1. Vikings (W 24-16 vs. SF)
What we learned: If not for the grand introduction of Sean McVay, Mike Zimmer would have won Coach of the Year in 2017.
Mike Zimmer is one of the best coaches in football and the defensive scheme he has made in Minnesota is still causing the best of the best problems. That should tell you something.
What we learned again: Minnesota, as advertised, has the most complete roster in the NFL, including the league’s best defense.
They’re my pick to win this year’s Lombardi. They finally got their upgrade at quarterback in Cousins, Cook returns from injury, Diggs and Thielen are one of the strongest receiving duos in the league and Minnesota’s defense, as mentioned above, is nasty.
2. Rams (W 33-13 @OAK)
What we learned: Rams-Vikings is a solid bet for the NFC Championship game.
Honestly can’t say I learned much from the Rams pummeling the ghost of Chucky. On the other hand, the Rams are a really good football team and seem to be the only thing that can get in their way.
What we learned again: The Rams won the offseason.
In case you somehow forgot, the Rams have gone all in on this season, acquiring multiple talent veterans to bolster their roster. They are stacked at every spot.
3. Eagles (W 18-12 vs. ATL)
What we learned: The Eagles are not fully reliant on their quarterback, demonstrating once again why their team is loaded.
As I stated pretty thoroughly in my quarterback breakdown piece, overpaying your quarterback will destroy a franchise and the proper usage of funds saved by a quarterback on a rookie deal can completely turn a franchise around. Exhibit A: Philly.
What we learned again: The Eagles should absolutely not rush Wentz back.
The Eagles have shown they can win playoff games and Super Bowls with Nick Foles at quarterback. Putting their franchise savior in any potential danger whatsoever for meaningless regular season games (let’s be honest, Philly’s making the playoffs regardless) would be beyond stupid. I’d rather lose a game than risk injuring The Book of Wentz.
4. Patriots (W 27-20 vs. HOU)
What we learned: The Patriots could start your neighbor at receiver and still win.
Funny joke, but is it also possibly true? Going into their game against Houston, New England had three receivers on their active roster: Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson. Didn’t matter. Another win. Just signed Browns bust Corey Coleman. If anyone can revive his career, it’s Tom Brady.
What we learned again: Tom Brady is still defying time just fine.
Looked fine on Sunday. 277 and three scores. Brady will do Brady things.
5. Jaguars (W 20-15 @NYG)
What we learned: The Jaguars defense will return to the top 10.
Not much to add to this other than they gave up only 15 to a talented group of position players and Saquon Barkley, minus one breakout run, was contained.
What we learned again: The team’s offense is heavily reliant on one Leonard Fournette.
The team has little trust in Bortles to win them a game and for good reason. Fournette will be treated like a bell cow once again this season. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, he went and got injured in week one. If he misses substantial time, I expect the Jag offense to struggle. Sorry, but T.J. Yeldon is not Leonard Fournette.
6. Chiefs (W 38-28 @LAC)
What we learned: Patrick Mahomes is better for the Kansas City offense than Alex Smith.
The Chiefs already knew and most analysts already did but if there was any doubt about whether Mahomes’ arm strength was a huge factor in the Chiefs decision to move from Smith, that doubt has been eliminated. A four-touchdown debut was impressive.
What we learned again: Tyreek Hill is fast.
Said it in my sports report this week: Hill is a certified number one receiver now. His route running has improved since his appearance. If you haven’t, suggest you just watch some of the Chiefs tape from week one. It was quite something.
7. Falcons (L 18-12 @PHI)
What we learned: Julio is back.
Julio had a down campaign in 2017. I expected him to bounce back this season. Had a nice start.
What we learned again: The Falcons still suck in the red zone after a whole offseason to find a solution.
Steve Sarkisian, ladies and gents.
8. Giants (L 20-15 vs. JAC)
What we learned: Saquon Barkley is going to struggle this year.
Perhaps I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there, but hard to look at Barkley’s stat sheet on Sunday and be impressed. One amazing run, yes, but other than that? Nothing. Guess offensive lines are important after all.
What we learned again: Ben McAdoo should never be allowed near a football team at any level again.
