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The Tier Hunter, Week 1: Overreaction season

Super Bowl hopes have been dashed, a champion has been crowned, and we’ve already seen the game of the year. And there’s still 16 weeks to go before the playoffs!

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
This Baker’s cooking up a fresh batch of frownies.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Yes sports fans, it’s that time of year once again. NFL teams have all played one game, so we can make grand, far-reaching declarations based on what we saw in that one game.

The team we thought might not be great lost big, which means we were right!

And that team everybody thought would be so good lost, so they must not be all that good. Boy was those stupid people wrong!

You get the idea.

What we see in Week 1 often bears no resemblance to what we see throughout the season. My favorite example is 2001. The Minnesota Vikings were Super Bowl favorites coming off an 11-5 season. In Week 1, they hosted the Carolina Panthers, coming off a 7-9 season and starting 25-year old rookie Chris Weinke at QB. The Panthers won easily, 24-13, making some fans wonder if their coach George Seifert had something in Weinke and the Panthers. The Panthers never won another game under Seifert, going 1-15 and firing him after the season. The point is, you never know where the year will take you, but you REALLY don’t know after one week.

That being said, we’re human, and as fans, we tend to overreact our teams’ Week 1 performances -- even if we should know better. So this week’s bonus list features teams whose fans feel the worst this week:

1. Cleveland Browns

No team had more hype or hope going into the season than the Browns. Few teams did less to make good on the promise of their off-season. Baker Mayfield started the season many thought would elevate him to the top tier of NFL QB’s by throwing three interceptions, including a pick-six. The vaunted Browns offense scored all of 13 points. But hey, at least they looked good.

Cleveland is a prime overreaction candidate, but this whole overreaction thing has become such a well-known phenomenon, it’s whiplashed back the other way, and everybody’s warning us not to overreact. Could underreacting be the new overreacting? Not just yet, but the Browns could be patient zero.

As I mentioned before the season, Cleveland has a lot of good young players, most of whom have never won anything at this level. And they have a coach, who... I don’t even have an end to that sentence. Freddie Kitchens looked like he won a contest to be an NFL coach for a day and wasn’t quite sure who was talking in his ear.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s not enough they got smoked by the Patriots, extending their streak of frustration against New England. Steelers fans also watched helplessly as their chief AFC rival (the way a hammer is the nail’s chief rival) signed their erstwhile star WR.

On Saturday, I heard some people say that the Steelers must be laughing as Antonio Brown’s tenure with the Raiders blew up, in an “I told you so” way. Not a chance. The Steelers traded him to Oakland precisely because it wasn’t New England.

So the Steelers lose their star WR, only get a 3rd and 5th round pick in return, and now will likely watch him dance in the end zone to the Super Bowl, possibly against them in the playoffs. That, and they got curb stomped by the Pats without Brown even there to help.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

How’s that Nick Foles Era going for you?

After finally admitting to themselves that Blake Bortles wasn’t the guy, the Jaguars went all in and signed a Super Bowl-winning QB. Finally, the obvious flaw in their team was solved for about a quarter. Then Foles broke his clavicle. Now the Jags face the majority of the season with rookie Gardner Minshew II. And while he looked as good as any rookie possibly could — completing a record 13 passes to start his career and another record 88 percent of his passes overall — you have to imagine that won’t last as teams have time to prepare for him. The same goes for newly acquired Joshua Dobbs.

And even if they do get quality play out of their QB, did you see how the Chiefs tore apart that defense?

4. Atlanta Falcons

Yes, the Falcons were on the road. Yes, they were facing a good team in the Vikings. But they lost to a team who threw ten passes. Matt Ryan came within seven yards of leading them in rushing. They were down 28-0 in the 4th quarter before scoring. For a team with a history of falling short expectations, it has to leave fans wondering if they’re going down that same road again his year.

5. New York Jets

Ah, the Jets. Whenever you’re looking for some juicy schadenfreude, you never need look further than Jets fans. The Jets delivering disappointment to their fans is a yearly tradition unlike any other. But yesterday promised to be a new direction for the Jets. Sam Darnold is a year wiser and Adam Gase is there to guide him. Not to mention Leveon Bell. So when they went up 16-0 at home, forcing four turnovers from the Bills in the first half alone, Jets fans had to feel great. Then it all fell apart.

That loss was so Jets it’s going to be very hard for Jets fans to convince themselves its’ only one game.

32 Flavors (and then some)

Because it’s just Week 1, I steadfastly refuse to react too strongly to the results. I leave that for Week 2.

Tier I: In A League Of Their Own

They are. They just are.

1. New England Patriots (1-0)


Tier II: A Step Behind

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

They might have the most balanced roster, top to bottom, in the NFL.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

They lose Tyreek Hill for a few weeks, so Sammy Watkins steps up for 200 yards and three TD’s, and they don’t skip a beat. With Mahomes at the controls, they look like a machine.

