The first week of the NFL season is in the books and after starting with the Bills’ lopsided 31-10 blowout of the Rams in Los Angeles, the rest of the week was filled with close games and wild finishes.
There were a couple of odd ones in there that weren’t part of the plan, but I still finished Week 1 with a record of 10-5-1 overall. That isn’t astounding but it is good enough to win me the weekly for one league and have me tied for first in another. Much of that was because I went 3-2 on underdog picks. I did okay against the spread going 9-6-1 but I got pummeled on the over/under going a disgusting 3-13. The O/U has been my nemesis over the years and I will be playing catch-up again this season. Christen went 7-8-1 for the week which is middle of the pack, while our dog Ridley got off to a rocky start at 5-10-1 but that would have been enough to beat a handful of people in one of my pick ’em leagues. Whether you have read this article over the years or not, I am all about transparency and accountability and I keep detailed records.
|Nick W||Nick L||Nick|
|ATS W||ATS L||ATS T||O/U W||O/U L||O/U|
I was pretty close to picking up that 11th win on Monday night but Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks had other plans and welcomed Russell Wilson back to town with an L. I have been saying during the offseason that I don’t think the Hawks are going to be as bad as people think and I believe they can challenge for a Wild Card spot, so I hedged my bets and took SEA to cover a big 7-point spread. They showed some signs of that potential in a very emotional game for them, but it was still a winnable game for Denver. Russ mostly played well but the Broncos and their fans learned the hard way that they were more than a QB away from ascending into elite territory. Rookie head coach Nathanial Hackett has his work cut out for him as his team was abysmal in the red zone, fumbling twice at the goal line, they racked up a dozen penalties (including several false starts and delay of games thanks to the Seattle crowd noise), and he botched the team’s final sequence.
Faced with a 4th & 5 or 64-yard field goal try, Hackett stalled before calling timeout and sending in kicker Brian McManus. Carroll called his timeout and McManus went through a practice swing and missed noticeably. Now, on a shorter kick, I understand letting your very good kicker have another crack at it, but at 64-yards it’s already a very low percentage and McManus was only 1-4 on kicks of 60+ yards in his career. Besides, what is the point of having Wilson and paying him $242-million if you aren’t going to put the ball in his hands in that situation? Denver’s offense had moved the ball well, had timeouts to spare, and Russ in his supposed revenge game. If they don’t convert on 4th down at least they live and die by the man they invested in. That’s on the coach.
It should be said that the Hawks, and new starting QB Geno Smith, played well. They got back to TE-heavy formations and used a lot of motion and play action to find chunks, and Smith finished 23/28 for 195 yards with 2TD and didn’t have the costly turnover. He actually played better than the general perception of his play last season as well but had costly turnovers late in close games that helped submarine expectations. Geno is a big guy at 6’3″, 221 pounds, and he showed some good pocket presence and physicality. All their scoring did come in the first half, but there are more positive takeaways than negatives.
The Sunday night game was a rematch of the kickoff game from last season and was one of the easiest picks of the week, taking the Buccaneers at -2.5 over the Cowboys in Dallas. As I suspected, Dallas missed Amari Cooper dearly. In the preview for that game, I pointed to the Bucs’ secondary players being a handy group and that held pretty true and the flags weren’t coming for the Boys. Beyond not looking good in general, Dak Prescott was under fire all night and busted his hand on back-to-back throws and will require surgery that’ll keep him out for several weeks. As we saw with Russell Wilson last season, rushing back from surgery is tough to do and Dallas will be hard-pressed to tread water while Dak is out. On the bright side, Zeke managed a healthy 5.2-YPC against a stout Tampa defense that added Akiem Hicks on the DL.
It was a 12-3 game at the half, so not at all out of reach for DAL but Mike McCarthy abandoned the run early and that was basically it for the Boys. The Bucs had a great game plan loading up TEs and heavy sets to play power football. Leonard Fournette ran all over their defense for 127 yards on 21 carries (6.04-YPC) and Tom Brady just kept a steady hand and found Mike Evans for the game’s only TD (a beautiful one-hander). Things could have gone better but overall it was an easy day at the office for the Bucs. The thing to keep an eye on for them will be the aggravated knee injury for Chris Godwin who came back pretty quick after ACL surgery last season.
There were a pair of marquee afternoon matchups and I’ll start the Packers at the Vikings. When Minnesota was 1.5-point underdogs at home, I jumped all over it and a lot of people did the same as the game closed at even money (last I saw). Similar to what I mentioned about Dallas, Green Bay sorely missed Davante Adams. It also didn’t help that they didn’t get any preseason work in together, but Aaron Jones didn’t get nearly enough touches averaging 9.5-YPT. They were mostly running the ball well but wound up passing nearly 70% of the time.
