From the Watchtower: NFL Week 1

There’s nothing like Week 1 of the NFL season. Some people are patting themselves on the back for their bold predictions, while others are already trying to sweep theirs under the rug. Some preseason narratives were given legitimacy, while others ended up being shattered immediately.

The truth is, Week 1 somehow causes more hot takes than the offseason. Sure, it’s always important to come away with a strong first impression, but how much expectation can a team seriously have from one game? It is an exercise in futility, but one this article will seek to do anyway.

For this new segment, each team will be given one takeaway from the game they played. It can be a reason for excitement, cause for concern, or somewhere in between. The point is that the discussions here will provide things to look at for each team as the early part of the NFL season progresses. A few of these predictions will likely be proven wrong, but your friendly neighborhood writer has a bit of a masochistic streak in him, so why not? Let’s get on with the madness.

Green Bay Packers 10, Chicago Bears 3

Green Bay: Despite an underwhelming but somewhat expected performance against a strong Bears defense, Aaron Rodgers had to be smiling from the sideline. The new-look defense had an impressive showing on Thursday night, and some of the best contributions came from new faces. Preston and Za’Darius Smith combined for half of the Packers’ total sacks, while former Bear Adrian Amos caught a clutch interception that helped seal the deal. A mulligan can be called for Rodgers, Matt LaFleur, and crew this one time, but results will have to show up sooner rather than later.

Chicago: Rex Grossman is not the ideal quarterback to be compared to, but Mitch Trubisky is getting dangerously close to that mark. Trotting out Mike Davis in place of the more effective David Montgomery was also a mistake, but Trubisky never found his footing. The inconsistency is starting to annoy Bears fans to the point where the struggles of the last decade are starting to rear their ugly heads again. The fact Trubisky was drafted before Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson is looking like more of a sore spot every week.

Tennessee Titans 43, Cleveland Browns 13

Tennessee: So maybe my prediction on the Titans underrated them just a bit. The cast of characters that contributed to this surprising upset were many. Derrick Henry (19-84-1) continued impressing as the heart of the offense. Delanie Walker (5-55-2) had a better-than-anticipated return from injury. A.J. Brown (3-100) made an impression as a deep threat. Cameron Wake (2.5 sacks, 1 safety) looks to be aging like a fine wine. Kevin Byard, Logan Ryan, and Malcolm Butler iced the game with three fourth quarter interceptions, with Butler getting a pick six. It’s just one week, but in a division as weak as the AFC South, strong performances like this could go a long way.

Cleveland: Cleveland fans get their first taste of expectations in a while, and what is their optimism rewarded with? Booing their team off the field after the first half and a fourth-quarter implosion. Anything that could go wrong truly did go wrong for the Browns. Costly penalties on both sides of the ball, Austin Seibert missing a PAT, Greg Robinson’s ejection further exacerbating the poor offensive line. The hype train hasn’t been derailed just yet, but the road turned out to be a lot rockier than anticipated.

Baltimore Ravens 59, Miami Dolphins 10

Baltimore: Who would have guessed Lamar Jackson would be the current front-runner for MVP in Week 1? Sure, he likely won’t win the award at the end of the season, and this performance was against a tanking Miami team, but it takes a serious detractor to take away from a game like this. Jackson did all of his damage as a passer, showing off an instant rapport with first-round rookie Marquise Brown for two deep touchdowns and going back to a reliable weapon in Mark Andrews. The Ravens even inserted Robert Griffin III onto the field when the game was out of reach, only for him to have a perfect completion percentage and throw a touchdown to Andrews for the final score of the game. Not bad for a running back, indeed.

Miami: A season that was already expected to be long just went longer. Apparently, the “revolt” for Laremy Tunsil’s trade was a catastrophic meltdown. Allowing 390 yards and 42 points in a game is bad enough, but in just one half? And now players are clamoring to get out of Miami as soon as possible, not content with wasting away in a tank. At least they’re not going to take this out on Brian Flores. Bill Belichick would struggle with a team like this.

