Patriots face adversity, NFL power rankings and more


The New England Patriots were handled on Thursday night by the Kansas City Chiefs. Everyone is doubting them, but the Pats have been here before.

The New England Patriots are going to be fine, even if their performance on Thursday night didn’t indicate that. A team that was celebrating its fifth championship in the NFL opener was humbled by the Kansas City Chiefs, who went from fringe contender to front and center with an unexpected barrage.

Tom Brady, who you may have heard is 40 years old, looked it. He threw for 267 yards on 16-of-36 passes and failed to throw a touchdown. Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach the game has ever seen, and he was utterly flummoxed by Andy Reid for the second time in three years. in 2014, Kansas City humbled New England with a 41-14 beating on a Week 4 Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

This time, the Chiefs rolled up 537 yards. Alex Smith threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his throws. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt ran for 148 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while catching five passes for 98 yards and two more scores. It was the most yardage from scrimmage for a rookie debut in NFL history.

Predictably, there was panic among the masses about New England. The morning prior to the game, the main question was whether the Patriots would lose a game. Only 24 hours later, the topic was whether this team had suddenly become old and slow.

Let’s break down the real problems from the fake ones. New England has a bad, plodding front seven that won’t generate much pressure without blitzing. Don’t Hightower is terrific and Trey Flowers is adequate, but the rest of the group offers little against the pass. Kansas City does have a very good, athletic line, but it was a manhandling from the start.

The Patriots also have to figure out what to do when Rob Gronkowski is limited. Kansas City effectively used double teams and Eric Berry to negate the All-Pro tight end, holding him to a pair of receptions. Without Gronkowski available and an injured Julian Edelman, Brady struggled to get into rhythm.

Those are very legitimate concerns, but that’s where it ends. New England doesn’t have to worry about Brady, who could go into New Orleans this week and throw for 450 yards. Brady’s arm looked fine, his feet were sharp and his fire is there. Provided the offensive line protects him, Brady will be prolific.

Belichick will figure out how to hide many of the Patriots’ weaknesses while accentuating their strengths. New England has competition in the AFC with both the Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers as looming threats, but it remains the proverbial cream of the crop.

In the end, the Patriots are going to wrap up the AFC East by Thanksgiving dinner. They will likely end up with a bye in the playoffs and perhaps even secure home-field advantage. The road to the Super Bowl still goes through Foxborough.

The Patriots looked bad in Week 1. The Chiefs are a good team, and maybe a real threat to New England’s throne. Both those sentences are true, but so is this one:

New England is still the team to beat until somebody knocks it off in January.

Power rankings

Top 10 individual performances in Week 1

1. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs (148 rushing yards, 98 rec. yards, 3 TDs)
2. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers (11 receptions, 182 yards)
3. Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs (28-of-35, 368 yards, 4 TDs)
4. Calais Campbell – Jacksonville Jaguars (4 sacks)
5. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons (21-of-30, 321 yards, TD)
6. Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears (66 rushing yards, 47 receiving yards, TD)
7. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams (21-of-29, 306 yards, TD)
8. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles (26-of-39, 307 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT)
9. Golden Tate – Detroit Lions (10 receptions, 107 yards)
10. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars (100 rushing yards, TD)


"“There are some things we can get better at,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said, “but for the most part, guys are going to be happy with what we did.”"

– Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly on his team’s 23-3 win in San Francisco

After going 6-10 last year, the Panthers have high hopes of getting back to the playoffs and making another run. Carolina got off to a good start on Sunday, hammering the San Francisco 49ers in their building. Cam Newton was rusty after paling sparely throughout the summer due to offseason shoulder surgery, hitting on 14-of-25 for 171 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

This week, Carolina takes on the Buffalo Bills in their home opener. The Panthers have a great chance to start hot in the competitive NFC South.


After taking all the Week 1 games with Josh Hill, we’ll have all the Week 2 previews and opening-weekend reaction this Monday. Check out iTunes for the latest episode, and please subscribe.

Random stat

Xavier Su’a-Filo had two tackles for Houston in the Texans’ loss to the Jaguars. J.J. Watt had one tackle. Su’a-Filo is a guard.

Info learned this week

1. Packers handle Seahawks in star-studded opener

The Packers and Seahawks might very well be the best teams in the NFC, and they played a hard-nosed, defensive affair at Lambeau Field. In the end, Green Bay won 17-9, earning an important win and potential tiebreaker down the line.

However, if there was one important takeaway from the proceedings, it’s that the Seattle offensive line is going to be a problem moving forward. The Seahawks allowed constant pressure on Russell Wilson, who was sacked three times and pressured on almost every passing down. It was a mess, and one that teams with good fronts will expose.

