Heroes & Villains: Mariota shines, Chip narrative fails

After an offseason of waiting around, Week 1 is in the books.

Before we move on to the next chapter of madness, it's time to make our list of the good and not-so-good from the first 16 games of the season.

It's Heroes and Villains time:


1. This year's No. 2 overall pick: Prior to the draft, Marcus Mariota had scouts buzzing hard:

"He throws on the move as well as anybody I've seen," one personnel man told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, with another saying: "I would much rather have this guy than (Jameis) Winston."

It's too early to toss the book at Winston, but Sunday's bloodbath in Tampa has two long-whipped fan bases feeling very differently about the 2015 season. Tennessee's 42-14 bombing of the Bucs is the most points scored by a Titans team in three years -- and it didn't look like a fluke. Mariota's 13-of-16 passing day for 209 yards and four touchdowns was a thing of beauty that triggered a 158.3 passer rating -- tops in the league after one week.

NFL Media's Lance Zierlein noted that Mariota is "already throwing with much better anticipation, release and ball placement," skills that go nicely with his pro-friendly footwork.

But here's the best part of it: The Titans are interesting again. Watchable. Engaging. It's another reminder to every team still struggling for relevance in the NFL: Find that spicy young quarterback and everything shifts in a hurry.

2. Rob Gronkowski's descendants forever and ever: Forget the fantasy owners who pulled in a wild 32.40 points in standard leagues. Gronkowki is set up in this offense to shatter his career-high 17 touchdowns and 1,327 receiving yards from 2011. His chemistry with Tom Brady is peaking, leading wideout Julian Edelman to gush: "It's like watching ... an 8th grader play with 2nd graders."

We are viewing one of the great talents of our age destroy defenses and scatter cover men with rare ease. He dug Pittsburgh's grave in the opener, but the Steelers won't be the last squad to take a dirt-nap. Don't look now, but Gronk has a legit shot to shatter Randy Moss' 23-touchdown record from 2007. Nearly a decade later -- would anything be more Patriots?

3. Ameer Abdullah: The hype was real. Detroit's rookie running back is already flashing the qualities as a long-term find for the Lions. His speed off the cut reminds me of former Browns and Falcons star Eric Metcalf, while his quickness has drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders. We're getting to the point where Matthew Stafford -- surrounded by weapons -- has run out of excuses:

4. Rex Ryan: For one week, Ryan has backed up all the bluster and mighty words. We've seen this act before with Gang Green, but give Rex credit: Most of America sees the Colts as a Super Bowl contender. Ryan made Andrew Luck look like Brandon Weeden in a mask. We also saw Tyrod Taylor shapeshift from a player who once "disappointed"Ravens coach John Harbaugh into a viable, game-ready quarterback -- long overdue for a city that hasn't enjoyed such a luxury since Jim Kelly was rolling teams a quarter-century ago.

Beat up the Patriots and you have our long-term attention.


1. Rob Ryan: New Orleans gave up 427 yards to the Cardinals on Sunday. Sadly, this comes as no surprise for Saints fans. Why? Because Bad Santa's defense gave up 500-plus yards in a pair of games last season and more than 400 yards in six additional tilts. Since 2004, Robby-coordinated defenses -- 11 in total -- have finished in the Top 10 just twice -- and 19th or worse a ghastly eight times.

At this stage, it's unclear if Ryan is even attending Saints games:

2. Father Time: Today's fans grew up with Peyton Manning. He's been a fixture in NFL circles spanning three decades. The clock is ticking, though, leaving us to wonder what's happening to a legend. It's premature to dismiss Peyton's fit in Gary Kubiak's offense, but his limited arm strength and under-center snaps were not a mesh with that scheme against Baltimore. Whether he'll turn it around is to be seen, but we aren't a fan of slowly losing our favorite players to greedy Father Time.

3. Eagles-Centric Hot-Take Machine With Seven Minutes Left in the First Half: There are moments when Twitter as a collective body deserves to be dumped from a seafaring vessel into the deep. Take Monday night, when social-media toughies walked the virtual streets in hordes to bury Chip Kelly's offense. With the Eagles trailing 20-3 at half, social media was aflutter with takes-so-hot. But Philly wasn't done, taking the game to its final minutes. After leading the NFL in possessions last year, it's simple: Kelly's fast-flowing offense cannot be counted out with 30 minutes to go. Keyboards down.

4. Mangenious doubters: Tucked away in the shadows, Eric Mangini has been an easy target for jabs dating back to his ill-fated Browns tenure. On Monday, though, he flipped the script, guiding a 49ers defense that detonated Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikes. Mangini unleashed creative blitzes, putting the onus on a depleted Minnesota to counter. His players have bought in, with NaVorro Bowman saying: "He knows what he's doing. I've been saying since Day 1, we have a lot of variety in this defense."

If you remember anything, let it be this:

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