We have nearly closed the book on Week 1 of the NFL season. The opening weekend was thrilling and didn’t come without multiple storylines to discuss heading into Week 2.
Below are my biggest takeaways from America’s game return.
Buffalo Bills 31 – Los Angeles Rams 10
Bills are Super Bowl Favorites for a Reason:
The Bills were dominant in the season’s opener. And, what is most alarming, the score may not accurately represent the on-field disparity between these two teams.
Were it not for a few errand Buffalo Bills’ turnovers, this contest may have been a route at halftime. The Bills did not punt once, and less-attentive fans likely had no idea that Buffalo was devoid of their offensive coordinator of the past four years.
In that same vein, questions regarding the transition to first-year OC Ken Dorsey surely were answered. Those familiar with Dorsey’s coaching career certainly compared Josh Allen’s performance on this night to Cam Newton’s electric 2015 season. Despite his two turnovers, Allen was/is the NFL MVP after the season’s first game.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills disguised the reigning Super Bowl champs as frauds. Buffalo sacked QB Matthew Stafford seven times and intercepted him three times. Skepticism suddenly shrouds the Rams this season, and the hype surrounding Buffalo rightfully grows with this result.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 – Cincinnati Bengals 20
How to Lose a Game:
This result is less of an endorsement of Pittsburgh than it is an indictment of the Bengals. Cincinnati allocated any/all offseason resources to bolster their offensive line. Optimistic fans were vocal that high-profile signings such as La’el Collins and Alex Cappa would propel the Bengals into the NFL elite for years. The unit, however, looked horrible. Quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked seven times and hurried another eight.
On his own merit, Burrow did not play well. The young QB was responsible for five turnovers, and it felt like the offense was playing for a home-run play the entire contest. Despite this, Cincinnati was in this game until the very end. A Ja’Marr Chase touchdown with only two seconds remaining should have been the punctuation mark on an unlikely win. The blocked extra-point credited to Minkah Fitzpatrick was only a foreshadowing of things to come.
Is it even worth mentioning Head Coach Zac Taylor’s ineptitude in recognizing that Chase crossed the goal-line for the game-tying score before the two-minute warning? Whoops.
Compounding errors at every level of the organization were too much for Cincinnati to overcome. The Bengals looked like a team that would be fortunate to earn a wildcard berth at season’s end, not like the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl LVI.
Cleveland Browns 26 – Carolina Panthers 24
The Definition of Insanity:
For the third-straight season, the Panthers have attempted to ‘fix’ their quarterback woes via acquisition of a talented, yet unwanted, player from another franchise. Is it too early to say it didn’t work again? Quarterback Baker Mayfield cannot be blamed solely for this loss, but he did not play well in a matchup versus his former team.
Carolina punctuated this loss by highlighting their abysmal run defense and an offense lacking any identity. The Panthers’ aversion to running the football against a lackluster Cleveland front was both fascinating and frustrating. Head Coach Matt Rhule’s seat just got a lot warmer; this was an embarrassing loss for the Panthers.
Miami Dolphins 20 – New England Patriots 7
It’s not Backyard Football:
The concerns of the Patriots not having declared an offensive coordinator seem warranted after one game. Miami has an admirable defense, but what is New England’s plan this season?
In Mike McDaniel’s first game as a head coach, Dolphins fans have much to cheer about, and their optimism is thus far justified. However, Miami is far from an offensive juggernaut, and the AFC is loaded with talent in 2022. There is no reason to believe that the Pats can keep pace with the AFC’s elite after this showing, and the hubris of the coaching staff seems it may be exceeding ability in New England.
Is it overreaction Monday? Maybe. Otherwise, this may be a long season for the Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens 24 – New York Jets 9
Joe Flacco is still in the NFL?:
Yup, and he shouldn’t be.
There isn’t much information to discern from this insignificant matchup in the Meadowlands. The consensus was that the Ravens would roll the Jets, and they did. There is certainly more to be desired of the Ravens’ offense, but this critique feels presumptive after one week.
Let’s hope that second-year QB Zach Wilson gets healthy and back on the field sooner than later. This is a crucial season for the Jets and having Flacco toss the ball 59 times only hinders looming assessments of their roster.
Washington Commanders 28 – Jacksonville Jaguars 22
Carson Wentz CAN beat the Jaguars:
Colts fans, I jest. This was an oddly encouraging game for both teams.
Washington’s defensive front flexed its muscles, and the team’s acquisition of Carson Wentz for a third-round pick does not seem so egregious when the quarterback throws for three touchdowns.
On the other hand, Trevor Lawrence very much looked like the best second-year QB in the NFL. The maligned contract given to WR Christian Kirk was appropriate on this day, and the Jags’ run game was effective. Most importantly, the Jaguars looked competent and nearly rallied to win this game. Jaguars fans should be encouraged with initial returns from HC Doug Pederson.
This outcome neither propels nor derails either team’s season.
Chicago Bears 19 – San Francisco 49ers 10
The Grass in Chicago is Awful:
This was an incredible win by the Chicago Bears. This team’s sole expectation appears to be identifying whether or not second-year QB Justin Fields is a quarterback for the new regime to build around. And, while this result is certainly not a justification of any opinion, a win versus the NFC runner-up is certainly a Week-1 high Bears fans were not anticipating.
For the 49ers, however, this loss is troublesome. In the event the 49ers to compound early season losses, the decision to keep veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo as the backup to Trey Lance may spark contention in the locker room.
The rain in Chicago was legit, and an overall assessment of either team certainly carries a significant asterisk. But, the 49ers’ sense of urgency has certainly heightened heading into a matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. If San Fran loses that game, this season could quickly go off the rails.
