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The good, bad and ugly: NFL Week 1 observations

Khalil Mack is good at football. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books and what a wild one it was! We saw all sorts of great, and not so great, action. Whether your team won or lost (or tied if you’re a Browns or Steelers fan), I think everyone is generally excited that the NFL is back in session. Well, maybe there are a few exceptions. Anyway, here’s the first installment of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:

The Good

-Jets’ rookie Sam Darnold became the youngest quarterback to start an NFL season opener since the merger. It started off the worst way possible with a pick six on his first throw. He proceeded to go 16 for his next 20 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. But more than that, he looked the part. Most rookie quarterbacks tend to look frazzled at some points. Darnold looked more composed than his counterpart Matt Stafford of the Lions who is a nine-year vet.

-The Bears’ Khalil Mack tried to earn every penny of his estimated $90 million dollars that is guaranteed in his new deal in his first game! Mack not only had a pick six, but he also got a strip sack in which he recovered the fumble himself. He took control of the game by forcing the Packers to account for him by changing their blocking scheme. No matter what they did, Mack did what he wanted.

-Tyreek Hill almost single-handedly won that game for the Chiefs with his performance. He totaled seven catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, one of which went for 58 yards. Throw in his 91-yard punt return for touchdown, and he’s off o a great start.

The Bad

-The Saints and Bucs decided to play seven on seven ball Sunday with a final score of 48-40. The quarterbacks combined for 856 yards passing and seven touchdowns through the air. It was a 25-letter alphabet kind of game because there was no D anywhere in sight.

-The Cleveland Browns broke their losing streak…with a tie. Even though they were a plus five in the turnover department against the Steelers, they still only managed a tie. Ties like this are worse than having to kiss that one aunt at the family reunion that smokes, drinks coffee, and generally has an aversion to toothpaste.

-The Panthers beat the Cowboys 16-8. The two teams combined for 284 yards passing, which I believe is a shade more than what Ryan Fitzpatrick had against the Saints in the first half! This game epitomizes what early season football is like when starters barely play in preseason and nobody is in rhythm.

The Ugly

-Nathan Peterman’s start for the Bills was bad. Not as bad as his first start last season (five picks in the first half), but it was still historically bad. Peterman was 5/18 for 24 yards and two picks with a zero passer rating. 2006 was the last time an NFL quarterback had done that (Joey Harrington).

-Texans coach Bill O’Brien used the line “that’s not my job” when answering a question as to why he didn’t use a timeout to possibly force the booth to look at a potential non-catch before halftime. Excuse me?!? EVERYTHING is YOUR job as an NFL head coach! Giving excuses like that pisses me off and makes me realize some coaches don’t value the fact that there are only 32 of these jobs IN THE WORLD!

-There was a rash of unfortunate injuries this week. I felt badly for Falcons safety Keanu Neal, Patriots running back Jeremy Hill, and Titans tight end Delanie Walker. These guys are gone for the season, and all were expected to be huge keys for their teams’ success this season.

I, like many of you, am happy that football is back. Sure, the ancillary things that are politicized to no end draw attention to and away from the game. However, at its core, this game captivates a larger audience than any other major pro sport in this country. As much as it divides, it also brings people together. Here’s to another football season under way.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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