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Shutdown Corner

Almost everyone was on upset alert in Week 1, Steelers and Buccaneers don’t survive it

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

Some things in Week 1 don't surprise us. Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert remains the worst quarterback in the NFL. Nobody was shocked by that, for example.

But Sunday was a day for crazy upsets and near-upsets, reminding us that sometimes we don't know as much as we think going into the opening week.

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As the early set of games were nearing their end, the Titans were beating the Steelers, the Bills were beating the Patriots, the Raiders were beating the Colts and even the lowly Jets were hanging in against the Buccaneers behind rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Good luck finding anyone who picked all four of those upsets.

Those who picked the Colts or Patriots in their survivor pools survived Week 1, as those two teams pulled dramatic, late wins. Anyone who picked the Steelers? Better luck next year, because Pittsburgh couldn't rally at home. And if you had the Buccaneers, you might never get over the crushing way they snatched a loss from the jaws of victory against the Jets.

The zaniest ending happened in New York. The Buccaneers took a lead on a long drive in the final minute, and the game looked over. In the Jets' final gasp, Smith went on a run near the sideline that would at least set up a Hail Mary from midfield with seven seconds left. But Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, in a moment he'd like to have back, shoved Smith as he was going out of bounds for no reason. David was given a 15-yard penalty, and that set up a 48-yard field goal, which Nick Folk drilled to give the Jets an incredible comeback 18-17 win.

The most surprising near-upset came in Indianapolis. The Raiders, widely considered the front-runner to end up with the first pick of next year's draft, played at a Colts team that was in the playoffs last season. And behind Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor's amazing game, the Raiders had a great chance for the upset. With the Raiders trailing 21-17, Pryor completed a fourth-down pass just after the two-minute warning to the Colts' 8-yard line. Then he made a huge mistake, taking a 16-yard sack, two plays later he threw an interception, and Indianapolis (barely) held on.

The Steelers weren't as lucky.

The Steelers were up 2-0 after the opening kickoff, because of a blunder in which Tennessee fielded the kickoff in play, backed up and took a knee in the end zone for a safety. And then the Steelers didn't score again until 1:23 remained in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh's running game was awful, the passing game without Mike Wallace and Heath Miller was about as bad, and the Titans scored a huge 16-9 upset to start the season.

Stephen Gostkowski saved the Patriots from a bad loss. Despite the best effort of rookie Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel in his debut, Tom Brady calmly moved the Patriots down the field to set up Gostkowski's game-winning field goal with five seconds left to give New England a 23-21 win. Not many people expected the Bills, who were 9.5-point underdogs, to even keep it as close as they did.

Even though not all of the upsets came to pass, Week 1 showed we might need to readjust what we think about quite a few teams around the NFL. Chalk one up for parity. It might not be so safe to pick against the Raiders every week in your survivor pool, after all. Maybe just start picking against the Steelers or Lavonte David instead.

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