Football is back! The NFL finally made its triumphant return. Between social justice initiatives, COVID-19 protocols and a lack of fans, it felt very different, but it was still fun to watch an entertaining weekend of football. I want to touch on those social justice initiatives before I dive into actual football. It is a nice gesture by the league and its players, but I really think more needs to be done. The conversation has been started and players are clearly passionate about the issue, but I would like to see the league do something more substantive than playing different songs and putting names on their helmets. The NFL is the most powerful sports league and one of the most powerful businesses in the world. Baltimore had one of the best calls to action of any team I have seen. I hope we see more of this. This conversation cannot afford to stop.
Amidst the conversation, hopefully we can discuss some football as well. We saw some major clashes, unexpected upsets and lots of big plays. With one week of action officially behind us, here is how the league stands.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 34-20 vs. Houston
The champs are here! Kansas City opened its title defense with a convincing win over Houston. Patrick Mahomes tossed three touchdown passes and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire looked like the real deal. After one week of action, he leads the league in rushing yards. There are definitely still question marks on the defense, especially with Charvarius Ward suffering a hand injury. However, the front seven is good enough to mask some of those concerns. And if he needs to, Andy Reid can just ask the offense to outscore pretty much any team they face.
2. Baltimore Ravens: 1-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 38-6 vs. Cleveland
It didn’t take long for Lamar Jackson to recapture his MVP form. He completed 80 percent of his passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He added 45 yards rushing to lead the team. The backfield was a bit of a mess, but given the game situation, it was perhaps a little too predictable as to when Baltimore would run the ball down the stretch. Holding the Browns to just a touchdown is an impressive way for the defense to start as well. The Ravens get a tougher test with a road game against the Texans in Week 2.
3. New Orleans Saints: 1-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 34-23 vs. Tampa Bay
Well that should quiet the hype. After a long offseason of chatter surrounding the Buccaneers, the Saints reminded everyone that the division still belongs to them. It was about as good of a performance as New Orleans could have hoped for defensively. They picked off Tom Brady twice and sacked him three times. That doesn’t even include the recovered fumble on a nifty special teams play. For as good as the defense was though, there is some cause for concern for the offense. Drew Brees threw for 160 yards, his fewest since 2018. It was his fewest while attempting at least 30 passes since 2013. Sean Payton has already voiced his displeasure regarding how he called the game and how the offense played. On top of that, Michael Thomas suffered an ankle injury late in the game. It was nice to get a win, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
4. Seattle Seahawks: 1-0 (Last Week: 6)
Won 38-25 at Falcons
Be prepared to hear the phrase “Let Russ Cook” a lot this season if the Seahawks keep scoring points like this. Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in a comfortable victory over the Falcons. Defensively, new addition Jamal Adams was all over the field. He racked up 12 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Seattle has plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball to win a lot of games this year. Hopefully the defense, which gave up 450 yards passing to Matt Ryan, will tighten up as the year goes on.
5. Green Bay Packers: 1-0 (Last Week: 8)
Won 43-34 at Minnesota
Reminder: Aaron Rodgers is still really good at football. Granted, it was against a completely remodeled Vikings secondary, complete with two rookie cornerbacks, but posting a league-high 43 points in Week 1 is a good way to quiet the critics. While Rodgers made it a habit of throwing to Davante Adams early and often (17 targets for 14 catches, 156 yards and two TDs), he got some production from his other receivers too. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdez-Scantling both found the end zone. One sign of trouble though still showed up. Green Bay’s defense gave up a leauge-worst 6.1 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns. It is clear that the Achilles heel of the team from last year has not been fixed yet.
6. Buffalo Bills: 1-0 (Last Week: 9)
Won 27-17 vs. New York
I am pretty sure this is the highest I have ever ranked Buffalo. The Bills comfortably cruised past the Jets in Week 1 in an impressive defensive showing. A sizable win over an inept team is nothing to get excited about, but Sean McDermott’s group took care of business. It was far from perfect though. Josh Allen fumbled twice and the running backs struggled to get on track. Buffalo running backs ran for a dismal 2.3 yards per carry. Thankfully, the Bills get another week to figure it out before their schedule really gets tough. They face a trip to Miami before hosting the Rams.
