Rejoice America, for we have made it through the long, football-less summer and are fresh off of our first meaningful NFL action since February. Week 1 is in the books and that means it is time to draw conclusions from an extremely small sample size. It’s an NFL tradition like no other. Here are three way too early conclusions on the 2014 NFL season that I’m making after just one week of games.
The Broncos are Super Bowl bound (again). I think we are all guilty of forgetting just how damn good the Denver Broncos are after it was dominated by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. I know I was. It’s not that we thought the Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, were going to be bad, but it was more that they became an afterthought. Sunday night, Denver proved they were anything but an afterthought with a decisive 31-24 win over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (a game that was not as close as the score would indicate). Peyton did what Peyton does, surgically taking apart the Colts defense drive after drive. That impressive performance against a playoff-caliber AFC team sold me enough to call the Broncos the overwhelming favorites to make the Super Bowl.
Who is going to take that spot from them? The Patriots are the only team that comes to mind, and I just can’t see New England going to Denver (where a playoff matchup would likely take place) and beating the Broncos.
Johnny Manziel won’t start a game this year. I’m a little nervous making this proclamation because there are major non-football factors (money and expectations) that could come into play. That being said, the Browns are not a bad offensive team when led by Brian Hoyer.
In Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Hoyer and the Browns found themselves in an early deficit. Cleveland trailed Pittsburgh 27-3 at half. I’m not exactly tuned into Cleveland’s fan base, but I imagine fans couldn’t have been too pleased with the team’s play, especially Hoyer’s play, who has all eyes on his every move. The Browns came out of halftime and scored 24 unanswered points to tie the game. The points weren’t gifted either. Hoyer led drives of 80, 59, 75 and 51 yards to bring the Browns back. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. The Browns actually won the turnover battle 1-0. It’s rare that the team that wins the turnover battle loses the game. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Cleveland.
But, were I a Browns fan, things would have to take a significant turn for the worse for me to call for Hoyer to be replaced. Sunday’s game might not have been a win, but it did prove that Brian Hoyer should be the man leading the Cleveland offense for the entire 2014 season.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be the only NFC East team over .500 this year. This is the hardest conclusion to swallow since I am a New York Giants fan through and through. We need to face it though: The Eagles are the class of the division, and it’s not even close. The Redskins, as talented as they seem on offense, are more glitter than gold. I trust Robert Griffin III about as much as I trust a three-card monte game on Fordham Road. Simply put, he’s not going to lead you to a Super Bowl. He’s an injury waiting to happen. He hasn’t shown the ability to consistently be counted on as a passer. Add all that to the fact that the Redskins have a new head coach, and I just don’t see a winning season in Washington D.C.
The Cowboys are a mess. It is no secret that the Dallas defense is a mess. Dallas ad the worst defensive unit in football last year, and that trend seems likely to continue. The Cowboys’ saving grace had always been that Tony Romo and the offense were always overlooked and could keep them in games, but pressure continues to mount in Dallas, and I feel quite confident in saying the Cowboys will not rise to that pressure, but rather be crushed by it.
Lastly, my beloved Giants. While I do think the Giants’ defense will be a good one this year, it won’t be enough to overcome what I expect to be a very inconsistent, sputtering offense. It’s not that the Giants’ personnel is bad. Eli is still very good, regardless of what happened last year. The skill guys in the Giants’ lineup are not the problem. Yes, the offensive line is a bit thin at the moment, but the Giants seem to realize that and are making moves to fix it. It’s not the personnel. It’s simply the fact that, for the first time in over seven years, the Giants are changing their entire offense. That takes time and it’s not an easy thing to do. As much as I wish the Giants would hit the ground running on offense, I just don’t see it happening in 2014. I hate to say it, but the NFC East belongs to the Eagles.
Matt Rosenfeld is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.