WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL WEEK ONE PART 1
BY ADAM GREENE
Each week the NFL landscape alters a bit as we see teams we thought would be powers struggle and teams we thought would be basement dwellers rise to the occasion. It’s always easy to overreact, especially after Week One and even more so after the weirdest offseason of our lifetimes.
Still, there were lessons to be learned. Here are a few I’ve picked out.
THE DEMISE OF THE LOS ANGELES RAMS WAS GREATLY EXAGGERATED
This was less of a secret over the last month than it appeared to be over most of the offseason. There was much handwringing about Sean McVay and his team, minus Todd Gurley, and their chances to not only be good, but be a playoff team after last year’s 9-7 finish. HBO’s Hard Knocks seemed to flip a lot of that, as we were all reminded that this is an elite coaching staff and a team full of good to great players, including two of the best in the league; Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
As Hard Knocks rolled on, the predictions for the Rams improved, with plenty of pundits moving up from their previous disaster declarations to put the team, at the very least, at Wild Card status. I, of course, have been telling you not to sleep on them for months.
If there were any lingerers in the “Rams will be bad” camp, Sunday night chased them out for good. The team’s only weakness on display was a red zone offense, which considering this was their first live action against another squad, will be a solvable problem.
Jard Goff, much maligned from his performance last year, was sharp and dealing. His only pick came from Aldon Smith hitting him as he threw the ball and it should have been called back on a personal foul.
WITH NO FANS, THERE IS NO HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
And we’re going to have to factor that into our picks as we go forward. Only one team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, had fans in the stands Sunday and even that was a smattering. I’m sure the fake crowd noise at every other stadium was just as effective. And, in writing that, I mean ineffective.
It showed up in every game, this lack of fan noise and fire, but none more than the Green Bay Packers 43-34 beat down of the Minnesota Vikings, that was not that close. Most of Minnesota’s points came in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over. When picking that game, I went with the old standbye that the Vikings are tough to beat at US Bank Stadium. But that’s because of the fans, the full-throated Skol people. They weren’t there and the Vikings were barely in the building themselves for three quarters.
Before Sunday, Minnesota was 3-1 against the Packers at US Bank Stadium. All were tight games in which a raucous crowd, communication problems and the tide of emotion can make a real difference.
Teams that depend on their fans to make a real impact on the outcome of their games could be in for some rude awakenings, and shocking final scores this year.
To be continued in Part 2