Big credit to the Vikings though. They knew this was their chance to get out ahead of the Packers in a year where the NFC North is more up for grabs than ever. I was not a big believer in the Packers’ defense, despite that narrative being pushed, and Justin Jefferson isn’t a believer either as he left scorched earth in his wake putting up 184 yards and 2 TDs. Double J won a lot of his coverages and also appeared to be completely forgotten about by the GB defense at times. He accounted for 66% of Kirk Cousins’ passing yards, all of his TDs, and 34% of his attempts. To all other targets, Cousins was 14/21 for 91 yards and no scores. The key to beating Minny will be that but their run game was working too, putting up 126 yards on 28 carries.
The other side of the afternoon marquee saw Davante Adams and his new team lose on the road to the Chargers. I picked the Raiders here for no logical reason. I just kept hearing Raiders in my head. All the smart money was on the Chargers here, but it wasn’t an easy game nonetheless. They hung on to win by 5, but if Derek Carr doesn’t throw 3 picks who knows. He did throw those picks and 2 of them were straight-up bad throws, he also got sacked 5 times as Khalil Mack made his presence felt for the Chargers.
What I found most interesting was the slight adjustments to the philosophy of the Chargers. I know their coach Brandon Staley had stood up to criticism of his decision-making last season and said he wasn’t going to change, but I saw a much more conservative Chargers team on the field on Sunday. They ran the ball a lot even though the ground game wasn’t booming, they tried field goals, and they punted more often than not when faced with 4th & short. They trusted their defense more than last season and were rewarded. Herbert had a really nice game too, going 26/34 for 279 yards and 3 TDs. The thing to watch heading into their short week will be the Keenan Allen injury.
Remember earlier, when I said Tampa was the easiest pick of the week, I was wrong. That distinction goes to the Chiefs who ran roughshod over the Cardinals. Patrick Mahomes looked as good as ever and the Cards’ defense was nowhere close to competitive without Chandler Jones. Mahomes lit them up, going 30/39 for 360 yards and 5 TDs. I figured the Cards would have trouble scoring and that was the case as this game was 37-7 heading into the 4th quarter. I know a lot of people were getting ready to write the Chiefs off but the AFC West is still going through them until further notice, but Thursday’s matchup with the Bolts will offer some clarification there.
In the feel good upset of the week, the Giants opened up the Brian Daboll era with a last minute comeback win over the Titans in Tennessee. I am not surprised to see the Titans take a dip, but I was surprised to see them blow their 4th quarter lead and lose this way in this game. The G-Men never stopped fighting and put together a 12-play 73 yard drive that wound up being the game winner. Saquon Barkley looked better than ever posting 164 yards on 18 carries and another 30 receiving yards against one of the league’s best run defenses last season. I didn’t see it happening like that, but congrats to the Giants and their new coach who wasn’t afraid to go for the win on the road.
I was in a bit of a Covid haze during the morning games, but there were some wild finishes there. However, let’s get through the other ones first.
The Ravens took care of business as expected vs the Jets and this was another game where I hit the trifecta on the pick, ATS, and over/under. Lamar Jackson didn’t have the most efficient day passing, but he did throw 3 TDs. This was a close game (10-3 BAL) at the half, but as the Jets did most of last season, they abandoned a fairly strong run game in favor of throwing the ball 59 times with Joe Flacco. He spread the ball around and threw for 300+ yards, but Robert Saleh needs to have a serious chat with his offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur because the defense played mostly solid.
The Dolphins continued their streak against the Pats, making it 4 in a row with a mostly one-sided win, 20-7. Tua had a good efficient day and the exterior speed of Miami caused problems for New England. The Fins struggled to run the ball and gave up three sacks, so I am not elevating them yet, but it was a good win. The Pats will be in a strange spot as Mac Jones is having back issues already and they couldn’t offer much resistance.
The Trey Lance era for the 49ers got off to a sloppy start as they lost on the road to the Bears 19-10. It wasn’t just sloppy for Lance, they were basically playing in a monsoon. San Francisco was up 10-0 at the half and the Bears just stormed the gates in the second half. Justin Fields only completed 7 passes on the day but 5 of those came in the second half and so did both of his TDs. It was a weird game for sure, but a good win for the Bears.
In another NFC showdown, the Eagles outlasted the Lions 38-35. It’s wild to think that Philly scored 38 and Jalen Hurts didn’t throw a TD pass, but he ran for 90 yards and a score. Miles Sanders finally got to see the endzone again as did Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. A.J. Brown welcomed himself to the squad with 10 grabs for 155 yards and James Bradberry did the same with a pick six. Detroit was down 38-21 in the 4th quarter but showed the heart that they have become known for and scoring a pair of TDs to keep it close. D’Andre Swift looked great with 144 yards vs a good PHI defense and I was happy to see D.J. Chark get some play and a TD in the second half. Even in the loss, DET probably gets a lot out of this one.