The Giants are far better than their 2017 record suggested and McAdoo is why that’s the case. Losing to Jacksonville by 5 is a win for New York. They’re going to contend for a wild card this year.
9. Packers (W 24-23 vs. CHI)
What we learned: Aaron Rodgers is Superman.
Don’t think I need to add anything here.
What we learned again: The Packers are massively overrated.
Remove Rodgers from this team and it goes straight to the john. This team couldn’t float last year without Aaron and they weren’t gonna float against Chicago on Sunday night if he didn’t return. I hate putting the Packers in the top ten this week. They don’t deserve it. Mr. Rodgers was just so miraculous that it feels wrong not to give him a tip of the hat.
10. Bears (L 24-23 @GB)
What we learned: The Bears have a chance to repeat as a top-ten defense.
Last year Chicago was 10th in total yardage, seventh against the pass, 11th against the run and ninth in points against. They added Khalil Mack.
What we learned again: Khalil Mack is the best outside linebacker in the league.
Yes, better than Von Miller. Bears hit the jackpot on this one.
11. Texans (L 27-20 @NE)
What we learned: Houston is healthy.
Finally. Imagine the carnage that could be created with Watt and Clowney on the edge.
What we learned again: Deshaun Watson is not a finished product yet.
A player with tremendous upside made some costly mistakes. Still, a seven-point loss in Foxborough is a win for most organizations.
12. 49ers (L 24-16 @MIN)
What we learned: Jimmy Garroppolo is not elite yet.
Quarterbacks are able to show how good they are when they play defenses like Minnesota. Under 50% completion and three picks on Sunday.
What we learned again: The 49ers have a nice foundation in place and Shanahan knows what he’s doing.
Sadly, Shanahan’s Super Bowl debacle will follow him his entire career. He’s still one of the brightest minds in the game and they are a franchise moving in the right direction, though Jimmy G’s absurd contract could put the brakes on the train.
13. Chargers (L 38-28 vs. KC)
What we learned: The Chargers defense might be a weak spot.
Is the Chargers defense that bad or is Mahomes that good? We’ll have to wait and see.
What we learned again: Despite almost no media attention, Rivers is still playing quite well at an old age.
Football experts have talked about how much longer Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Ben and Eli are going to play and seem to repeatedly overlook Rivers. In addition to being a great fantasy signal caller year in and year out, Rivers continues to keep the Chargers relevant.
14. Jets (W 48-17 @DET)
What we learned: Starting Darnold was the right move.
For the record, I am completely against starting rookie quarterbacks in most cases. We’ve seen more that a couple quarterbacks’ careers end prematurely because they weren’t ready. Darnold looked ready.
What we learned again: Todd Bowles is the most underrated coach in the NFL.
The Jets did all they could to tank their roster last year and Bowles still kept the ship afloat. He’ll do more than keep it afloat this year.
15. Broncos (W 27-24 vs. SEA)
What we learned: Keenum is serviceable, likely not a long-term starter.
The Broncos gave Keenum a solid contract, one that gives him money he never had the chance to get previously while also not putting the money chests in a strait jacket. He had three touchdowns and three picks on Sunday.
What we learned again: Von Miller will lead the way.
Von Miller had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Seattle, bad offensive line or not. He’s still good. We’ll have to see if the Broncos defense follows suit this year.
16. Buccaneers (W 48-40 @NO)
What we learned: Ryan Fitzmagic is back.
It was the best game of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career and while I sadly didn’t get to watch his performance live or in its entirety, the highlights were quite something. Whether Fitzpatrick is Fitzmagic or Fitztragic, he’s always entertaining.
What we learned again: DeSean Jackson’s not dead yet.
Jackson has never been the same player since leaving Philadelphia but has continued to be a deep threat. He’s still a playmaker.
17. Panthers (W 16-8 vs. DAL)
What we learned: Norm Turner and the offense didn’t have the greatest start.
Dallas had essentially a secondary of freshmen last year. Yes, the Carolina receivers aren’t threatening but this was a game you’d like to see Cam pour it on. Didn’t happen. I’m not going to discredit the Cowboys front seven but I expected more from Carolina.
