Yes, it’s way too early to determine much. But the NFL is different than college football, where nothing that happens in September ends up meaning a whole heck of a lot. In the NFL though at least, the teams are all (mostly) at the same level and each game really does mean the same as every other. So after an offseason of wondering and hoping and prognosticating, here’s 32 tangible pieces of evidence that we caught glimpses of in the first week of action (in order of how they got our attention):
(1) No coach in the NFL knows his team better than Bill Belichick knows his. No Tom Brady, no Rob Gronkowski or Ninkovich, hodgepodge offensive line, going to the desert to play the NFC favorite Arizona Cardinals — and the Pats win. What’s new?
(2) Seattle’s offense really is inefficient. Without Marshawn Lynch, the running game is in trouble. But more than that, the passing game is not explosive enough and the offensive line is atrocious.
(3) The Raiders are in it to win it! Comeback against the Saints in New Orleans, capped off by going for and converting a two-point conversation in the final minute to put the Raiders up a point??? Statement by Jack Del Rio.
(4) Andy Dalton looks like he’s starting 2016 where he left off in 2015, and A.J. Green is an animal. The Cincinnati offense doesn’t look like it misses Hue Jackson, Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu.
(5) DeMarco Murray is back. After a year off in Philly, the running back carried Tennessee (albeit in a loss) against Minnesota’s fine defense.
(6) Carolina had seven months to adjust the Denver’s defense — and they couldn’t do it. And they even had Kelvin Benjamin this time. The ol’ Super Bowl runner-up letdown or was 2015 an aberration for the Panthers? (Sorry, this is one was more of a question than a statement of what we learned.)
(7) Indianapolis has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball, if they expect to make any sort of run into the playoffs. Just because Andrew Luck is back, doesn’t mean this team is magically healed of it’s deficiencies — many of which can be found on the offensive side of the ball as well.
(8) David Johnson is going to have an electric season. Running, catching, dynamic speed and moves — kid is good.
(9) People better get used to Tampa’s offense scoring points. Against the Dan Quinn defense in Atlanta, the Bucs looked in midseason form.
(10) Who says Kansas City’s offense isn’t explosive? Biggest comeback in franchise history over the Chargers. But we gotta take a second look at that defense.
(11) Cleveland’s rebuild might take awhile. The Eagles, who have wheeled and dealed their team away, dominated the Browns with players who barely know Doug Pedersen’s system.
(12) The Jaguars are no longer a doormat of the AFC, the NFL, or their own division. They played a solid game on both sides of the ball against a very good Packers team.
(13) If Atlanta cannot get over this week’s loss to Tampa Bay, they are staring a 1-6 start in the face.
(14) Rex Ryan is on the hot seat . Buffalo won the offseason, right, Rex? Well, you lost week 1. With 7 points.
(15) Trevor Simian doesn’t have to be an All-Pro for Denver to be a good team. The defense is still one of the best in the NFL.
(16) Antonio Brown is hands-down the best wide receiver in the NFL. This Pittsburgh offense will challenge the all-time single season scoring record.
(17) In a brutally bad division, the Giants have the best offense. Looked balanced against the Cowboys and the defense seems improved.
(18) Aaron Rodgers is a bad dude! Looked very much like a former MVP in the manner in which he kept plays alive and kept the Pack in the game when the Jacksonville defense was coming for him.
(19) Shaun Hill starts at QB and Adrian Peterson only gets 19 carries for 31 yards? Maybe the coaching staff is trying to limit his carries so he’s rested and healthy — or maybe the 30 years old RB is starting to feel like it.
(20) If somehow the Cowboys can play defense, Dak Prescott might be good enough to keep Dallas in the race for the very weak NFC East.
(21) The Ravens are going to have to open up the offense in order to compete in the AFC North.
(22) Maybe the learning curve in Philadelphia isn’t a big as we thought. New coach, new quarterback, no problem. But let’s see what happens when the Eagles play a team that’s not the Browns.
(23) Houston looks efficient. The defense is great and the offense is well-balanced and solid — might not be sexy, but they limit the mistakes. New additions of Osweiler, Miller, and Fuller look good.
(24) San Diego looked a lot like how they looked in 2015. Should have won, didn’t. Should be better, but aren’t. Getting hard to trust or believe in this team.
(25) Lions didn’t blink against Andrew Luck and the Colts. The defense will need to improve.
(26) Adam Gase was supposed to bring an innovative offense with him to South Beach. Granted they played in Seattle, but the Dolphins were not impressive. The defense, however, was great and is what might have the Dolphins hanging around this season.
(27) The Jets defense will need to regroup, despite great play by their defensive front. Too many silly mistakes from a team that is supposed to be well-coached. They have a vey difficult schedule early on this season.
(28) To paraphrase a line from the late Dennis Green, “The Saints are who we thought they were.” All offense, no defense.
(29) Chip Kelly’s offense will be strong in rushing the football. It’s a part of his offense that so easily gets overlooked.
(30) If Washington is going to compete, again, with the league’s best, they will be need their defense to be great. Josh Norman is not a game changer — he was good because of the system he was in with Carolina.
(31) Jeff Fisher’s time in LA will be short-lived if he can’t find a way to get the running game going and get the defense playing to the level they need to be at. Until they settle on a QB who proves he can produce, Todd Gurley might never face less than an 8-man box.
(32) The Bears were unassuming. Nothing special. If John Fox doesn’t mix something up, this team might bore itself to death. The offensive has to protect Cutler if the Bears are going to be worth anything this year.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.