Opening Weekend in the NFL: Review of Week 1
We finally made it! Week 1 of the NFL season has come and gone. It was incredible, shocking, and yet consistent.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The regular season opened with the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. The main question on everyone's mind was: How healthy is Dak Prescott? The Answer? He is 100% healthy. Prescott finished the night 42/58 for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns. His favorite targets, CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper each had over 100 yards receiver. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliot was held in check. He finished the night under 50 yards rushing and that made Dallas pretty one dimensional for most of the night.
The Bucs returned pretty much every player from last year on both sides of the football. They looked great as well. Tom Brady finished the night 32/50 for 379 yards. Two of the new players to Tampa ended up having great nights receiving. Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown scored a touchdown each and both had over 90 yards receiving. Tampa Bay struggled to run the ball as well, and it came down to who had the ball last. Fortunately for the Bucs, Tom Brady got the ball last. As a result, they drove down the field for Ryan Succop, who hit a 36 yard field goal to win the game. The final score: 31-29.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Two teams with a lot of questions. The main three questions for the Falcons were: Can Matt Ryan still lead the Falcons? Will their young receivers step up? Is their defense as bad as last year? For the Eagles: Has Jalen Hurts improved throwing the football? Will the young receivers step up? Can they stay healthy?
The answers for the Falcons, at least for one week, was maybe, not really, and yes. Matt Ryan had a pedestrian game. He finished under 200 yards passing and the Falcons did not score a single touchdown. Their leading receiver, Calvin Ridley, had 5 catches for 51 yards. The defense gave up 32 points and over 430 total yards.
The Eagles answers were much more positive. Jalen Hurts looked great passing the ball. He finished 27-35 for 264 and 3 touchdowns. Hurts also ran for 62 yards. The Eagles receiving core looked phenomenal. Last year's top pick, Jalen Reagor finished with 6 catches for 49 yards and 1 touchdown. This year's top pick and reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith led all receivers with 6 catches for 71 yards and 1 touchdown as well. The Eagles finished the game with no severe injuries of note and they were the better team as they won 32-6.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Washington Football Team
The Chargers lost Hunter Henry to the Patriots, but kept pretty much everyone else. Justin Herbert's second season in the LAC offense got off to a decent start. He finished 31/47 for 337 yards and one touchdown. He found 9 different receivers during the game, but only managed the one touchdown and one interception. The receivers for the Chargers did well led by Keenan Allen who finished with 9 catches for 100 yards.
The Football Team picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick after Alex Smith retired after a remarkable comeback from his devastating injury. The battle during training camp was between the veteran Fitzpatrick and, the young playoff surprise star, Taylor Heinicke. Fitzpatrick started the game, but unfortunately left due to a hip injury. Heinicke stepped in and picked up right where he left off from the playoff game in 2020. He finished 11/15 for 122 yards and 1 touchdown. The run game for the Football team looked steady with Antonio Gibson rushing 20 times for 90 yards.
The Chargers ended up winning a close game 20-16, but both teams looked good with some room for improvement. It would not surprise me if both of these teams made a push towards the playoffs if they can continue playing consistent football.
Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants
Denver's first game after not winning the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes over the summer and seeing Drew Lock lose the starting job opened with subtle optimism. The Giants were just hoping for a healthy team and Daniel Jones to improve the passing game.
Denver fans must have forgotten the consistency of Teddy Bridgewater because he played well yet again. He had an efficient day: 28/36 for 264 and 2 touchdowns. The run game was fantastic led by Melvin Gordon (11 carries for 101 yards and 1 touchdown).
On the other side, New York has a healthy team. That is about it. The offensive line is not up to par and the Giants finished with under 100 yards rushing. Daniel Jones was okay (22/37 267 and 1 touchdown). However, they did not produce any offense of note as the Broncos rolled to a 27-13 win.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Two teams with bright futures. The Vikings have a young, but established team and an open window for a playoff run. The Bengals have a young quarterback and receivers with a lot of talent and are looking to make some noise this year.
