Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Lawrence: Away We Go!

Amy Lawrence Answers A Few Burning Questions From Week 1

Amy Lawrence
September 11, 2019 - 11:31 am
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And they're off!

Week 1 is in the books and what a spectacle in 16 stadiums around the country. In all of its glory, opening weekend gave us everything we asked for and a whole lot we didn't bargain for. Now it's tempting to believe many of our questions have been answered. But don't be fooled, football fans. It's NEVER that easy. The Super Bowl title isn't won or lost this early. Neither a perfect season nor a winless campaign is a likely outcome.

Crowning a champion based on the first 16 games would be akin to draping the garland of roses around a thoroughbred that's quick out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby before the field even reaches the quarter pole. So in lieu of naming a champion in early September, let's wade through a few burning questions.

Are the Miami Dolphins really THAT bad?

Probably not 59-10 bad every week, but it could be a dark and dismal season in South Florida (home of Super Bowl LIV). Following an embarrassing performance against Baltimore, reports from the Dolphins' locker room indicate multiple players want out. They're asking for trades because THEY think it could be painful all year. No doubt, many of them feel demoralized after the loss and they don't want to face the added upheaval that comes with rebuilding. New head coach Brian Flores is already the bad cop. But the Ravens and Lamar Jackson posed a lopsided mismatch with their commitment to ball control and balance.

With Lamar making safer choices and throwing the ball from the pocket to a variety of targets and Mark Ingram churning up yardage on the ground, the Dolphins were overwhelmed. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a fighter, though, and he won't let the Dolphins fold. Very often, humiliation is a powerful motivator.

Was all the hype wasted on the Cleveland Browns?

Definitely not, but feeling dangerous isn't enough to win games. The Browns are loaded with talent, but it's discipline they need to elevate their status. Winning is a tall order without spotting your opponent 182 yards. The Browns incurred 18 penalties Sunday to throw buckets of freezing cold water on all of the great anticipation at the Dawg Pound.

Baker Mayfield needs the discipline to give up on a play when it's hopeless; scrambling and holding onto the ball too long is a recipe for disaster in the NFL, whether by sack or safety or interception. The offensive line can't expect Baker to protect himself every snap, and Greg Robinson definitely can't haul off and kick a competitor in the head twice. New head coach Freddie Kitchens admitted the Browns lost their composure, but fighting through adversity builds character. All is not lost for Cleveland.

Will the new head coaches all struggle to find success?

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a winning culture in professional sports. Only one first-year head coach earned a victory in his debut, and the culture in Green Bay was established long before Matt LaFleur arrived. He can thank his defense for stuffing the run, sacking the quarterback, and stifling the Bears at a raucous Soldier Field. In Seattle, Zac Taylor's Bengals came within one point of stunning the Seahawks (and eliminating millions of survivor pool hopefuls). Cincinnati couldn't run the ball, but Andy Dalton threw it effectively. Turnovers and the experience of Russell Wilson barely tipped the scales in favor of the home team.

Kliff Kingsbury settled for a tie with the Cardinals, thanks to a masterful comeback against Detroit. More than a few fans declared rookie quarterback Kyler Murray a bust through three quarters, but he was near perfect guiding Arizona into overtime. He engineered four consecutive scoring drives and threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter alone. It could definitely be tough sledding in the desert as well as Miami and Tampa Bay and Denver. But the Bears won the NFC North at 12-4 in Matt Nagy's first season. More than any other league, the NFL annually sees teams leap from worst to first in their divisions.

Are the Oakland Raiders now America's Team?

Judging by the reaction to their triumph Monday night, the Raiders may very well have a nation of sports fans openly rooting for their success in the wake of the Antonio Brown saga. Their performance offered the PERFECT response to the last few weeks of drama orchestrated by their former receiver. While they still had to answer questions about his departure; for the first time since March, the Raiders weren't defined by AB's frozen feet, helmet grievances, missed practices, temper tantrums, social media posts, and off-the-wall demands. They were finally just playing football--with focus, determination, and relief.

From the accuracy of Derek Carr to the explosiveness of rookie Josh Jacobs to an offensive line that didn't allow a sack to a physical D that didn't give up a touchdown when it mattered, the victory was worth celebrating. Antonio Brown may have "played us all" as Jerry Rice believes; but in his destructive wake, he left a galvanized locker room and millions of sympathetic fans.

Is Antonio Brown destined to be a perfect angel with the New England Patriots?

Who knows? But if Brown can't put the team first in New England, he has no one to blame but himself. If he truly orchestrated this move to the Patriots with a series of calculated steps designed to force the Raiders' hand, he should be happy and content now, right? Of course, he was happy and content when he landed in Oakland with $30 million in new guarantees (after forcing his way out of Pittsburgh).

The euphoria wore off quickly. Yet in his mind, all his actions are validated. His selfish, insubordinate behavior--attacking his boss on social media and in person, leaving his team in a lurch, alienating an entire locker room in less than six months--was rewarded with a new contract and more money. Why would he change? For Tom Brady? For the chance to win a Super Bowl ring? Because he's seen the error of his ways? The majority of humans would be humbled by a clean slate and fresh start, despite so many previous missteps. But Antonio Brown is different.

We're so impatient, sports fans. We want our questions answered, and we want those answers pronto. But patience is required to let the story unfold. We’re onto Week 2 and just getting started!