NFL football is back, and it came back in style. From a stellar rookie debut in primetime to a 0-6 record for new coaches, from explosive offensives to swarming defenses, and a few lightning delays in between, week 1 definitely delivered on the hype.
Patriots 27, Texans 20
New England: Another year, another group of fogotten receivers for Tom Brady (26-39, 277 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) to throw to. This year’s edition includes Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, and fullback James Develin. Gronkowski proved why he’s the best tight end in the league when healthy with 123 yards and a touchdown, and the edge rush was fully in mid-season form. The lone downside to Sunday’s win was the loss of running back Jeremy Hill, who is out for the season after tearing his ACL. But as the saying in Foxboro goes, it’s just next man up.
Houston: The return of Deshaun Watson (17-34, 176 yds, 1 TD, 2 turnovers, 3 sacks) didn’t quite go as planned for the Texans. The Patriots’ pass rush had the sophomore QB on his heels for most of the afternoon, leaving Watson’s comeback just short. There were positives, however. New acquisition Tyrann Matthieu intercepted a tipped Brady pass and a recovered a rare Gronkowski fumble, leading to 2 redzone drives. If Houston can improve in the redzone (2 touchdowns in 5 trips), then the Texans will be making noise as the season goes on.
Browns 21, Steelers 21 F/OT
Cleveland: How much closer can a team get without winning? Tyrod Taylor (15-40, 197 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) played ok, but a costly interception prevented a game winning field goal attempt in regulation. In Overtime, the Browns went from low to high and back down again in the span of minutes. Rookie Denzel Ward stole the show on defense with 6 tackles, 3 deflections, and 2 INTs. The good news? This ain’t your grandpa’s Cleveland Browns anymore. The bad news? It’s still 624 days and counting since the Browns were in the W column.
Pittsburgh: Big Ben must have been seeing flashes of the Jaguars defense today. A rainy day in Cleveland ended in 4 Roethlisberger turnovers and a deeply dissapointing tie, despite 355 yards and a touchdown. The only Steeler that seemed on their game today was James Conner, who was filling in for a still-absent Le’Veon Bell, who gained 182 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Chris Boswell, on the other hand, will have to rebound and rebound quickly. As heartbreaking as Cleveland’s miss was, his came first. Steelers fans shouldn’t need to worry if Bell’s holdout continues, but there may be concerns elsewhere on the field.
Colts 23, Bengals 34
Indianapolis: Are we sure Andrew Luck (39-53, 319 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) hasn’t played in a year and a half? A 73.6% completion percentage is a great day for the likes of Brady and Rodgers, and his touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton looked just like his old self. Today, the Colts’ problem was costly turnovers. Jack Doyle’s fumble deep in Bengals territory ended Luck’s methodical comeback drive, and veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri’s miss early in the 4th would’ve made the final drive only need a field goal instead of a touchdown. In the tough AFC South, every play counts. With Luck back, however, the Colts will be in the fight all season long.
Cincinnati: Road wins are always a good thing, no matter how you’re able to get them. Though the Bengals needed some help, their defense was able to get the job done. Clayton Fejedelem sealed the win with his 83-yard scoop and score, but the rest of the team still deserves a pat on the back after Shawn Williams was ejected late in the first quarter. He can expect a sizeable fine for his late, helmet-to-helmet hit on Andrew Luck, and the Bengals can enjoy a well-earned victory.
Ravens 47, Bills 3
Baltimore: Talk about starting off on the right foot. The Ravens dismantled the Bills for the entire game in every aspect. It didn’t matter who was throwing to them, the Ravens defense swarmed on every ball, allowing a combined 33% passing for only 98 yards and grabbing 2 interceptions. On Offense, Joe Flacco (25-34, 236 yds, 3 TDs) led the team to a true team victory, and rookie QB Lamar Jackson was able to play a few series himself. 9 different receivers caught passes, 6 different rushers ran the ball, and 6 different players found the endzone. Even Justin Tucker was playing well, going 2/2 on field goals and 5/5 on extra points. The fact that the starters were resting halfway through the third quarter perfectly describes Sunday’s beatdown. Truly a day to remember.
Buffalo: It’s safe to say that the second Nathan Peterman experiment has failed. Lasting only 3 minutes longer than his first start last season, the only positive he can take away from this game is that he only threw 2 picks this time. Rookie Josh Allen (6/15, 74 yds) didn’t fare much better, but he was at least able to lead the offense on a few good drives, including the Bills’ lone scoring drive of the game. With games upcoming vs. LA Chargers, at Minnesota, and at Green Bay, Allen wouldn’t have a much tougher start to his career if he tried. Their one hope is that LeSean McCoy is able to rebound and be the star running back Buffalo needs him to be. A “burn the tape” game if ever there was one.
