Oh sure, we all had a good laugh when Terrelle Pryor revealed that he finally learned how to throw a football this summer after two years in the NFL and three seasons at Ohio State. (Hey, nobody said Jim Tressel was perfect, except Jim Tressel.) Apparently, he wasn't exaggerating. Whatever the Raiders did with Pryor this year, it worked.
A week ago we were penciling in Teddy Bridgewater as Oakland's next quarterback. And it may still come to that. For now, the Raiders and their long-suffering fans have to be happy about the fact that Pryor almost single-handedly engineered an upset of the Indianapolis Colts -- favored by 10 points -- on Sunday.
Pryor went 19-for-29 with 217 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. More impressive, he used his wheels to pile up 112 rushing yards on 13 attempts. A few of those came with the Raiders smartly using the read-option in their game plan. He added more yardage with some scrambles to escape pressure. The highlight of his day was a 5-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore that put the Raiders up 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
Let's stop ourselves here. Pryor did plenty to remind you that he won the quarterback job by default. And the Colts defense -- which I'd be especially worried about if I were banking on this team to unseat Houston in the AFC South -- isn't going to threaten many opponents, even the Raiders. There was shaky footwork, underthrown passes and iffy decisions.
When Oakland made the switch from Matt Flynn to Pryor, none of us were particularly surprised. The guy's made a career out of being replaced in August. But it was Pryor's upside, even in the face of some rough preseason play, that made the decision easy to swallow, even for the Raiders. Now, at the very least, Oakland has something to get excited about. And those predictions of 0-16 look to be way off.
You don't see the Pittsburgh Steelers getting manhandled very much, or at least you didn't used to. But this is an older team now, with an injury-depleted roster. There were times in Sunday's loss to the visiting Tennessee Titans that the guests looked more like the square-jawed, no-nonsense squads we've come to expect from Mike Tomlin's team.
The Titans spoiled a 10-year streak of Steelers' wins in home openers. Tennessee's defense gave Ben Roethlisberger more trouble than he could handle, and that's extra bad because he's sort of accustomed to trouble. The defense sacked Big Ben five times and picked him off once.
Worse yet for Pittsburgh, the annual plague of offensive line injuries continued into this season and struck in the very first week of the year. Center Maurkice Pouncey went down in the first quarter when David DeCastro dove at an oncoming defender, taking out his teammate's knee in the process. Pouncey is believed to have torn his ACL.
Cortez Allen, Larry Foote and LaRod Stephens-Howling were injured in this one, too. More Steelers injuries were already a regular feature for this team, except now they lack the depth to sustain the losses.
Heath Miller should be back by October. Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell could return as soon as next week, but the loss of Pouncey makes an already suspect running game that much more dubious. Both Bell and Miller will help the Steelers, but it may be too little, too late.
The Steelers were one of the more difficult teams to predict this season. There's talent, but age, injuries and offseason departures like Mike Wallace were enough to leave some wondering if the sun had set on this group. This week's loss isn't going to change that notion.
New England is doomed
One look at the final score here, not to mention a quarter of sloppy play, and someone could let the overreaction to one game go off the rails. The Patriots were not immune to the sloppy starts that were the norm everywhere else across the league this week.
Buffalo used two first-half turnovers to narrow the score to 17-14 at the half. E.J. Manuel led an 11-play touchdown drive to open the third quarter, giving the Bills a lead over the Patriots. The world stopped. Columnists dusted off told-you-so obituaries for the Belichick era Patriots.
Brady posted a 29-for-52 line with 288 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. And what about all those new receivers? Danny Amendola caught 10 passes for 104 yards. Julian Edelman caught seven balls for 79 yards and both of Brady's touchdown throws. Shane Vereen did it all, rushing for 101 yards and 58 receiving yards.
The Patriots will be fine. A month from now, you'll forget all about the hand-wringing over new receivers that filled so much time this summer.
A bigger question from this game: How long is Stevan Ridley in Belichick's doghouse? Two fumbles got him benched. Vereen did just fine in his place.
Less exciting rookie quarterbacks
You weren't really expecting another year like 2012, were you? RGIII, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson made it look so easy, as if any rookie out of college could land in the NFL and play like a four-year veteran. I think some of the league's front offices did.
The Jets' quarterback "competition" made the preseason ever so much more enjoyable, eliciting the kind of Rex Ryan wackiness we usually have to wait until November to see. Geno Smith won the job by default when Mark Sanchez injured his shoulder in a desperate attempt to avoid exhibition humiliation.
Smith had his
Jets rookie moments early in the game, a fumble and an interception. Neither were caused by a teammate's posterior. Almost emotionless, well-trained by Jay-Z's agency for living in the NFL fishbowl, he finished the game 24-for-38 with 254 yards and one touchdown. His 10-yard scramble and Lavonte David's unfortunate personal foul set up the game-winning field goal.
In Buffalo, Manuel also settled down after a shaky start. He was 18-for-27 with 150 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Doug Marrone called a simple game for his rookie starter. It was the kind of conservative game plan we're used to seeing for rookie quarterbacks, or were used to seeing before last year's group.
What else should you be prematurely unhinged about?
Mike Wallace is a bust. No, he's not -- not yet anyway. The crown jewel of Jeff Ireland's desperation free-agent grab caught one pass for 15 yards. He was targeted five times, with none of those coming in the first half of the game. In fairness, the Browns had Joe Haden on him throughout the game. After the game he endeared himself to the world with a surly "ask coach" answer to a question about his performance. It's gonna be a fun year in Miami.
The Brandon Weeden/Norv Turner/Rob Chudzinski marriage is exactly what the senior league quarterback needs to jumpstart his career. Well, at least he wasn't dinking and dunking it Pat Shurmur-style anymore. Maybe he should have. Weeden finished the game with a 49-percent completion rate and three interceptions. Two of those picks came on tipped balls, but it was the same old (no pun intended) Weeden: frightened, alone and indecisive in a crowded pocket.
Blaine Gabbert, good enough? He is not, and I'm sorry for all the preseason chatter about the Mizzou product looking like he finally was putting it all together. The Jaguars third-year starter might have been the worst quarterback playing this week. He completed 16-of-25 passes for 121 yards and a pair of interceptions. He left with a cut on his right hand in the fourth quarter, fortunately for the Jags. Jacksonville is cruising toward the Teddy Bridgewater prize in the draft, which they'll need to right the ship. As for Gabbert, maybe Norv Turner can fix him -- after he's done fixing Brandon Weeden, of course.