Week One Was Great
The NFL is here! The season is in full effect, and week one was phenomenal. On Thursday we were gifted a nail-biter (kind of) between two solid teams, then Sunday came and blew our socks off. We had deep bombs, rookie breakout games, and huge defensive performances. Not to mention, after just one week, we have a few players making a case for comeback player of the year (ahem, Jameis Winston, CMC, Chandler Jones, ahem) with some fantastic performances.
On the other end of the spectrum, we had perennial all-pro players playing like rookies against a Belichick defense, bone head plays, and just some overall stinkers in the stat sheet. Let’s take a journey through some of the best and worst performances from week one!
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Thursday Night Football
Let’s start this with the season opener. Cowboys & Buccaneers may have been the game of the week. We had some great offense, and I want to highlight the performance of three players: Dak Prescott, Rob Gronkowski, & Amari Cooper. Gronk came in and gave a vintage performance, truly showing how great the connection is between him and Brady. They connected eight times for two touchdowns (one of them being Brady and Gronks’ 100th TD connection) and 90 yards. If you watched the TNF game, you got two Gronk spikes; what more do you need?
As for Dak & Amari, they were on the losing side of this one, but dadgum (Phillip Rivers voice) did they have a good performance! Dak came in and set the tone for NFL quarterbacks in week one, throwing for 403 yards & three TDs. 13 of his 42 completions were to his #1 target, Amari Cooper. No one had more receptions and he took those 13 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Those guys are certified studs.
Early Sunday Slate
The three guys I am going to highlight here are all on the same team: the Arizona Cardinals. They might have had the best performance of any team this weekend. The three studs from this game? Kyler Murray, Deandre Hopkins, & Chandler Jones. These guys went full-on monster mode against the Titans. Kyler Murray tossed four TDs with 289 yards through the air and added another 20 yards and a TD on the ground!
Five total TDs and that puts you in the stud status, no doubt about it. He couldn’t have done it without Nuk, either. He had six catches, 83 yards, and two TDs, including a miraculous play from the pair that truly might be shown on replays the rest of the year. I am talking DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket commercial highlight reel stuff.
Now, Chandler Jones needed his own paragraph. This guy is well-deserving of the nod this week. Jones sacked Tannehill as many times as the human hand has fingers. Jones also added two forced fumbles that were both recovered by the Cardinal’s defense, including a huge scoop and score in the early part of the game. All of this in just three quarters as the game quickly got out of hand. Just two sacks away from Derrick Thomas’s record for sacks in a game, it is safe to say Jones put in work!
Cam Heyward (12 QB pressures, one sack, one forced fumble), Joe Mixon (150 total yards & one TD), Russell Wilson (18/23, 254 yards, four TDs)
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I am going to display a little bit of bias here, but the performances of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Chris Joes need to be highlighted. After a tough matchup against the Cleveland Browns, they earned a spot on the studs list. Patrick Mahomes passed for 337 yards through the air, added 18 more on the ground, and scored four TDs with no turnovers. Helping him accomplish this was Kelce (six/76/two TD) and The Cheetah with 11 grabs, 197 yards, and a 75 yard TD that turned the tide of the game.
Chris Jones made a switch to defensive end this offseason and his performance on Sunday proves that this move should have happened much sooner. Jones had three tackles, two sacks, and two TFL. Jones was a game wrecker. His impact was felt most on his sack of Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter, immediately after Hill’s 75-yard TD. A few plays later, the Browns punter, Jamie Gillan, fumbled a snap and set up the game-winning TD for the Chiefs.
The later part of Sunday also featured special performances from Jameis Winston & Cooper Kupp. On Sunday, Winston tossed five touchdowns in a total beatdown of the Green Bay Packers. I am not surprised Winston had success with the Saints offense – they have a great OL and fantastic weapons – what surprised me is that he outmatched the reigning league MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Winston is a certified stud!
Cooper Kupp joins him too! The LA Rams receiver was targeted ten times from Matthew Stafford, catching seven for 108 and a TD. Kupp had his way with the Chicago Bears defense. The mighty slot receiver showed that he could be the #1 option in LA this season.
Deebo Samuel (nine rec, 189 yards, one TD), Nick Chubb (15 carries, 83 yards, two TDs, two rec. for 18 yards), Melvin Gordon (11 carries, three receptions, 118 total yards, 70 yd TD run)
What a crazy game! After a thriller to start week one, it was only fitting that we cap the week off with an OT classic. I have to give props to Derek Carr, Darren Waller, & Maxx Crosby in this one. Darren Waller was the lifeblood of the Raiders offense serving as the only sure-handed target for Derek Carr. He put up some nice numbers too, double-digit catches, over 100 yards, and a TD to put a stamp on his night.
