AFC East and AFC North Grades after the NFL’s First Week

Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books, check out how teams from the AFC East and North graded in their first action of 2018.

AFC East

Miami Dolphins-   At the onset of every NFL season the adage “it’s is a marathon not a sprint” is inevitably thrown around. Unfortunately for Miami and Tennessee, Week 1 was a marathon in it of itself. This game took 7 hours to complete due to multiple lighting delays, but saw the Dolphins take home a victory 27-20. Ryan Tannehill finished 20-28 for 230 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs, including a 75-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills (who finished with 4 catches for 106 yards). Tannehill was solid, but inconsistent at times, making a couple big plays while also throwing two downright ugly INTs. On defense, the Fins shutdown a limited Titans passing game with the injury to Marcus Mariota, collecting three INTs on the day, and scored on special teams when Jakeem Grant ran back a kickoff 102 yards to the house in the 4th quarter. Miami showed a stingy defense and got contributions from Frank Gore and Kenyon Drake on the ground to secure a win over a 2017 playoff team. A good win for a team with mixed expectations at best, but the Dolphins must improve in order to make a surprise run at the playoffs in 2018.
Grade: C

New York Jets-   Heading into Monday night’s matchup with the Detroit Lions, the New York Jets were 6.5-point underdogs on the road. Gang Green covered the spread and then some. The Week 1 matchup was rookie QB Sam Darnold’s first career start, and he looked the part of a number 3 overall draft pick. Darnold’s NFL career got off to a rocky start, throwing an ugly pick-six back into coverage on the other side of the field. After the opening miscue, Darnold was solid, finishing with 198 yards and 2 TD passes. The Jets helped out their rookie QB on the ground, rushing for 169 yards and 2 TDs against a pretty good Lions defense. On the other side of the ball, the Jets defense was superb, collecting 5 INTs and shutting down a usually high- powered Lions offense. The Jets were able to put their young QB in good field position situations by collecting those turnovers, while also scoring on a 78- yard punt return TD by Andre Roberts. The Jets certainly impressed in week 1, and it remains to be seen if they can keep this type of play up and become a surprise contender in 2018.                                                                                      Grade: A

Buffalo Bills –   To say that the Buffalo Bills’ Week 1 performance was horrendous is an understatement. To be fair, there really isn’t a level of bad that accurately describes an utterly embarrassing 47-3 opening day loss in Baltimore. For starters, the Bills did not get a 1st down in the entire 1st half. Yes, that’s 30 minutes without a first down. As for the quarterback of that offense, Nathan Peterman was brutal. He went 5-18 for 24 yards and 2 INTs as he continued to play quarterback in the same way that Marty McFly played guitar at the end of Back to the Future. Peterman was completely inept, had fewer 1st half passing yards than Joe Flacco had completions, and made the Bills organization look silly in tabbing him as their game 1 starter. Unfortunately for the Bills Mafia, no space time manipulation (that I know of) can make Peterman disappear. In fairness to Peterman, his day was made more difficult by an offensive line that was outclassed by Baltimore. Star running back LeSean McCoy was held to 22 yards on 7 carries, while the Bills surrendered 6 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. After falling behind 40-0, the Bills turned to 7th overall pick Josh Allen who proved more effective than Peterman (Not exactly a compliment) going 6-15 for 74 yards and firmly placing himself in the conversation to start next week’s home opener against the Chargers. In a way, the most disappointing performance of the afternoon came from the Bills defense. A unit that was solid last season (especially in the secondary) allowed Baltimore to score TDs on all 6 trips to the red zone and were carved up by Joe Flacco for 236 yards and 3 TDs. The Bills made their case for being the NFL’s worst team on Sunday and Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott will have plenty of questions to answer after a downright embarrassing performance to open 2018.
Grade: F

New England Patriots – Another day, another win for the reigning AFC Champions who have been a pillar of consistency for the last two decades. New England started slowly as Tom Brady fired an early interception and missed an open receiver in the end zone, but then bounced back to the tune of 26-30 passing for 277 yards and 3 TDs. Brady connected with a familiar target in Rob Gronkowski early and often. The newly minted Tide spokesman hauled in 7 passes for 123 yards including a beautiful back shoulder grab for a touchdown in the 1st quarter. Philip Dorsett and James White also collected TD passes from Brady, while the Pats Offensive line did an adequate job of slowing down the vaunted Houston pass rush. On defense, Bill Belichick’s squad did an outstanding job of limiting DeShaun Watson, the second-year standout was held to 176 yards passing with 1 TD and 1 INT. The Pats secondary contained the dynamic DeAndre Hopkins about as well as a defense can, he only had 8 catches for 78 yards. New England must clean up their run defense that surrendered 167 yards on 34 carries to Texan runners, but all and all it was a solid week 1 performance against a talented AFC foe.
Grade: A

