The Chiefs were down 24-0 to the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs back in January. Despite this deficit, they managed to lead by halftime and eventually win in a blowout. Thus, a 7-0 deficit wouldn't bother them at all in this contest. Following Houston's opening touchdown, the Chiefs scored 31 unanswered points to cruise to an easy victory.
Patrick Mahomes didn't look like he had seven months off from football. He picked up where he left off when he stormed back from a fourth-quarter deficit versus the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, as the Texans' defense had no answer for him or the rest of his offense. The Chiefs converted 7-of-13 third downs and won the time of possession by nearly 10 minutes.
Mahomes was so good that he misfired just eight times, going 24-of-32 for 211 yards and three touchdowns. His numbers would've been even better had an apparent deep touchdown to Demarcus Robinson on the opening offensive drive of the game not slipped through Robinson's hands, as confirmed following replay review. The Chiefs ended up punting on that drive, so if Robinson managed to hold on to the ball, Mahomes would've fired four touchdowns to go along with close to 250 yards.
While Mahomes was excellent, all of the buzz will surround Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The rookie running back was special in his debut, dazzling the 15,000 fans on hand with some amazing runs that featured great elusiveness, captivating spin moves and dynamic cuts. Edwards-Helaire tallied 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Edwards-Helaire was in position to score a couple more touchdowns, but was stuffed at the goal line by J.J. Watt and P.J. Hall. Despite this misfortune for Edwards-Helaire, it's clear that the Chiefs have an extremely gifted player in the backfield, making their already-explosive offense even more potent.
In addition to Edwards-Helaire, the other Chiefs to find the end zone were Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The former led the team with seven catches and 82 yards. Kelce was next, hauling in all six targets for 50 yards. Hill was behind them with five grabs for 46 yards. He'll likely rebound in the near future, though next week's matchup against the Chargers is a difficult one.
While the Chiefs have plenty of explosive talent at receiver, the Texans do not beyond Will Fuller. This was apparent throughout the game, as Houston dinked and dunked for three quarters, accomplishing nothing outside of the one first-quarter touchdown drive. They were extremely limited, and it seemed like they were missing something. Could that "something" be DeAndre Hopkins, who was part of a very lopsided trade? This was the first ever NFL game for Watson without Hopkins, and the results weren't pretty.
Watson finished with middling stats, going 20-of-32 for 253 yards, one touchdown and an interception that occurred because he was hit as he released the ball. He also scrambled six times for 27 yards and a second score. Those passing numbers, however, were inflated by two garbage-time touchdown drives. Watson couldn't do anything for three quarters, as his downfield options were limited, while his offensive line had no response for Chris Jones.
At least, there's still Fuller, who finished with some impressive numbers. He caught eight of his 10 targets for 112 yards. Like Watson, however, Fuller didn't do very much until the fourth quarter when the Chiefs stopped double teaming him. Fuller is a very talented player, but it's not yet clear if he can be a No. 1 wideout. Fuller made a gaffe early, as he dropped a pretty back-shoulder pass from Watson.
Outside of Fuller, no other Texan registered more than 39 receiving yards. Randall Cobb (2-23) was nowhere to be found until garbage time. Brandin Cooks (2-20) continued to be terrible like he was last year. Kenny Stills (0 catches) dropped a pass. Young tight end Jordan Akins at least made a nice reception, ultimately catching two passes for 39 yards and a late touchdown.
The Texans, of course, traded Hopkins for David Johnson, who was absent for a drive because he had some sort of wrist injury. That was all the time he missed, as he finished with 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to go along with three catches for 32 receiving yards. Johnson has proven that he can be very productive when healthy, but that likely won't last very long.
Seahawks 38, Falcons 25
It's been a while since Russell Wilson has enjoyed being surrounded with a very talented roster. It's also been a long time since the Seahawks had a convincing victory to open the season. Seattle, a one-point underdog entering this contest, absolutely dominated the Falcons, signaling that this team is a far cry from the one that nearly lost to the Bengals to open the 2019 campaign.
While Wilson now has some special teammates to support him, he was the primary reason why the Falcons stood no chance in this contest. Wilson completed every single pass he attempted in the first 26 minutes of this game, with his first misfire occurring at the 4:00 minute mark of the second quarter on a pass where defensive pass interference could have been called. This ended up being Wilson's sole incompletion in the opening half. There were barely any misfires following intermission as well, though one was a horrible drop by D.K. Metcalf. The young receiver made amends for it on the same drive by hauling in a 38-yard bomb touchdown on a fourth-and-5 to make this a two-score game in the second half.
Wilson finished 31-of-35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, Atlanta has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, but Wilson looks like he's primed for a possible MVP award this year.
Seattle's offensive line is still a question mark, though Wilson was sacked just twice in this contest. The Seahawks opted to counter with many screens, which would explain why Chris Carson caught six passes for 45 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Carson didn't do much on the ground - six carries, 21 yards - but this was to be expected because Atlanta is much better versus the run than the pass. That said, it still stung for Carson owners that Carlos Hyde (7-23) vultured a touchdown.
While Carson scored twice, Metcalf (4-95) led the team in receiving yards. Tyler Lockett (8-92) also had a good game, but didn't find the end zone. He did, however, draw a deep pass interference flag on the opening drive to set up a Carson touchdown.
The Falcons, meanwhile, saw Matt Ryan post a monstrous passing total, as he went 37-of-54 for 450 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Like last year, Ryan began the season by compiling lots of garbage yardage; he had just 182 yards at halftime, so the majority of his passing total came when the game was already decided.
Atlanta's offensive line simply didn't look very good. I thought this unit would be stronger this year with two blockers entering their second season, but the Seahawks, a team that has some dubious talent on the defensive line, were able to rattle Ryan just enough to disrupt Atlanta's offense most drives. This was prevalent immediately when 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier ruined the opening possession with some great pressure. Another sack on a fourth-and-2 in the red zone forced a turnover on downs.
Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were able to benefit from garbage time. Both caught nine of their 12 targets, with Jones edging out Ridley in receiving yardage, 157-130. However, Ridley scored twice, while Jones couldn't find the end zone. Jones, however, logged his 800th career catch in this game.
