Kiefer O'Boyle looks back on the first week of the season for the AFC South teams and looks ahead to Week 2.
Week 1 is in the books and to the surprise of absolutely no-one it is the Houston Texans who are the early frontrunners in the division race. Yep, everyone thought it would happen and it has happened, the Houston Texans are playoff bound if the season ended today. Thankfully though, the season is in its infancy and there is so much more football to come. In fact, if you compare the season to previous ones, you could say that the season hasn’t even started yet. That’s right Titans fans, no reason to worry. Well, maybe no reason, but that’s at least one worry off your considerably larger plate of worries.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) 21- 37 Houston Texans (1-0)
Week 1 pinned two of the leagues’ worst against each other and it was a comfortable victory for the Tyrod Taylor-led Texans in one of the few games they look like they could win this season. So, what can we learn from this game?
Takeaway 1: It’s a worrying start for Urban Meyer. His offence looked extremely sloppy, giving away penalties on almost every drive putting Trevor Lawrence in long down no-win situations. Now its understandable in Week 1 to be out of rhythm on offence however these were just downright inexcusable; case in point an illegal formation on your FIRST play in the game? Meyer has a tough season ahead if this continues. Similarly to the Texans, the Jags don’t have a lot of winnable games on their schedule and starting off with a loss against a division rival and a team that many considered worse than your own is not a good start.
Takeaway 2: Lawrence will be fine. Number 1 pick QB’s are 0-13-1 in their first games going all the way back to David Carr in 2002 and Lawrence wasn’t the one to turn the tide this time. However, he was undoubtedly impressive in his first regular season start and he made some excellent mid-range passes. He had some interceptions that were not good from someone of his talent, but these are the mental errors that every rookie QB will make, and it shouldn’t be overstated. He just simply doesn’t have the talent around him to let him fully flourish but he’s one of the only reasons to tune into the Jags this season.
Takeaway 3: Are the Texans good? No. Could they shock a few people? Well, also no. The Texans showed us exactly who they are this week- that is a solid but staggeringly unspectacular team. Tyrod Taylor led them on some excellent drives, but his accuracy was a familiar weakness despite his two touchdowns. Mark Ingram stood out as their best offensive weapon with two touchdowns but overall, this win was against a really threadbare Jags defence. We will get a much better sense of what Taylor et all can do when they face the Browns in week 2.
Seattle Seahawks (1-0) 28-16 Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
It was ultimately Mr. September Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett that made the big difference in this entertaining game between two playoff calibre teams.
Takeaway 1: A good start for Wentz? Well yes and no. Was it a step up from 2020 Wentz? Yes without question but with an asterisk that some of the old Wentz issues remain. 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, both to Zach Pascal. He made some good throws on a day that he was under constant pressure from the Seahawks pass rush, but he also fumbled at a critical point in the game. I personally thought it was an impressive showing from Wentz as he was re-teamed with Frank Reich.
Takeaway 2: Worrying start for the Offensive Line in Indy. Time after time the Seahawks were able to get pressure on Wentz and force Jonathan Taylor into loss of yard situations. We saw from his time in Philadelphia how Wentz struggled with injuries and a lack of O-Line protection so this could be a worrying sign for Reich. Having said that, Wentz was very good under pressure and looked every bit the QB we saw for spurts in Philly.
Takeaway 3: The Colts defence got off to a rocky start. This defence has had some turnover from last season, and facing Russell Wilson is perhaps not the most fair standard on which to judge however the big plays they gave up both on the ground and in the air will concern Colts DC Matt Eberflus.
Out of the 3 division games this week, this was ultimately the least surprising in terms of the outcome and the performance. The Seahawks are a well-established playoff ready team with a settled top 5 QB at the helm, and they took care of business against a team missing some key pieces from last year and are still undergoing changes in key positions. It was closer than the score-line suggests, and this should give Colts hope looking ahead.
Arizona Cardinals (1-0) 38-13 Tennessee Titans (0-1)
This is probably the nightmare scenario that every Titans fan feared coming into the season; that the defensive woes that have beset this team for the past couple of seasons have not disappeared. That’s probably the first reaction but it doesn’t really tell the whole story. This was both a horrible performance from the Titans and a great performance from the Cardinals.
Takeaway 1: Games are decided on key moments and from early on those key moments went the Cardinals way. The Titans fumble on their second drive of the game, give the Cardinals great field position and are already 10-0 down without posting a first down. You then go on to punt twice more on offence and the Cardinals post another TD and the game is close of over at 17-0 and you’re no longer able to rely on the run game which is your team’s greatest strength. If the Titans are to make the next step, this is the type of situation that they must avoid.
Takeaway 2: You know what good teams have? Good kickers. Enough said. Badgley missed an extra point and a field goal. It made little difference in the end, but it has to be a point of focus in the coaching staff.
Takeaway 3: The defence. Arizona’s scoring drives came in at 70 yards, 5, 63, 67, 75 and 33. The 5 is really only because the Titans fumbled and gave the Cards great position. A few of those drives were made of a lot of plays with Tennessee just simply unable to stop Murray and his offence. Even with a Titans defensive takeaway, this was not a reassuring performance for any Titans fan hoping that the off-season acquisitions and the change of play calling would help. Having said all that, this was all about Kyler Murray and not many QB’s offer the multitude of skills that he has. Perhaps after a few weeks we will have a clearer picture of what this defence can do.
Denver Broncos (1-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
This isn’t an ideal matchup for Trevor Lawrence facing in my humble opinion one of the most stacked defences in the NFL. Lawrence looked impressive in Week 1 and his confidence definitely increased as the day went on and as he got a feel for the game. I imagine the same will happen this week but ultimately I don’t think they will have enough, even at home, to keep up with the Broncos.
Prediction: Broncos 24-13
Los Angeles Rams (1-0) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Another week another NFC West visit to Lucas Oil Stadium, this time in the form of the LA Rams coming off a solid if unspectacular home win against the Chicago Bears. I personally think this will be another very long day for the Colts offensive line and Indy will find it hard to move the ball, but Dalton showed that it could be done last week. Wentz was impressive enough in week 1 to show that he’s at least in sync with Frank Reich and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts continued to improve on offence. The question is whether their defence which gave up big plays can prevent the king of big plays in Matthew Stafford. I think this will be close but LA to edge it.
Prediction: Rams 27-24
Houston Texans (1-0) @ Cleveland Browns (0-1)
I think this is where a reality check occurs, and Houston is brought straight back to Earth with a bang. After a well-deserved week 1 win, the Texans are now facing an AFC heavyweight, which is what the Browns deserve to be seen as. They played flawlessly for most of the game against the Chiefs and were it not for Patrick Mahomes could very well have won. Nick Chubb will power through a Texans defence which has yet to face a running attack like him, and while QB Tyrod Taylor withstood the Jaguars pass rush, Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett are an altogether different proposition.
Prediction: Browns 38-14
Tennessee Titans (0-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
First sight of the 12’s in almost 2 years and I honestly do not envy the Titans having to be the first visitors to Seattle. Despite the awful week 1, theirs is definitely a part of me that thinks the Titans are a team that can stick with the Seahawks. The worst thing would be if this turned into a scoring fest because it’s a game Tennessee can’t win with their defence. Their best hope is that they can keep this low scoring and Henry gets going. Even with that- it’s really hard to see the Seahawks losing on home turf.
Prediction: Seattle 34-24