The 2014/15 NFL season has finally arrived and after months of drafts, trades and transactions, we were eventually rewarded with plenty of pigskin-throwing this weekend. While every fixture is a must-win as teams seek to win their respective Conference Championships, some teams had more pressure on themselves than others, as they sought an opening day victory. Here’s the winners and losers from the opening round of fixtures.
Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel
The Browns had a big wave of momentum and promise heading into the new season, but their week one performance raised more question marks than it did eyebrows in regards to how they will fare this season. The decision by Head Coach Mike Pettine to start Brian Hoyer on the road against Pittsburgh was bold considering the growing clamour behind Johnny ‘Money’ Manziel, although it seemed safe one. By half-time that decision was being intensely scrutinised as the Browns found themselves 27-3 down. But, Hoyer vastly improved his game in the second half to help tie the scores up at 27-27, although the Browns could not see out the impeccable comeback as they fell to a game-winning field goal from the Steelers.
Letting such an incredible turnaround pass you by with so little time remaining will be crushing for the Browns as they look ahead to their next fixture at home to the New Orleans Saints, while Manziel must be thinking that his luck is out and he may never take the starting quarterback’s jersey, given Hoyer’s emphatic second half performance. The Browns are considered the underdogs for next week’s contest, as they are priced at 10/11 with a +6 point line, while the Saints are priced at 10/11 to steal a victory over the Browns with a -6 point line.
New Orleans Saints
Speaking of the Saints, they too emerged from the opening round of fixtures in the loser’s column, as they suffered a 34-37 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, despite having the initiative in the game. They should have done better against a Falcons side who had a less than impressive season last term. The Saints are now under immediate pressure to see some strong results this season and in truth, they should have won this contest.
Ray Rice, The NFL
Video evidence finally emerged showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assault his now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator back in February and this is certainly bad news – for both the player and the NFL. While Rice’s reputation is now tarnished and he has since been released by the Ravens, the league is also coming under intense focus given the initial punishment for Rice was a small two game ban and the fact they didn’t do enough to try and obtain the video when this case was first handled. It remains to be seen what Rice’s punishment will be but one thing is for sure, it seems he is looking at a lot more than a simple two game ban after this.