Commentary

What to make of knee-jerk reactions

Mailbag: Can Philadelphia pull it together? Is Seattle making a mistake at QB?

Originally Published: September 12, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Everyone tends to overreact to the opening games of a season.

A loss tends to bring out too much criticism. A win tends to spark more optimism. Go back a year ago. After the Steelers lost 35-7 to Baltimore in the season opener, the knee-jerk reaction was that age caught up to the Steelers' defense. By season's end, the Steelers had the league's top-ranked defense.

Here are seven knee-jerk reactions from NFL Week 1

1. The Bills blew it by giving $100 million to Mario Williams: The Bills' 48-28 loss to the Jets was ugly. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions. Williams and defensive end Mark Anderson had no impact and the Bills had no pass rush. Although it's more troubling that the Bills' offense lost halfback Fred Jackson and WR David Nelson in that game, it's too early to bury the Bills and criticize them for Williams' contract. Sacks often come when a team has the lead. The Bills were on the road and getting blown out. They do need to bounce back against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 to stop the panic.

2. The Chiefs can't play D: Matt Ryan breezed through the Chiefs' defense with ease for eight scores in eight possessions. Of course, the Chiefs were missing cornerback Brandon Flowers, linebacker Tamba Hali, nose tackle Anthony Toribio and safety Kendrick Lewis. Plus, they had three key starters coming off knee reconstructions. The concern for the Chiefs is the early part of the schedule. They travel to Buffalo and New Orleans, host Baltimore and travel to Tampa Bay in the next few weeks. They could be in for a bad start, but they should get better by the second half of the season.

3. The Pack isn't back: No doubt, the 49ers looked like the better team at Lambeau Field on Sunday. They were more physical on offense and defense. The Packers' running game was missing. Face it, the defense is a work in progress. Too many rookies are taking over too many key spots. But the team still has Aaron Rodgers and an easy schedule. Mike McCarthy knew an opener against the 49ers and a Thursday night game against the Bears were going to be tough.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez eased a lot of concerns in Week 1. Will the Jets' offensive success continue?

4. The Jets' offense has arrived: Mark Sanchez had his way against the Bills. Receivers Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley had nice games. The only thing that didn't work offensively was Tim Tebow in the Wildcat. Going from no touchdown drives by Sanchez and Tebow in the preseason to 48 points is quite a jump. It's true the Jets' defense looks better than it did last year. Let's see how the Jets do offensively against the Steelers in Week 2.

5. Cam Newton is heading for a sophomore slump and the Panthers are doomed: The Panthers didn't show up physically against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, and the Bucs came out hitting. The offensive line didn't open holes for the backs. Newton still threw for 303 yards. It was just a bad game.

6. Once again, the Dream Team is a nightmare: Michael Vick threw four interceptions. The Eagles had six holding penalties. Fortunately for Andy Reid, Vick engineered the game-winning drive to pull out a 17-16 victory over the Browns. After suffering some early preseason injuries, Vick was shut down. He was rusty. He forced things. Plus, the penalties put the offense in too many long-yardage situations. The Ravens will be a big challenge, but the Eagles should play better this week.

7. The Browns need to bench Brandon Weeden: A 5.1 rating could get a quarterback on the sidelines quickly. But Weeden is working with one of the least-experienced supporting casts in the league. Greg Little needs to stop dropping passes. Trent Richardson was rusty after missing time with a knee injury, rushing for 39 yards on 19 carries. The Browns knew going this young was going to cause problems. At least they gave the Eagles a competitive game.

From the inbox

Q: After watching the Eagles take on the Browns, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles in a lot of close tilts throughout the season. The Eagles' defense is really good with DeMeco Ryans in the middle and those corners playing man on the outside. However, the O-line is a disaster. Michael Vick is going to get hit a lot this year, which will lead to many more turnovers.

