It’s just one week.
It would be irresponsible to make any grand proclamations after each team has suited up for just one game of NFL football, especially when few, if any, NFL teams take the preseason seriously and when most, if not all, scale back the hitting and physicality of training camp.
Teams don’t have film for game planning, new coaches are getting their feet wet, and new faces in new uniforms are familiarizing themselves with new surroundings, so one should not draw hard and fast conclusions after the first Sunday of the season.
That said, it’s pretty clear I am the smartest man alive.
Yep, that was the first of my 10 bold NFL predictions from two weeks ago, and it sure looks as if three NFC powerhouses are in big, big trouble right now. And, possibly a fourth.
San Francisco 49ers
For San Francisco, uncertainty at quarterback is the driving factor here. Trey Lance was uneven in his first game against a Bears team that came into the season rated as perhaps the worst in football. He went 13-for-28 for 164 yards in a dispiriting 19-10 loss in rainy Chicago, failing to throw a touchdown pass while tossing a costly interception. He simply couldn’t get the San Francisco offense moving in the right direction.
And let’s not mince words here, the Bears defense stinks. Their offense stinks, too. In fact, the Niners outgained the Bears 331-204, but 12 penalties for 99 yards and 2 turnovers turned an early 10-0 lead into a nine-point loss and an 0-1 record to start the season.
Lance’s 4th quarter interception set up Chicago’s final touchdown of the game, and he missed a number of throws during his erratic outing, too, one of them a should-have-been touchdown to Tyler Kroft in the end zone. He also took a sack that knocked them out of field goal range.
To be fair, the weather in Chicago was awful and Lance did have some nice throws mixed in there, also showing determination late in the game to try and keep his team in it.
TREY LANCE FIGHTING FOR EVERY YARD— NFL Football Everything (@nflfootballeve1) September 11, 2022
Starting Lance is the right decision for the future of San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be awesome for their record in 2022. There are going to be growing pains for a young signal-caller like Lance, and it remains to be seen how long it will take for him to get it together.
Green Bay Packers
Quick, name two Green Bay wide receivers. If you answered any two of Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins or Randall Cobb, congratulations, you know more than 90% of the casual football fans in the world.
The loss of Davante Adams, the unquestioned best receiver in football, was felt in a big way on Sunday during the Packers’ humiliating 23-7 loss to the Vikings in Minnesota. Adams caught 10 balls for 141 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders on Sunday, while Green Bay’s top receiver was running back AJ Dillon, with five catches for 46 yards.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers completed balls to 10 different receivers, but none of them got in the end zone and his final stat line, 22-for-34 for just 195 yards and an interception, earned him a 67.6 passer rating on a truly awful day in which he was sacked four times.
Things seem to be going well for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers today.— Kevin Negandhi (@KevinNegandhi) September 11, 2022
Rodgers is a no-doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer and still perhaps the second-best quarterback in football, but even he needs at least one legitimate wide receiver on the field with him. Without one, he looked lost and aggravated on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers in the Packers locker room after losing to the Vikings pic.twitter.com/7HRotPByyI— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) September 11, 2022
It’s hard to imagine a team having a worse curtain-opener than the 49ers or Packers, but the Cowboys saved the NFC’s worst for prime time in a horrific 19-3 loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers at home. As has been noted by Blogging the Boys’ RJ Ochoa on numerous occasions, none of this should have been a surprise for Dallas fans.
Not sure how to properly contextualize how awful Sunday was for the Dallas Cowboys.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 12, 2022
All of their ill-founded beliefs being proven wrong at everyone else’s expense all to end with injuries to notable players, particularly the franchise quarterback.
This team is in a bad place.
The offense was an embarrassment even before Dak Prescott left with a fractured finger that could keep him out of action for as much as two months, and Cowboys fans showed their displeasure when they showered their franchise QB with a few gifts as he left the field.
