Week one of the NFL regular season has been played and is in the books. So, what did I see from the 2017 NFL London teams this week? Time for my quick takes from this week.
Indianapolis Colts 9 – 46 LA Rams
Wow! What the hell happened here then? I know from watching them during the preseason that the Indianapolis Colts look like they’re going to be one of the worst teams in the league this year and that their head coach Chuck Pagano is likely to be one of the first to be axed but still, we’re talking about the LA Rams here.
The Rams haven’t looked good for quite some time now and only flashed decent football briefly during the preseason but, blimey, they actually looked good this week. They absolutely battered a very poor Colts team to the tune of 46-9, which I’d say was a fair reflection of the game and the teams. It’s just a shame it was done in front of a half full LA Coliseum (apparently it was a bit too warm that day, sheesh, loyal fanbase, huh? Apparently tickets were priced as low as $6 in some areas of the stadium!).
Admittedly, the quarterbacking of Colts Scott Tolzien played a huge part in the Rams victory but, still, they can only play what’s put in front of them and it showed they might actually be getting better.
Former first overall selection Jared Goff finally showed what scouts had seen in him to make them pick him so high as he looked composed and effective in the pocket. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards with 1 TD and no INT’s. He spread the ball around to various receivers as well which is good to see and I’m actually quite excited to see more of the receiving unit this year. One of his favourite targets was rookie Cooper Kupp who continued to show great hands on 4 receptions for 76 yards and a TD. I’m also liking the fact that Sammy Watkins is playing and looking good as he caught 5 for 58 yards.
RB Todd Gurley looked better than his stats suggest as I was surprised to see that he ended the day with just 40 yards on 19 runs for a 2.1 yards average and 1 TD. He did, however, catch 5 passes for 56 yards. I’ve not been overly impressed by Gurley’s play during the preseason and I hope it improves as the season goes on. If it does, and Goff can keep playing well, this offense could actually be good.
Wade Phillips looks to have his defense playing well and will have the added bonus of having star DT Aaron Donald back now that he’s returned to the team after holding out through the preseason. Although they looked good in this one against the lowly Colts, they have looked a little lacking in up front during preseason without him.
Exciting times to be a Rams fan or just a decent game played against a bad opponent? Time will tell.
Baltimore Ravens 20 – 0 Cincinnati Bengals
This game started off looking like a good contest and was even throughout the first and most of the second quarters. The difference was the play of Bengals QB Andy Dalton and the fact that he made too many mistakes with INT’s and a fumble. They just couldn’t keep up with his mistake making as the Ravens converted those mistakes into points on their way to a comfy looking 20-0 win.
Dalton was so bad that he actually scored me -3 points in one of my fantasy teams – I don’t think I’ve ever had a QB score me minus points before. Thank goodness Jameis Winston is back playing this week and I’ve kicked Dalton and picked up Carson Wentz…..like anyone cares, hehe.
I was super impressed by the Ravens defense during the preseason and they continued to look good in this game as they held their division rivals to zero points. I was, however, concerned about their offensive running game but Terrence West and Javorius Allen schooled me on that as they went for 80 and 71 yards, respectively.
If Joe Flacco can get better after his missing of preseason due to a back injury, I think the Ravens could win the AFC North ahead of the Steelers and I’ve actually put my money where my mouth is with a bet that says they will.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21 – 18 Cleveland Browns
Ok, so I’m gutted that the Shitsburgh Steelers beat us again at home but, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting anything else. I was, however, surprised at how close the score was and that it was an embarrassing bit of special teams play that ended up being the difference. The Browns were pinned back near their own endzone early in the game and punted on 4th down. A missed/poor block by RB Matt Dayes allowed the Steelers to get in and block the punt which made the ball bounce into the endzone which the Steelers got to for the touchdown.
Everyone likes talking about quarterbacks and one of the most talked about at the minute is DeShone Kizer of the Browns. He’s the youngest QB in the league at 21 years old and however many days, and yet is still our best option at the position. In this game, it was clear for everyone to see that he holds on to the ball far too long in the pocket and needs to speed up his internal play clock. This lack of urgency got him sacked a whopping seven times for a loss of 42 yards. This is one of the things that us fans of the team will be watching for signs of improvement on as we continue to hope that he is indeed the future of our franchise.
Despite all those sacks making them look bad to anyone just looking at the game stats, the offensive line played well and gave Kizer more than enough time throughout the game.
I’ve been hoping that first round pick TE David Njoku would come and show his freakish skills right from the off but it looks to me that TE Seth DeValve has a good pair of hands and could be the guy Kizer turns to get him out of trouble when the pressure is on.
I’m still not convinced at all by our running game as I’ve never been a huge fan of Isaiah Crowell. He battles hard and does a decent job but I can’t help but think our running game is lacking still, which isn’t good when the receiving unit ain’t much good either.
I know I’m biased but the Steelers did look like they were deliberately targeting Kizer with their dirty cheap late shots when he was clearly down. I’m annoyed that they were doing it so blatantly but I’m also annoyed that his teammates didn’t get pissed off about it and start having a go at the Steelers players responsible. I’d have expected at least the more veteran players to stick up for their QB.