Derek Carr not only got Waller the ball but he stuff the stat sheet himself in a huge win. Derek Carr is currently the league’s leading passer with 435 yards. He paired that with two TD passes, including the game-winner to Bryan Edwards in OT. He did not start well but turned from dud to stud in the 2nd half.
As for Crosby, he was the MVP of the game. He worked Alejandro Villanueva on the right side of the Ravens line getting to Lamar Jackson repeatedly. Racking up four QB hits & two sacks, he was a constant presence in the pocket. For most of the second half, Lamar Jackson looked uncomfortable and the result shows. Mad Maxx did his thing and earns the title of STUD this week.
To have great performances, there have to be a few poor ones that help them stick out. There certainly were a few this past Sunday. Obviously, these guys compete at the highest level in their trade. I feel like this is comparable to critiquing Bill Gates about Windows Vista or Sony Pictures about Spider-Man 3 (original). Yeah, it sucked, but I could never do better. Anyways, here are the duds from week one!
With all of the excitement in Thursday’s game, it is hard to imagine that there were any duds. I am here to tell you there most definitely were. Let’s start with Mike Evans, wow! The most talented option on the best receiving corps of the league put up 24 yards on three catches.
All of the success of his teammates sort of made him seem like an afterthought. The big-bodied receiver did not get any love in the red zone where he usually thrives and will need a nice game next week against the Falcons to bounce back and exit the dud category.
At least Evans got the win, which is more than Ezekiel Elliott and Greg Zuerlein can say! Zeke had a terrible night only getting 13 touches total for 39 yards. It never seemed like he could get the running game going behind the Cowboy’s offensive line. Credit has to go to the Buccaneer’s front seven also, but you expect a player like Zeke to be the playmaker we have seen in the past. As for Zuerlein, it is not often you find a kicker on lists like these, but Greg the Leg was especially bad missing an extra point try and two field goals from 60 and a huge 31-yard shank in a one-point loss.
MVD: Most Valuable Duds
I just want to highlight a few poor performances from a former and reigning MVP, Matt Ryan & Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan set the stage for this weekend’s stinkers. Ryan completed 60% of his passes for 164 yards, was sacked three times, and fumbled. Wow, not the Sunday morning he was expecting to have against the Eagles, that’s for sure. I would like to add that his line did him no favors, but he is a former MVP. The 35-year-old QB has the tools and the offensive weapons to succeed and he did the complete opposite. For that, he is a Week One dud!
On to the reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers. I do not like being too critical of a Super Bowl-winning QB, but the man was dreadful this Sunday. He put the L in loser if you catch my drift. After completing just north of 50% of his passes, he failed to throw a TD and had two interceptions.
That is already 40% of his INT total from 2020 and he didn’t even finish the game, Jordan Love had to come in and wrap up the loss for the Packers. Not a great look for the guy who threw a mega-tantrum this offseason.
Performances To Forget
If you started the next few guys, I feel bad for you, son. They got 99 problems and they’re all related to their Week One performances. Let us start with Brandon Aiyuk, in a game where his team scored 41 points against the lowly Lions, he managed to not contribute a single yard or point to the effort. To be clear, he didn’t touch the ball or even see a target!
Taylor Lewan, left tackle for the Tennessee Titans, was absolutely obliterated by Chandler Jones of the Cardinals (see above). He went so far as to offer a public apology for his performance. He went so far as to thank Jones for manhandling him at the line of scrimmage. The guy is coming off of a season-ending injury last year, but that doesn’t save you from being a complete dud.
Speaking of returning from injury, Saquon Barkley joins the dud club! With his ten carries for under 30 yards, he disappointed Giants fans and fantasy football teams everywhere. To be honest, this is right where Saquon left us last season with back-to-back underwhelming performances before he was injured for the season. The longer this lasts, the more his rookie year will feel like a fluke.
Monday Night Duds
There are only two players worth highlighting from Monday Night’s game, Alejandro Villanueva & Mark Andrews. Villaneuva earned a spot on this list for what he allowed Maxx Crosby to do against the Ravens. I was beginning to wonder whether or not Pittsburgh sent him as a spy to sabotage the Raven’s OL because the guy was a turnstile. He looked slow and out of sorts. Hopefully, some more time with the offense will help his performance for Lamar’s sake.
Now, Mark Andrews is supposed to be the security blanket for Lamar Jackson. Instead, we rarely saw him open, and of his five targets, he was only able to muster three catches for 20 yards. On a weekend where we saw big games from Kelce, Waller, Kittle, and Gronk, Andrews proved why he is not on the same tier as them yet.