The NFL arguably had its most exciting Week 1 in years, living up to the offseason hype generated by all the player movement over the spring and summer months. The league had five games decided by a game-winning score in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime, tied for the third-most such games in Week 1 (and the most since 2002).
Four teams overcame deficits of at least 10 points to win or tie in Week 1, the first time that happened in 20 years. 2022 kickoff weekend was also the fourth time that multiple teams overcame a deficit of at least 16 points to win or tie in Week 1, which has occurred three times in the last four years (2019 and 2020).
With all the madness in Week 1, it’s hard to gauge the outlook of each team after the opening week of the season. There are still some things to take away from each team, which we’ll unravel with Week 1 in the books.
Blitzing Patrick Mahomes was destined to fail: With no J.J. Watt available, the Cardinals threw the kitchen sink to try and stop Mahomes. Vance Joseph should have known that wasn’t going to work based on what Mahomes has shown in the past. The Cardinals blitzed Mahomes more than he had ever been in his entire career, and the Chiefs quarterback torched them for four touchdown passes against the blitz — and all five of his scores were against man coverage.
Mahomes was blitzed a league-high 54% of the time in Week 1. Teams have been avoiding blitzing Mahomes because of his success against it. The Cardinals tried the opposite.
That strategy should work other weeks, but not against arguably the best quarterback in the league.
Same old Falcons: The Falcons earn the crown of blowing huge leads, meaning the 28-3 meme won’t be going away any time soon. Atlanta took a 26-10 lead over New Orleans with 12:41 to play, yet allowed 16 unanswered points the rest of the way to fall to 0-1.
The Falcons had 13 plays for 68 yards during the collapse, while the defense allowed 213 yards after giving up just 172 yards in the previous nine possessions. Jameis Winston went 13 of 16 for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as the secondary all of a sudden became nonexistent. Jarvis Landry had 92 yards in the final quarter alone.
How historic is the Falcons collapse? Atlanta is 5-3 when leading by 15 points in the 4th quarter, but the rest of the NFL is 244-2-1. The Falcons have a new coach and front office, yet the franchise still finds a way to blow big leads. Some franchises are just cursed.
Lamar Jackson can pass: Like when Happy Gilmore taunts Shooter McGavin when making a putt in the tour championship, Jackson taunted the Jets defense with three touchdown throws in the season-opening win. Jackson rushed for just 17 yards and the Ravens had their fewest rushing yards in a game (63) since Jackson became the starting quarterback, yet he still threw for three touchdowns and finished with a 98.3 passer rating.
The touchdown passes came on three of four full drives, one being an impressive 55-yard toss to Rashad Bateman that sealed the win late in the third quarter. With no J.K. Dobbins and the Jets taking away Jackson’s ability to scramble for a big gain, Jackson relied on his MVP arm to win the game.
Contrary to popular belief, Jackson can throw the football. This offense is tailor made for him to toss a lot of touchdowns.
Von Miller is the difference maker Buffalo needed: The Bills had the Chiefs on the ropes with 13 seconds left, up three and on their way to the conference championship game. Then Patrick Mahomes happened.
Buffalo corrected that mistake by making the No. 1 defense in points and yards allowed even better, giving Buffalo a difference maker in the pass rush. The Bills had 19 pressures in the blowout win over the Rams while Los Angeles only had five. Jordan Phillips had more pressures (6) than the entire Rams defense, freed up in the interior because of the presence of Miller.
Miller finished with two sacks and gave the Rams offensive line fits all night. Buffalo has the edge rusher that’s going to close out games in the playoffs — and get the Bills to where they want to go come January.
Christian McCaffrey didn’t get the ball enough: Ben McAdoo needs to explain why McCaffrey had just 14 touches in a last-second loss to the Browns. McCaffrey had just 10 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 24 yards, which is simply not enough for a player that’s healthy and a difference-maker on the field.
When the Panthers had just six yards in the first quarter, McCaffrey touched the ball only twice. He had just four touches in a first half where Carolina scored only seven points (which was his touchdown).
Carolina hung Baker Mayfield out to dry with the high volume of passes. Those struggles could have been avoided by force-feeding McCaffrey for a stretch.