Minnesota Vikings 28, Atlanta Falcons 12

Minnesota: Old-time football fans had to appreciate the Vikings on Sunday. The game could be summarized in the first couple of minutes. A sack on the first play. A blocked punt. Dalvin Cook looking rejuvenated. Kirk Cousins throwing a dime to Adam Thielen. The final score does not indicate the dominant performance the Vikings had. A similar performance of Green Bay could see Minnesota as the surprising top dog of the NFC North at this juncture of the season. Should be fun.

Atlanta: Nothing went right for the Falcons. Devonta Freeman struggled against the Vikings as there was no room to run. Julio Jones’s touchdown salvaged an otherwise awful game. An offensive line that still looked leaky lost Chris Lindstrom to IR. The defense looking okay, but nowhere close to good enough to stop the Vikings. The Falcons were seen as a potential dark horse to claim a playoff spot, but this may be quite the setback.

Buffalo Bills 17, New York Jets 16

Buffalo: Give the Bills some credit for showing resilience in the face of adversity. Josh Allen struggled in the first half, coughing up two fumbles and throwing two interceptions, including a pick 6 to C.J. Mosley. However, in the second half, the light turned on. Allen salvaged a rough game with two touchdowns to put the Bills up late. Devin Singletary also played a good role in the comeback, with most of his production coming in the second half. A weird game to watch, but for Bills Mafia, a win is a win.

New York Jets: If there was ever a need for proof to determine which free agent would be most important to the success of this team, this game gave it. Le’Veon Bell did well in his first game in green, but Mosley was the heart and soul of the defense. After an injury took him down in the third quarter, here is what the ensuing drives for the Bills led to: field goal, touchdown, touchdown. The offensive line and the recently waived Kaare Vedvik deserve some blame, but Mosley’s injury may have been the catalyst for the tough loss.

Philadelphia Eagles 32, Washington Redskins 27

Philadelphia: It only looks right to see DeSean Jackson back in an Eagles uniform. It also looks right to see him burn through coverage like the Roadrunner from Looney Tunes. Two 50+ yard touchdowns and over 150 yards total on the day. Those reports about Jackson and Carson Wentz working well together looked to be true. If that’s the case, the rest of the league may be dealing with a serious problem.

Washington: It was only for a week, but the Case Keenum who led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game two years ago took the field. He actually enjoyed a better stat line than the more-ballyhooed Wentz. It wasn’t enough to give Washington the victory, but that can be blamed of a defensive collapse. Jonathan Allen’s injury, Derrius Guice’s ineffectiveness, and Trent Williams’s defection did not help matters. At least it can be worse?

Los Angeles Rams 30, Carolina Panthers 27

Los Angeles Rams: For the Rams, this win was far from the tone-setter they wanted to have. Jared Goff, coming fresh off of his new contract extension, looked rusty and struggled before a late touchdown. Todd Gurley looked fine, but it’s clear that Sean McVay was concerned, resorting to Malcolm Brown spelling the All-Pro running back for two touchdowns. Aaron Donald had a slow start to his season, and the rest of the defense was not exactly stellar either. With a game against a Saints team hungry for revenge on the docket for next week, these kinks will have to be ironed out quickly.

Carolina: Christian McCaffrey is looking like Norv Turner’s new version of LaDainian Tomlinson more by the day. The all-purpose running back was easily one of the best players on Sunday, amassing a total of 209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Where the problem lies is with Cam Newton, not necessarily with his playing ability or even his fashion sense, but the toll he’s taking on his body. Taking three sacks is not a good thing for a quarterback who’s shoulder may still not be 100 percent. Just saying.

Kansas City Chiefs 40, Jacksonville Jaguars 26

Kansas City: Jacksonville was the only team that held Mahomes without a touchdown pass last season. This time, it took Mahomes all of 98 seconds to rectify that. The Duval heat never seemed to bother the reigning MVP, as he matched his yardage total from last year’s matchup in just the first half. The loss of Tyreek Hill will sting a bit, but it’s no big deal. Sammy Watkins caught all three of Mahomes’s touchdown passes. Travis Kelce was solid as usual. LeSean McCoy looked like he stepped through a time machine. If Mahomes is looking to repeat as MVP, he made a strong case with this first game.

