NFL Week One: Heroes, Villains and a shocking fall for an NFL legend.
1. All of the hype. So much hope. And the season lasted four plays for NY Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will miss the remainder of the season with a complete tear of his achilles tendon. I feel bad for Rogers. But he’s nearly 40 years old, and has been dealing with a variety of injuries for a few years. The timing of his breakdown was stunning … and cruel … but the risk of injury was even greater for him in 2023. The Jets have a smart coach, a fast and ferocious defense, and a playmaking receivers and running backs. But Zach Wilson, and he has thrown 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 23 games. His QBR is a brutal 22.6. The second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft needs to grow up in a hurry. Poor Fireman Ed. But at least the Jets fought like hell to upset the Bills 26-22 in overtime. This could be a career-ending injury for Rodgers.
2. Worst quarterback in Week One? Buffalo’s Josh Allen. This is based on established standards, star standards, quarterbacks that are heralded for their first-rate performances. Allen messed up terribly on Monday night, carelessly throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble to set up the Jets for an emotionally charged win. This was a continuation from Buffalo’s playoff elimination last season – a poor performance by Allen in a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. Great talent. Too many turnovers.
3. The most impressive team? The San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers charged into Pittsburgh and put a 30-7 whomping on the overhyped Steelers. This was a complete domination on all fronts. The Niners rushed for 188 yards, hogged the ball for 37 minutes of possession time, held Pittsburgh to 239 yards and stopped them on 10 of 15 third-down situations. Second-year Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett was trucked for five sacks and two interceptions.
4. We saw a typical performance from the Los Angeles Chargers. Justin Herbert is a great young quarterback who can do everything you want a QB to do. He’s talented and mentally tough and can make every type of throw. He also plays for a head coach, Brandon Staley, who made his rep for supposedly having an innovative mind for defense. In his first two seasons the Chargers ranked 29th and 21st respectively in points allowed. And Staley’s defense is at it again, getting torched by Miami in Sunday’s 36-34 loss. The Dolphins rolled to 536 total yards, and QB Tua Tagovailoa passed for 466 yards and two scores. Staley is wasting a terrific quarterback in a league where so many head coaches are desperate to have an elite quarterback.
5. Jordan Love: Green Bay’s quarterback. Love got it done in his first start since succeeding Aaron Rodgers. In a 38-10 victory at Chicago, Love passed for three touchdowns and had a 123 passer rating. He made money throws on third down, completing 7 of 9 passes for 106 yards. He was fire in the second half, completing 73 percent of his throws and posting a 154.4 passer rating. He did all of this without Green Bay’s No. 1 receiver, the injured Christian Watson. Love was on the short list of the best quarterbacks on the field for Week 1.
6. Helluva win by Dallas. It was a 40-0 ransacking of the New York football Giants. But don’t the Cowboys do this sort of thing? Yes, they do. The Cowboys have won five straight from the Giants and are 12-1 in their last 13 conflicts.
7. Joe Burrow, 82 yards passing? His Cincinnati Bengals will be fine; they started off poorly last season. But Burrow was sidelined by a strained calf muscle for virtually all of the preseason and he was covered with rust in Cleveland’s 24-3 win over Cincinnati in The Rust Belt Bowl. For some odd reason Burrow has gone 1-5 against the Browns in his early NFL career. After signing a record $275 million contract extension Burrow will get up to speed.
8. Anthony Richardson (Indianapolis) was the best rookie quarterback of Week One. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 223 yards, rushing for 40 yards, throwing for a touchdown and running for a TD. Richardson hung in there as the Colts pushed the visiting Jaguars into the fourth quarter before losing 31-21. Other rookie quarterbacks – Carolina’s Bryce Young, Houston’s C.J. Stroud – turned in nondescript performances. But Richardson will need help; the Colts had no real rushing attack with Jonathan Taylor away from the team in a holdout.
9. The Denver Broncos looked a lot like the 2023 Broncos. Sean Payton is the coach – a marquee hire – but I guess he needs more time to revive the quarterback Russell Wilson and the Denver offense. The Broncos were held to 16 points or fewer in 11 games last season … and in Payton’s debut, they scored exactly 16 in losing by a point to visiting Las Vegas. Wilson completed 27 of 34 passes, which was nice. But all of those completions netted only 177 yards. And after averaging 7.3 yards per passing attempt in his first season in Denver, Wilson averaged a skimpy 5.2 yards per pass on Sunday. And he couldn’t lead the Broncos to a game-winning drive.
10. The Minnesota Vikings rank out of luck. Last season the surprising Vikings bagged 11 of their 13 victories by a one-score margin. But they lost to the Giants by seven points in the playoffs, and began 2023 with a three-point defeat to visiting Tampa Bay. Minnesota’s prosperity in close games was destined to turn in the other direction. By the way: good job by Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield. He competed like a mad man and earned that win over the Vikes.
Coach of the Week: Detroit’s Dan Campbell, who led the Lions into Kansas City to upset the Chiefs 21-20. After winning only four of his first 24 games as Detroit’s head coach, he’s gone 9-2 since then. The Lions are dangerous – and a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
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For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.