This article is a collaborative work between Wyatt Miller and Logan MacDonald.
After a 221 day wait, NFL football has finally returned and week one is now in the books. The first week of NFL football held quite a few big plays, big wins, and shocking losses. After week one, nothing is set in stone and the season is still young. However, first impressions are everything and there were certainly impressions left across the NFC both good and bad. Without further ado: the biggest takeaway for each NFC team in week one.
Arizona Cardinals: Potential for one of the league’s premier offenses
Arizona came out and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of week one as they defeated the NFC’s 2020 Super Bowl Representation a la the 49ers. Last season, San Francisco propelled itself to the Super Bowl with a dominant running game and the league’s most terrifying defensive line in football. However, Arizona ran for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday versus one of the league’s best front sevens. Additionally, the trade for DeAndre Hopkins proved as brilliant as expected as Hopkins posted fourteen catches in a game versus San Fran. For the record, that ties the single-game Cardinal record with Anquan Boldin. Going forward, Arizona’s offense will be one to watch as one of the best league-wide this season.
Atlanta Falcons: The secondary is holding this team back
On the defensive side of the ball for Atlanta, they excelled at stopping the run while allowing just 84 rushing yards to a Seattle team that was fourth league-wide in rushing last season. They also succeeded at getting to the quarterback with three sacks and ten quarterback hits on Sunday. However, the secondary is very much still a work in progress and Russel Wilson was able to pick apart Atlanta’s secondary for 322 yards, four touchdowns, and 31 completions on 35 pass attempts. With a solid run defense, tenacious pass rush, and high flying offense, the secondary is the only real thing holding this team back right now. If this young secondary featuring rookie first-round CB AJ Terrell can take the necessary leap, then this is a playoff-caliber team.
Carolina Panthers: The defense is in serious trouble
The Carolina offense showed signs of promise in a high scoring, 34-30 loss versus Oakland on Sunday. McCaffery posted two touchdowns on over 100 total scrimmage yards while Bridgewater threw for 269 yards and a touchdown without any turnovers. However, the defense gave up 133 yards rushing and allowed Carr to post a 107.5 passer rating on 8.0 yards per attempt under center. Additionally, the Carolina defense failed to force a single turnover, register a single sack, or even record a single quarterback hit. If this defense doesn’t completely turn things around, Carolina won’t be winning many games any time soon.
Chicago Bears: The running game showing signs of life
After posting the league’s fifth-lowest yard per carry total as a team last season, there wasn’t much hope going into this season regarding the Chicago Bears’ rushing attack. However, they managed to rush for 149 yards as a team on a 5.3 yard per carry clip on Sunday versus Detroit, with the second year running back David Montgomery churning out a steady 4.9 yard per carry night. Going into this season, the running game will be critical to Chicago’s success as Mitchell Trubisky still struggles to be the focal point of the Chicago offense. After week one, there’s room for optimism regarding the rushing attack going forward.
Dallas Cowboys: Excitement builds around the Aldon Smith project
It’s difficult to find many positives from a disappointing loss for Dallas in their season opener versus an average Rams team. However, one comes from a major offseason storyline with room for much intrigue, After being the quickest player ever to 30 sacks and looking like a surefire Hall of Famer, Aldon Smith ran into off the field issues excelsior before effectively taking himself out of the league. This offseason, Smith was reinstated by the NFL and Dallas decided to take a chance. In his first NFL action since 2015, Smith recorded a sack on quarterback Jared Goff while also making an impact in the running game with eleven tackles. As the season goes on, it will be intriguing to see the development of the Aldon Smith comeback story.
Detroit Lions: Kenny Golladay is vital to this team’s red zone success
Last year, Kenny Golladay led Detroit in receiving touchdowns with eleven on the season in his third season in the league. However, Golladay was out with an injury Sunday and Detroit found themselves having to settle for a field goal four times during the game (missing one) and stalled in the red zone needing a touchdown to win it with under a minute left to play. The Lions surely could have used Kenny Golladay’s red zone prowess on Sunday and Detroit’s 23-27 season-opening loss versus Chicago simply reinforced his importance as a piece of the red zone offense for Detroit.
