10 things you need to know about NFL Week 1
Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books, and what a season kickoff it was. With some standout performances drawing much of the attention, a few key injuries and unexpected slow starts are also worthy of note.
Each week, I’ll be bringing you the top things to know before looking ahead to the next slate of games. Here’s everything you need to know about the NFL’s opening week.
1. RG III’s comeback lasted 51 snaps, leaving the Browns in a tough spot at QB.
In Robert Griffin III’s return to the staring-QB spotlight, nearly everything that could go wrong, did. RG III earned the third-lowest overall grade among quarterbacks in Week 1 (besting only Marcus Mariota and Case Keenum), was the least-accurate QB of the week (62.5 adjusted completion percentage), and threw one pick to no touchdowns. Adding injury to insult, Griffin was placed on IR on Monday, and his return this season is questionable. Backup Josh McCown will likely take the field for the Browns on Sunday against the Ravens after finishing last season as the 31st-highest graded QB in 2015.
2. Andrew Luck earned the highest grade among all QBs in Week 1.
Returning to the field for the first time since Week 9 of the 2015 season, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck earned the league’s top overall and passing grades in Week 1, with marks of 95.2 and 92.6, respectively. Luck was especially accurate on deep passes (traveling 20-plus yards in the air), posting an NFL-best 45.5 adjusted completion percentage on such throws and connecting with his target on five of 11 deep attempts for 167 yards and a touchdown. Luck took a major step back last season in his pro progression—injury or not—so this hot start is an extreme positive for the Colts after making Luck the NFL’s highest-paid player this offseason.
3. Carson Wentz impressed in NFL debut (albeit against the Browns).
After a rapid chain of events last week that ultimately saw Sam Bradford traded to Minnesota, Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz saw the field as the starter in Week 1 versus the Browns. While many interpreted this as a sink-or-swim push from the Philadelphia front office, Wentz made the most in his debut, earning the fourth-highest grade of any NFL QB this week. Like Luck, Wentz’s accuracy stood out above all, as he finished with the fourth-highest adjusted completion percentage among NFL QBs in Week 1 (see graphic below).
Colleague Sam Monson broke down Wentz’s debut outing in further detail on Monday, noting that while the rookie performed exceptionally well when kept clean, his production dove sharply when faced with pressure—likely a greater concern against the Bears in Week 2 than it was versus the Browns.
4. Is Revis Island now a vacation hotspot for top WRs?
Despite recording the third-lowest NFL passer rating allowed among CBs last season, Darrelle Revis’ production has been on a decline since Week 10 of 2015, if not before. Against Bengals WR A.J. Green on Sunday, that fall was highlighted by eight targets into Revis’ coverage being converted into eight receptions. Revis ended the day with the fifth-lowest CB grade (35.6) of the week out of 99 qualifying players. Get more on the future Hall-of-Famer’s Week 1 outing here from Senior Analyst Sam Monson.
5. Seattle’s O-line problem may finally be too big for rest of offense to overcome.
In each of the past two seasons, the Seahawks have fielded an offensive line that finished among the bottom seven teams in both pass-blocking and run-blocking grades—a feat often overcome by the incredible play of quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch (now retired). On Sunday, the Seahawks’ O-line remained true to form, with both tackles earning grades of 50.9 or lower, and RG J’Marcus Webb, filling in for injured first-round pick Germain Ifedi, taking home a 38.9 mark. As pointed out, this performance wasn’t out of the norm, necessarily—but the lack of production by the Seattle offense was. The Seahawks squeaked out 12 points for the win, with Wilson being pressured on 33.3 percent of his dropbacks (sixth-highest rate among QBs this week). Can the Seahawks put more points on the board next week against the Rams—who own a very talented defensive line—or will the O-line finally be too big of an issue to overcome?
6. No Brady, no Gronk, no problem for the Patriots.
Without their signal-caller and top target, the Patriots entered Sunday night’s matchup with the Cardinals as projected underdogs. They escaped Phoenix with a win, however, despite a below-average performance from QB Jimmy Garoppolo (55.8 overall grade). Defense was the story of the night for New England, with DE Chris Long especially standing out, notching two sacks, a QB hurry, and a stop. Linebacker Jamie Collins also earned a top-six grade at his position on the night with a sack, batted pass, and stop to his own credit.
7. Buccaneers young talent putting them in NFC South contention?
One of the major highlights offensively in Week 1 was second-year QB Jameis Winston’s four-touchdown performance. Pegged by colleague Mike Renner last week as a potential breakout player to watch, Winston finished the week with a top-five grade among QBs, while target Mike Evans earned a top-six mark among wide receivers, hauling in 99 receiving yards and a touchdown. With Winston, Evans, RB Doug Martin (75.2 grade in Week 1), DT Gerald McCoy (84.5), and Kwon Alexander (79.5) all having solid first outings, the Bucs’ youthful talent could challenge Carolina’s NFC South repeat.
8. Chicago’s newly purchased linebacker corps looks to be paying off already.
This offseason, the Bears signed former Colts LB Jerrell Freeman and Broncos LB Danny Trevathan in an effort to shore up a unit that has struggled since the departure of Brian Urlacher. In Week 1, the Chicago front office is already seeing return on its investment, as both linebackers earned top-seven grades for their position. The pair combined for one sack, two QB hurries, 16 stops, and just 12 passing yards allowed into their coverage against the Texans.
9. Good news for fantasy owners—Cardinals RB David Johnson off to hot start.
On just 16 rushing attempts against the Patriots, Arizona running back David Johnson forced a league-high seven missed tackles in Week 1 (tied with Doug Marin). Johnson forced yet another missed tackle on one of his four receptions, helping him to earn the best elusive rating of the week, and the highest overall grade (81.6) among RBs in Week 1. Johnson’s longest gain came on a 45-yard breakaway run, a good chunk of his 89 rushing yards on the night. He also recorded the third-most yards after contact on average, at 4.1. For fantasy owners who drafted him, Johnson’s 2016 debut was a promising indicator of things to come.
10. The Redskins’ coverage scheme freed Antonio Brown from Josh Norman.
In the marquee matchup of Monday night, possibly the most hyped individual meeting was that of new Redskins CB Josh Norman and Steelers WR Antonio Brown. Unfortunately, the Redskins chose to keep Norman and Bashaud Breeland stationary on the left and right sides of the field, respectively with Brown splitting his snaps between them. As Sam Monson detailed earlier this morning, Brown was targeted twice when Norman was the primary coverage defender; both ended in pass defenses by the Redskins’ CB. On the opposite side of the field—when lined up at LWR versus Breeland—Brown hauled in eight of nine targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns. While Antonio Brown is a one-of-a-kind talent, it will be worth watching to see if Washington adjusts its coverage plan moving forward to allow Norman to match up with a team’s No. 1 target in the future.