NFL Week 1 Recap: Top performers, injuries, and more
NFL Football is finally back and it was an incredible week one. With multiple nail-biting finishes, dominant performances from the NFL's best, and unfortunately, the injury-bug has hit at last. As week two is set to kickoff tomorrow with the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs facing off, let's take one last look back at the opening weekend in the NFL.
Top Games from week 1:
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Two old division rivals met in week one in Atlanta and battled, with Atlanta eventually squandering a late lead. Shocker. The Falcons went into the fourth quarter holding a 23-10 lead but their inability to get into the endzone throughout the game and fourth quarter eventually cost them. The Falcons took a 26-10 lead with 12:41 to go but were unable to slow down Jameis Winston and the Saints passing attack, surrendering two touchdowns in under five minutes of game time (4:56). The Saints were able to stop the Falcons' offense one more time, now trailing 26-24 before getting the ball back with just forty-eight seconds and no timeouts. The Saints were then able to drive down and set up Will Lutz for a fifty-one-yard game-winning field goal with nineteen seconds left on the clock. It was another wild game in one of the NFL’s oldest rivalries.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The story of this game was the dominance of Pittsburgh’s defense and the subpar performance by Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Pittsburgh was able to force five turnovers and return one of their four interceptions for a touchdown, all five of which were committed by Burrow. However, the Steeler offense couldn’t capitalize on these chances, as they had just two-hundred and sixty-seven total yards and scored only one touchdown. Cincinnati thought they had the game won, as Burrow connected with Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown with just two seconds left. Until the Steelers blocked the extra point to secure a Bengals win, sending the game to overtime. The game continued to get more dramatic as both teams missed a field goal during overtime. After yet another stop, the Steelers got the ball back with fifty-six seconds remaining and went on to kick a game-winning field goal.
New York Giants vs. Tennessee Titans
The Titans were in firm control of this game during the first half but were unable to finish down the stretch. Tennessee took a 13-0 lead into the half but saw that lead evaporate less than seven minutes into the third quarter. The Titans regained the lead with just under three minutes in the third quarter. The fourth quarter saw no scoring from either team until the 1:06 mark when the Giants cut the lead to one point. New Head Coach Brian Daboll, then decided to roll the dice and go for two, which was successful giving the Giants a 21-20 lead with just over a minute left. Ryan Tannehill and the Titans' offense got the ball back and drove down the field to set up a game-winning field goal for Randy Bullock from forty-seven yards out. Until the kick was up and went wide left, giving the Giants their first 1-0 start since 2016.
Cleveland Browns vs. Carolina Panthers
Cleveland spoiled Baker Mayfield’s revenge game against his former team and first home outing in a Panthers uniform. Baker and the Carolin offense were unable to get much of anything going until the fourth quarter, scoring just one touchdown through the first three. The Browns leaned heavily upon their running game this week, as Quarterback Jacoby Brissett struggled in his first start with the team. The fourth quarter of this matchup was electric as both teams combined for twenty-three points in the last fifteen minutes of play. After Cleveland extended their lead to nine points late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers responded with a one-play touchdown from Baker to Robbie Anderson, which cut the deficit to two points. The Panthers were able to get one more stop, giving the ball back to their offense with just over two minutes. Carolina eventually went on to kick a go-ahead field goal with 1:13 left to give them a 24-23 edge. With the help of a roughing the passer penalty against Brian Burns, Cleveland was then able to march down the field and win the game after a fifty-eight-yard field goal from Cade York with just eight seconds on the clock.
Cooper Kupp WR, Los Angeles Rams
Kupp looked to be in mid-season form in Thursday night’s opener against the Bills. Showing why he walked away with the triple crown in 2021, Kupp dominated Buffalo’s defense and was arguably the only receiver Stafford seemed to trust. Although the Rams took an embarrassing loss, Kupp shined; tallying thirteen receptions for one-hundred and twenty-eight yards and a touchdown.
Patrick Mahomes II QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Many were concerned about how the Chiefs would look without Tyreek Hill in the offense, but after a dominant performance against the Cardinals Sunday, it looks like they’ll be just fine. The dynamic duo of Mahomes and Travis Kelce torched Arizona’s defense and the new acquisition JuJu Smith-Schuster led the way for Kansas City’s receivers. Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire also made a huge contribution in the passing game, hauling in two touchdowns. But it was Mahomes who picked the Cardinals' defense apart, throwing for three-hundred and sixty yards and five touchdowns with just nine incompletions.
Justin Jefferson WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jefferson showed why he’s in the conversation for the league’s best receiver against the Packers, posting a career-high one-hundred and eighty-four yards along with two touchdowns. Jefferson couldn’t be stopped from the start of the game, as he recorded forty-seven yards and a touchdown on the opening drive. Jefferson’s third season is off to a blazing start, as he looked poised to possibly win Offensive Player of the Year this season.