Kirk Cousins played very well finishing 36/49 for 351 yards and two scores. It was a lack of a run game that hurt the Vikings, who finished with under 70 yards. On the other hand, Joe Burrow was extremely efficient in his first game back from a devastating injury. He finished 20/27 for 261 and 2 scores. Unlike the Vikings, the Bengals were able to run the ball as Joe Mixon finished with 29 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown.
This game was close throughout and went in to overtime where the Bengals surprised a lot of people and won 27-24.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
One of the surprises of the weekend was the Houston Texans. Yes, they did add David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Brandin Cooks, but without their star quarterback Deshaun Watson, how could they win? The answer? Tyrod Taylor. Returning after a punctured lung almost ended his career, Taylor had a great day throwing for 291 yards, 2 touchdowns, and added 40 yards on the ground. Mark Ingram had a great game running for 85 yards and 1 touchdown, and Cooks added 132 yards receiving.
Even though the Jaguars were starting a rookie in Trevor Lawrence, they were still expected to win because of the distractions and thrown together roster of the Texans. However, the run game for the Jags was non existent and they were very one dimensional. Lawrence had a standard rookie outing. He had good moments and bad moments as he finished 28/51 for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, but also 3 interceptions. Their defense is not what it was in 2017 when they made their push to the AFC title game and the Texans were able to exploit them as they won this game 37-21.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans
The Cardinals are without Larry Fitzgerald, but added another legend in A.J. Green. Kyler Murray is a star and looking to take another step in his third year. The Titans were looking to continue on their recent success with back-to-back playoff appearances. The addition of Julio Jones had many people, including myself, having the Titans easily making the playoffs and being one of the top teams in the AFC and in the NFL.
The Titans can still be one of the best teams, but they will need to wash that horrible taste out of their mouth from yesterday. The Cardinals made them look silly. Kyler Murray accounted for 5 touchdowns as the Cardinals won 38-13. Murray had 309 total yards and the Cardinals put up 416 total yards. Just as impressive was the Arizona defense. They held the dynamic duo of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown under 100 yards receiving and, probably more shocking, held Derrick Henry under 60 yards rushing. The Titans will have a lot to work on, but they are still loaded with talent. The Cardinals on the other hand, look primed and ready to compete in an open NFC West division that is stacking up to be one of the best divisions in the entire league.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills
Ben Roethlisberger is back from injury and has a new, but very talented, running back in Najee Harris. He also has a loaded receiving core in tact and is trying to put together one final run before he retires. Josh Allen is looking to build off of his MVP like season of 2020. Adding Emmanuel Sanders to the receiving core was a nice touch, but the true question for the Bills is: Will they have a consistent run game?
The answer to that question is still, no. The lack of a run game cost them again as the Bills were very one dimensional. Allen threw 51 times for 270 yards and only 1 touchdown. Devin Singletary had 11 carries for 72 yards, but that was not enough touches to keep the Bills attack balanced enough to get the win.
Pittsburgh did not look great on offense by any means either. Buffalo's defense held the Steelers to less than 100 rushing and 200 passing yards. When both offenses seem to struggle that usually means the third phase of the game, special teams, is where the difference is. Sure enough, a blocked punt for a touchdown helped the Steelers as they pulled out a win 23-16. Both teams need to work on having a more balanced attack if they want to win their respective divisions this year.
New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
The battle of new vs. old. Zach Wilson, the new quarterback of the Jets, vs. Sam Darnold, the old quarterback of the Jets. Both quarterbacks played decent. Wilson provided hope for the future going 20/37 for 258 and 2 scores. The difference in this game was obviously an effective run game for the Panthers with a healthy Christian McCaffrey. In his first game back from injury, McCaffrey finished with 187 total yards (98 rushing). The Panthers had a balanced attack and it propelled them to hard fought 19-14 win.
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
This division is wide open now and yesterday proved that to still be the case. The Patriots surprised almost everyone when they cut Cam Newton and officially went with their rookie quarterback Mac Jones. The hope was that they retooled their receiving core enough to give Jones the security blankets he needs to grow and be efficient. Although this is the NFL and that does not always go to plan.
