The football season is finally upon us and excitement levels across the league were on a high. For 16 fanbases, this weekend was just what they needed. The other 16 fanbases will be hoping week 2 is more enjoyable than this past one. Because the NFL has added an extra regular season game, teams have a little bit more time to get back on track. Week 1 showed us a few surprises and some disappointments as well. With a full week of games behind us let’s take a look at the winners and losers of week 1.
Winner #1 AFC and NFC West
If week 1 is any indication of what will happen this season, its that the west divisions will be a dogfight. All 8 teams won this weekend which means right now these are the model divisions. The Chargers, Niners, Seahawks, Broncos and Cardinals all won games on the road this weekend. The Rams comfortably took care of business at home and the Chiefs made a frantic comeback to win their game. The Raiders snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Monday night. But of all the results, perhaps none was more impressive than Arizona’s smackdown of the Titans in Tennessee. Watch out for the wild west as there appears to be no easy games over there. The west could easily see 5 or more teams make the playoffs.
Loser #1 Tennessee Titans
I mentioned how impressive it was that Arizona laid a smackdown on the Titans. But that sentence alone doesn’t do the result justice. The Titans were beaten at home in all phases of the game on Sunday. The Titans defense let the Cardinals offense run riot all over them throughout the game. Kyler Murray had a field day on a defense that the Tennessee front office tried to convince was fixed from last season. That defense gave up over 400 yards, and it probably should’ve been more, if not for Arizona running out the clock late in the game.
But more worrying than anything in this game was the lack of production from the offense. The offensive line was woeful in allowing 6 sacks, which includes 5 from Chandler Jones alone. The running game was nonexistent as Derrick Henry was held quiet all afternoon. Tannehill was harassed all game, which of course resulted in the 6, sacks two of which resulted in fumbles. He would also throw an interception as well. All in all, a very disappointing performance from a team that’s expected to be a dark horse for the Super Bowl. The good news for the Titans is their division is among the worst in football. Tennessee are still massive favorites to win the division, but this certainly wasn’t the start they had envisioned.
Winner #2 Jameis Winston
Two years ago, Jameis Winston became the only QB in NFL history to throw for 30 TDs as well as 30 INTs. That saw him lose his job with the Buccaneers, who went and won the Super Bowl with some guy named Tom Brady, and was forced to take a backup role with the Saints. No longer being the starter of an NFL team must’ve been a humbling experience. There are certainly worse things in the world than being the backup to a future hall of fame QB, but it must still sting.
However, Drew Brees retired this offseason opening the door for Winston to get another chance. To say he took full advantage of that chance would be to undersell how well he played. Despite not being able to play a true home game due to hurricane Ida, Jameis was just about flawless on Sunday. While the yardage total is on the low side (he only managed 148 yards) he did throw 5 TDs and, most importantly, zero INTs. If Winston can build off of this performance and keep the turnovers to a minimal, this will vault the Saints into legitimate contenders. There’s still plenty of games left, but at the very least Winston aced his first test of the season.
Loser #2 Green Bay Packers
Not to take the shine off of Jameis Winston’s performance on Sunday, but what on earth happened to the Packers? From start to finish this team came out flat and looked unprepared to play football. The defense actually didn’t play that poorly as they were constantly put in bad circumstances. However, the same cannot be said of the offense who looked outmatched all game long. Aaron Rodgers didn’t look his usual self as he threw two really bad interceptions and wasn’t on the same page as any of his receivers.
This performance will only amplify the headaches caused by his trade demand this offseason. It’s only week 1 so it’s much too early to overreact, but there will be a few more eyes on Green Bay monitoring the situation. The good news is, like the Titans, the Packers find themselves in a pretty soft division. So, at this stage it would still be a shock if they didn’t come out as kings of the NFC North.
Winner #3 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers marched into Buffalo and beat the Bills 23-16. This is the same Bills team that many people have picked to win the AFC. It wasn’t pretty nor did it remind you of previous versions of this team, but they got the job done. Pittsburgh was led by their defense that relied on the “bend, but don’t break” strategy, letting the Bills rack up yards and then coming up with big stops or turnovers when they needed them most. The Steelers defense is the main reason why the score was only 10-0 at halftime, despite the fact that Buffalo had completely dominated the game. A blocked punt that was picked up and ran back for a TD also helped the Steelers fortunes in this game.
The worry for this team will be the offense, as they struggled mightily at times in this game. It really was a one-sided affair in the first half, as the offense couldn’t muster 60 yards before halftime. Big Ben’s best days are surely behind him, as he failed to get into a comfortable rhythm. Rookie RB Najee Harris was kept quiet today with there rarely being any room for him to run. The offense is a major concern for this team moving forward, as it could keep them from the postseason. That being said, a win is a win and the Steelers managed to start the season on the right foot.
Loser #3 Urban Meyer and the Jaguars
One thing Urban Meyer isn’t used to doing is losing, and boy is he in for a rough season. The Texans have had nothing short of a nightmare offseason and yet they looked head and shoulders better than the Jaguars. Granted, this should be taken with a grain of salt as Jacksonville was starting a rookie QB, but the early signs weren’t encouraging. From the first whistle the Texans were ready to play, and it showed as they quickly jumped out into a lead they would never give away. The Jaguars first overall pick Trevor Lawrence wasn’t bad, but there is some obvious room for improvement.
The same can’t be said of the Jaguars defense as the Texans moved the ball at will. This was supposed to be the game that started their season on the right foot. Instead, they got a flat performance against one of the few teams that should be inferior to them. The loss is an obvious blow to this team as the schedule doesn’t get any easier. However, this isn’t the time to panic; but there is plenty of work to be done in Jacksonville.