robert Griffin III came off the bench and went six of six for 55 yards and one score.
Kyler wakes up the Cards
The Kyler Murray experience did not look like being a good one as the Arizona Cardinals looked like stubbing their toe against the Detroit Lions. Murray struggled in the early going - he opened by completing just seven of 18 passes for 49 yards and one interception.
The 22-year-old also took three sacks as the Lions took control of the game. But he woke up in the fourth quarter and balled out as the Cardinals and Detroit played out a 27-27 tie. The Cardinals are, by no means, going to be a quick fix but there is most definitely hope for the future given how their rookie quarterback stepped up and improved his performance with the game on the line.
Colts and Chargers will be fine
There has rightly been some gnashing of teeth when it comes to the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Colts lost star quarterback Andrew Luck to retirement two weeks before the start of the season and the Chargers went into the season without injured tackle Russell Okung, banged-up safety Derwin James and holdout running back Melvin Gordon.
Both teams played well on Sunday as the Chargers emerged as 30-24 winners in overtime, courtesy of three Austin Ekeler touchdowns. Ekeler is costing Gordon leverage as he subs for his backfield team-mate. While neither team was perfect, I think they showed they are capable of being playoff contenders this year.
Dak on the money
There were two observations that could be made about the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2018. One was that so much of the attack was predictable and paled into comparison to high-octane attacks like Kansas City, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams.
The other was that most of the offense would, quite rightly, run through superstar rusher Ezekiel Elliott. But during Sunday's 35-17 thrashing of the New York Giants, it was the Dak Prescott show as the quarterback threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore dialed up a great game plan, making the Dallas offense one worth monitoring very closely indeed in the coming months.
Business as usual
No retired Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski? No starting centre David Andrews who is out injured for the year? No problem for a New England Patriots team that hammered the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-3 on Sunday night. This one was never a contest and the Steelers, dare I say it, looked like they were missing departed and troubled stars Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
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Running back James Conner carried 10 times for 21 yards against a dominant New England defense, while JuJu Smith-Schuster had six catches for 78 yards. The Pats were imperious and 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady sublime. He threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns and the rich are about to get richer. Like it or not, Antonio Brown is on his way to Foxboro. I'm writing my opening Patriots links for the Super Bowl in Miami now to get ahead of the game!
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