7. San Francisco 49ers: 0-1 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 24-20 vs. Arizona
Welcome to the Super Bowl hangover. It’s important not to panic yet in San Francisco. This was a close game against an up-and-coming division rival. The 49ers have been decimated by injuries at the skill positions. Deebo Samuel hit the IR. Brandon Aiyuk is nursing a hamstring issue. George Kittle suffered a knee injury during the game. Jimmy Garoppolo does not get a free pass, but it might be a few weeks before we can really evaluate this team.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-0 (Last Week: 10)
It took quite a while for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to knock off the rust. You could argue they never really did. Pittsburgh clearly was not hitting on all cylinders early on in the game. However, the defense stepped up like it did for much of last season. Keith Butler had the unit flying around wreaking havoc. The Steelers sacked Daniel Jones three times, hit him seven times and came up with a pair of interceptions. If the offense can find its groove earlier in games, this Steelers team is going to be tough to beat.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-1 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 34-23 at New Orleans
Through the first few drives, it really seemed like this Bucs team was as good as advertised. Then the lack of familiarity set in. Tom Brady was not sharp, with a pick-six and some horribly thrown passes. The running game was inconsistent. Todd Bowles’ defense was asked to do too much with turnovers leading to a short field for the Saints far too often. There are still positives here. The usually high-powered New Orleans offense was held to just 271 yards. If Tampa can cut out the turnovers, it should have no problem bouncing back.
10. Tennessee Titans: 1-0 (Last Week: 11)
Won 16-14 at Denver
The kicking woes are back! Tennessee should have comfortably won this game, but three missed field goals and one missed extra point from Stephen Gostkowski almost cost them. He just about made up for it by hitting the game-winner though. Outside of special teams woes, the Titans were not efficient offensively and had too many drives stall after reaching the opponent’s side of the field. Mike Vrabel’s defense did it’s job, limiting Melvin Gordon and stepping up near the goal line. That secondary must grow up fast though. The unit could have been hurt a lot worse if not for two Jerry Jeudy drops. This was a sluggish start to the year for Tennessee.
11. Los Angeles Rams: 1-0 (Last Week: 17)
Won 20-17 vs. Dallas
All the questions around the Rams this offseason were about the offense. Could the offensive line get back to its 2018 form? Is Jared Goff really a franchise quarterback? Who will take over in the backfield after Todd Gurley’s release? The offense is still a work in progress, but the defense showed out on Sunday night. Holding the Cowboys to just 17 points is an impressive way to get the season started. Three sacks and seven quarterback hits kept Dak Prescott from truly settling in. The offensive potential paired with this type of defensive performance is promising for the Rams going forward.
12. New England Patriots: 1-0 (Last Week: 14)
Won 21-11 at Miami
It is a new day in New England. Gone is Tom Brady, replaced by Cam Newton. Predictably, the Patriots offense looked very different as a result. Cam ran the ball 15 times and attempted just 19 passes. He was highly effective as the Pats rumbled for over 200 yards as a team. It is too soon say if the impressive defensive showing was a product of great play or facing an overmatched Dolphins offense. New England gets a much tougher test with a trip to Seattle up next.
13. Dallas Cowboys: 0-1 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 20-17 at Los Angeles
All the talk about this incredible offense went out the window as Dallas struggled to score in Week 1. Dak Prescott was supposed to put the league on notice with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Someone forgot to tell the Rams though. Injuries are already piling up as well. La’el Collins was already on IR. He is now joined by Leighton Vander Esch and Blake Jarwin. While there were a few bright spots, this was close to worst-case scenario for the Cowboys.
14. Arizona Cardinals: 1-0 (Last Week: 21)
Won 24-20 at San Francisco
After a dynamic offense added a big-name playmaker in DeAndre Hopkins, the expectations started to build for Arizona. Through one week, the Cardinals delivered. Knocking off the defending NFC champions on the road (whatever that really means in 2020) is a great way to indicate that the preseason hype was well deserved. Hopkins went off for 14 catches and 151 yards. Kyler Murray was far from perfect, but made more than enough big plays to lead the offense against a good 49ers defense. This is a great start for this young Cardinals team. With a couple of winnable games coming up, Arizona might just get on a roll here.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: 0-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 27-17 at Washington
That was underwhelming. Philadelphia blew a 17-0 lead and watched the injuries stack up. That second part makes this particularly difficult to evaluate. The Eagles were without Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, Derek Barnett, Alshon Jeffrey and Javon Hargrave entering the content. Jack Driscoll, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham all left the game on Sunday. Carson Wentz was under siege with both Johnson and Driscoll out as a result. Washington sacked him eight times in the contest. He has to play better, but he needs a lot more help from his offensive line if he is going to survive the season.
16. Minnesota Vikings: 0-1 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 43-34 vs. Green Bay
Could you tell the Vikings were a little green in the cornerback department? Mike Hughes returned from injury. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler made their first NFL appearances. Without a preseason, the group was not ready for Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Unfortunately, it is going to take the young corners a few weeks to gel. Minnesota needs to improve and quickly if it hopes to keep the hopes of another postseason run alive.
