The Baker's Dozen: Fitzmagic, Browns' tie, and more takes from Week 1

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Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season is finally in the books, and boy was it a wild one. We saw some awesome things (the Saints lost!) and some less-than-awesome things (that Falcons performance was utterly forgettable). Even though it’s only Week 1—and I really should caution you not to read too much into what has happened thus far—there were plenty of interesting developments that are worth monitoring.

That’s why I’m bringing you the inaugural edition of my new weekly column: The Baker’s Dozen. I’ll be rounding up all the biggest and best storylines from every week of NFL action, and delivering them to you in the the form of hot and fresh takes. Check back every Tuesday for the latest edition. But for now, let’s overreact to Week 1!


FITZMAGIC IS BACK, BABY

Maybe the Bucs won’t be as bad as we all think? Maybe Fitzpatrick is the future at QB for Tampa Bay, not Jameis Winston?

Yeah, the answer to both of those questions is probably no. Week 1 is weird. The Bucs legitimately have the talent at WR and TE to be a high-level offense, but they just can’t seem to ever get out of their own way. So while we appreciate Tampa’s ability to hand the Saints a home divisional loss, I don’t think this game is representative of the Bucs in 2018. Don’t forget, the Bucs’ defense allowed 40 points and a heap of yards, too.

The Saints defense looks like a trainwreck once again

If we’re talking about how surprising the Bucs’ offense was, we have to talk about how abysmal the Saints’ defense looked. The pass rush was virtually nonexistent. Lattimore and the entire secondary struggled mightily. Predictably, the LBs were bad. The Saints exploded in 2017 on the back of a crazy strong rookie class—that class might be coming back to earth a bit in 2018.

The only proven pass rusher on the Saints right now is Cameron JordanAlex Okafor is coming off a serious injury, and Marcus Davenport (the guy they spent two firsts on) has been a ghost thus far. We’ll see if there’s any improvement as the season goes on.

Andrew Luck is back, and looks good

One of the best stories in the NFL this season is Andrew Luck returning from injury. He’s a fun QB, and he alone makes any games involving the Colts watchable. Luck couldn’t quite lift the Colts over the Bengals on Sunday—Indianapolis still has one of the worst rosters in the NFL—but his performance was very encouraging. He made some nice plays and spread the ball around effectively. Can he ever be the Andrew Luck of old again? Only time will tell.

There was a ton of hype surrounding the 49ers this offseason. Many had them pegged as a wild card favorite, with others going even further and declaring them one of the premier offenses in the NFL just waiting to arrive. They could very well end up a wild card team when it’s all said and done, but they looked quite mediocre against a quality defense in the Vikings.

The offense scored less than 20 points and Garoppolo looked like a mortal man after finishing 2017 on a ridiculous pace. I’m very interested to see how the team responds, but it’s clear that the defense is still a work in progress.

The Bills are awful

They consciously decided to start Nathan Peterman—the architect of that 5 INT half in 2017. No other comment needed, although they did also lose 47-3.

The Texans might have been anointed too soon

Deshaun Watson was incredible in 2017, but almost anyone could’ve told you that he was unlikely to repeat that feat in 2018. That didn’t stop people from anointing the Texans as one of the AFC’s best, with Houston even tying Jacksonville in Super Bowl odds at one point during the offseason.

That was ridiculous, which means this Week 1 result shouldn’t surprise anyone. New England controlled the game early with the Texans rallying late, but Houston still has a lot of work to do before they should be considered an AFC contender.

The Browns ended their losing streak in the most Browns way possible

Well, at least they aren’t going 0-16 in 2018. The Browns ended their ridiculously long losing streak with a 21-21 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland had a chance to win the game in overtime with a relatively short field goal, but it was blocked with only seconds left in the game. There was no other way this could have ended, I suppose.

At any rate, the Browns are clearly more talented than they’ve been in years past. Tyrod Taylor is a quality option at QB, and they have the makings of a serviceable defense at worst.

It’s only Week 1, of course, but the Chiefs look like they won’t miss a beat in their transition from Alex Smith—who put together an MVP-caliber season in 2017—to second-year QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes and WR/human joystick Tyreek Hill seem to have an instant connection, and the rest of the offense is loaded with weapons. There are going to be some ups and downs with Mahomes this year, but it’s going to be exciting to watch. Particularly with the state of their defense, which could be in contention for the worst in the NFL in 2018.

The Chargers should be better than this

Yes, Joey Bosa was out, but the Chargers’ defense was supposed to be one of the NFL’s premier units. Maybe it’s just Week 1 against what could be a great offense, but Los Angeles struggled all day on the defensive side. Even strong games from the Chargers’ offensive stars—players like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen—weren’t enough to overcome those defensive issues.

Adrian Peterson has found the fountain of youth, also the Cardinals are bad

For a guy that was a street free agent as of a few weeks ago, Adrian Peterson looks like one of the NFL’s premier RBs again. His game isn’t perfectly adapted to the NFL anymore, but when paired with an electric receiver like Chris Thompson, it’s an ideal one-two punch. In other news, the Cardinals look like one of the weakest teams in the league. That was pretty easy to predict based on their roster, but it seems clear that any excitement surrounding Sam Bradford has all but completely dissipated.

The Panthers may have lost two key offensive starters

Carolina narrowly defeated the Cowboys—who looked pretty darn awful offensively—on Sunday. In doing so, however, they may have lost two of their best offensive players. RT Darryl Williams, one of the few proven players on that offensive line, will need another surgery on his knee and is out “indefinitely”. TE Greg Olsen, who usually operates as the Panthers’ de facto #1 receiver, re-broke the foot he injured last year and will miss “a significant chunk of time”. That’s going to be hard to overcome for a team that was already having significant issues on offense.

Green Bay saw their season flash before their eyes, and still managed a miraculous comeback

For awhile, it looked as if Chicago was about to do something incredible. The Bears were up 20-0 over the Packers at one point during Sunday night’s game, and Aaron Rodgers had left the field with a knee injury. Rodgers managed to return after halftime, however, and by then the Bears had simply run out of tricks. Green Bay completed a masterful comeback captained by a one-legged Rodgers, which had to be devastating for Bears’ fans. Still, Chicago should be legitimately excited about Khalil Mack and what appears to be a very good defense.

The Jets scored 48 (!!) points on the Lions, who looked dreadful

There were a lot of 40-burgers in Week 1, but none was more surprising than the one dropped on the Lions. OK, maybe the Saints…but we’re biased. Detroit’s defense was always viewed with a bit of suspicion, but the offense was poised to be one of the best in the league—if the running game could ever get off the ground. Well, the defense was pretty awful, but the offense ended up being just as bad. Matthew Stafford had one of his worst performances ever, tossing an incredible 4 INTs in a blowout loss. Matt Patricia has certainly not gotten off to a very positive start in Detroit.


That’s all for this inaugural edition of The Baker’s Dozen. A lot happened this week, but we’ve still got 15 more weeks to go in the 2018 NFL season. What are some interesting things you observed this week? Any takes of your own you’d like to share? Are the Saints back to being trash?

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