NFL Season Openers Bring Mixed Bag

The roads were noticeably quieter on Sunday, and the smell of face paint and burgers tinted the air. We all know what that means. Football is back. The 2018 NFL season started off with a bang this week with several comeback victories and close games.

Here is a recap of some of this season’s most intense victories and letdowns so far.

Heading off the weekend, the defending champions Philadelphia Eagles faced off against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 6. The Eagles squeaked by with an 18-12 victory. Both offenses struggled, but the Eagles prevailed through a magical trick play, two goal-line stands and inefficient red zone offense from the Falcons.

Of the slate of games on Sept. 9, the highlight came toward the end of the night when quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a come-from-behind 24-23 victory over the Chicago Bears. Despite suffering an injury in the second quarter, Rodgers returned to the game in the second half and finished with 301 total yards and three touchdowns. Bears defensive star Khalil Mack made an impressive debut, wreaking havoc all over the Packers’ offensive line, finishing with one strip sack and one interception in limited playing time.

The Cleveland Browns ended their 17-game losing streak with their opening-day game against the Pittsburgh Steelers — albeit with a 21-21 tie. Both teams missed game-winning field goals in overtime. The Steelers struggled throughout the game without their star running back Le’veon Bell, who is still holding out for a new contract.

In a surprising game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped 48 points over the New Orleans Saints’ 40. The Saints’ horrendous defense suffered under Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s total of five touchdowns. The Saints showed several signs of weaknesses on defense against what many considered the worst team in the league.

Among the shootouts on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs impressed with their 38-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. New Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and offensive star Tyreek Hill dominated the Chargers’ defense. Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns showing off his cannon of an arm, while Hill had 169 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns alongside a 91-yard punt return touchdown.

Sept. 10 was a day of smooth victories for the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams. The Jets blew out the Detroit Lions 48-17. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold impressed after throwing an interception return for a touchdown on his first throw. The Jets defense caught five interceptions, humbling Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had an unmemorable game in which he threw just one touchdown and four interceptions.

Despite head coach Jon Gruden’s long-awaited return to the NFL, the Oakland Raiders lost 33-13 to the Rams. The Rams looked in every way a Super Bowl contender with an impressive defense that had several sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown to finish off the Raiders.

Week One brings out overreactions from fans and pundits alike. No, the Buccaneers are not going to be Super Bowl contenders. Yes, the Steelers and Saints are going to be fine even with disappointing starts.

However, there are some things from Week One that will likely hold. The Buffalo Bills looked abysmal — who knows why quarterback Nathan Peterman started the game after his debut last year throwing five interceptions? The Bills also have no weapons on offense and are probably going to be the doormat of the AFC East. Mahomes looks like the real deal for the Kansas City Chiefs, and head coach Andy Reid once again has positioned the Chiefs in prime playoff contention.

In the NFC, the Falcons underwent many of the same issues that plagued the team last year. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has yet to fix the red zone problems. This could spell the Falcons’ demise if they make it to the playoffs again. The Bears’ blown lead might either set up a rallying cry to become a playoff contender, or they might not be able to recover. Meanwhile, the Rams and the Minnesota Vikings look like the prime Super Bowl favorites with very impressive opening weekends.

Week Two of the season starts on Sept. 13 with an AFC North rivalry matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.

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