17. Houston Texans: 0-1 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 34-20 at Kansas City
It wasn’t pretty, but what did you expect from the Texans? Houston made a bad offseason trade to land David Johnson, sending DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. It was clear right away that Deshaun Watson missed his favorite target. Being overmatched by the defending Super Bowl champions should not be a shock. What Houston does next is what matters. Unfortunately, the schedule won’t get any easier with the Ravens and Steelers up next. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Expect the pressure to keep building on Bill O’Brien with each loss.
18. Denver Broncos: 0-1 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 16-14 vs. Tennessee
New year, same late-game heartbreak for the Broncos. Vic Fangio mismanaged the clock in the closing minutes to cost Denver a chance to come back. After all the excitement surrounding the Broncos offense, this was a bit of a lackluster debut. Drew Lock was efficient, but far from spectacular. Melvin Gordon picked up more than 30 percent of his rushing yards on one run. Thankfully, the defense picked up the slack and Stephen Gostkowski forgot how to kick. Derrick Henry did rumble for 116 yards, but it took him 31 carries. Denver kept it close, but that only counts in horseshoes.
19. Atlanta Falcons: 0-1 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 38-25 vs. Seattle
Turns out that throwing a bunch of rookies out to defend Russell Wilson is not a great plan. Atlanta should be encouraged by the start for its offense though. Matt Ryan leads the NFL after one week with 450 yards passing. Once again, it was the secondary that held the Falcons back. Tak McKinnley was the only player to register a pass deflection for the defense. Dan Quinn saved his job last year with how the Falcons played down the stretch. Losing to one of the best teams in the league won’t put him at risk yet, but the defense needs to step up quickly. Dallas is up next.
20. Las Vegas Raiders: 1-0 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 20-16 vs. Jacksonville
A new era is underway for the Raiders. Las Vegas won it’s first game since relocating, but it wasn’t always pretty. The Panthers were breaking in a new coach, quarterback and defense, yet the Raiders needed a late touchdown to seal the win. Josh Jacobs looked like a bellcow back, toting the rock 25 times and scoring a career-high three touchdowns. The defense is still a work in progress. Carolina tallied 31 points and hit on a 75-yard passing touchdown. In a division featuring the proven Chiefs and the promising Broncos, Vegas is going to need to figure things out on the back end.
21. Chicago Bears: 0-1 (Last Week 23)
Won 27-23 at Detroit
For three quarters, the Bears looked hapless on offense. Detroit led 23-6 entering the fourth quarter. Mitchell Trubisky conjured up some Nick Foles-type magic with the three touchdown passes in the final period to somehow lead Chicago to a win. It helped that the Bears played a Lions team who had a tendency for collapsing late last season. Chicago almost blew the comeback too. Lions’ rookie D’Andre Swift had the game-winning touchdown in his hands with 11 seconds left and dropped it. This win should not inspire too much confidence in this team, but a road divisional victory is never a bad thing.
22. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-0 (Last Week: 25)
Won 16-13 at Cincinnati
It was ugly, but the Chargers started their 2020 season with a win. Tyrod Taylor posted a woeful 26.5 QBR and failed to find the end zone. Thankfully, rookie running back Joshua Kelly stepped up down the stretch and scored Los Angeles’ only touchdown. The defense looked solid, forcing a fumble and holding the Bengals to just 13 points. However, this game should have gone to overtime. If not for an injury suffered by Randy Bullock on the potential game-tying field goal, Cincy would’ve extended the contest. This is still a rebuilding year for the Chargers and it looks like it is going to be rough.
23. Cleveland Browns: 0-1 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 38-6 at Baltimore
Oh boy. Losing to the Ravens is understandable. Losing by 32 is not. Baker Mayfield struggled again and the banged up Browns secondary stood no chance against Lamar Jackson. While this was a brutal way to start the season, I don’t think we will see Cleveland blown out like this too often. Baltimore built an early lead and Kevin Stefanski had to abandon the run. If the defense can get healthy and prevent an early deficit, this team should be much more competitive. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 132 yards rushing on 5.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately, the little bit of buzz about Cleveland turning things vanished quickly.