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals-  Entering the 2018 season, the Cincinnati Bengals were one of the toughest teams to read. Marvin Lewis gets an extension after many thought he was out the door, Andy Dalton’s status as an answer at QB was up in the air, and the play of the defense was a question mark. While some of those questions remain, the Bengals took care of business on the road in week 1. For most of the afternoon it looked as if the Colts would steal a win in Andrew Luck’s return, but the Bengals scored 3 times in the final 20 minutes to secure an eleven-point win. Indy had little answer to second-year running back Joe Mixon, who torched the Colts’ defense with 95 yards on 17 carries and a game-winning 4th quarter TD. Eighth year quarterback Andy Dalton enjoyed a solid start to season, completing 21 of 28 passes for 243 yards and 2 TDs. One of Dalton’s touchdowns found the hands of 2017 first round pick John Ross, who made his first NFL catch and collected his first NFL touchdown in week 1 after a pedestrian rookie season. AJ Green also hauled in a TD pass on his way to a decent day despite an early drop and a fumble. Cincinnati’s defense had 2 takeaways including a fumble returned for a touchdown to clinch the victory. The Bengals must clean up some of their pass defense, but a win in Indy was a pretty solid start for Marvin Lewis’ bunch.
Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers-  The Pittsburgh Steelers are not exactly famous for starting fast, just a year ago they nearly lost to a Browns team that finished 0-16 at home in week 1. Fast forward to 2018, and the Steelers put forth a pretty disappointing effort en route to a 21-all tie with the Cleveland Browns. With LeVeon Bell continuing his holdout, Pittsburgh turned to second-year RB James Conner who was a bright spot for the Steelers in week 1. Conner touched the ball 36 times, running for 135 yards on 31 carries and 2 touchdowns. The Steelers’ passing offense was able to move the ball against Cleveland, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 335 yards, finding Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown for 212 of those yards. Despite the ability to move the ball, Big Ben and the Steelers repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, losing 3 fumbles to go with 3 INTs. Pittsburgh blew a 14 point fourth quarter lead, and potentially would have lost the game in regulation had it not been for a Tyrod Taylor interception. The Steelers could not move the ball for most of OT and when they finally put a drive together, Chris Boswell missed a potential go-ahead 42-yard field goal in OT. Had it not been for a TJ Watt blocked field goal with 9 seconds left, the Steelers very well could have lost this game, an ugly way to start the season. Pittsburgh has more questions than answers after week 1, and until LeVeon Bell returns and Ben Roethlisberger takes care of the football, the Steelers may be set to underwhelm this season.
Grade: C-

Cleveland Browns-  Perhaps after an 0-16 season the Browns deserve an A for not losing. But after evaluating how they played, their A grade will have to wait just like their victory Bud Light coolers. The new look Browns entered 2018 with plenty of optimism, but some of the Browns’ off-season additions struggled in week 1. Tyrod Taylor endured an ugly Dawg Pound debut, completing only 15-40 passes for 197 yards. Taylor also threw a horrendous interception at the end of regulation, costing the Browns an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation. Cleveland’s offensive line did not do much to help Taylor, surrendering 7 sacks on the day. Taylor did run for 77 yards and a TD, contributing to Cleveland’s 177 rushing yards as a team. Newly signed Jarvis Landry caught 7 passes for 106 yards, and Josh Gordon hauled in a 17-yard touchdown. Cleveland’s defense gave up some yards, but was able to grab 5 takeaways, including 2 INTs by rookie CB Denzel Ward. Myles Garrett continued his stellar play in his young career, sacking Roethlisberger on two occasions. Cleveland blew multiple golden opportunities to win the game, Taylor’s INT to end regulation, and a blocked field goal with 10 seconds remaining shows that the Browns may not have fully escaped their ways of old. For Cleveland, it is a step in the right direction, but there is still work to do if the Browns want to get back into the win column this year.
Grade: B

Baltimore Ravens-  While the effort put forth by the Buffalo Bills on Sunday was miserable, some credit must be given to the Baltimore Ravens who dominated from the opening kick. Despite differences in competition, it is not too often that a team takes care of business to the tune of a 44- point win, so credit the Ravens for handling an inferior opponent. Joe Flacco looked rejuvenated in his first action of 2018, throwing for 236 yards and 3 TDs despite sitting a majority of the second half. Baltimore’s defense was suffocating, not allowing a Buffalo first down in the entire first half. The Ravens D got to the QB 6 times and controlled the battle at the line of scrimmage, holding LeSean McCoy to 22 yards. The Ravens secondary picked off Nathan Peterman twice, and held the Bills to 70 yards passing for the entire game. There is not much knowledge to gain from this win other than the Ravens came ready to play. And since nothing went wrong for Baltimore, they secure the highest grade among all teams in week 1.
Grade: A+