Week 1 can be odd. It’s the first real look we get at all 32 NFL teams, especially this year, when there was no preseason to give us a sneak peek. It lends itself to overreactions, some of which look ludicrous by the end of the season.
But sometimes, Week 1 can be a reality check, where any preconceived notions about a team go flying out the window. It’s hard to tell what is an overreaction and what isn’t, so we sorted through some of the major headlines in the NFL’s first week of action.
Tom Brady struggles in Bucs debut: a sign of things to come?
In the first game of Tom Brady’s career outside of New England, his stat line was not pretty: he completed 63 percent of his passes for 239 yards, two TDs and two interceptions – one of which went for six. The Buccaneers lost by double digits to their division rival New Orleans Saints, falling to 0-1.
Brady certainly underwhelmed, but so did most of his teammates: Mike Evans, limited by a hamstring injury, had just one catch while matched up against Marshon Lattimore. Rob Gronkowski was invisible, managing just 11 yards on two catches after joining his former New England teammate in Tampa.
It was a disjointed effort all around, but there are reasons to believe it won’t be this bad all year. There are so many new pieces on this offense that it would have been far-fetched to expect all of them to jell right away. Plus, they were on the road against the Saints, arguably the most talented roster in the league, and one with almost complete continuity from 2019. This was always going to be a game Tampa would lose, and better days should be ahead.
Patriots roll without Brady: is Cam Newton the answer?
On the other half of the Brady-Belichick divorce, the Patriots rolled to a 21-11 win with their new quarterback, Cam Newton, who didn’t appear to show any ill effects of his foot injury. He rushed for 75 yards, his highest total since 2017. Josh McDaniels appears to have designed an offense perfectly tailored to his skill-set.
Is it going to be enough for New England to win its 17th AFC East title in 18 years? The early returns were promising, but the Dolphins were hardly a test. Despite some improvements in the offseason, this is still a thin roster, and Ryan Fitzpatrick was awful, throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns. Newton only completed 15 passes, mostly dinking and dunking for 155 yards, and it might take some stiffer competition (perhaps next week against the Seahawks) to see if he can get it done throwing the ball.
Cardinals stun the 49ers on the road: is this team for real?
The Jaguars provided the biggest upset of the week, but the Cardinals were a close second, beating last year’s NFC champions on the road as a 6.5-point underdog. Kyler Murray threw for 230 yards and added 93 more on the ground, while prized offseason addition DeAndre Hopkins exploded to the tune of 14 receptions and 151 yards.
A trendy preseason sleeper pick, Arizona backed up the hype, and their new QB-WR duo looks like the real deal. Even in a tough division (the Rams and Seahawks also won their openers), the Cardinals have the firepower to compete – and possibly win it. Meanwhile, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo was out-dueled, and the 49ers could be in some trouble if their defense can’t dominate wire-to-wire and their run game can’t carry the offense like last season.
Bears stun Lions: is this the Mitchell Trubisky we were promised?
The headlines will read that the Bears’ beleaguered QB engineered an incredible, 17-point fourth-quarter comeback to beat their division rival on the road. The stat line will read 242 yards, three TDs, no picks and a 104.2 passer rating. The reality was a bit different.
Trubisky was sensational in the fourth quarter (8 for 10, all three TDs and a 143.3 rating), but he was terrible in the first three, showing more of the same spotty accuracy and poor decision making that led the team to trade for Nick Foles in the offseason. With Chicago down 23-6 in the third quarter, the calls for Foles were growing to a fevered pitch.
Credit must be given to Trubisky, and coach Matt Nagy, for executing a breathtaking comeback, but this game was just as much about the Lions losing it as it was the Bears winning it – if not more. If rookie RB D’Andre Swift had not dropped a walk-in TD pass on the second-to-last play of the game, the Lions would have won, and the narrative would have been a lot different. The comeback will hold off Foles for one more week, but Trubisky can’t put his team in such big holes and expect to still win against quality teams.