The season is finally here, and NFL Week 1 was nothing if not a glorious spectacle of chaos as the unpredictable reigned supreme.
We’ll try to leave the overreactions to the fans. Yet clearly, there were some big winners and losers from the opening-weekend NFL action. That’s what we’re diving into here.
Winner: Packers have a defense, and that’s scary
Thursday night’s NFC North rivalry game in Chicago was downright ugly. Both teams struggled to move the ball consistently on offense as their defenses dominated. That was somewhat expected from the Bears, who featured arguably the NFL’s best defenses last year. What wasn’t known was whether the moves Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made in the offseason to bolster his defense would bear fruit.
That question was answered immediately. Free agent acquisitions Preston and Za’Darius Smith led an incredible effort. They combined on 16 quarterback pressures, putting Chicago’s offense in a stranglehold. Assuming Aaron Rodgers and Co. get things going offensively, this Packers team has a real shot to do big things in 2019.
Loser: Huge let-down performance from Cleveland
No team entered the 2019 NFL season with as much hype as the Cleveland Browns. Sports books were swamped with bets on the Browns to win Super Bowl LIV, and it’s hard to say the hype wasn’t somewhat warranted given the overall level of talent on the roster. With that in mind, what transpired in Cleveland Sunday against Tennessee was the biggest disappointment of the young season.
A defense that looked unstoppable in the preseason got railroaded by the Titans. Star defensive end Myles Garrett lost his composure early, and that seemed to set the tone for a long, frustrating day for the Browns.
Baker Mayfield was not sharp, throwing three awful interceptions, including a pick-six late, and he should have been picked off to open the game, too.
This was not the debut the Browns, or anyone else, expected.
Winner: Ravens’ new-look offense looks dangerous
The Baltimore Ravens were one point away from hanging a 60-burger on the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Lamar Jackson was razor sharp, shredding the Fins’ depleted secondary to the tune of 324 yards and five touchdowns on just 20 passing attempts — making history in the process. Rookie receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was lightning in a bottle, racking up 147 yards and two long touchdowns on just four catches. Running back Mark Ingram rumbled for 107 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries.
Everything was clicking. The only reason we’re not getting too excited about this amazing performance is that the Dolphins are perhaps the NFL’s worst team and are clearly in tank mode.
Loser: Jets stall in fourth quarter, losing to Bills
The New York Jets played rock-solid team football for three full quarters. They went into the fourth quarter up 13 points, seemingly in command of the outcome.
Then, the wheels fell off. Josh Allen, who had been having an atrocious afternoon throwing the ball, started lighting up the New York secondary. He led two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives to open the fourth quarter, rushing in the first and then throwing a beautiful ball to free-agent pickup John Brown for the game-winner.
A game the Jets appeared to have in the bag was stolen right from under their noses. That’s an awful way to start the season for Adam Gase and Co.
Winner: D-Jax sparks comeback win for Eagles
It’s been six seasons since DeSean Jackson played in for the Philadelphia Eagles. His return home went incredibly well in Week 1.
The Eagles got off to a rough start Sunday at home against NFC East rival Washington. By halftime, they were down 20-7 — the lone score being a 51-yard touchdown from Jackson.
Jackson also hauled in another long touchdown in the third quarter, which put the Eagles up by a point and sparked the win. All told, the veteran racked up nearly half of the team’s yards through the air (154 yards) and was the driving force that sparked a comeback win.
Loser: Poor outing for Cam Newton dooms the Panthers
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Christian McCaffrey had a magnificent afternoon, but Cam Newton’s poor effort kept the Panthers from winning.
It happened all too often last season. And it happened on Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Rams. Newton lost a fumble early in the second quarter, leading to the Rams’ first touchdown of the game. Then, down by 10 points with just under five minutes remaining, he threw an interception.
Fantasy football players can tell you that Newton’s performance amounted to a negative scoring day. It also led to Carolina losing their home opener.
Winner: Sammy Watkins opens the season with a monstrous game
The Kansas City Chiefs rolled over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, winning 40-26. The team’s high-powered offense got off to a hot start with a 68-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive.
