Week 1 Observations: Peyton Manning, streaming defenses and more

I don’t get paid to watch film, but I do have two eyes, and here are some of my observations on the first week of real football.

(Warning: Some overreaction ahead. Deal with it).

Peyton-Manning1. Seven touchdowns and 49 points later, we can finally stop freaking out about Peyton’s arm.

The 2013 season opened with a bang, as the  Denver Broncos bested the Super Bowl Champions from Baltimore 49-27. Peyton Manning had one of the best games of his NFL career, throwing an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes. Manning also broke and tied a ton of other NFL records, including being one of only two quarterbacks to throw those seven TD passes without throwing an interception, and becoming THE quarterback with the most games with six touchdown passes in NFL history (three). (ESPN stats and information breaks down the rest Peyton’s record evening here). The Broncos also broke a Ravens franchise record, scoring the most points allowed to a Ravens defense in team history.

There was a lot of chatter leading up to Thursday night’s game about the status of Manning’s arm, as the quarterback appeared to lose strength as the 2012 season went on. Manning started off slow – and he definitely threw a few ducks – but he appears to be more than fine. If the Broncos have any concerns about the offense going forward, it should be focused around the running game, which was completely ineffective on Thursday.

The Broncos will be a tough team to deal with offensively – and the Von Miller and Champ Bailey-less defense looked surprisingly good –  but let’s not name the Super Bowl Champions yet. (Also, I wouldn’t expect the Ravens defense to be this ineffective going forward. The offense is a different story. See #5).

2. Fantasy Owners That Stream Defenses Were Handsomely Rewarded -

I know, I know. Not everyone plays fantasy football, but something crazy happened this weekend that I can’t help but point out and use to illustrate a larger point.

The top scoring fantasy defenses in ESPN standard leagues were as follows:

Chiefs -23, Cowboys – 21,  Dolphins – 17, Titans – 15, Jets – 12, Bills -11, Lions -11.

The ADP for those defenses was 170, 141,7, 141.7, 170, 170, 170, and 170 respectively. The Titans, Bills and Jets were less that 1% owned as of Monday morning.

Streaming defenses is a strategy that is growing in popularity, and the numbers above are the reason why. Why waste an 8th, 9th, 10th round pick on the Seattle and San Francisco defenses (that’s where they were going according to the ADP data) when you could wait until the last or second to last round and play matchups?

Of course, it IS possible that the top defenses could get you more total points over the course of the season – and that’s a fair counter argument to this strategy – but in a head to head league, I would rather play matchups week to week in exchange for the skill player/sleeper I was able to draft in a mid round.

(If you’re looking for a good defense to pick up this week, consider Carolina and Detroit).

3. Turns out Chip Kelly’s offense DOES work in the NFL.

The Chip Kelly-led Eagles handed the Washington Redskins a 33-27 loss on Monday night, racking up 446 yards of offense on 77 plays (53 in the first half, the most in the NFL since 1998).

Kelly’s offense ran offensive schemes similar to that at Oregon, featuring a spread offense (and a running game that accumulated 263 yards!) operating at a frenzied pace that left Washington’s defense off balance, exposed and unable to make the appropriate substitutions. No doubt the offense will continue to be incredibly effective, but now the question is whether or not the Eagles can sustain this pace for an entire season (and Vick can sustain the hits, as more plays means more hits), and how the defense (who also are undergoing a scheme and personnel change) will perform down the stretch.

4. While the New York local and mainstream media were busy frying the Jets, they forgot to look around and take notice of all the problems with the Giants.

The Giants had SIX turnovers on Sunday night, the most by a Giants team in 25 years and tied for most turnovers under Tom Coughlin, leaving many to conclude that the Cowboys didn’t win Sunday night’s game, the Giants lost it.

I watched several Giants games in the preseason and was struck by how sloppy they looked. While it’s never good to make too much of the preseason, seeing it continue into the regular season is concerning.

Eli (minus the fourth quarter) looks a little shaky, David Wilson can’t hold on to the football (and the Giants are working out potential reinforcements), the offensive line is brutal, and the defensive line is riddled with a host of issues (Linebackers, secondary for starters).

You’ll hardly hear an unkind thing said about Tom Coughlin and his Giants unless they don’t make the playoffs, but perhaps a brighter spotlight should be put on the GMen’s troubles.

5. Ya think the Ravens miss Anquan Boldin?

Anquan Boldin had a monster game on Sunday, racking up 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown, quieting any concerns people (and perhaps the Ravens) had about how much juice he had left in the tank.

Boldin helped quarterback Colin Kaepernick throw for 397 passing yds, the most ever by a 49er on opening day. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco struggled to connect with his receivers (and some of his receivers hands failed to connect with the ball), particularly on short throws to the middle of the field. Flacco completing 20 of 31 attempts for 212 yards between the line of scrimmage and 10 yards downfield, where Boldin (and his bestie Dennis Pitta) used to occupy the field. Both interceptions were also on short passes.

The Ravens traded Boldin to San Fran to save $2 million dollars. Hardly seems worth the savings now.



6. Blaine Gabbert is just not very good.

Gabbert was 15-for-35 for 121 yards and two interceptions in the Jags opener on Sunday, one of the worst statistical games for a QB in recent NFL history. Gabbert’s QBR was 1.2 (out of 100) and he threw an average of 3.46 yards per attempt (the seventh lowest in an NFL game since 1960).

Granted, Gabbert was dealing with a thumb injury (he also sliced his finger and had to get 15 stitches), his offensive line is bad, and he doesn’t have a ton of skill players around him, but it’s hard to imagine he will be able to win back the starting job back from Chad Henne once he returns from his hand injury. (For now, the Jags are publicly expressing concerns about further damage to Gabbert’s hand, but it may be a convenient excuse to keep him on the bench. Also see: The Jets and Mark Sanchez).

*Cue the Tebow to the Jags comments*

Kristine Reese if the NFL editor for Aerys Sports. You can follow her on Twitter @KristineReese.

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