Justin Fields showed the improvisation we didn’t see in rookie year: Fields made the one play Trey Lance couldn’t make in Sunday’s win over the 49ers, finding a wide open Dante Pettis after escaping two San Francisco pass rushers in the backfield. The 2021 first-round pick scrambled and heaved a pass to his right — while rolling to his left — in the pouring rain. Pettis was wide open and ran it in for a 51-yard score, giving the Bears all the momentum needed in the upset win.
Fields threw for two touchdowns in the second half, completing 5 of 8 passes for 102 yards and two scores (145.8 rating) in crazy weather conditions. Luke Getsy’s scheme and play calling played a role, but Fields’s ability to improvise against an aggressive front was the difference in this one.
The Bears have a future with Fields. They just have to make sure they do right by him.
The offensive line still can’t protect Joe Burrow: Credit to Cincinnati for making the offensive line better this offseason by signing La’El Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras — creating a new right side of the line. Unfortunately the same problems exist for Cincinnati.
Burrow was sacked seven times in the loss to the Steelers, making that 14 in his last two games (counting the Super Bowl). The offensive line was supposed to be better — and it is talent wise — yet feel victim to an excellent Steelers front led by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. The unit allowed 16 pressures and 11 hurries, while allowing Burrow to get hit nine times.
Cincinnati allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season (70). Through one game in 2022, Burrow appears to be taking a lot of unnecessary hits again.
Dominant run game will carry them until Deshaun Watson returns: The Browns’ bread and butter is their run offense, one that finished with 39 carries for 217 yards (5.6 yards per carry). Nick Chubb had 22 carries for 141 yards while Kareem Hunt finished with 11 carries for 46 yards and a score.
The Browns had their way running the football behind an excellent run blocking offensive line, controlling the ball for 38:26 and using that to control the pace of the game against the Panthers.
Jacoby Brissett is good enough to manage the offense and make the plays necessary to win games, like on the final drive to set up Cade York’s game-winning field goal. If the Browns are going to compete in the AFC North and stay afloat, Chubb and Hunt need a high volume of touches like they received Sunday.
Jerry Jones did not address the issues on offense: Dak Prescott’s injury is the icing on the cake for the Cowboys woes on offense, all caused by Jones refusing to keep up with the times and build a roster around the quarterback. Paying Ezekiel Elliott $90 million over six years tied down the roster construction, leaving the Cowboys hole son the offensive line and at wide receiver.
The results were three points and 12 first downs, the worst marks since Dallas drafted Prescott in 2016. Dallas has an offensive line that can’t protect Prescott and no depth at wide receiver (James Washington and Michael Gallup are injured) for Prescott to trust.
With Prescott injured for an extended period, Dallas doesn’t have a backup quarterback that can keep them afloat either. Both backup quarterbacks were released and went unclaimed on waivers at roster cutdowns.
Jones had an opportunity to be creative with the cap and add depth on offense and didn’t. Dallas’s putrid offense is on him.
Red zone mistakes have to be corrected: Forget all of Nathaniel Hackett’s blunders at the end of the game, the Broncos had plenty of mistakes in the red zone that led to the shocking loss in Seattle. Denver was 0-for-4 in the red zone and 0-for-3 in goal-to-go situations, led by two fumbles at the 1-yard line on consecutive possessions that played a huge role in the one-point loss.
The Broncos had 10 goal-to-go plays, resulting in two fumbles and zero points. They are the first team to do this since the Chiefs in Week 3 of the 1987 season, showcasing how rare this ineptitude is.
Hackett has to be better in the red zone, which shouldn’t be hidden because of his poor clock management.
D’Andre Swift has created a dangerous run game: The Lions have a very good offensive line, even if they were missing Halapoulivaati Vaitai and had Frank Ragnow playing hurt Sunday. Running backs coach Duce Staley and offensive line coach Hank Fraley are aware how important a good running game is toward offensive success, which is why Staley was pressing Swift so hard in camp.
Swift is due for a breakout season, and is off to an excellent start after torching the Eagles defense for 144 rushing yards and a touchdown — averaging 9.6 yards per carry. The Lions ran for 181 yards as a team, the second-highest total in any game since Dan Campbell arrived.
Expect more big rushing performances from Detroit in 2022 with Swift getting the opportunity to lead a potent attack. His goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards is still to be determined.
Aaron Rodgers has to have a young wide receiver step up: When A.J. Dillon is the leading receiver, that team has a problem. The Packers didn’t have Allen Lazard for Sunday’s showdown with the Vikings, meaning Aaron Rodgers was without all his wide receivers that caught 30-plus passes from last year’s team.
