Ten biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 1

By Jesse Reed
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust has settled following most of the tumultuous and exciting NFL Week 1 action, it’s time to pick winners and losers.

To date, 14 games have been played, with two more yet to be contested on a special edition of Monday Night Football.

Through Sunday’s action we’ve seen spectacular results and some humbling failures.

From a reclamation project who struggled badly to a rookie who dazzled, a surprising defensive struggle to an offensive shootout that featured a bold move to claim victory, these are the winners and losers from NFL Week 1.

Winner: C.J. Anderson thriving as featured back in Gary Kubiak’s offense

NFL Week 1, C.J. Anderson

The news surrounding the Denver Broncos’ offense heading into Week 1 was all centered around quarterback Trevor Siemian. The second-year passer out of Northwestern had his ups and downs, and that will be the case all year long.

But as long as C.J. Anderson continues to roll the Broncos will be just fine.

Going up against one of the league’s top run defenses from a year ago, Anderson rushed for 92 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. He added another 47 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, making him the darling of the fantasy football world Thursday night.

Without a franchise passer, it’s clear head coach Gary Kubiak will be pounding the rock on a regular basis this year. He’s utilizing a fullback now that Peyton Manning has moved on, and the Broncos are running much more out of power sets than they did under Manning’s reign.

This bodes well for Anderson’s fantasy value. It also bodes well for Denver’s ability to control the action on both sides of the ball.

Loser: Robert Griffin III was a miserable wreck

After sitting out the entire 2015 season, Robert Griffin III had high hopes for a return to prominence with the Cleveland Browns.

Act 1 of this play did not go according to plan.

Finishing with just 190 yards on 12-of-26 passing with no touchdowns and one interception, RG3’s debut with Cleveland was about as exciting as a shoe full of mud.

Perhaps the low point of the game for Griffin and the Browns was a botched snap that sailed over his head and into the end zone for a safety.

https://twitter.com/SiriusXMNFL/status/775046335724720129

Now, the safety was no fault of Griffin’s. But it epitomized his miserable day.

The only big positive was that he did manage to connect with Terrelle Pryor and roookie Corey Coleman on a couple of deep bombs.

Making matters worse, Griffin and Co. watched as rookie Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went off in his first NFL start.

Winner: Carson Wentz showed why the Eagles have so much faith in him

The Philadelphia Eagles made a bold move to trade up for Wentz before the draft. Then they made another bold move to trade Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, while at the same time naming Wentz the starter.

Many, including this scribe (read here), thought this was a move that would mean Philly was conceding mediocrity, or worse, in 2016.

Well, the Eagles might still be mediocre. After all, Cleveland’s defense is really, really bad. But Wentz’s first start was nothing short of magnificent, and first career touchdown was a thing of beauty (watch here).

He finished with 278 yards on 22-of-37 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Completing passes to six different receivers, he looked more like a savvy veteran than a wide-eyed rookie.

Loser: Buffalo’s offense comes up small 

Heading into the season, the biggest problem facing Rex Ryan’s Bills was trying to figure out how to play defense without key starters. Or so we thought.

After watching Tyrod Taylor and the offense stink up the joint in Baltimore Sunday, perhaps it’s the offense that needs the attention. This became apparent when the Bills managed just two total yards in the first quarter.

And things didn’t get too much better the rest of the way.

Tyrod TaylorTaylor finished with just 111 yards on 15-of-22 passes against a mediocre Ravens secondary. Making matters worse, he lost 16 yards on two sacks and the running game managed just 65 yards at a pace of 2.7 yards per carry.

And it’s not like the Ravens are some juggernaut behemoth up front either.

Buffalo simply had no offensive cohesion from the start of the game until the final whistle.

Winner: Vikings defense comes up HUGE on the road 

The Vikings were the heavy favorite of many to take a big next leap in development this year after making it into the playoffs in 2015. Then tragedy struck the franchise when Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with a knee injury.

The big trade to bring in Sam Bradford might keep the Vikings in the thick of things, but he was not ready to start on such short notice. Instead, Mike Zimmer went with veteran Shaun Hill on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Not surprisingly, Hill was unable to do much in the passing game, and Adrian Peterson also struggled (more on that later).

While Minnesota’s offense failed to produce any touchdowns, the same cannot be said for its defense.

Just as impressive as the two defensive touchdowns is the way the Vikings shut down Tennessee’s power running backs. The Titans managed just 64 yards on the ground throughout the game, though DeMarco Murray did have one of the best plays of the day on a passing play (watch here).

If the Vikings can continue to come up with points on defense, then this team will be scary good if Bradford ends up playing well this year.

Loser: Darrelle Revis gets torched by A.J. Green

A.J. Green, Darrelle Revis

It’s always fun when a couple of the league’s individual heavyweights go head-to-head. That’s what we witnessed when the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to New York to take on the Jets Sunday.

