NFL Week 1 Round-up
The NFL is back, and with a bang. Old stars return, new stars emerge, some players shone, some failed to live up to expectations. Let’s take a deeper look at what went down in the first week back in football land.
Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Dallas Cowboys 29
Death, taxes, and Tom Brady fourth quarter comebacks. Even in year 22, Tom continues to prove that age is just a number as he put up a monster performance including 4 TDs, 379 yards and a clutch game winning drive with less than two minutes on the clock.
Rob Gronkowski showed out again, connecting with Brady for the duo’s 100th TD pass in his first of second touchdown grabs of the night.
Brady threw two interceptions, but the first was hardly his fault as the ball rebounded off Chris Godwin’s hand and the second was a noble effort; a Hail Mary as the first half expired — showing that Tom is not concerned with stats as much as he is with the team winning.
The Bucs’ defense looked a shadow of itself the night it shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs high-powered offense in the Super Bowl, but it’s only week 1, so I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Dak Prescott looked great, throwing for over 400 yards and 4 TD passes, and receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were both over 100 yards on the night. However, Zeke really might be finished after he managed only 33 yards off 11 carries.
The Bucs’ Super Bowl defense is off to a good start, and the Cowboys have proved why they are favorites for the NFC East title this year.
Indianapolis Colts 16, Seattle Seahawks 28
Carson Wentz got off to a losing start in his new life at Lucas Oil. Russell Wilson had probably the best QB performance of the week, reeling in 254 yards whilst completing 78% of his balls with 4 TDs and no INTs.
Tyler Lockett is quietly brilliant for Seattle, his haul being 100 yards and 2 TDs as his connection with Wilson blossoms into one of the league’s deadliest.
Houston Texans 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 21
Trevor Lawrence lost his first ever regular season game, snapping a streak that endured all the way through high school and college — and it was in crushing style.
Lawrence is for sure a generational talent, but will take some time to adjust to the NFL after his unsettled debut which saw 3 interceptions and most of his deceptively impressive 332 yards coming in garbage time when the game was already lost.
Tyrod Taylor, on the other hand, played well standing in for the notably absent Deshaun Watson, with 2 TDs, no INTs and almost 300 yards.
Atlanta Falcons 6, Philadelphia Eagles 32
Philly silenced the haters, including myself, in this sweeping victory at the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The Eagles’ defense clicked as Matt Ryan was subdued and kept under 200 yards — the departure of star WR Julio Jones really showing in Atlanta’s lackluster offense.
Heisman winner DeVonta Smith looked solid on his NFL debut, and Jalen Hurts balled out with 3 TDs and no INTs — perhaps Philly has already found its QB for the future.
Washington Football Team 16, Los Angeles Chargers 20
Justin Herbert looked keen to avoid a sophomore slump with a decent display against a tough Washington defense as the Chargers moved to 1–0.
Ryan Fitzpatrick endured another stroke of terrible luck as he left the field early on with an injury, and was later placed on IR. His replacement, Taylor Heinicke (who almost ruined the Bucs’ Super Bowl run last year before it could even get started) took to the game well, and may well thrive in the league with his Lamar Jackson-esque elusiveness.
Both these teams will hope to make the playoffs come the end of the season.
Buffalo Bills 16, Pittsburgh Steelers 23
The big shock of the weekend. Many predicted a Buffalo win at home in the first game of the season against an aging Big Ben, but the Steelers managed to successfully curtail the Bills’ late comeback effort, capped by a defensive touchdown to ice the game in the fourth quarter.
Josh Allen, an MVP favorite, underperformed heavily and failed to amass more than 20 points even in a game where his defense held Pittsburgh to the third-lowest total offensive yards on the weekend.
Both the AFC East and AFC North playoff races have immediately become fascinating, as Buffalo erred early and Pittsburgh emerged as serious contenders.
Detroit Lions 33, San Francisco 49ers 41
Both offenses put on a show in this high-scoring game that was edged by San Francisco.
Rookie RB Eli Mitchell was on fire, notching up 104 yards and a touchdown at an average of 5.5 yards per carry in his first NFL start.
We even got a sneak preview of the future as QB Trey Lance made a quick cameo, with a 5-yard TD pass to Trent Sherfield.
Both sides need not fret about their offensive capabilities, although allowing so many points should be of some concerns to the defenses.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Minnesota Vikings 24 (O/T)
LSU fans rejoiced as the Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase connection was revitalized in a clutch overtime victory for the Cincinnati Bengals over Minnesota.
Burrow looked great in his first NFL start since his ACL tear that ended his season prematurely in week 11 last year. And the future looks promising as WR duo Chase and Tee Higgins look like the real deal for Cincy.
Perhaps the Vikings can take some solace that, even though they’ll probably suck this year, so will Green Bay.
Carolina Panthers 19, New York Jets 14
One of the lowest-quality games of the weekend. Second overall Zach Wilson didn’t look great in his first NFL game, throwing a pick and only completing 54% of his balls.
New York failed to get the run game going and was really not that impressive in the pass game either. They remain in perpetual rebuilding status.
The Panthers offensive, meanwhile, is still the Christian McCaffrey show. McCaffrey led the team in rushing and receiving on his way to racking up an impressive 187 total yards on the day. He’s definitely my early pick for Offensive Player of the Year.
