Apparently, the New England Patriots will not be going 16-0.
The Kansas City Chiefs took care of that Thursday night in Foxboro, Mass. Despite a ridiculous number of penalties and losing the turnover battle, the Chiefs won the NFL’s season opener 42-27.
Tom Brady played his first game as a 40-year old and looked like a 50-year old. He completed 16 of 36 passes with no touchdowns. That’s 44 percent.
Nobody in the NFL keeps his job completing less than 60 percent.
If you know of an expert who didn’t predict that the Patriots would be in the Super Bowl next February, please pass it on. I haven’t read or heard anybody who has predicted any other team from the AFC.
It’s only one game and the Patriots could still finish 19-1 and win another Super Bowl, but it’s also possible that they might be overrated.
That was a great comeback in February to win the Super Bowl but it was only made possible by some really stupid decisions by the Atlanta Falcons. Brady threw a pick-six in the first half and would not have five Super Bowl rings to show off if Julian Edelman hadn’t made one of the greatest postseason catches in NFL history.
They’re defending champs because they figured out a way to win, but in their last two games – both on the big stage – they’ve looked anything but invincible.
Which brings us around to the Steelers, who still have a chance to go 16-0 but probably won’t.
It would be hard to find an expert who hasn’t predicted a Steelers-Patriots AFC Championship game, but it would probably be a good idea for the rest of the conference to show up.
The Steelers look like an 11-5 team that should win their division and maybe get a bye and a home game or two in the playoffs.
Their offense is better and healthier than it’s been since Ben Roethlisberger showed up in 2004 and you win with offense in the NFL. Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are all healthy and eligible for a change, and if that group stays healthy and weed-free for 16 games, 12-4 isn’t out of the question.
That, of course, is a big if. In fact, that group playing all 16 games together is highly unlikely.
The Steelers are good enough to win 12 games if any one of those four, except Roethlisberger, misses multiple games.
That’s a really big except.
Roethlisberger is heavier, older and slower than he used to be and, even with one of the best offensive lines in the league, he’s still a dangerous proposition because of his willingness to keep the play alive for an extra second or two.
Take that willingness away and he’s not Ben Roethlisberger.
The defense, because of additions in the secondary, is better on paper but this Steelers team will go as far as its offense can take it.
It says here that it will take it to an 11-5 record and a division championship.
As long as Roethlisberger starts at least 13 games.
• The Patriots weren’t the only think that stunk Thursday night. So did the TV ratings. There was an 11.5 percent drop from last year’s opener and they were the lowest since Steelers-Titans in 2009. The NFL doesn’t need a lot of national anthem protests on opening day. More kneeling and/or sitting is not likely to make ratings go up.
• The Seattle Seahawks and the NFL were quick to show their support for Michael Bennett of the Seahawks after he claimed to be harassed by police in a Las Vegas casino after the Floyd Mayweather -Colin McGregor fight.
Bennett, who sat during the playing of the national anthem during the preseason, issued a statement claiming that cops singled him out because he’s black, stuck a gun to his head and threatened to blow his head off.
The sports media was quick to jump to his defense, with many saying that the incident should bring more focus to the anthem protests.
Commissioner Roger Goodell refused the Las Vegas Police Union’s request to investigate what they say are false claims by Bennett. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said, “What happened with Michael is a classic illustration of the reality of inequalities that are demonstrated daily.”
Carroll, of course, doesn’t really know what happened. He only knows what Bennett said happened. That’s why the cops would like to, you know, investigate it before declaring them guilty of police brutality and racism.
Seems like a reasonable request.
If Bennett’s account is accurate, it more than validates his protests. If he’s exaggerating and embellishing in order to justify them, he does serious damage to the cause and makes it less likely that the next valid claim will get the attention it deserves.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.