Jacksonville: There are a few things that can be pointed out, but one in particular stands out. After Nick Foles went down with a broken clavicle, Jaguars fans could be forgiven for abandoning all hope. Sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew was coming in and…actually looked good. It wasn’t enough to beat the Chiefs, but Minshew had a nice game for someone drafted in Day 3. 275 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception is not a stat line to sneeze at. Trading for Josh Dobbs earlier this week did make sense, but Minshew should be given another chance to make sure this was not a lucky break. The glass case is still covering the panic button…for now.

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Indianapolis Colts 27 (OT)

Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon’s holdout looked like a mistake on paper, and the paper has apparently transcended into reality. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson did fine work, but Ekeler in particular looked every bit like a workhorse. He posted 154 total yards and three touchdowns, including the overtime winner. What looked like a concern in the offseason looked like nothing of the sort. Gordon has claimed he will be back with the Chargers sometime in November. If he wants to prove he’s worth as much money as he wants, he may want to come back a bit earlier.

Indianapolis: In all fairness, the Colts should have won this game. Jacoby Brissett looked capable of holding down the starting role, T.Y. Hilton looked like the underappreciated star he is, Marlon Mack had a career day on the ground, and names like Malik Hooker and Kemoko Turay look like new defensive stars. So who takes the blame for this loss? The fingers point at an unexpected source: Adam Vinatieri. The usually reliable elder statesman had arguably his worst outing, missing two field goals and an extra point. When a CFL import pulling double duty has a better day, there is a problem. Next week’s game may be critical for Vinatieri if he wants to stick, and that is a weird thing to type out.

Seattle Seahawks 21, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Seattle: It was a game to forget for the Seattle offense, who was bailed out by a defense that had its own share of issues. Russell Wilson’s two touchdowns saved his game, and Chris Carson was inconsistent, coming through in clutch situations but struggling elsewhere. D.K. Metcalf showed his big play ability early, so that’s at least a nice sign. Other than that, there was little to speak of. A game that should have been an easy win at home turned into a nail-biter. Not a performance to be proud of, if I’m being honest.

Cincinnati: The Bengals once again pull the Charlie Brown impression of the hard-luck loser. They beat Seattle’s offensive output by almost 200 yards and placed above the Seahawks in almost every metric…except the one total that counts. Career days from Andy Dalton and John Ross were cast asunder, and new coach Zac Taylor looked alright in defeat. Three points in the second half will not cut it, though. “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is blaring loud in Paul Brown Stadium once again.

Dallas Cowboys 35, New York Giants 17

Dallas: All may be right in Jerry World for now, but the ringmaster may be sweating due to not paying one of his star attractions. It’s still a mystery about how much money Dak Prescott wants, but he got one step closer to getting his desired price. Throwing four touchdowns to different targets and landing 100 yard days for Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup meant Ezekiel Elliott got to take it easy. As with the Ravens, the Cowboys did face a weak defense, but it was nice to see some explosiveness from an offense that had a bit of intrigue. Expect a dogfight with Philadelphia for the NFC East crown.

New York Giants: Pat Shurmur, what are you doing? Saquon Barkley is the engine of the Giants’ offense, and eleven carries is all he gets? Eli Manning should not be throwing 44 passes in this day and age, even in a blowout. Under-utilization is a crime a few teams know all too well, but to do it to a team’s best player is laughable. The hot seat just cranked up a few degrees for that. Wake me up when Daniel Jones steps in.

Detroit Lions 27, Arizona Cardinals 27 (OT)

Detroit: Well, this is awkward. Just when the Lions thought they had it made, and then they took their foot off the gas. This is when Matt Patricia learned a valuable lesson: playing not to lose usually means you lose. The hopes and dreams of Lions fans ended up dying as the Cardinals put up 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Unlike the Chargers, however, the Lions were unable to get themselves out and settled for the tie. It feels like a loss for Detroit, which needed a win here to get some momentum going in order to be competitive. At least T.J. Hockenson looked legitimate?

Arizona: Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury went from looking like duds on opening week to stars. Murray salvaged a tough debut with an incredible fourth quarter, throwing two touchdowns to David Johnson and the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. There was a chance to end the game in overtime by intercepting a pass from Matthew Stafford, but the defender couldn’t hold on to the ball. That was it, but for the Cardinals, they’ll take what they can get. There’s the metaphor about a tie and kissing your sister, but it was probably a less awkward deal this time around. Accidental kiss on a high school crush, maybe?

