Tuesday, June 18, 2024

NFL Week 1 overreactions and reality checks: Justin Jefferson, Carson Wentz highlight wild opening Sunday

What an exciting Week 1 the NFL provided, as plenty of games went down to the wire and numerous feats were reached in the opening week of the regular season. There were seven game-tying or go-ahead scores in the final two minutes of regulation and a tie during the afternoon state, the third Week 1 deadlock since overtime was instituted in 1974 (three of which have occurred in the past five seasons). 

The NFC East went undefeated in the Sunday afternoon slate before the Cowboys fell in the night game and the NFC West went winless. The AFC South has two teams tied for first place without a win or a loss — but a result. The New York Giants are over .500 for the first time since the 2016 season and the Chicago Bears are tied for first place in the NFC North. 

There were plenty of storylines from Week 1 of the NFL season — and plenty of overreactions to boot. These are the best reactions from each game in the opening week of the year, and whether these storylines are overreactions or reality. 

Carson Wentz is the best Commanders QB since Kirk Cousins

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Carson Wentz had one interesting debut for the Commanders, throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in leading Washington to a fourth-quarter comeback against the Jaguars. He also threw two interceptions, including a poor throw to Travon Walker that gave the Jaguars the ball at the Washington 11 with the Commanders trailing by one early in the fourth quarter.

Wentz corrected himself and threw a 49-yard touchdown to Terry McLaurin and a 24-yard touchdown to Jahan Dotson to rally Washington to the win. He’s the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a season opener for the Commanders since Billy Kilmer in 1975 and the first Commanders quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Kirk Cousins in 2015. 

The Commanders haven’t had excellent QB play since Cousins as 10 players have started a game since he departed in 2017. The proof is in the pudding Wentz may be the answer in Washington.

The 49ers should turn to Jimmy Garoppolo if Trey Lance continues to struggle

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Trey Lance was not good in the 49ers’ loss to the Bears, completing 13 of 28 passes for 161 yards with an interception in the 19-10 setback. He did have 13 carries for 54 yards, but the 50.3 passer rating and scoring twice on 11 possessions was very un-49ers-like under Kyle Shanahan. Lance has only crossed the 60% completion rate once in his three starts.

San Francisco shouldn’t rush to Jimmy Garoppolo yet. The 49ers played in weird, rainy conditions in Chicago that could affect any offense and had 12 penalties for 99 yards in the loss. Let’s see a bit more from Lance before he’s sent to the bench, even though Shanahan is 8-29 when Garoppolo isn’t his starting quarterback. 

There will be another receiving triple crown winner — and it’s Justin Jefferson

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

What else is there to say about Justin Jefferson’s dominance. Jefferson finished with nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings‘ dominant victory over the Packers, having six catches for 158 yards and those two touchdowns in the first half. Jefferson had more receiving yards than any player in the league in Week 1 after the first 30 minutes of his own game. 

Cooper Kupp will have a lot to say about this with the numbers he puts up, but Jefferson can accomplish the feat. Jefferson is on pace for 3,128 receiving yards after all — more than what he had in his first two seasons in the league (which was the most in the NFL). 

Jefferson has as many 150-yard games as Hall of Famer Cris Carter in a Vikings uniform — and he’s only played 34 career games. A huge 2022 season could be in store with a place in history among the all-time great wide receivers. 

A.J. Brown is the Eagles‘ best wide receiver since Terrell Owens

Overreaction or reality: Reality

A.J. Brown carved up the Lions‘ secondary in the Eagles’ victory over the Lions, finishing with 10 catches for 155 yards. Not only was Brown the second-highest receiving yards leader through the Sunday slate of games in Week 1, his 155 receiving yards were the most for any Eagles non-rookie making his debut in franchise history. 

Brown is the 10th Eagles player since 1975 with 10 catches and 150 receiving yards in a game — and the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat before Week 10. He finished with 128 receiving yards in the first half, as Brown got Jalen Hurts on track after he threw five incompletions to start the game. 

The Eagles had one catch from DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal — yet scored 38 points and had 455 yards in the win. That’s a Terrell Owens-type impact that Brown provided in Week 1. Brown is that talented of a player. 

Travis Kelce will make the Chiefs forget about Tyreek Hill

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Travis Kelce is still the best tight end in football, displaying how he can still get open without Tyreek Hill on the outside or in the slot to complement him. He finished with eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ blowout win over the Cardinals, the 30th 100-yard game of his future Hall of Fame career. 

Finding ways to get open across the middle, Kelce freed up the seam for multiple players throughout the game. Patrick Mahomes had plenty of open receivers throughout the day, finding his tight ends 10 times for 132 yards and two scores. 

Four different Chiefs players caught a touchdown pass and nine caught a pass overall. The Chiefs are deeper without Hill, a byproduct of allocating that extra money they would have paid one of the best players in franchise history. 

Saquon Barkley is a top-five running back

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

A healthy Saquon Barkley in Brian Daboll’s offensive system is a sight to behold. The running back, who was last in the NFL in yards per carry over the last two seasons (minimum 150 carries), put up 164 rushing yards and a touchdown and 194 yards from scrimmage in the Giants’ 21-20 upset over the Titans

Barkley led the NFL in rushing through the Sunday afternoon slate of games and his 9.1 yards per carry was second in the league. He also led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, showcasing signs of the player that had 2,000 yards from scrimmage and won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. 

When Barkley is healthy, he is certainly a top-five running back in the league. He has to prove he can stay on the field. 

