Let me just say, I'm thrilled to be doing the grades this year. I look forward to your reasoned responses to my subjective letter grade for your team in the comments below. You may also accost/harass me digitally on Twitter @willbrinson if you're so inclined.
But, seriously, I consider myself a strict grader and really do my best to sum up a team's entire 60-minute performance in a tiny letter and some pithy analysis.
What really stood out to me in running through the games this week is just how many "good" teams laid absolute eggs against would-be cupcakes.
The Redskins were splendid in New Orleans ... and the Saints were not. The Panthers were a joke in Tampa Bay. How the hell can the Eagles no-show the Browns? That was a fun run with the Bills as a playoff sleeper.
What this tells me is three things. One, a lot of times we get an idea of how well a team will improve heading into the season based on offseason additions and preseason performance. Oftentimes, this is a faulty notion. The Bills and Panthers are a great example.
Two, though teams are really bad in the NFL each and every year, the parity that exists in the league means any team can beat another any week of the season. The gap between the good teams and the bad teams is even less evident early on, especially because said bad teams are healthy, haven't been figured out, and had weeks and weeks to prepare for a first game.
And finally, three: it's the first week. The Chiefs got blown out at home but if their defense gets healthy, they can hang with the rest of the AFC West. And if you think the Redskins are going to do what they did Sunday each and every week, you're insane. But for one given Sunday, they were absolutely the best.
|Broncos 31, Steelers 19|
|A||Peyton Manning was awesome on Sunday night. He's clearly got his zip back and his head on right. Broncos defense might be getting a little more credit they deserve based on pinning ears back late with a lead.|
|C+||Good on defense early and strong on offense in the middle. Then the Steelers got not good at both down the stretch. Seemed like running early was pretty unnecessary. They missed Ryan Clark and James Harrison.|
|Bears 41, Colts 21|
|B+||Not trying to shortchange a team that hung 41 points here, but the Colts aren't great and they got plenty of pressure on Jay Cutler. His pick six was awful. That run-up-the-score teardrop to Alshon Jeffrey was sweet though.|
|D+||Valient effort early that didn't pan out because of a talent disparity. Andrew Luck had a good-but-not-great debut. This team is going to struggle.|
|Eagles 17, Browns 16|
|D-||Michael Vick looked like his old self (that's not a compliment) most of the day. Can we really even judge the defense against a bunch of rookies?|
|F||Any not-terrible team beats Philly on Sunday. Good on the defense for busting up Vick and Co, but this offense is going to have an awkwardly long season.|
|Lions 27, Rams 23|
|B+||Crazy to think about differences in Rams secondary from 2011 to 2012. Sam Bradford looked much improved. O-line is still an issue. Good job, good effort?|
|C+||Game-winning touchdowns have a way of wiping out three-pick days. But Matthew Stafford can't do that again if Detroit wants back into the playoffs.|
|Texans 30, Dolphins 10|
|A||Could J.J. Watt be a sleeper for DPOY? Houston beat up on substantially lesser competition, but they were dominant in all facets after a sluggish start.|
|D||Overmatched squad put up a fight early on but just got overmatched by a better team. That's going to happen a lot to the Dolphins this season.|
|Falcons 40, Chiefs 24|
|A-||Falcons new OC Dirk Koetter went vertical early and often with Matt Ryan averaging 9.65 yards per attempt in a superb day. Julio Jones. That is all.|
|C-||Hard to give a 40-24 loss anything other than an F, but defense was ravaged by injury and suspension. Chiefs hung for a half and then faded bad.|
|Vikings 26, Jaguars 23|
|C+||Blaine Gabbert was pretty impressive on Sunday; he's made big strides. Bad defensive performance by a supposedly good unit though.|
|B||Welcome back, Adrian Peterson. What a freak. Nice game by Christian Ponder. Blair Walsh has onions. The defense is still a big concern.|
|Redskins 40, Saints 32|
|A+||Great job gameplanning by the Redskins all around. Goodness Robert Griffin III is special. Good defensive effort against one of the best offensives in the NFL in one of the toughest places to play.|
|D||D ain't for defense -- Steve Spagnuolo's unit got shredded. Drew Brees was pressing and they ran the ball 10 times all game. Turns out they might miss Sean Payton after all.|
|Jets 48, Bills 28|
|A||That was an evisceration. Mark Sanchez looked great, Jets didn't need (or really use) Tim Tebow and the defense was predictably stout. Rex gonna be serving a lot of crow this week.|
|F||Fred Jackson gets hurt, Ryan Fitzpatrick looks like a trainwreck and the new-look D got destroyed by the freaking Jets. C.J. Spiller was the only bright spot.|
|Patriots 34, Titans 13|
|A||Offensive line maybe an issue, but Tom Brady can work around that. Now they've got a running game and a defense? That's scary.|
|D-||Stopping the Patriots is tough, but you've got to be able to score. Chris Johnson rushing for four yards on 11 carries just about sums up their effort today.|
|Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16|
|B-||Good on Cardinals for winning a stinker of a game. It's a little awkward that Kevin Kolb had to save them from a total debacle. Running game was nonexistent.|
|C-||How does a talented Seahawks secondary let Kolb shred them for a game-winning drive? That's embarrasing. Nice job by Russell Wilson to come close at the end. No help from the wideouts.|
|49ers 30, Packers 22|
|A||Statement game from the 49ers. Alex Smith was great, Frank Gore didn't look washed up (can I re-draft my fantasy league??) and Randy Moss! Defense is still sick.|
|C||Packers had a lot of chances at the end, and Aaron Rodgers will keep them in games always and forever. This did nothing to assauge concerns about their defense though.|
|Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10|
|A||What a win for Greg Schiano. It wasn't pretty, per se, but he doesn't care. Doug Martin ran with authority, Josh Freeman looked good and the defense did a 180.|
|F||Calling Carolina sluggish on offense would be an insult to slugs. 10 rushing yards. Cam threw off his back foot. Defense had no energy either.|
|Cowboys 24, Giants 17|
|A||Tony Romo was superb under pressure and bounced back from a big pick. Kevin Ogletree went nuts and that new secondary paid immediate dividends.|
|D+||The Giants pass rush was great against a bad offensive line, but the depleted secondary got torched. Victor Cruz was drop-happy. Why are they trying to run the ball?|