NFL week 1 roundup: Steelers secure solid start

Chiefs, Bucs still powerhouses
When you’re playing against Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady, a lead is never safe. As Mahomes showed in the 2019 playoffs, and Brady made clear against Atlanta in Super Bowl LI, these two always win close games. It’s no surprise that both of them led their teams to victory despite Cleveland’s and Dallas’ valiant efforts, respectively. Brady put up 379 yards and four touchdowns in a last-second 31-29 win against the Cowboys, and Mahomes tallied 337 yards and three TDs as the Chiefs beat the Browns 33-29. Thanks to the efforts of these two “Madden NFL 22” cover athletes, it’s clear that Tampa and Kansas City will be square in the Super Bowl hunt.

Steelers impress as Bills flounder
Many people wrote the Pittsburgh Steelers off this year after the awful end to their 2020 season. However, in week one, the Steelers proved why they are always in contention. The defense in particular was a bright spot, as they held the potent Bills offense to a meager 16 points. Moreover, the Buffalo offense and the $258 million dollar man himself, Josh Allen, failed to deliver in key moments as the Bills performed miserably on both the third and fourth down, as well as in the red zone.

AFC leaders stumble
The Bills weren’t the only AFC team with preseason hype to crash and burn week one. During the offseason, pundits across the country were high on AFC contenders Tennessee, Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Buffalo. This Sunday, all of those teams except Kansas City left their games 0-1. The Ravens choked badly against Jon Gruden’s Raiders; Tennessee played horribly in all three facets as they got blown off the field by Arizona; over in Indianapolis, Russell Wilson and Seattle picked apart the high-priced Colts defense; and finally, Cleveland and Buffalo both lost close games to Kansas City and Pittsburgh, respectively. There’s still plenty of time left for these talented teams, but they certainly got off on the wrong foot this season.

NFC West goes 4-0
There seemed to be a consensus around the league going into the new season that the NFC West was going to be very tough. That holds true for the division after week one, as all four teams won in convincing fashion. Seattle beat up on the Colts, the 49ers put up 41 in Detroit, Arizona dominated offseason darling Tennessee, and Matthew Stafford’s Rams coasted to a win over Chicago on Sunday night. Could all four NFC West teams make the playoffs? Unlikely, but the fact that it’s a legitimate possibility just serves to show how strong the NFC West is.

AFC West goes 4-0 too
What a weekend for the western divisions. The AFC West played great as the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders all ended week one with a winning record. While it would be shocking if Kansas City doesn’t end up winning this division, the Chargers and Raiders can certainly contend for wild-card spots. Las Vegas has a terrible defense, but Derek Carr and Darren Waller will keep them in games. Moreover, in recent years, the biggest problem for the Chargers has been slow starts to the season. A win over a solid Washington football team should give Justin Herbert and company some breathing room as they enter a rather tough stretch in their schedule.

Aaron Rodgers disappoints
After an offseason full of trade speculation, it became clear that this is likely Aaron Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay. The 2020 MVP put up a stinker this weekend against the Jameis Winston-led Saints as he threw for a dismal 133 yards, along with two back-breaking interceptions. If Rodgers keeps playing like this, his schedule might clear up for “Jeopardy!” sooner than we thought.

Sophomore QBs shine
While many athletes fall victim to the sophomore slump, one glaring exception to that comes in the form of NFL QBs. Typically, quarterbacks take a good leap in production during their sophomore year. In week one, that was evident as sophomores Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts all led their teams to victory. Even though these sophomores still have plenty of detractors, no one can deny they got off to a great start.

Rookie QBs’ ups and downs
Let’s start with the good news: all five rookie first-round QBs had a touchdown this weekend. The bad news: four out of the five rookies lost. Furthermore, 49ers QB Trey Lance (the one winner) only played a few snaps in their win at Detroit. While these rookies certainly put up nice stats, their play hasn’t translated to wins just yet. There’s a lot of pressure being placed on these guys (especially Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson) to be franchise saviors. Fortunately for fans of the Jets, Jaguars, 49ers, Bears, and Patriots, they clearly showed potential.

Broncos, Panthers, Texans hurt their draft slot
It’s hard to think of starting QBs less inspiring than Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Tyrod Taylor. At least Darnold has a chance at a Tannehill-esque redemption story as one could argue Darnold could not be properly evaluated starting on the dysfunctional New York Jets. Likewise, Darnold cannot be properly evaluated even after beating the dysfunctional New York Jets. However, the Broncos and Texans have no excuses. Denver passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the draft so they could trade for … Teddy Bridgewater? The Broncos could have been a sleeper team this year if they had drafted a QB. And I get that Bridgewater played well in their week one win, but he’s not a long-term answer. Maybe they’re biding their time for a Rodgers trade? Regarding the Texans, Tyrod Taylor is a tank commander. But the thing about tank commanders is that they’re supposed to lose. If Tyrod drags this Texans team to 6-11 and the 11th pick, they’ll have a hard time drafting a top QB next year.

Giants look ready to blow it up
Actually, I can think of a starting QB less inspiring than the three mentioned above: Daniel Jones. Jones hasn’t played terribly in his first two years and even during the 27-13 loss to Denver, his stats weren’t awful. But when those are the best compliments you can give to a quarterback, it’s not a good sign. I would say the Giants are too good to tank, but after seeing their performance in week one, I think that I’m wrong. Unless Daniel Jones can right the ship, he and GM Dave Gettleman are probably enjoying their last season in New York.