4. New Orleans Saints (1-0)

They have the talent, but I’m starting to think they’ll never catch a break. Yes, they won Monday night in an early candidate for game of the year, but the refs almost screwed them again.

Tier III: Looking Good

5. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

The offense struggled early, and Todd Gurley looked a lot like he did in last year’s playoffs. The Rams appeared mortal. Then Gurley and the Rams eventually broke out. They may be more vulnerable than last year, but they’re still explosive.

6. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

Last week, I gave both the Cowboys and Chargers an asterisk due to missing players. Dallas got theirs back and looked fantastic, rolling the Giants.

7. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)

The Chargers were the other asterisk team, but didn’t get their players back, and had to withstand a late comeback to beat the Colts at home in OT. Still, a win is a win, and Colts might not be bad.

8. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)

The Vikings looked great, no question. But they’re not winning anything with Cousins throwing 10 times.

Tier IV: Looking Bad

9. Chicago Bears (0-1)

The regression fears were validated. The offense looked hapless, and they’re starting to feel like a team that has everything but the QB. If only they had a shot a franchise passer.

It’s one week, but my confirmation bias is tingling.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

Tier V: Wait & See

11. Green Bay Packers (1-0)

Their defense looked much better against the Bears than any point last season. We’ll see if they can carry that performance into their matchup with Minnesota in Week 2.

12. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens couldn’t possibly have looked any better on Sunday. They also couldn’t possibly have had any easier competition. It shouldn’t get much harder this week, as they get the Cardinals.

13. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

14. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

State of the 49ers: Questionable.

There was enough good for the 49ers on offense — four TD’s if you ignore the penalties (and believe me, I wish I could) — and bad enough on offense (including Jimmy Garoppolo’s worst pass ever) to prove whatever you went in thinking. One unquestionable element: the defense was much-improved. Yes, they were going against The Human Turnover, Jameis Winston, but they applied pressure, they got the best cornerback play they’ve had in a long time, and they forced turnovers (and accepted a couple more as gifts). Those are not things we often said last year, even when playing the less talented teams in the league. Another thing we didn’t say last year: road win. They need to make it to this week, because a loss to the Bengals and a 1-1 start likely won’t cut it, considering how tough the schedule gets after that. Coming home 2-0 to face a Pittsburgh team in transition sounds a lot better to me.

15. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)

I put the 49ers over the Seahawks last week and predicted Seattle was moving in the wrong direction. This week only strengthened that feeling.

16. Tennessee Titans (1-0)

Everybody, including myself, has chosen to focus on Cleveland’s shortcomings in Week 1, but Tennessee might be better than we think.

Tier VI: Down, But Not Out

17. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

18. Carolina Panthers (0-1)

They gave the Rams a better game than most anticipated.

19. Houston Texans (0-1)

Deshaun Watson is amazing. Bill O’Brien is not.

20. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

I’m a Jacoby Brissett fan, and they have a strong roster.

Tier VII: Probably Out

21. Buffalo Bills (1-0)

The Bills are like their QB, Josh Allen: They may not be good, but they are interesting, and they are tough. Tough-alo. You can use that if you want, Bills fans. You’re welcome.

22. New York Jets (0-1)

23. Oakland Raiders (1-0)

Before the latest turn in the Antonio Brown debacle, the Raiders were an ugly sideshow. Now that they’re playing they actually looked good. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

25. Washington Redskins (0-1)

Not as bad as advertised. They got up 17-0 at Philly before collapsing. The collapse isn’t good, but at least they were scrappy. So were their fans, including Philadelphia 76er Mike Scott.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

On HBO’s Real Sports before the season, Bruce Arians proudly explained he doesn’t work long hours, coming home at the end of the workday to have cocktails. Now that Jameis Winston is his QB, he might start drinking earlier.

27. Denver Broncos (0-1)

An ugly effort in Week 1, but those back-end games on the Monday Night Football opening doubleheaders is always a weird one. Remember, that’s how Chip Kelly won his first game, then went 1-14. Don’t trust the results.

28. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

Tier VIII: Fit To Be Tied

29. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1)

Kyler Murray was everything I said about him last week — all the bad and all the good.

30. Detroit Lions (0-0-1)

Blowing a 24-6 4th quarter lead is no way to start a season. Doing it against a rookie in his first game, playing for a coach who’s also in his first year, that’s a special kind of evil.

Tier IX: Avert Your Eyes

31. New York Giants (0-1)


32. 50 feet of crap

Above are the good teams and the bad teams. Below is the #FishTank

33. Miami Dolphins (0-1)

It’s hard to see the ‘Phins rising above this spot. Especially since their whole plan is to end up here.