Jameis WINston: A recap of the NFL’s bizarre season opener

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Jameis Winston (in white) evades a Packers defender in the Saints 38-3 victory. CREDIT: USA Today

Nicholas Neipert, Student Writer

An analyst’s nightmare. Completely unpredictable. Out of left field, some are saying. All of these statements have been made by professional sports analysts in regard to the NFL’s wacky regular-season opener. In what most thought would be a routine sweep for the powerhouses in the NFL, some teams shook up this Sunday afternoon, pulling through for some very unexpected upset wins…

…One of these upset winners being our very own Philadelphia Eagles! Biases set aside, fanhood suppressed… did anyone really wake up Sunday morning and say, “Wow, I can’t wait to see the Eagles win today!” Vegas had the Atlanta Falcons, a young, talented team, winning this week 1 bout in a landslide. Long story short, the birds CRUSHED Atlanta, putting 32 points on the board, and only allowing 6. Jalen Hurts further solidified his place as the future of the Eagle’s franchise, completing 27 of his 34 passes (79.4%) for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. One of these touchdown passes fell right into the hands of 1st Round Pick Devonta Smith, for his first career TD. On the defensive end of the spectrum, the Eagle’s front 7 looked as good as ever, recording 3 sacks on the day, two of which coming from stud NT Javon Hargrave. As for Atlanta, their inexperience was definitely apparent. Of all of the things that went wrong for the Falcons, the most significant issue that will definitely need assessment, was the offensive line’s performance. A former NFL MVP shouldn’t have to worry about escaping pressure from his blindside every time he drops back. Big win for the Birds, the beginning of a loooong season for Atlanta. Eagles win it 32-6.

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced off against the highly praised Buffalo Bills, in what was widely regarded as the game of the week. The Bills held a two-score lead for a majority of the game, besting the Steelers in every statistical category, only to eventually lose the game 23-16, allowing 17 points in the final quarter.  While QB play was underwhelming for both teams, Josh Allen, who most have in 2022 MVP conversation, didn’t look too hot. Josh Allen finished the game 30/51 (58.8%) with 270 yards and a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger connected on only 56% of his passes, and only passed for 188 yards and a touchdown. This game ultimately came down to the defensive units, and the Steelers came out on top. 

On Thursday evening, the NFL’s Game of the Week, the Dallas Cowboys vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, kicked off the NFL season. The reigning Super Bowl champs picked up where they left off, putting up 21 points in the first half against an electric Dallas defense. The Cowboys, however, also put up a cute 16 in the first half. Dak Prescott looks healthy and poised in the pocket, as if the injury to his ankle never happened. The game would continue to be an offensive shootout, with the occasional turnover. In the final moments of the 4th quarter, Dallas took a 1 point lead. Great job Dallas! You forgot one thing though… the cardinal sin of the NFL. You gave Tom Brady the chance to lead a game-winning drive. And that he did, driving Tampa Bay within field goal range, where then Ryan Succop would drill the game-winner. Tampa Bay defeats Dallas 31-29.

The Carolina Panthers faced off against the New York Jets, beginning the string of many Sunday afternoon competitions. The Carolina defense looked electric, showing top 5 defense upside. The Panther’s defense allowed 0 points in the first half, in large part due to their longest-tenured player, Shaq Thompson, who recorded 10 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, and an interception. Jet’s Rookie QB Zach Wilson spent the majority of his first regular-season game lying on his back, after being sacked 6 times in his first NFL start. He did show promise in the second half, though, throwing for two touchdowns, bringing the game within a score. Ultimately, the Panthers (1-0) held on, defeating the Jets (0-1) 19-14. 

Wentzylvania takes his talents to Indianapolis (Wentzapolis???), facing off against Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks. Carson Wentz… didn’t look entirely awful! Connecting on 25 of his 38 passes (65.8%), Wentz seems to have improved on his decisiveness in the pocket greatly. In Philly, Wentz had a history of throwing panic balls down the center of the field while under pressure. This doesn’t seem to be as big of a concern anymore, as Wentz found his check-down options, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, a combined 12 times. Though Wentz performed well, his efforts came up short, as Russell Wilson passed for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Colts come up short, Seattle wins 28-16.

