2023 NFL Week 1: Top Takeaways for Every Team from Sunday’s Games
0 of 13
AP Photo/Kyusung Gong
NFL viewers weren’t disappointed by Week 1 of the regular season.
Though starting rookie quarterbacks went 0-3, they could all take a few positives from their regular-season debuts. Also, a few clubs that prognosticators overlooked in the offseason made strong statements with season-opening wins.
On the downside, the Baltimore Ravens received bad news about a couple of key playmakers, which clouded a solid victory.
Among the surprises from Sunday, the reigning NFC South champions pulled off a notable upset, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked awful after gaining momentum in the preseason and the Arizona Cardinals defense may be good enough to slow down offenses this year.
Sunday Night Football, this week featuring the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants, had its own reaction that can be found here.
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
1 of 13
J.K. DobbinsAP Photo/Julio Cortez
Ravens Offense Has an Electric Spark, Gets Bad News
The Baltimore Ravens may have mixed feelings about their offensive outlook after Sunday’s contest with the Houston Texans.
On one hand, wide receiver Zay Flowers, whom the team selected with the No. 22 overall pick, had a performance that puts him on the Offensive Rookie of the Year radar. He caught nine passes for 78 yards and showed off his video-game-like moves after the catch.
On the other hand, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that running back J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles. On top of that, the team fears that safety Marcus Williams tore his pectoral muscle, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
In Dobbins’ absence, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will likely see an uptick in their rushing workloads. They logged 16 carries for just 41 yards combined against the Texans, though the latter scored two touchdowns.
Texans’ Pesky Defense Will Keep Them Competitive Against Better Teams
The Houston Texans couldn’t keep pace with the Ravens, but their defense didn’t give up while the team trailed by two scores late in the game.
The Texans forced a turnover in both halves. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw an interception in the first quarter, and he fumbled late in the third quarter.
As a rebuilding squad, the Texans will go through some growing pains, especially on the offensive side of the ball with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, but head coach DeMeco Ryans’ defense will keep the club in tight games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
2 of 13
Baker MayfieldAP Photo/Abbie Parr
Baker Mayfield Is Efficient, Seals a Big Win for the Buccaneers
Baker Mayfield has to fill big cleats as the replacement for Tom Brady, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title three seasons ago, but he looked up for the challenge in Week 1.
Mayfield went 21-of-34 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He’s not going to appear in fantasy football waiver-wire pickup columns with those numbers, but the Buccaneers’ signal-caller deserves praise for a winning performance.
Mayfield didn’t turn the ball over and sealed the game with an 11-yard pass to wideout Chris Godwin for a first down. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to write off Tampa Bay in the NFC South.
Kirk Cousins’ Turnover-Ridden Outing Doomed Vikings
How many times do we hear coaches say that their team isn’t going to win many games if the offense turns the ball over at a high rate? Head coach Kevin O’Connell will likely relay that message to the media in the upcoming week.
Typically, multiple players take the blame for giveaways, but Kirk Cousins has to take most of the blame following his three turnovers Sunday. He threw a red-zone interception and fumbled twice.
Cousins’ miscues put a damper on his big passing day (34-of-44 for 344 yards, two touchdowns and an interception). The Minnesota Vikings should bounce back with a high-powered offense, but Cousins must protect the ball.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
3 of 13
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Calvin Ridley Creates Different Dynamic in Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
Calvin Ridley immediately changed the math regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars offense.
In his first game in teal, black and gold, Ridley caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence posted a 131.5 quarterback rating when targeting the 28-year-old wide receiver, according to Pro Football Focus.
Ridley’s performance will play a significant role in the possibility of quarterback Trevor Lawrence reaching the status of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and the league’s other elite quarterbacks. Immediate returns from last year’s trade proved to be very positive.
The 2018 first-round draft pick is now three years removed from a career season of 1,374 receiving yards. He didn’t play a down last year after being suspended for betting on NFL games. Yet he didn’t look rusty or out of place. Instead, the Jaguars have a new WR1.
As Jacksonville continues to ascend as the AFC South’s best squad, the Lawrence-Ridley connection will be difficult to defend.
Promising Debut from QB Anthony Richardson Should Have Colts Excited
While Sunday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t end well, everything leading up to that point should be viewed as a positive for the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Certain narratives emerged regarding Richardson throughout the draft process.
He’s not accurate. He’s not ready. He’ll need to sit on the bench and learn. Biggest project in years.
Well, this year’s fourth overall draft pick completed 64.9 percent of his passes with a passing and rushing touchdown in his debut. According to StatMuse NFL, Richardson became the first rookie in NFL history with 200-plus passing yards, 40-plus rushing yards, a passing touchdown and rushing score in his first game.
Granted, Richardson threw an interception by staring down his target when the Colts attempted a late-game comeback and got dinged shortly before the end of the contest. But Indianapolis proved to be fun and feisty and gave the reigning AFC South champs all they could handle, with Richardson leading the way.
Arizona Cardinals at Washington Commanders
4 of 13
Sam HowellScott Taetsch/Getty Images
Commanders Offensive Line Is a Sore Spot in a Tight Victory
While the Washington Commanders should feel good about a 20-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, they must make adjustments to their offensive game plan and specifically the pass protection.
The Cardinals sacked Sam Howell six times. He had to move around the pocket to evade constant pressure. Fortunately for the Commanders, their signal-caller has functional mobility.
If Washington’s pass protection doesn’t improve, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy may need to rely on the short passing game to ensure Howell gets rid of the ball to avoid unnecessary physical punishment.
Jonathan Gannon Has Put His Touch on Arizona’s Pass Rush
Projected to finish as one of the league’s worst teams in the standings, Arizona’s defense looked stout against Washington. In addition to six sacks, the unit recorded two forced fumbles and an interception.
As the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon fielded an aggressive defense that featured four defenders with double-digit sacks. Based on the amount of pressure Arizona placed on Howell in the pocket, he’s brought that hyper attack-style defensive front to Arizona.
Of course, the Cardinals need to figure out how to put more points on the scoreboard to win games while quarterback Kyler Murray recovers from a torn ACL.
San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers
5 of 13
Brock PurdyJustin K. Aller/Getty Images
49ers Offense Picks Up Where It Left Off Before Brock Purdy’s Injury
The San Francisco 49ers offense jumped on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense early with a touchdown or field goal in their first four drives, scoring 20 unanswered points to open the game.
Brock Purdy engineered a couple of first-half touchdown drives, and he finished those possessions with throws to wideout Brandon Aiyuk, who made a spectacular catch to finish San Francisco’s third offensive sequence.
On the 49ers’ first drive of the second half, running back Christian McCaffrey broke off a 65-yard run for a score to keep the pressure on Pittsburgh.
Coming off offseason UCL surgery, Purdy went 19-of-29 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and the 49ers offense already looks like a well-oiled machine.
Kenny Pickett’s Potential Second-Year Leap Stalls Against Stout Defense
Kenny Pickett registered a perfect passing rating in the preseason, but he didn’t perform at nearly the same level in the Steelers’ regular-season opener against the 49ers.
The Steelers fell behind by three scores in the first half, and Pickett never established his rhythm in the pocket. He completed 31 out of 46 passes for 242 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Aside from a late second-quarter pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown, Pickett had a performance that he would like to forget, but the second-year signal-caller needs to learn from this experience to help the Steelers offense reach its full potential.
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints
6 of 13
Derek CarrAP Photo/Gerald Herbert
New Orleans Overcomes Red-Zone Woes in Derek Carr’s Saints Debut
Derek Carr can thank his defense for Sunday’s 16-15 win over the Tennessee Titans. Though he posted solid passing numbers, completing 23 out of 33 passes for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception, he struggled to finish drives.
Excluding the final drive, which ended with a kneeldown, the New Orleans Saints went 1-of-3 for touchdowns in the red zone and settled for two field goals inside the Titans’ 15-yard line.
With the Las Vegas Raiders, Carr struggled in the red zone, which partially explains why he’s thrown for more than 28 touchdowns in just one out of nine seasons.
If offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael can help Carr improve in the red zone, the Saints will field a balanced, playoff-caliber squad.
Titans Shouldn’t Panic Over Ryan Tannehill’s Abysmal Outing
Ryan Tannehill looked completely out of sorts in a loss to the Saints. He went 16-of-34 passing for 198 yards and three interceptions.
With that said, the Titans played a stingy Saints defense that allowed the fifth-fewest yards and ranked ninth in scoring last season. Also, Tannehill didn’t play a single snap in the preseason, so he had to knock off some rust. Lastly, he’ll need time to build a rapport with newcomer DeAndre Hopkins.
Before the Titans even consider a quarterback change to Malik Willis or Will Levis, they should give Tannehill a few weeks to gain momentum with a new lead wideout following an inactive preseason.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
7 of 13
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Joe Burrow Doesn’t Shake Off Rust, Injury in Disheartening Performance
The NFL’s newly minted highest-paid quarterback (in average annual salary) looked rough Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Throughout the contest, the telecast caught Burrow addressing or rubbing the calf strain he suffered during training camp. The Browns did everything in their power to make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable (more on that in a bit). At the same time, Burrow didn’t look quite right.
His typical pocket movement and decisiveness weren’t present. Instead, the Bengals couldn’t establish any rhythm whatsoever, with Burrow completing 45.2 percent of his passes.
Cleveland deserves credit for locking up Cincinnati’s talented trio of targets. Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins combined to make seven catches for 49 yards. Higgins didn’t manage a single catch despite being targeted eight times.
Obviously, Burrow missing a month during training camp didn’t help matters. But it was clear the Bengals offense wasn’t ready for the start of the regular season. The entire unit needs to get on the same page, starting with its quarterback.
Cleveland’s Defense Proves Browns Belong Among AFC’s Best
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry built something special along his team’s defensive front.
After not placing much of an emphasis on the front four, particularly defensive tackle, Berry and Co. placed a heavy emphasis on the position group this offseason. The front office started by signing defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo at the onset of free agency. Then, the organization traded for three-time Pro Bowl honoree Za’Darius Smith. Finally, Cleveland signed veteran defensive tackle Shelby Harris in early August.
During Sunday’s rain-soaked contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns’ new-look defense dismantled the Joe Burrow-led offense. Burrow managed just 82 passing yards on 31 attempts. His 2.6 yards per pass attempt is the worst effort of his professional career by 2.5 yards. Cleveland sacked Burrow twice and generated 10 total quarterback hits.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
8 of 13
Jessie Bates IIIKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Falcons Pull Away from Panthers with Winning Formula, Defensive Help
Among NFL teams that could sneak into the playoffs this year, the Atlanta Falcons look like a good bet in a wide-open NFC South division.
Despite the discussion around quarterback Desmond Ridder, the Falcons know their offensive identity. Every week, they’re capable of running the ball down the opposing team’s throat. Atlanta did just that against the Carolina Panthers.
With all eyes on rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who racked up 83 scrimmage yards and hauled in a touchdown pass, Tyler Allgeier recorded 15 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Ridder went 15-of-18 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown, but his performance seems like an afterthought with the Falcons rushing for 130 yards.
By the way, Jessie Bates III recorded two interceptions. He’s provided an immediate boost to a defense that tied for the fifth-fewest takeaways in 2022.
Panthers’ Ground Game Can Help Bryce Young Through His Growing Pains
Even in a sloppy 24-10 loss, the Panthers can take one major positive from defeat. Rookie quarterback Bryce Young doesn’t have to carry the offense on his shoulders.
The Panthers outrushed the run-heavy Falcons in this matchup (154-130) thanks to a productive running back duo. Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard registered 27 carries for 132 yards.
Young threw a couple of interceptions to Bates, but when he’s unable to get anything going through the air, the Panthers should lean on their ground attack. Sanders can’t leave the ball on the ground, though; he lost a fumble on Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
9 of 13
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
Philadelphia Eagles’ Offensive Play-Calling Leaves Plenty to Be Desired
When the Philadelphia Eagles offense was humming last season, Shane Steichen called the plays. Steichen is now the Indianapolis Colts head coach. The transition from Steichen to Brian Johnson didn’t prove to be seamless.
The Eagles jumped out to a quick 16-0 lead Sunday against the New England Patriots. Those early points came primarily from a pick-six by cornerback Darius Slay and a short field after Ezekiel Elliott fumbled the football.
From that point forward, Philadelphia managed three more field goals. As the Patriots roared back with 20 points before ultimately falling short, the Eagles managed 150 total yards from the tail end of the first quarter through the rest of the contest.
The Eagles had just one play over 20 yards despite fielding nearly the same personnel groups as a year ago. Philadelphia has weapons in the backfield, at wide receiver and tight end, with a top-shelf offensive front leading the way. Johnson may have a great rapport with quarterback Jalen Hurts, but everyone will look to see if that eventually manifests on the field in the coming weeks.
New England Patriots’ Offensive Line Is a Hot Mess
The Patriots can be berated for how poorly they started Sunday’s contest or given credit for not giving up and making a run toward beating the Eagles. What they can’t do is come out of their 25-20 loss thinking it’s OK along the offensive line.
The team entered the season opener with no real answer at right tackle. Calvin Anderson made his first start on the strong side after only playing left tackle during the previous two seasons. Injuries to both of the team’s starting guards—Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu—forced a pair of rookies into the lineup. Sidy Sow and Atonio Mafi opened the season as starters after being fourth- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively.
Strange is currently dealing with a knee injury, while an ankle kept Onwenu out of the lineup. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles’ interior defenders did a good job pushing the pocket and forcing quarterback Mac Jones off his platform.
Eventually, the Patriots will get both of their guards back and Anderson should build a comfort level at right tackle. But Jones isn’t the type of quarterback who can create much or carry an offense. New England should be worried until things are straightened out among its front five.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
10 of 13
Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Welcome to the Puka Nacua Show
The Los Angeles Rams’ season appeared to be derailed before it even began. Not so fast.
With Cooper Kupp placed on injured reserve with a lingering hamstring issue, the Rams’ best offensive player wouldn’t be available for a minimum of four regular-season contests. However, the Rams offense didn’t wilt. Instead, quarterback Matthew Stafford found a new favorite target, who just happens to play the same position. The Rams drafted Puka Nacua with this year’s 177th overall pick. Nacua was an explosive playmaker with the BYU Cougars, but multiple injuries kept him from experiencing a true breakout season.
Those traits appeared in the NFL, though.
Stafford targeted the rookie 15 times in Los Angeles’ 30-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Nacua caught 10 passes for 119 yards. He became the fourth player in NFL history to record 10 receptions and 100 yards in his first career game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Nacua is tough and creative when working the middle of the field. He can’t do some of the things Kupp can, particularly as a lead blocker. But the Rams appears to have fantastic young weapon to utilize in the short term who can complement Kupp upon the veteran’s return to the lineup.
Injuries to Offensive Tackles Create Concerns for Seattle Seahawks
Last year, the Seattle Seahawks benefited from an exceptional rookie class that helped lay a new foundation. Offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas were selected in the first and third rounds, respectively. Both became Day 1 starters. They immediately solidified Seattle’s front five and provided the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Geno Smith, with a certain comfort level working from the pocket. Unfortunately, neither finished Sunday’s contest against the Rams.
Cross had to be carted off the field with what turned out to be a sprained toe. Lucas suffered effects from a lingering knee injury. In their place, Stone Forsythe assumed left tackle duties and Jake Curhan took over the right side.
Both issues could make the Seahawks’ talented bookends a week-by-week assessment.
Seattle’s offense never really got going against the Rams, and missing two of their best blockers for any amount of time will make it more difficult for the unit to get on track.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
11 of 13
AP Photo/Erin Hooley
Jordan Love Era Begins with Victory for Green Bay Packers
Everything is all good in the land of cheeseheads, because quarterback Jordan Love looked the part in his first official start as the leader of the Green Bay Packers offense.
In fact, he looked better in his first official start than both of his predecessors—Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.
Love threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns after waiting three years to become the entrenched starter. For comparison, Rodgers threw for 178 yards and score, while Favre managed 210 yards and two touchdowns. The previous numbers are not meant to place Love on the same pedestal as a current Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer. What they show is that the 2020 first-round draft pick looked comfortable in the 38-20 victory over the rival Chicago Bears.
Love spread the ball around and helped create multiple chunk plays in the passing game. He’s not Rodgers, and he doesn’t need to be. Instead, the Packers showed they can continue their winning ways after moving away from another all-time great.
Poor Roster Construction Dooms Chicago Bears Again
What’s old is new again for the Chicago Bears. Another season begins with questions about how the roster is built, especially after being handled by the Packers.
