One week down. 16 to go.
Let’s start with Opening Night: Baltimore @ Denver.
- Something we already knew heading into this one, Peyton Manning is pretty good. All he did week 1 was throw for 7 TDs, with no turnovers against the defending Superbowl Champion Ravens. While the Broncos took home the 49-27, they didn’t look great on defense without Champ Bailey and Von Miller. And second year linebacker Danny Trevathan picked Joe Flacco off late in the game, but fumbled at the one yard line celebrating the pick 6 too early. That along with a lack of a run game were concerning, but overall if you’re a Denver fan, you’ve got to like what you saw. Manning spread the wealth between his receivers, and new addition Wes Welker is fitting in already. The Ravens have to hope Ray Rice can get it going to help Flacco in the pass game, and with punt-returner Jacoby Jones out 4-6 weeks, a big piece will need to be filled. Not worried about Baltimore just yet though, Denver was just on a different level at home to start the season.
The first full Sunday of the season saw a lot of big performances, and some strange things as well.
- The strangest of them all, the number of safeties. Three were scored in the first quarter of games (Steelers, Jaguars and the Jets). The one Pitt picked up, according to the NFL, was the first on an opening kickoff since 1988.
- In an NFC North match-up between the Vikings and Lions, 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson showed last season’s comeback from an ACL injury wasn’t a fluke. On the first play from scrimmage, AP ran for a 78-yard touchdown. He’d run for a second, and catch a third from QB Christian Ponder. But despite the 3 TDs, after the big first run, Peterson only ran for 15 yards on 18 carries. Ponder threw for 3 picks. The lions are coming off another losing season, and they needed a big first games from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. But it was the running tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, that carried the load. Bush ran for 90 yards, but went for 101 and a TD in the pass game, while Bell only picked up 25 rush yards, but scored 2 TDs for the Lions.
- Geno Smith can lead the Jets to victory. Sure it was helped by a Buccaneer personal foul, but 256 yards passing, 47 rushing, a TD and an interception to go along with getting them within field goal range to win in your first NFL start is more than Jets fans could’ve hoped after he hurt his ankle in the preseason.
- The Saints made a statement week 1, taking down the NFC South favorite Falcons.
- EJ Manuel can keep things interesting, forcing the Patriots eek out a 23-21 win.
- The Jaguars are who we thought they are, a team who will be in the worst record of the season conversation all year.
- The Browns didn’t show much progress, losing their 9th straight opening day game. QB Brandon Weeden threw 4 picks and was sacked 6 times. But if the Dolphins want to make noise in the AFC East, they’ve got to do a better job protecting Ryan Tannehill, who was dropped 4 times as well.
- Andrew Luck is the real deal. Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders looked impressive for 3 quarters. But then Mr. Comeback struck. The Colts QB led his team on 7 4th quarter comebacks last year. And he did it again week 1.
- The Seahawks are a Superbowl favorite for many, but they struggled week 1 with the Carolina Panthers. It took until the 4th quarter to score a TD, a Russell Wilson 43-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse.
- AJ Green continues to be a really scary player (162 yards, 2 TDs), but the Chicago Bears still found a way to pull out a 3-point win over Cincy.
- The Steelers O-Line was no match for the revamped Titans defense, allowing Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked 5 times in a 16-9 loss. Adding injury to insult, Pitt lost a number players to injury, including Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey.
- The Rams and Cardinals played a close, hard-fought game, showing just how improved the NFC South is. Carson Palmer with a big day in his first day as a Cardinal, throwing 2 TDs to Larry Fitzgerald. New St. Louis TE Jared Cook with 141 yards receiving to help the Rams win their first opener in 7 years.
- Packers/49ers was fun to watch. Both offenses showed up big time, combining for 62 points, but San Fran and Colin Kaepernick got the best of Aaron Rodgers once again. The NFC Championship rematch ended the same way, but in this game it wasn’t Kaepernick’s legs that made the difference. Kaepernick was on point with his throws, getting his first career game of 300+ yards.
- The Texans are lucky they woke up in the second half against the Chargers. Houston is a team that has been getting better every year, but it took a half for Matt Schaub and his offense to wake up. They got help from a guy they missed last year, when Brian Cushing Picked off Philip Rivers for a 19-yard TD return to tie the game late.
- The Eagles, not the defending NFC East Champion Redskins, took their Monday Night opener.
Sunday Night Football was an NFC East Matchup: Giants @ Cowboys.
- The Giants were 4-0 in the new Cowboys home arena heading into action, but things would change. Eli Manning threw a pick on the first play of the game. Then the Giants turned over the ball on their next two possessions. But Dallas couldn’t take advantage, scoring just 3 points off those turnovers. Tony Romo took a big hit late in the 2nd half, but was able to finish the game, and throw 2 TDs to his security blanket, TE Jason Witten. You’d think forcing 6 turnovers would’ve meant that the Cowboys won easily. Wrong. Down 13-3 late in the half, Eli Manning got a big play off to Victor Cruz to make it a game at the half. Cruz would go on to catch 3 of Manning’s 4 TDs in the game. Two fumbles by starting running back David Wilson saw Tom Coughlin bench the second year player, at a weak position for New York with the loss of Andre Brown.
- Despite all the turnovers, the Giants had the ball with two timeouts and the two-minute warning left with a chance to win. And there are few QBs in the history of the NFL you’d feel better about in that situation than Eli Manning. But with the Wilson benching, back-up Scott was in, and on a pass play to him, he didn’t turn quick enough, causing the ball to bounce off his shoulder and fall right into the arms of Brandon Carr for a 49 yard interception return TD to seal the 36-31 win.
- So the Giants receiving core (Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Ruben Randle) all went for 100+ yards, and secondary looked pretty good. But a lack of pass rush and the turnovers are a cause for concern heading into a week 2 match-up with the Broncos. And for the Cowboys, they snapped their home losing streak to the Giants, start out 1-0 and Tony Romo came out healthy. Their big concerns heading into week 2 lie with needing to get RB DeMarco Murray going, and hoping start wide-out Dez Bryant’s tweaked ankle isn’t serious.
It’s still early.
- Don’t forget that. Whether your team won or lost week 1, there’s still plenty of football to go.