Todd Gurley had a mediocre Falcons debut. He scored once, but was able to carry the ball just 14 times because of his knees. He turned those attempts into 56 yards. He also dropped a pass.
Bills 27, Jets 17
The Jets signaled that they were willing to forfeit this season when they traded away Jamal Adams to the Seahawks this summer, and they certainly played like that in this game. They were dominated in every facet, as the Bills won the time of possession by more than 20 minutes, tallied nearly 150 more yards, and achieved more than double the number of first downs, 31-15.
All of the numbers indicate the Bills should have prevailed by more than 10 points, and that would be correct. This easily could have been a 41-10 result had it not been for a plethora of Josh Allen mistakes. It all started when he fumbled while picking up a first down with his legs while in field goal range on the opening drive. Allen once again fumbled in the second half, this time doing so while in the red zone. Allen later had John Brown wide open in the end zone, but missed him because he didn't set his feet while escaping the pocket. The CBS announcers proclaimed that there was "no one within six feet" of Brown, yet Brown sailed the pass over his head.
Despite these blunders, Allen still finished 33-of-46 for 312 yards and two passing touchdowns to go along with 14 scrambles for 57 rushing yards and a third score on the ground. Allen will need to be less careless against superior competition, but it simply didn't matter what he did in this contest because the Jets were missing so many players on their defense. In addition to Adams, they were also down C.J. Mosley (opt-out), Avery Williamson (pre-game injury) and Blake Cashman (in-game injury). The Jets won't be competitive until they get some key players back into the lineup, though it's possible that some will want to quit on Adam Gase because of the Adams trade.
Neither of Allen's touchdowns went to Stefon Diggs, but the former Minnesota receiver had the most yardage on his new team. He caught eight of his nine targets for 86 yards. He finished just ahead of John Brown (6-70), who found the end zone and also drew an interference flag. The other touchdown went to Zack Moss.
Speaking of Moss, he's now part of a very frustrating running back rotation, as the Bills gave both of their top backs nine carries each. Devin Singletary, by far the most talented of the two, outgained the rookie, 30-11. It makes no sense that Buffalo would want to give the lackluster Moss work over Singletary, but that is what the team is doing right now.
As for the Jets' offense, Sam Darnold has shown no signs of progression under Gase, who must be fired immediately to salvage the young quarterback's career. Darnold didn't get much help from his offensive line, but he still made some careless mistakes, including one instance where he heaved an interception by throwing way late over the middle of the field. Darnold never looked comfortable in the pocket, even panicking on one instance where he ran out of bounds to take a "sack" on a 5-yard loss rather than tossing the ball away. Darnold had some accuracy issues as well, as he was lucky just to be intercepted once.
Darnold ended up going 21-of-35 for 215 yards, one touchdown and the pick. However, these numbers were misleading, as a chunk of them came in garbage time. Darnold, at the half, was just 8-of-18 for 86 yards and the interception. It's only one game, but again, it seems as though he's getting worse.
Darnold's garbage-time touchdown was thrown to Jamison Crowder, who caught seven passes for 115 yards. The score, a 69-yarder, was the result of a horrible tackle attempt by linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Crowder was the only Jet with more than 37 receiving yards, as Breshad Perriman (3-17) was a disappointment in his Jets debut.
Darnold may have to go on without his talented running back, as Le'Veon Bell suffered an injury. Bell, who mustered 14 yards on six carries, hurt his hamstring, so that means Gase will be able to use Frank Gore unopposed. The ageless wonder accumulated 24 yards on six attempts.
Bears 27, Lions 23
Detroit seemed to have this game well in hand, as the team went into the fourth quarter with a 23-6 lead. The Lions held Mitchell Trubisky in check the entire game, but suddenly had no answer for the beleaguered quarterback. Meanwhile, a crucial turnover gave the Bears life they shouldn't have had and a subsequent lead.
Despite this, the Lions still had a great chance to win at the end. Matthew Stafford drove his team into the red zone, and with about six seconds remaining, he lofted a pass to an open D'Andre Swift in the end zone. Swift appeared to secure the touchdown, but then the ball popped out of his hands and fell incomplete. And just like that, the game was over.
This game ruined a nice 2020 debut for Stafford, whose health was in question because of a back ailment. Stafford, who finished 24-of-42 for 297 yards, one touchdown and an interception without the services of Kenny Golladay, made some nice throws in this contest, including a laser that he used to convert a third-and-17 with an 18-yard pass to Danny Amendola. It's also worth noting that Stafford would've eclipsed the 300-yard barrier and thrown two touchdowns had Swift held on to the ball. That said, Stafford's fourth-quarter pick set up a Chicago touchdown and ultimately led to the defeat.
The second-round rookie running back had a horrible debut with the Lions. Even excluding that dropped touchdown, Swift was given just three carries, which he turned into eight yards, and he caught three passes for 15 receiving yards. Much more was expected out of the Georgia product, who was viewed by many to be the most talented running back in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Rather than Swift receiving more than six touches - seven if the drop is counted - Adrian Peterson handled most of the workload. Peterson looked spry, tallying 93 yards on just 14 carries.
With Golladay out, Amendola led the Lions with five catches for 81 yards, finishing just ahead of T.J. Hockenson (5-56), who scored a touchdown. Marvin Jones, who hauled in four passes for 55 yards, absolutely trampled a defender after making a catch to convert a third-and-10.
As for the team that somehow prevailed, Mitchell Trubisky saved his job with the incredible comeback. Things began very poorly for him, as he was just 8-of-20 for 110 yards at the half. He was guilty of a myriad of poor throws, including a fourth-and-7 attempt where he threw way behind Ted Ginn. On a later third-and-7, the FOX announcers were speechless on how bad his attempt was. Trubisky was then very fortunate that a potential interception of his was dropped. Soon after, a horrible pass of his on third down was tossed way behind Jimmy Graham.