San Francisco 49ers 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

San Francisco: It had to be a little concerning for Niners fans to watch Jimmy Garoppolo’s up-and-down performance. Jimmy G let go of a pick-six that gave Tampa the lead before helping to get it back with a touchdown. He has the defense to thank for the victory, as the D paved the way with three sacks, four turnovers, and two pick-sixes. For context, the 49ers now have half of their turnover output and exceeded their interception total from last year in just one game. Sounds like a confidence booster.

Tampa Bay: Could the Bucs be looking at the QBs for next year’s draft? Jameis Winston, someone who was touted to be a nice fit for Bruce Arians’s offense, proceeded to lay an egg with three interceptions. Two of them went for pick-sixes to keep Tampa out of reach. It’s one thing to not help in a victory effort, but costing your team a game is worrying at this stage of the game. This is Winston’s last shot to prove himself as a franchise quarterback, and this game did not help his case.

New England Patriots 33, Pittsburgh Steelers 3

New England: That sound you heard Sunday night was the collective gulp of every NFL fan outside of Boston. The Patriots looked close to unstoppable against Pittsburgh in every aspect of play. Tom Brady seems to have Father Time held up, the offense is filled with playmakers, Dante Scarnecchia is still the best offensive line coach in the league, and the defense didn’t even allow much in garbage time. Even if Antonio Brown doesn’t play a game with New England, this team is already looking like it’s on the warpath. Just give Tom Brady a gauntlet for his rings already.

Pittsburgh: There’s no sugarcoating this one. Antonio Brown’s replacement has yet to be found, and Donte Moncrief seems to be the one name I’m willing to drop from the discussion. James Conner struggled to get anything going out of the backfield. JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled before getting a bit of garbage time production. The Steelers have once again become the personal whipping boy of a Patriots team that has dominated this matchup in the recent past.

New Orleans Saints 30, Houston Texans 28

New Orleans: The Saints found themselves down at the half by eleven after a slow start, including an officiating gaffe that left the Saints with little time to work with in their final drive. If the Saints had lost this game, the referees would probably be run out of town and it would be yet another game breaker for a team that has had its fair share of those recently. Thankfully, it never had to come to that. Drew Brees came alive in the second half, throwing two touchdown passes and using his surgical precision to get the Saints in field goal range with their final drive of the game. This time, Wil Lutz did not miss. Such a slow start will be punished by the Rams, who would love to repeat last year’s NFC Championship Game result, except in a lot more convincing fashion.

Houston: Win, lose, or draw, Deshaun Watson’s performance in Houston’s final drive of the game was a star-making moment. Down six with 50 seconds to go and no timeouts remaining, Watson needed a miracle to put the Texans back on top. It took him all of two long passes to DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills to do it. The PAT was aided by a roughing the kicker penalty, but Watson did more than enough to help his team win. Unfortunately, he was not helped by an offensive line that still looked leaky and J.J. Watt not showing up on the stat sheet for the first time in his career. The Texans are still the used car salesman of the league, but Monday’s pitch was a bit more convincing.

Oakland Raiders 24, Denver Broncos 16

Oakland: This has to feel like a wave of relief for the Raiders. After months of making the headlines for their soap opera-esque offseason, the team finally got to be noticed for their football in the final home opener in Oakland. Derek Carr looked nice. Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller both had solid games. Josh Jacobs became the first running back since LaDainian Tomlinson to notch 100 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. The offensive line held Denver’s vaunted pass rush in check. The defense came through in multiple situations, getting three sacks and holding the Broncos out of the end zone until garbage time. It was unexpected, but the Raiders needed something after the whole Antonio Brown saga.

Denver: Vic Fangio and Joe Flacco’s debuts in Denver were both underwhelming. Fangio’s defense did nothing against a Raiders team that just lost its best player and was projected to do next to nothing. Flacco looked like the same quarterback that lost his starting spot to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb never got anything going. Phillip Lindsay was outproduced by Royce Freeman. Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders did alright, but only caught one garbage-time touchdown. It was all a matter of too little, too late for the Broncos, who suddenly have questions to answer. The cries for Drew Lock just got a bit louder.

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