NFL Winners and Losers: After an offseason of doubts, Eagles' Jalen Hurts has a great opener
The Philadelphia Eagles had to announce right before the season that Jalen Hurts was their starting quarterback. It wasn't much of a doubt, but it's also not like the Green Bay Packers or Seattle Seahawks were announcing their starter.
Hurts came into this season with a lot to prove and not a ton of security, but Week 1 was very good for him.
Hurts played like he did at his best late last season, making sound decisions, using his legs when the opportunity presented itself and making some nice throws downfield in a 32-6 win against the Atlanta Falcons, who entered the game as 3.5-point BetMGM favorites.
The Eagles are healthy and they're 1-0 after an easy win Sunday. The ease in which they won was one of the top surprises of Week 1.
When the Eagles traded Carson Wentz this offseason, it put them in a strange position. They didn't seem to be sold on Hurts as a full-time starter. Reports said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie pushed the coaching staff to start Hurts, who was a second-round draft pick last season. It didn't help that the team traded for Gardner Minshew II from Jacksonville late in the preseason. The Eagles were linked to Deshaun Watson trade speculation. Hurts looked good at times last season but was also inaccurate. The Eagles could have tried to find a new quarterback in a deep draft class. The prudent move was to see what they had in Hurts. But there were times when it seemed the Eagles were looking for any other option.
Hurts will face tougher defenses than Atlanta's, but it was a great first step. The Eagles dominated on the road. Hurts played very well, using first-round receiver DeVonta Smith as his favorite target. Hurts completed 27 of 35 passes for 264 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He rushed for 62 yards, too. The Eagles looked good, which you couldn't say often last season when Doug Pederson was coaching out the string before getting fired.
Maybe the Eagles have something with Hurts. Perhaps Lurie knew best after all. At very least, Eagles fans can feel good about what they have at quarterback for one week.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday's action in Week 1 of the NFL season:
Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek HIll: The Kansas City Chiefs would rather blow teams out, but they know they can come from behind to win close games, too.
You can have that confidence when you have Mahomes, Kelce and Hill. Mahomes was great as usual in a 33-29 comeback win over the Cleveland Browns. Kelce grabbed two touchdowns. The game started to turn on a 75-yard Hill touchdown that seems like a replay of a dozen touchdowns of years past. Mahomes rolled right and heaved up a long one to Hill. Hill outmaneuvered the defender with the ball in the air, made the catch and was putting up the peace sign before he scored.
It was a game the Browns probably should have won. They made mistakes. You can't make too many mistakes against the Chiefs' trio of stars. They'll eventually make the big plays to win if you don't put them away.
Sean Payton: Payton has a chance to add a lot to his reputation and legacy this season.
If the New Orleans Saints’ first game is an indication, Payton is going to have to big season. The Saints, who were playing in Jacksonville because Hurricane Ida has displaced them, had a fantastic Week 1. They blew out the Green Bay Packers, who were the NFC’s No. 1 seed last season. The 38-3 win might have been the biggest surprise of Week 1, in terms of scoring margin.
It was a thorough domination. The defense shut down Aaron Rodgers. Jameis Winston looked great, and if he plays like that all season it’ll be an impressive reclamation for Payton. The Saints were one of the best teams in Week 1, and a lot of that has to do with their coach.
The first-place Houston Texans: The best thing the Texans did this offseason was not hire Urban Meyer. That puts them a step ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars at least.
The Texans, who had a rough offseason, are 1-0 under rookie head coach David Culley. Tyrod Taylor played very well. The Texans defense took advantage of Trevor Lawrence's mistakes. Houston beat Jacksonville 37-21 while Indianapolis and Tennessee lost, which means Houston is the only 1-0 team in the division.
The game was another sign that Meyer was a bad hire, and this flop actually goes on his coaching record. There has not been any sign in eight months that Meyer is a good fit in the NFL. Watching the Jaguars get blasted in Week 1 should offer no confidence at all in that changing.
Pittsburgh Steelers defense: If Josh Allen is going to be an MVP candidate, he'll have to pile up numbers against easier defenses than he faced in Week 1.
Allen looked uncomfortable for most of the opener, and a lot of that has to do with the Steelers. With T.J. Watt back on the field after getting paid, the Steelers pulled off a nice upset, holding the Bills offense to just one touchdown in a 23-16 win. Pittsburgh put a lot of pressure on Allen and played fast in the secondary. Buffalo couldn't get anything going. The biggest play of the game came when the Steelers trailed 10-6 in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh got a huge stop on fourth-and-1 near midfield, then the Steelers turned that into a touchdown. A punt block for a touchdown put the game away.
The Steelers didn't get a lot out of Ben Roethlisberger, and they might not this season at age 39. But the defense will keep them in every game.