The offensive line is of particular concern because the organization did attempt to fortify its front five this offseason with the additions of guard Nate Davis and 10th overall draft pick Darnell Wright. Yet allowing four sacks—with several more protection breakdowns—doesn’t inspire hope.
Justin Fields was running all over the place to create, which leads one to question whether he’s surrounded with adequate talent. Fields led his team once again with 59 rushing yards, while running backs Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson and D’Onta Foreman averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers basically shut down the Bears’ defensive front, which failed to create much pressure.
All in all, the questions about Chicago are basically the same as they were going into the offseason, and answers don’t appear to be forthcoming.
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
12 of 13
Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Jimmy Garoppolo and Las Vegas Raiders Find a Way
Wins aren’t an individual statistic. At the same time, a quarterback influences the game more than a player at any other position, and certain guys remain unflappable in certain situations.
Normally, the previous description will invoke names like Tom Brady or Joe Montana. Any mention of Jimmy Garoppolo probably comes with a snicker. Even so, no one can deny that Garoppolo has been on successful teams and they play well around him.
“The guys in the locker room know who they’ve got,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters after Sunday’s victory over the Denver Broncos. “… I’m happy he’s a Raider.”
Garoppolo has his limitations. He doesn’t have the biggest arm or the best mobility.
Even so, the 31-year-old veteran completed four of five passes, including a six-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers, when trailing by six in the fourth quarter. The pocket passer also converted a 3rd-and-7 with an eight-yard scramble to seal the victory.
As long as Garoppolo stays healthy, the Raiders should be competitive.
Better Operation Leads to Same Result for Denver Broncos
Broncos faithful either don’t want to remember or completed repressed last year’s season opener against the Seattle Seahawks. It was one of the most embarrassing efforts ever from an NFL team simply due to the lack of preparedness and complete disarray.
Sunday’s outcome had the same final score, a 17-16 loss. Yet the performance didn’t deflate the entire franchise like it did a year ago.
Penalties and penalty yards were down, though the Broncos still need to be better in this area. Calling in plays wasn’t a disaster. Quarterback Russell Wilson looked better than he did last season, with his best completion percentage (79.4) since joining the Broncos. Obviously, things weren’t perfect because Denver lost. But a missed field goal and extra point changed the game’s complexion. The game was there to be won. It took a late Jimmy Garoppolo rally for the Raiders to capture the victory.
Head coach Sean Payton won’t accept the team’s current level of play. But the group should get better as it becomes more comfortable with the system and playing together.
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
13 of 13
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
High-Flying Miami Dolphins Present Significant Problems in AFC
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit the ground running, with the Miami Dolphins quickly taking off and flying past the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tagovailoa shredded the Chargers secondary. His 466 passing yards in the 36-34 victory are the fourth-most ever during a season opener, according to ESPN Stats & Info. When a performance invokes the names of Norm Van Brocklin, Tom Brady and Dan Marino, something went really well.
The numbers are what they are. What they don’t tell is the story of Tagovailoa not being sacked throughout the entire contest and the Chargers hitting the quarterback only two times. Considering Tagovailoa’s injury history, those numbers are vitally important. The 25-year-old signal-caller leading a game-winning, 75-yard drive with under four minutes to play is even more so.
Tagovailoa’s precision throughout the contest bordered on uncanny. If opponents can’t fluster and flush Miami’s quarterback, he’ll pick them apart by throwing to arguably the game’s best weapons in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Hill is basically unstoppable. His 215-yard, two-score performance shows exactly why the Dolphins are a scary matchup for any opponent.
Brandon Staley Continues to Come Up Short as Chargers Head Coach
The Chargers are a talented team. They’ve posted back-to-back winning seasons since Brandon Staley became head coach. Yet they continually feel like they’re falling well short of expectations.
With Justin Herbert behind center and names such as Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Rashawn Slater, Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Derwin James on the roster, the Chargers should find themselves among the AFC’s elite. Instead, they’ve been a middling team that’s fallen short against top competition.
The Chargers went 1-6 against teams with a winning record last season. This year isn’t starting much better.
Staley came to the organization as a defensive guru whose approach with light boxes and extra men in coverage became standard throughout the league. Yet Staley’s defenses haven’t finished among the top half of the league. They were exploited again by the talented Dolphins.
Eventually, something must give, or the Chargers may find themselves in a position where they never realize their potential with this core.