Green Bay Packers: They could afford to draft Love
Few picks in the 2020 NFL Draft received more burning hatred than the Packers’ first-round selection of quarterback Jordan Love. Many cited the remaining needs at skill positions while also criticizing the necessity of the selection with Aaron Rodgers still under center as one of the league’s best. Rodgers certainly isn’t declining any time soon and although it will be a while until the Love pick sees any return, that was to be expected. The receiving corps is in no state of emergency as Devante Adams is still showing why he’s the league’s best and Marques Valdes-Scantling is proving a reliable WR2 with a 96 yard and one touchdown showing Sunday on four receptions. Allow a couple or few years for Love to be groomed under Rodgers as he was under Favre and this move will pay dividends. Meanwhile, it seems Green Bay actually indeed was able to afford to pass on skill positions this past draft anyway as Jamal Williams and MVS continue to produce.
LA Rams: Sean McVay is still one of the league’s brightest minds
After an offseason which saw the departure of two-time All-Pro running back Todd Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks who posted 1000+ yards in four of his last five seasons, the Rams offense was expected to run into major issues this season. However, this did not seem the case versus Dallas on Sunday for the Rams as the team posted 153 yards on the ground and nearly 300 air yards. Throughout the game, McVay produced big plays with well-timed and perfectly executed combinations of zone runs and play-action rollouts. The play calling was immaculate and McVay demonstrated that his creativity and vision are more than capable of keeping this offense quite relevant.
Minnesota Vikings: Waiting on Ngakoue
Yannick Ngakoue was a central piece of offseason trade talks as the Jacksonville Jaguars were attempting to trade him all offseason when contract extensions talks reached an impasse. In each of his first four seasons, Ngakoue posted 8+ sacks and provided 4+ forced fumbles in three of the four. He was expected to be a major addition to this Minnesota defense when they traded a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to Jacksonville for the star rusher. However, Ngakoue recorded zero sacks and zero total tackles Sunday versus Green Bay. His expected major impact has yet to come to fruition in Minnesota, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.
New Orleans Saints: They still own the South
First and foremost, pump the hype on Tampa Bay. Many after the Buccaneers’ acquisition of five-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady, future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, and previous pro bowl running back Leonard Fournette were quick to pick them as underdogs to win the NFC South. With the Saints dominating 34-23 win over Tampa, Carolina’s loss to the extremely average Raiders squad, and Atlanta’s embarrassing loss to Seattle, New Orleans made it clear Sunday that the South still runs through them.
New York Giants: Same Ol’ line
The major achilles heel to this Giants squad for years now has been their offensive line. After signing Nate Solder a couple of off-seasons ago, drafting guard Will Hernandez early in the second round of the 2018 draft, and spending the number four pick this year on offensive tackle Andrew Thomas it was expected that would improve. However, against Pittsburgh on Monday night football the Giants gave up three sacks and their superstar running back Saquon Barkley could only muster six yards on fifteen carries. In other words, it seems like the same ol’ o-line this season for the Giants. That’s a major cause for concern.
Philadelphia Eagles: This is the league’s worst offensive line and it isn’t close
The Eagles made a laughing stock of themselves week one when they managed to lose 27-17 to a team with literally no name. The running game gained no traction with starting running back Miles Sanders absent as the Eagles only managed to record a pitiful 57 rushing yards as a team on 3.4 yards per carry. Even more embarrassing is the fact that quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked eight times. Yes, eight times. That is absurd and more than most players record in a season. Credit must be given to Washington’s defensive front as well. However, all Eagles fans will be saying their Hail Marys when their team faces the most dominant lineman in the game a la Aaron Donald this upcoming week.