Philadelphia Eagles 38 – Detroit Lions 35
A.J. Brown looks a lot like Terrell Owens:
In his stint with the Tennessee Titans, the newly acquired Eagles receiver had drawn comparison to the Hall-of-Famer. He looks a lot more like him when dressed in Philly green. A.J. Brown hoarded the targets in the Eagles’ passing attack and took full advantage of them en route to 155 receiving yards on 10 receptions. His dominance, paired with an efficient rushing attack, will give the Eagles a chance in every game this season.
For much of the 2021 season, Philadelphia’s offense searched for itself. That won’t be the case this year.
Indianapolis Colts 20 – Houston Texans 20
A Tie is Good, Sometimes:
It is appropriate that the least anticipated division in the NFL begins the year without a victory. It is hilarious that after a Week 1 tie, the Colts’ odds to win the AFC South shortened.
This outcome is certainly frustrating for Colts fans but should not be interpreted as a sign of things to come. In his first game dressed as a Colt, QB Matt Ryan looked a lot more like Philip Rivers than he did Carson Wentz. That alone is encouraging.
Additionally, the Colts’ 20-point performance was not an indication of a broken offense, but a product of wasted opportunity. Indy tallied 517 yards of total offense, an output derailed by a pair of frustrating/flukey turnovers and red zone inefficiencies.
A 17-point fourth-quarter comeback is encouraging, regardless of opponent. Indianapolis played much better than the score indicates. They just botched their opportunities to win this game outright.
New Orleans Saints 27 – Atlanta Falcons 26
Can’t Guard Mike:
It was sweet to see All-Pro WR Michael Thomas back on the field. Thomas’ pair of fourth-quarter touchdown receptions propelled the Saints to victory, reminding the public of his greatness and of the Falcons’ inability to win games that they should.
The Saints’ offense was anemic for much of this contest, but the unit gave viewers a glimpse of its potential late in the game. The receiving trio of Thomas, veteran Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave appears to be an exceptional mesh of talent, capable of frustrating any defensive backfield.
This was an encouraging come-from-behind victory for Saints fans and a welcomed outcome for new HC Dennis Allen. The Saints took care of business, and a looming date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has the potential to alter the perceived hierarchy in the NFC.
New York Giants 21 – Tennessee Titans 20
How not to Convert Third-and-One:
A season ago, the Titans were eliminated in the postseason by the Cincinnati Bengals on the heels of a poor performance from QB Ryan Tannehill. With seven minutes remaining in the contest, the game was knotted at 16-16, and Tennessee faced third-and-one from the opposing 35. The Titans ran the ball with Tannehill for no gain. The drive resulted in zero points, and Tennessee lost.
Fast-forward to Week 1 of the 2022 season: The Titans lead 20-13, and face a third-and-one late in the fourth quarter. The play-call is an end-around to rookie Tight-End Chigoziem Okonkwo. The offense loses four yards, the Titans are forced to punt and lose the game.
Cheers to the Giants for this victory. The team looks rejuvenated under rookie HC Brian Daboll. QB Daniel Jones played mostly efficient ball, and RB Saquon Barkley looked spry. However, this result is less about New York than it is an indication that the Tennessee staff has failed in their decision-making and roster construction.
The Titans have forged their identity around star RB Derrick Henry, yet elect not to feature him in the most crucial moments. This was a frustrating start to what projects to be a disappointing season for Tennessee.
Minnesota Vikings 23 – Green Bay Packers 7
Vikings Hype is Warranted:
Before the season, the Packers’ secondary had been tagged as a potentially elite unit. They were absolutely torched on Sunday. Justin Jefferson looked like the best WR in the game, and opposing QB Aaron Rodgers went so far as to say he may be the best player. This was a statement win from Minnesota, their largest margin of victory ever versus Rodgers.
Rodgers’ lack of rapport with his young receivers was noticeable, and his frustration palpable. All-Pro WR Davante Adams was sorely missed, and here’s hoping Green Bay can find its rhythm sooner rather than later.
Kansas City Chiefs 44 – Arizona Cardinals 21
The Chiefs traded whom some consider the best WR in football to the Miami Dolphins in March, and they didn’t skip a beat. QB Patrick Mahomes distributed the ball masterfully, targeting 10 different receives en route to a five-touchdown, 360-yard showcase through the air. A Thursday Night matchup versus the Los Angeles Chargers can’t come soon enough.
The Cardinals, however, looked like they all need to watch more film. This may be a disastrous season in the desert.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 – Las Vegas Raiders 19
Easy to Pass Rush when you have Justin Herbert:
Keenan Allen left with a hamstring injury in the first half, and Mike Williams did not have a catch until the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter, as the offense hummed. Third-year QB Justin Herbert played an exceptional game, tossing three touchdowns to players making their debut in a Chargers uniform.
The Raiders never led and quickly abandoned the run game in this contest. Such circumstances provided the Chargers’ elite pass-rushing unit the opportunity to feast on opposing QB Derek Carr.
There are perhaps no bigger fans of the Chargers offense than the duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 – Dallas Cowboys 3
Nobody Likes Field Goals:
“Sunday Night Football certainly did not punctuate an eventful day in the NFL. Few expected a defensive showcase with such elite QBs under center, yet neither the Buccaneers nor the Cowboys exceeded 200 yards passing on this night.
Speaking of Quarterbacks, a rough night for Cowboys signal-caller Dak Prescott got much worse midway through the fourth quarter. Prescott was forced to exit the game with a right-hand injury and is expected to miss significant time with a fractured thumb.
If the Cowboys cannot tread water in Prescott’s absence, their season may be over just as quickly as it began.
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