Everything you need to know about Week 1 in the NFL

WEEI
September 10, 2018 - 8:13 am

By JOHN ANDERSON 

The wise man says he knows nothing. Al Gore said that. So as a nothing who might know something, here are some thoughts and observations from Sunday’s week one games:

- A more satisfying slow start for the Patriots:

In years past Tom Brady & Co. have started slow in the month of September, which most of New England considers to be an extension of the preseason. While this was a more convincing win than, for instance, the 2009 season opener against the Bills, Tom Brady said postgame that he and the receivers didn’t quite get into a rhythm they’d have liked to. Gronk was stripped by Aaron Colvin, Riley McCarron muffed a punt and Brady had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage that wound up in the hands of Tyrann Mathieu, who took to Twitter postgame to unleash his wrath on the @DaleKeefeWEEI Twitter account:



Mathieu has since deleted this burn.

- DeShaun Watson stumbles at Gillette:

There was more than meets the eye with Watson’s rookie season. Pro Football Focus noted last year that Watson had a high number of turnover-worthy plays with minimal consequences, as well as negatively graded throws. (Note that this article was written prior to Watson’s magnum opus and final game of 2017, the Seattle game). This showed against the Patriots as Watson didn’t look comfortable under the pressure of the Patriots’ relentless pass rush and executed a number of errant throws. Watson finished the game 17-for-34 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

- Jimmy G loses his first game as a starter:

There are basically two schools of thought: “Jimmy Garoppolo is overrated” or “I want to drink his bath water.” Every human fits into one of these two categories. The humans of the former faction seem to have the upper hand at the moment as “Optimus Dime” went 15-for-33 and threw three interceptions. This may seem surprising to the bath water crowd, but last season noted Twitter pariah Cian Fahey charted Jimmy G’s interceptable pass rate at roughly 6 percent of Garoppolo’s total attempts, which was in the same neighborhood as Blake Bortles. The difference is that last year Jimmy got lucky, but luck runs out. San Francisco lost their matchup in Minnesota today vs. the Vikings 24-16. Jimmy’s turnovers could’ve been the difference.

- The Browns played a game they didn't lose for the first time since 2016:

The football world is holding its collective breath awaiting the announcement of this season’s “All or Nothing” team, praying it’s an extension of the Hard Knocks hunnies, the Cleveland Browns. The fact that this team brought the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime after an epic comeback in inclement weather and then had the game-winning field goal tipped to seal a TIE would only make for a thrilling epilogue. And FURTHER, Tyrod Taylor put up Nate Peterman numbers, which will surely lead to calls for Baker Mayfield to take the reigns. Big Ben didn't fare to well in the conditions either, throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles.

- Andrew “Hess Truck” Luck is back and better than ever:

Andrew Luck at least should have laid to rest any doubts as to how he’d fare in his first game back from his shoulder injury. With rookie running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins proving ineffective in relief of the injured Marlon Mack, Luck took the game into his owns hands. Luck spread the love to nine different receivers to the tune of 39 completions on 53 attempts for three touchdowns and an interception. The Colts had a chance to win this game on the final drive and had it not been for a Jack Doyle fumble then Luck may have completed the comeback. But Luck’s performance shouldn’t deflect from the way Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon and the Bengals offense beat up on a weak Indianapolis defense.

- Buccaneers go back to “Eat a W” ground zero, eat massive W:

In the ring of laid-back football conversation participants often list recognizable names when assessing a team’s talent. Sometimes those are just names and the players aren’t actually great, or aren’t as good as they were when they earned that recognition. That is not the case with Buccaneers offense, which is riddled with names such as DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and...Ryan Fitzpatrick? Concern remains warranted regarding certain members of Tampa’s offensive line, but the Bucs took care of the Saints’ defensive line partly because Cameron Jordan is the only legit pass rusher. Even a secondary as stacked as New Orleans’ can get roasted when the pass rushers can’t pressure (cc: 2017 Titans). This isn’t to write off the Saints, as their offense put up 40 against a Bucs defense sporting a nice rotation of pass rushers attempting to offset their black hole of a secondary.

- Saquon Barkley takes the bait

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey seemingly lost the two-front battle with Giants receiver Odell Beckham. Ramsey was unable to bait Beckham into doing something dumb, and Beckham caught 11 passes for 111 yards against the Jags defense. Ramsay and Beckham would instead do a post-game jersey swap, the NFL version of your cat bringing you a dead mouse. But Saquon Barkley did take the bait at least once, barking back at Ramsay while struggling behind a shaky Giants offensive line for much of the game. Barkley eventually ripped off a 68-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring the deficit to one score, but TJ Yeldon filled in for a hobbled Leonard Fournette and was able to aid Blake Bortles in taking time off the clock before the Jags defense stood strong in the Giants’ final attempt to take the lead.  

