As Week 1 comes to a close, it is time to take a deeper look into the league and see what the week showed us. From the impact of injuries, to players having bigger roles than expected; here is what we learned from Week 1.
The Tennessee Titans Offensive Struggles Continue
It was a nightmare week 1 for the Tennessee Titans. The game lasted for more than 7 hours due to lightning delays, but that was the least of the teams issues. Marcus Mariota, the team's Quarterback, suffered a shoulder injury on a controversial hit while handing the ball off. Mariota tried to play through the injury, but eventually was replaced by backup Blaine Gabbert. Mariota finished the day completing 9 of 16 passes for 103 yards and 2 INT’s. Gabbert was not much better, completing 11 of 22 passes for 117 yards and 1 INT. Mariota is expected return in the coming weeks, possibly as soon as next week, where he will need to redeem himself. Titans Pro-Bowl Left Tackle, Taylor Lewan, also went down with a scary concussion in the 3rd quarter; he is expected to return once he clears the concussion protocol. More bad news came during this game when Pro-Bowl Tight End Delanie Walker went down with a gruesome injury. Walker suffered a dislocation along with a fracture in his right ankle, ending his season. This is a huge blow to the Titans as Walker provided consistency and leadership to the offense (Pro Bowler past 3 seasons). The only bright spots in the Titans offense came from Dion Lewis (16 carries for 75 yards, 1 TD and 5 receptions for 35 yards) and Corey Davis (6 receptions for 62 yards) but both were overshadowed by the disappointing game. Derrick Henry struggled mightily rushing 10 times for 26 yards, raising flags for concerns. It is only one week into the 2018 season, so the Titans have plenty of time to bounce back. However, if Mariota cannot stay healthy and the team cannot produce a consistent offense, it will be a long season for Tennessee. Expect Dion Lewis and Corey Davis to see an increase in targets going forward without Delanie Walker in the vertical game. If Derrick Henry continues to not produce like expected, Dion Lewis will be in for a big workload through both the air and the ground. The Titans play a solid team in the Texans next week where both teams will try to avoid an 0-2 start.
Are the Kansas City Chiefs the NFL’s most exciting offense?
Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes had one of the most exciting season openers on Sunday. It started with a 91-yard punt return Touchdown by Tyreek Hill on Kansas City’s first touch of the year, but it did not stop there. Mahomes quickly found Hill in the passing game for a 58 yard Touchdown strike (first of Mahomes’ career) where Hill displayed his jaw dropping speed. Mahomes also found Hill again for a quick 1 yard Touchdown, Hill’s third of the day. Patrick Mahomes finished his debut with 256 yards and 4 TD’s, also managing 21 yards on the ground. Tyreek Hill finished with 268 all-purpose yards (169 receiving yards, 4 rushing yards, and 95 return yards) to pair with 3 TD’s. Kareem Hunt also added 49 yards on the ground on 16 carries, and Spencer Ware added 32 yards on 3 carries. Star Tight End, Travis Kelce, only managed 1 catch (6 targets) for 6 yards, but that will easily change going forward. The Chiefs put up a staggering 38 points against one the leagues better defenses - the Los Angeles Chargers - starting the year off with a win. It is going to be tough for the Chiefs to stop many teams defensively, but if the offense continues to shine they will not need to. The mix of Mahomes’ tremendous arm strength with the speed of Tyreek Hill, ability of Travis Kelce, and upside of Sammy Watkins will make for one of the most entertaining passing offenses. Throw in the awesome running duo of Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware; the Chiefs are set to score a lot of points this year. The Chiefs play the Steelers in Week 2, a matchup that should provide another high scoring outcome.
Veteran Running Backs - They still got it!
No doubt Hall of Famers Adrian Peterson (33) and Frank Gore (35) are both well removed from their primes, but find themselves in new uniforms with new opportunities in 2018. Both Running Backs led their team in rushing week 1. Adrian Peterson, 7 time Pro-Bowler and former MVP, played his first game for the Redskins on Sunday. Peterson rushed 26 times for 96 yards and a TD, while adding 70 yards through the air on 2 catches. Peterson looked elusive and still showed power as a running back despite only averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Peterson will not get 28 touches per game, but he was obviously a key part of the Redskins game plan. He will get most of the rushing attempts for the Redskins - especially on the goaline - as Chris Thompson is used out of the backfield for most passing situations. Based off what we saw during Week 1, the 13th year running back will be an important part of the offense, and if given enough touches he could put up solid numbers for the first time since 2015. Frank Gore, a 5 time Pro-Bowler now in his 14th season, has been one of the most consistent running back in NFL history. After rushing for 61 yards on 9 carries on Sunday, Gore is now just 14 yards away from being 4th all time in rushing yards. Kenyan Drake is currently the starting running back in Miami, but he has struggled being an every-down NFL back. Drake rushed 14 times for 48 yards (3.4 YPC) on Sunday, giving way to carries for Gore. If Drake’s struggles continue on the ground, Gore could see an increase in workload. Gore will be more than ready for this increase, as he has had 200+ carries every year since 2005 and has not missed a single game since 2010. Though he may see a decrease in carries this year while splitting snaps with Drake, Gore will most likely get close to 10+ touches a game and receive some goaline carries. Gore may see a reduction in his yearly statistics, but his efficiency and experience allows him to still be a very value asset for the Dolphins going forward. Both running backs have favorable matchups in Week 2 (Peterson vs. Colts, Gore vs. Jets).