24. Indianapolis Colts: 0-1 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 27-20 at Jacksonville
The Colts might be in a lot of trouble. 19.33 percent of their cap is tied up in two quarterbacks who are likely not the future at the position. Philip Rivers struggled mightily against a stripped down Jaguars defense on Sunday in his first start with the team. Those two interceptions he threw were incredibly costly as the Colts lost by seven to the team just about everyone in the football world viewed as one of the three worst in the NFL. Indy is close to having a roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl (they could use an upgrade at corner), but lack a championship-caliber quarterback. On top of that, Marlon Mack is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Terrible start for Indianapolis.
25. Washington: 0-1 (Last Week: 31)
Won 27-17 vs. Philadelphia
Good coaching makes a huge difference apparently. That is far from a new concept in the NFL or any sport for that matter, but Ron Rivera provided a great example of it in Washington. This would have been the most shocking result of the weekend if not for the Jaguars knocking off the Colts. Even with all the Eagles’ injuries, it was an impressive showing. Washington followed San Francisco’s blueprint to defense building with a deep and talented defensive line. The offense was rough to say the least. Dwayne Haskins barely completed 50 percent of his passes and the team averaged a league-worst 2.2 yards per carry. There is room for optimism, but Washington has a lot of room for improvement as well.
26. New York Giants: 0-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 26-16 vs. Pittsburgh
The Giants offensive line continues to be an issue. Dave Gettleman invested significant resources in Daniel Jones’ protection, but with Nate Solder opting out and no preseason, the unit has not had time to gel. Facing an aggressive Steelers defense was not the best way to break it in either. Pittsburgh sacked Jones three times and Saquon Barkley was held to the second-fewest rushing yards of his career with six positive yards on 15 carries. Jones had some good moments and looked much better than last year, but New York is still clearly at least a year away from truly competing.
27. Detroit Lions: 0-1 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 27-23 vs. Chicago
Matt Patricia’s seat is unquestionably the hottest in the league right now. Detroit blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead in spectacular fashion. D’Andre Swift had the chance to be a hero and erase the collapse, but dropped the ball in the end zone. Matthew Stafford did not look sharp in his return from injury and the defense got shredded. For all the improvements the Lions made in the offseason, they are still in the NFC North cellar.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-0 (Last Week: 32)
Won 27-20 vs. Indianapolis
Forget tanking. Trevor Lawrence can go rescue a different franchise. Gardner Minshew has this under control! I am somewhat kidding, but it was a masterful performance from the second-year quarterback. He completed 19 of his 20 passes for three touchdowns. James Robinson looked solid in NFL debut and Jacksonville suddenly has a decent group of receivers to work with. First-round pick CJ Henderson is already paying dividends with an interception in his first game. This team is definitely not built to compete for a division title, but they might not be as far away from the pack as we all initially thought.
29. Carolina Panthers: 0-1 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 34-30 vs. Las Vegas
This was almost a dream start for the new-look Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater engineered a pair of scoring drives to take a fourth quarter lead, but the defense could not hold up down the stretch. Still, there were a lot of positives to take away from this game. Bridgewater acclimated decently well to his new system. Robby Anderson provided the field-stretching ability Carolina had been hoping for. The defense still has a long way to go though. Giving up 34 points and failing to register a sack or turnover is a tough start. With so many new starters though, there were always going to be growing pains. In time, this Panthers team should be just fine.
30. Miami Dolphins: 0-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 21-11 at New England
Ryan Fitzpatrick did what he often does when he enters Year 2 with a team: he fell apart. Three interceptions and no touchdowns is not how the veteran quarterback would have wanted to start the season. Defensively, Miami held New England to just 21 points, but surrendered a league-high 217 rushing yards. However, the offensive line that was terrible a year ago gave up just one sack and Myles Gaskins flashed some potential. This rebuild was always going to take a few years, but this was an uninspiring start.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 16-13 vs. Los Angeles
The Joe Burrow era is underway and already there is more optimism around this team than there was all of last year. Burrow had his far share of mistakes, but he scored a rushing touchdown and led the team on a potential game-tying drive before Randy Bullock missed the field goal. Cincy was never going to turn things around quickly. Patience is going to be needed with this team.
32. New York Jets: 0-1 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 27-17 at Buffalo
A quick glance at the scoreline does not tell you the full story for the Jets. New York had just three points at halftime, Sam Darnold posted a worrisome 19.3 QBR and the running game floundered even before Le’Veon Bell exited with a hamstring injury. Defensively, the Jets came up with two important fumbles, but otherwise did not have an answer for Josh Allen. Adam Gase should have been fired a year ago and the Jets seem to be set for another mediocre season. The fact that in Year 3, New York does not know if Sam Darnold is truly a franchise quarterback is pathetic. It didn’t take long for the Jets to end up back in the NFL’s basement.