- The Cowboys and Panthers are a still wild cards: (As in unpredictable. Neither team clinched a playoff spot this week.)

Both the Cowboys and Panthers are embodiments of the second-most classic playground legend: flipping a coin and watching it land perfectly on the third side (the first being that one about Marilyn Manson). Neither Dak Prescott or Cam Newton turned in impressive performances, but Newton has the benefit of a diverse supporting cast, his own ability to break tackles, not being on the Cowboys, and being on the team with the best front seven in the NFL. But Newton also faced an underrated Dallas front seven, both front sevens faced offensive lines with notable issues, and both secondaries over-performed relative to their talent levels. These two teams could fluctuate quite a bit this season.

- Did Luke Falk give the Dolphins the Titans’ playbook?

This theory circulated the Titans’ subreddit after the Dolphins claimed the 6th-round rookie QB from the Titans during roster cut-downs. This theory is about as plausible as Falk summoning the tropical rains that delayed the matchup twice, as Matt LaFleur’s offense looked hopeless against the Dolphins’ secondary. The Titans saw injuries to quarterback Marcus Mariota and tight end Delanie Walker, with Walker done for the year thanks to a dislocated ankle.

- The Dennis Green memorial “They are who we thought they were” award - The Buffalo Bills:

Everyone knew the Bills had no wide receivers coming into the season, but their offensive line also significantly declined. But there’s a theory floating out there that's starting to gain traction in the philosophical community that Nate Peterman could have an offensive line capable of freezing time and it wouldn’t matter. Although the Buffalo defense looks good on paper the offense didn’t give them much time to rest or the best field position; a prime example of the “bad offense ripple effect.”

- The Dennie Blue memorial "They aren’t who we thought they were” award - The LA Chargers:

Now while it’s very notable that Joey Bosa did not play in this game, he may not have made enough of a difference to prevent Tyreek Hill from hauling seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 91-yard punt return touchdown. There were plenty of reasons to pick the Chargers due to their offensive weapons, their combination of a stout pass rush and loaded secondary, Kansas City’s lacking secondary, and this being Patrick Mahomes’ de facto rookie year. All of that hinges on Mahomes underperforming which is difficult when Tyreek Hill is your number one receiver. Mahomes finished the game 15/27 for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

- Alex Smith picks up where he left off: 

Smith and Adrian Peterson teamed up for a “get the band back together” type performance for the aging stars. Smith went 21/30 for 255 yards and touchdown while Peterson racked up an additional 96 yards on the ground and an additional 70 through the year which was divided between two catches for 52 and 18 yards. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford, David Johnson and the Cardinals’ offense sputtered, which will undoubtedly lead to calls within the media for rookie QB Josh Rosen to be inserted sooner rather than later.

- Super Bowl XLVIII rematch was an arena for reckless QB play: 

Russell Wilson and Case Keenum were not afraid to go out there and sling it as they threw two and three interceptions respectively, plenty of incompletions, but provided big games for a number of their receivers. Emmanuel Sanders hauled in ten catches for 135 yards and a touchdown, Demaryius Thomas caught six passes for 63 yards and score, while Seahawks fourth-round rookie tight end Will Dissly found himself the benefactor broken plays catching three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

- Aaron Rodgers played a dirty trick on all of us:

Aaron Rodgers went down after a pass rusher landed awkwardly on his left knee in the second quarter. Khalil Mack was dancing around the Packers’ offensive line for the entire first half, and it only intensified when who else but Deshone Kizer had to pinch hit for Rodgers for two drives. Halftime felt longer than the Titans-Dolphins game as Packers nation, fans of good football, and a certain WEEI part-time producer who has Rodgers on three of his five fantasy teams held their breath. Rodgers would return in the second half, playing on a leg and a half and erase a 17-point deficit, throwing for 273 yards, three touchdowns and one pass directly into Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller’s hands that ended up on the ground.

MONDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:

Jets @ Lions, 7:10PM (ESPN)
Rams @ Raiders, 10:20PM (ESPN)

*John Andersen is an award-winning NFL journalist and has written books on Lee Evans and Beanie Wells. You can follow John on Twitter @_JohnAndersen.

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