Sam Darnold, debuting against his old team, looked good and may now get to show his real talent under Matt Rhule having been held back in New York.
Tennessee Titans 13, Arizona Cardinals 38
Tennessee looked a shadow of the team that made a playoff run last year. Mr. 2K, Derrick Henry, was held to only 58 yards at 3.4 yards a carry and it looks like Ryan Tannehill has not yet figured out how he is going to effectively utilize his firepower at WR with both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
The Cardinals began their quest for the West in great fashion as Kyler Murray immediately picked up his stellar form, throwing for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns. RB duo Chase Edmonds and James Conner combined for 116 yards on the ground, and WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk both hauled in 2 TDs as well.
DE Chandler Jones had an astonishing 5 sacks on the day, tying the Cardinals’ single game sack record, and former Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons also had an interception.
Things look very good for Arizona. Tennessee, we’ll have to see.
Kansas City Chiefs 33, Cleveland Browns 29
This was the heavyweight matchup of the weekend, two strong AFC contenders facing off in week 1, and they did not disappoint.
Baker Mayfield played exceptionally well, and his stat line undersells his quality — the interception being not his fault at all. Sometimes, coaches just prefer to run the ball in, and when you have an RB like Nick Chubb why not (unless you’re Pete Carroll), meaning that Baker’s stats look less impressive with no TD passes.
Baker and the Browns had Mahomes on the ropes for almost the whole game, but once again the timeless and evergreen connection of Mahomes to Hill came in clutch as they combined for a 75-yard TD bomb to ice the game.
Cleveland can hold their heads high knowing they took one of the league’s best teams down to the wire. Expect Kevin Stefanski’s men to be right up there at the end of the season.
New England Patriots 16, Miami Dolphins 17
Tough one to take for the Pats. After the hype that ensued following Cam Newton being cut and Mac Jones being named the starter, many started to rave about how good the defense was, how good the running backs were, how Mac had so much potential and how well New England were going to do this season.
To be fair, New England’s defense played well, restricting Miami to only 276 yards of offense, but Mac and the pack struggled to put up points on the board despite some impressive drives and racking up more total offensive yards than their counterparts in white.
Belichick broke the bank in free agency to bring in Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to give Mac some solid options at WR, and will expect him and the offense as a unit to be firing on far more cylinders against New York in week 2.
Tua was O.K. but certainly out-dueled in the battle of the Alabama QBs, in the end doing enough to get his team over the line, but was very reliant on his defense shutting down Jones and co. in a way that is not reliable moving forward.
New York Giants 13, Denver Broncos 27
Teddy Bridgwater showed why he deserved to oust Drew Lock as the starting QB for the Broncos with a dominant display against the Giants.
The Broncos offense chimed, with RB Melvin Gordon racking up over 100 yards on the day at over 9 yards a carry with a TD, and receivers Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant having solid outings as well.
Former second overall pick Saquon Barkley looked rusty in his first game back from an injury which ruled him out for most of last year, having 10 carries for only 26 yards.
It was overall a great day for Denver who have the auspices of a great season in the making. The Giants, however, will hope this is just a blip — although that unfortunately seems unlikely.
New Orleans Saints 38, Green Bay Packers 3
Wow. For all the talk about Belichick being the real genius behind Tom Brady’s success, maybe it’s time we asked the same question about Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Jameis Winston looked just as comfortable and in control of the Saints’ offensive as he threw for 5 TDs and handed Aaron Rodgers his worst ever defeat as a starter.
Last year’s NFC runners-up looked like the worst team in the league as Winston got off to a dream start in his first game as a starter since 2019.
Rodgers threw for 133 yards and 2 picks before Matt LaFleur put Jordan Love in the game to finish.
Serious questions will now be asked about Rodgers’ future at Green Bay with perennial suitors Denver remaining interested in picking him up as a free agent at the end of the season, whilst others have called for his retirement.
Could this be it for Green Bay?
Los Angeles Rams 34, Chicago Bears 14
The Matthew Stafford era in L.A. got off to a perfect start as the Rams routed Chicago in their season opener.
Stafford went 20/26 for 321 yards with 3 TDs and no picks against a respectable Bears defense.
Andy Dalton had a horrible interception right after first round pick Justin Fields had thrown for his first of likely many NFL touchdowns.
Fields is clearly the future in Chicago, it’s just a matter of when Chicago actually get round to realizing that.
Monday Night Football: Las Vegas Raiders 33, Baltimore Ravens 27 (O/T)
Already a contender for game of the year. The Raiders looked like they had the game won when they marched down the field on the first possession of overtime down to the 1-yard line, but then an false start penalty followed by an interception gave the momentum back to the Ravens.
Lamar managed to drive his team up to about half-way, but then he fumbled, giving the ball back to Las Vegas who didn’t falter again, Derek Carr throwing a walk-off TD to Zay Jones to win the game in epic style.
Carr threw for a weekend-high 435 yards, continuing to shine as one of the NFL’s best QB talents.
The Raiders’ defense did well to suffocate Lamar, with DEs Carl Nassib and Maxx Crosby having 1 and 2 sacks respectively.
Lamar managed only 235 yards through the air, even though he did grab another 86 on the ground.
A pleasure of a game to watch and hopefully many more will follow.
Images are not my own. Follow me on Twitter @ontheball_pod
Thanks for reading! :)