The Jaguars took to Houston for the first of their two matchups this year. The highly anticipated first career start of Trevor Lawrence certainly did not go as most expected. The Houston Texans have been widely regarded as a “poverty franchise” over this off-season. Many, including myself, could have realistically seen them being the first 0-17 team in NFL history. This was not the case. The Texans newly acquired starting QB Tyrod Taylor came out slinging dimes, completing 21 passes for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns this Sunday. Lawrence, on the other hand, completed 28 of his 51 passing attempts, for 332 yards, 3 touchdowns, but 3 interceptions. These costly turnovers ultimately led to the Jaguars being defeated in a huge upset victory for the Texans. Houston elevates to 1-0, winning 37-21.

Justin Herbert leads his young Chargers team into Washington to face off against the nameless team. This might have been the only game this week that went exactly how we expected it to. The Chargers explosive offense, featuring new rookie offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, couldn’t seem to get a run game going. The Chargers premiere RB Austin Ekeler made his return to the field after dealing with several injuries in 2020, some hamstring, some knee. Unfortunately, his “glorious” return only contributed 57 yards on 15 attempts. He did, however, put 6 points on the board when the Chargers needed them. Washington’s defensive front did exactly what we thought they would. 2 sacks, 4 tackles for losses, 4 passes defended, an interception, and a crucial forced fumble. For a group consisting of 5 first-round picks, those stats are pretty much what they should be. Washington’s defensive effort wasn’t quite enough, as Washington’s offense struggled to put points on the board without their starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. In a low-scoring affair, the Charger’s sneak past WFT 20-16. 

The slightly less unhealthy 49ers marched into Detroit to take on the Lions. This game should have been a blowout. The 49er’s defense made Jared Goff look like… well… Jared Goff. In the first half, the 49er’s defense held the Detroit Lions’ new and improved offense to 10 points, while the 49er’s offense put up 31. That was completely unexpected. San Francisco’s offense showed flashes of greatness… with Trey Lance at Quarterback. No one expected Jimmy Garoppolo to come out and put up 314 yards and a touchdown, with just 17 completions. Can this be credited to Jimmy G? Or could it be his star wideout, Deebo Samuel, who caught 9 balls for 189 yards and a touchdown, carrying this offense to a 41-33 victory? Who knows, but 41 points is an awful lot. The Lions looked like a lost cause for a majority of the game, but did pick it up in the 4th, putting up 16 points and bringing the game within a score. So close, Detroit! 41-33.

The Vikings vs The Bengals. This was the game that puzzled so many analysts. In what should have been a blowout for the Vikings, the Bengals forced an Overtime, to eventually kick a game-winning field goal, defeating the Vikings. It’s not even that the Vikings were bad, no. The Bengals were just… good? My fingers barely allowed me to type that. Joe Burrow looked healthy and able, coming off of the ACL injury. Though having a rough preseason, Rookie WR Ja’marr Chase caught 5 balls for 101 yards and a touchdown, which led all wide receivers between the Vikings and the Bengals. While Chase’s receiving effort had a large role in the Bengal’s upset victory, it was Joe Mixon, of all people, that did it for Cinci. Mixon had 29 carries (WOAH) for 127 yards and a TD. All of this together ultimately made the Bengals the better team here, winning the game in OT 27-24.

Kyler Murray’s Cardinals face off against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans, with their new acquisitions, seem to be a huge threat to the AFC. The Cardinals, however, are going to be fighting for a playoff spot in the very talented NFC West division. And the Cardinal’s got off on the right foot, putting up 24 points in the first half, and only allowing 6. Derrick Henry can’t seem to find his footing, and the passing game isn’t doing enough. For an offense that has names as notable as Julio Jones, Derrick Henry, and AJ Brown, the Cardinals should NOT manhandle them as they did. Which by the way, they continued to. 14 more points, and only 7 more allowed. I don’t know what was more impressive: Kyler’s explosive offense, or Chandler Jones single-handedly sacking Ryan Tannehill 6 times. Doesn’t matter, the Cardinals defeat the Titans 38-13.

