By Steve Silverman
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Much is made of the opening week of the season, as it is every year.
As the NFL gets underway, we are right in the middle of the baseball home stretch, and with both the Yankees and Mets making unexpected runs at potential playoff positioning, there’s a thought that baseball can overshadow football, if only briefly.
It’s best to erase that thought right out of your head. Football has been the king since the late 1960s, and the opening week of the season comes with pomp, circumstance and great relief.
But one notion that needs to be dismissed for now and for the future is the importance of Week 1. A 16-game season seems like it is a full sprint and that a quick start is a necessity to a successful year.
That’s not always the case.
The Atlanta Falcons got off to a brilliant start last year, winning their first five games under rookie head coach Dan Quinn. A playoff berth seemed all but a certainty at that point, but the Falcons were not built for the long haul.
While they had plenty of speed, quickness and talent, the Falcons lacked size, strength and an ability to win the battle in the trenches. As a result, the Falcons lost seven of their next eight games and established themselves as an ordinary and average team. They finished 8-8, and they were clearly deserving of their .500 record.
Sure, the Jets will be getting a test at home against one of the NFL’s best regular-season teams, but it will not set a tone for a winning or losing season. It is just one of 16, and while it’s better to win than to lose, very little will be established after the game.
Head coach Todd Bowles knows his team has to run a gauntlet of challenging opponents. After the opener, the Jets play at Buffalo, where the team’s playoff hopes died in Week 17 last season. However, compared to the games that follow, that contest will be child’s play. The Jets go to Kansas City, host Seattle, travel to Pittsburgh and Arizona and then have a home game against Baltimore.
How Gang Green perform in that run will tell the coaching staff and fans much more than their performance in the opener.
The back part of the schedule is much easier for the Jets, but they will have to play New England twice after Thanksgiving.
The Giants have an opportunity to face a Dallas Cowboys squad that will not have Tony Romo under center.
This is a winnable game, but the Giants have lost their last three games at “Jerry’s World.” When you look at the passing game with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Sterling Shepard, the Giants should have the advantage over rookie Dak Prescott trying to play consistently in his first NFL game.
If rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott lives up to the hype for the Cowboys, that will take a lot of pressure off the quarterback. And while the Giants made a number of key moves to improve the defense after last year’s disaster, it will take time for defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins to hit their stride.
But like the Jets, the tests will come just a bit later than the opening week of the season. After a Week 2 home game against the Saints, the Giants host the Redskins, play back-to-back road games against Minnesota and Green Bay before a home contest against the Ravens and a game in London against the Los Angeles Rams.
That run may be the determining factor in the kind of season that Ben McAdoo has in his first year as head coach of the Giants.
Football is back, and the first game is important. But don’t let the Week 1 results force any conclusions about the type of season either New York team will have this year.
There’s a long way to go in this marathon.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy