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Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press
The NFL season is underway.
Week 1 of the 2018 season brought with it everything football fans have been craving since February. There was a playoff rematch in Philadelphia. The highest-scoring Week 1 game of the Super Bowl era. A wild comeback in Green Bay.
There was even a Week 1 tie.
The week’s action gave fans their first in-depth look at this year’s iteration of their favorite teams. It also gave Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport their first true glimpse into what those teams are made of. Who’s for real? Who’s a paper tiger? And which teams are just bad?
As they’ve been doing since the preseason, those intrepid scribes have gathered to rank the league’s teams from worst to first—from No. 32 to No. 1.
And with the first week of games that count just about in the books, there was plenty of moving and shaking.
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Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Last Week: 30
Week 1 Result: Lost 47-3 at Baltimore
The only bright spot of Sunday’s season opener for the Buffalo Bills is the fact that the game ended.
To say that the Bills were shellacked by the Ravens is an understatement. From the first drive of the game to the final gun, the Bills were dominated in every way imaginable. The Bills had just 153 yards of total offense, and quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen combined to complete just 11 of 33 pass attempts.
Yes, you read that right. Eleven of 33.
It was a performance so putrid that it motivated Davenport to drop the Bills into the basement of these power rankings.
“Yes, it’s just one game. But it’s also a game the Bills have been preparing for all summer long. There’s no sugarcoating just how terrible the Bills were in every facet of the game. And the quarterback play—great googly moogly the quarterback play. What do you call a quarterback controversy where the winner is the player who sucks slightly less? I know what you don’t call it—a recipe for winning games.”
He wasn’t alone.
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Norm Hall/Getty Images
Last Week: 28
Week 1 Result: Lost 24-6 vs. Washington
Anyone up for a quarterback controversy?
It’s possible there’s going to be one in Arizona after Sam Bradford‘s turkey of a desert debut. Against Washington (a team that’s not exactly a defensive powerhouse), Bradford was a dismal 20-of-34 for 153 yards.
That’s a whopping 4.5 yards per attempt.
Bradford doesn’t deserve all the blame for Arizona’s Week 1 face-plant. The team was flat on both offense and defense and was manhandled in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Tailback David Johnson was a non-factor, and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did almost all of his damage in garbage time.
All told, it was an embarrassing performance that brought out the boo birds at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It’s a safe assumption that many of those same fans will be calling for rookie Josh Rosen to start in Week 2.
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Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Last Week: 24
Week 1 Result: Lost 48-17 vs. New York Jets
The Buffalo Bills had the worst performance of any team in the NFL in Week 1 in terms of margin of defeat.
But given that the Detroit Lions were blown out at home, a strong argument can be made theirs was the biggest clunker of Week 1.
Matt Patricia’s debut as head coach of the Lions was an unmitigated catastrophe. The Lions were outclassed in every facet of the game. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted four times. Detroit’s defense was gashed for long gains both on the ground and in the air.
The Lions allowed touchdowns in every way imaginable. Long pass? Check. Long run? Oh yeah. Interception return? Well, when you throw five as a team it’s hard not to. Punt return? Sure, why not?
This was a Detroit team that went from looking flat in the preseason to whatever comes four off-ramps down the road to futility after flat.
We’re generally not the sort to recommend hitting the panic button after just one game.
But for every rule there’s an exception. Press the button.
The Lions are a bad football team.
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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Last Week: 25
Week 1 Result: Lost 33-13 vs. Los Angeles Rams
The return of Jon Gruden to the Oakland sideline was fun for a half.
Over the first 30 minutes of Monday night’s home opener, the Raiders hung in there with a Super Bowl favorite.
But after intermission, the Raiders got their doors blown off.
To say that the Raiders were dominated at the point of attack late in the game is an understatement. Oakland got next to no pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff and couldn’t generate any offense after the break.
Three Derek Carr interceptions didn’t help matters. Neither did 11 penalties for 155 yards.
That last one is a very Raiders thing to do.
There’s really no way to sugar-coat it. The Raiders don’t have the horses to compete with good teams—especially on defense. There’s no magic solution for Gruden and Co. here.
Just the beginning of what looks like a very long season.
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Last Week: 32
Week 1 Result: Won 27-20 vs. Tennessee
The Miami Dolphins spent most of the preseason as the No. 32 team in the Bleacher Report NFL power rankings.