Brandon Staley: The Los Angeles Chargers' new coach found himself in a great position. The Chargers have a lot of talent and have underachieved for years. Maybe the right coach could unlock that talent.
Staley is 1-0 with a very nice road win over the Washington Football Team. A fourth quarter fumble recovery, after Antonio Gibson coughed it up deep in Washington territory, led to a Justin Herbert touchdown and a 20-16 victory.
Staley, the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator last season, is off to a great start with the Chargers.
Russell Wilson: The Seahawks promised a fast new tempo, which presumably would have led to Russell Wilson passing more. That didn't happen Sunday, but that was OK. Wilson made his 23 passes count. He threw for four touchdowns in a 28-16 win. The Seahawks didn't need to pass it a ton to beat the Indianapolis Colts.
Seattle might not pass it all that much. That's not what Pete Carroll wants, despite having a generational talent at quarterback. But when Wilson can pass it, he's going to do very well with his opportunities.
Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor and the Bengals: What a great story for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Burrow, back from a torn ACL suffered last season, led a game-winning drive in overtime as the Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings, 27-24. That gets Taylor's third season as coach off to a nice start.
In overtime, it looked like a tie was coming. But Dalvin Cook lost a fumble, and then on fourth-and-inches Burrow hit C.J. Uzomah on a play-action pass for 32 yards — a great play call by Taylor — setting up the winning field goal. Just getting Burrow back healthy was a win for the Bengals, and the victory itself in Week 1 was a great story.
New England Patriots: In this season of redemption for the Patriots, after spending a ton of money in the offseason, they started by dropping a home game to the Miami Dolphins.
This is not the Patriots team that steamrolled the AFC for two decades. This one couldn't generate enough offense — though rookie quarterback Mac Jones still had some nice plays — and Damien Harris' fumble at the 9-yard line with less than four minutes remaining was the crucial mistake in a 17-16 loss.
The Dolphins can feel good heading home. Tua Tagovailoa played pretty well and the defense was vey good. They're 1-0 with a road win in the division. The Patriots have some work to do.
Daniel Jones: Jones had some good moments as a rookie, was mediocre at best in his second year, and this season was supposed to prove what he was as an NFL quarterback. It’s not off to a good start.
Jones looked pretty much like he did last season, not creating much at all in a Week 1 27-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have a good defense, but Jones is to the point in which he needs to produce against everyone on the schedule.
Jones, a controversial first-round pick in 2019, hasn’t done enough to justify that pick. He might not have his job in 2022 if he doesn’t play better than he did Sunday. The same is probably true for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.
The first two picks of the draft: They can't all be perfect debuts.
The 2021 NFL rookie quarterback class might turn out to be historic, but the first games for Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson of the New York Jets were rough. Lawrence threw a couple awful interceptions in the first half to contribute to the Jaguars falling behind 27-7 by halftime. One came when he rolled left and instead of running for a few yards he floated a pass that was well over his receiver and picked off.
Wilson was 6-of-16 for 84 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in the first half as the Panthers took a 16-0 halftime lead. That's a 29.2 passer rating in the first half for Wilson, who looked hurried in his first action under consistent pressure. He had two touchdown passes to Corey Davis in the second half, but he was outplayed by Sam Darnold, the former third pick of the draft who the Jets gave up on this offseason to pick Wilson. The Jets lost 19-14.
Trey Lance, the third overall draft pick this year, didn't start but he was the best of the trio. He threw a touchdown pass when he rotated in for Jimmy Garoppolo in the first half.
Detroit Lions: Not only were the Lions getting blasted by the 49ers, and Jared Goff threw a pick-six, but cornerback Jeff Okudah was getting chewed out on the bench. The Lions passed on Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert for Okudah, the third pick of the 2020 draft who had a miserable rookie season. His second season apparently isn't starting much better.
The Lions made it interesting late, somehow cutting their big deficit all the way down to 41-33, then they got a fumble recovery with less than two minutes left. But Goff threw incomplete on fourth down in the final 20 seconds and that ended the game.
The Lions' rebuild will take a while. Maybe Dan Campbell is the right coach for the job, but it'll be a while before we find out. The best the Lions can do is keep things competitive this year while they find the right pieces for the future. That didn't happen for most of Week 1.
Tennessee Titans offense: Give the Arizona Cardinals credit. The defense, led by Chandler Jones, looked fantastic. Kyler Murray was perhaps the best quarterback in any of the early Sunday games, accounting for five touchdowns. But the Titans looked miserable in a 38-13 loss.
Tennessee, who lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to the Falcons' head-coaching job this offseason, couldn't get anything going. It turned the ball over too much. Ryan Tannehill looked uncomfortable. Derrick Henry was stuck with less than 10 rushing yards into the second half. Jones spent all afternoon in the Titans backfield. He had five sacks.
Arizona might be a pretty good team this season. Tennessee might not, based on what it showed in the opener.