Judgements: No Brady, no problem for surprising Patriots

The New England Patriots were supposed to be undermanned vs. Arizona. Instead, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the team to a stunning upset and, in turn, served notice that, Brady or no Brady, New England is the team to beat.

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(Jimmy Garoppolo photos courtesy of New England Patriots)

By Clark Judge

Granted, it's Overreaction Monday, but there's no way you can overstate the importance of New England's upset of Arizona. It makes the Patriots the team to beat, and I'm not talking about the AFC East. I'm talking about everything.

Division. Conference. Super Bowl. You name it.

Look, they didn’t have Tom Brady Sunday night. They didn’t have Gronk. They were missing offensive linemen. Rob Ninkovich was suspended. In short, they were a depleted team waiting to get beaten by a Super Bowl contender playing at home and coming off a 13-3 season.

Except they didn't budge.

Somehow, they won with Jimmy Garoppolo making his first NFL start, and they won despite two turnovers that led to touchdowns and they won in a building where Arizona is damned near bullet-proof, winning 20 of its last 25 before Sunday. Bottom line: They won a game they weren't expected to win.

Now they're home for three weeks, after which Brady returns and the Patriots strike opponents with the vengeance they reserved for them in the wake of Spygate, 2007.

Once upon a time, I thought New England could go 3-1 with Garoppolo, with 2-2 a virtual certainty. Now I wouldn’t be shocked if they lapped the field.

FIRST-AND-15

  1. Prediction: Ezekiel Elliott doesn't break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record.
  2. There is no way you can overstate the importance of the Giants' win in Dallas, either. It wasn't just that this was their first season-opening victory there in the last nine tries; it was that they didn't wilt in the last two minutes. OK, so they got a boost from Terrance Williams' brain cramp, but this was exactly the kind of game they blew last year when they couldn't hold a lead. Only this time they didn't. Yes, its one game, but this wasn't just any game. This was a defeat of an arch rival, with an overhauled defense holding firm in a building where it used to leak. In short, it was a huge victory.
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(Eli Manning photo courtesy of the New York Giants)

3. What happened to home-field advantage? Home teams were 6-8 in Week One.

4. Replay that Aaron Rodgers-to-Davante Adams touchdown pass and ask yourself this question: How in the world did Rodgers make that throw?

5. This is what you love … and hate … about the Raiders' come-from-behind win: The opposing quarterback threw for 423 yards and four TDs … and still lost.

6. I'm starting to believe in Jim Bob Cooter.

7. Talk about parity: Ten of the first 14 games this season were decided by seven points, including four ... yes, four ... that were decided by one, two that were decided by two and another that went to OT.

8. I'm sorry, Charles Woodson … whhhaaaatttt? Woodson made his ESPN debut memorable, predicting that Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor will catch 1,800 yards in passes this year. Honest. Now, forget that Pryor is a converted quarterback … or that RG3 is his quarterback … or that only one Browns' receiver (Josh Gordon) ever had more than 1,300 yards in a season. There have only been four receivers in NFL history to produce 1,800 yards in one year. Get a grip, Charles.

9. Start the Mike McCoy 86 Watch. No way he should’ve lost that game Sunday. But he did, and stop if you’ve heard this before. That makes him 22-27 with the Chargers, with 15 losses in his past 20 games. One question: How in the world did this guy rate a one-year extension?

10. Stat that I like most about Carson Wentz's first NFL start: Zero turnovers.

11.Brian Billick might be right about Cleveland.

12. Call me old school, but I love what Jeremy Hill does after he scores: Hand the ball to officials and shake the hands of his teammates.

13. The more I watch Danny Woodhead the more don’t understand how he got away from Bill Belichick.

14. If Marshawn Lynch ever decides to un-retire, I now a team that would welcome him back: Seattle. The Seahawks miss him so much that when it was fourth-and-inches they had Russell Wilson throw a sideline pass … that was incomplete.

15. Yep, I love what the Miami defense did, too. But you measure good/great ones by how they perform in the last two minutes of games … and the Dolphins' failure to close out Seattle down the stretch was reminiscent of what happened last season.

WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEKEND …

  • I know he didn’t win, but quarterback Dak Prescott passed the first audition. No, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he didn’t make critical mistakes, either -- other than notgetting Dez Bryant more involved. For those keeping score at home, that’s the 14th loss for Dallas in its last 15 starts without Tony Romo.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles knew what they were doing when they chose Carson Wentz over Sam Bradford.
  • Maybe Chargers' GM Tom Telesco was right when he moved up to draft Melvin Gordon.
  • Why Vikings' GM Rick Spielman felt an urgency to find someone better than Shaun Hill at quarterback.
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(Rick Spielman photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)

  • The Saints' defense may have a new coordinator, but it still has more holes than Sonny Corleone. Worse, it may have just lost cornerback Delvin Breaux.
  • You should’ve drafted Will Fuller for your fantasy-football team.
  • You should’ve drafted Jameis Winston, too.
  • Victor Cruz is back.
  • Baltimore will be a playoff factor this season. Reason: Defense. It's back … and so is Terrell Suggs.
  • Revis Island is no more. A.J. Green burned the Jets cornerback for 12 catches, 180 yards and a touchdown. Combine that with what Sammy Watkins did to Revis in the 2015 season finale, and you have a cornerback in retreat.
  • Expect the unexpected when New England plays at University of Phoenix Stadium. That was the third frantics and unpredictable finish for the Pats there in three tries.

… AND WHAT WE DIDN’T

  • What happened to ESPN's fantasy football app Sunday. It shut down for hours, though Roger Goodell assured us he was 100 percent certain it was OK.
  • What Adam Gase can do for Ryan Tannehill and the Seattle offense. The Dolphins scored fewer points Sunday (10) than in any game last season.
  • Adrian Peterson might be on the escalator going down. The guy's 31 and ran for 31 yards against … the Tennessee Titans? I understand he started with 31 in the opener a year ago ... but that was vs. Minnsesota. And, as I said, it was when he was a year younger.
  • Why the Raiders thought cornerback Shaun Smith could single-cover Brandin Cooks. Drew Brees compared him to Usain Bolt, for crying out loud.
Ryan Tannehill photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins

(Ryan Tannehill photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins)

  • When and where the Bears find a pass rush.
  • If RG3 is more than just a way station to the next quarterback in Cleveland. Yes, he had his moments, but he also made crucial mistakes.That's nothing new. But this is: He left the locker room with an injured shoulder. Man, it's brutal to be a Browns' fan.
  • Why the Raiders' defense still stinks after all those offseason moves.
  • Why anyone should trust Ryan Fitzpatrick in critical situations. The guy makes too many mistakes.
  • When Michael Crabtree grows up. Announcers blamed the Raiders' "youth" afterward for a stupid penalty that could’ve cost them a win, but c'mon, guys. Crabtree is no rookie. He's an idiot who should know better by now.
  • Where there are holes in New England. Without Tom Brady, the Patriots were the only AFC East team to win.
  • Why Larry Fitzgerald should retire. The guy is a load.

SUNDAY'S HALL-OF-FAME WINNER …

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(Jack del Rio photo courtesy of Oakland Raiders)

Oakland coach Jack Del Rio. He's down one, with an extra point to tie and under one minute left. So what does he do? Kick the extra point of course. Wrong. He defies logic, gambles and goes for the victory … and succeeds. In a league where coaches too often play not to lose, Del Rio played to win … and won. Good for him.

… AND SUNDAY'S HALL-OF-SHAME LOSER

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He said he's "100 percent" he got it right when he suspended Tom Brady, and why not? It’s a free country, and he's entitled to his opinion. But he's 100 percent wrong. Forget that there was no evidence directly linking Brady to the alleged crime … or that referee Walt Anderson couldn’t remember what gauge he used … or that the NFL had no understanding of Ideal Gas Law. The Wells Report said Brady had a "general awareness" of how footballs were deflated, and that's terrific. Except I have a general awareness of how a car runs … but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. So Brady merits the same suspension as Greg Hardy, who nearly killed a woman, and, yes, there's something very, very wrong with that.

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