Saquon Barkley RB, New York Giants
Could Saquon Barkley be back? That’s what it looked like Sunday as he ran through the Titans’ defense with ease. The 2018 number two pick racked up one-hundred and ninety-four total yards with one touchdown while averaging nine yards per carry against one of 2021’s top rushing defenses. Barkley will look to continue to build on an outstanding week one, this Sunday against the Panthers. Carolina’s defense allowed two-hundred and seventeen yards rushing against the Browns in week one.
Michael Thomas WR, New Orleans Saints
Thomas was sidelined for all of 2021 with an ankle injury but shined in his first game back. Thomas had a quiet first half but exploded down the stretch in the Saints' come-from-behind win against Atlanta. Thomas finished the game with fifty-seven yards on five catches, and two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter. Thomas and the Saints will have a tougher matchup next week versus Tampa Bay, but Thomas will remain one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets.
Tee Higgins WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Higgins took a hard hit to the head during the first half of the Bengals’ loss to the Steelers Sunday, placing him in concussion protocol. Higgins will have to go through the NFL’s concussion evaluation process before returning to the field. Higgins’ status for this Sunday against Dallas is currently unknown. However, his participation level in practice this week will show which way he’s trending.
Dak Prescott QB, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott suffered an injury to his right thumb during Sunday night’s loss to the Buccaneers. Prescott had surgery on the injured thumb Monday, however, Dallas did not place him on the injured reserve. It was originally believed that Prescott would miss anywhere from six to eight weeks, however, General Manager and Owner Jerry Jones has said he could return in as soon as four weeks. It was also believed that the Cowboys would try to make a move for a QB, but since updating Dak’s status, those rumors have been shut down. The Cowboys will go with either Cooper Rush or Will Grier at QB for the time being.
T.J. Watt OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was off to a blazing start before suffering a torn pec in the Steelers’ win Sunday. At first, it was believed that Watt could miss the remainder of the season. However, after choosing not to have surgery Watt is expected to be out only six weeks. The Wisconsin product has yet to have been placed on the injured reserve and Head Coach Mike Tomlin was very optimistic about Watt’s status going forward.
Keenan Allen WR, Los Angeles Chargers
The five-time Pro-Bowler receiver pulled his hamstring in Sunday’s opening day victory against the Raiders. Allen left Sunday’s game in the first half and did not return to the game. The Chargers have a quick turnaround and will face Kansas City on Thursday night, making it unlikely for Allen to suit up in week two. Allen’s injury is not believed to have any long-term ramifications.
Elijah Mitchell RB, San Francisco 49ers
Mitchell was placed on the injured reserve this week after spraining his MCL against the Bears and is expected to miss eight weeks. Mitchell suffered the knee injury early in the second quarter and although he remained in the game momentarily, he was eventually ruled out. With Mitchell set to miss two months, Jeff Wilson seems to be the guy who will take over as the starting running back. The current backfield situation is something to watch for though, as the 49ers signed running back Marlon Mack to their practice squad.
Jamal Adams SS, Seattle Seahawks
Adams exited Seattle’s Monday night matchup with Denver after being carted off with a quad injury and did not return. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll didn’t mince words when asked about his star Safety's injury, saying “I know it’s serious,” and that Adams will likely have to have surgery or other work moving forward. The latest reports from around the league have said that Adams will likely miss the remainder of the season. A tough blow for the Seahawks' secondary.
Chris Godwin WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Godwin was a game-time decision for Sunday night’s matchup against Dallas, after tearing his ACL late in the 2021-2022 season. Godwin was able to suit up for the Bucs, but left the game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Although the hamstring injury is not believed to be serious, Godwin’s status for this Sunday is currently up in the air. Update: it was reported that Godwin did not practice Wednesday.
Najee Harris RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Second-year sensation Najee Harris exited Pittsburgh’s opening weekend win with a foot injury, holding him out for part of the second half and overtime in a victory over the Bengals. Harris quickly assured fans and the media that he was okay, stating that he will be playing this Sunday against the Patriots. Although Harris is active for week two, the injury is something to keep an eye on.
Alvin Kamara RB, New Orleans Saints
Kamara had a relatively quiet week one against Atlanta in terms of his usage and overall production. After the Saints came from behind to win against the Falcons, it was revealed that Kamra was struggling with a rib injury during the game, limiting his availability. New Orleans Head Coach, Dennis Allen, said that Kamara will play this Sunday against Tampa Bay, however, his workload is currently unknown.