To his credit, Trubisky came up big in the fourth quarter, as he was 12-of-16 for 131 yards and three touchdons following intermission. The Bears were lucky to win - especially considering that the large surge occurred when the Lions lost some cornerbacks to injury - but Trubisky will take it, as he'll get to start ahead of Nick Foles for another week.
Trubisky's game-winning throw went to Anthony Miller, who caught four passes for 76 yards and a score. He just barely edged out Allen Robinson, who hauled in five of his nine targets for 74 yards.
David Montgomery was lackluster as usual, as the second-year back mustered just 64 yards on 13 attempts. Tarik Cohen (7-41) was much more explosive, but he didn't get nearly as many touches.
Things were easier for Chicago's offense when talented linebacker Jamie Collins was ejected for headbutting an official. Collins was trying to show the ref what a Chicago player did to him, but he unfortunately hit the official and was tossed as a result. Things were then even easier when Detroit was without its top three cornerbacks. Jeff Okudah was already out, and then the team lost Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman to injury.
Packers 43, Vikings 34
The Packers entered the offseason needing to do two things: improve Aaron Rodgers' receiving corps and find players who can help stop the run after Raheem Mostert trampled them in the NFC Championship. Green Bay's front office did neither, squandering picks on questionable prospects for the future. Rodgers was not pleased, especially with the Jordan Love pick, and many wondered how much longer he would remain on his current team.
Regardless of where Rodgers goes in the future, it's quite apparent that he's far from done. He torched Minnesota's beleaguered secondary mercilessly in this contest, going 32-of-44 for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He was victimized by a couple of horrible drops by Marquez Valdes-Scantling, both of which would've resulted in very long gains, so his numbers could have been even better. Then again, there's no telling what he would've done had the Packers found a viable No. 2 wideout for him.
Rodgers, at least, still has a dominant No. 1. Davante Adams thoroughly embarrassed Minnesota's cornerbacks, reeling in 14 of his 17 targets for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, both Valdes-Scantling (4-96) and Allen Lazard (4-63) caught touchdowns, though the former should've reeled in two scores. Both are young players who may have improved this offseason, but there's no telling if that's really the case until the Packers battle a team that can stop the pass.
The Vikings are far better versus the rush than the pass, so it's no surprise that Aaron Jones was limited to 66 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Jones nearly scored a second time, as he was stuffed twice near the goal line during the early stages of the game.
Despite Jones' mediocre numbers, he still was able to able to outgain Dalvin Cook, who mustered just 50 yards on 12 carries. This was shocking, considering what Mostert did to Green Bay's defense in the NFC Championship. Even nose tackle Kenny Clark left the game with an injury, and yet it didn't matter because Cook couldn't get anything on the ground. He salvaged his fantasy day by scoring twice, but this as an incredibly disappointing start to both the 2020 season and also his new contract.
Speaking of disappointing members of Minnesota's backfield, Kirk Cousins was dreadful in this contest. The numbers say otherwise - he was 19-of-25 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was thrown behind Adam Thielen - but much of what Cousins did was in the second half, as he threw for just 54 yards by intermission. Cousins' albatross of a contract has prevented the Vikings from making more upgrades to their roster, so they'll continue to disappoint until they move on to another quarterback.
Cousins now has to throw exclusively to Thielen until rookie Justin Jefferson develops. Thielen caught six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, though, once again, most of this came in garbage time. Jefferson, meanwhile, snatched just two balls for 26 yards.
Patriots 21, Dolphins 11
It's unknown how long Cam Newton will stay healthy, but it's clear that he's 100 percent right now. Newton looked spry for the first time in years, running over defenders and throwing nice passes like the former MVP once did. If Newton can remain healthy, the Patriots will have a chance to win the division and win some games in January, but it's just a question of how long his health will hold.
Newton misfired just four times in his Patriots debut, going 15-of-19 for 155 yards. This stat line was impressive, given that there were so many occasions in which no one was open as a result of the receivers being unable to separate. This, of course, was an issue last year for Tom Brady, which is why Newton's scrambling ability is so important. It was prevalent throughout this game, as he rushed 15 times for 75 yards, scoring twice in the process.
Newton came inches shy of throwing a touchdown, as N'Keal Harry coughed up the ball just prior to reaching the goal line. The ball trickled into the end zone and was deemed a touchback. This was a bad moment for Harry, who caught five passes for only 39 yards. He finished only behind Julian Edelman (5-57) on the stat sheet. Forgive me for criticizing my fourth cousin, but Edelman dropped Newton's first pass attempt of the afternoon.
With Newton doing lots of running, Sony Michel's 10 carries led all running backs. Michel gained just 37 yards, though he scored a touchdown. Rex Burkhead (7-32) received too much of a workload.
Newton is part of the equation for the Patriots to win the division. The other major part is the defense, which did a great job of limiting the Dolphins on most drives. New England won the time-of-possession battle by nine minutes, forcing Miami into three turnovers, all of which belonged to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Patriots, quite simply, weren't going to lose to Fitzpatrick for the second-consecutive regular-season game. Fitzpatrick completed two-thirds of his passes, going 20-of-30 for 191 yards, but the trio of interceptions killed his team. The first pick wasn't his fault, as Preston Williams slipped. However, the next interception was all on Fitzpatrick, as the bearded quarterback didn't see a linebacker dropping into coverage. The third pick was heaved into the end zone in desperation time at the very end of the game.
It didn't help Fitzpatrick that his top receiver, DeVante Parker, suffered a hamstring injury in the middle of this contest. Parker caught four passes for 47 yards in the opening half, but did nothing after that. Parker was huge for Fitzpatrick's success last year, so it's not a surprise that Miami's offense diminished without its top wideout.
Despite Parker missing a half of action, he still managed to lead the team with 47 receiving yards on four catches. Preston Williams (2-41) came close to matching his total despite tough coverage from Stephon Gilmore, while Mike Gesicki (3-30) saw five targets. Gesicki was able to draw an interference flag in the end zone, at least.
It was an abysmal debut for Jordan Howard, who was restricted to just seven yards on eight carries, though he found the end zone once. Matt Breida (5-22) was predictably more impressive. Perhaps the Dolphins will use him more as the season progresses.
