Welcome to the War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ football minds kick around the big topics of the week. Got a suggestion for a question? Hit us up right here. Today: Week 1 surprises, and the fate of Adrian Peterson. Onward!
Question 1: Which team was the biggest surprise to you, positive or negative, this week?
I have to say Cincinnati was the biggest surprise for me in Week 1. As an Andy Dalton truther, I badly want to believe that there is a slightly above-average quarterback in there somewhere, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday. Dalton played about as bad of a game as humanly possible at home, against a division rival. A.J. Green had as many catches as Dalton had turnovers, that’s how bad it was. Also, after garnering massive hype this preseason, rookie Joe Mixon laid an absolute egg, racking up 24 yards on 11 touches and making fantasy owners regret buying in so heavily so early (I was one). I didn’t expect the Bengals to compete for a Super Bowl but this was an even worse performance than the Jets, and whoever their quarterback is, compiled.
Shalise Manza Young:
Anthony laid out a great case for the Bengals (Andy Dalton was named Class Clown in our first NFL weekly superlatives on Monday), but the Patriots were certainly a surprise. For all the talk about the offense this offseason, other than signing Stephon Gilmore, they didn’t do much to bolster the defense. Then Rob Ninkovich and his versatility, stability and leadership retired, the Kony Ealy trade was a failure, and you had more subtraction than addition. To see New England up 27-21 at the start of the fourth quarter, at home, and give up three fourth-quarter touchdowns, was a shock. I’m not one to throw around that word, because there isn’t a lot left these days, especially in the NFL, that’s shocking. But when you consider that since New England started playing at Gillette Stadium in 2002, the Patriots were 81-0 there when leading at halftime and in home games since 2001, they were 102-1 when leading by 10 points at any point in the game, and it puts into perspective just how surprising their collapse was.
The answer has to be the Patriots, but since Shalise made that case very well, I’ll say it was how bad the Giants offense looked. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, since the Giants’ offense was bad last season too, but the depths to which it sank on Sunday night shocked me. Halfway through the first quarter everyone knew the game was over. That’s how incompetent the Giants offense was. Odell Beckham Jr.’s return will only lift that offense from pathetically awful to “Hey, at least we’re better than the Jets.”
Tennessee was pretty bad. The offensive line couldn’t protect Marcus Mariota, nor could it produce any running lanes for DeMarco Murray. I thought we would see more of Derrick Henry (six carries) as well, and it would behoove Mike Mularkey to get his second-year back more touches. Henry saw in an inexcusably low five carries, which cannot continue if the Titans hope to deliver on the high expectations of this season. In fact, the play-calling as a whole was not good enough, specifically on a third-and-goal sweep to Murray. Additionally, I know Mariota was under pressure, but he seemed to regress within that game. He looked shaky in the pocket, and he missed on too many routine throws. It’s just one game against a very talented Raiders defense, but Mariota has to be much better: Both in terms of his accuracy in the pocket and on the move.
All this negativity! Sure, plenty of teams gagged and stumbled this week, but there were a few highlights, starting with the first game of the season. The Kansas City Chiefs have plenty to be proud of, showing the Patriots what it’s like to blow a big lead. Tyreek Hill fulfilled all the on-field promise we saw last year, and I feel comfortable saying that Kareem Hunt, one game into his NFL career, is the truth. Add to that the gunslinger that’s somehow inhabited Alex Smith’s body, and you’ve got a team that not only will win games, but look like fun while doing so. That’s as big a surprise as I can imagine when it comes to the Chiefs.
Man, what a difference a no-nonsense approach can make. The Jaguars are 1-0 for the first time since 2011, defeating the Texans in convincing style in Houston. Sure there are still obvious issues at quarterback, and losing Allen Robinson to a torn ACL is a major blow. But the Jaguars showed that they can overcome those issues with a ground-and-pound run-first approach led by Leonard Fournette. The Jags ran nearly twice as much as they threw (39 to 21) and though a 4.0 yards per carry average isn’t explosive, it did keep them on track. And a defense that showed promise at times last year delivered in a big way with three fumbles recovered (one returned for a score), an interception and 10 (!) sacks. The Jaguars out-Texaned the Texans at NRG and were the only team in the AFC South to tally a win. Maybe no pingpong really does help.
Question 2: How’s the Adrian Peterson story going to play out in New Orleans?
