The 2020 NFL season got off to a bang this week. The first match-ups of what is bound to be a strange season was largely unproblematic, in terms of COVID-19. There’s plenty to dig our teeth into. Let’s dive in.
32. New York Jets (0-1)
The Jets looked like the weakest team in the league against divisional rival Buffalo on Sunday. Josh Allen had little trouble dissecting New York’s defence through the air and on the ground (with the exception of a couple of miscues and that silly fumble in the first quarter). On the other side of the ball the Jets need to perform better in the trenches if they want to have a more competent ground game. Le’Veon Bell didn’t have much going his way as he only totalled 14 yards on 6 carries.
31. Miami Dolphins (0-1)
Cam Newton ran circles around Miami as he rushed for the most yards by a Patriots quarterback since 1977. His 75 yards on the ground was more than Tom Brady had done for New England over the last two regular seasons combined and he also had two rushing touchdowns on the day too. Defensively the Dolphins have work to do along the defensive line to stop the more mobile quarterbacks of the league doing the same. Fitzpatrick’s three interceptions to open the season might usher in the Tua era sooner than we thought.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Joe Burrow didn’t blow anyone away in his NFL debut. Over-throwing a wide-open A.J. Green for a sure touchdown is one play he’d like to have back along with the shovel pass interception that looked more like a mental slip-up than anything else. It wasn’t all-bad for the number one overall pick as he did string together a nice 68 yard drive from his own 29 yard line to the Chargers’ 3 to set up the game-tying field goal. However an opportunity to win the game in overtime was snatched away from him as kicker Ryan Bullock missed it wide-right. Defensively Cincinnati did manage to put some pressure on Tyrod Taylor but they have a long way to go on run defence before they will be able to climb the rankings.
29. New York Giants (0-1)
Saquon Barkley had nothing going for him on Monday Night Football against a run-stuffing Steelers defence. He averaged 0.4 yards on 15 carries as the Giants’ offensive line looked like one of the worst in the league. Daniel Jones made a few mental errors too despite having a steady game. He coupled his two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions; the worst of which being a red-zone mistake after a 18-play drive 87 yards down the field. New York’s secondary screams for improvement as they allowed a 38-year-old Big Ben to throw for three touchdowns and 229 yards on the day.
28. Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Carolina looked competent on offence against the Raiders on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater was serviceable, Robby Anderson averaged 19.2 yards per reception and Christian McCaffery scored a couple of touchdowns despite not being used when it mattered. Despite being down by four with a minute left on the clock, offensive coordinator Joe Brady didn’t go to the league’s highest paid running back on a must-have fourth & inches play. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers allowed Carr to play well as he completed 73% of his passes for 239 yards. They faced problems on run defence too as second-year Josh Jacobs ran for a hat trick of touchdowns.
27. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Baltimore could have done this to just about any team in the league but the Browns looked especially troubled on Sunday. Baker Mayfield and company couldn’t stay on the field as they only moved the chains three times on their 12 third down attempts. They also struggled on fourth down as they went 0-3 in that area too. The offence need to reduce turnovers and play more consistently if they want to turn their off season moves and star power into regular season W’s. On defence it was always going to be hard matching up against the Ravens’ attack. Even so Lamar Jackson’s men torched their secondary and were equally efficient on the ground.
26. Detroit Lions (0-1)
Mitchell Trubisky scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead a 23-6 comeback against Detroit which is a big reason why they landed at 26 on my list. Despite a strong start, with the defence making plays when it needed to early, they couldn’t perform for the entire 60 minutes. Having said that, Stafford did have a solid game, completing 57% of his passes, but he couldn’t do it all by himself. That De’Andre Swift drop in the closing seconds must have been heartbreaking for the rookie.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Jacksonville is my lowest ranked 1-0 team. Despite being pegged as one of the worst teams in the league before the season started they over-performed and took down their division rivals Indianapolis in dramatic fashion. Gardener Minshew showed how his rookie season may not have been a fluke as he threw for three touchdowns and completed all but one of his 20 pass attempts. On defence their secondary made two key interceptions against the 38-year-old Philip Rivers and ruined the first game for his new team. The Jags still have a tough season ahead of them but I wouldn’t be surprised if they shocked a couple more teams along the way.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)
The Eagles let the Washington Football Team get the better of them after leading 17-0 in the first quarter and a half. Carson Wentz was sacked eight times as his offensive line failed to look after him. The former MVP frontrunner needs to be given more time in the pocket if the team wants him to return to his pre-injury form. Having said that, Dallas Goedert looked good in the first game of his sophomore campaign, totalling 101 yards on eight receptions. Washington’s youthful pass rush caused troubles and forced three turnovers but the Eagles’ defence couldn’t say the same as they didn’t come away with any.