Kovacs in Dallas

A: That could be true, but Reid will work with him to make sure he protects the ball. The Eagles have a very good team. They have great weapons on offense. Their defense is very good. Vick is a great leader and a great talent. He probably won't be able to start 16 games due of injuries. Thirteen games with Vick should still be enough to get the Eagles to the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireThe Seahawks are asking a lot of Russell Wilson, whose supporting cast remains unsettled.

Q: I am seriously concerned with Seattle making a rookie QB the starter. If the Seahawks were in full rebuilding mode, fine. But they want to get to the playoffs and they have a very difficult schedule to start the season.

DJP in Tacoma, Wash.

A: You echo the concerns I have. In the opener, Russell Wilson did well. He made a couple of nice passes at the end of the game, but only so much can be asked of a rookie. My concern is that the Seahawks have to sort out what they have at wide receiver. They have to get the offensive line in order. They have to get more out of tight end Zach Miller. Throwing a rookie quarterback into the mix with a tough early schedule could lead to a bad start.

Q: I heard you mention on radio that the Redskins set up RG3 with easy passes and good play calling in general to get him rolling. Yet the Seahawks, unless I am wrong, didn't do that with Russell Wilson. What are your thoughts on Seattle's lack of screens and other high-percentage passes?

Don in Mountlake, Wash.

A: Because the Redskins had a whole training camp to work on things for Robert Griffin III, they incorporated some of the bubble screens that he used in college. That was smart. It allowed him to start out with five or six easy completions, and it fit his style of play. My guess is with three quarterbacks sharing time completing for the starting job, the Seahawks couldn't put in everything for Wilson. My concern about starting Wilson was he entered the regular season with less time working with the first-team offense than any other quarterback in the league. Wilson may have had 10 to 12 practices in training camp with the first-team offense. Plus, the receivers were hurt most of camp. The Seahawks did use a simpler offense for Wilson. Over the next few weeks, they will add wrinkles. At least Wilson showed he could move a team in the fourth quarter.

Q: The way Peyton Manning ran practices in Indy is one of the greatest things about him. Does Andrew Luck run practices like that?

Jay in Huntington, Ind.

A: Luck can't match Manning in that area. Luck is a little more laid back. Manning is a perfectionist, a general. Luck is one of the guys. Regardless, it works well for both. Luck is going to be a great one. He showed that in his first start.

Q: I get aggravated watching the Cowboys' huddle/pre-snap duration because it usually runs down to the last five to four seconds of the play clock. I find this gives an advantage to the defense in terms of giving it more time to rest and line up.

Kyle in Melfa, Va.

A: Most quarterbacks do the same thing. If you are referring to the opener, Tony Romo was making several audibles at the line of scrimmage. You saw that when he would start yelling, "Kill, kill, kill.'' The problem isn't Romo or the offense. Both are fine. The Cowboys had to fill the center position with Ryan Cook, who just came over a few days before in a trade with the Dolphins. They had two new guards. Plus, it's noisy on the road. That's why there were so many false starts. Plus, Romo and the Cowboys won. I don't see a problem.

Q: Why can't the NFL start the season on Labor Day? There were some good college games on Saturday and it would seem the NFL could build on this excitement and have games on Sunday.

Doug in Cleveland

A: Maybe it's old-style thinking, but the NFL believes families still like to use that Labor Day weekend for vacations. The league's feeling for years is that it's harder to sell tickets for all stadiums before Labor Day. It's been the league's tradition to start after Labor Day. That would be the same thinking if the schedule expands to 18 games. Whether the league is right or wrong, it works for the NFL, so I don't see the league changing the plan.

Q: I like how the NFL has matched divisional opponents against each other in Week 17 the past few years. What I would like to see is Weeks 1-3 and 15-17 be designated as divisional games. Having teams play their divisional games early and later I think will put more emphasis on hard-fought games that mean more. Do you agree?

Michael in Council Bluffs, Iowa

A: Not totally. I'd get concerned about weaker schedules in the middle of the season. There are some weeks in October where the schedule -- weakened by the byes -- don't have a lot of great games. Divisional games tend to be closer than nondivisional games. If divisional races are wrapped up early, then some of the Week 17 games tend to get lost in the shuffle.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer