As the dust settles on an enthralling opening week of NFL football, here are some of the main headlines coming out of Week 1:
The Patriots are beatable
After completing the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history last season, the New England Patriots came crashing back down to earth in their home opener as the Kansas City Chiefs left Foxborough with a 42-27 win. Alex Smith silenced his critics with arguably the best performance of his career, throwing four touchdowns and over 350 yards against a Patriots defence that struggled to contain an explosive offence boasting Tyreek Hill and rookie running back, Kareem Hunt. Despite a strong first half from Brady, the 40-year-old struggled to hit his receivers after the break as the Chiefs continued to accompany a three-man rush with eight in coverage. In the end, the deficit proved too much as hopes for a perfect season fell comfortably short of Bill Belichick’s expectations.
Bad, bad Bengals
The Baltimore Ravens claimed the first shutout of the season after they humiliated AFC North rivals, Cincinnati, 20-0 in The Jungle. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton endured a torrid time, throwing four interceptions on the way to a 28.4 passer rating and performance that ranks with some of the worst in league history. The defeat adds more pressure on head coach Marvin Lewis, who has come under fire in recent seasons for pedestrian play-calling and an attitude that, on the surface, appears comfortable with mediocrity. Should the Bengals fail to see off the Texans in Week 2, Lewis just might be the first head coaching casualty of the 2017 season.
Stafford was worth the money
On the 28th of August 2017, Matthew Stafford signed a five-year contract extension worth US$135 million to become the highest paid player in league history. While the amount may seem undeserved given the quality of his compatriots, Stafford’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals went a long way to changing that. The 29-year-old threw 292 yards, four touchdowns and one interception as the Lions completed yet another fourth-quarter comeback in their 35-23 victory. The Lions posted an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comebacks en route to the playoffs last season and appear favourites to get there again so long as Stafford stays healthy.
The Colts need Kaepernick
With franchise quarterback Andrew Luck sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Indianapolis Colts turned to Scott Tolzien ahead of their opening match against the Los Angeles Rams. Two pick-sixes later, Tolzien, who completed just nine of his 18 passes for 128 yards in a 46-9 loss, was ultimately benched in the fourth quarter as head coach Chuck Pagano conceded defeat. Tolzien’s performance comes after Colts authorities ignored the option to sign free agent quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. While the 29-year-old’s on-field political actions presented a roadblock to team owners, his production stands far superior to several starting quarterbacks around the league. Had Kaepernick been under center against the Rams, perhaps the Colts come away with the win. Instead, they copped the heaviest defeat of the weekend.
No Odell, no Giants
The New York Giants struggled mightily without star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as the Dallas Cowboys bullied their way to a comfortable 19-3 victory. With Beckham watching on from the sideline, Eli Manning found both time and protection in the pocket hard to come by as the Giants offensive line continued to crumble immediately following the snap. This breakdown forced Manning to settle for quick dump-off passes to his running backs and rarely target his receivers down the field. For Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, getting Beckham back on the field will be high on his list of priorities if his side are to have any hopes of realising their Super Bowl potential this season.