The skinny on NFL Week 1
Seven months ago, America watched Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City Chiefs hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Miami. During this long wait, we have watched the world around us fundamentally change as the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined life as we know it. For months, the NFL season in the fall of 2020 hung in the balance like most other things in life. However, we made it to the end of the tunnel. The NFL season has commenced, bringing a sense of the old “normal,” even though the league is operating in a vastly different environment from 2019 (very few fans and masks a-plenty just to name a few changes).
With the first week of games over, here are my observations for each team from an unprecedented Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Score: 34-20 Chiefs
The defending champions didn’t lose a step in the opener. In fact, the Chiefs looked even more lethal on the offensive side of the ball than they did in February. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire stole the show in his debut with 138 yards and a crisp 27 yard touchdown run. While Patrick Mahomes had a quiet game statistically, only throwing for 211 yards, the $500-million QB precisely picked apart the Texans defense adding a new skill to his already impressive arm talent.
In their first game without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans offense was completely outmatched by an underrated Kansas City defense. In addition, a lack of a clear gameplan by head coach Bill O’Brien led DeShaun Watson to fend for himself at the Arrowhead on Thursday Night. The results: not good. The Texans better find a way to quickly implement new additions like Randall Cobb & David Johnson into the playbook, or the Texans will be on the couch in January.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
Score: 27-17 Bills
With the eternal Brady-Belichick dynasty dismantled, the Buffalo Bills seemed poised to take over the AFC East crown. They started on the right foot with a complete game against a rather easy New York Jets team at home. The core of the Bills, the defense, showed why they are still a top 5 defensive unit, since they rattled Sam Darnold and the Jets offense all day. While imperfect, the Bills offense put on a well-rounded performance led by solid air and ground from QB Josh Allen who had 312 passing yards and 57 rush yards. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bills can maintain this consistent style of play against tougher opponents.
17 points is a very generous point total for the New York Jets who looked completely unprepared in Sunday’s match. The score does not do justice to the fact that the Jets looked completely overwhelmed in Buffalo, giving up nearly 400 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns to a rather average Josh Allen. However, the elephant in the room has to be the Jets offense, which played a horrendous game on Sunday. Sam Darnold and Adam Gase do not work together, period. If this performance continues, Joe Douglas and the Jets management will be getting rid of one of them at the end of the season or earlier.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Score: 43-34 Packers
Jordan Love who? The Packers offensive masterpiece and win is because of Aaron Rodgers’ performance. Throwing for 364 yards and 4 touchdown passes, Aaron Rodgers reminded the Vikings defense and the league that he is still a top-tier NFL QB. There was not a throw that Rodgers could not complete on Sunday. The short quick slants and the long verticals were his for the taking. Also, how about DeVante Adams? 156 receiving yards and 2 TD’s. Wish I did not have to play against him in fantasy this week. It's a good start for the Packers, but can they keep it up for 16 games?
An atypical showing from Mike Zimmer and the Vikings defense on Sunday. A normally solid defense gave up the most in a Vikings home game in the Zimmer era. Even more strange, they held the Packers’ offense to just eight points through most of the first half before the Packers scored two TD’s in the final two minutes to take a 22-7 lead at the break. While the Vikings offense did manage to score 34 points, most of the scoring came in the final frame after falling behind 29-10, padding the stats. Kirk Cousins looked flat for three quarters, giving up a safety in the process. After a tough loss to a division rival, how will the Vikings’ rather subpar performance affect their confidence before their matchup with the Colts next week?
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Football Team
Score: 27-17 Football Team
After a tumultuous offseason, the Washington Football Team looked like they would carry their dysfunction into the regular season, falling behind 17-0 to the Eagles at the half. However, give props to new head coach Ron Riveria and the Washington defense. They managed to turn around a rather hopeless affair into victory behind 8 sacks and 2 turnovers. While they have only played one game, the Washington Football Team looks like a much better team in terms of cohesion, especially on the defensive side of the ball. If the Football Team can continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks like they did on Sunday, Washington could be a surprise team in 2020.
It seems like the Eagles forgot to fly offensive protection for Carson Wentz to FedEx Field on Sunday. The porous play of the offensive line was apparent the entire game, even when they had the lead in the first half. It felt like Carson Wentz was throwing the football milliseconds before the defenders would crash in on him. While he managed to escape them in the first half, the pass rush eventually forced Wentz to make some poor throws to Washington defenders. Philadelphia is a top-tier team and upsets do occur, but if the Eagles want to maximize the potential of their offense and their weapons like Zach Ertz and Jalen Reagor, they must protect Carson Wentz. Otherwise, they may not have anything to protect later in the season.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
Score: 38-6 Ravens
It looks like the Ravens have not lost a step during the 2020 offseason. Lamar Jackson still looks like the dominant MVP QB from a year ago, in both his passing and running game. Furthermore, the Ravens weapons like Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews added on to the 5-star showing from the offense with over a 100 yards and 2 touchdowns respectively. However, I can not forget the Ravens defense, which completely kept the Browns talent at bay on Sunday. The defense managed to play especially well in situational defense, stopping the Browns on multiple fourth downs. While only one week into the season, the Baltimore Ravens look as poised as ever to contend for a title in 2020. The question still remains if they can play like they did on Sunday come January and February.
New coach and uniforms, but the same result on Sunday for the Browns. They extended their annual winless streak during Week 1 to 16 games with a poor offensive showing. After an early touchdown pass in the 1st quarter to David Njoku, Baker Mayfeld disappeared from the rest of the game, contributing next to nothing on the offense. In addition, the Ravens defense neutralized Odell Beckham Jr., holding him to just 22 yards on 3 catches. Along with new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offensive game plan failing, his defensive strategy was not much better, allowing the Ravens offense to find open targets in the secondary all day. The Browns think that they are out of rebuilding mode, but if Week 1 is an indication for the season, they may need to reenter it sooner than they would like.
Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Score: 27-20 Jaguars
After being consistently called one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars silenced their doubters for at least a week with an impressive win over their division rival Colts in front of a crowd of 17,000 fans. Gardner Minshew led the way with one of the most efficient passing performances of the week, having only one incomplete pass on 20 attempts, along with 3 touchdown passes. Furthermore, Minshew spread the ball around the field with 10 players catching a ball from the Jaguars’ QB on Sunday. If Minshew can keep up this level of play, the Jaguars may not need to draft a quarterback in 2021.
Philip Rivers’ Colts debut was much like his games with the Chargers: lots of passing yards (363 yards on Sunday), but also lots of turnovers (two interceptions). It is clear Philip Rivers can throw the ball, given he is in the top 10 for career passing yards, but his constant achilles heel has been the turnovers. If he can get rid of this pesky problem, he has a lot of options with receivers like T.Y. Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. and running backs like rookie Johnathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. On the defensive side of the ball, giving up three passing touchdown passes to one of the least consistent offenses cannot be a consistent theme for the Colts secondary. If they can clean up some of their mistakes, the Colts can easily erase this early season blunder and reach their potential with a division title for 2020.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
Score: 34-30 Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders (still feels weird saying) pulled off an impressive offense performance in their season opener. The easy choice for MVP of this game was RB Josh Jacobs who ran for 93 yards and three TDS. Add in a solid performance from Derek Carr, and the Raiders crossed 30 points. Yet, their defense left something to be desired as they gave up 30 points to a new QB and rookie head coach, who haven’t had much practice or preseason to develop chemistry. If the Raiders are to contend, they must find a way to play defense at the same level as their offense consistently.
In the debut of the Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule era in Carolina, the Panthers’ offense looked incredibly potent. They were helped by a great rushing and receiving performance from their franchise running back Christian McCaffery. However, the defense let them down. Without leaders like Luke Kuechly, the defense looked disorganized throughout the game, leading the Raiders to score easily. The Panthers need to find a defensive leader quickly or their offense will not be able to keep up with the other high score offenses in their division.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Score: 27-23 Bears
For three out of the four quarters, the Bears looked deplorable. However, in the final quarter, Mitch Trubisky’s wild performance ultimately led to a tough division win. In addition, players like Alan Robinson contributed to the fourth quarter with huge gains in the receiving department; not to mention the Bears defense dominated the Lions, especially in the second half, limiting them in points. While this comeback may be impressive for the time being, the Bears need to find a way to get a lead early on if they are expecting to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
If any game signifies the Pat Patricia era with the Detroit Lions, it has to be this one game. They had the game in their hands and dropped it literally in the final seconds (looking at you DeAndre Swift). In the first three quarters, the Lions completely matched the Bears both on offense and defense. Matt Stafford looked good in his season debut before succumbing to a strong Bears defense in the final frame. Furthermore the Lions’ defense, who a year ago gave up the most in yards through the air, managed to completely shut down Mitch Tribsky’s aerial attack before breaking down in the fourth quarter. While only a game in, the Lions’ inability to finish games could be very costly at the end of the year as jobs could be lost if leads are not protected.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Score: 38-25 Seahawks
On opening day, Russell Wilson had one of the most efficient games you may ever see. I know I said Gardener Minshew had a similar performance from earlier, but Wilson played at the same level of efficiency with a higher output throwing for four touchdowns and 300 yards, including a beautiful pass to DK Metcalf in the second quarter to help the Seahawks take a commanding lead. However the defense managed to still give up 450 passing yards to Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. While it only resulted in 25 points squandered, the Falcons offense exposed the secondary in the Seahawks defense. If the Seattle Seahawks expect to win the NFC West, they must tighten up their pass defense or else they will end up getting burned by teams like the Cardinals, Niners, and Rams.
The Falcons’ performance on Sunday was too little, too late. Too little in the sense that the Falcons defense did not do enough to stop Russell Wilson and Seahawks passing consistently throughout the game. There was little pressure applied to Russell Wilson and the receivers had plenty of space to catch easy targets. The Falcons were also too late in the sense that their offense didn’t really get going until late in the game when they were already out of contention. If the Falcons have any hope of making the playoffs, they must stop their sluggish starts, or else they will be on the couch come January.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Score: 21-11 Patriots
New QB, new uniforms, new era. However, the Patriots continued their winning ways on Sunday with an easy division win over the Miami Dolphins. In Cam Newton’s debut as a Patriot, he found a way to integrate his dynamic offense into Bill Belichick‘s rigid system. While the Patriots are combining opposite ways to play football, the chemistry seemed to work. In addition, the Patriots strong defense from a year ago continued on Sunday, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to turn over the ball multiple times throughout the affair. If the Patriots can keep up this well rounded performance, they can turn a lot of heads by continuing to make the playoffs, whether it be as a division leader or wildcard.
The Dolphins’ season debut was, quite frankly, ugly. Throughout the game, the defense had no answers for how to contain Cam Newton. Furthermore the offense struggled to muster more than a drive down the field for a touchdown. It is clear that Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He may not even be the short-term answer. All Dolphins fans better hope that Tua Tagovailova starts sooner than later, or else the season will very much be like last.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Score: 16-13 Chargers
In their first game without Philip Rivers, the Chargers pulled out a gutsy win in Cincinnati. Led by Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers manage to muster enough points on offense to win. However, the story of the game for the Chargers was the defense. In particular, Casey Hayward played an awesome game, leading to him being chosen as defensive player of the week. While Joe Burrow was able to have his highlights, the Chargers mostly kept him contained throughout the game. With the Bengals being a relatively easy opponent, the Chargers will need to improve their offensive production, especially next week against the Chiefs if they are to contend for a playoff spot.
The Joe Burrow era in Cincinnati kicked off with a tough loss, but with a lot of promise. Throughout the game, Joe Burrow showed flashes of potential. He was not able to maintain a high level of play throughout the game, but when it mattered, he played extraordinarily well and looked more like a veteran. The defense was able to mostly contain a Chargers offense filled with weapons like Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. Unfortunately, a special teams error ruined a special performance from the Bengals. Still, there’s plenty of potential for this team to get better as the year goes.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
Score: 24-20 Cardinals
What a day from the young Cardinals team on Sunday! They played to their full potential. In fact, they probably exceeded many people's expectations. With the DeAndre Hopkins acquisition looking like it returned a strong return on Sunday with 14 receptions, Kyler Murray also showed significant improvements from a year ago in a run and pass game on Sunday. The defense also managed to shut down one of the most potent offenses in the league. During the game, they force the 49ers to make constant mistakes. If the Cardinals can keep this performance up, they may be having more than a 16-game season.
Well that sucked! 49ers fans must be stunned as they’ve managed to lose to the worst team in the division at home. Do we have a potential Super Bowl hangover in the air? Because the Niners were flat all day. Outside of an incredible play for Rahim Mostert, the Niners didn’t do too much on the offensive side of the ball; defensively, they had problems covering DeAndre Hopkins throughout the game. Also, they let Kyler Murray move around the pocket, playing to his strengths. While it's only one week, the Niners might want to start playing seriously as their opponents get tougher as the season progresses.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Score 34-23 Saints
In Tampa Tom’s debut, the Buccaneers offense struggled to protect the ball and move effectively down the field. Tom Brady struggled to connect with his receivers, and they seemed on different pages throughout the game. This lack of chemistry led to some pretty ugly throws and picks. However, this is to be expected with a shortened camp and no preseason. Defensively, they were not much better. Alvin Kamara had a field day on this defense, and Drew Brees never looked more comfortable. While the Bucs may need time to adjust, they will need to start quickly winning or else the chance of losing a playoff spot grows.
In an empty Superdome, the Saints played in the same way they would if 70,000 fans were in attendance: with high energy and intensity. The Saints’ offense continued to play at a high-level with all positions contributing to the win. This includes strong performances from running back Kamara, who had two touchdowns, and a strong passing performance from Brees. The defense managed to also contribute to the game, making Brady uncomfortable all game long and picking off the future Hall of Famer twice, including a pick six from corner Janoris Jenkins in the third quarter to give them a 24-7 lead. Even though many had doubts on whether the Saints could continue their strong play this season, Week 1 showed that they are still a contender for the Super Bowl this season.
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams
Score: 20-17 Rams
In their first game at SoFi stadium, the Rams christened their new palace with a strong win over a premier team in the Dallas Cowboys. While not perfect, the team managed to play a strong all-around game with a solid performance from Jared Goff on the offensive side of the football. Defensively, the Rams managed to shut down the Cowboys offense when it mattered the most. Jalen Ramsey in particular played an excellent game, forcing a critical fumble in the fourth quarter and sealing off Michael Gallup in the final stages to secure the win. If the Rams can clean up some of their mistakes, they could easily contend for the NFC West crown this year.
In a game plagued with ups and downs for the Dallas Cowboys, they were ultimately unable to pull out a victory. Dak Prescott was rather pedestrian during the game. During the third quarter, Prescott was able to drive the Cowboys down the field, but they failed to turn these drives into touchdowns, costing them the game. Furthermore, the play calling in the fourth quarter was too aggressive in the red zone, causing them to miss out on some easy points that could’ve given them a chance to go to overtime. Defensively, the Cowboys also played decently but never gave the offense a chance to start with a good field position to make McCarthy’s debut easy. The McCarthy Cowboys played much like the Jason Garett Cowboys; However it will be interesting to see how this relationship evolves over the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
Score: 26-16 Steelers
Big Ben’s return to the field for the Steelers offense was good on Monday night. For the first time in a while, the veteran quarterback found his number one target, Juju Smith-Schuster, twice in the endzone. Furthermore, the defense played a strong game against the albeit relatively weak Giants offense, but they did manage to pick off Daniel Jones twice. More impressive, they held star running back Saquon Barkley to 0.4 yards a carry, effectively making him a non-factor for the game. The Steelers’ strong debut signals a positive sign for the season ahead if they can stay healthy.
In Joe Judge’s first game as head coach of the New York Giants, they played an incomplete football game. Offensively, the Giants never seemed in rhythm, as they got rid of the run quickly after a slow start from Saquon Barkley. Furthermore, the Giants made mistakes in the red zone, including an awful pick from Daniel Jones that seemed to change the tide of the game. Defensively they didn’t seem to have too much to answer for Juju Smith-Schuster. If the Giants are to build upon last year’s performance, they will need to play better on both sides of the ball.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Score 16-14 Titans
In a sloppy week one closer, the Titans pulled out a two-point win over the Denver Broncos. It should’ve been a lot more than two points though as the Titans missed key opportunities throughout the game, not only by missing three field goals and an extra point from a bad Stephen Gostkowski performance, but also by missing opportunities to throw the ball. They over-relied on Derek Henry, handing the ball to him 31 times. Defensively, however, the Titans did their job, walking down a potentially explosive Broncos offense with a strong goal line stand. Going forward, Tennessee must trust their passing game if they are to return to the AFC championship like they did a year ago.
After a lot of speculation during the off-season, the Denver Broncos offense was a little below expectations on Sunday. No one in particular played horribly; however, there were missed opportunities and mistakes throughout the game. Jerry Jeudy dropped two passes in his debut. Melvin Gordon fumbled, helping Tennessee set up their first score. And Drew Lock was unable to connect with certain receivers throughout the game. Defensively, this team had problems against the play action pass game from Ryan Tannehill, leading to easy gains for the Titans offense. Finally, add in some poor clock management from Vic Fangio and the Broncos are 0-1. If the Broncos want to reach their full potential, they need to play without committing silly errors.