By Steve Silverman
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Established teams don’t have to worry about losing in Week 1.
The New England Patriots wilted in the second half at Miami and Tom Brady looked old and vulnerable. His offensive line failed to protect him, leaving Bill Belichick with some serious adjustments to make.
There’s little doubt that he will make the right moves for the Patriots to win games on a regular basis.
The same holds for the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and his teammates appeared to have the Atlanta Falcons on the run for much of the first half in their season-opening game at the Georgia Dome. But the Falcons, who were simply dreadful a year ago, were not just going to accept their beating. Matt Ryan played a picture-perfect game and he led the Falcons to an overtime win that will not soon be forgotten.
That victory may serve as a fuse for the Falcons, and they could return to the form they had in 2012 when they were one of the elite teams in the league.
But that loss is not going to hurt the Saints. It’s nothing more than an impediment or road block that Brees and Sean Payton will overcome.
The Saints have as much firepower as any team in the league, and if any team is going to stop the Seattle Seahawks from repeating, it’s quite likely that the team from New Orleans will have the best chance.
But a loss in the opening week of the season can be a lot more important for teams that are not established. The Chicago Bears lost at home to the Buffalo Bills. The Bears view themselves as a legitimate playoff team capable of unseating Green Bay in the NFC North. Few outside of the Windy City view the Bears that way.
The Giants should have an opportunity to learn a bit more about their identity in their opener Monday night against Detroit.
The Giants were an elite team in 2011, defeating the Patriots in the Super Bowl (for the second time in four years). However, they have endured two miserable seasons since that Super Bowl triumph.
It’s a crucial seasons for the Giants. Tom Coughlin is nearing the end of his long run on the sidelines, and Eli Manning may be close to the end as well.
While it’s true Manning has two Super Bowls to his credit, the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business, and Eli has done very little besides throw interceptions over the last two years.
The Giants brought in a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo to help regenerate the offense. Based on what was seen in preseason, very little has been accomplished.
The Giants are going to get a huge test when they kick off at Ford Field against Detroit. The Lions are not very accomplished, but they have one of the most talented rosters in the league.
That’s why they fired Jim Schwartz at the end of last season. His teams simply made too many mistakes, and that’s why the Lions couldn’t find a way to take the NFC North title from the oft-injured Green Bay Packers.
Matthew Stafford has a huge arm and can throw the ball all over the field. However, he would often throw into coverage at the worst times and that’s why he had 19 interceptions last year.
Stafford should be a Pro Bowl quarterback every year. He has the best receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson, and he’s joined this year by a top-level supporting receiver in Golden Tate. Running back Reggie Bush will test the Giants defense with his quickness and explosiveness and don’t forget their 1A in Joique Bell, a bruiser with great hands and feet.
On the defensive side, Ndamukong Suh is a mean, nasty defensive tackle who would be happy to make a pretzel out of Manning. Fellow defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah and rookie C.J. Mosley would like to do the same thing.
None of this is to say that the Lions are the kind of team that can’t be beaten. They have talent and potential, but they have been disappointing generations in Detroit since 1957. That’s the last time the franchise won the NFL championship.
What the Lions are is a test for the Giants. If Manning and his teammates are tentative and inefficient, the Lions should get new coach Jim Caldwell off to a memorable start.
However, if the Giants’ defense plays with some authority and nastiness, and Manning adapts to McAdoo’s system, they can play a complete game and come away with an eye-opening road win.
Either way, the Giants will soon know a lot more about themselves than they do right now. It will take a big play early to help them build the confidence needed. Manning is due for something good to happen, and a big show on opening night.
Read more columns by Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy
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