Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs already appeared to be on their way to becoming the next dynasty, and just a week into the new season, it’s evident they have made leaps and bounds in their pursuit of achieving every franchises goal. Unlike too many teams before them, the Chiefs have come off a Super Bowl win and entered the new season appearing even more unstoppable. Last season was spectacular for the Chiefs, and this offseason they made sure to address their one obvious need: running back, and boy has it paid off. Clyde Edwards-Helaire exploded onto the scene in week 1 with 138 yards and a touchdown in his debut for the champs – a performance which has already seen the 32nd overall pick become the favorite for OROY.
No Super Bowl slump here. If week 1 is anything to go by, Kansas City is showing the potential to repeat.
The Ravens were easily one of the biggest winners of week 1. They saw victory with a blowout win over Cleveland, 38-6, and a lot of positives can be taken from their performance. Though it is early to say, Lamar looked improved from his 2020 self, throwing more accurately downfield, despite the doubters believing it was all downhill from 2019 for Jackson. Their defense, as is made obvious by the scoreline, had an outstanding performance with relatively few mistakes.
Although CEH will get all the attention for his performance on opening night vs Houston, OSU alum JK Dobbins deserves nothing less than to share the spotlight. Dobbins may have contributed only 22 yards, but his 2 touchdowns go to show that he will fit his role perfectly in Baltimore. The Ravens backfield, and offense in general, has just reached another level from where they were in their 14-2 season.
New England Patriots
The Patriots rolled the dice on Cam Newton in the offseason, having let Brady walk. Until mere weeks before game-day, Stidham was the assumed starter. However, Cam impressed and earned the job. Cam and Co. held it together against an underrated Miami defense, and the Patriots defense held the Dolphins to just 11 points- forcing 3 interceptions (including one from the 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore). They are off to a great start in week 1, especially seeing as Cam had a limited amount of time to learn and adapt to Belichick’s offense.
This game showed that there is hope yet for the Patriots to see some sort of success within just a year of moving on from their franchise quarterback. If Newton wasn’t motivated enough before by his critics and little interest drawn prior to the Pats snagging him, the snatching of his chain by the defeated Miami players certainly added fuel to the fire. Expect big things from Cam this season.
The Steelers have a lot to be excited about this season, as sleeper Super Bowl candidates, and their defensive display against the Giants can be added to the list. While the Giants may not be the biggest challenge for the Steelers to show themselves off against, the fact that they held arguably the league’s best running back to just 6 yards off 15 carries, sacked Daniel Jones three times, and picked him off twice must be appreciated. Plus, a supposedly washed-up Big Ben returned from injury with little prep and posted 229 yards and 3 TDs, and Benny Snell Jr. stepped up when Conner left the game early, rushing for 113 yards. This Steelers squad is one that is built to last, but going off this performance, they should be more than capable of withstanding the challenge of facing Melvin Gordon, David Johnson, and Derrick Henry in the coming weeks.
Las Vegas Raiders
Despite many people choosing the Panthers to take a dub in week 1, the Raiders secured their first win under their new moniker in a nail-biter. Carr looked comfortable in his offense as he worked yet another 4th quarter comeback, Jacobs rushed for 96 yards and 3 touchdowns to build on his thrilling rookie campaign, and even when defensive play-caller Nick Kwiatkoski left the game with a pectoral injury, the defense managed to hold it together just enough to clinch the win, coming up with a big stop on 4th and short to secure the 1-0 start to the 2020 season. Perhaps most surprising is that the Raiders, who fielded 11 new players and lost 2 cornerstone players during the game to injury, were able to come up with a win, despite their youthfulness and lack of prep time in the preseason. While all teams have experienced the latter, the fact that the Raiders youngsters could overcome it is very promising.
As for their upcoming opponent, the Saints offense looked shaky, and Michael Thomas is out after he suffered an ankle injury versus Tampa. The Raiders could well defy odds again and go 2-0 next week at Allegiant Stadium. But even after just one game, people are already realising the potential of this Raiders team.
