The NFL is back, it’s finally back! It’s not the draft. It’s not the hall of fame game. It’s not preseason. It’s a full week of real NFL football. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of eager fans packed into stadiums across the country, marking the first time in two years that stadiums hit full capacity. The crowds did not disappoint.
In Kansas City, the Tomahawk Chop was back to its normal deafening self thanks to the screaming voices of the 72,000 passionate fans packed into Arrowhead stadium. The Bills mafia celebrated their return to the stands by honoring their timeless tradition of powerbombing folding tables in the parking lot pre-game. Even watching from the couch felt more natural when big plays were met by an even bigger cheer from the crowd.
The on-field antics did not disappoint either, with eight of the first 15 games being decided by one possession. However, despite Week 1 being an overwhelming success for the fans and league as a whole, there are certainly some teams who saw their stock plummet after a disappointing opening performance.
Stock Up – Arizona Cardinals
Final Score: Arizona Cardinals 38, Tennessee Titans 13
Arizona has been flying under the radar in the past two offseasons. Despite trading for superstar DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 and signing three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt in 2021, the Cardinals have somehow managed to keep themselves under the radar of teams expected to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. That underdog status vanished on Sunday as the birds stormed into Nashville and played with the fiery rage of a franchise who’s never known the triumph of a Super Bowl victory.
Despite being three point underdogs, Arizona dominated the Titans on both sides of the ball. The defense flexed their muscles and played a phenomenal game, limiting defending Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry to just 58 yards on the ground at a mere 3.4 yards per carry (YPC). When Tennessee tried to open up the playbook to take advantage of new receiver Julio Jones, they were once again stuffed as Chandler Jones got to the quarterback for an astounding five sacks and two forced fumbles.
Offensively, Kyler Murray looked smooth as butter. The former first overall pick danced around Titan defenders en route to an impressive five touchdown performance. The Cardinals also did a great job of distributing the ball equally to their playmakers and not allowing the defense to hone-in on anyone in particular. Four players had at least four catches while both running backs carried the ball 12+ times, averaging a combined 4.25 YPC.
Stock Up – L.A. Rams
Final Score: Los Angeles Rams 34, Chicago Bears 14
Contrary to how most Hollywood careers start, Matthew Stafford began his time in LA by proving he is indeed, not an actor. Despite having 45,000+ career passing yards, the 33 year old signal caller’s move from Detroit has been surrounded by skepticism due to his inability to win a playoff game.
Doubters have been silenced after a statement 34-14 win on Sunday night. Stafford looked like the gunslinger that the Sean McVay offense has been needing for years. He threw the ball with poise and touch on his way to an impressive 20 completions, 321 yards on offense, three touchdowns and no turnovers.
Defensively, the Rams looked to be more or less the same solid unit from last season. The Bears only offensive success came on the ground at the hands of David Montgomery, who rushed for 108 yards on just 16 carries. Chicago’s first round pick Justin Fields saw the field in doses, throwing two passes for 10 yards and rushing for a goal-line touchdown.
Stock Down – Green Bay Packers
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 3, New Orleans Saints 38
The Packers lost 38-3. That’s embarrassing.
Defending MVP Aaron Rodgers led one scoring drive and threw two interceptions. That’s embarrassing. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston had 14 completions, five of which ended up as touchdowns. That’s embarrassing. Green Bay is coming off of back-to-back NFC championship appearances and have been talked about as a favorite to go to the Super Bowl next February.
For that to become a reality, there is going to need to be a lot of work done on both sides of the ball. The defense looked uncoordinated. The defensive line failed to contain Jameis Winston, allowing him to escape the pocket and scramble for multiple first downs on plays that should have been sacks. On the back end, receivers were able to slip away from coverage on deep and intermediate routes, allowing for Saints receivers to make uncontested catches.
On offense, The Packers looked like a unit of players who had never played together before. Rodgers missed receivers and threw a pair of ugly interceptions while the offensive line struggled to pick up assignments and create lanes for rushers who in turn failed to break tackles.
Overall, the Packers did little to make the game hard for the Saints. The offense gained a lackluster 229 total yards and caused three turnovers, setting up New Orleans with great field position throughout the game. This allowed the Saints to run a very conservative, low-risk offense and still put up 38 points in their blowout upset.
Stock Down – Buffalo Bills
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 16, Pittsburgh Steelers 23
To say that Pittsburgh won the game would be true, but saying that Buffalo lost would be more accurate.
Though the Bills had their share of impressive plays, there were a concerning amount of costly mistakes that kept Pittsburgh within striking distance before they eventually took the lead. Josh Allen had a very streaky game. There were moments he looked like the MVP candidate that took the league by storm last season, and then there were moments where he looked lost, panicked, and confused.
Most notably, Allens deep ball placement and pass selection were questionable. In the first half alone, Allen missed two deep balls that would have resulted in touchdowns and stretched the surmountable 10-0 halftime lead to a dominant 24-0.
Buffalo had chance after chance to put the Steelers away, but penalties and missed assignments held them from truly opening up the game. To their credit, Pittsburgh played with patience. They didn’t try to force the big play and kept treading water to keep themselves close but not risk a mistake of their own. Their opportunity finally came with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
After a crucial third down sack, Buffalo’s punt team went on the field at their own 23 in an attempt to flip field position. However, a missed blocking assignment let a speeding Steeler into the backfield to take the ball right off the foot of the punter. Ulysees Gilbert scooped the ball and jogged peacefully in the end zone, putting his team up 20-10.
The Bills were the better team for three quarters but couldn’t win, if they want to be a contender moving forward they’re going to need to close out games early.
DK Metcalf- 4 catches, 60 yards, 1 touchdown (Seattle Seahawks 28, Indianapolis Colts 16)
Dawson Knox- 4 catches, 41 yards (Buffalo Bills 16, Pittsburgh Steelers 23)
AJ Brown- 4 catches, 49 yards, 1 touchdown (Tennessee Titans 13, Arizona Cardinals 38)