The opening weekend of the 2020 NFL Season was quite unique from years past. With no preseason games to figure out positional battles, knock off rust and start building team chemistry, Week 1 brought the good, the bad, and the ugly. Besides the lack of preseason, all but two games were played without fans in the stands (Detroit had personal guests in the stadiums but no fans). The lack of fans brought about a different energy in the games that was visible even from watching on the couch. Now, on to the takeaways from each game.
Thursday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs 34, Houston Texans 20
Texans: Everybody expected the loss of Deandre Hopkins to hurt the Texans but maybe not as much as it did in week 1. Houston receivers combined for a total of 13 catches for 163 yards, marks that sound ugly but were even uglier watching the game. Watson was pressured all game as the receivers were unable to get open against an inexperienced Kansas City secondary. If the Texans want to have a chance in what could be a competitive AFC South, they will need more production from wideouts not named Will Fuller in next week’s matchup against Baltimore.
Chiefs: Coming into the season, arguably the biggest thing to watch for the Chiefs was how rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire would fit into the offense. And boy did he fit in week 1. Helaire paced the league in rushing yards with 106 of his 138 coming after contact. Factor in that he did not even record a catch in the passing game, which should change next week against the Chargers, and the league’s most explosive offense improved this off-season.
Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Indianapolis Colts 20
Colts: The Colts brought in veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers on a lucrative one-year, $25 million dollar deal to replace Jacoby Brissett. However, just one week in, the Colts are already 0-1 and Rivers has turned the ball over twice, including a costly interception in the last five minutes while trailing by four. Rivers will need to turn it around next week against Minnesota or the Colts will be looking at an uphill battle the rest of the season.
Jaguars: This offseason saw the Jaguars trade away Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye, two cogs in last year’s defense, and release former 1st rounder Leonard Fournette. Many thought they may draft a quarterback in this year’s draft but they stuck with second-year signal-caller Gardner Minshew who delivered a 173-yard, 3 touchdown performance on 19/20 passing. Minshew struggled towards the end of last year but if he can build on this performance next week against the division rival Tennessee Titans, the Jaguars could be a quiet contender in the AFC South.
Las Vegas Raiders 34, Carolina Panthers 30
Panthers: In Matt Rhule’s first game as head coach and Teddy Bridgewater’s first game under center, the Panthers surpassed my expectations. Bridgewater threw for almost 300 yards and one touchdown as Christian McCaffrey kept his role in the new offense scoring two touchdowns and new wideout Robby Anderson added six catches for 115 and one touchdown. Already rolling in the first week in the system, this offense could be scary.
Raiders: Many running backs, especially first-round ones, suffer the sophomore slump. Josh Jacobs, at least so far, doesn’t look like he will join that group. The 2nd year running back totaled 93 yards on the ground with three touchdowns while adding 46 more yards in the passing game, something he was not very involved in last year. Jacobs will look to keep it going next week against the Saints on Monday night.
Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23
Lions: After blowing seven fourth-quarter leads last year, the Lions pick right up where they left off by blowing a 17 point lead. The Lions were missing their biggest offensive weapon in Kenny Golladay but after all of the money they spent on defense this offseason, you would expect something to change. If nothing does, Matt Patricia could find himself without a job soon. The Lions will look to turn it around against the Packers at Lambeau next week.
Bears: I hate to say it, but Trubisky looked good in the 4th quarter as he led this Bears team to a win after trailing by 17. The former first-round pick threw for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns, all three touchdowns in the 4th quarter, en route to his first 4th quarter comeback of the year. He will try to build on this performance next week at home against the Giants.
Washington Football Team 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17
Eagles: The offensive line is going to get Carson Wentz killed. They gave up 8 sacks to the Football Team and first-round pick Chase Young. Yes, Wentz did hold onto the ball a touch too long a couple of times but an offensive line that was demolished by injuries did not help at all. Head coach Doug Pederson will need to make some adjustments or he could find himself with an injured Wentz next week against Aaron Donald and the Rams.
Football Team: In the first game with the new brand, the Football Team showed that their collection of first-round and big money defensive players might pay off. Veteran Ryan Kerrigan broke the franchise record for career sacks while first-rounder Chase Young got his first career sack. This defensive line could have an argument for the best in football and they have a chance add to their sack totals against a week Cardinals o-line next week.
New England Patriots 21, Miami Dolphins 11
Dolphins: Fitzpatrick is what he has always been. The veteran play-caller threw three picks on the way to the first loss of the season for the Dolphins, who had a very good offseason. The performance has done nothing to quiet the calls for first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa and those calls could come to fruition if Fitzpatrick can’t turn it around. He may be without his best weapon in Devante Parker next week against the Bills as Parker left the Pats game early with a hamstring injury.
Patriots: While the Dolphins suffered from bad quarterback play, the Pats seemed to get good quarterback play. After 19 seasons with Tom Brady slinging the rock, Cam Newton took over and proceeded to throw for 155 yards while adding 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. There were flashes of the Cam we saw during his MVP campaign. Newton and the Pats have a tougher test this Sunday night as they are scheduled to travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks (pending the air quality on game day from the continuing wildfires).
Buffalo Bills 27, New York Jets
Jets: Sam Darnold did not look good at all but I also don’t think Adam Gase put him in the best positions. Darnold also lost Le’veon Bell for at least three weeks to a hamstring injury while being without 2nd-round receiver Denzel Mims before the game even started. This is a key year for Darnold’s development and Gase is directly tied to that. The Jets will look to turn it around against another extremely strong defense in the 49ers next week.
Bills: The occasional inaccuracy was still there but Josh Allen was able to throw for 312 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Coming into the year, there were valid concerns that Allen may not be able to win a game with his arm but he showed otherwise against the Jets. He’ll get a chance to build on this against a Miami defense that gave up two rushing scores to Cam Newton.
Green Bay Packers 43, Minnesota Vikings 34
Vikings: Kevin Stefanski left the offensive coordinator position this offseason and it showed on Sunday. Dalvin Cook only ran for 50 yards and up until the 4th quarter, Kirk Cousins was having a very bad game. If they want to compete in what could be a very good NFC North, the Vikings will need to turn it around against the Colts next week.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers still has it. After so much discussion over how long it would be until Jordan Love takes over, Rodgers came out with a statement game as he spread the ball around to the tune of 364 yards and four touchdowns. Many thought the Packers should’ve taken a receiver instead of Love but Rodgers was able to find three different receivers for scores. He will try to build on this performance next week against a Detroit defense that gave up three touchdowns to Mitchell Trubisky.
Seattle Seahawks 38, Atlanta Falcons 25
Falcons: The Falcons had three (3!) receivers tally 100+ yards in the air this game and still lost. Head coach Dan Quinn’s decision to go for it on 4th down ended up biting the Falcons in the butt as they were unable to convert any of them. If the Falcons are able to convert on early downs next week against the Dallas Cowboys, we may see that game turn into a shootout.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson is still very good by the way. He joined Steve Young as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 30,000 career passing yards and 4,000 career rushing yards on his way to a 31-35, 322 yards and four touchdown day. Big time trade acquisition Jamal Adams had a quiet first game but expect that to change next week against his old division rival in the New England Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens 38, Cleveland Browns 6
Browns: The Browns looked bad in the season opener. Baker Mayfield turned the ball over on the first drive and the defense looked atrocious. The two-headed backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt never got a chance to get going as the Browns found themselves behind in a hurry. The Browns need to find an answer on Thursday against the Bengals or they could find themselves in a bad spot for a playoff push.
Ravens: This league is going to be a lot of fun to watch with Mahomes and Lamar as the faces. Jackson showed improvement from his MVP season as many passes he would’ve missed last year found their mark against the Browns. Jackson found receivers in the end zone three times and could keep that trend going against the Texans, who gave up three touchdowns to Mahomes in the league opener.
Arizona Cardinals 24, San Francisco 49ers 20
49ers: Too early to tell but the 49ers find themselves at the bottom of a very competitive NFC West after week 1. Decimated by injuries to the receiving core, the 49ers struggled to get the ball moving after an early touchdown to Raheem Mostert. If they want to be in the playoff picture in such a tough division, they need a win against the Jets next week.
Cardinals: The Deandre Hopkins trade was a steal when it happened and it looks even better now. The All-Pro wideout went for 14 catches and 151 yards in his debut as he and Kyler Murray were on the same page all day against a stout 49ers defense. If they are able to keep it going next week against a solid Washington front seven, the Cardinals could be a team to watch all season.
New Orleans Saints 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
Buccaneers: The biggest story of the NFL offseason was the uniform change of Tom Brady. In his debut, Brady threw two interceptions including a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins and those turnovers cost the Bucs, much like the turnovers from Jameis Winston cost them last year. The future HOF will look to turn it around next week against the Panthers in another divisional matchup.
Saints: The defense looked like one of the best in the league on Sunday and despite a weak showing by Michael Thomas, they were still able to put up 34 points. Alvin Kamara had a big game coming off a lucrative contract extension and will need to keep it up against the Raiders on Monday night as Thomas could miss a few weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Los Angeles Chargers 16. Cincinnati Bengals 13
Bengals: First overall pick Joe Burrow looked decent during his debut, a performance void of bad decisions besides his one interception. The Bengals would have won if not for a late A.J. Green pass interference call while kicker Randy Bullock missed a tying field goal as time expired. The Bengals are in a good spot heading into their matchup against the Browns who just gave up 38 to the Ravens.
Chargers: Tyrod Taylor was very underwhelming in his debut but was saved by a solid performance from rookie running back Josh Kelley. Between Austin Ekeler and Kelley in the backfield, the Chargers have a very good run game but will need the passing game to elevate to have a chance against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs next week.
Los Angeles Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 17
Cowboys: Despite a coaching change, Dallas still experienced questionable late-game decision making. New head coach Mike McCarthy decided to go for it on 4th down late in the game instead of a short field goal attempt for the tie and it came back to bite him. The Cowboys had a couple of chances later but it would’ve been a lot easier to come back if they would’ve taken the points earlier. We will see how McCarthy approaches the late game decisions next week against the Falcons.
Rams: Sean McVay came into the game with a committee in the backfield and may have left with a clear starter. Veteran Malcolm Brown ran the ball 18 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Brown was a key reason for the week 1 win, along with a very good Rams secondary led by Jalen Ramsey. They will look to keep it going as they travel to Philly for a matchup against an injury-ravaged Eagles team.
Pittsburgh Steelers 26, New York Giants 16
Giants: This game was ugly but maybe not as ugly as Saquon Barkley’s 15 rushes for six yards. Most of it was not Barkley’s fault as he was hit behind the line of scrimmage on 11 of his 15 carries, tied for the most in his career. If the offensive line can not win at the line of scrimmage, the Giants will have a long day against the Chicago Bears next week.
Steelers: There was a clear difference between the Mason Rudolph/Duck Hodges Steelers and the Ben Roethlisberger Steelers. Big Ben returned from an elbow injury with a 229 yard, three touchdown performance to lead the Steelers to an opening win. The Steelers will need another performance like that next week against a solid Denver defense.
Tennessee Titans 16, Denver Broncos 14
Broncos: Injuries hurt the Broncos on Monday as Courtland Sutton did not play and cornerback A.J. Bouye left in the first half with a shoulder injury. Drew Lock looked composed and used his athleticism to get out of the pocket to extend plays as former first-rounder Noah Fant had a big day. However, the Broncos will need Jerry Jeudy to step up next week after the rookie had two big drops. Lock and the Broncos draw a tough defense in the Steelers this week but may get Sutton back for that game.
Titans: The kicking game for the Titans was so extremely ugly. Stephen Gostkowski was 1/4 on field-goal attempts and 1/2 on extra-point attempts. They left 10 points on the board which would have kept them out of the last-minute drive to win the game. The Titans made the AFC Championship last year and will need the kicking game to get better if they want to get there again. They will go home for next week’s divisional matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.