Dolphins 27, Titans 20
Miami: It took a little longer than expected, but the Dolphins walk out of Hard Rock Stadium with a well-earned win after the longest NFL game since the merger. Ryan Tannehill (20-28, 230, 2 TD, 2 INT) looked confident in the pocket in his first start since he tore his ACL last August on a (very long) day of big plays from both teams. Reshad Jones came away with 2 critical interceptions as the Titans were driving. Kenny Stills’ 2 touchdowns and Jakeem Grant’s 102-yard kickoff return helped get Miami over the hump, and they will look to continue this success and try to get back into the playoffs.
Tennessee: The worst thing about Sunday’s loss wasn’t the result. Marcus Mariota was forced out of the game in the third quarter after a questionable hit from Dolphins DE William Hayes in the first half. The extent of the injury is yet to be determined. Star tight end Delanie Walker suffered a much worse fate. With less than 4 minutes remaining, Walker was tackled after catching a pass from backup QB Blaine Gabbert and broke his right ankle. He was placed on IR and is expected to miss the rest of the season. On the bright side, new additions Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler both played well in their Titans debut, Darius Jennings had a kick return TD, and Gabbert was ok in relief for Mariota. The season might not be lost yet, but the AFC South may end up being too competitive for the Titans to overcome these losses, especially if Mariota ends up missing games.
Giants 15, Jaguars 20
Jacksonville: New Year, same relentless defense down in North Florida. In a game reminiscent of the old school NFL, the Jaguars escaped MetLife Stadium thanks to a _____ from Myles Jack and look set to make a run at the AFC South yet again. Blake Bortles played as expected, letting Leonard Fournette’s rushing talents and their tenacious defense lead the way. The true test will be this week, when they host Tom Brady & Co. in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. A game that’s still lodged in many Jags fans’ memories for all the wrong reasons.
Chargers 28, Chiefs 38
Los Angeles: Normally, the first home game of the season is a big game for the home fans. This was not the case for the Chargers. StubHub Center was once again filled by away fans, and the few home fans in attendance left disappointed. Phillip Rivers (34-51, 424 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) played as well as he could, but in the end the Chiefs made the key plays that the Chargers just could not. Especially on special teams. A muffed punt by J.J. Jones sealed LA’s fate Sunday, but the Chargers are still very much alive in the race for the AFC West, with their rematch in Kansas City week 15 looking to be a huge matchup.
Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes II and Tyreek Hill. Any questions?
But seriously, the Chiefs have officially announced their arrival with an electric showing in Los Angeles. Mahomes (15-27, 256 yds, 4 TDs), in what was basically his rookie debut, made 40-yard bombs look easy. Hill threatened to find the endzone with every touch of the ball, including 2 touchdowns on his first 2 touches en route to 173 yards and 3 TDs. Even with Kareem Hunt having a slow day by his standards (49 yards on 16 rushes), the Chiefs looked like real contenders. The rest of the AFC is on notice.
Broncos 27, Seahawks 24
Denver: When Bradley Chubb fell into Denver’s lap back in April, this kind of defense is what we all expected and, for 31 other teams, feared. Russell Wilson was running for his life all game long, and it seemed every play could result in a turnover or sack. Despite Case Keenum’s 3 INTs, the Broncos still were the dominant defense with 170 fewer yards allowed, a fumble recovery, and 2 picks of their own. Von Miller’s 3 sacks and Denver’s 6 total should be a warning to every QB in the NFL. Orange Crush is back and ready to play.
Lions 17, Jets 48
New York: Welcome to the pros, rookie. After his first pass was a pick six, Sam Darnold (16-21, 198 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) shined on his rookie debut. The youngest week 1 starting QB since 1950 led the Jets nearly flawlessly after the interception, going 16-20, including a 41-yard dime to Robby Anderson. The rest of the team was also out to shine, including 5 INTs, getting the first defensive touchdown the Jets have had in 73 games courtesy of Darron Lee, a 78-yard punt return TD for Andre Roberts, and 102 yards and 2 TDs for Isaiah Crowell. Everyone on the Jets was top of their game Monday night.
Raiders XX, Rams XX
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Photo Credits: NFL, Getty Images, Cleveland.com, the Associated Press, USA Today Sports, the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Times, XX, XX