Here is my Week 1 edition of NFL News & Notes as I will examine a few games where the stats and/or final score don’t tell the entire story. Having the ability to separate fact from fiction will allow you to make the proper adjustments to your own handicapping.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
This game is one of those classic situations where the box score doesn’t tell the truth. The Bills outgained the Jets 390-384. Buffalo barely lost the battle for first downs (21-20) and time of possession was close to even. So does that mean Buffalo, despite losing, played well and could have won the game? Absolutely not! The Bills were miserable. The offense struggled all day with little to no running game aside from the one CJ Spiller touchdown run. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was brutal; missing his receivers with high and inaccurate throws throughout the game to go with three interceptions. The defense couldn't stop the run and the secondary was carved up by Mark Sanchez and receivers Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley. The 48-28 final score was the true indication of the lopsided nature of this game. It wasn't the meaningless yardage battle won by the Bills only because Buffalo piled up a lot of points and yards through the air well after they were already buried.
It's worth mentioning that Jets head coach Rex Ryan experimented with using a Wildcat variation with backup quarterback Tim Tebow under center and starter Mark Sanchez flanked out to the wide side as a "receiver" for multiple plays. The times he tried it didn't work out too well as most of the time it was Tebow simply keeping the football and not doing much else. It was a unique formation and I'm interested to see if the Jets will try it again this week when they head to Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Cleveland Browns
Could there be problems for the Philadelphia Eagles this season? If their extremely lucky squeaker of a win over Cleveland is any indication, there could be. The Eagles statistically dominated the Browns, outgaining them by a whopping 456-210 margin. Yet they needed a very late Mike Vick touchdown drive to come from behind to win. Vick was woeful throwing four picks. The offensive line had trouble keeping Vick clean in the pocket as he was sacked and hurried multiple times. It's hard to evaluate the Eagles defense because rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden who was positively AWFUL! He had the single worst quarterback performance in Week 1. He was an anemic 12-of-35 passing for just 118 yards and threw four interceptions without a touchdown. He didn't handle blitzes well, forced throws into tight coverage, and was terribly inaccurate with even the simplest short to intermediate throws. Despite his poor play, the Eagles were still barely win. They handed Cleveland every opportunity to win the game and the Browns just couldn't take advantage of it. The Eagles have every right to be concerned. Meanwhile, the Browns should take some positive out of the fact they could have won despite getting little to nothing from the passing game.
St. Louis Rams @ Detroit Lions
We saw the box score lie and the final score tell us the truth in the Bills-Jets game but we get the reverse affect here. The box score tells the truth and it’s the final score that turns out to be misleading with this matchup. Detroit needed a late touchdown drive engineered by Matthew Stafford to win 27-23 but the Lions should have won this game in easier fashion. Detroit outgained St. Louis 429-251. The Lions doubled the Rams 28-14 in first downs but three interceptions from Stafford, each of them coming when the Lions were moving the football deep in Rams’ territory, took points off the board. Quarterback Sam Bradford put up decent numbers but the Rams offensive line was problematic. They allowed Bradford to take three sacks against a very strong Detroit defensive line and the running game was pretty much shut down as Stephen Jackson averaged just 2.5 yards per rush. St. Louis’ defense was bailed out by those critical interceptions from Stafford despite the fact Detroit was able to move the football up and down the field for most of the game. The scoreboard here was flattering for the Rams. They were in the game based on the final score but the stats say Detroit controlled this football game for the full 60 minutes.
Follow me on Twitter @bobano