By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
Each Monday, CBS Boston Sports goes around the AFC with news, notes, and reactions to the Patriots’ competition in the conference.
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots didn’t look ready to go for most of their season-opening loss to the Chiefs. But on the bright side, neither did the rest of the AFC.
The Patriots’ competition around the conference piled on the slop in Sunday’s Week 1 action, launching the 2017 season with a sputtering series of mostly ugly football games. For the Patriots, it’s strangely encouraging that some of the teams that were supposed to stand in their way looked like they’ll need some time to find their own ways.
If the NFL wants to have better-looking football on the first Sunday of the year, it will need to loosen training camp practice restrictions. All they have done is spill the pile of slop over into the regular season, and fans across the country could smell it. So on that note, let’s dive right in there!
– The Steelers barely beat the Browns. If not for an early blocked punt that led to a touchdown, the Steelers may have been stunned by the Browns in their own season opener. Scoring just 14 points on offense, Ben Roethlisberger was merely adequate pushing the ball down the field for the Steelers, throwing for just 263 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Besides tight end Jesse James, who caught both scores, the only Steeler to really show up on offense was Antonio Brown (11 catches for 182 yards). Le’Veon Bell looked sluggish in his season debut after missing most of training camp and the preseason. They did escape with the win, but Steelers fans can’t feel too great about it.
– The Texans looked lost against the Jaguars, of all teams. To be fair, the Jags defense has some serious talent and they may not be horrendous on that side of the ball. But that doesn’t excuse the Texans offense, which looked utterly inept regardless of who was at quarterback.
Thanks to some confident running by rookie back Leonard Fournette and a 53-yard scoop ‘n’ score by dynamic pass rusher Dante Fowler, the Jaguars jumped out to a shocking 19-0 lead on the road at NRG Stadium. The Texans mercifully pulled quarterback Tom Savage after throwing for just 62 yards and taking six – six! – sacks from the Jags in the first half alone. Rookie Deshaun Watson gave them a brief spark with a DeAndre Hopkins touchdown, but he wasn’t much better. The damage was done, and the Texans started their season in just as bad of a predicament as the Patriots – if not worse.
– The Bills and Jets mucked it up in the first “TankBowl” of the season. Neither of the New York teams are close to real contenders for the Patriots’ AFC East crown. In fact, they both might be trying to lose as much as possible. It’s almost shocking that they didn’t play to a tie.
But, funnily enough, the Bills wake up on Monday alone in first place in the division thanks to the Patriots’ loss. It wasn’t necessarily reflected in how they performed on the field. This play in particular was perhaps the Bills-iest and Jets-iest thing you’ll ever see: an end zone interception, followed by a Jet tackling his own teammate, followed by a fight. And flags. Lots of flags.
– Are the Ravens back or are the Bengals just that bad? After going 13-19 in the past two seasons, perhaps the Ravens are ready to re-assume their regularly scheduled role of Thorn In The Patriots’ Side. The defense, in particular, dominated against the Bengals’ talented offense, allowing just 221 total yards. Good young talents like C.J. Mosley and Brandon Williams are rounding into form, while newcomers like cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Tony Jefferson appear to be paying off.
Still … it almost felt like Andy Dalton was trying to stink as badly as he did on Sunday. The Bengals quarterback threw four picks, took five sacks, and lost a fumble, en route to an I-didn’t-know-it-could-be-that-bad 28.4 passer rating. So it’s hard to tell how much of the Ravens’ defensive performance can be attributed to their own play. But it’s much easier to tell that Dalton and Marvin Lewis won’t be leading the Bengals to Minneapolis this year.
– The Raiders and Titans win the award for least hideous game of the day. Derek Carr was solid, if unspectacular, in throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions against a talented Titans D. The most intriguing development for the Raiders may have been the play of Marshawn Lynch. His numbers (76 yards on 18 carries) don’t jump off the stat sheet but “Beast Mode” passed the proverbial eye test, showing the same kind of heavy downhill momentum that makes him so hard to tackle.
BONUS: Another fascinating development from the Raiders-Titans game … Tony Romo might not be terrible as an analyst?
On the injury front …
Texans pass-rushing extraordinaire J.J. Watt injured his finger – he claims the bone busted through his skin – but he was able to return to the game after taping up … The Steelers fear that defensive end Stephon Tuitt tore his biceps on Sunday, which would end his season. Tuitt just signed a five-year, $61 million extension on Saturday … Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson tore his ACL while making his very first catch of the season … Ravens running back Danny Woodhead got carted off the field and could miss extended time with a potentially serious hamstring injury … Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was one of five Texans players who suffered concussions against the Jaguars.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.