Making judgements off the first week of the season is always difficult. Even with months of offseason training and preseason games, it often takes teams a couple of games to find the rhythm and chemistry one would expect to see. For example, last year’s Baltimore Ravens team started out 2-2 before rattling off ten straight wins to finish the season. That being said, one could forgive teams for not being in peak form come week one, considering the fact that the offseason was held almost entirely over Zoom and there were no preseason games played. As such, most of the league will likely need some time to work out chemistry and timing issues that they normally would have had a several month head start on by now. However, that does not preclude one from ascertaining trends and headlines that have the potential to develop over the coming weeks.
Trubisky Saves his Job for Now
Coming into the season, many pundits expected the Bears would hand the reins of their offense over to former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (MVP) quarterback Nick Foles. However, head coach Matt Nagy made the somewhat surprising announcement before the season that embattled third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had won the starting job in training camp and would be the team’s starter. Despite the vote of confidence in their young quarterback, the Bears offense picked up where it left off last season, scoring an abysmal six points through three quarters and entered the final quarter of play down seventeen points. Despite the mounting pressure though, Trubisky refused to quit and orchestrated a three-touchdown fourth quarter capped by his touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony Miller with 1:54 remaining to give the Bears a 27-23 come from behind win. Although the Bears certainly benefited from yet another Lions collapse and a dropped touchdown by rookie running back D’Andre Swift with sixteen seconds remaining in the game, Trubisky and company deserve at least some credit for battling back in the fourth quarter. And while the come from behind win will certainly give Bears fans hope about Trubisky’s long term prospects for at least a week, Trubisky will need to continue the level of play he found in the fourth quarter if he hopes to hold off Nick Foles and keep his job this season.
Aaron Rodgers’ Spite Tour Begins
While athletes being fueled by spite is not a particularly noteworthy story, not every athlete is Aaron Rodgers. Like many of the greats before him, Rodgers has made a habit of turning perceived slights, such as his lack of division one offers out of high school and his eventual fall to 24 in the 2004 draft, into motivation. I do not think Rodgers will have to look that far for motivation this season as the Packers traded up in the first round of this past year’s draft to select his eventual replacement in Jordan Love. And while Love is unlikely to put any serious pressure on Rodgers this season, the message sent to Rodgers was loud and clear. Instead of adding another notable receiving weapon to pair alongside star Davante Adams in the draft or free agency, the Packers’ moves this offseason made it seem like the team was looking towards the future instead of trying to capitalize on its slowly vanishing championship window with their current roster. Despite all the noise surrounding the team’s offseason moves, Rodgers turned in a vintage performance against the division rival Minnesota Vikings, finishing 32-44 for 364 passing yards and four touchdowns. And while it will be difficult to repeat last year’s 13-3 record, I anticipate a strong bounce back season from number twelve.
Tampa Needs Time and Discipline
Although expectations were high for the Buccaneers coming into this season, their opening week loss to the Saints should not come as a large surprise. As previously discussed, the lack of an in-person offseason will tend to favor teams with roster and coaching continuity like the Saints, who even canceled a portion of their virtual offseason. However, the lack of normal offseason preparation was notable for the Buccaneers offense, especially for new quarterback Tom Brady. The six-time Super Bowl champion is a creature of habit and is used to having several private workouts with his receivers over the summer in addition to any team offseason activities to build continuity and chemistry. However, this was not possible this year and it clearly showed on Sunday. Brady threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, and head coach Bruce Arians publicly assigned blame to Brady for both interceptions. Additionally, Mike Evans had only one catch and the team was held to only 86 total rushing yards. While the offense certainly was not in sync for most of the day, penalties and lack of discipline were a holdover from last year’s roster that will need to be corrected if this team hopes to be a contender. The team committed nine penalties for 103 yards, including a pass interference call on the six-yard line that set up Kamara’s second touchdown of the day and an offside on a fourth and two at midfield. In addition, the Bucs had a kick blocked and muffed a kickoff that the Saints recovered, effectively ending the game. Losing the turnover battle and playing undisciplined football is a recipe for disaster in the NFL. However, one should hesitate from overreacting too heavily to this loss for the Bucs as the team still has a long season ahead of them to gain more chemistry and become more disciplined.