The results were disastrous for the young receivers, with Rodgers even admitting there would be “growing pains.” Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs combined for six catches and 71 yards on nine targets, with Watson dropping a 75-yard touchdown right in his hands on the Packers’ first offensive play.
Davante Adams isn’t walking through that door, and Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins have their specific roles. Watson or Doubs need to make plays for Green Bay. There’s an opportunity to be Rodgers’ top target.
Lovie Smith played conservatively for first place in the division: The Texans had an opportunity to steal a game from the Colts (at home) by having the ball on fourth-and-3 at their own 49-yard line with 26 seconds left in overtime. Instead, Smith made the decision to punt and pin the Colts inside their 10-yard line with little time left on the clock to make anything happen.
Was the decision the right call? The Texans needed to get to the Colts’ 44-yard line for Ka’imi Fairbairn to have an opportunity to win it (Fairbairn’s career-long is 61 yards), so they needed seven yards — and a first down — to have a shot.
If they don’t convert, Rodrigo Blankenship’s career-long kick for the Colts is 53 yards — so Indianapolis would need 13 yards (going by the line of scrimmage on fourth down for Houston) to steal the road win and complete the comeback.
At the end of the day, the Texans are tied for first in the AFC South. They aren’t expected to win the division, but if they are in the race in January that tie will pay dividends.
Offense doesn’t look much different from last season: The Colts have a new quarterback in Matt Ryan, but that’s the only significant change in an offense that was inconsistent throughout last year (though Carson Wentz was the problem).
This isn’t Ryan’s fault. Indianapolis has just two playmakers on offense: Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman. Taylor finished with 161 yards and a rushing touchdown while Pittman had 121 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Not a surprise they were the players to bring Indianapolis back into the game.
To make this development better, Pittman and Taylor were the players with the most targets in the passing game. Someone on this offense has to step up besides Taylor and Pittman, or the Colts’ problems from last year will reappear.
Doug Pederson’s team still has some work to do: The Jaguars are a more talented and way better coached team under Pederson, but mistakes reared its ugly head in Sunday’s loss to the Commanders. Jacksonville had 13 penalties for 90 yards and went 3 of 12 on third down — a young team that suffers from a lack of execution.
Going 2 of 5 in the red zone and allowing Washington to convert 70% of its third down attempts didn’t help either. Jacksonville id some nice things in Sunday’s loss, but the lack of conversions and penalty numbers are issues that have to be corrected going forward.
Jacksonville can move the ball and create takeaways, but fixing third down scenarios will go a long way toward winning games.
The Chiefs are always contenders with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes: The notion the Chiefs were going to take a step back because they traded Tyreek Hill always seemed silly. Reid is the only head coach to win 100 games with two different franchises and he has arguably the best quarterback in the NFL at his disposal.
Mahomes went 30 of 39 for 360 yards and five touchdowns in a dominant performance over the Cardinals, showcasing how much deeper the Chiefs are at wide receiver and in the passing game. Kansas City has one of the top offensive lines in football and a young defense that gets after the quarterback consistently.
The Chiefs are still one of the best teams in football. They’ll always be in the Super bowl conversation with Reid and Mahomes.
The offensive line is in a state of flux: Josh McDaniels had an interesting method with his offensive line, rotating players in and out throughout the game as the Raiders head coach was searching for continuity up front. Bad offensive lines go through this process, one that was prevalent watching NFL games in the 1990s.
Dylan Parham started at right guards, but was replaced by Lester Cotton Sr. in the second quarter. Jermaine Eluemunor started at right tackle, only to be replaced by Thayer Munford in the third quarter. The result was Derek Carr being sacked four times and 11 pressures allowed by the rotating offensive line.
Vegas has some things to figure out up front. McDaniels has to find continuity in a division full of strong defensive fronts.
Defense can close out a game: The Chargers run defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season, allowing the Raiders to run the ball down their throats and eliminate them from the playoffs last season. That significantly changed Sunday, as the Raiders rushed just 13 times for 64 yards.
The run defense set the stage for the pass rush to preserve the lead. Holding onto a 24-19 lead with two minutes left, Khalil Mack sacked Derek Carr (third of the day) and forced a fumble on fourth down to preserve the win. The Chargers had six sacks, nine quarterback hits, and three takeaways — holding the Raiders to 19 points in the win.