Arizona Cardinals 23 – 35 Detroit Lions
Well, where to start with this one. I suppose I should start with mentioning the fact that RB David Johnson is out for pretty much the rest of the season with a wrist injury which requires surgery. I can only imagine how pissed off Cardinals fans and many fantasy football players are about this news – hang on, I am one of those fantasy players who got to choose at #1 and picked him thinking he was the logical choice, D’OH! Luckily we have a couple of Reserves slots in that league so I don’t have to get rid of him, phew. He was playing well before the injury as he’d gone for 23 yards on 11 carries and caught 6 passes for 67 yards.
When Justin Bethel intercepted Matt Stafford and took it 82 yards to the house, I had to turn to the missus, who’s a Lions fan, and say “Oops, gonna be one of those seasons”. I won’t type her reply as it wasn’t very elegant.
With the Lions looking pretty awful and basically beating themselves for the majority of the first quarter, it’s no surprise that the Cards went out to a 10-0 lead and were looking good for the win as Detroit had no offense.
A 58-yard field goal by the brilliant Matt Prater seemed to put a little spark back into the Lions and things started to change. Stafford started connecting with his receivers even though the running game is still shite so far. Having said that, it’s still not as bad as the Cardinals is likely to be now that DJ is out.
Carson Palmer still seems to be in preseason form with too many under-thrown passes for my liking and with the defense giving up twenty unanswered points, it was game over as the Lions look like the late-game-comeback-kings again.
Jacksonville Jaguars 29 – 7 Houston Texans
Other than the LA Rams, the Jaguars are the team that made me say, “Wow!”. Their defense was finally playing like the names on the depth chart look like they should with Calais Campbell helping himself to a fantastic 4 sacks and young LB Myles Jack had 14 tackles (8 solo). The secondary looked good also with their 8 defended passes of which young star CB Jalen Ramsey had 3.
As with the situation for the LA Rams, it helped that Tom Savage was in at quarterback for the Texans as he didn’t have a good day. Unsurprisingly, rookie QB DeShaun Watson came in for him and made a bit more of a game of it by passing for a TD. He wasn’t allowed to play well either, really, by the Jaguars defense and things look good for an interesting matchup with the Ravens at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, September 24th.
On offense, RB Leonard Fournette was great. He ran 26 times for a hard-fought 100 yards. He looks a real handful and is going to wear down many a defense during his career if he doesn’t get worn down first. Even the first TD of his career looked hard work up the middle and he only just made it in. It’s lucky that Chris Ivory stepped up his game from his crap preseason showings and could help Fournette with the workload during TJ Yeldon’s injury absence.
I liked the gameplan the Jaguars used (for once) as they kept the passing to short and medium routes that Blake Bortles can execute. He wasn’t brilliant as he completed 11 of 21 for 125 yards and a TD. It was slow and steady and just what the team needs to do to get more W’s this year. Tanking isn’t an option for them with all that talent on the team on both sides of the ball so they might have to do some dealing during the off-season to manoeuvre themselves into a position to get one of those good QB’s coming out of college in 2018 if they keep getting the wins.
Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints 19 – 29 Minnesota Vikings
Although they somehow managed to score 19 points, the Saints didn’t look very good. Their defense struggled to put pressure on Vikings’ QB Sam Bradford which meant he had all day to pick them apart and pick them apart he did. He went 27 of 32 for 346 yards and 3 TD’s. WR Stephon Diggs was on the receiving end for two of those TD’s but WR Adam Thielen looked bloody brilliant! He’s a definite safe pair of hands and had 9 receptions for 157 yards off 10 targets. My Browns play these guys at Twickenham this year and our secondary is one of our weak spots so I’m a little concerned right down for that game. Hopefully, Myles Garrett is back to pile on the pressure, though.
Drew Brees tried his best but he can’t continue to carry this Saints team by himself. He didn’t get much help from his offensive line as the great Vikings defensive line kept collapsing the pocket play after play forcing him to rush things. They weren’t beyond awful but they weren’t great either and will need to improve quite a bit. The running game was pretty crap as well, to be honest, and Adrian Peterson was caught on camera looking like he was giving some verbal abuse to head coach Sean Payton. Rumour surfaced briefly that Peterson was being shopped around but I’m thinking that could just be media BS at the moment. I must admit, though, that I was confused as to why they brought him in when they now have Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara who I believe will be a good back in this league.
Talking about rookie running back, Dalvin Cook. I couldn’t believe he fell out of the first round of the 2017 NFL draft even with the concerns about the people he hangs around with outside of football. The Vikings didn’t have a first round pick in this draft but they sure as hell picked a first round talent at the top of the second round in RB Dalvin Cook. He’s looked good all preseason and continued to do so this week. He ran for 127 yards on 22 carries for a 5.8-yard average. He also added 3 catches for 10 yards to his tally. I think he could be a Rookie of the Year candidate this year.
That’s What I Saw
Whether I’m right or wrong in your eyes, that’s what I saw from week one of the regular season as far as the 2017 NFL London teams go. How did your team do and what did you like or dislike about their performance this week? Let us know in the comments below.
The Miami Dolphins, who play the New Orleans Saints at Wembley in 2017, didn’t play this week as their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was cancelled and rescheduled to week 11 due to hurricane Irma hitting the state of Florida this week.