I may not be a big believer in the Colts, but I still figured they should be good enough to beat the Texans. They put up 500+ yards of total offense on Houston but still found themselves trailing 20-3 in the 3rd quarter. Jonathan Taylor ran for 161 yards and TD, Matt Ryan threw for 352 yards, and Michael Pittman Jr. had 121 yards and TD…and they still couldn’t win? They are just lucky that Houston wasn’t good enough to beat them either. Davis Mills played solid Brandin Cooks continued to produce, but it was O.J. Howard who snuck into this offense as a scoring threat, catchign two passes, both for TDs. Even though it ended in a 20-20 tie, I’d say the Texans got more out of that game.
In another game that was 20-20 in overtime, the Steelers held on long enough in Cincinnati to give Chris Boswell a shot at redemption. This was one of my upset picks for the week and Pitt should have won it in regulation but multiple curious flags in the red zone during Cincy’s final possession gave the Bengals extra touches and clock stoppages. Joe Burrow finally got his stuff together after a 5-turnover day and found Ja’Marr Chase for the game tying score, but Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked the PAT and they went to overtime. From there both teams exchanged missed field goals before the Steelers wound up with it and Boswell hit the game winner. It’s a big win for PIT but T.J. Watt’s injury status will be big news in Pittsburgh.
In fitting dramatic fashion, another game that ended with a last second field goal was Baer Mayfield’s “revenge” game vs the Browns. This was another upset game I called right and also hit the trifecta on. As I suspected, the Browns defense would be a little too much and the Panthers’ defense not quite enough. Mayfield fumbled 4 times although he didn’t lose any and he got picked off which led to the Browns taking the early lead. That said, Baker bounced back and led Carolina to paydirt on back-to-back drives, cashing in with his arm and his legs, and then setting the Panthers up for the go-ahead field goal with just over a minute to go. Now, there is some controversy about the procedure that alowed CLE to set up the game winning FG, but their rookie kicker put it through from 58 yards to win it. Nick Chubb dominated this game with 141 yards, but Kareem Hunt vultured the scores.
Not to be outdone on last minute heroics from the kicker spot, The Saints battled back vs the Falcons to sneak one out. Nothing signals the start of football season like the Falcons blowing 4th quarter leads. They were leading 26-10 in the 4th in this one when the wheels came off. Jameis Winston found some big gains through the air and Michael Thomas in the end zone to get within 2 points. Atlanta had the ball and the lead with just over 3 minutes left, but new starting QB Marcus Mariota fumbled on a 3rd & 1 which forced them to punt from midfield. Winston worked some more magic and Will Lutz hit the 51-yard winner.
Last but not least, Carson Wentz led his new Commanders team to a 4th quarter comeback win against the Jaguars. It’s a bit concerning that they were losing to the Jags in the 4th to begin with and Wentz’s pair of interceptions was a big part of the reason they were there, but all’s well that ends well. It was great to see Curtis Samuel healthy again and Antonio Gibson looked like the starter he has been the last few seasons. It was also good to see James Robinson back and playing well coming back from the Achilles injury. Christian Kirk looked excellent in this Jags offense with 117 yards on 6 catches and I didn’t expect that, but it was a pedestrian day for Trevor Lawrence who threw the pick with the game on the line at the end. Both teams have a lot of room to improve but also plenty of bright spots to look at going forward.
If you are new here, I don’t do preseason Power Rankings and I place value in wins. This is a “you’re only as good as your last game” league and the good teams who are at the bottom should rebound. A little insight into my rankings is quality of W > W > quality of L. For example, I have the Bills > Chiefs because I had the Rams > Cardinals. It’s not a perfect system but it works for me.
|1. Bills 1-0|
|2. Chiefs 1-0|
|3. Buccaneers 1-0|
|4. Vikings 1-0|
|5. Chargers 1-0|
|6. Eagles 1-0|
|7. Ravens 1-0|
|8. Steelers 1-0|
|9. Dolphins 1-0|
|10. Saints 1-0|
|11. Giants 1-0|
|12. Seahawks 1-0|
|13. Bears 1-0|
|14. Browns 1-0|
|15. Commanders 1-0|
|16. Texans 0-0-1|
|17. Colts 0-0-1|
|18. Rams 0-1|
|19. Raiders 0-1|
|20. Bengals 0-1|
|21. Cardinals 0-1|
|22. Lions 0-1|
|23. Falcons 0-1|
|24. Panthers 0-1|
|25. Broncos 0-1|
|26. Titans 0-1|
|27. Jaguars 0-1|
|28. Packers 0-1|
|29. 49ers 0-1|
|30. Cowboys 0-1|
|31. Patriots 0-1|
|32. Jets 0-1|
Week 2 gets underway as the Chargers head to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs in a big-time, early-season AFC West Showdown. With the way that division is projected, I get the feeling that one is going to be a huge game when we look back on it later in the year. The Keenan Allen injury is going to be an issue but I will dig deeper into that game when I do the Thursday Night Football preview.
Thanks for reading! I still believe word of mouth is the best way to help, so if you enjoy what I’m doing, please tell somebody. And if you have a comment, I’d love to hear it! Liking, subscribing, and sharing go a long way too. And, as usual, be well, stay safe, and Go Bills!