Finally, the Browns and the Chiefs face off in a rematch of the 2020 NFC Divisional Round game. Baker Mayfield and his offense came out and BALLED in the first half, putting up 22 points against the KC defense. The young Cleveland defense didn’t look too shabby either, allowing only 10 points to a Mahomes-led offense. But at the end of the day, Cleveland couldn’t hang. KC took charge, putting up 23 points in the 2nd half. Baker Mayfield, with one drive left to take the lead, throws an interception, and the Chiefs win once again. Great game, KC > CLE 33-29.

The Alabama alum’s, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones, once teammates, now rivals, face-off, now in Dolphins and Patriots uniforms. This was an especially exciting week for the sports world, being that the Patriot’s released their starting QB, former MVP Cam Newton, so Mac Jones could take the wheel of the offense. Mac didn’t have too bad of a day! 284 yards and a touchdown, Mac flashed signs of Brady with every pass. His offense did struggle a little, however, only putting 16 points on the board through 4 quarters of the game. This game was nothing out of the ordinary, the Dolphins sneak past the Patriots for the 20-16 win.

The Denver Broncos take on the New York Giants. The Broncos, now led by newly acquired QB Teddy Bridgewater, have high expectations set for them this season with the return of All-Pro pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Giants are the Giants; a well-rounded team, solid contenders. The only problem that the Giants have going on is the man under center, Daniel “Dimes” Jones. The Broncos took a demanding lead entering the 4th quarter, and further solidified their victory with a strip-sack on Daniel Jones. Bridgewater performed better than expected, and Jones? He’s Daniel Jones. That being said, the Broncos elevate to 1-0, defeating the Giants 27-13.

LA Rams vs Chicago Bears. I’m going to save you some time: LA destroyed the Bears. It was never even close. Matt Stafford looked like a hall-of-famer out there against a top 8 defense, completing 20 of his 26 passes for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bears went with the pity card in week 1, giving old Andy Dalton a start. This would be a mistake. Dalton did not look very good at all. He was forcing passes, and could never find his feet in the pocket. At this point, you have to question whether or not Matt Nagy, the Chicago Bears coach, values winning. You have Justin Fields on your bench. You’re telling me you trade up in the draft, take the most talented QB available, just to sit him for Andy Dalton? Wow. LA obviously takes the win, 34-14.

Aaron Rodgers leads his team into… Jacksonville(?) to face off against the home team(?), the New Orleans Saints. I’ll tell you what. Not a single breathing human being had the Packers losing to Jameis Winston in the season opener. What. In the world. Happened? The Saints lost a ton of assets this off-season and were widely expected to stink. Many had the Saints finishing 4th in the NFC South. NO MORE. Jameis Winston (yes, JAMEIS WINSTON) completed 70% of his passes, for 148 yards, and 5 TOUCHDOWNS. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, JAMEIS? Against the Packer’s secondary, too? As a Panthers fan, I have to watch my Panthers face New Orleans next week. If they did this to the Packer’s secondary. If they did this to Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams. What will the rest of their season look like? If Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions, I’d expect a player like Sam Darnold to throw about, I don’t know, triple that? What a game. The Saints are for real, defeating the Packers 38-3.

The final game of week 1. The Baltimore Ravens make the trip out to Vegas to battle the Derek Carr-led Raiders. I, personally, did not watch this game. And boy do I regret it. This game already is making an argument for game of the year, and it’s only week 1. The coaching was sloppy on both sides, which must be why this game ended the way it did. The Raiders forced overtime with the Ravens. LV drove all the way down the field on the opening drive of overtime, all the way to the 1 yard line. And Derek Carr throws an interception in the endzone. Just barely outside of field goal range, Lamar Jackson fumbles the ball, giving the Raiders another opportunity to score in field goal range. They did. The Raiders complete the upset, defeating the Ravens 30-27.

Week 1 was certainly a change in perspective. Are the Raiders the real deal? Is Josh Allen regressing? There are all kinds of headlines right now. I’m just ready for week 2. Onward!