September 7, 2003: Buffalo 31 New England Patriots 0. Much as that score brings a smile to the face of every Bills fan, it served as a stark reminder to bettors that we should not put too much faith in Week 1 results.
The Patriots went on to have one of their best seasons in franchise history, a 14-2 victory parade ending with a win in the Super Bowl. Buffalo went 6-10, New England avenging the loss and bookending the Bills’ season rather neatly as they inflicted a 31-0 defeat upon them in Foxboro.
Yet some things are hard to get away from when reflecting on last weekend’s season-opening games. For instance, Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions appear to be heading in different directions.
Kansas City were thumped 41-7 at home by Buffalo last week, a team who had posted an unprepossessing 4-12 record in 2010. Detroit won 27-20 on the road in Tampa.
Chiefs’ Matt Cassel completed 22 of 36 passes for just 199 yards, throwing an interception and a touchdown. To make matters worse, their star safety Eric Berry was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.
Expect a few more abject displays from the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s weak schedule in 2010 masked some serious flaws, namely their ability to pass the ball efficiently. Last week Matt Cassel averaged a terrible 3.3 yards per pass, completing 22 of 36 attempts for just 119 yards.
Detroit knocked off the Bucs (a 10-6 team in 2010) and their defence held Tampa’s emerging star quarterback Josh Freeman to a passer rating of just 71.8 (he was one of the best passers in the NFL last year).
The Lions are heavy favourites to beat the Chiefs at home on Sunday night and the visitors may find scoring tough against this rapidly improving Lions defence.
There looks to be only one way to go with this game. While it might not be a Motown classic, I predict a riot… with the Chiefs on the receiving end.
It is rare that NFL handicap lines surprise you.
Finding out that the Cleveland Browns are favourites to win in Indianapolis this week was almost as disturbing as your mother telling you that “your sister is a lesbian”, only for your father to wink at you and say: “Oh no she isn’t!”
After all, this is the same Cleveland team that seven days ago lost their opener by double digits at home… to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Even those of us who can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a quarter-pounder with cheese know that the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning is like watching a Benny Hill intro, only with more laughter.
The Colts managed just 15 first downs against a usually awful Houston defence and Manning’s stand-in, Kerry Collins, threw for just 197 yards and lost two fumbles which led to two Houston touchdowns.
Manning’s neck injury will sideline him until late November, according to the team’s doctors. Those of us with more than half a brain know that you’d have to be superman to overcome cervical fusion surgery that quickly. Manning won’t play again this season. Take that as read.
But does that mean the Colts should just roll over each week in the dame gutless fashion they did in Houston?
Remember, they lost in Houston last year when Manning played.
They are not facing Houston this week. This is the Cleveland Browns, led by a quarterback who completed just 47.5 per cent of his passes in a home loss to Cincinnati. The Browns managed just 17 points against a defence that was desperate last year.
How can the Browns be 1.5-point favourites on the road. The last time we looked, the Colts still had some pretty good players. The Colts were humiliated last week and this prideful bunch will hopefully show that Manning isn’t a one-man army.
Taking teams to overcome double-digit handicaps is not usually a sensible strategy, especially where the New York Jets are concerned. They often play down to the level of the opponent.
But there are grounds for thinking that the Jacksonville Jaguars might struggle to keep it close in the Big Apple on Sunday.
Forget for a moment that Luke McCown is a second-rate quarterback who has enjoyed little more than a cup of coffee in the NFL.
Look at the opposing defence, who were lit up by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Jets were incredibly fortunate to survive in their opener, let alone come out with a victory.
Think their pass defence won’t tighten up this week? They are facing McCown, who had not had a start since 2007 until he played against Tennessee last week.
Unless Maurice Jones-Drew has another monster day running the ball, the Jaguars will be hard pressed to keep things interesting. It’s tough to see how they will move the ball.
NY Jets -10