One week doesn’t suddenly make those same Dolphins playoff contenders. But fair’s fair—this week the Dolphins get some dap.
In a bizarre game that featured two weather delays of over two hours each, a pair of kickoff return touchdowns and more big plays than you could shake a stick at, the Dolphins earned a win over the Tennessee Titans on the strength of a balanced offensive attack and an opportunistic defense.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills topped 100 receiving yards, averaged 26.5 yards a catch and scored twice. Strong safety Reshad Jones piled up seven stops and added a pair of interceptions, And Miami made enough plays when it needed to to beat a Tennesee team that won a playoff game in 2017.
With a pair of winnable games next up (at Jets, vs. Raiders), there’s a real chance the Dolphins could travel to New England on September 30 at 2-1 or even 3-0.
We did not see that coming.
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Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Last Week: 14
Week 1 Result: Lost 27-20 at Miami
There wasn’t a weirder Week 1 game than Sunday’s tilt in Miami that was interrupted twice for over two hours by lightning.
For the visiting Titans, it was more than weird—it was a nightmare.
Three of the Titans’ offensive starters were injured in the game. Tackle Taylor Lewan suffered a concussion. Quarterback Marcus Mariota hurt his elbow and had a miserable game before giving way to Blaine Gabbert. And veteran tight end Delanie Walker suffered a potentially season-ending dislocated ankle, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
If there’s a silver lining to this mess, it’s that the Jaguars were the only team in the AFC South that managed a win in Week 1.
But with division tilts over the next two weeks with the Texans and then the Jaguars, the Titans could find themselves in a hole too deep to dig out of if Mariota and/or Lewan are sidelined.
Gagnon is not sure it matters anyway.
“The Titans are a lot better on paper than they are in real life. They can’t trust Marcus Mariota, the offense has already taken a bunch of hits from an injury standpoint and the defense isn’t good enough to carry them. Sunday’s game in Miami was weird, but that’s not an excuse. It didn’t have to be a dud, especially considering that the Dolphins are garbage.”
Given their free-fall in these rankings, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of argument.
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Bobby Ellis/Getty Images
Last Week: 26
Week 1 Result: Lost 34-23 vs. Cincinnati
There are no moral victories in the NFL. And after leading for much of the game, the Colts are most assuredly not happy about the late mistakes that sent the team to defeat in Week 1.
Still, there were positives to be taken away from the defeat.
The Colts outgained the Bengals 380 to 330, had five more first downs than the Bengals and won the time-of-possession battle. An Indy offensive line that allowed a league-high 56 sacks in 2017 gave up just two Sunday. And in his first game action since the 2016 season, Andrew Luck played relatively well.
This was a game the Colts could have won. Maybe should have won. But the defense faltered in the second half, and a late fumble returned for a score sealed Indy’s fate.
Yes, the Colts are 0-1—and the final score is all that matters.
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Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Last Week: 29
Week 1 Result: Won 48-17 at Detroit
If the Bills and Lions are the front-runners for Week 1’s biggest faceplant, then the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the leading contenders for the week’s most surprisingly impressive showings.
To be blunt, the Jets went to Detroit and dropped a piano on the Lions. Whether it was the offense, defense or special teams, the Jets dominated every phase of the Monday night opener.
As fun as the blowout was for fans of Gang Green, the best news of all may have been the debut of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. After an ill-advised first pass attempt was picked and returned for a touchdown, Darnold settled down—finishing 16-of-21 for 198 yards and two scores.
Davenport gave the Jets their due…sort of.
“I’m not ready to send the Jets soaring up my rankings,” he said. “That game may have said more about how bad the Lions are than how good the Jets are. But I will freely admit that if Monday is any indication, I underestimated the Jets for a second straight season. And with a couple games coming up against less-than-stellar competition, that big surge may not be far off.”
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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Last Week: 27
Week 1 Result: Tied 21-21 vs. Pittsburgh
The Browns still haven’t won a game since Week 16 of the 2016 season. But the team’s losing streak of 17 games was snapped in a soggy home opener against the rival Steelers.
For a moment, it looked like the Browns were going to stun Pittsburgh. After notching their sixth takeaway late in overtime, the Browns were in position to kick a game-winning field goal.
The field-goal attempt was blocked, though—because Cleveland.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in Cleveland. The Browns were outgained by 145 yards, were a miserable 5-of-18 on third down and committed 11 penalties.