23. Washington Football Team (1-0)
No one would have guessed that Washington would be the only 1-0 team in the NFC East after week one. Their pass rush was electric against a weak Philadelphia line. The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Chase Young, had 1.5 of the team’s eight sacks and also made four tackles in his debut. On offence Haskins had a solid game too. He finished the day with a 54% completion percentage and his main target, second-year receiver Terry McLaurin, racked up five catches for 61 yards. Much like Jacksonville, Washington shouldn’t get used to this winning feeling as it won’t last forever. Having said that, it was a promising performance for a team in the middle of their rebuild.
22. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Despite getting beaten by the team ranked 25th on my list I still have the Colts as the better side. A new quarterback in a season with limited practise and no pre-season games is bound to bring up some problems that need smoothing out early on. This team will get better as the year goes on as they begin to shape their identity. Having said that there’s definitely things that need improving if they want to live up to the off season hype. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and only one touchdown despite having a whopping 363 yards on the day. On the bright side Indianapolis’ running back room had a solid performance and their receivers averaged just over 10 yards per reception. There’s potential there, it just needs some work.
21. Denver Broncos (0-1)
The Titans gave the Broncos every opportunity to win their week one matchup. Tennessee kicker Stephen Gotskowski missed three field goals before making the one that sealed their victory. For some reason Denver just couldn’t capitalise on their opponent’s errors. Regardless of the score, Drew Lock still had a solid performance and helped rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy have a nice NFL debut – he totalled 56 yards on four catches. As for the coaching, Vic Fangio needs to do a better job of managing his timeouts if he wants to give his team a better chance of winning close games.
20. Chicago Bears (1-0)
Mitchell Trubisky is clearly sick and tired of the criticism. After watching his fellow 2017 quarterback draftees, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, have phenomenal starts to their careers, he clearly came into week one with a chip on his shoulder. What better way to silence the haters than to lead a huge three touchdown comeback in the fourth quarter. Kyle Fuller sealed the game by picking off a tipped pass but overall it was a weird day for the defence who allowed 426 yards of total offence and made the 35-year-old Adrian Peterson look like he was on fresh legs. When this Bears team is clicking on all phases they can cause their opponents issues but they’re gonna have to keep this momentum on offence to stand a chance in the NFC North.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)
The Chargers may have won on Sunday, but they didn’t look particularly good doing it. Rookie Joe Burrow’s march down the field to get in position for the game-tying field goal wasn’t a good showing for LA’s defence. They were bailed out by Ryan Bullock’s kick going wide-right but the Chargers can’t expect the same luck from the tougher opponents on their schedule. Tyrod Taylor looked average at quarterback and I think it’s only a matter of time before the coaching staff turns to Justin Herbert. Hunter Henry looks back and better than ever at tight end and should be a nice target for whoever’s under centre this season.
18. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Atlanta could go one of two ways this season. They’re looking to return to postseason success amongst some strong divisional opponents. But Sunday didn’t get things off to a great start. Pete Carroll let Russel Wilson sling it and the Seahawks took control of the game. Despite the loss the Falcon’s offence looked strong. Matt Ryan threw the ball a whopping 54 times and had completions to seven different receivers, three of which went for over 100+ yards. Todd Gurley looked good too, it’s just a shame that Jamal Adams looked better. The main concern for Atlanta right now is their defence. They only managed to total three sacks on a depleted Seahawks’ offensive line and their secondary only had one pass break-up on the day.
17. Houston Texans (0-1)
Coming into Kansas City on opening night to take on the defending champions was never going to be an easy task. The deficit would have been much larger if it wasn’t for a couple of late touchdowns when the game was all but over. That did help close the gap and make it look a little less of a blow-out, but one watch of the game itself revealed just how dominant Kansas City were.
Deshaun Watson looked good for one of the best paid quarterbacks in the league but he missed Deandre Hopkins, who had more receiving yards for the Cardinals than any of the Texans’ pass-catchers. On the bright side David Johnson, who they acquired in the Hopkins trade, averaged an impressive seven yards on his ten carries and looked closer to his 2016 form than ever. Their defence also couldn’t contain rookie running back Clyde Edward-Helaire and only brought down Mahomes once. Houston will look better when they’re not playing the reigning Super Bowl MVP but, even so, this was not a great first showing for them.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0)
The Raiders sure do like making things hard for themselves but a close fought victory in Carolina got Las Vegas off to a good start. Josh Jacobs found the endzone three times and hasn’t seemed to miss a step since his rookie campaign. But I think one of the takeaways from the game was Derek Carr. Maybe it’s the new name, or the prospect of entering his new stadium 1-0, but Carr looked strong under centre all game. He completed 73% of his passes and found a plethora of receivers; nine different Raiders caught a ball from him against the Panthers. It was also a nice NFL debut for Henry Ruggs III who caught three of his five targets for 55 yards. The defence definitely needs fine-tuning as the season progresses however as they couldn’t’ seem to close out a weak Carolina side until late in the game.
15. New England Patriots (1-0)
Cam Newton is back ladies and gentlemen. Although he looked strange in a Patriots jersey, the 31-year-old had a great comeback game. As well as rushing for the most yards by a New England quarterback since 1977, he also played well through the air. On the other side of the ball, the defence picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick three times but improvements could be made along the defensive line. It was a confident debut for this new-look Patriots side, but they’ll need to face some stronger opposition before we can say for certain how good they’re going to be.
14. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
The Vikings looked strong in the first quarter of the game. They held Green Bay to a field goal on their opening drive, scored a touchdown themselves and then forced a turnover on downs at the goal line. They were in position to get down the field and get out to a comfortable early lead, but that’s where things started to go wrong. A safety in the endzone followed by another 17 answered Packers points killed their momentum and before they knew it they were down 12 at the half.
Aaron Rodgers pulled apart the Vikings secondary and their pass rush couldn’t get through a strong Packers offensive line. Minnesota’s offense was decent but couldn’t find the endzone consistently. Kirk Cousins did produce a good statline but he was no match for a revitalised Aaron Rodgers. I’m not completely ‘out’ on the Vikings yet but they need to turn things around soon to stay this high in the rankings.
13. Buffalo Bills (1-0)
The Bills comfortably beat their divisional rivals to open the season and Josh Allen was flinging the ball all over the place. He had 312 passing yards and also rushed for 57. His trio of touchdowns showed his potential to lead his team to victory, but a couple of poor decisions and poorer throws could stop him from entering that elite category. The Bills’ defence stuffed New York’s run game and caused problems for Darnold, despite a strong statline from the Jets’ quarterback. Their defence could cause a problem for teams this season and with the AFC East Brady-free, they have a good chance of winning the division this year.
12. Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
The Cowboys are coming away from a soul-crushing loss against the Rams on Sunday night. The game was close but having your last three possessions end in two failed fourth down conversions and a punt, there’s little excuses to be made. Ezekiel Elliot looked great but Aaron Donald had a field day against the Cowboys’ line. On the other side of the ball their defence did play well against Jared Goff but the Rams still scored on four of their nine drives. To make matters worse they’ll also be without Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee who are both expected to miss the next six to eight weeks with injuries. It’ll be a rocky road for them over the next few weeks but with Washington being the only victorious NFC East team in week one there’s not exactly hot competition in the division.
11. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Stephen Gotskowski must be thanking the Football Gods this week. Despite his three missed field goals the Titans still managed to pull off a victory on Monday Night Football against Denver; deflecting the blame away from his kicking woes. Clinching the game winner must’ve helped the former Patriot, who’s on a new team for the first time since his career started back in 2006. The Titans had the potential to put the hammer down against the Broncos but their failure to do so has stagnated their ranking at 11. Derrick Henry ran the ball for 116 yards on a huge 31 carries and Ryan Tannehill spread the ball around nicely. Five of his receivers caught three or more passes this week. Tennessee’s defence did a nice job of stopping Denver from capitalising on their special teams errors but both Melvin Gordon, Noah Fant and Drew Lock all had good performances.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
After a blockbuster off season the Buccaneers failed to turn their moves into a week one win. Tom Brady threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, against his new divisional rival Drew Brees. The Super-Bowl contending Saints may have forced a few turnovers but the day wasn’t all bad for the 6-time champion, he ran a steady offence and put all three of their touchdowns on the board himself. Having said that, you would expect more than just ‘steady’ from an offence that looks as good as it does on paper. The defence had nine tackles for loss and Drew Brees looked neither here nor there against Tampa Bay’s secondary, despite throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. This team will get better as the season progresses, they just need a little time to get on the right page.
9. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
The Rams christened their new stadium with a close win on Monday Night Football against an underwhelming Cowboys side. Aaron Donald played really well and put pressure on Dak Prescott all game but they couldn’t seem to find an answer for Ezekiel Elliot who had a great performance despite the loss. Malcolm Brown did a good job on the ground considering the Todd Gurley sized hole that was left on the Rams depth chart and Jared Goff played a quick game to put the Cowboys defence on their heels.
8. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)
Arizona shocked the world against the reigning Conference champions, and divisional rival, San Francisco. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins looked like they’ve already had a full season together despite not even being able to play preseason games this year. Nuk’s 33-yard catch at the end of the game setup the game-winning score and has already proved his trade price in week one. Despite the huge win, San Francisco still boasts the stronger roster so they haven’t leapfrogged them in the rankings just yet. But it will be exciting to see what the Cards can do the rest of the year.
7. San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
No one was expecting this result in week one. San Francisco are the only 0-1 team in the NFC West and they’ve now got to fight from behind in the early stages of their revenge tour. Kyler Murray was sacked three times by the San Francisco defence but they couldn’t hold him off forever as he still managed to throw for 230 yards and score a pair of touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. The 49ers struggled slightly against the Cardinals’ ground game and need to tighten that up if they want to bounce back from a cruel 0-1 start. On offence Jimmy Garoppolo missed Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk but they should be back soon. Raheem Mostert on the other hand had himself a great week one performance; the speed he reached on his touchdown reception was especially impressive.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
The story of the game was the Steelers defence. Holding Saquon Barkley six yards on 15 carries is a staggering achievement and Bud Dupree was undoubtedly the star of the game as he practically lived in the Giants’ backfield. Offensively Pittsburgh has some work to do. Ben Roethlisberger got his comeback player of the year campaign off to a great start with a three touchdown performance but he needed to do more to dominate a weak defensive team like New York. Rookie receiver Chase Claypool’s only catch was a 55 yard toe-drag that dazzled just about everyone who saw it. He’ll be one to watch as the season progresses. The Steelers missed out on the top five for consistency. I want to see them have continued success before they can compete with the proven squads above them.
5. New Orleans Saints (1-0)
The Saints spoiled Tom Brady Buccaneers debut on Sunday evening as their defence and special teams forced three turnovers on the day. The offence needs some work before they look like a strong Super-Bowl contender but, with Drew Brees under centre, I’m expecting them to slide into place over the next few weeks. Despite not looking great on screen, the offence still put up 27 points against their divisional rival.
4. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Aaron Rodgers is back. After a questionable off season there were doubts about how much the Packers’ front office trusted him to get the job done but his week one dominance silenced those rumours as quickly as they started. Rodgers went for 364 passing yards and four touchdowns whilst completing 72% of his 44 attempts. The Vikings’ three garbage time touchdowns made the Packers defence look worse on paper than it was on the screen. A dominating week one performance has wiped away the criticism they faced before the season started and turned them into serious contenders in the NFC.
3. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
Pete Caroll and the football world re-discovered what happens when you let Russel Wilson sling it in their offensive domination of the Atlanta Falcons. The pre-season MVP frontrunner showed exactly why he’s in that conversation with a 322 yards, four touchdown passing performance. He also completed a whopping 31 out of his 35 pass attempts. DK Metcalf had a bad drop but came back to score a touchdown as well as three other passes for 95 yards. Chris Carson also had a nice day out of the backfield, he scored twice and had 45 yards with his six catches. This offence clicks when Wilson is given the reigns and their defence looks all the much better with Jamal Adams on it. This team is scary.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
This may surprise some people but the Chiefs land at number two on my list. Despite seamlessly dominating the Texans on opening night, I still don’t have them above Baltimore. Perhaps a week three win will change my mind but for now they’re staying put. That’s taking nothing away from the team, who outplayed Houston on offence and defence. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a great rookie debut and L’Jarius Sneed, their fourth round rookie cornerback, also stepped into the starting role nicely. Defensively they dominated the scoreboard, with two garbage time touchdowns not doing much to change the end result. Patrick Mahomes was Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones was Chris Jones. Enough said.
1. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
The Ravens were in another stratosphere against the Browns. Lamar Jackson overwhelmed Cleveland’s defence and they stuffed their offence too. It’s hard to not put them at the top with a 38-6 thrashing and they fully deserve to be there. Their roster is unmatched and, if they keep this form, they should be able to do the same to plenty of other teams this year.
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