Redskins 27, Eagles 17
The Eagles were in deep trouble heading into this game. They were already down two starting offensive linemen for the year - Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard - and then a third, Lane Johnson, was ruled out prior to kickoff. Despite this, the Eagles were able to establish a 17-0 lead, as Carson Wentz found his tight ends and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor with some deep strikes. The Redskins contributed to this offensive outburst, as they committed far too many mistakes. They were guilty of numerous offside penalties, and there were also a couple of personal fouls.
It appeared as though the Eagles would walk away with an easy victory when they were up 17-0, but everything changed when Wentz was intercepted for the first time. Cornerback Fabian Moreau jumped the route, which allowed the Redskins to score a touchdown. This gave Washington the momentum it needed heading into halftime. The defense continued to force Wentz into mistakes, while the offense capitalized off those blunders. The result was a 27-0 Redskin surge to end the game.
Wentz had no chance behind his offensive line. He was sacked eight times by an elite Washington front. He somehow started 14-of-17 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, but he finished 10-of-25 for 88 yards and two picks after that. Wentz's second interception was telegraphed, and he should've been picked on a third occasion. He'll do better when Lane Johnson returns, but being down two starting offensive linemen really put the Eagles behind the eight ball. Unless they can make a trade or somehow develop viable replacements, it'll be difficult for them to make the playoffs.
Wentz's two touchdowns went to his tight ends, Dallas Goedert (8-101) and Zach Ertz (3-18). Ertz appeared to get banged up at one point, but he never left the game. Perhaps he was impacted, however, as he was guilty of a crucial drop in the fourth quarter. Goedert also dropped a pass on the second drive of the game, but was excellent otherwise.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, DeSean Jackson was a colossal disappointment. He dominated the opener last year against the Redskins, but didn't do much this time, catching only two of his seven targets for 46 yards. Reagor, who snatched a 55-yard bomb, didn't do anything else. This is a weakness for the Eagles, who were battling a mediocre Redskins cornerback group that was missing Kendall Fuller.
Miles Sanders was also missing for the Eagles, so Boston Scott and Corey Clement split the workload. Scott was better, tallying 35 yards on nine carries, while Clement (6-19) did very little. Scott, however, left the game with an injury.
The Redskins had the more-intriguing running back, as their rookie, Antonio Gibson, was set to get a substantial workload. He was given 11 touches: nine carries (36 yards) and two catches (eight yards). It was a bit disappointing to see Peyton Barber (17-29) waste so many downs, though he managed to score twice. Still, there was no reason to declare Bryce Love a healthy scratch in favor of Barber, who is one of the worst running backs in the NFL.
Dwayne Haskins slimmed down and did some running himself, scrambling seven times for 17 rushing yards. He was mediocre as a passer, going 17-of-31 for 178 yards and a touchdown, as he was plagued by accuracy issues for most of the afternoon. He was also strip-sacked in the third quarter, but a teammate recovered. Haskins was just 7-of-16 for 76 yards with a dropped interception by Avonte Maddox in the opening half, so he was able to improve as the afternoon progressed. It's worth noting that the Eagles have an abysmal linebacking corps and a pedestrian secondary, so there will be tougher matchups for Haskins on the horizon.
Haskins' top receiver was Terry McLaurin, who caught five passes for 61 yards. He and Steven Sims (3-50) were the only players who eclipsed 37 receiving yards. Haskins' lone touchdown went to tight end Logan Thomas (4-37).
Jaguars 27, Colts 20
This was an embarrassing result for both teams. The Colts were expected to win this game easily, as they were favored by eight on the road. A popular pick to reach the AFC Championship or even the Super Bowl, Indianapolis went down in flames in the opener against a team widely considered to be the worst in the NFL. Conversely, the Jaguars unloaded so many talented players in an attempt to tank for Trevor Lawrence. Those dreams might be over, as this victory may allow another team to steal Lawrence away from Jacksonville.
Though the Colts lost, it appeared as though they would have full control of this game in the early stages. They were up 7-0 when Nyheim Hines was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 deep in Jacksonville territory. Though that drive ended, the Colts were still in position to go up two scores when Philip Rivers threw a wobbly interception into double coverage. This breathed life into the Jaguars, who were doing absolutely nothing prior to that turnover. The pick set up a D.J. Chark touchdown, and Jacksonville's offense was more productive after that.
Still, the Colts were ahead for most of the second half, but lost multiple leads following intermission. Another Rivers interception - this one being a telegraphed toss - and multiple T.Y. Hilton drops on the final drive helped seal the victory over the Jaguars.
Though Rivers crushed his team with those two picks, he wasn't bad otherwise. Rivers was 36-of-46 for 363 yards, one touchdown and the pair of interceptions. Many of his throws were screens to his running backs, but Rivers was mostly accurate and didn't look like he should be put out to pasture. The Colts can still win with Rivers, but the defense must perform up to expectations.
Hilton not dropping crucial passes would also help. Hilton wasn't impressive in his first game with Rivers, as he caught four of his nine targets for 53 yards. Second-year Parris Campbell was much better with his six grabs for 71 yards, including a diving catch on third down. Campbell was injured for most of last season, so the second-round pick the Colts invested in him is finally paying dividends.
Speaking of second-round picks, Jonathan Taylor will receive a much greater workload than initially anticipated because Marlon Mack tore his Achilles in this game. Taylor's nine carries went for only 22 yards, but he was able to catch six passes for 67 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Hines (7-28) did well on the ground while also catching all eight targets for 45 receiving yards. He scored twice.
The Jaguars are no strangers to having injured running backs on their roster, as they were forced into starting fourth-stringer James Robinson. It wasn't a bad result, as Robinson notched 62 yards on 16 carries. Robinson was more impressive than I anticipated. He broke tackles and displayed some nice cuts. He runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, so he won't blow anyone away, but he's an efficient runner.
Despite having a fourth-string running back starting with him, Gardner Minshew misfired on just one occasion in this contest, going 19-of-20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. His lone incompletion was on the money, but broken up when thrown into tight coverage.
This was a startling result for Minshew, given that his putrid offensve line was expected to be dominated by an improved Indanapolis front. This didn't bother Minshew, who was excellent. If Minshew keeps performing this way, the Jaguars may decide that he's the quarterback of the future. If so, one has to wonder why the team traded away so many assets when it could have just built around Minshew.
There's no doubting that Minshew has an excellent receiving corps at his disposal. Chark (3-25), who drew a deep interference flag in the third quarter on Xavier Rhodes, caught a touchdown, as did Keelan Cole (5-47) and second-round rookie Laviska Shenault (3-37). Shenault even saw some time in the Wildcat, rushing for five yards before Minshew threw the game-winning touchdown.
Ravens 38, Browns 6
Lamar Jackson won the MVP award last year, and he picked up where he left off in the regular season. He was stellar in his 2020 debut, as Cleveland's injury-ravaged back seven stood no chance at defending him or his top weapons.
Down two of their top three cornerbacks and a prominent linebacker, the Browns were helpless to defend Jackson, who didn't even do much rushing. Jackson scrambled "just" seven times for 45 rushing yards, as he did most of his damage aerially. Showing a nice progression in his passing ability, Jackson was 20-of-29 for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He made no mistakes.
Jackson's first two touchdowns both went to Mark Andrews, one of which was an impressive one-handed catch. Andrews secured five of his six targets for 58 yards. Jackson then found Willie Snead (4-64) for the third score. Both trailed Marquise Brown in the receiving category, as the second-year wideout snatched five balls for 101 yards.
The Ravens split the workload between their two primary ball-carriers almost evenly. Mark Ingram started and received 10 carries, which he turned into 29 yards. J.K. Dobbins, meanwhile, had fewer attempts (7-22), but managed to score twice.
While the Ingram-Dobbins carry allocation was predictable, what the Browns did was unexpected. Kareem Hunt was given more carries than Nick Chubb, and this was not the result of Cleveland trailing throughout the second half because both backs attempted six carries prior to intermission. Hunt finished with 72 yards on 13 tries, while Chubb tallied 60 yards on 10 runs. This has to be a major disappointment for Chubb owners, as Chubb will not live up to his first-round billing with this sort of workload.
Speaking of disappointments, Baker Mayfield began his third year with a dud, going 21-of-39 for 189 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick was deflected by Calais Campbell, as Mayfield didn't see the big lineman dropping into coverage. Mayfield, who had another potential pick that was dropped, also showed some poor pocket awareness at times. Granted, this was an extremely difficult matchup for him, so Mayfield will have a chance to make amends versus inferior competition in the coming weeks.
Odell Beckham Jr. cited that he had trouble running last year because of a lingering injury. Beckham saw 10 targets in this game, but turned only three of them into catches for 22 yards. His fantasy owners were hurt by some bad luck, as Beckham drew two interference flags and a defensive hold, none of which count for any fantasy points. He also dropped a pass in Baltimore territory.
Jarvis Landry (5-61) was only slightly more productive, while David Njoku (3-50, TD) outshined Austin Hooper (2-15), who might end up being a waste of money.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Let's ignore that I had buyer's remorse for this pick. I'll take the two units!
The Panthers and Raiders both fielded poor defenses last season, and that trend continued to open 2020, as both units were incapable of producing stops or turnovers and couldn't keep the other team off the scoreboard. Jon Gruden's offense was slightly more efficient in producing touchdowns over field goals, and that made the difference in Las Vegas starting the season 1-0.
The Panthers scored first, with Teddy Bridgewater spreading the ball around to Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel to set up a field goal. The Raiders answered by using Darren Waller (6-45) to move the chains on a few receptions before Carr hit Henry Ruggs (3-55) for a 45-yard pass to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Josh Jacobs charged into the end zone.
Carolina came right back to take the lead at the end of the first quarter, with Christian McCaffrey moving through the Las Vegas defense and scoring from six yards. Joey Slye missed the extra point, leaving the Panthers holding a 9-7 lead. In the second quarter, a couple completions from Carr to Hunter Renfrow moved the ball inside the 10, but the drive stalled and the Raiders settled for a short field goal to take a 10-9 lead. Nicholas Morrow was then flagged for a pass interference on McCaffrey to move the Panthers into Las Vegas territory, and a big run by Bridgewater put the Panthers into field goal territory, setting up a 46-yard field goal from Slye to put Carolina up 12-10.
Derek Carr put the Raiders up 17-12 when he lofted in a beautiful 23-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor (1-23). Bridgewater then led a field goal drive in the 2-minute drill to make the score 17-15 Las Vegas at the half.
In the third quarter, a 29-yard pass to Jacobs got the ball inside the 25, and Jacobs finished the drive with a short touchdown run to put the Raiders up 27-15. Carolina answered with some good runs from McCaffrey, an 18-yard conversion to D.J. Moore (4-54), and a 15-yard pass to McCaffrey to convert a third-and-14. To end the drive, McCaffrey rushed for a short touchdown, cutting the Raiders' lead to 27-22 early in the fourth quarter.
After getting the ball back, Las Vegas rookie cornerback Damon Arnette blew coverage on Robby Anderson, letting Anderson get wide open for a 75-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion to Anderson put Carolina up 30-27 midway through the fourth quarter.
Carr's quick passing moved the Raiders into Carolina territory again, and a huge pass interference on Tahir Whitehead moved the ball inside the 20. Jacobs' third rushing touchdown put Las Vegas back on top 34-30 with four minutes remaining. The Panthers moved the ball past midfield, but on fourth-and-inches, Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell stuffed fullback Alex Armah for no gain to essentially clinch the win for Las Vegas.
Bridgewater was 22-of-34 for 270 yards with a touchdown. Anderson led the Panthers in receiving with six receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
McCaffrey ran for 96 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns while catching three passes for 38 yards.
Carr was 22-of-30 for 239 yards with a touchdown.
Jacobs was the MVP for the Raiders, running for 93 yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns and catching four passes for 46 yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: What a disappointing ending for the Bengals, but that may help them in the long run. They weren't going to make the playoffs this year, so a better draft pick could help Cincinnati build a better offensive line to protect Joe Burrow.
Joe Burrow made his debut for the Bengals, and as expected, the No. 1 overall pick had some growing pains. Burrow struggled to see the field in the early going, taking a lot of sacks, getting rattled some by the Chargers pass rush, making some bad decisions, and missing some open receivers in the end zone. However, Burrow flashed with some impressive passes plays, and he got hot late in the fourth quarter to almost lead a comeback win. There is no doubt that Burrow will get better as he gains experience, but Los Angeles made fewer mistakes to get the victory.
To start the game, the Chargers really went after Burrow, sending a lot of blitzes at him and flustering the young franchise quarterback. But late in the first quarter, Cincinnati got good field position, and after a completion to A.J. Green, the Bengals made a great play call with a quarterback draw that let Burrow take off on a 23-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Los Angeles defense.
The Chargers came up with some sacks and then got moving using Austin Ekeler. Tyrod Taylor connected with Mike Williams (4-69) for a 36-yard completion to get a field goal. In the final seconds of the first half, Taylor hit Hunter Henry (5-73) for a 33-yard completion, which set up another field goal to make it 7-6 Bengals at halftime.
Los Angeles got in position to take the lead early in the third quarter, but missed a field goal. The Bengals took advantage of the field position to notch a field goal of their own, but they should have been able to turn that field position into more points. On back-to-back plays, Burrow had wide open receivers in the end zone for 43-yard touchdowns, but Burrow overthrew John Ross and A.J. Green on both opportunities. A good Bengals punt return set up another field goal to give Cincinnati a 13-6 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Chargers rookie running back Joshua Kelley tied the game on a five-yard touchdown run. The normally sure-handed Joe Mixon fumbled the ball away after a hit by Denzel Perryman, and Nick Vigil recoveed to gift for the Chargers, letting them hit another field goal after the offense sputtered inside the 10-yard line.
Burrow got the Bengals moving using tight end C.J. Uzomah (4-45) to get into field goal range, but then Burrow made a terrible decision by trying to do an idiotic shovel pass to a blanketed back, floating the ball right into stomach of Melvin Ingram.
The Cincinnati defense then forced a punt to get Burrow another shot with three minutes remaining. He connected with Tyler Boyd (4-33) and John Ross to move into Chargers territory, and then a pass to Boyd converted a third-and-8 to get into field goal range. Randy Bullock, however, missed the 31-yard field kick with four seconds left in the game to secure the Chargers' the road win.
Burrow was 23-of-36 for 193 yards with an interception and 46 yards rushing and a score on the ground. Green caught five passes for 51 yards.
Mixon ran for 69 yards on 19 carries but also fumbled.
Taylor was 16-of-30 for 208 yards. Allen was held to 37 yards on four receptions.
Ekeler ran for 84 yards on 19 carries and had one catch for three yards.
Saints 34, Buccaneers 23
When Tom Brady joined the Buccaneers, many wondered if Tampa Bay's roster would be good enough to accommodate the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Perhaps everyone had it backward because the first game of the 2020 season saw Brady perform as the worst player on the roster, save for left tackle Donovan Smith.
Brady, quite simply, was atrocious by his own standards following a nice opening drive. He tossed several passes over his receivers' heads, including an early pick where he lofted a ball that was way too high, setting up an Alvin Kamara touchdown. Brady's worst mistake came in the third quarter when, according to his own head coach, he should have thrown a screen, but hurled a pass toward the sideline instead. The pass was behind his intended receiver, which was pick-sixed by Janoris Jenkins. A manageable 17-7 affair suddenly turned into a 24-7 deficit, which the Buccaneers couldn't crawl out of, especially when a pair of kick returners collided to give the Saints an easy score later in the second half.
Brady finished 23-of-36 for 239 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He was battling a New Orleans defense that missing some personnel, including talented edge rusher Marcus Davenport and linebacker Kiko Alonso. Davenport's absence didn't end up being a big deal because Cameron Jordan dominated the trenches. Donovan Smith, who mulled opting out of the 2020 season, played as though he was sheltering at home.
This is only one game, and there's still time for Brady to improve with his new teammates. However, if he continues to play this way, the Buccaneers won't even make the playoffs this season.
Brady's preferred target in the opener was Chris Godwin, who caught six of his seven targets for 79 yards. Scotty Miller (5-73) was next on the stat sheet. Meanwhile, Mike Evans, who was doubtful-to-questionable entering this game, didn't log a single reception until the very end when he caught a garbage touchdown. That said, he drew an interference flag early in the afternoon.
The Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette, but he barely did anything, mustering only five yards on as many carries. Ronald Jones handled most of the workload and looked decent, tallying 66 yards on 17 carries. He also caught two passes for 16 receiving yards.
Tampa Bay's defense did a decent job on Drew Brees, as the Saints' offense scored 27 points. Drew Brees barely completed half of his passes, going 18-of-30 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers rattled him with some well-timed blitzes, resulting in several disrupted drives.
However, the Buccaneers couldn't hold down the Saints forever, as Brees had success tossing intermediate passes to Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. While Cook led the team in receiving with five catches for 80 yards, it was Kamara who enjoyed the monstrous fantasy outing. Kamara was limited to just 16 rushing yards on 12 carries, but he also caught five passes for 51 receiving yards. He ended up with two touchdowns and nearly scored a third at the very end, but replay review deemed that he was inches shy of the goal line when he stepped out of bounds.
The dark cloud surrounding this game was an injury that Michael Thomas suffered. Alvin Kamara stepped on Thomas, who limped off the field. Thomas had a dismal showing with three catches for 17 yards. Emmanuel Sanders (3-15) didn't do much better unless you factor in his touchdown.
Cardinals 24, 49ers 20
Cris Collinsworth hinted that the Texans won the DeAndre Hopkins trade when David Johnson scored a touchdown on Thursday Night Football. This turned out to be a quick judgment, as we eventually discovered how limited Houston was without Hopkins. We then got a taste of what Arizona's offense looks like with Hopkins, and the difference is night and day.
Thanks to Hopkins' heroics, the Cardinals had plenty of success against one of the top defenses in the NFL. They won the time of possession, achieved 11 more first downs than San Francisco, and converted 7-of-14 third downs. They also outgained the 49ers. Hopkins was mostly responsible for this, as he caught a whopping 14 passes out of 16 targets, accumulating 151 yards in the process. He nearly had a touchdown, but replay review eliminated a score of his. He was also very clutch, as his 33-yard reception late in the game helped set up the decisive touchdown.
It's still unclear what Bill O'Brien was smoking when he traded Hopkins away for an injury-prone running back and a second-round pick. Regardless, the Cardinals won't be complaining, as Hopkins' presence in the offense will allow them to compete for a playoff spot, and perhaps even the NFC West crown.
Kyler Murray obviously stands to benefit from having Hopkins at his disposal; not just in the stat box, but also in his development. Murray looked like a much more defined quarterback in this contest, as he wasn't rattled by San Francisco's dominant defensive front. Murray carved up the 49ers by going 26-of-40 for 230 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which was the result of a deflection. Murray also scrambled 13 times for 91 rushing yards and an additional touchdown.
Excluding Hopkins, Arizona's leading receiver was Larry Fitzgerald, who snatched four passes for 34 yards. Christian Kirk (0 catches) was a huge disappointment, as he failed to reel in any of his five targets.
Kenyan Drake has never handled a full workload across an entire season, so it was no surprise that Chase Edmonds ate into a bit of the touches. Drake still had 16 carries, turning those into 60 yards and a touchdown. However, Edmonds had more receptions (3 to 2) and scored once aerially. He also tallied 26 yards on six carries.
The best of the running backs in this game was Raheem Mostert, who blew by Arizona's entire defense on a 76-yard receiving touchdown. Mostert ended up with 56 yards on 15 carries to go along with four catches for 95 receiving yards and the score. Mostert had way more carries than anyone else, including Jerick McKinnon (3-24) who finally saw his first action with the 49ers after missing the past two seasons. It wasn't all positive for McKinnon, however, as he was nearly responsible for an interception because of a drop.
While Jimmy Garoppolo didn't finish with any picks, he still didn't play very well. The stat line doesn't tell the whole story, as the numbers - 19-of-33, 259 yards, two touchdowns - seem just fine. However, Garoppolo continued to be plagued by his indecisiveness, as he continued to hold on to the ball way too long in the pocket. He ended up taking some bad sacks as a result of this.
Excluding Mostert, no one on the 49ers did much aerially, as George Kittle was next on the stat sheet with four catches for 44 yards. Kittle left the game briefly with an injury, but turned out to be OK.
Rams 20, Cowboys 17
When the 2020 NFL Draft was complete, NFL Network analyst Steve Smith proclaimed the Cowboys to be like the Dallas team of the 90s. This was a clear overreaction to the CeeDee Lamb selection, and it became obvious then that Dallas would be overrated. The team has flashy names on offense, but the defense is a shell of its former self. The team lost several players this offseason, and if that wasn't enough, injury-prone linebacker Leighton Vander Esch went down with a broken collarbone in this contest. One NFL team completely removed Vander Esch off its board prior to his draft class, and it's easy to see why now.
Jared Goff felt little resistance in this game, as he was able to carve up Dallas' back seven with some play-action bootlegs. He targeted Robert Woods early and then spread the ball around as the evening progressed. Goff finished 20-of-31 for 275 yards and an interception that wasn't his fault, as a Dallas player should've been flagged for an illegal hit to his helmet. Goff made one blatant mistake when he didn't fire the ball to an open Cooper Kupp that would've sealed the victory, but he performed positively overall.
Woods led all Rams receivers by a wide margin, hauling in six passes for 105 yards. Cooper Kupp (4-40) and Tyler Higbee (3-40) were tied for second. Meanwhile, rookie Van Jefferson, who created a buzz in training camp, caught one pass for 31 yards. He dropped a ball in the fourth quarter, though the pass was a bit high.
It wasn't clear who would carry the ball for the Rams. Second-round rookie Cam Akers was the favorite, and he received the first attempt, but he ended up looking rather pedestrian, mustering only 39 yards on 14 carries. His teammate, Malcolm Brown, was far more impressive. Brown tallied 79 yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts, while also catching three passes for 31 receiving yards.
Of course, anyone the Rams could've run would pale in comparison to Ezekiel Elliott, who had a great night considering that his team trailed throughout. Elliott barely just missed out on the century mark, rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, numbers that were very impressive considering that the Cowboys were down multiple offensive linemen from last year while going up against a terrible Rams defensive front.
While Elliott played well considering the circumstances, Dak Prescott did not. Prescott was rattled by the pressure at times, going 25-of-39 for 266 yards and a touchdown. To be fair, he should've thrown a second touchdown, but the receiver on the play, Elliott, was ruled down shy of the goal line upon replay review. Elliott scored on the ground during the next play. Also, Prescott appeared to hit Michael Gallup for what would set up the game-winning touchdown, but Gallup was flagged for offensive pass interference, a call that was panned by the announcers.
Speaking of Gallup, he was third on the team in receiving yards, finishing with three grabs for 50 yards. Amari Cooper (10-81) led the way, while Lamb (5-59) had a big first half, but didn't do much after intermission. Meanwhile, there was some very unfortunate news, as tight end Blake Jarwin (1-12) may have torn his ACL.
While the Dallas players could have performed well, the worst aspect of the team was on the sidelines, as Mike McCarthy made a horrible decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 in the red zone while down three in the final quarter. Kicking a chip-shot field goal would've tied the game, but McCarthy was unnecessarily aggressive, and it ended up costing him in his Dallas debut.
Steelers 26, Giants 16
All eyes were on Ben Roethlisberger, as the future Hall of Fame quarterback hadn't played a healthy game of football in two years. Roethlisberger didn't look great to start the evening, but something clicked just prior to the 2-minute warning. Roethlisberger put together an impressive scoring drive to go into intermission and then continued that momentum into the second half. In fact, he couldn't miss his receivers. Roethlisberger was 9-of-11 for 84 yards and a touchdown following intermission, as he constantly abused the Giants with crossing routes that completely befuddled them. Roethlisberger's great rhythm helped expand this lead to 16 before the game was effectively finished.
Roethlisberger's final numbers were 21-of-32 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. It wasn't the most impressive performance, and skeptics can still argue that Roethlisberger isn't 100 percent, but there's no arguing that he's far better than the decrepit quarterback we saw struggle mightily against the Patriots and Seahawks last year.
Roethlisberger wasn't the only Steeler in the backfield attempting to return from injury. James Conner was very banged up last year, which is why he had a chip on his shoulder entering this contest. Unlike Roethlisberger, however, Conner had a miserable showing. He was given six carries, which he turned into just nine yards. Adding injury to insult, he was knocked out of the game with some sort of health issue.
Luckily for the Steelers, they have another talented running back behind Conner. In fact, it was very evident tonight that this other back was the far better option. That would be Benny Snell, who was a second-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Snell worked out very hard this summer, landing high on my 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers list. Snell rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries. He's now sitting atop my Fantasy Football Add/Drop list.
The Steelers also have some talented second-day selections at receiver, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, who hauled in six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Something you won't find on the stat sheet is that Smith-Schuster pounced on a Snell fumble that saved the game for the Steelers. Meanwhile, Diontae Johnson (6-57) posted decent numbers, but made some mistakes. He muffed a punt that set up a field goal and then dropped a pass. James Washington (2-34) found the end zone.
While the Steelers celebrated this win, the dark cloud over the victory was an injury that right tackle Zach Banner suffered. Banner was playing very well, but was carted into the locker room in the fourth quarter. The Steelers will need David DeCastro to return; otherwise, they'll be down two offensive linemen against the Broncos next week.
Meanwhile, the Giants led for a chunk of this game, but ended up losing by 10 following a garbage-time touchdown. Still, this team should be proud of how it performed. The Giants went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the NFL, and they may have won if they didn't suffer some bad luck. For example, New York should have scored an early touchdown on a fumble, but the officials blew the call, and new head coach Joe Judge didn't challenge it. The Giants were later in position to score a touchdown after an impressive 19-play drive, but Daniel Jones' arm was hit by Bud Dupree, and the ball sailed into the arms of a Pittsburgh defensive lineman.
Jones had an up-and-down game, going 26-of-41 for 279 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The Dupree-forced pick wasn't really his fault, though better ball protection could've been utilized. The other pick was definitely on Jones, as he didn't see T.J. Watt dropping into coverage. Still, Jones played mostly well against one of the top defenses in the NFL. The Giants should be encouraged by what they saw tonight.
Jones' performance is more impressive when considering that the offensive line couldn't open up anything for Saquon Barkley versus Pittsburgh's stalwart front. Barkley ran 15 times, yet accumulated just six rushing yards. Fortunately for Barkley owners, the dynamic back did well in the passing game, catching six balls for 60 yards.
Barkley was second on the team in receiving trailing only Darius Slayton, who had a monstrous performance. The second-year dynamic wideout hauled in six of his nine targets for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Slayton is an amazing talent who is poised for a huge 2020 campaign.
Conversely, Evan Engram needs to rebound from a dismal showing. Engram, who caught two passes for only nine yards, dropped a pass and was guilty of offensive pass interference. He also was part of a miscommunication with Jones in the end zone, ruining a potential touchdown.
Titans 16, Broncos 14
Despite the low score, this was a wild game that could have gone in so many directions. The popular narrative is that this contest wouldn't have been close had former Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski not missed three field goals (one blocked) and an extra point. However, the Broncos endured some bad luck as well. For instance, Tennessee's first touchdown of the game occurred because Melvin Gordon lost a fumble while up 7-0. Drew Lock later missed a wide-open tight end for a score, ultimately turning the ball over on downs when a poorly executed flip pass caused the receiving tight end to be stuffed. That wasn't all, as Jerry Jeudy dropped two deep passes, both of which would've helped Denver prevail.
The Broncos ended up with a lead, but a final, impressive drive by Ryan Tannehill allowed the Titans to reach the red zone. Gostkowski was given one last chance to keep his job, and he connected on a chip-shot kick to give Tennessee the decisive score.
The Titans, who were a heavily bet public favorite, did not play well. However, they got the win, and that's what matters. Tennessee was missing some key players, including Adoree Jackson, Vic Beasley, Rashaan Evans (ejected) and Taylor Lewan (injured during the game), so the team should perform better when everyone returns.
Tannehill had a mixed game, going 29-of-43 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He did well to move the chains when it counted at the very end, though he missed a wide-open A.J. Brown in the end zone.
Speaking of Brown, the talented receiver was third on the receiving list with five grabs for 39 yards. He also drew an interference flag. His fantasy owners will be lamenting that poor pass from Tannehill. They'll also be frustrated to see that Corey Davis had a much better game. Davis, who had done nothing in his career ahead of the 2020 season, somehow reeled in seven receptions for 101 yards.
Derrick Henry also cracked the century plateau, but he didn't have much room to run. Henry simply got there on volume, as he tallied 116 yards on 31 carries.
The Broncos entered this game with the goal of splitting carries between their two backs, and that's exactly what they did in the opening half. Phillip Lindsay had one more attempt than Gordon, but he left the game with an injury. Gordon handled the entire workload following intermission, registering 78 yards and a touchdown on 15 tries.
Like Tannehill, Lock had a mixed output. He went 22-of-33 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He looked sharp at times, and his stats would've been better had Jeudy not dropped two deep passes. Conversely, Lock missed two wide-open teammates for touchdowns, and he had a potential interception dropped, which would've been the byproduct of him throwing off his back foot. It was odd, as Lock looked confident at times and then would be skittish for a drive. Perhaps this should be expected, as Lock doesn't have much experience.
Speaking of Jeudy, his line of four catches for 56 yards should've been much better. Jeudy is a smart receiver with good hands, so he should be able to shore up his mistakes. Jeudy finished only behind Noah Fant on the receiving list. Fant was a monster, logging five receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.