I couldn’t make this list without giving a spot to Aaron Rodgers, so consider this an honorable mention. Even the biggest haters of Rodgers understand that the Packers are Aaron’s team, but Rodgers truly played as if his job was on the line. His stellar performance in week 1 saw him record 364 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 136.3 QBR – all of this on the road and against a division rival with a top 10 defense. Rodgers is sending out a clear message with this stat-line – that he is simply irreplaceable. Seeing these numbers almost makes me want to put the Packers in the ‘Losers’ section for wasting their 2020 first-round pick.
San Francisco 49ers
Coming off a Superbowl loss is never easy (just look at the Falcons, Rams, and Panthers). However, if you bought into the hype around San Francisco this offseason, and could see them taking the NFC again, you may have been surprised to see them fall to 0-1 at the hands of their division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals. Not a whole lot went the 49ers’ way, as they suffered receiving issues early, and it got worse when Kittle suffered a knee sprain – adding the $75 million man to the list of injuries on San Fran’s offense, along with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. As for the quarterback, Garoppolo took 3 sacks and missed several textbook throws. To top it all, with Jimmy G’s overthrow in the Super Bowl fresh in the minds of fans, Garoppolo made further poor decisions as, yet again, he failed to complete a late game-winning drive.
However, of all the week 1 losers, the Niners are easily in the best position to turn it around quickly. With all their problems, they just narrowly lost to a strong Cardinals team, so they should be more than capable of getting wins out of the Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Dolphins in the coming weeks, especially with all three injured stars expected to return before long.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where to start with Tampa? In week 1 they lost to their division rivals – not a great way to begin the season, but the Saints are one of the top teams in the league. Fair enough.
However, Tampa Bay defeated themselves on Sunday. Tom Brady, the man with the 3rd best career TD-Int ratio threw 2 picks in the Bucs season opener, and penalties killed any chances of them turning it around. Having led the league in penalties last season, the Bucs looked very much the same team as before despite the new names on the roster. The picks aside, it seems Brady will have a tougher time than he thought going from the well-disciplined and tuned offense in New England, to the mistake-ridden offense in central Florida.
To add to this dysfunctional start, HC Bruce Arians threw Brady under the bus after their first game together, singling him out and suggesting he needs to make better decisions in the coming weeks. Brady again will not be used to this sort of treatment, having spent his career under Belichick. Bucs fans better hope this rough start won’t leave any lasting scars.
The Colts enter 2020 having made big moves in the offseason, signing potential future-HOFer Phillip Rivers, 3x Pro-Bowler and 2017 All-Pro corner Xavier Rhodes, and DE Deforest Buckner. Not to mention drafting both Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. The season opener rolls around and… Rivers throws 2 picks, Rhodes flops with two blown plays (one of which was the game-winner), Taylor has just 22 yards off 9 touches, Buckner gets no sacks, and Pittman amounts to 10 yards off 2 catches. Oh yeah, and they took a loss, all against arguably the worst team in the league. The Colts are definite losers in week 1.
After week 1, the Broncos sit at 4th in the AFC West, becoming the only 0-1 team in the division, having lost to the Tennessee Titans. They managed to hold the Titans dangerous offense to 16 points, but while there was much hype around the Broncos offense, led by 2nd-year Drew Lock as he came off a season which saw him go 4-1 as the starter, were themselves held to just 14. Despite the Titans losing CB Logan Ryan, DL Jurrell Casey, and LB Wesley Woodyard in the offseason, the Broncos offense could not get going. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Von Miller is set to miss further time and RB Phillip Lindsay is expected to miss time with turf toe. From Jeudy’s big drops to Fangio’s missed calls, to Gordon’s costly fumble – things didn’t go Denver’s way. They’ll look to improve massively come week 2.
Kevin Stefanski’s career in Cleveland did not get off to a good start, as the Browns lost to the Ravens in a blowout. They put up just 6 points against the Ravens, and although a loss to Baltimore was imminent for Cleveland, the scoreline of 38-6 was just ridiculous. The Browns are supposed to be contenders with their big names on both sides of the ball, but looking at their performance in week 1, they are far from it. Despite the offensive line being the only unit on the team that did their job, Baker looked far from comfortable in the pocket and did not play like a guy who is supposedly due a bounce-back season. But, to be fair to the Browns, it is never easy for a coach to come in and change the culture of a team – this offseason has not been the kindest environment to the Browns coaching staff.