The NFL’s first week of the season wound up a huge success, given that both players and referees hadn’t been on the field in any type of game for over a month. Regardless, most of the games were great and had a lot of physicality. So who stood out, positively and negatively?
Winners: Aaron Rodgers
Yours truly and a good number of others had written that A-Rod was near the end of his career, and with it, the Packers would be in free-fall this season. The Minnesota Vikings looked to be the team that could take over the NFC North and cement that early on by getting a win at home against Green Bay. Not only did they fail to do that, they failed to contain Green Bay’s offense.
Rodgers finished the game 32 of 44 with four touchdowns thrown, no interceptions, 364 yards and an 8.3 yards per attempt/completion. That’s a huge improvement to even the last month and a half Green Bay played (minus their playoff game against Seattle). While Minnesota lost some defensive pieces, coach Mike Zimmer had no answer for Rodgers or wide-out Davante Adams or other noteworthy adjustments. Just as important, the Packers got a division win to take what could be first place for a month or two (more on the NFC North later).
The Arizona Cardinals
It’s too early for the, “I told you so”, but what audiences saw from Kliff Kingsbury’s squad should leave us wondering. While the Cardinals struggled a good part of their rivalry matchup in Santa Clara, it was more because they couldn’t get out of their own way. Once Kyler Murray scored on his 22 yard run, favor swung to the Cardinals.
It’s fine to jump on Jimmy Garappolo and say he should read the field or not under-throw his receivers, but credit again goes to Arizona’s defensive coordinator Vance Joseph for improving last year’s game plan on San Francisco and slamming the door on any fourth quarter runs. Add in DeAndre Hopkins’ first game was a 14 catch, 151 yard performance against what was rated as the best defense in the NFL and the NFC should be on notice. Even if the Cards don’t win the division, we’ve seen one week in how much trouble they’ll give opposing teams.
That New Football Team in Nevada
The Las Vegas Raiders picked up an exciting win over a Carolina Panthers team most have said will be in the basement this season. While we don’t know how Carolina can consistently play, the Raiders can celebrate their first win returning to Sin City.
Josh Jacobs, the first round draft pick the Chicago Bears gave in exchange for Khalil Mack, ran for 93 yards on 25 carries, and scored three times. Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III caught three passes for 55 yards, and ran the ball twice for eleven. Free agent acquisition Nelson Agholor had one catch for 23 yards, but scored easily. The Raiders will be in a tight spot most of the season as Kansas City will be the division favorite and both Los Angeles and Denver show improvement. Winning against a team they should beat should build confidence early on.
Audiences whenever they tuned in between 12 p.m. central and 9:30 p.m. central
Five of the 13 games Sunday resulted in double digit finals. While some of the eight remaining games showed who was the better team, almost all the games were fun or exciting to watch at some point. Three of the four late games went down to the wire, with those three resulting in upsets. To have this many close games without both teams and referees having familiarity on open fields for over seven months without play is incredible. It bodes well for when all 32 teams grow more comfortable and start to show progress.
Losers: Audiences Who Were Stuck Watching the Bears-Lions Game
Let’s start outside the game first. Kenny Albert was supposed to call Chicago at Detroit, but because he’s in Edmonton calling the Stanley Cup Finals, there was no way he’d make it back to the U.S. in time. Audiences instead were stuck with Dick Stockton, who hasn’t aged well. At one point, Dick couldn’t tell that Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson was in his second season, not his rookie.
Then there’s the game. The Lions were the better team three of the four quarters. Third overall pick Jeff Okudah didn’t play as coach Matt Patricia wants him fully healthy when he debuts, and that’s fine. Detroit was again handed awful luck when both their starting cornerbacks left due to injuries. The Lions were already thin in their secondary before both CBs left, and now they’re thinner.
If both corners don’t fall, the Lions win this game, but again Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky together struggled until that point. The Bears coaching staff hasn’t worked well with improving Mitch’s accuracy and it showed when the Lions pass-rush boxed him in early on. Despite going 1-0 after the first week, this division is for the Packers’ taking with what this game had to offer.
As bad as Mitch Trubisky was, it doesn’t come close as to what happened to and how bad Carson Wentz was. Both QBs had under a 60% completion rate, but Trubisky was sacked just once. Wentz, who’ll be playing behind backup offensive linemen for the first month or two, was sacked EIGHT times, losing 62 yards.
This Eagles team will go as far as Carson Wentz can carry them, and yesterday’s game was proof of that. Wentz was great for the first two quarters as the Eagles sprinted to a quick 17 point lead and gave up a touchdown to Washington with less than a minute left in the second quarter. Wentz and the offense imploded in the second half, allowing the Ron Rivera-led Football Team to come back and seize a win. Blame the offensive line and with good reason, but Wentz had to step up against a division rival to seize an early division lead and failed on epic proportions.
The State of Ohio. Again.
With the Ohio State Buckeyes on a leave of absence (as is the rest of the Big10), Ohio football fans again must watch the night-terrors that are the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. Ohio NFL football has turned into a reality show, the only difference is that while the faces keep changing, the teams keep getting worse.
Cleveland had to play the Baltimore Ravens, the first game Lamar Jackson had played in since the Tennessee Titans upset him handily in the divisional playoff round. There’s nothing wrong with Jackson and company running up the score on you. It’s happened to a lot of teams. What’s disappointing is how once promising quarterback Baker Mayfield has imploded on epic proportions. NBC’s analysts and Boomer Esiason on CBS called out Baker for acting too quickly, hurrying passes and plays when they need to progress naturally, and in some ways, tuning out Kevin Stefanski’s play-calling. This is only the first week back! With the offense Cleveland has assembled, they shouldn’t be putting up only six points either.
On the opposite end, the Cincinnati Bengals played their first home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, a team that’s thankful no team will have a full stadium packed the first two months. The Bengals may have something special in Joe Burrow, and he showed flashes of it during the game. While the Chargers started out slow, Tyrod Taylor gradually solved Cincinnati’s defense, and LA led by three when Burrow came out for the final drive. Veteran and potent offensive threat A.J. Green wound up catching Joe Burrow’s first touchdown pass…except he pushed off on a defender and the score was called back. Still, the Bengals had a chance to tie the game up with a field-goal.
Randy Bullock sliced the kick more than pie. Then he was hurt after. Ouch.
2020 may be a wild year, but some things never change.
That’s as bad a loss as you can take, and the whole country got to watch it.
We’re pretty much done with Week 1, but there are games you (the players, analysts and fans) know are important the first week that will come back to bite you, and a three point loss to the Rams will sting for a bit. Dallas’ schedule does get easier, but here’s what the results for them and Los Angeles are at the moment.
- Three of the four NFC West teams are 1-0
- The Washington Football team is up one game in the standings
- Mike Nolan’s defense had only one sack against a so-so offensive line
- Blake Jarwin could be out for the year
- The next best receiver on the Rams behind Robert Woods put up 40 yards (Higbee and Kupp)
- The Rams, who aren’t considered to be in the NFC West race, looked like the better team for over 45 minutes of the game.
Throw in Dak Prescott had a top five career pass to Michael Gallup nullified by offensive pass interference in the final minute of play and it’s safe to say this team has double the pressure not even two weeks into the season.