Week one of the 2022 NFL season is in the books, and what a great weekend of football it was. There were several upsets, and many of the so-called poor teams ended up winning, so were they really upsets? Vegas often gets the first couple weeks of every season wrong, so time will tell how these teams will shape up.
If you listened to the National Media, you would have sworn the 49ers would have blown out the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Yes, I know it's a cliché, but that's why they play the game. The Chicago Bears, after a sluggish start, dominated the second half of the game to beat San Francisco 19-10.
The excuse-makers will have you believe that the weather was the factor that changed the outcome. Don't buy into it. The weather was terrible for both teams, and the team that adapted better to the conditions won, and that was the Bears.
The National narrative would have you believe the Chicago Bears are the worst team in football which is of course, laughable. While they are certainly not at Playoff level yet, they are much improved over a year ago. Based on what I have seen to date, it would not surprise me to see the Bears win eight or perhaps nine games.
What impresses me the most is how disciplined this team is. For the game, the Bears committed only three penalties, while the playoff-experienced 49ers had an even dozen. This wasn't a freak game for Chicago, as they played the preseason with very few penalties. Disciplined football helps teams win!
Once again, the defense will be the strong point of this team. They are physical, play with hustle and determination, and don't make many mistakes. The offense is still a work in progress as several would-be key contributors missed much of the preseason. The defense will keep this team in games in the early part of the season.
It doesn't look like the Bears suffered any serious injuries in the opener. Corner Jaylon Johnson missed a few plays, but that is about it. We will know more tomorrow. With a young team like the Bears, it is essential that key players stay healthy.
Center/guard Lucas Patrick missed most of the preseason with a broken thumb that required surgery. He just returned to practice a week ago. Sunday, he played with a small cast on his right hand yet still played over 25 snaps and performed well, as did Teven Jenkins, who rotated with Patrick. It may still be a few weeks until Patrick can move back to his natural center position. When that happens, it will be interesting to see what happens with Sam Mustipher, who has shown much improvement over a year ago. It's a nice situation for the Bears to have, as it's never a problem to have several good players on the OLine.
Braxton had to start his professional career going up against one of the best defensive ends in the game in Nick Bosa. Sure, Bosa gave Jones some problems early, but the rookie adjusted and more than held his own for the entire game. How Jones lasted until the fifth round is beyond me. He has the natural physical skill-set to be a very good tackle in the League. Having to open vs Bosa was actually a good thing as he will seldom face an edge player that talented the rest of this season. The arrow is pointing up for Jones.
The Passing Game
Playing in heavy rain on a slick field is a nightmare for the passing game. The receivers have trouble making sharp cuts, and both the quarterback and receivers struggle to grip the ball. I have no doubt that the passing game will be much better this week if the weather conditions in Green Bay are good, but the early forecast calls for rain. Maybe the Bears should change their name to the Chicago Mudders!
The Buffalo Bills
No team in the NFL got as much preseason hype as the Buffalo Bills. They got so much that many felt they were overrated. Well, the Bills proved the hype to be correct as they traveled to Los Angeles to play the Rams last Thursday night.
This game was the night the Rams were going to celebrate their Super Bowl victory last February by raising the Championship Banner before the game. The Bills ruined the party as they not only beat the defending champs, but they also outright kicked their ass. The final score was 31 to 10, and the game wasn't nearly as close as the score. The Bills totally dominated.
Teams With New Coaches
No one ever seems to know how well teams with new coaches will perform. This season there are nine clubs with new Head Coaches, and five of those nine have first-time Head Coaches. Lovie Smith in Houston, Doug Pederson with Jacksonville, Josh McDaniels with Las Vegas, and Dennis Allen with New Orleans have previously held Head Coaching positions.
For the most part, the teams played well, as the won-lost record for the weekend was 5 – 3 – 1. The winners were Matt Eberflus with the Bears, Mike McDaniel (Dolphins), Brian Daboll (Giants), Kevin O'Connell (Vikings), and Dennis Alle (New Orleans). Lovie Smith and the Texans tied the Colts in their game while Doug Pederson (Jacksonville), Josh McDaniels (Raiders), and Nathanial Hackett (Denver) all lost.
Most of the clubs with new coaches played well, with the exception of Denver. Denver had several chances to put points on the board and failed because of turnovers and/or poor play calling. The last drive by Denver was horrible. They wasted time and then tried to kick an almost impossible 64-yard field goal to win the game instead of going for a first down on 4th and 5 with plenty of time left. What makes this so puzzling is Denver gave up a huge amount of present and future assets in order to acquire former Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson last spring. They then paid him in the area of $200 million and yet wouldn't let him try and win the game. Totally mind-boggling. Broncos GM George Paton has to be second-guessing himself on the hiring of Hackett. Hackett is not only the Head Coach but also the play-caller. His play calling and clock management leave something to be desired.
The New York Giants
Having spent 17 years with the Giants, I will always have a fondness for the organization. Like the Bears, the Giants have a whole new regime this year led by General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll. I have been a big fan of Daboll's for years because of his work with the Bills Josh Allen the last four years. Daboll was one of the coaches I was hoping the Bears would interview (they did).
Since being in New York, he is trying to change the culture and re-develop former first-round quarterback Daniel Jones. So far, he is succeeding.
Sunday, the Giants came back from a 13 point second-half deficit to win. New York scored a touchdown with little time left on the clock to make the score 20-19 Tennessee. It would have been easy to kick the extra point and tie the game, and hope for the best in overtime. Daboll went for the win by trying and converting a 2-point conversion to take the lead 21-20 and then held on to win. By going for the win, he set the tone for his players and the team's culture. I have no doubt Daboll will be a great Head Coach in this League.
Thomas Graham Situation
When a club tries to sign a player off another club's practice squad, the team holding the player's contract has the opportunity to bring that player up to the 53-man roster. If they choose not to, it makes the decision easy for the player to go to a new club. When signed off another club's practice squad, the player is guaranteed at least three weeks on the new club's roster. That puts him just one game short of being vested for a season in the League. The player would be hurting his career to not take that opportunity.
The new regime in Chicago knows little about Graham. Last year with the Bears, Graham was cut at the 53-man roster cutdown and placed on the practice squad. He did not have a good preseason, and according to sources, the coaches were troubled with his practice/work habits. While on the practice squad, Graham improved his play in practice and was brought up to the 53-man roster for the final four games. He had the opportunity to get significant playtime in two games, starting one. Because of that, many fans were hoping that he would show improvement this year.
During OTA's, Graham's play was inconsistent, and then he got hurt at the beginning of training camp and missed the entire preseason. He was again waived and placed on the practice squad. It should be noted that the other 31 clubs had an opportunity to claim Graham both last year and this year and passed. When Cleveland came calling yesterday, the Bears had the opportunity to promote Graham to the 53 and didn't do it. That says a lot. If the Bears' brain trust felt he was too good of a player to lose, they would have offered him a 53-man contract. Graham may still prove to be a good player, but it's a slim chance. We'll see what happens over the next month in Cleveland.