Week 1 of the NFL season is officially behind us, and as we ready ourselves for tonight’s NFC East battle on Thursday Night Football, it’s worth discussing some of the league’s emerging storylines. Maybe your favorite squad is 1-0 and you’re researching travel plans for the Super Bowl. Perhaps your team is 0-1 and you’re scouting next season’s top draft picks. In either event, there’s no wrong reaction; this is a safe space. To get the ball rolling, here are some of the top NFL Week 1 overreactions.
Baltimore Will Finish Last In the AFC North
Most teams who emerged 0-1 from the weekend have some silver lining to fall back on. The Patriots, for example, might have lost, but what they saw from rookie quarterback Mac Jones should give them confidence. Better days lie ahead. Another example is the Lions. We knew Detroit was going to be bad. They are in fact quite bad, but they have some offensive weapons who will score garbage time points and ruin people’s bets. So that’s always fun.
The Ravens have nothing.
Baltimore didn’t do enough to add receiving weapons to their roster during the offseason, clearly believing that a strong run game and stingy defense would keep them in contention so long as they remained healthy. They haven’t remained healthy. They lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins. They also lost backup running back Gus Edwards, All-Pro corner Marcus Peters, and others to season-ending injuries before Week 1 even started.
It was clear after those injuries that this team was going to be too thin in too many key places to be a true contender, but losing to Las Vegas in an overtime game that should have been wrapped up on several occasions begs the question; what games on their schedule are going to be wins for these Ravens?
Combine all of this with the reality that an unvaccinated Lamar Jackson (who has already caught Covid twice) could, given league guidelines, be forced to miss time by simply being exposed to a positive case, and what you have is a recipe for disaster.
Wave to the Bengals on your way down, Baltimore.
The Bills Are in Trouble
There are two ways to look at the Bills’ 23-16 home loss versus the Steelers. The first is to chalk it up to early-season jitters; a perfect storm where the excitement of playing in front of a full home stadium for the first time since 2019 met a Pittsburgh defense that ranks among the league’s best.
The second way to look at the Bills Week 1 loss is as an omen for what will turn out to be a disappointing season. Throughout the offseason and up until Week 1, very few conversations about the AFC hierarchy had Buffalo lower than the second-best team, and practically none had them lower than the third. Josh Allen and the offense’s play last season and their wins in the playoffs pushed the Bills out of the running for moral victories and planted them firmly in the Super Bowl or bust echelon of the league.
After watching their game Sunday, do you feel like this is a Super Bowl-caliber team?
Buffalo spent its first two draft picks on defensive ends and made bolstering their front-seven a top priority in the offseason, and in the first half, they held Pittsburgh scoreless and forced punts on all five of the Steelers’ drives. They looked good. In the second half, though, Pittsburgh ended all four of their drives with points – moving the ball down the field and into scoring position with relative ease. Ben Roethlisberger looked better and more physically prepared than he has the last few seasons, but if it takes a 39-year-old Roethlisberger one half of football to figure out Buffalo’s defense and start sustaining drives, how long is it going to take Patrick Mahomes and the other top quarterbacks in the conference that Buffalo will need to face in order to contend for a Super Bowl?
We were told this was a team that would be locked in from day one – ready to roll out an MVP caliber season from their quarterback and the type of offensive firepower reserved only for the league’s best. For the defense, the front office had studied the blueprint Tampa Bay laid out in last season’s Super Bowl victory and built the framework to duplicate that imposing pass rush.
What we actually saw in Week 1 was Buffalo’s special teams give up a blocked punt touchdown. We saw the team rack up 8 penalties for 81 yards. Josh Allen looked OK. Not great, not bad, just OK. The defense on the whole looked about the same as last season.
Option two for how to look at the Bills’ season opener is that they were good.
But good isn’t great.
The Eagles Can Win the NFC East
What was predicted to be a two-team race for the division title between Washington and Dallas has been completely upended.
Both teams fell to 0-1, and Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a hip injury that will, unfortunately, land him on the IR. These factors alone open the door for a new contender to emerge. The truth is, though, that with their impressive Week 1 performance, the Eagles should be feared simply because of how good they looked.
They looked really, really good.
Their defense held the Falcons to just 6 points. They contained Matt Ryan to under 170 passing yards on the day. Their offense, who after a late pre-season trade for Gardner Minshew many believed would be rudderless and disjointed, stifled those doubts as Jalen Hurts completed 27 of 35 passes for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. They rushed for over 170 yards and a touchdown, as well.
Philadelphia looked fast on offense and fast on defense – and despite totaling 14 penalties, new head coach Nick Sirianni seems to have this team firing on all cylinders. Even with the Week 1 loss against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys remain the favorites in the division by virtue of their explosive offense. But make no mistake, Philadelphia’s offense has the potential for fireworks as well.
In what could very well become one of the surprise storylines of the season, the Eagles seem poised to put the last few seasons behind them as they look to make a run towards winning their first playoff game since 2018.
An MVP Campaign in Arizona
Last season after Week 6, the betting favorite for MVP was Russel Wilson. Articles were written and segments were recorded declaring that the great injustice of the NFL (Wilson never having received an MVP vote) would finally be remedied and the Seattle quarterback would soon get his just due.
Then the wheels came off – his passing output plummeted, the team slumped, and once again the MVP vote was tallied without Wilson’s name making an appearance. This year, though, the MVP will be making its way back to the NFC West for the first time since Shaun Alexander won it in 2005. Unlike with Alexander, however, the trophy won’t be residing in Seattle – but instead, after a year spent in Green Bay, the trophy will do what snowbirds and retirees have done for generations; move to Arizona.
This season the MVP trophy is going to Kyler Murray.
Mention all the qualifiers of health and the difficult division he plays in. Mention how he started last season strong before wearing down over the ensuing weeks. All these points are valid, but watching Murray tally 5 total touchdowns on Sunday it was clear that this is not the same quarterback who limped through the second half of last season. With weapons at his disposal and what looks to be a much-improved defense, Arizona seems poised to make a run at the division title, and with that run, a Murray MVP campaign suddenly appears very possible.