The good: The first episode touched base with many of the good ol' characters from previous years. The assistant coach who had a heart attack, the lesbian girl in Landry's garage band, Billy Riggins "high class" wife -- it is good that the background characters who give the show its cool texture were not erased away with the change of the seasons (something that happens with many modest budget TV series.
FNL's most interesting character has been Tim Riggins -- starting out totally lost and confused, and then finding his way and developing into the show's silent leading zen hero.
What is good is with this new season, he is right back having no one again and being completely lost and confused. Surely by season's end, he will find his way again, and this will be the most fun thing to watch.
The bad: This new season first episode was not exactly new viewer friendly as it could have been (not talking about network promotions, which is a different issue).
Unless I missed it, a new viewer would not know that Matt's mother has dementia until maybe after she was finished with her lines.
Jurnee Smollett was introduced in the opening credits, but is not seen in the episode.
Some things were set up for new viewers, but some things were not.
Last, the new assistant coach, the Star Spangled Banner girl -- this season has one or two OVERLY VERBAL characters. One was annoying. The other cut into the high realism of the show.