Peterson has been the man, and basically rightfully so, for every team he’s been part of for likely 20 years, but injury and age are catching up to him, and he probably wasn’t going to be the star of an offense centered around Drew Brees and the passing game. Sean Payton isn’t known as a warm-and-fuzzy kind of guy. It’s like oil and water … doesn’t seem like they’d mix too well to begin with. If the Saints continue to struggle and Peterson continues to sit, it’s going to get worse, not better. –Young
When the Saints got down early, Peterson, the team’s third-best pass-catching back in a three-man backfield, was stuck on the sideline. And that makes sense — New Orleans is already a pass-heavy offense, but was especially so when it fell behind. I still think AP has a role in this offense in games that are closer late in the contest. If the Saints are ahead or at least within a score in the fourth quarter, Peterson will get more snaps. But Monday night’s scenario was simple and confirmed a suspicion a lot of people probably had: If the Saints go even more pass-heavy than usual to try to get back into games, Peterson will be the first victim of fewer snaps. Let’s see how much and how well he plays against a New England defense that was shredded in Week 1 before we make too many conclusions. –Pereles
Bad to worse. Adrian Peterson is 32 years old and already fighting with volatile head coach Sean Payton. Not only will AP’s sideline berating antics displease Payton, but he doesn’t really need the distraction either. Starter Mark Ingram predictably looked far more comfortable, but the surprise was that rookie Alvin Kamara also looked better than Peterson. Not just fresher and quicker, but more at ease within the Saints offense, hence the 31 snaps compared to AP’s nine. The reality is that Peterson probably never should have been signed. He has the potential to become a lightning rod for a team that has gone 7-9 three consecutive seasons and for a coach that wants to throw the ball up and down the yard every Sunday. Remember too, that All Day hasn’t caught more than 30 passes in a season since 2012. Realistically, what role did he expect to have on this team? Fifteen touches per game is out of the question, but if he can’t manage double-digit touches in Week 1 against his former team, things are bound to get uglier. Better yet, plenty of teams need running back help. The Giants, Lions and Cardinals come to mind. Before this situation reaches a boiling point, the Saints should either try and extract some value in a trade, or simply release the future Hall of Famer. –Schultz
I can’t see a scenario where Peterson plays a full 16 game slate in New Orleans. Coming into the Vikings game, you’d imagine that Sean Payton and the Saints would have wanted to trot out their fancy new running back and let him run all over his old team, but that didn’t happen. On top of that, Peterson looked light years behind both Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara in the Saints offense. I know it’s been one game and we’re probably overblowing the sideline snafu between Payton and Peterson, but there are too many issues here to overcome, especially when it comes to a 32-year-old running back. Teams like the Giants and Cardinals should be calling New Orleans every week until the trade deadline to see if the Saints will deal Peterson or just wait and maybe they’ll release him outright. –Sulla
The Saints run their front office in a weird way, and have for years. They had Mark Ingram, signed Adrian Peterson and then invested heavily in Alvin Kamara in the draft less than a week later. All on a team that is built around Drew Brees. But that’s the Saints. They are impulsive and never seem to have a plan. So while I thought Peterson could bounce back and have a good season, it’s hard to feel that way anymore. But who knows? This is the Saints we’re talking about. It wouldn’t surprise me if Peterson got 20 carries this week, or 20 carries over the first half of the season. My guess is it’s close to the latter. They seem to prefer Kamara, and that makes sense – but then why sign Peterson at all? My guess is by December we’ll be saying, “Oh right! Adrian Peterson is still in New Orleans” when we see him getting one of his handful of snaps per game. –Schwab
This whole situation has a Week 5 helmet-and-headset-throwing sideline explosion written all over it, doesn’t it? Peterson doesn’t want to admit his skills have declined—hell, who would?—but the truth is in the hard stats. Maybe he can help another team, but the more likely outcome here is a dramatic incident, three days of relentless, numbing “whose side you on?” debate on every sports talk show in the land, and a season that ends with Adrian Peterson in a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial where he’ll steal someone’s wings, they’ll protest, and he’ll say to the camera, “Hey … I’m no Saint!” And then wink. –Busbee
There you have it. Want in on next week’s War Room? Hit us up with your questions by clicking here. Thanks for hanging, and enjoy the games!
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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