But the Cleveland defense looked the part of a unit that’s going to keep the team in games, Myles Garrett looked like a force of nature and the Browns managed (for the most part) to avoid the turnovers that did them in so often a year ago.
The Browns may not be good. But they’re better.
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Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Last Week: 20
Week 1 Result: Lost 27-24 at Denver
There’s been much said and written about the Seattle Seahawks problems on the offensive line. The hope was that a healthy Duane Brown and a new OL coach would help steady the unit.
If Week 1 was any indication, those hopes were misplaced.
In Seattle’s Week 1 loss at Denver, Russell Wilson was sacked six times, hit 11 times and hurried on many other occasions. Wilson still managed 298 passing yards (without top receiver Doug Baldwin), but Seattle’s offense was soundly beaten at the point of attack.
It was a thrashing that has Davenport feeling pessimistic about Seattle’s prospects in 2018.
“Let’s call it like it is. Seattle’s O-line is still awful,” he said. “Wilson took a beating Sunday, and the Seahawks running game only generated 64 yards on the ground. Wilson is a great player, but there’s not enough around or in front of him. At this rate, he’ll be lucky to survive until Halloween.”
Not that long ago, the Seahawks were the class of the NFC.
Now, they’re barely clinging to the top 25.
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Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Last Week: 15
Week 1 Result: Lost 16-8 at Carolina
Sixty minutes of game action isn’t a definitive statement on a team’s fortunes for a season, However, it does offer us the best window to date into the NFL’s 32 clubs in 2018—into their strengths and weaknesses.
And in the case of the Dallas Cowboys, a window into a strength that may have become a weakness.
For several years, the Dallas O-line has been among the NFL’s best. That line has absorbed a couple of dents of late—Zack Martin missed much of camp and the preseason with a bad knee, and center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely as he battles Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Against Carolina at least, the Dallas line didn’t look like the Dallas line. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t have the room to run he usually does, and quarterback Dak Prescott took a pounding—six sacks and 10 QB hits.
We knew the Dallas receiving corps might be an issue, and sure enough Cowboys pass-catchers struggled to get separation Sunday.
But if the Dallas line continues to look like it did in Charlotte, this team has much bigger problems than we thought.
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Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Last Week: 19
Week 1 Result: Lost 20-15 vs. Jacksonville
The good news for the New York Giants was wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie tailback Saquon Barkley both had stellar debuts.
Beckham caught 11 passes for 111 yards. And Barkley picked up 128 total yards and peeled off a 68-yard touchdown for his first NFL score.
Unfortunately, those big numbers got Big Blue a fat bag of nothing. Barkley’s score was New York’s only touchdown of the game, and it came just after Eli Manning threw a backbreaking interception that linebacker Myles Jack returned for six.
New York’s defense couldn’t stop the run, allowing almost five yards a carry. It also couldn’t pressure Blake Bortles, managing just a single sack on the afternoon.
“The New York Giants haven’t solved anything,” Sobleski said. “Sure, Saquon Barkley is a big play waiting to happen and Odell Beckham Jr. is an amazing talent, but the offensive line remains a major concern, especially right tackle, and the 37-year-old Eli Manning didn’t all of a sudden look rejuvenated with Pat Shurmur calling the plays.”
The Giants’ first-half schedule is brutal—Week 1 was one of five matchups over the first seven weeks against playoff teams from a year ago.
If the Giants don’t tighten things up in a hurry, this season could get away from them quick.
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Last Week: 31
Week 1 Result: Won 48-40 at New Orleans
That is not a misprint, although frankly we’re still not entirely sure what happened in New Orleans.
In what was easily the weirdest result of Week 1, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the defending NFC South champions. In their house. In the highest-scoring Week 1 game of the Super Bowl era.
Ryan Fitzpatrick went absolutely bonkers in the game, completing 75 percent of his 28 pass attempts for a staggering 417 yards and four touchdowns. That’s almost 15 yards per attempt. His passer rating for the game was two points shy of perfect.
Mind you, this game doesn’t fix all that ails the Buccaneers. The defense is still terrible, allowing 475 yards to the Saints. But said defense also found the end zone and held the Saints to just 43 yards on the ground.
The Buccaneers are still the fourth-best team in their division. But for one game at least, Tampa was an offensive buzzsaw.
And that earned Ryan and the Fitzmagics an 11-spot jump here this week.