San Francisco 49ers: Their spot at top of the NFC West is far from secure
Okay, I am not claiming the Cardinals are now definitively better than the 49ers. San Francisco is still the reigning NFC Super Bowl team and after one game it’s important to not overreact. However, with their loss to Arizona who has been the division’s worst for years now along with Seattle’s dominating win over the Falcons, their hopes to be the best of the West is diminishing by the minute. Unlike last season, this team will have to work to win the West with steady competition this season.
Seattle Seahawks: Jamal Adams is the future of this defense
This was honestly not a hard statement to make the second Seattle traded for Adams. Jamal Adams has been the league’s best at the safety position for a while now and has made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons and is coming off an All-Pro selection last season. However, when Seattle traded their first-round pick in each of the next two drafts as well as a third-rounder next year for Adams, many criticized how much Seattle shelled out for the star. Adams put that to rest pretty quick and showed himself more than worth it as he posted twelve tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, and two quarterback hits in his very first game as a Seahawk. In other words? He was worth every pick as he will now instill terror in any team to face Seattle’s defense for quite a long time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pump the brakes on the hype
After the signing of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette many were quick to proclaim Super Bowl dreams for Tampa Bay. I was never one of them and Tampa simply proved me right on Sunday versus the Saints. Brady posted an awful QBR of 41.2 while throwing two interceptions including a pick-six on Sunday. Meanwhile, Gronkowski had just two catches for eleven yards and Fournette only was able to contribute five rushing yards on five attempts. This team may have the potential to be dominant at times later once chemistry is developed, but pump the brakes on the Tampa hype for now.
The Washington Football Team: This defense will keep Washington relevant in the NFC East
Washington has been a laughing stock league-wide for much too long. The last time they won the division was 2015 and they are coming off of a three-win season in which they established themselves as one of the league’s worst teams. The offense is still a work in progress with second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins under center and a backfield consisting of no players who having NFL starting experience at the running back position. However, they managed to sack Carson Wentz eight times and pick him off twice while holding the Eagles to just 57 yards rushing as a team. If the defense continues to play this way throughout the season, it just may be enough to keep them relevant in the NFC East.
Bills: The offense still needs some work
The Bills won Sunday’s game against the Jets by a score of 27-17 and Josh Allen looked great. But, there is a big giant Elephant in the room: It was against the Jets. This Jets team and coaching is probably the worst in the league; the Bills should have absolutely obliterated them. The biggest thing for me was their wasted opportunities. Tyler Bass missed 2 30-39 yard field goals, the Bills only scored TDs on 3 of their 8 possessions in the red zone, and Josh Allen fumbled twice inside the Jets’ 40 yard line. The Bills’ individual stat lines looked phenomenal, but to only score 27 points in this game is an embarrassment. The Bills can’t expect to beat Bill Belicheck playing like that.
Jets: They’re still the Jets
Despite a very good draft and what seemed to be an improved defense, the Jets can’t seem to escape from the reputation of their franchise. They only held the ball for 18:44 against the Bills, they converted less than 40% of their third downs, and they committed 9 penalties for 95 yards. The only positive that came from this game is their run defense. The Jets held Bills running backs to 41 yards on 18 carries and the Bills clearly didn’t want to run the ball against the Jets’ top-tier front seven. Unfortunately, their secondary got trampled by a quarterback whose Madden rating is worse than Colin Kaepernick. The Jets are always going to Jet.
Patriots: The Patriots’ coaching staff makes them a contender
The Patriots’ offense is going to get every last drop of vintage Cam Newton. Newton ran the ball 15 times for 75 yards and 2 TDs against the Dolphins and completed 15/19 for 155 yards. Josh McDaniels has drawn up a completely new offense for Cam Newton, and it’s truly a masterpiece. Cam looked extremely comfortable running the designed runs, read options, and RPO’s that McDaniels dialed up for him. I haven’t seen Cam look that relaxed in the pocket in years. Also, McDaniels isn’t forcing Cam to chuck the ball down field. Cam averaged 5.2 Intended Air Yards per Pass Attempt in week one, which was the fifth-lowest in the league. That’s where Cam is the most comfortable throwing the football and that’s where he will live all season long. Bill Belicheck is the GOAT, period.