All those defensive signings in the offseason paid significant dividends Sunday.
No help from wide receivers outside of Cooper Kupp: The Rams just need more from their playmakers if their offense is going to be as dominant as it was last season. Allen Robinson was nonexistent throughout the blowout loss to the Bills (1 catch, 12 yards), which isn’t want the Rams allocated their money to when Von Miller departed.
Los Angeles had just 6 catches for 47 yards on 10 targets for wide receivers not named Cooper Kupp. No wonder why Matthew Stafford targeted him so much. Van Jefferson’s return will help, but Odell Beckham Jr. is also a free agent.
Tyreek Hill will be getting a lot of targets this year: Hill led the Dolphins with eight catches for 94 yards in their Week 1 win over the Patriots. A very good debut that didn’t tell the whole story.
Hill was targeted 12 times in the win, the clear focal point of Miami’s passing attack. No other Dolphins player was targeted more than five times and that was Jaylen Waddle — who had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.
The Dolphins passing attack is clearly better in Mike McDaniel’s scheme, one that doesn’t need Tagovailoa to go deep all the time. Hil will still get his chunk plays, because he’s easily going to get the most opportunities to make them.
Justin Jefferson will put up massive numbers in Kevin O’Connell’s offense: Watching the Los Angeles Rams with Sean McVay and the Green Bay Packers with Matt LaFleur, their top playmaking receivers are going to get the football. O’Connell comes from the same coaching tree as McVay and LaFleur and he has an incredible playmaker in Jefferson.
Jefferson’s dominance was on display Sunday, as he had six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first half en route to a career-high 184 yards. Expect big performances from Jefferson throughout the year, as O’Connell will force feed his top playmaker.
McVay does it with Cooper Kupp. LaFleur did it with Davante Adams. O’Connell will do the same with Jefferson.
Mac Jones has regressed thanks to his surroundings: All the progress Jones made in his rookie season is out the window thanks to whatever Bill Belichick decided to do with the offense. From Joe Judge and Matt Patricia being important figures leading the unit to the poor offensive line protecting Jones, the Patriots’ second-year quarterback is far from the quarterback the league saw last year.
Jones now has a back injury to add to his struggles, leading an inept offense which he was listening to as many as four voices in his ear during a timeout Sunday. How can a young quarterback progress with this dysfunctional structure?
The Patriots need a Josh McDaniels-type play caller to coach Jones. Too bad he’s in Las Vegas.
The wide receivers are darn good: Jameis Winston was incredible in the fourth quarter of the comeback victory, most of which had to do with his receivers taking over the game. Both of Michael Thomas’ touchdown catches came in the fourth quarter (yes, he’s back) and Jarvis Landry had 92 of his 114 receiving yards in the fourth quarter,
Keep in mind those are the top two wideouts on the Saints. New Orleans still has Chris Olave, who had three catches for 41 yards in his debut. The Saints wideouts are going to open up the passing offense, freeing up the flat for Alvin Kamara to have a huge year in the pass game.
New Orleans wide receivers are as good as advertised and are going to make this offense tough to stop.
Saquon Barkley is back: Barkley finished with 18 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown while also having six catches for 30 yards. Not only does Barkley lead the league in rushing, but he leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
A healthy Barkley is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Having a coach that knows how to utilize his skill set and give him 20-plus touches a game is even better. If Barkley stays healthy, 2022 has the makings of a monster year.
Mistakes destroyed any progress on offense: Joe Flacco throwing a football 59 times in a game is one thing, but the Jets offense just beat themselves with errors. The Jets had several drops in the loss to the Ravens (including Michael Carter dropping a wide open pass in the end zone), a fumble by rookie Breece Hall, and a Flacco interception caused by a receiver falling on the MetLife Stadium turf.
The Jets offensive line gave up a league-high 22 pressures Sunday, as injuries played a significant role in that inefficiency. New York went 2 of 14 on third down, not converting one until midway through the fourth quarter. The Jets also had 81 yards in penalties.
New York needs to go back to the drawing board and correct the errors, or else the Jets are in for another long year.
Jalen Hurts is the reason the Eagles win games: Hurts was brilliant in Sunday’s win over the Lions, throwing for 243 yards and rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown. Facing relentless pressure from Detroit’s blitz packages, Hurts used his legs to get the Eagles out of a slow start to the game — and making sure the Lions didn’t build a massive early lead.
