Making Sense of the First Week of the NFL

Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books. A lot happened during the preseason, headlined by Andrew Luck's sudden retirement, the Antonio Brown saga, and holdouts by star running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon.

But something that I think was overlooked was the performance of teams who elected to sit their regular starters during preseason games.

Over the years, many NFL players have been injured in the preseason, missing games that actually mattered because they appeared in a game that didn't. This has led several teams and coaches to limit the use of their regular starters or team veterans during these August games so they can be fresh and ready to go when the games start counting.

The adverse affect of this, however, is it gives little-to-no time for offenses to gel, especially when there are new pieces in place.

Take the Cleveland Browns, for instance. One of the darlings of the offseason, many believe this is the year that the Browns make their triumphant return to playoff football and enter contendership for the first time since the heartbreak of the mid-80s. Instead, the fairly unremarkable Tennessee Titans crushed the Browns in Cleveland, spoiling the debut of new head coach Freddie Kitchens and superstar receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.

This offense didn't play a snap of preseason football together and were exposed by a better-than-expected Tennessee bunch. Is that the reason they were destroyed, 43-13? Not entirely. I'd think the Browns started packing it in early in the 4th quarter when the game was still within one possession. But the lack of time the team spent on the field together prior to Week 1 didn't help.

Same can be said for the Chicago Bears. Mitchell Trubisky looked very rusty and the Bears could only muster three points against the Packers. Oh yeah, those same Packers rested their starters for pretty much all of the preseason and only put up 10 points with a healthy Aaron Rodgers.

The point is this: it's easy to overreact to teams with high expectations losing in embarrassing fashion in Week 1. While these teams looked awful and the scoreboard looked even worse, there are more factors at play. I would bet that the Browns struggle for a bit against some solid competition early this season but as the year wears on, they get to play Buffalo, Miami, Arizona, and Cincinnati twice during the second half of the season. They'll be rounded into form by then. The Bears get the Broncos, Redskins, and Raiders over the next month to get themselves going and should be in midseason form by the time their schedule ramps up in difficulty.

Just relax, enjoy the return of football, and keep an eye on how your team is progressing. It's far too early to panic.

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