Yet it wasn’t Tyreek Hill (who exited with an injury) catching this touchdown from Patrick Mahomes. Instead, it was Sammy Watkins making the big play. And he just kept on making them throughout the game.
All told, Watkins destroyed Jacksonville’s secondary to the tune of 196 yards and three touchdowns in nine receptions.
Loser: Matt Ryan gets wings clipped by the Vikings
Credit goes to the Minnesota Vikings for executing a perfect game plan and making the Atlanta Falcons look putrid on offense during their Week 1 matchup. Yet it’s impossible to sweep the awful day Matt Ryan had under center under that particular rug.
Ryan and the Falcons were shut out until the fourth quarter. He threw two interceptions, the second of which was just an atrocious lapse in judgement that doomed what should have been a scoring drive.
For a team that missed the playoffs last year with a losing record, it was a horrible way to start a new campaign.
Winner: Dak Prescott gets off to torrid start
After the day Dak Prescott had against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should race to the bank to cut his quarterback a gigantic check before his value goes up even more.
Prescott was superb. Executing rookie offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s game plan to perfection, he shredded the rival Giants. Showing deft touch and a mastery of his offense, Prescott went off for 405 yards and four touchdowns on 25-of-32 passing.
Better yet, his team absolutely romped at home and look extremely dangerous on both sides of the ball.
Loser: Lions’ collapse leads to a tie in the desert
The Detroit Lions had rookies Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury in the corner on timeout for almost three full quarters. Murray looked hopeless, and the Cardinals offense was going nowhere, fast.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the tables turned. Detroit’s defense, which had been shutting everything down, couldn’t stop anything. This shift resulted in Arizona rattling off four straight scoring drives, including touchdowns on the final two and a two-point conversion on the last one to tie the game and force overtime.
In overtime, Arizona marched right down the field thanks in large part to a spectacular throw and catch from Murray to Larry Fitzgerald. The drive stalled and the Cardinals had to settle for a field goal. Then the Lions matched. Neither team was able to score again, and the game ended in a tie.
The Lions left Arizona slinking low with their tails between their legs. This should have been a victory. Instead, it’s a glaring reminder of their failure. After a brutal first season in Detriot, Matt Patricia’s second year started out on a horrible note.
Winner: Austin Ekeler does it all for the Bolts
The Los Angeles are moving forward without Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon unless he accepts playing out the final year of his rookie deal. So, it was important to see how the offense would perform in Week 1 without him against a very good Indianapolis Colts defense.
Thanks to an extraordinary game from Austin Ekeler, we know the Chargers will be okay if Gordon stays away.
Ekeler touched the ball 18 times, racking up 154 yards and three touchdowns — including the game-winner in overtime. He was a big-play machine for the Chargers, who barely escaped Week 1 with a win.
Loser: Jameis Winston chucks the game away
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did an outstanding job defensively and had a realistic chance of winning in Week 1 against a San Francisco 49ers team that was not sharp at all. Unfortunately, every mistake Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. made was mitigated by Jameis Winston, who was even worse.
Winston has in the past demonstrated a penchant for making the worst possible mistake at the worst possible time. That certainly played out again on Sunday at home in front of his fans. The fifth-year quarterback threw not one, but two pick-sixes — the latter of which sealed the loss for Tampa Bay.
All told, Winston threw three interceptions and coughed up two fumbles, though his team recovered both. Just an atrocious day for a player that cannot have many of these if he’s going to remain the starter in Tampa Bay.
Winner: Chris Carson, D.K. Metcalf come up big for Seahawks
Sunday’s game in the rain against the Cincinnati Bengals was pretty ugly for Seattle’s defense, which gave up 418 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Picking up the slack, though, was rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf and running back Chris Carson.
Metcalf showed off his rare speed with a gorgeous 42-yard catch deep down the field. He also made a few other nice catches to finish the day with 89 yards to lead all Seattle receivers.
Carson did solid work both on the ground and through the air, finishing with 81 yards and two touchdowns to provide the scoring oomph Seattle desperately needed.