Screw pumpkin lattes. The only thing that makes the end of summer remotely bearable is the return of football. NFL marketing must be salivating because week 1 gave us some juicy headlines.
Val tried to limit the number of fun facts, but it was just so hard. We’ve bolded the one key takeaway for each game.
Here’s what we thought about week 1 in the NFL…
New England (28), Pittsburgh (21) – He can deny it all he wants, but there was no better way to kick off the 2015 season than a pissed-off Tom Brady! Tom now owns the NFL record for most wins with one team (161), breaking a tie with Brett Favre. He went 25 of 32 for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns. This was the Tom and Gronk show all the way. TE Rob Gronkowski became the first player in NFL history to deliver multiple games with at least three receiving touchdowns against Pittsburgh, and only four TEs in history have more touchdowns than he does (and he’s only 26 years old!).
The Patriots defense sure looks different than it did a year ago with Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Much to the chagrin of Pats fans everywhere, they bent but didn’t break. (Seriously guys, it’s not good for our hearts.) The Steelers defense on the other hand is under the direction of a new coordinator and needs an upgrade in their secondary. They’re going to be relying on QB Ben Roethlisberger to carry them while they get on the same page. They might also get a new kicker after Josh Scobee missed two field goals. “Headset-gate” almost became a thing when it became known that the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were getting the Patriots radio broadcast in the first half. Turns out the Patriots were having headset issues as well, and the NFL issued a statement absolving the Pats of blame and noting the equipment is provided by the league, and the rainy weather caused issues.
Buffalo (27), Indianapolis (14) – Don’t let the final score fool you into thinking it was a close game. Buffalo’s defense dominated the Colts. Free agent acquisitions RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson did not have an impact – Gore actually missed parts of the game with calf cramps and Johnson tipped a ball to be intercepted. WR T.Y. Hilton could miss 1-2 games with a bruised knee. While most people thought Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was an afterthought in the Buffalo QB competition this summer, he delivered a solid performance. We also loved his snazzy post-game shirt.
Green Bay (31), Chicago (23) – Same old story here – Aaron Rodgers is a really good quarterback. He benefited from the resigning of WR James Jones, who played for the Raiders last year and is familiar with the Packers’ playbook. (Remember, they lost WR Jordy Nelson for the year to an ACL tear in the preseason.) He would probably appreciate a better offensive line, though. RB Matt Forte was the star player for the Bears, who are still working out the kinks as they adjust to a new defensive scheme under head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Kansas City (27), Houston (20) – This game was also not as close as the score indicates. QB Alex Smith, RB Jamaal Charles, and TE Travis Kelce were the stars of the show for the Chiefs. Smith led the team on five straight scoring drives in the first half. It didn’t go as well for the Texans, who benched QB Brian Hoyer for Ryan Mallett after he committed too many turnovers. Bill O’Brien won’t announce the starting quarterback for next week before game, and says you have to watch first snap to find out who it is (actually, you probably don’t – the decision will leak before then). It’s not a Houston game summary without “What J.J. Watt Did.” The reigning defensive player of the year had two sacks and six tackles for a loss.
Carolina (20), Jacksonville (9) – Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles looked more at ease with a year experience under his belt, but still didn’t deliver. The Jaguars also missed an extra point attempt – one of several missed in games this week after the rules were changed to make kicks longer 33 yard attempts this off-season. However, their defense had some stellar plays – coach Gus Bradley is trying to build a copycat of the defense he used to coach in Seattle. Carolina has a wide receiver problem – they need more dependable ones after losing Kelvin Benjamin to an ACL tear in training camp. Their strong defense helped them win this game. Another important injury to watch going forward for the Panthers is linebacker Luke Kuechly, who left the game with a concussion.
New York Jets (31), Cleveland (10) – Johnny “Football” Manziel came in at QB for Cleveland after veteran starter Josh McCown left with a concussion and he will retain the starting job week 2 due to McCown’s injury. Manziel threw his first NFL touchdown, but then threw an interception and lost two fumbles. Bummer. The Browns totaled 5 turnovers, which the Jets converted into 21 points. It was a nice debut for Jets head coach Todd Bowles, as the Jets managed to put up more than 30 points (they didn’t manage to score 30 points in a game last year until the season finale).
St. Louis (34), Seattle (31) – Everyone is calling this an “upset” and “stunner.” I (Val) disagree – Seattle can’t stay on top forever and St. Louis has a defense with tons of potential. Seattle’s o-line is a weakness, and TE Jimmy Graham and QB Russell Wilson are still getting on the same page. There were actually two punts returned for touchdowns in this game (one by each team). Seattle scored 18 unanswered points in 8 minutes in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Then Rams QB Nick Foles led a tying touchdown drive to force overtime. Seattle kicked what appeared to be an on-side kick to begin OT, but it turns out the kicker just screwed up because the ball was supposed to go a lot farther down the field. The Rams took advantage and their defense helped win the game when they stopped Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch on a 4th down and 1. Rams players later said they knew all along the Seahawks would turn to Lynch to run the ball in that situation because of the backlash Seattle got after passing the ball in the infamous play that ended their hopes of a consecutive Super Bowl victory this past February. Even Marshawn Lynch’s momma was upset by the play calling.
Miami (17), Washington (10) – Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill did not have a good game; the Dolphins won thanks to a special teams touchdown. Free agent signing Ndamukong Suh did’t really show up on the stat sheet for Miami (he did make headlines for “accidentally” kicking off RB Alfred Morris’s helmet, but what’s new?), but Washington altered their schemes to avoid him, so it will help the Dolphins that teams are adjusting around him. Washington QB Kirk Cousins played more consistently then he did last year, so don’t expect any quarterback changes for the team…yet. WR DeSean Jackson is out 3-4 weeks with a pulled hamstring, which takes away the team’s deep threat.
Arizona (31), New Orleans (19) – Cardinals coach Bruce Arians calls aggressive plays to win. His QB Carson Palmer looked great in his return to the field following last year’s season-ending ACL injury. Saints coach Sean Payton is hearing criticism after a questionable call to punt when his team was down by 5 with 2 minutes to go. When Drew Brees is your quarterback and your defense is decimated by injuries, most people assume you’re going to go for it on fourth down.
San Diego (33), Detroit (28) – The Chargers bounced back from a 21-3 deficit thanks to beastly play by QB Philip Rivers and WR Keenan Allen. Lions QB Matt Stafford’s play declined in the second half after he took a hit and had to wear a sleeve over his arm. He says he’ll play next week, but rumor is this could be worse than it looks, so keep an eye on it if he’s your fantasy quarterback. A positive for the Lions was rookie RB Ameer Abdullah’s performance.
Denver (19), Baltimore (13) – The defenses controlled this game – there were no offensive touchdowns scored. Broncos QB Peyton Manning needed the Denver defense to bail him out as he adjusts to new head coach Gary Kubiak’s offense. You’ll be hearing lots of talk about how Father Time is catching up with Manning and his arm strength is deteriorating. It’s only week one, so too soon to overreact. Calm yo’ self. Neither team could get their run game going. Terrell Suggs is out for the year with a torn Achilles, which is a big hit for Baltimore.
Cincinnati (33), Oakland (13) – We just feel bad for the Raiders. Their debut under new head coach Jack Del Rio was underwhelming. To add insult to injury, QB Derek Carr bruised thumb in the first half and was replaced by Matt McGloin. Carr could play Sunday, but the team was hoping he’d have a chance to show improvement from year one to year two. Bengals TE Tyler Eifert had a breakout performance after dealing with injuries most of his first two years in the league.
Tennessee (42), Tampa Bay (14) – This game featured the first and second draft picks from this year’s draft, Marcus Mariota for the Titans and Jameis Winston for the Bucaneers. Mariota set a rookie NFL record with four touchdown passes in the first half of his debut. He finished with a perfect passer rating and was pulled in the fourth quarter because the Titans were so far ahead. Winston’s very first pass, on the other hand, was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. (The last quarterback this actually happened to was Brett Favre!) He was not helped by a shoddy offensive line, and certainly didn’t get any help from Tampa’s defense either.
Dallas (27), New York Giants (26) – This game was RIDICULOUS. The Cowboys basically spent the first 58 minutes saying, “Here Giants, you take this one.” The Giants seemed willing to oblige and then it went up in flames for them – no other way to describe it. Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning are both taking the blame for bad calls that left Dallas with too much time on the clock and resulted in massive amounts of Manningface. Tony Romo then played lights out and threw the winning touchdown – after he picked up the fumbled snap. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant suffered a broken bone in his foot. He had surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks, which will definitely have an impact on Dallas’s passing game.
Atlanta (26), Philadelphia (24) – What a hard game for Eagles fans to watch after all the off-season hoopla surrounding Chip Kelly’s roster moves. The Falcons came to play under new head coach Dan Quinn and jumped out to a 20-3 lead. Their new offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan has to love the toy he has in WR Julio Jones. The Eagles did storm back to take the lead and after the Falcons pulled ahead again, the Eagles kicker missed a potentially game winning field goal. QB Sam Bradford hasn’t played much the last two years due to injury, so he’s still got to get into game form. The Eagles run game was disappointing after signing last year’s rushing champ DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.
Minnesota (3), San Fransisco (20) – Also a rough start to the season for the Vikings. The 49ers defense owned Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater all night. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson underwhelmed after missing almost all of last year due to suspension. Expectations were not high for the 49ers after a change in coaching regimes and many retirements on the defensive side of the ball over the off-season, but they impressed, especially NaVarro Bowman, who missed all of last year due to injury. RB Carlos Hyde also showed why the 49ers were ok with letting RB Frank Gore walk in free agency – he had 182 yards and two touchdowns. Also, the 49ers had red and black jerseys that didn’t match their helmets and we felt like they violated our eyeballs.
If you still can’t get enough, you should read the recap of Minnesota – San Fransisco game from the point of view of an Australian. He live-blogged the game since Jarryd Haynes, a famous rugby player, was making his debut for the 49ers. Full of gems like “Here’s the Hayne Plane! His first touch in the NFL. And… he drops it? Oh my goodness me, he drops it!” and “The kicker’s like a little Hobbit! A tiny little man! He’s a jockey! Ha. Top stuff, Walshy.”
You can still join our Weekly Pick ‘Em League on NFL.com. Even though you’ll be a week behind the rest of us, you can still catch up by making great picks throughout the season. It’s easy. It’s fun. It might get you some free prizes. So, what are you waiting for?
– (Mostly) Val and (kinda sorta with some help from) Michelle