Instead, the Lions were chasing the Eagles. Hurts threw as many passes to his left as to his right and put the ball into his best playmakers’ hands in A.J. Brown (10 catches, 155 yards). Hurts made plenty of smart decisions with the football as he, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson were the only three players that finished Week 1 with over 300 yards of total offense without a turnover.
The Eagles win games because of Hurts, not in spite of him. That couldn’t be said at times last year.
T.J. Watt’s injury is a huge void in a good defense: The Steelers defense is a very good unit, but they are dominant when Watt is on the field. With Watt’s pectoral injury, the Steelers will have to make up for a player that led the league in sacks and tackles for loss last year.
The Steelers finished with five takeaways (one by Watt), seven sacks (one by Watt), 15 pressures (two by Watt), and four interceptions. Watt left the game with 16 seconds left after a pectoral injury and the timetable for his return is up in the air.
Pittsburgh has playmakers, but none with the magnitude like Watt. The Steelers still have a good defense, but they’ll sorely miss him as they compete for the AFC North crown.
No reason to panic over Trey Lance: Was Lance’s debut as the No. 1 quarterback good? Not even close, but the 49ers were playing a rain storm only Chicago could muster. This bad weather game should not be an indictment of Lance, who finished 13 of 28 for 164 yards and an interception (50.3 rating) in the loss.
Lance led the 49ers with 13 carries for 54 yards, but San Francisco neds to give the ball more to its running backs. Lance and Deebo Samuel combined for 21 carries, or 56.8% of the carries. Elijah Mitchell’s MCL injury didn’t help matters either.
The loss is a bad one for San Francisco, but the 49ers need to use Lance’s athleticism to his advantage. The 49ers don’t have a good offensive line to begin with. Let’s see how Lance fares in more ideal conditions.
Geno Smith was the right choice to play quarterback: Many scoffed at Smith having the opportunity to start in Seattle, even though he played adamantly filling in for Russell Wilson last season. Smith was excellent for the Seahawks in the opener, completing 23 of 28 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (119.5 rating) in the upset win over the Broncos.
Smith completed his first 13 passes en route to a first half which he went 17 of 18 for 164 yards and two touchdowns, the best half of football he’s had in his career. The Seahawks quarterback was ready for prime time and was responsible for the Seahawks building an early lead.
The defense took care of the rest, but Smith didn’t turn the ball over either. Seattle will be in every game if Smith manages the game and makes a few plays like he did Monday night.
The passing offense will get better: Worrying about the Buccaneers passing game is unwarranted stress. Tom Brady threw for just 212 yards and averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt, which is uncharacteristic after the marks Brady and the No. 1 pass offense set last season.
Chris Godwin’s injury is a concern, yet the Buccaneers still have Mike Evans, Russell Gage, and Julio Jones. They need to figure out the tight end situation, especially since Rob Gronkowski isn’t catching red zone passes anymore.
Tampa Bay faced a good Dallas defense that gets after the quarterback, so that has to be taken into account. Brady and the passing game will get into a rhythm as the weeks go on.
Treylon Burks and Kyle Phillips may be enough at wide receiver: The Titans lost A.J. Brown, but their pair of rookies showed flashes in their debuts. Philips, a fifth-round pick from UCLA, had six catches for 66 yards in the loss to the Giants — including the 21-yard catch that set up Randy Bullock’s 47-yard field goal attempt to survive and get the win.
Burks had two 20-plus yards receptions and finished with three catches for 55 yards. The Titans are going to get Derrick Henry rolling throughout the season, which is going to take the pressure off the rookies to perform. Even with the Giants secondary not being the biggest challenge, Tennessee appears to have something going in the passing game.
Jahan Dotson is going to make Carson Wentz’s life a lot easier: Wentz had an up-and-down day in his Washington debut, but he threw two very impressive touchdown passes to Dotson as the Commanders rallied to beat the Jaguars. Dotson finished with three catches for 40 yards and two touchdowns in his debut, including the game-winner with 1:46 to play — an incredible 24-yard touchdown grab with Tyson Campbell giving him blanket coverage.
As a route runner, Dotson is beyond his years — making his touchdown grabs even more impressive. Wentz has an excellent receiving core in Washington, but Dotson being ahead of the curve just makes the unit better. Dotson is going to be a problem for opposing secondaries all year.