Both teams have improvements to make, but the rosters are loaded. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we see this rematch come late January, in the same venue, for the right to go to Super Bowl LII.

2. Cardinals, Lions could be going in opposite directions

After a disappointing season, many believed (including yours truly) that the Cardinals would bounce back and make a playoff run. Instead, Arizona looked old and tired, taking a 10-0 lead before getting outscored 35-13 the rest of the way.

On the other hand, the Lions showed why they were a playoff team a year ago. Detroit was poised and aggressive, with Matt Stafford hitting on 29-of-41 throws for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, Palmer was thwarted for three interceptions, including a pick-six to seal the deal.

It’s only Week 1, but Arizona appears to be a team in trouble, while the Lions made an early statement.

3. Jared Goff suddenly looks the part

After a tough rookie season that saw Goff go 0-7 with the Rams, his fortunes changed on Sunday against the Colts. Goff, who now has an offensive-minded head coach in Sean McVay, complete3d 21-of-29 throws for 306 yards and a touchdown before being lifted in Los Angeles’ blowout win.

Goff spread the ball around, with eight Rams recording a catch. It should be noted that Indianapolis is atrocious, and was even without star corner Vontae Davis, but this was obviously a significant step forward for the face of the franchise.

This week Goff and the Rams host the Redskins, who struggled at home in their 30-17 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. With Aaron Donald back from his holdout, Los Angeles could get off to an encouraging 2-0 start.

4. Cowboys outclass Giants in primetime

Dallas didn’t waste any time getting past its one main obstacle from a year ago, beating a Giants team that swept it in 2016. The 19-3 win was convincing, with Ezekiel Elliott going over 100 rushing yards while the offensive line did nice job of keeping a stout New York front at bay.

While the Giants were missing Odell Beckham Jr. with an ankle injury, it’s not excuse for that offensive performance. Eli Manning was only sacked three times but he was pressured constantly behind a horrid offensive line. If that doesn’t change, no amount of Beckham greatness will help what was a lifeless offense.

5. Vikings-Saints, Chargers-Broncos on tap

For the only time this season, we get a double dip on Monday Night Football. First, the Minnesota Vikings play host to Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings, with the nightcap seeing the Los Angele Chargers visit the Denver Broncos in an AFC West tilt.

The Vikings started 5-0 last year before falling apart down the stretch, finishing 8-8. With Sam Bradford in his second season within this system, can Minnesota become the contender so many expected prior to the Teddy Bridgewater injury?

In Denver, two teams will be trying to prove their viability in a tough division. The Chiefs and Raiders both won impressive contests on the road, putting pressure on the Broncos and Chargers to keep pace. Whoever loses is already a game back and sustains a divisional loss.

History lesson

The Buccaneers and Dolphins didn’t play this week due to Hurricane Irma, forcing them to reschedule for Week 11, when both originally had bye weeks.

The last time the NFL didn’t have a bye week built into the schedule was 1989. In 1993, the league experimented with a pair of bye weeks, but the idea was scrapped after a single season.

Parting shot

You never want to make sweeping judgements based off of Week 1. Every year, there are upsets galore, and it appears the league we expected to see has been turned on its head. Then, slowly but surely, good teams become good, bad teams become bad, and order is restored.

Still, if there is one aspect of Week 1 that stood out as more fact than fiction, it’s that the AFC has a wide gulf between the contenders and also-rans.

While the Patriots and Steelers didn’t play their best ball in Week 1, both will be facotrs in January. The Chiefs most-certainly made sure we remember them in the Super Bowl conversation, while the Raiders went on the road and soundly beat the AFC South favorites.

However, outside of that, the conference appears barren. The Ravens may have shut out the Bengals, 20-0, but Joe Flacco looked subpar, completing 9-of-17 throws with an interception. Andy Dalton was even worse, tossing four picks. Factor in the rebuilding Browns, and the AFC North is a one-team race.

The AFC East is the same, with both the Bills and Jets tanking, while the Dolphins appear stuck in neutral while Jay Cutler quarterbacks the team. In the aforementioned South, nobody has an impressive head coach, and outside of Marcus Mariota, the quarterback play is appalling. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Colts, Texans and Jaguars combine for less than 12 wins.

It’s early, and things change. Maybe Flacco rediscovers his old form. Maybe Dalton can lead the Bengals out of the doldrums. Perhaps Andrew Luck comes back and carries Indianapolis to an 8-8 record and a division title. Maybe the Titans can improve in the secondary and become a legitimate force.

All of that is possible, of course, because this is September, but I wouldn’t bet on it.