Joe Burrow won’t last the season with this Bengals offensive line

Overreaction or reality: Reality

New offensive line, same problems for Joe Burrow — who was sacked seven times in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Steelers. Counting the Super Bowl, Burrow has been sacked 14 times in the last two games (by far the most in the NFL). Burrow was sacked 70 times last season and 84 times in his last 21 games — an average of four times a game. 

The sacks affected Burrow, who had four interceptions and a lost fumble in the loss (four of those giveaways came in the first half). This is a recipe for Burrow to suffer a significant injury for the second time in three seasons — and end any hope the Bengals have at a Super Bowl. 

Cincinnati needs to correct its offensive line issues. There’s too much talent for Burrow to be hit this much. 

Khalil Mack will have 15 sacks this season 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Khalil Mack dominated the Raiders‘ offensive line in his Chargers debut, finishing with three sacks and four quarterback hits playing with Joey Bosa on a pass rush that has the makings of dominance. Bosa had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the win, so he has to be accounted for, too. 

Mack hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2018 and a 15-sack season since 2015, but he’s never had a force like Bosa lined up on the same defense with him. Freeing up Robert Quinn last year, Bosa will do the same for Mack in 2022. 

Mack needs just 12 sacks in his final 16 games. With Bosa playing on the same defense, that mark is very attainable. 

Cordarrelle Patterson will rush for 1,000 yards

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Cordarrelle Patterson is off to an excellent start in an offense that doesn’t have a running back — nor playmakers outside of Kyle Pitts and Drake London. He finished with 22 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown against a Saints defense that allowed the fewest yards per attempt. 

The 31-year-old Patterson is finally being utilized correctly in Arthur Smith’s offense and had 20-plus carries in a game for the first time in his career. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands and needs to average just 54.9 yards a game the rest of the season to reach the mark. 

With the volume of carries Patterson is getting, 1,000 rushing yards seems very attainable. 

Aaron Rodgers could use a No. 1 wide receiver

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Davante Adams had 141 receiving yards in his debut with the Raiders, more receiving yards than any of the Packers wide receivers had Sunday (120). The Packers’ leading pass catcher was A.J. Dillon (five catches, 46 yards) as Rodgers finished with just 195 yards with an interception. 

Someone has to step up and be the No. 1 wide receiver, or the Packers are going to take a huge fall in 2021. Green Bay did get blown out in Week 1 last year, but Adams was on that roster. He’s in Vegas now. 

The Browns are going over .500 with Jacoby Brissett at QB

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Cleveland managed to beat Carolina, but the Browns were very impressive running the football in the victory. Nick Chubb had 141 rushing yards and a touchdown while Kareem Hunt scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). The Browns rushed for 217 yards and finished with 5.6 yards per carry. The offense held the ball for 38 minutes. 

This is the formula the Browns need to win games until Deshaun Watson comes back, along with a defense that finished with four sacks (led by Myles Garrett finishing with two sacks and a forced fumble). Running the ball and playing dominant defense is the way for Cleveland to win games for 11 weeks. Kevin Stefanski knows that blueprint well. 

The Colts are going to run away with the AFC South 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Indianapolis is tied for the AFC South after one week — pun intended. The Colts rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie the Texans in the opener (whom they split the division lead with), a moral victory considering Indianapolis was heading toward an embarrassing loss entering the fourth quarter. 

Houston is still a young team, so don’t expect the Texans to be in the mix all year. The Jaguars are a better team with Doug Pederson, but find ways to beat themselves and are in the midst of changing the culture of the franchise. The Titans had an inexcusable loss to the Giants at home, going 3-for-11 on third down against a defense that didn’t have its top two pass rushers.

Derrick Henry has been held to under 100 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns in his last thee regular-season games played, a player the Titans’ offense that’s devoid of playmakers needs to show up every week. 

Indianapolis avoided a road loss in a division game. Despite the tie, this was a strong finish for the Colts — who are clearly the best team in this poor division.

Tyreek Hill is going to make Tua Tagovailoa a Pro Bowl QB

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Tyreek Hill is a major asset for Tua Tagovailoa, which was evident as the Dolphins quarterback finished 23 of 33 for 270 yards and a touchdown (104.4 passer rating) in a convincing victory over New England. While Hill had an impressive debut (eight catches, 94 yards), Jaylen Waddle had four catches for 69 yards and a score.

Tagovailoa had no problems finding pass catchers, throwing a completion to nine different receivers on the afternoon. He also threw 13 passes of 10-plus air yards as the Dolphins’ offense had a more vertical passing game than in years past. 

Tagovailoa is a winning quarterback and played very well in his debut under Mike McDaniel. There are too many good quarterbacks in the AFC to think Pro Bowl right now. 

Lamar Jackson will throw for 35+ touchdowns this year  

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Ravens rushed for just 63 yards, their fewest in a game that Lamar Jackson started for them. They had just 13 first downs, yet Jackson finished 17 of 30 for 213 yards and three touchdowns in a 15-point victory. Jackson is a really good Week 1 quarterback, but looked poised in the pocket and in full command of an offense that’s tailored to his strengths.

Even when the Ravens weren’t controlling the ball on the ground, Jackson was forced to use his arm to win the game. He found Devin Duvernay for two touchdowns and Rashod Bateman for a deep score (Bateman has the Marquise Brown role). This offense is set up for Jackson to put up passing touchdown numbers — similar to the league-leading 36 he threw in 2019 (when he won the MVP). 

Baltimore’s rushing attack will be better, especially when J.K. Dobbins comes back — which could take some passing touchdowns away. Still, there’s enough red zone targets and big-play threats for Jackson to throw for a lot of touchdowns in this offense. 

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