Dolphins: They aren’t ready yet
I have very low expectations for the Dolphins this season. Their rebuild is only about 60% done. They have a good chunk of the personnel they need to finish the rebuild, but it’s all about development now. Fitzpatrick played awful, the Dolphins didn’t capitalize on opportunities, and they simply got out-coached. The Dolphins rebuild just isn’t quite there yet, and I don’t see that changing any time this season.
Ravens: Their Secondary is Elite
There was a lot to like about the Ravens on Sunday, but my biggest takeaway was how good their secondary looked. Baker Mayfield couldn’t find a receiver down field all game long despite the fact that the Ravens pass rush created very little pressure. Baker Mayfield had three whole seconds of throwing time on Sunday, which was good for third in the league. Yet, he still posted an awful stat line completing only 21/39 passes for 189 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The Browns were far from good last season, but Kevin Stefanski is a very quarterback-friendly coach and I am expecting great strides from Baker this season, which makes this performance by the Ravens even more impressive. Marlon Humphreys has solidified himself as a top-5 corner, Marcus Peters is just about the most electrifying player at the position, and the Ravens proved that their defense can get it done without Earl Thomas. Opposing teams are going to have to beat the Ravens on the ground if they want to compete against this team.
Steelers: Big Ben is the X-factor
The Steelers have a top-2 defensive unit in the league without question. They held an undisputed top-3 running back to 6 yards on 15 carries. Nonetheless, Big Ben’s presence elevates them from a good team to a great team. James Conner couldn’t get going early because the Steelers didn’t establish the passing game. Once Big Ben shook off the rust though, Benny Snell exploded for 113 yards on 19 carries. In the Steelers’ high-volume passing offense, the run game only works if the defense is scared of Ben Roethlisberger. 229 yards and 3 TDs later, everyone is scared of Ben Rothlisberger. The Steelers can make a Super Bowl run with this year’s squad if Big Ben and the offensive line stay on the field.
Browns: They need to finish drives + RUN THE BALL
Just oof. Execution is the name of the game for the Browns this season and they just didn’t on Sunday. Their drives went as follows: INT, fumble, Touchdown, punt (13-play drive), missed FG, punt, TOD, fumble, TOD, punt. They couldn’t take advantage of any scoring opportunities and the Ravens offense walked all over them. The only positive to come from this game was the offensive line. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt averaged over 5.5 yards per carry and Baker Mayfield only got sacked twice against an elite Ravens pass rush. The Browns have the talent to be a winning team this season, but they have to capitalize and stick to the ground game. Browns: Put the game in the hands of your running backs, not Baker Mayfield.
Bengals: Offensive line troubles will be the death of Joe Burrow
Burrow only averaged 5.4 yards per pass attempt because he can’t complete long passes behind that offensive line. Burrow also had the third-lowest average air yards differential at -4.1, intended air yards minus completed air yards. Meaning that Burrow wasn’t hitting on very many deep balls, likely due to the fact that he had the seventh-worst time to throw in the league. Mixon also had trouble finding room to run averaging a mere 3.6 yards per carry on 19 runs. The Chargers have a great front seven, but these are awful numbers. The Bengals offensive line needs to improve fast if they want Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon to keep all the bones in their bodies intact.
Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
I would talk about the Chiefs’ insane pass rush success, but I think that had more to do with the Texans’ pitiful offensive line. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had more yards after contact, 106, than any other running back had rushing yards on Sunday. The Chiefs have added a top running back to their already loaded offense and it’s hard to believe that any defense will be able to stop them now. The Chiefs are the best team in the league, period.
