By Steve Silverman
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The start of the NFL season is supposed to provide clarity. Training camp is over, and preseason games that usually determine the bottom of the roster and little else are memories.
There are only 16 games in an NFL regular season, so the Week 1 contests seemingly provide answers to questions that have been on the table since the end of last season.
But Week 1 does not offer a lot of truths. In 2015 and 2016, the San Francisco 49ers won their openers, and they featured strong defensive efforts along with effective running games. Despite those wins, both of those 49ers teams had disastrous years.
There are a lot of false narratives from Week 1, and here’s a look at some developments that are likely to have nothing to do with how the season will play out.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to beat the Cleveland Browns 21-18. Running back Le’Veon Bell missed all of training camp in a holdout, and he reported to the team days before the opener. Bell played against the Browns, and he gained 32 yards on 10 carries.
Did the holdout hurt Bell, and is he destined for a miserable and disappointing season? Not even close. It may take another week or two, but Bell will return to the top of the running back rankings by the end of September or the beginning of October at the latest. His hesitation style of running is a proven way of doing business.
He hits the hole quickly, waits for linebackers to either overrun him or approach him in an off-balance manner and then he accelerates into the open.
Bell’s poor opener will have no significance in just a few weeks.
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Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins looked inconsistent and unsure in completing 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 30-17 loss to the Eagles. He was also tackled four times behind the line of scrimmage.
Washington has been hesitant to do business with Cousins and give him the kind of long-term contract that would pay him one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. Did this game show that the Redskins are right to have feelings of trepidation about their quarterback?
No, they are not. Cousins is one of the best passers in the league, and he has the talent to find his receivers with pinpoint passes that can turn defeat into victory. Cousins had an ordinary game against the fired-up Eagles, and that team was ready to make a statement.
Cousins will eventually get very rich, and the Redskins may end up very sorry that they have not signed him already.
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Quarterback Sam Bradford was just about perfect in the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 1 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Bradford riddled the New Orleans secondary by completing 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was an eye-opening 143.0.
Is Bradford destined to be an All-Pro and will Vikings steal the NFC North title away from the Green Bay Packers? Both are very unlikely scenarios.
Minnesota has completely retooled its offensive line, with five new starters this season. The performance Monday night went above and beyond expectations for coach Mike Zimmer.
But before they start handing out cigars and passing around the champagne, the Vikings must remember who they were playing. The Saints have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league for years, and that’s not likely to change this season.
Bradford had a brilliant game against one of the worst defenses in the league. That unit played well in the preseason, but that was just an illusion. Bradford and the Vikings still have a long way to go.
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So does Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
The season opened in glorious fashion with a one-sided beatdown of the Indianapolis Colts, but that game may mean nothing in just a few weeks.
The Colts are in disarray, as they don’t have quarterback Andrew Luck in the lineup and the rest of the team is lost. That includes the defense, which has rarely been better than ordinary in recent years.
Goff, who struggled badly as a rookie and never could fully grasp the offense, has made some improvements. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in the 46-9 triumph.
However, don’t think for a second that Goff has crossed any barrier and has suddenly earned his degree in NFL quarterbacking. He may hold his own in the next two weeks against the Redskins and 49ers, but he will see the Cowboys, Seahawks, Jaguars and Cardinals in the following four weeks.
That gauntlet will tell Goff’s story, and it won’t be pretty.
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The Patriots gave up 42 points in Week 1 to the Chiefs, and quarterback Tom Brady did not even complete 50 percent of his passes. Does this mean that there is trouble ahead for New England?
Hardly. The Patriots’ run will come to an end sooner or later, but it won’t be this year. First of all, the AFC East has a pair of teams in the Jets and Bills that are stuck in the muck. The Dolphins may be prepared to make a run, but QB Jay Cutler is not an inspirational leader who can post top performances on a weekly basis.
Even if the AFC East was more competitive, a look at the New England roster reveals Super Bowl-caliber strength once again. They may not win it, but they will find a way to play in the AFC title game again, and they will have a good chance to get to Super Bowl LII if they can secure homefield advantage.
As for Brady, he will bounce back. His ability has not diminished enough for opponents to take heart, and he simply has too much talent surrounding him.
The shocking loss to the Chiefs will be just a blip on the radar.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy