Week 1 of the National Football League provided a little bit of everything -- surprises, upsets, injuries, and, of course, questionable officiating. Here’s what we learned about each NFL team in Week 1. All grades are provided by Pro Football Focus.
Bill Belichick might have underestimated Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt (89.5 PFF grade), but he might not have the tools in the toolbox to contain him regardless. Trading for Seattle’s Cassius Marsh isn’t the answer (38.4 PFF grade), and it seems the Patriots’ linebacker corps will miss Jamie Collins a bunch this season.
Andy Reid’s Chiefs still know how to win with that dink-and-dunk offense. The Chiefs amassed 212 of their 368 passing yards after the catch, mostly thanks to Tyreek Hill and Hunt, who are matchup problems for just about anyone. The Kansas City defense can still get into the backfield, too, sacking Tom Brady thrice and hitting him six more times. They also collected 6.5 tackles for loss.
Quarterback Josh McCown wasn’t as bad as his 29.4 quarterback rating when he wasn’t pressured, but the Jets couldn’t run the ball, either, amassing just 38 rushing yards. The defense is good (7.5 TFL, two sacks and six QB hits), but Jets fans are in for another year of low-scoring losses.
The Bills’ defensive backs are fantastic, with safety Jordan Poyer, and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Tre’Davious White all receiving PFF grades above 82. Safety Micah Hyde also secured an interception. They’re going to give even Tom Brady fits, and Tyrod Taylor is going to give defenses fits. He rushed for 38 yards and passed for 224, throwing two touchdowns and just one interception. Oh, and LeSean McCoy still has it.
The Bears are much improved, and replacing Mike Glennon with Mitchell Trubisky could make them even better. Glennon didn’t throw one ball over 20 yards, and Bears fans would like to think Trubisky’s arm talent is superior to Glennon’s already. Regardless, the Bears have quite the security blanket for Trubisky in rookie running back Tarik Coen (66 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving).
The Falcons have reason to worry about the guard position. Wes Schweitzer was an open door, and Devonta Freeman never got the run game going (12 carries for 37 yards). A pair of second- year players have really progressed for Atlanta, though. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell made a game-saving tackle and earned an 86.6 PFF grade, and tight end Austin Hooper’s two catches for 128 yards is nearly half the total receiving yards he had last season. If he provides MVP Matt Ryan yet another option on offense, the Falcons are going to continue piling on the points.
The Bengals are a mess on offense. They have a quarterback in Andy Dalton who doesn’t respond well to pressure, and their offensive line enters the season ranked second to last in the league. The defense will keep the Bengals from being humiliated, but they’ll have to score points if the Bengals are going to win.
The two-headed backfield of Terrance West and Javorious Allen should make Joe Flacco’s transition back from injury a comfortable one. The two combined for 151 yards on 40 carries, so Flacco only had to throw the ball 17 times -- completing just once beyond 10 yards downfield.
The Browns might finally have something in rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer made just one big mistake on the day -- an interception that could have been the difference in the game. The Cleveland defense will give the Dog Pound reason to cheer this season, as will Kizer.
The Steelers couldn’t get the run game going against the Browns (35 yards on 17 carries), but Antonio Brown came to Pittsburgh’s rescue (182 yards on 11 receptions and 11 targets). With so many weapons, a veteran quarterback, and one of football’s top offensive lines, the Steelers need just worry about injuries.
The Cardinals were dealt the biggest blow, losing running back David Johnson for two to three months. So the three drops by Arizona wide receivers will play an even bigger role than they did in their loss to Detroit in Week 1. John Wetzel doesn’t seem to be able to protect Carson Palmer, either (35.4 PFF grade). The Cardinals’ season is not over by any means, though. They can still hang in the NFC West with wins against the Rams and 49ers, and have the luxury of likely seeing the Andrew Luck-less Colts in Week 2.
There’s a reason Matthew Stafford is the highest paid player in the game. His downfield passing accuracy would make almost any team better. The Lions also have a formidable defensive secondary. The only question left to be answered is on the offensive line. If the Lions struggle, it’s likely due to the offensive line not giving Stafford enough time to throw downfield.
The Texans still don’t have a quarterback, as both Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson struggled. The defense wasn’t particularly impressive, either, as J.J. Watt’s return was overshadowed by his brother, T.J.'s, debut with Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Blake Bortles playing like a game manager can win football games for the Jaguars. His wide receivers need to do a better job of catching the ball (three drops), but with rookie running back Leonard Fournette in the fold, the Jaguars’ defense will give the offense a chance to win games. The Jaguars’ top five PFF grades went to defensive players.
The Raiders lived up to Vegas’s lofty expectations in their first game after being approved by NFL owners for an eventual move to Las Vegas. With the stadium still years away from completion, the Raiders could leave Oakland amidst a dynasty if Derek Carr remains healthy. He should, given the Raiders’ seventh-ranked offensive line.
Fellow quarterback Marcus Mariota joined Carr in a return from injury. He looked good in the first half, but fell apart in the second. His performance shouldn’t discourage Titans’ fans, nor should that of Jurrell Casey, who took a shot to his pride from Marshawn Lynch and just about everyone else who blocked him on Sunday.
Cam Newton’s performance wasn’t pretty, but it was enough to beat the hapless 49ers. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey showed what makes him unique while also looking like a rookie, losing a fumble. The Panthers still have a reliable back in Jonathan Stewart (18 carries for 65 yards) and an offensive line just outside the top third in football. The defense is still elite, ranked as the fourth best defensive front in football.
No real surprises here. The 49ers are bad. Brian Hoyer completed just two of 10 passes beyond 10 yards, Niners’ running backs managed just 51 yards rushing behind the league’s worst offensive line, and the defense got into the backfield for just three tackles for loss and no sacks.
Russell Wilson looked best in the hurry-up offense and using his legs (led the team with 40 rushing yards) -- as usual -- and his offensive line struggled to give him time to throw downfield (three sacks, seven QB hits and three pressures allowed) -- as usual. The Seahawks are better than the score indicates, though. On one play, Seattle lost six points and starting cornerback Jeremy Lane to penalties. His replacement, Shaquill Griffin, managed just a 44.9 PFF grade.
Green Bay’s defense is better than it was in 2016, with edge rusher Nick Perry making Rees Odhiambo’s day one to forget (one sack, two QB hits and three hurries allowed). Mike Daniels was almost equally disruptive against the run. Jordy Nelson is back to his old self, and Aaron Rodgers found him open underneath all day and took advantage.
The Rams offense did what it should against the 31st-ranked defensive front in football. Jared Goff didn’t make mistakes and even completed passes downfield. Rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp of the FCS’s Eastern Washington Eagles showed why he’s the most statistically prolific receiver in Division I football history (four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown). And the Rams’ defense is still really good, ranked fifth overall by PFF. They could upset a lot of teams.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was under pressure for much of the game despite Washington’s 11th-ranked offensive line. The right side of the line was a disaster, as were Washington’s safeties. The Racial Slurs were unable to run the ball to boot (64 total rushing yards, with Cousins accounting for 30), so there are a lot of big issues to be resolved in the nation’s capitol -- on the football field and off.
Pass rusher Brandon Graham is a beast, and Carson Wentz did just enough for the Eagles to win a big conference opener on the road. The only concern is the run game, as guard Isaac Seumalo seemed unable to run block, resulting in just 58 rushing yards on 24 Eagles’ carries.
They can’t win without Odell Beckham, Jr. Eli Manning completed just four passes beyond 10 yards downfield, and had it not been for his receivers running after the catch, Manning would have passed for almost half as many yards. Worst of all, there was no relief from the run game. The Giants managed just 35 rushing yards on just 12 carries.
They can win without Ezekiel Elliot. The Cowboys’ defense was the biggest surprise on Sunday, with linebacker Sean Lee giving an unsurprisingly good performance, and backup corner Anthony Brown being surprisingly good.
Trevor Siemian can throw a football. He made some fantastic throws downfield and outgained Philip Rivers by two yards per pass completion. The Broncos were also 8-of-15 on third down, but allowed four sacks and five tackles for loss. Run blocking wasn’t a problem, though, and the Bronco offense will be happy to have C.J. Anderson back and Jamaal Charles in the backfield (121 combined rushing yards). The Denver defense is still pretty good, too.
Same story, different season. Philip Rivers drove his team down the field in crunch time and gave them a chance to tie it with a field goal. Predictably, Rivers never got a chance to win it. Rivers had to create the run game with short passes, as Melvin Gordon managed just 54 yards on 18 carries behind the 21st-ranked offensive line that struggled to run block the Broncos.
Unlike last season, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford had time to throw the ball downfield. He completed eight passes of 20 yards or more. Releasing run-blocker Alex Boone looks to have been the right move given what we saw from the time Bradford had to throw and the performance of rookie running back Dalvin Cook (127 yards, 5.8 yards per carry). And the Vikings offensive line, which entered the game not having played one snap together, held up, albeit against a bad defense.
The Saints’ defense is better, but it’s still bad. New Orleans running backs managed just 60 yards on 21 carries, so Drew Brees and his impressive wide receiver corps will be forced to shoulder the majority of the offensive load, which will be ample.