Jerry Sullivan: A dreadful opening slate of Sunday NFL games - The Buffalo News

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Jerry Sullivan: A dreadful opening slate of Sunday NFL games

Column as I see 'em, Week One:

Rex Ryan scoffed when someone asked if he planned to watch the Bills-Jets opener on Sunday. The former Bills coach said it might be one of the worst games ever and that there would be far better offerings on the NFL schedule.

Well, I don't know which games Rex dignified with his viewing presence, but there's a decent chance that he saw one that was even worse than the game at New Era Field. There was a lot of bad football on the opening Sunday of the season, which featured one of the most dreadful, one-sided slates in recent memory.

Counting the Pats-Chiefs game Thursday night, only two of 13 games were decided by a TD or less. Six of the losing teams scored in single digits. At the same point on last year's opening weekend (prior to Monday night), there had been eight games decided for four points or less and four one-pointers.

There was some horrid offense played around the league on Sunday. The Giants, behind a putrid offensive line, scored three points in Dallas. The Niners put up a three-spot at home against Carolina. The Bengals were shut out at home by the Ravens. Seattle didn't score a touchdown at Green Bay. The Jets' 12-point day was an offensive carnival by comparison.

This might be a one-week blip, but it has to be a slight concern to the league. There aren't enough franchise quarterbacks to go around, and top offensive linemen are even harder to find. Defense seems to be slipping ahead of the offenses. Here are some quarterbacks who started games Sunday: Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, Scott Tolzien and Tom Savage.

The NFL doesn't have enough top quarterbacks in their early primes. It doesn't help that the Colts' Andrew Luck has struggled with injuries, or that Cam Newton regressed after his MVP season, or that Blake Bortles has been a mess in Jacksonville. Next year's draft is supposed to be one of the best in years for quarterbacks. The NFL better hope that's true.

TV ratings dropped 11.5 percent from the Thursday opener in 2016 to this year's opener, which featured the Patriots coming off an epic Super Bowl triumph. The ratings were 17.5 percent down from the opener with New England two years ago. The NFL is hugely popular, but they can't take the on-field product for granted.

It's bad enough that many fans are more interested in betting lines and their fantasy teams than the game on the field. If the league has more Sundays like the past one, marginal fans might start tuning out. Not even the mighty NFL can get away with selling shoddy entertainment.

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The Bills weren't the only team that won with that time-honored football blueprint: Run the ball, keep it simple in the passing game and play solid defense. The Jaguars, under old friend Doug Marrone, were dominant on both lines of scrimmage in a 29-7 strafing of the Texans.

Jacksonville ran 39 times for 155 yards against Houston's vaunted defensive front. Rookie Leonard Fournette pounded for 100 yards on 26 carries. Bortles needed to throw only 21 times for a pedestrian 125 yards as the Jags had a 65-35 percent run-pass ratio. The Bills were 60-40 run and had 190 yards against the Jets.

So the Jags, who were a chic playoff pick a year ago, could make noise in a wide-open AFC South. Tom Coughlin, the new VP of football operations, is looking over Marrone's shoulder. The old coach had to be pleased with the smash-mouth style the Jags showed against Houston.

"We've worked on that quite a bit,” Marrone said. “We gotta get tougher. This was a good start."
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During Thursday night's NBC telecast, Al Michaels tweaked the Bills by saying, "Sometimes I think the Patriots have better Buffalo players than Buffalo has".

He might say the same about the Rams passing game, which has been elevated by the addition of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. Quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick two years ago, looked like a different player in Sunday's 46-9 win over the Colts. Goff went 21-for-29 for 306 yards and no picks, with six completions of 20-plus yards or more, two to rookie Cooper Kupp.

Woods, who went back to his familiar role in the slot when the Rams traded for Watkins, had three catches for 53 yards. Watkins caught all five passes that were thrown his way for 58 yards. Goff struggled badly as a rookie, but he's off to a nice start under 31-year-old rookie head coach Sean McVay.

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Chiefs tailback Kareem Hunt had the most productive debut in NFL history on Thursday, shredding the Patriots defense for 246 total yards (148 rushing, 98 receiving) in KC's 42-27 upset of the defending Super Bowl champs.

After watching that performance, I had two questions: How did Hunt ever drop into the third round of the draft? The rookie from Toledo was the 86th overall pick last April. And how did he do against the UB defense over the years?

Hunt only played once against UB in college, because Toledo plays in the MAC West. As a freshman in 2013, he ran for 186 yards on 31 carries in a 51-41 win on a Thursday night (evidently, he likes Thursday games). That was the night when Joe Licata set a school record with 497 passing yards for the Bulls.

By the way, Khalil Mack was a senior that night and had a season-high 15 tackles, two for loss, against Toledo. I'm guessing he crossed paths with Hunt a few times. Mack and Hunt meet again as pros when the Chiefs visit Oakland on Oct. 19. The Chiefs host the Bills on Nov. 26.

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Welcome back to a second season of "Is He Owned?", the fantasy feature in which I look to identify players who might still be available in your fantasy leagues. As I found last year, it can help you win your league.

This year's inaugural pick is Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen, who had 113 total yards against the Falcons. Cohen rushed five times for 66 yards and caught eight passes for 47 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown.

Cohen was drafted in the fourth round out of North Carolina A&T. He's 5-6, 179 pounds and blazing fast. He reversed his field on a 46-yard run against Atlanta. He's earned a time share at featured back, bad news for Jordan Howard owners. Cohen is unowned in more than 60 percent of CBS leagues. He's available in both my leagues (don't tell anyone!).

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Stats incredible: The Jaguars had 10 sacks against the Texans, and Houston had none Sunday ... The Steelers'
Ben Roethlisberger has won more games than any other quarterback in Cleveland Browns stadium, which opened in 1999. Yes, that includes Browns QBs ... Charles Clay didn't have a TD catch in the first 11 games last season. He has caught five TDs from Tyrod Taylor in five games since ... The Yankees had 16 runs Sunday. The Jets and Giants scored 15 points combined. I think the Yankees' quarterback play is better ...

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