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Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Last Week: 17
Week 1 Result: Lost 24-16 at Minnesota
Jimmy G’s streak is no more.
For the first time in his career as a starter in the NFL, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has tasted defeat after falling on the road to open the season.
There’s no shame in losing to the Vikings. Minnesota’s a loaded team on both sides of the ball that many have tabbed as the favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIII.
The way San Francisco lost, however, is cause for some concern. With tailback Jerick McKinnon out for the season, the running game struggled to the tune of 3.6 yards per carry. With the ground game stuck in neutral, Garoppolo was forced to press—and it showed.
For the game, Garoppolo was just 15-of-33 passing with three interceptions and a passer rating of 45.1.
That’s not what the Niners had in mind when they handed Garoppolo $74 million in guaranteed money over the summer.
And Gagnon wonders if perhaps all the offseason buzz about the 49ers was misplaced.
“Tough Week 1 opponent, but I just don’t think they have enough weapons on offense to contend in the loaded NFC. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.”
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Last Week: 23
Week 1 Result: Won 24-6 at Arizona
Week 1 for the Washington Redskins was all about new faces that are actually old faces but are new faces in the nation’s capital.
Just as he was last year in Kansas City, veteran quarterback Alex Smith was accurate and efficient in his first start for the Redskins, hitting on 21 of 30 pass attempts with a pair of touchdowns and no picks. He got help from tailback Adrian Peterson, who piled up 166 total yards and a score in his Washington debut.
Add in 128 total yards and a score for scatback Chris Thompson and a dominant defensive effort, and you had the recipe for an impressive season debut.
If Washington can post a similar effort this week against the Colts, this is a team we’re going to have to start taking even more seriously than this week’s five-spot jump up the rankings.
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Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Last Week: 21
Week 1 Result: Won 27-24 vs. Seattle
It’s not all that often that a quarterback throws three interceptions in a winning effort. But that’s what happened in Case Keenum’s Denver debut against the Seattle Seahawks.
In Keenum’s defense, he also threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, including one each for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. But Denver won the game because Keenum had help.
Tailbacks Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined to top 140 yards on 30 carries. The Denver pass rush was up in Russell Wilson’s business all day long, sacking him six times and harassing him on countless other occasions.
It goes without saying that Keenum can’t keep turning the ball over that much. But if the Broncos continue to run the ball and pressure the quarterback with that kind of consistency, we may have underestimated Denver’s ability to be a factor in the AFC West.
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Bobby Ellis/Getty Images
Last Week: 22
Week 1 Result: Won 34-23 at Indianapolis
Andy Dalton can be a very good NFL quarterback. He can also be a bad NFL quarterback.
More often than not, the determining factor is how much time Dalton has to throw the ball.
Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, that time was there. Dalton was sacked only two times, and the result was a good outing—Dalton ended the day 21-of-28 for 243 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 109.7.
That wasn’t the only good news for the Bengals. Tailback Joe Mixon racked up 149 total yards and found the end zone. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and tackle Geno Atkins earned their fat new salaries with a sack apiece. And the Bengals defense salted the game away with a fumble return for a touchdown late.
The Bengals now have a short week to get ready for the home opener against the Ravens, but they’re heading into the matchup with a ton of momentum.
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Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press
Last Week: 16
Week 1 Result: Lost 24-23 at Green Bay
For the first half of Sunday night’s showdown with the Packers at Lambeau Field, it looked like the Chicago Bears were about to send a message that the hype surrounding the team since the acquisition of Khalil Mack was real.
Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago offense looked sharp. Mack and the defense forced Aaron Rodgers from the game and teed off on backup DeShone Kizer. When Mack rumbled into the end zone with a second-quarter turnover to make it 17-0, it looked like the rout was on.
Unfortunately, the game had two halves. Rodgers came back for the second one. And the Bears blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and had their hearts ripped out at Lambeau Field—again.
The Bears team we saw in the first half is an indicator of just how improved Chicago is relative to last year. And Mack will only get better as he settles in to his new home.
That the Bears couldn’t seal the deal shows that the team still has a ways to go.
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Michael Perez/Associated Press
Last Week: 6
Week 1 Result: Lost 18-12 at Philadelphia
Thursday’s season opener did not go at all according to plan for the Atlanta Falcons.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was atrocious, completing less than half of his pass attempts for 251 yards with an interception and a passer rating of less than 60.
