Sunday evening was supposed to officially put 20 years of hurt in the rear-view mirror as orange and brown-clad fans streamed into FirstEnergy Stadium full of hope and joy. The sun was shining and all seemed right in Cleveland when the Browns marched down the field on their first drive to score a touchdown.
And then the wheels came off... the beer went flat, the hot dogs started tasting sour and the sun went in.
What was supposed to be a dream start turned into a nightmare 30-point loss in front of fans who quickly went quiet and decided to beat the traffic and leave the game early as Tennessee romped to a 43-13 win.
Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 84 yards and one score, while also finding the end zone on a 75-yard catch and run. But the stars for the Titans were Dean Pees' defenders. They harassed Baker Mayfield to the tune of five sacks, scored nine points on a safety and a pick six and forced three interceptions.
This game served as a reminder that winning needs to be a skill that is learned and that this game of American football is much more than a case of collecting 'name' players. The Browns did not play with enough discipline, poise or consistency and, frankly, they were soundly beaten by the better team who reminded us they should have been given greater respect heading into the season opener.
There is much to be fixed after one week of play and new Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens faces an early test of his ability to right the ship, make adjustments on the fly and build the confidence of a damaged team.
This team was pumped by just about everyone in the offseason, myself included, and storm clouds could gather if they drop to 0-2 next week. That makes Cleveland's meeting with the New York Jets a massive early-season affair.
Dak Prescott...Are the Dallas Cowboys about to become Dak Prescott's team? Ever since Ezekiel Elliott entered the NFL in 2016, the Cowboys' attack has - quite literally - run through the league's top running back. But in Sunday's 35-17 demolition of the New York Giants, it was clear that Dak was Dallas' alpha male. Looking in total command, Prescott had the best game of his career as he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns while compiling a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. If he maintains such form, the Cowboys will be a true Super Bowl force in 2019.
Lamar Jackson...So much of Jackson's rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens centred on the young quarterback's running skills. He kicked off his sophomore campaign with a sublime passing display against the Miami Dolphins. It should be noted that Miami looked like a high school team on Sunday, but that should only slightly detract from Jackson's excellent day. He still had to make the throws and did that to the tune of 324 yards and five touchdowns. I hope that showing was a harbinger of things to come because combining rushing and passing skills will make Jackson one of the most exciting prospects in recent NFL history.
Sammy Watkins...This is a big year for Watkins to prove that he still has gas left in his tank. He teased potential in the playoffs with Kansas City last season and exploded out of the gates on Sunday. The former Buffalo Bill and Los Angeles Ram caught nine passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns against Jacksonville and it would have been more if the Chiefs had not called the dogs off late in what turned out to be a one-sided contest. Watkins will take on an even bigger role now Tyreek Hill is out injured.
Jameis Winston...I interviewed Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Jameis Winston during the offseason and the veteran boss had a clear message for his passer... stop throwing it to the other team! It doesn't look like Jameis was listening as he threw three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, in a 31-17 loss to San Francisco. We're getting to the stage of his career now where Winston is not going to be fixed by any amount of quarterback whispering. He is what he is and that is a quarterback who has committed 79 turnovers since 2015 - most in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins...The Dolphins can spout all about their long-term plans after trading away any hope of being competitive in 2019. But they still owe their fans some kind of apology for having to sit through Sunday's embarrassing mess of a 59-10 loss to Baltimore. This might sound a bit too layman-like, but it is the best way to describe this team. Every time I saw them in action on RedZone on Sunday night, it looked nothing like regular football. It just looked wrong. This might be one of the worst teams in the league's recent history.
Jacksonville's defense...On paper, this is one of the most talented units in the league. On the field- which is where they actually have to play the games - these Jags continue to be a disappointment. Sunday';s 40-26 loss to Kansas City featured the shipping of 491 yards, the giving up of multiple big plays and the ejection through fighting of linebacker Myles Jack. When will this team take a more disciplined approach to playing the game? On the other side of the ball, the loss of Nick Foles with a broken collarbone takes the air out of this team.
The Fast Five...
Fact of the Week
Finish That Sentence
I asked three colleagues to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...
I get why the New England Patriots have taken a chance on Antonio Brown at the relatively low-risk price of $15 million for one season. But it doesn't sit well with me that, on the face of it, Brown deliberately agitated his way out of Oakland and onto the open market. I guess we'll never officially know if that is the case or not but Brown will now play for the best team in football and with the greatest player of all time throwing him the passes. That is obviously a pretty good situation for him to be in. It.s hard to swallow because Brown is far from the ideal role model or teammate and yet he has been royally rewarded for being a total pain in the Raiders' you know what.