Technically, Week 1 of the 2013 NFL Season isn’t in the books just yet, as the Eagles, Redskins, Texans, and Chargers will kick off their seasons tonight on Monday Night Football. However, we’ve definitely seen enough action thus far to start analyzing and evaluating and—depending on your allegiances—getting your hopes up or down. So today, before tonight’s double-header on ESPN, we’re going to take a look back at some of the things we’ve seen so far that we just did not expect.
As always, when you’re done reading, let us know what you think.
Last year the Saints had to do without head coach Sean Payton for the entire year after that whole bounty-gate thing, and while Drew Brees was pretty much his usual self (leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns), the rest of the team struggled. They finished with a 7-9 record and, obviously, did not make the playoffs.
This year Payton is back. Are we expecting better things from the Saints? Absolutely. But we didn't expect them to revert to pre-bounty-gate form immediately—especially not against the Atlanta Falcons, who were the runners-up in the NFC last year.
That's exactly what happened, though. The Saints defense stifled the Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense, and Drew Brees threw for his usual 357 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-17 New Orleans victory.
11. Saints Revert to Form
Is 93 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns good? Of course it is. And that's what Adrian Peterson did yesterday in a losing effort against the Lions. Nevertheless, that constitutes a relatively slow start for the NFL's reigning rushing champion. Last year Peterson fell eight yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record with 2,097 total yards, which comes out to 131 rushing yards per game. So 93 yards? Yeah, that was a little surprising.
10. Peterson Held to Less than 100
Normally near upsets don't really count as big surprises. But when it's the Bills versus the Pats we're talking about it definitely counts. After all, the Bills have averaged just 5.8 wins a season over the last five years, have beat the Pats just once since 2003, and have rookie EJ Manel as their starting quarterback.
Yesterday, however, Manuel played surprisingly well. He went 18 for 27 passing, with 150 yards, two touchdowns, and a 105.5 passer rating. This surprisingly strong debut gave the Bills the lead heading into the fourth quarter, and only a trademark Tom Brady comeback and last-minute field goal by Steve Gostowski saved the day for the Pats.
9. Bills Almost Beat Pats
A turnover decides the Giants-Cowboys game? That's gotta be Romo, right?
Wrong. Tony Romo was 36/49 yesterday with two touchdowns and only one pick. It was Eli Manning who was the goat. The two-time Super Bowl MVP threw for a whopping 450 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions—including a pick six late in the fourth quarter that iced the game for the Cowboys.
That's not what you expected, was it?
8. Giants-Cowboys Game Decided by Turnover...from Eli Manning?
We all know that Colin Kaepernick has a great arm. However, he's still considered almost as much of a running threat as he is a passing threat. Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, is a traditional drop-back QB...and, you know, probably the most accurate passer in the game today.
However, in yesterday's Niners-Packers game, it was actually Kaepernick who was the best pure passer. The guy ran for only 22 yards, but he threw for a whopping 412—with three touchdowns and no interceptions. That's good for a one-game QB rating of 129.4, which easily beats Rodgers' rating of 102.6.
7. Kaepernick Out-Passed Rodgers
And while the NFL's most dangerous mobile quarterback was busy doing his Aaron Rodgers impression out in San Francisco, one of the NFL's best old-school passers was busy winning his game with his feet.
I am talking, of course, about Andrew Luck. By no means did the guy put on a rushing clinic yesterday against the Raiders, but he did rush for more yards (38) than Kaepernick and score a rushing touchdown that turned out to be the game winner.
6. Andrew Luck Wins Game...with Rushing Touchdown?
Meanwhile, back out on the West Coast again, one of the NFL's other top mobile quarterbacks was dominating in the air. The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson, who ran for 489 yards last year, had just seven rushing yards yesterday against the Panthers. However, he did throw for 320 and score a passer rating of 115.7.
Now, everyone knows that passing has supplanted rushing as the dominant strategy in the NFL. However, over the last couple of years, old-fashioned guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady have become more rare while teams have gone to more mobile, versatile guys like RG3, Kaepernick, and Wilson. So the fact that Week 1 featured so much old-fashioned passing offense (10 guys with at least 300 yards, and three with at least 400) and so few big rushing performances from QBs is surprising.
Of course, there was one huge rushing performance from a QB...
5. Passing Dominates
And then there was Terrelle Pryor. The former Ohio State star who basically got kicked out of college football for signing autographs for money was the Raiders' backup for Carson Palmer this year. However, when Palmer got traded to the Cardinals, Pryor became their presumed starter.
What did we expect from Pryor? Well, I think we expected that he would maybe be okay and show some promise. I do not think we expected him to be the NFL's leading rusher after Week 1.
That's what Pryor is, though—the NFL's leading rusher. He lit up the Colts for 112 yards yesterday, which puts him ahead of Shane Vereen, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, and DeAngelo Williams on the rushing yards leaderboard.
4. Terrelle Pryor Is the Best Rushing QB in the NFL?
Peyton Manning and the Broncos beating the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens? Sure, why not. After all, the Broncos were a Super Bowl favorite last year, they had all their important players return, and the Ravens lost a few.
But a Broncos blowout of the Ravens featuring seven touchdown passes from Manning, tying an NFL record? No. I don't think we expected that.
3. Broncos Blowing Out Ravens
The bad news for the defending Super Bowl Champs? They got off to a rough start in 2013 and will have to make some major adjustments if they're going to get back to the playoffs.
The good news? The rest of their division sucked, too. The Bengals lost to Jay Cutler and the Bears, the Browns lost to the Little Sisters of the Poor (okay fine, it was the Dolphins), and the Steelers lost to the Titans.
Now, I'm not saying anyone expected the AFC to be a powerhouse or anything. But I must say the fact that there is a four-way tie for first last place with four 0-1 records is a pretty weird.
2. Suckitude of the AFC North
Wait, let me get this straight. The Super Bowl Champions got obliterated on opening night, but the hapless New York Jets won behind rookie QB Geno Smith and his 303 total yards (256 passing, 47 rushing), one touchdown, one interception, and 80.6 passer rating?
Yes, the Buccaneers were a total disaster. But come on. Jets + Rex Ryan + Rookie QB is not supposed to equal a Week 1 victory.
I love it.