Saquon Barkley is The Real Deal
If you watch Saquon Barkley’s 68 yard touchdown vs. the Jaguars (arguably the best defense in the NFL), you will know what I am talking about. The number 2 overall pick is a freak of nature, mixing speed, power and vision to create the perfect running back. If you had any doubt in the 21 year old, well week 1 should have proved you wrong. Barkley rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries, and caught 2 passes for 22 yards in the Giants defeat. Barkley became the first Giants running back to eclipse 100 yards in their debut, and his 68 yard touchdown was the longest by a Giants player in their debut as well. Rookie running backs have led the NFL in rushing yards each of the past two seasons (Ezekiel Elliott in 2016, Kareem Hunt in 2017), and Barkley has the potential to continue that sequence. Week 1 showed us that the Giants want, and need, to use Barkley a lot throughout the year. If Barkley can stay on the field and consistently get around 20 touches, well then we may be in the midst of one of the best rookie campaigns. Yes, we have only seen 1 game from Barkley, but his athleticism matched with a fantastic offensive line and a game plan that surrounds him could easily translate to the Rookie of the Year. The rookie is only going to get more experienced, so buckle your seat belt and hop aboard the Saquon Barkley hype train. Look for Barkley to have another big week against Dallas in Week 2.
The Buffalo Bills Have Serious Issues
To say the Bills struggled in their first game, well that would be quite the understatement. The Ravens demolished the Bills 47-3 in a game that gave Bills fans no hope for the season. Nathan Peterman started for the Bills and played horrible, again. Peterman went 5/18 for 24 yards and 2 INT’s (QBR of 0.7). Yikes. Rookie Josh Allen entered the game, and was better but not by a lot. Allen completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards and added 26 yards on the ground. Was Tyrod Taylor really the problem in Buffalo? Allen is a first round draft pick with a lot of potential, but no experience and little polish. To add their offensive struggles, LeSean McCoy rushed 7 times for just 22 yards while being out rushed by Marcus Murphy (6 rushes for 31 yards). Number 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin was targeted 7 times, but only managed to catch 1 ball for 10 yards.
It was a horrible game for everyone on the Bills on both sides of the field. The defense allowed 6 TD’s to Joe Flacco and crew, practically giving up by the second half. The Bills have a lot of work to do this upcoming season if they want to win, and they need to work fast. The current QB situation in Buffalo is trending towards one of the league’s worst. Pair that with a sub-par defense and a struggling offensive line; do not be surprised if the Bills get a top 3 draft pick next year. It does not get any easier next week for the Bills against the Chargers.
Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers in Packers victory
When Aaron Rodgers went down late in the 2nd quarter on Sunday night, Lambeau Field went silent. The 2 time MVP grabbed his left knee in agony, and the fears of a torn ACL passed through everyone’s mind. Rodgers was carted off the field, leaving fans certain he would not return. Well, he returned. Trailing 20-0 in the second half, Rodgers led his team to a 24-23 victory. Is anyone really surprised? Rodgers threw for 286 and 3 TD’s leading his team on practically 1 leg. Rodgers first TD pass to Geronimo Allison was a beauty, and let Davante Adams and Randall Cobb do their thing on his next 2 TD passes. Worth noting, Jimmy Graham only had 2 catches for 8 yards on the night. However, the top 3 Wide Receivers (Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Geronimo Allison) all had at least 5 catches and at least 65 yards. Rodgers has proved that he is a generational player when he is on the field, but after last nights scare it is clear that he cannot stay healthy. The Packers are going to need to protect Rodgers throughout the season, as everyone is beginning to hold their breath every time he is hit. If Aaron can play all 16 games this season, he is one of the front-runners for MVP, and immediately makes the Packers a Super Bowl contender. Rodgers has the weapons and skills to do both, but for now he has to focus on staying healthy. The Packers have a tough test next week against the Vikings.
Jets Snap Four Game Losing Streak with Impressive Victory.
As the Sunday games rounded up, all eyes shifted to Sam Darnold Monday night. Darnold is the 3rd overall draft pick and youngest Quarterback ever to start a season opener. Former USC Quarterback showed promise in the Preseason and beat out Josh McCown for the starting job. On his first career snap, Darnold made a name for himself by throwing a pick 6. It was not the start the Jets wanted, but the game-plan did not change and they quickly bounced back. The Jets won the game 48-17 against a newly coached Detroit Lions team. Darnold was impressive throughout the rest of the game, completing 16 of his next 20 passes for 198 yards and 2 TDs. The young QB gave Jets fans a thing they have not had in a long time… hope for the future. Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell were awesome on the ground, combining for 162 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries. The Jets defense was perhaps the best part of this game, accounting for 5 interceptions (Darron Lee - 2, Morris Claiborne, Trumaine Johnson, Jamal Adams) and a touchdown. Only one touchdown was given up by the defense (other TD was scored via Darnold INT), and they held the Lions to 39 rushing yards on 15 carries (2.6 YPC). It was a shocking performance by a team that only managed 5 wins in 2017. If Sam Darnold continues to impress and the defense continues to execute, we could be looking at a potential Wild Card team in the Jets. The Jets have great matchups in the next two weeks, facing the Dolphins in Week 2 and the Browns in Week 3..