The NFL season has officially begun, and football is back in full force with week one in the books. As it is every year, the first weekend back wasn’t without surprises and chaos causing turmoil among fanbases and analysts alike. With 17 more weeks of regular season football left ahead, there is still a lot to be determined with every team. However, we can look back at this week one and learn a little bit about each team after their first game that can help show us how their season may turn out. Here are five things that we learned from the NFL’s opening kickoff weekend.
What We Learned #1
Detroit’s Running Back Room Is More Of A Committee Than We Thought
Detroit picked up a huge win at Arrowhead in Kansas City Thursday night. Jared Goff had a turnover-free game, Amon-Ra St.Brown continued to show he is a budding star at the receiver position, and the defense held a Patrick Mahomes offense to 20 points. One interesting stat that had a lot of fantasy owners confused was the running back snap count total.
Jahmyr Gibbs, who the Lions took inside the top half of the first round in the 2023 NFL draft, was super explosive in his debut, but he only saw 19 of the 70 offensive snaps. Meanwhile, free agent acquisition David Montgomery, who came over from the Chicago Bears, saw 55 of those 70 offensive snaps in the season debut.
This could be simply because Dan Campbell and the Lions coaching staff want to slowly get Gibbs acclimated to the NFL and to the offense, but Detroit also clearly has great trust in the veteran Montgomery to run this offense effectively. Gibbs will become more involved as the season progresses, but for now the Lions could be leaning on Montgomery to take the bulk of the workload.
What We Learned #2:
Deshaun Watson Is Still Rusty
The main takeaway across this entire game is that the Cincinnati Bengals are in trouble. Joe Burrow and company played their worst game together as a group, and everything is falling apart. R-E-L-A-X as Aaron Rodgers would say, the Bengals are going to be fine.
The takeaway after this game should be concerning for Browns fans and their offense. In a 24-3 rainy weather game there were a lot of positives for Cleveland, many about their run game and their front seven. But the one concern should be about their quarterback play.
Deshaun Watson went 16-29 for 154 yards, albeit in the rain, but it was clear that he was struggling to make throws all afternoon. Watson had just a 40% completion percentage on non play-action throws and averaged just 2.5 yards on such completions on Sunday, both of which were the worst percentage on such throws among all quarterbacks (minus Aaron Rodgers) over the weekend.
We will see how Watson adjusts in a game where the climate and weather are more favorable — and the expectation is he plays better — but it is definitely something to take note of that Watson was visibly not the player we saw in Houston this past weekend.
What We Learned #3:
Tennessee Needs A New Quarterback
This game was ugly and not a fun one to watch. A game that featured a singular touchdown and EIGHT field goals was easily the least exciting game of the NFL’s opening weekend. If it was not on everybody’s minds before the season, it definitely is now; the Tennessee Titans don’t have a franchise quarterback on their roster.
Ryan Tannehill was a nice story a few seasons ago; leading Tennessee to the playoffs and playing solid football along the way after some rough seasons in Miami. However, the past two seasons were less than stellar for the veteran and already his 2023-2024 campaign is off to a very bad start. Completing less than 50% of his passes and throwing three interceptions, Tannehill struggled to make plays to get the Titans. in the end zone.
With Malik Willis and rookie Will Levis the other quarterbacks on the roster, it would not come as a shock if head coach Mike Vrabel turned to either of the two young men to take over as signal caller at some point during the season, simply to see what the Titans have on their roster. Even with Willis and Levis on the team, the team does not seem sold on either one after they both failed to compete for the starting job in the offseason.
Now, after Tannehill’s performance in week one it is clear as day the Titans do not have a long-term plan at the position.
What We Learned #4:
Miami Is Going To Throw It Around
Seems like an obvious statement right? After a 466-yard performance from Tua Tagovailoa and a 215-yard performance from Tyreek Hill, of course the takeaway is they’re going to throw the ball around. Tua looked like a completely different quarterback this weekend. He looked confident, motivated, and incredibly comfortable and poised, making plays both inside and outside the pocket.
With all three of the AFC’s top teams (Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cincinnati) from a year ago losing in various fashions, Miami looked like the new dominating offense in the AFC. This offense is going to move fast, they’re going to do a lot of creative route concepts, mixed personnel packages and stunts to get both Hill and Jaylen Waddle open in space and let them do what they do best: catch the ball in the open field and take off.
Tougher defensive matchups are ahead, but every team should be put on notice for what is happening in Miami.
What We Learned #5:
It Is Zach Wilson’s Team Once Again
The New York Jets got a huge win Monday Night in their season opener against the Buffalo Bills, causing four turnovers from Josh Allen and walking the game off in an electric way with a punt return touchdown in overtime. But the story of the evening is the biggest story in the NFL: Aaron Rodgers is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
Obviously, it’s devastating news for Jets fans and an organization who, for the first time in 25 years, had high expectations coming into the season because of the off-season acquisition of the man who formerly wore No.12. The fairytale would live just four plays before Jets fans and players hearts dropped as Rodgers would exit the game and the season with an injury.
So now we circle back to the former second overall pick, Zach Wilson, who once again will have to lead this Jets team. Coach Saleh has been very adamant that Wilson is the guy moving forward throughout the season. However adding a quarterback to give depth is not out of the question, especially a veteran who can mentor Wilson during the season with Rodgers now gone for the year.
Expectations for the Jets may have been altered slightly after the loss of their newly beloved QB, but Zach Wilson has the chance to completely change the trajectory of his career this season.