Atlanta’s ground game was subpar, picking up just 74 yards on carries for the game and failing to punch in a touchdown on the game’s first drive.
The red-zone woes that plagued the Falcons a year ago were back with a vengeance. They converted just one of five opportunities inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line.
Oh, and several prominent players got banged up, including safety Keanu Neal (who is out for the season with a torn ACL) and tailback Devonta Freeman.
The Falcons didn’t look like a Super Bowl contender. They looked like a flawed also-ran that once again couldn’t get the job done deep in enemy territory.
So much so, in fact, that Gagnon’s through with them as a legit contender.
“I’m done with the Falcons. I mean it, I’ve got no faith left in them. They’re obviously scarred by Super Bowl LI and the loss of Kyle Shanahan, and it’s only a matter of time before they bail on Steve Sarkisian. Throw in that killer Keanu Neal injury, and there’s little reason to believe this team has a chance to contend at this point. It doesn’t help that their quarterback is a complete choker in big moments.”
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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Last Week: 11
Week 1 Result: Lost 27-20 at New England
Beating the Patriots in Foxborough requires a complete effort. A team has to play well in all three phases and can’t afford to make mistakes or turn the ball over.
The Houston Texans learned that the hard way in Week 1. Thanks in part to a pair of Deshaun Watson turnovers (one fumble, one interception), the Texans found themselves in an early hole and just couldn’t dig themselves out of it.
It wasn’t just Watson’s fault. Defensively, the Texans were able to generate very little pressure on Tom Brady. Houston’s vaunted trio of JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus was held out of the sack column and managed just two QB hits.
It wasn’t an unexpected outcome, but it ramps up the pressure on the Texans next week in Tennessee nonetheless.
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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Last Week: 10
Week 1 Result: Lost 38-28 vs. Kansas City
Stop us if you’ve heard this one.
The Los Angeles Chargers enter the season with hype and promise. This is the year the Bolts are finally going to put it all together and make a deep playoff run. Then the injuries start to mount. Or the team starts the year out flat. Or both. And by November, we’re all left wondering how we could fall for it again.
After watching the Bolts lose to Kansas City in Week 1, Davenport’s getting a head start on the wondering.
“It’s not just that the Chargers lost a game. It’s the way they lost it. The defensive lapses. The dropped passes. The miscues at the worst possible time—all with the team’s best defensive player (Joey Bosa) now seeking a second opinion on his injured foot. We’ve seen this movie too many times with the Chargers. We know how it ends—with the Chargers 9-7 and out of the playoffs.”
Luckily for the Chargers, Week 2 against the woeful Bills brings a chance to get right.
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Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Last Week: 3
Week 1 Result: Lost 48-40 vs. Tampa Bay
One game is a small sample size, and Week 1 is much too early for any NFL team to be hitting the panic button.
However, it’s understandable if Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is freaking out a little.
On a day where Drew Brees threw for 439 yards and the Saints piled up 475 yards of total offense, New Orleans was beaten at home by a last-place Buccaneers team that absolutely shredded Allen’s defense to the tune of over 500 yards and 48 points.
Mind you, this was a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fourth touchdown pass of the afternoon made the score 48-24 before Brees and the Saints made things respectable at the end.
The Saints are supposed to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Super Bowl contenders do not generally get rolled at home by a tomato can. And as such, Sobleski dropped the Saints in his rankings…a lot.
“New Orleans may feature one of the league’s most talented rosters, but no excuses can be made for giving up 48 points in a home loss to open the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints must earn their way to the top of the rankings by playing sound football, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.”
Gagnon, on the other hand, was a bit more understanding.
“I was stubborn about the Saints all summer, and I’m not about to completely condemn them because of one bad defensive performance. New Orleans started terribly last season too and then found a groove on both sides of the ball. And the good news is Drew Brees still looked fantastic in a losing effort Sunday. I can’t drop them out of the top 10, but I also can’t justify keeping them in the top five after that disastrous defensive showing.”
Still, the team’s Week 1 fiasco cost them eight slots here.
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Mike Roemer/Associated Press
Last Week: 9
Week 1 Result: Won 24-23 vs. Chicago
Aaron freaking Rodgers.
When the Green Bay quarterback was carted to the locker room Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, you could hear the sobs of cheeseheads fearing a repeat of last year. A deflated Packers team fell behind 20-0 after the first drive of the second half.
Then No. 12 came limping back onto the field.
And with him came the sort of magic that very few players can pull off. Rodgers passed for 286 yards and three scores, including a 75-yarder to Randall Cobb that gave Green Bay a one-point lead.
The evening’s happenings left Davenport flabbergasted—and concerned.
“I’m still trying to process what I just saw. If there’s any question as to who the NFL’s most valuable player is, Rodgers settled it—again. Without him, the Packers would be lucky to win six games. With him, they could win the Super Bowl. However, watching Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks tee off on Rodgers was a sobering reminder not only of how reliant Green Bay is on their star quarterback, but also that the protection in front of him can be spotty.”
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Jason Miller/Getty Images
Last Week: 7
Week 1 Result: Tied 21-21 at Cleveland
Had you said before Sunday’s opener in Cleveland that Steelers tailback James Conner would pile up 192 total yards and score two touchdowns against the Browns, most people would have assumed that would pave the way for an easy win.
Sure enough, the Steelers appeared to have the game in hand, up 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
But a Conner fumble opened the door for the Browns to narrow the score. As a matter of fact, turnovers were the story of the day for the Steelers.
Six of them.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was responsible for four, tossing three interceptions and losing a fumble in overtime that very nearly cost Pittsburgh the game.
Some will probably write this game off as an anomaly given the driving rainstorm it was played in.
But there’s more than a little early unease surrounding this Super Bowl contender given how sloppy the team looked in Week 1.
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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Last Week: 13
Week 1 Result: Won 16-8 vs. Dallas
Week 1 went about as well for the Carolina Panthers as a week can go.
That the Panthers were victorious in their opener against the Dallas Cowboys was good. That the Saints stumbled against the Buccaneers and the Falcons fell on Thursday night is even better.
It was a very Panthers win. Carolina gained one more yard on the ground than through the air, with quarterback Cam Newton leading the way with 58 yards. The defense was stout as well, limiting the Cowboys to just 232 total yards, keeping Ezekiel Elliott in check and sacking Dak Prescott six times.
However, the day wasn’t without bad news. Per Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers lost a pair of starters to injury in tight end Greg Olsen (foot) and tackle Daryl Williams (knee).
If either player is sidelined for a substantial period of time, it would be a sizable blow. And given that Williams was carted off the field and Olsen spent most of the contest watching from the sidelines on crutches, the early signs aren’t promising.
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Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Last Week: 18
Week 1 Result: Won 47-3 vs. Buffalo
Break up the Ravens!
The 2018 season got off to a better start for the Ravens than they dared dream. The Ravens took the opening kick, drove downfield 80 yards for a touchdown and didn’t let up from there. If the NFL had a mercy rule, the game would have ended in the third quarter.
Baltimore’s defense was dominant the entire game, surrendering just 153 total yards, racking up six sacks and forcing a pair of turnovers. The offense was unstoppable, with quarterback Joe Flacco throwing three touchdown passes to three different receivers.
Granted, it was the sort of game where you wonder if Baltimore looks good or if Buffalo just looks terrible, but it was a phenomenal start to the season for the Ravens—especially given the egg the rival Steelers laid in Cleveland.
One blowout win does not a season make, but there’s no denying the Ravens looked good in Week 1.
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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 1 Result: Won 38-28 at Los Angeles Chargers
On paper, the Kansas City Chiefs have a potent offense.
As it turns out, at the StubHub Center, the Chiefs also have a potent offense.
Led by second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ four touchdown passes and an absolutely gonzo outing from wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs torched the Chargers for 362 yards of total offense and 38 points in a 10-point Week 1 win.
Hill was absolutely unreal in the game, catching seven passes for 169 yards and two scores and taking his first punt return of the season 91 yards for another touchdown.
It was an offensive performance that impressed Sobleski.
“The Mahomes-to-Hill connection is alive and well and should be near-impossible to stop. Mahomes looked comfortable with a four-touchdown performance against the rival Los Angeles Chargers in his first start as the Kansas City Chiefs’ full-time starting quarterback. His amazing arm talent coupled with Hill’s game-breaking speed will be fun to watch all season.”
Gagnon’s a believer too.
“Mahomes will eventually experience some growing pains, but this offense looks even better than it did last year. They proved Sunday that they’re clearly the best team in the AFC West.”
Kansas City’s defense remains an area of concern (the Chiefs allowed a jaw-dropping 541 total yards to the Bolts), but KC served notice to the rest of the division Sunday that trying to win a track meet against the team is unwise.
Hill may have scored again while you were reading this.
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Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Last Week: 8
Week 1 Result: Won 20-15 at New York Giants
Sunday’s season-opening win over the New York Giants was the Jaguars in a nutshell. Run the ball, play defense, win the turnover battle and get a victory.
Despite losing lead back Leonard Fournette to injury, the Jaguars piled up 137 yards on the ground, averaging almost five yards a carry. The game’s deciding score came courtesy of the defense, with linebacker Myles Jack taking an errant Eli Manning pass back 32 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Blake Bortles was a pedestrian 18-of-33 for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick, but as was the case so often last year, the defense and the ground game bailed him out. The Jaguars don’t need Bortles to be great—he just needs to be good and avoid turnovers.
It’s not the most exciting script in the world, but it was enough to get the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game last year.
It could get them one game further in 2018.
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Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Last Week: 5
Week 1 Result: Won 18-12 vs. Atlanta
The Philadelphia Eagles made the most of the unveiling of their championship banner with a Thursday night win over Atlanta—even if they didn’t amass many style points in the process.
The Eagles were outplayed by Atlanta on offense for much of the game and outgained by the Falcons 299 to 232. But thanks to the hard second-half running of Jay Ajayi and another lights-out defensive effort, the Eagles held off the Falcons and picked up win No. 1 of the year.
Davenport sees the game as a blueprint for Philly surviving the absence of star quarterback Carson Wentz and top receiver Alshon Jeffery.
“If Thursday night was any indication, the Nick Foles-led Philly offense could struggle in coming weeks to put points on the board. But if Philly can run the ball, play defense and avoid mistakes, the Eagles can weather the storm without Wentz just fine—for a while. Gutting out a tough win over a playoff team when you aren’t close to 100 percent is an impressive feat in itself.”
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Last Week: 4
Week 1 Result: Won 27-20 vs. Houston
The odds of beating the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium are not good. The odds of doing so if you trail at the half are non-existent. So, while the Houston Texans made things close at the end, once the Patriots raced out to a 21-6 lead at intermission, the game was all but over.
It was a typical Patriots effort. Tom Brady was his usually efficient self, passing for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots didn’t have an individual tailback gain 65 yards but rushed for over 120 as a team. And with Julian Edelman serving a suspension, Philip Dorsett stepped up and made seven catches for 66 yards and a score.
Oh, and Rob Gronkowski was his usual un-coverable self, catching seven passes of his own for 123 yards and a touchdown.
It was a reminder to the rest of the AFC that the big bad bullies of the conference aren’t going anywhere.
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Last Week: 2
Week 1 Result: Won at Oakland 33-13
The Rams first game of 2018 was a tale of two halves.
Over the first 30 minutes, a game Raiders team gave one of this year’s Super Bowl favorites all they could handle.
But after intermission the Rams began to assert their will. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the Rams offense dominated tempo and time of possession in the second half. On the rare occasions when the Raiders actually had the ball, the Oakland offense could do nothing.
The Rams had three scoring drives of 10 or more plays in the second half—including the final long drive that put the Rams up 13 and all but salted things away.
Marcus Peters had some salt of his own soon after—a pick-six that turned the game into a beatdown.
The second half of the final game of Week 1 was a window into how good the Rams can be when firing on all cylinders.
And it was the scariest thing in the Black Hole
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Last Week: 1
Week 1 Result: Won 24-16 vs. San Francisco
Taking care of business was the Minnesota Vikings’ mantra in Week 1, as the No. 1 team in the Bleacher Report Power Rankings entering the season downed the San Francisco 49ers in workmanlike fashion.
It wasn’t a flawless effort, but it was a solid one. Kirk Cousins passed for 244 yards and two scores in his Vikings debut. Second-year tailback Dalvin Cook amassed 95 total yards. Top receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen produced a combined stat line of 9/145/1.
One of the NFL’s best defenses got in on the act too. The 49ers gained nearly as many yards as Minnesota, but the Vikings forced four turnovers, sacked Jimmy Garoppolo three times and took an interception back for a touchdown.
The Niners were able to get within one score late, but this was a game that didn’t feel as close as the final score. The Vikings were in control on both sides of the ball for most of the afternoon.
Minnesota looked the part of the Super Bowl favorite many have labeled them this year.