Jones played well going 29/39 for 281 and one score, but turnovers hurt the Patriots in this one. 4 fumbles and two of them were lost. Damien Harris rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries, but was one of the 4 different Patriots to fumble. The Dolphins played a similar gritty style with Tua going 16/27 for 202 with a touchdown and a pick. The lack of a run game for the Dolphins hurt them a bit, but thanks to New England's desire to let the ball slip away, literally, they were able to squeak out a 17-16 win.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns
One of the most anticipated week 1 matchups, in recent memory. Last season saw these two teams meet in the divisional round of the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes left with an injury. The Browns were close the entire time until Chad Henne rolled out to find Tyreek Hill on a 4th and 1 to ice the game.
Prior to that, the Browns shocked everyone with a 48-37 drubbing of the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game that was not as close as the score indicated.
The story yesterday was a little different. Mahomes did not get hurt, but the Chiefs still struggled to run the football. That will need to change if they want to win another Super Bowl. As for yesterday, Mahomes was enough to led them to a win. He started slow, but finished strong as he went 27/36 for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns and added one score on the ground. Much to my surprise and what I am sure most people's was the Chief defense. They held the Browns somewhat in check. Baker Mayfield threw for 321 yards, but no touchdowns and one interception. They also held Nick Chubb under 100 yards rushing, but did allow two touchdowns. Another hard fought game saw the Chiefs spot the Browns a 22-10 lead and come back to win 33-29.
The Chiefs still have to work on their defense and run game, but they still keep humming along. The Browns need to work on finishing. Having a lead on a great team is something that cannot be lost no matter what week it is. Both teams should be in the running for playoff positions this year.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts
Carson Wentz first game for the Colts and a fresh new season for Wilson and the Seahawks. A very interesting matchup. Chris Carson being healthy helped a lot for the Seahawks as he ran for 91 yards on 16 carries. Wilson added 254 and 4 touchdowns through the air. Seattle's defense was aggressive as usual holding the Johnathan Taylor to 56 yards rushing and Carson Wentz to 251 yards and only 2 scores. The Colts need more out of their offensive line and their receiving core in order to win a division that most people thought was the their division to lose.
Seattle looked fantastic and they won a nice game on the road 28-16.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions
Is Jimmy G still the starter? Can Jared Goff lead the Lions to a win and show us that the Lions are back? Yes, and no. Jimmy Garoppolo had a fantastic day. 17/25 for 314 and 1 touchdown. A nice surprise from running back Elijah Mitchell who added 19 carries for 104 yards and one touchdown. Deebo Samuel had a wonderful day with 9 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. This was a recipe for the 49ers to overcome 3 turnovers, but only just as the Lions came roaring back from down 31-10 to make it a close game. Goff ended with a nice line, 38/57 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception. The Lions could not run the ball well as no one had over 54 yards rushing. The comeback fell short as the Niners won 41-33.
Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints
One of the biggest shockers of the day came right here. If I told you Aaron Rodgers would not throw for 200 yards you would have laughed at me and told me I don't know anything. Well, that is what happened. Rodgers finished 15/28 for 133 yards and 2 interceptions. No touchdowns. The Packers rushed for a "grand" total of 43 yards. Jordan Love saw action. All of this spelled the opposite of R-E-L-A-X for the Packers as they were run off the field by the Saints 38-3. Jameis Winston played the game of his life finishing 14/20 for 148, but 5 touchdowns. Alvin Kamara was held in check to some degree going for 20 carries and 83 yards, but a nice compliment from Tony Jones Jr of 11 carries for 50 yards kept the Saints attack balanced.
If ever there was a time to "chalk it up to being the first game" it was yesterday for the Packers. I do believe the Packers will be better than what they showed unless Rodgers is declining in front of us. That seems like an overreaction though, so I will chalk it up to it being week 1 and the distractions from this summer finally going away. The Saints looked good, but will need to be that consistent if they want to overcome the front-runner for in the NFC South, Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams
A game that I, personally, had as my favorite due to one of my favorite and more underrated players, Matthew Stafford debuting with a much better team in the Rams. The Bears started Andy Dalton as planned and he played alright. 27/38 for 206 and one pick. No touchdowns and the Bears relied on David Montgomery and the run game, which saw some nice results. 16 carries for 108 and a score. Justin Fields ran for the other score for the Bears, but it was nowhere near enough as Stafford and his new arsenal of weapons lit up the scoreboard.
