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When Tom Brady's suspension was reinstated in April, everyone looked at the Patriots' early schedule and started marking down wins and losses. The opener in Arizona looked like a loss.
The Patriots Will Struggle
The next three games were at home against AFC opponents. As long as the Patriots escaped that stretch at 2-2, they would be fine. Once we learned Rob Gronkowski and left tackle Nate Solder would miss the game, the Patriots were bigger underdogs than any game since 2002.
So what now?
Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't the only reason the Patriots upset the Cardinals on Sunday night, but his performance led the way. He knew where to go with the ball and knew how to create plays on third down when the pocket broke down.
Winning in Arizona without Gronkowski and Solder raises the expectations for the next three weeks. Anything less than 3-1 before Brady returns will be a disappointment. This is a different-looking Patriots team with Chris Hogan, James White, Vincent Valentine, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long all making big plays Sunday night, but they looked like a team flexible enough to win in different situations.
No one adapts like Bill Belichick, and perhaps that's why we shouldn't be so surprised that he helped smash one offseason narrative. After trying this exercise for the opener, we thought we'd look at four more expected storylines that didn't hold up in Week 1.
The Titans' exotic smashmouth will run teams over
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are undoubtedly one of the most talented backfields in the league, but they ran into a brick wall against Minnesota. The two running backs combined with 45 yards on 18 carries, with Henry only getting three carries.
Mike Mularkey plays a style close to the vest and that means keeping other teams in games even when they appear to dominate. The Titans led 10-0 at halftime before a pair of touchdowns by the Vikings defense turned the game around.
This style of play only works if you don't make mental errors and if you have a dominant defense. A home loss to a Shaun Hill-led Vikings team is a big disappointment for a Titans team that looked so promising in camp.
The Saints defense would play better than they look on paper
We read a lot about the Saints defense dominating practice each week, and the new professionalism with Rob Ryan out of town. After the Saints' 35-34 loss to Oakland on Sunday, its amazing to consider how anxious Saints fans were about the offensive line last month.
This Saints team looked too much like the Saints teams of the last two seasons. The offense is not the problem. The skill position talent around Drew Brees is exciting and they will pile up points. But the defense wasn't able to create pressure on Derek Carr and a broken leg for their best cornerback Delvin Breaux depletes their secondary.
The Chargers offense will be dangerous with better luck
No team suffered a more devastating loss than San Diego on Sunday. Blowing a commanding 24-3 lead in Kansas City was rough enough, but the team lost their No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen to what is feared to be a torn ACL.
This will test coach Mike McCoy's resolve, not to mention his playcalling.
With Allen (and receiver Stevie Johnson), Philip Rivers will be looking at Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams as his starting wideouts. We still like San Diego's defensive talent and an optimist could hope that the defense wilted late in the game after staying on the field too long. But it's hard to escape the feeling in San Diego that this is just like last year: a brutal loss and a brutal injury.
The Eagles are rushing Carson Wentz on the field
Things could clearly look different when Wentz plays a defense other than Cleveland's. Still, it's not like the NFC East is filled with a bunch of '85 Bears imitations.
Wentz will have the chance to grow with the backing of a great Eagles defense and a short passing game built to minimize risk. To win this game with Sam Bradford would have been fine in Philadelphia.
Winning it with Wentz feels like the start of something big.
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