What we learned again: Panthers still have one of the best front sevens in football.
Have been for a few years and still are. Kuechly is still the league’s best mike.
18. Ravens (W 47-3 vs. BUF)
What we learned: The Ravens gave Flacco all the weapons this offseason.
If he performs like he has the last few years, he’s gone and it’s on to the age of Lamar. Week one was against one of the worst the NFL has to offer. Let’s try to contain our excitement.
What we learned again: The Ravens defense is still strong.
Yes, some new faces have moved into the linebacker spots but a lot of these young additions are performing well. Weddle and Tony Jefferson are one of the best safety combos in the league.
19. Bengals (W 34-23 @IND)
What we learned: The offense is improved.
Who could have known that having an offensive line probably would have helped the team last year?
What we learned again: Marvin Lewis is still coaching the Bengals.
You’d think they would have fired the guy for incompetence or for even a fresh direction but no, Marvin Lewis is still there.
20. Steelers (T 21-21 @CLE)
What we learned: Ben Roethlisberger is at the end of the road.
I think we knew it last year but Ben is closer to the twilight stage of his career than football fans would care to admit. He looked plain awful on Sunday and I still don’t know how the guy didn’t get benched.
What we learned again: The Steelers window is closing.
The Steelers, at their best, are always known for their stout defense. That is not the case right now. The defense is bend don’t break and each year looks closer to breaking. Ben is nearing the end. I don’t care what he says. He doesn’t have five years left. They are talented on the offensive line and have one of the best position groups in the league but the years of Peyton, Ben and Brady owning the AFC are over.
21. Seahawks (L 27-24 @DEN)
What we learned: Russell Wilson is Seattle’s savior.
Not a lot of reasons to watch this team. The offensive line is still among the league’s worst and I still don’t know what Seattle was thinking drafting a back in the first round. Doug Baldwin has gone down with injury. Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham are gone. We’ve seen Wilson do his fair share of theatrics. He’ll have to do more than that if Seattle’s gonna make the postseason.
What we learned again: Earl Thomas needs paid.
Given the depth of the defense, unsure why Seattle is hesitating to pay this man. Sometimes, you don’t pay the man. This isn’t one of those times. You lose Thomas and this defense will morph into a turnstile.
22. Saints (L 48-40 vs. TB)
What we learned: Drew Brees can still throw footballs.
Last year was not Brees’ strongest year but I don’t think there were many people concerned about his production this year. If there were, they are likely silenced now.
What we learned again: The Saints are back to their old ways.
I talked about it in my quarterback breakdown last week. The Saints defense has never been consistently good during the Sean Payton era. I am on the record as saying Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy are the two most overrated coaches in professional football. The defense got cooked all day by Tampa Bay. Was Fitzmagic excellent? Of course, but some of those scores were simple blown coverages deep. Looks like we’re back to trying to outscore teams again.
23. Redskins (W 24-6 @ARI)
What we learned: The Redskins are not definitely going to finish at the bottom of the division.
It is the solid bet but given how bad Dallas played, they could fight for third.
What we learned again: Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Famer.
On Sunday, AP surpassed 12,000 yards and 100 career rushing touchdowns. I’ve been an AP fan his entire career. I’m hoping he has a few games left in him.
24. Browns (T 21-21 vs. PIT)
What we learned: Myles Garrett is the most valuable player in Cleveland.
Jarvis Landry may be the most talented player but Garrett is far and away its most valuable. He was blowing past tackles repeatedly on Sunday and recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles. Cleveland, a team that hasn’t given a player a long-term extension since who knows when, should definitely give this guy all the money.
What we learned again: Baker Mayfield will start this season and Hue Jackson should start packing.
Tyrod Taylor is a serviceable quarterback but looked off on Sunday. Had some simple misthrows in the flats and was mostly unimpressive. Hue is on the way out because his team had six takeaways and still couldn’t win. Unsure how much more Hue needs to fail at his job before he’s finally given the ax.
25. Cowboys (L 16-8 @CAR)
What we learned: The Cowboys will have a front row seat at the NFL Draft.
They may be just outside the top ten but it’s hard to see Dallas being that far off. The team struggled to get past midfield let alone score. The front seven for the Cowboys is strong enough to win them some games but a lack of game planning Sunday was evident.
What we learned again: Cowboys management took a huge L this offseason and wasted a year of Dak’s rookie contract.
Losing Witten to retirement was inevitable. Cutting Dez was the right move. His best days were behind him and he was no longer meeting the value of his signing price. These were the additions Cowboys management made to replace that production: Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and third-round pick Michael Gallup. Given the immense savings they got from those former two moves, the Cowboys had to reinvest those funds into the receiving core. They did not and teams are not going to respect those players. They’re going to stack the box and Elliott is going to struggle at times because of it. Dallas will be without center Travis Frederick for likely the whole year. Rather than build around their proclaimed franchise starter, they’ve left him in the cold.
26. Dolphins (W 27-20 vs. TEN)
What we learned: Ryan Tannehill’s receivers this year are DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola.
Good luck with that.
What we learned again: The Dolphins are the epitome of treading water.
Funny pun, but really unsure what they’re going for here. Looks like a tanking to me but other times looks they’re trying. Either way, looks like the bottom of the AFC East.
27. Titans (L 27-20 @MIA)
What we learned: Derrick Henry has not been given the keys to the backfield.
Dion Lewis and Henry had about a 50-50 split on Sunday, so if you drafted either of them and expected something else, oops on you.
What we learned again: Marcus Mariota is likely not a franchise quarterback.
Year two was nice: 26/9 touchdown/interception split and nearly 3,500 yards. For a quarterback who’s not known for his arm, that’s great. Last year? 13/15 and a 79.3 rating.
28. Colts (L 34-23 vs. CIN)
What we learned: Andrew Luck is back to throwing footballs.
I’m a Luck fan myself and seeing him throwing footballs again was glorious.
What we learned again: The Colts still suck.
Turns out the return of your franchise quarterback is not enough to make your team not suck. Indy went and blew a 14-point lead on Sunday.
29. Raiders (L 33-13 vs. LAR)
What we learned: Derek Carr can be cut in 2019 for $7.5 dead cap.
After winning my MVP award for the 2016 season (28-6 TD/INT and all the fourth-quarter comebacks), Carr took a clear step back last year and did not get off to a great start this year. I wouldn’t say cutting Carr is absolutely the right move at this moment but if Carr plays like he did last year, I think you have to consider it.
What we learned again: The Raiders are the dumbest team in football right now.
You traded Khalil Mack.
30. Lions (L 48-17 vs. NYJ)
What we learned: The Lions were not prepared and that reflects on their coach.
They were apparently so unprepared that it’s been reported that Stafford, instead of using code, started yelling “screen” at his own teammates to change the play.
What we learned again: The Lions still don’t know what running is.
You’d think after all these years they’d learn something. Guess Detroit’s gonna Detroit.
31. Cardinals (L 24-6 vs. WAS)
What we learned: The Cardinals will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.
David Johnson is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Arizona. We shouldn’t forget about Larry Fitzgerald either but often times a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. The Cardinals are gonna be bad and the only reason to watch them, aside from watching Fitz’ retirement tour and DJ’s return, is seeing if Rosen comes to play.
What we learned again: Sam Bradford is one of the most overrated players in the history of professional football.
Once again, Bradford spent most of a season on injured reserve and once again he got paid during free agency and once again he sucked in the first game of a season. I wonder how many times this carousel of madness goes around before someone finally cuts the cord.
32. Bills (L 47-3 @BAL)
What we learned: The Bills will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.
All of those offseason moves foreshadowing a grand tanking have finally come to fruition. What Sean McDermott now has in Buffalo is bare bones. The team lost three starters from their offensive line last year which means Shady McCoy will struggle to do much of anything and that’s if he isn’t put on the exempt list before that. Buffalo was 31st in passing last year and look like a strong candidate to repeat in that category.
What we learned again: Nathan Peterman is not an NFL quarterback.
I’m unsure what the line is between having a job and not having a job in the NFL but whatever that line is, Peterman has carpet bombed it. Trading McCarron looks like a poor decision right now, though who knows how much better McCarron really is.