Los Angeles Changers: Awful coaching
This was a horribly coached game offensively. The Chargers have Austin Ekeler, the second-best pass catching back in the league, and they only targeted him once. Tyrod Taylor had the second-most intended air yards per play in the entire league last week with 11.6. That is an absurd misuse of their quarterback, running back, and receivers. Tyrod Taylor has been historically bad at throwing the deep ball and the Chargers went up against a very good pass rush, yet the Chargers just let Tyrod sling it down field, rather unsuccessfully, resulting in a 53% completion percentage on 30 passes. The Chargers were lucky to escape with this win, but they won’t be so lucky against more experienced teams and coaching staffs.
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs is elite
The Raiders offense had a total of nine drives against the Panthers on Sunday and they scored on six of them. Granted, the Panthers had four rookies starting on defense, their best cornerback got hurt, and their defensive unit is undoubtedly among the worst in the league. Nonetheless, Josh Jacobs ran all over them. He was their leading rusher, he ran for three touchdowns all inside the 10, and he was their second-leading receiver with 46 yards on 4 catches. Josh Jacobs is a special player and although his 3.7 average wasn’t great, his effectiveness enabled the Raiders to score consistently all game. The Raiders will be feeding Josh Jacobs all season long. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the league in rushing.
Broncos: Nothing was as good as it should have been
The Broncos were the epitome of average on Monday night. They only forced a punt of four of the Titans’ 10 drives, they didn’t force a single turnover, and their offense didn’t produce. Only two of their drives lasted for more than five plays and they only reached the Titans territory three times. That production isn’t enough to win games. Not to mention, the absence of Courtland Sutton was painfully apparent as Locke’s QBR was a measly 68.2. The Broncos are a very young team with a lot of promise, but they need more time to mesh and work on the little details that take teams to the mountain top.
Texans: Offensive line continues to be an issue
The 40 million dollar man was running for his life on Thursday night. Watson was sacked four times, hit seven times, and forced out of the pocket more times than I could count against the Chiefs. Otherwise, things went about as expected for the Texans. David Johnson did very well and there wasn’t much the Texans defense could do against the high-powered Chiefs offense. The Texans pass protection will continue to cripple their season and Deshaun Watson’s career if no improvements are made.
Jaguars: MINSHEW MANIA
Gardner Minshew completed an astonishing 95% of his passes on Sunday despite having the second-least amount of time to throw in the entire league. He went 19/20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns leading the Jaguars to a surprise win against a very capable Colts defense. Minshew has proven to be a very competent quarterback and an inspirational leader who refuses to quit on his team. That’s the kind of captain and quarterback I want. The hype around Minshew isn’t solely based on his dashing looks and amusing off-field antics. If Minshew can consistently replicate the accuracy and quick decision-making he showed last week, the Jaguars will have themself a legitimate franchise quarterback.
Colts: They lost to the Jaguars…
The Colts got beat by the Jaguars. The same Jaguars who people thought might not win a single game. The same Jaguars who just cut their franchise player and 4th overall pick from 2017. The Colts lost to that team. Why? Because the Colts defense, for some inexplicable reason, couldn’t stop the Jaguars offense and the Colts offense couldn’t capitalize on anything. The Jaguars scored on seven of their ten possessions while only throwing one incompletion and rushing for 4.0 yards per carry as a team. The Colts only converted four of their 12 third downs, they only scored two touchdowns in five trips to the red zone, and Phillip Rivers threw two interceptions. If the Colts can’t finish drives or make stops against an incredibly weak Jaguars team, what are they going to do against their more talented division rivals: the Texans and Titans?
Titans: Ryan Tannehill looked like the QB the Titans paid him to be
The Titans paid Ryan Tannehill 118 million dollars over four years. Last season the Titans ran the ball 54% of the time, but on Monday night Mike Vrabel had Tannehill let it fly. Tannehill completed 29/43 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He consistently led the Titans down the field and if Gostkowski had connected on all his kicks, the Titans would have had an easy two-possession win. Tannehill was accurate with his passes, he got the ball out on time, which was a huge issue for him last season, and he spread the ball around well. The Titans will always be a run-first team with Derrick Henry, but if Tannehill is able to be a consistent and smart thrower and their pass protection holds up, the Titans will have the AFC South title easily.