It’s Week 1 and Cowboys fans booed and threw trash at Dak Prescott as he headed back to the locker room with an injury pic.twitter.com/h98iAOZoXc— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) September 12, 2022
Before the injury, Prescott was 14-for-29 for an incredible 134 yards and one interception for a QB rating of 47.2. Cee Dee Lamb caught just TWO OF ELEVEN TARGETS for 29 yards. Ezekiel Elliott had 52 yards on 10 carries, while Tony Pollard had just 8 yards on 6 attempts. Noah Brown led the team with 68 yards receiving, tight end Dalton Schultz had a team-high 7 catches for 62 yards. Tampa outgained the Cowboys 347-244, while Dallas committed 10 infractions for 73 yards.
Tom Brady didn’t even have to do much in this one, going just 18-for-27 for 212 yards, as Leonard Fournette ran all over the Cowboys’ vaunted defense for 127 yards on 21 carries.
Next week the Cowboys must host an angry 0-1 Bengals team without Dak Prescott and an embattled head coach in Mike McCarthy who, it seems, owner Jerry Jones can’t wait to get rid of. It’s all shaping up to be a disastrous season for the ‘Pokes.
Los Angeles Rams
Losing your opening week game to the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills is no great shame, but L.A. was surprisingly ineffective in their 31-10 blowout loss on Thursday night.
While Josh Allen put up 297 yards passing and 56 yards on the ground, Matthew Stafford struggled, throwing three picks with a passer rating of 63.1. Former Ram Von Miller made life miserable for Stafford all night, and Sean McVay’s running game couldn’t get going, although Cooper Kupp was awesome as always, with 13 catches for 128 yards and a score.
While the loss drops the defending Super Bowl champs to 0-1, this loss feels less like a bad omen and more of a stumble out of the gate against what could be the best team in the NFL. Still, their 21-point loss in Week 1 was eye-opening.
The Pleasant Surprises
Of course, with those four teams struggling, a number of also-rans showed up in a big way in the opening week.
Again, who could have seen this coming?
This is the only time I’m not going to look stupid for writing this, so I’m having my moment.
Carson Wentz had his usual mid-game brain farts but, as he often does, outplayed his two awful interceptions with some tremendous plays late in the game, leading the Washington Commanders to a come-from-behind 28-22 win over his former coach, Doug Pederson, and the Jaguars. Wentz threw four touchdowns in the opening week win, with 313 yards and a rating of 101.0, which included this ridiculous rocket.
CARSON WENTZ TERRY MCLAURIN— PFF (@PFF) September 11, 2022
For all his faults, he can still do that.
Meanwhile, my pick to win the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings, took advantage of Aaron Rodgers’ putridity and dominated Green Bay from start to finish. Kirk Cousins had a rating of 118.9, while Justin Jefferson went off for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Justin Jefferson todaypic.twitter.com/m3mqooBlzl— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 11, 2022
The Vikings are going to be a very difficult team to beat next week in Philadelphia.
Even in a loss, the Detroit Lions showed why I think they’re a playoff team this year in nearly pulling off an upset victory over the Eagles, 38-35. Yes, Jonathan Gannon’s defense played like they were in the Arena Football League, but Detroit’s offensive line is legitimately good, and they have some playmakers in DeAndre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark and T.J. Hockenson.
Man I miss DeAndre Swift in Athens pic.twitter.com/besJaTkOj4— Trey 7 (@Trey2Trigger) September 11, 2022
Some bad tackling there, to be sure, but Dan Campbell can coach. They may still be a year away, but this looks like a 9-win team to me.
And how about those Giants? In Brian Daboll’s coaching debut, New York staged a rally with 21 second half points to stun the Titans, last year’s top seed in the AFC, 21-20, on the road, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 1:06 remaining. A rejuvenated Saquon Barkley rushed 18 times for 161 yards and a score and caught six balls for 30 yards.
Saquon Barkley led the NFL in rushing yesterday with 164 yards, caught 33% of Daniel Jones completions & willed his way to a game winning 2 point conversion. pic.twitter.com/PvomVtdm27— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) September 12, 2022
The first week of the NFL season is undoubtedly hinky, but there’s reason to believe what we saw in the NFC this week may not dissipate as the sample sizes grow larger.