Green is one of the league’s most dominant receivers, and Revis has his own island.

Yet this wasn’t the epic battle you might expect. In fact, it was overwhelmingly one-sided. Just look at this set of stats.

https://twitter.com/NFLResearch/status/775066160232411136

Green had a tremendous game. He finished with 12 catches for 180 yards and a phenomenal 54-yard touchdown on Revis (watch here).

His outstanding performance helped the Bengals walk away with a hard-fought 23-22 win on the road.

Revis, on the other hand, had as rough a game as we can remember.

Probably not.

Now the question: Was this a one-time aberration, or was it a sign Revis is finally losing his edge as an elite NFL cornerback?

Winner: Raiders’ gutsy call when all the chips were on the table

Derek Carr

Just win, baby.

The Raiders endured a shootout with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday, winning 35-34.

It was a back-and-forth contest early, but then the Saints took a commanding lead. They were up 24-10 after Brandin Cooks scored the longest touchdown in the history of the New Orleans franchise (watch here).

Oakland kept chipping away, though. Then, lightning struck when Jalen Richard bolted for 75 yards midway through the fourth quarter.

Brees was hot throughout the contest, and he led a three-play touchdown drive immediately afterwards.

The shootout was in full effect.

Derek Carr and the Raiders didn’t blink once, though. The next possession turned into a 11-play, 75-yard drive that took more than five minutes off the clock. Carr then hit Seth Roberts for a 10-yard touchdown, and it appeared the Raiders and Saints were headed to overtime, pending the extra-point conversion.

That’s what the stats would suggest as a prudent course of action, after all.

Thankfully for the Raiders, ESPN isn’t coaching. Jack Del Rio is, and he’s all about that win, baby.

Loser: Terrance Williams kills Cowboys comeback bid 

Dak Prescott’s first game as an NFL starter wasn’t spectacular. He missed on 20 of his 45 passing attempts and failed to throw a touchdown.

There was some good stuff happening, and there was some bad — quite typical of a rookie in his first real action.

Yet despite his undulating performance, the young gunslinger out of Mississippi State had the Dallas Cowboys in position to win the game in the final seconds.

After starting from his own 20-yard line with just over a minute to play, Prescott stayed cool, calm and collected. Engineering a very smooth hurry-up offense, he moved Dallas into New York Giants territory with a pass to Williams on the right sideline that should have given the ‘Boys a chance to try a long field goal to win the game.

Unfortunately, Williams forgot what time it was and tried for a few extra yards, rather than getting out of bounds and stopping the clock.

If Williams had gotten out of bounds, he would have given the Cowboys maybe one more chance to throw to the sideline to advance the ball further. Or, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett could have trotted out kicker Dan Baily, who makes 55-yard field goals look like chip-ins.

If he had opted for a field goal, assuming Williams had gone out of bounds at the 45-yard line, Bailey would have had a 62-yard attempt to win the game.

While that’s not exactly a high-percentage play, he certainly has the leg to boom it through.

Williams cost his team the chance to win it, pure and simple.

Winner: No Brady? No Gronk? No problem, says Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

After the New England Patriots went into Arizona and beat one of the top teams in the NFC Sunday night, there can be no doubt that Jimmy Garoppolo is going to hold down the fort just fine until Tom Brady returns.

Leading a very balanced offensive attack (33 passes and 31 running plays), Garoppolo stayed cool under pressure, followed the game plan beautifully and took what Arizona’s fantastic defense gave him.

Distributing passes to six different receivers (seven, if you count himself on a batted pass), he completed 24-of-33 attempts for 264 yards and a gorgeous touchdown strike to Chris Hogan (watch here).

Garoppolo did fumble the ball twice, losing one of them. Overall, however, one can hardly find fault in the way the third-year pro out of Eastern Illinois handled himself under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.

Winning on the road is never easy. It’s even harder against a top team, and it’s all the more pressure packed when you’re the only game on television on a Sunday night.

Now with home games against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills, the Patriots are in fine shape to have a winning record when Brady returns following his four-game suspension.

Loser: Adrian Peterson comes up empty

Adrian Peterson

If not for the opportunistic, touchdown-scoring Vikings defense, Minnesota might have gotten blown out on the road in Tennessee early Sunday.

Peterson has long been the most dominant running back in the NFL. But the man known as “All Day” was shut down all day against the Titans.

Despite carrying the ball 19 times, Peterson could only manage 31 yards, and he didn’t catch either of the passes thrown his way.

It was, quite honestly, one of the worst outings of Peterson’s career.

Fantasy owners, take heart. You probably won’t see AP have another game like this in 2016. Sam Bradford should spark the passing game a bit, opening up running lanes and fantasy points for your squad.