Stafford went 20/26 for 321 and 3 touchdowns. Darrell Henderson Jr. added 16 carries for 70 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Stafford looked better than he ever has and showed that he absolutely still has it as the Rams won easily 34-14.
Just as we said for the Packers, the same goes for the Rams. It is only week 1, but what a week to start on.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Oakland Raiders
The final game of the opening weekend in the NFL. The Ravens have dealt with a massive amount of injuries in a short amount of time leading up to Monday night. Thursday afternoon before 5 o' clock, Gus Edwards, the lead running back, and Marcus Peters, a defensive leader in the secondary both tore their ACL within minutes of each other.
Both of those injuries are terrible and would hurt any other team. Except that is not where this even begins. J.K. Dobbins was the original #1 running back for the Ravens, and he also tore his ACL a little over two weeks ago in the final preseason game. Prior to that, in the second preseason game, L.J. Fort tore his ACL. In the middle of all these injuries, the original third string running back, Justice Hill ruptured his Achilles.
To recap, that is two defensive players and the entire original three running backs on the depth chart out with almost the same injury as well within weeks of each other. Not the most ideal scenario to start the season. However, the Ravens still have a lot of talent in the receiving core and Lamar Jackson.
The Raiders lost Nelson Agholor to the Patriots, but added Kenyon Drake to the backfield. They also added Yannick Ngakoue to make their pass rush more aggressive and efficient.
The Ravens added Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and Latavius Murray to the running back room to go along with two inexperienced backs.
This game was always going to be interesting and entertaining and it definitely lived up to that. Would the Ravens be able to run the ball? Has Lamar improved passing the ball? Are the Raiders any good? The answer to all of those questions was yes.
The Ravens ran for 189 yards and the opening score was a wonderful 35 yard touchdown run from rookie Ty'son Williams, who ran 9 times for 65 yards. Lamar looked good in the first half and ended 19/30 for 235 and a touchdown. Not the best line, but he definitely improved when it came to staying in the pocket and going through his progressions.
Unfortunately, in the second half Lamar missed some easy short throws, and the offensive line and running backs were unable to keep the pocket clean and Lamar was sacked three times.
Meanwhile, the Raiders stayed in the game. They did not run the ball well, but were able to exploit some soft coverage and beat the man-to-man coverage of the Ravens secondary. Darren Waller had 10 catches for 105 and a touchdown. Derek Carr finished 34/56 for 435 yards and two touchdowns. He found 8 different receivers and the Raiders looked like they could play spoiler perhaps when it comes to seeding in the AFC West.
The Ravens need to look at their offensive line and their secondary. Villanueva at right tackle was overmatched and the running backs need to do better in pass protection. Marcus Peters may be out, but Marlon Humphrey, Chuck Clark, and DeShon Elliott need to continue to lead the new comers. The linebackers need to do better in coverage in the medium passing game. Finally, the play calling for Lamar to open up the field in the passing game needs to happen. He looked decent passing the ball, but in order to win the big games and make a run in the playoffs he needs to have 300 yards consistently. The run game is established in Baltimore and the Ravens definitely need to utilize the immense talent they have on the field and returning to the field in three weeks.
The Raiders, while looking like they will spoil a few games for some teams need to really work on their run defense as well as reducing the penalties on offense. They were able to squeak out a wild win to close out week 1 33-27.
From Sam Darnold looking okay, to the Bills looking a bit out of sorts, to Aaron Rodgers playing terrible, and the crazy finish to the Ravens and Raiders game, week 1 was incredible. Yet, the headline that many will come back to nationally: Tom Brady and the Bucs are still the team to beat.
Hope everyone enjoyed week 1 and is just as excited for week 2!
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