5 storylines to come out of Kick Off weekend in the NFL
Ok. He might not be a Raider and it may only have been one game, but the New Orleans Saints are a talented team and the way Jameis Winston played on Sunday in the 38-3 win over the Packers will have delighted head coach, Sean Payton. He didn’t throw it all over the park but what he did was impressive, finishing with a stat line: 14 of 20 for 148 yards and 5 TDs – no interceptions. Following in the footsteps of a future Hall of Fame quarterback is an unenviable challenge but if this version of Jameis is a sign of things to come, the Saints need have no fear. With Alvin Kamara in the back field and a defense that bottled up Green Bay’s explosive offense, Winston was efficient and displayed the talent that made him the number 1 overall draft pick in 2015. It wasn’t all good news for New Orleans however, as star CB Marshon Lattimore left the game with a thumb injury that will require surgery and the Saints will wait to see the extent to which that effects his playing time. Reports suggest he is week to week.
Meanwhile, there will be unease in Green Bay at a listless display. The Packers were a pale shadow of the offensive juggernaut which took them all the way to the NFC Championship game last year. QB Aaron Rodgers finishing with his lowest completion percentage (53.5) in 7 years. Next week they face NFC North rivals, the Detroit Lions – a game which now takes on greater significance.
Chandler Jones was a one man wrecking machine in Tennessee. The pre-game hype around the Titans offensive arsenal was misplaced as Jones lived in the Titans’ backfield, recording five sacks – equalling the Cardinals single game franchise record – en route to a 38-13 win! Add two forced fumbles to that stat line, both recovered by Arizona, and you have chaos.
Star wide receivers, Julio Jones and AJ Brown were limited to just 7 receptions combined, for 78 yards and Derrick Henry was kept to under 3.5 yards per carry, totalling 58 yards on 17 attempts.
Make no mistake, in year 3 as head coach, this is a big year for Kliff Kingsbury and his air raid offense was firing on all cylinders on Sunday. QB Kyler Murray looked every bit the dual threat player, Arizona expect him to be, finding 7 different receivers and throwing 4 TD passes, while also running one in himself but it’s the explosive nature of their defensive performance which will be talked about this week as they get ready to host the Vikings
Red Rifle Misfires
You can already hear the murmurings of discontent around the Bears fanbase. There were calls for rookie QB Justin Fields to be given the starting job before Sunday night’s 34-14 loss in LA, but Chicago named veteran, Andy Dalton to that role and with a little over 3 minutes into the game those murmurings got louder. Chicago’s opening drive, finishing with Dalton throwing an endzone interception after the Bears had marched down to the Rams 8 yard line. A number of failed 4th down attempts followed, while Fields completed both pass attempts in the game and scored on a 3 yard run. Don’t expect head coach, Matt Nagy to yield to the outside noise just yet but his seat is getting warmer and if results in the first month don’t go Chicago’s way, Fields may get a chance to show exactly why Chicago traded up 9 spots in April’s draft to get him, sooner rather than later.
Seattle Storm Through Indy
The Seahawks turned to NFC West rivals, LA Rams for a new offensive philosophy this off-season and it looked mighty impressive in Indianapolis. Shane Waldron, the Rams Passing Game Coordinator for the past 3 years is now the Offensive Coordinator in Seattle and the result was a well balanced but explosive display on Sunday. QB Russell Wilson threw 4 TD passes – 2 of which went to Tyler Lockett, including a 69 yard, 2nd quarter score, right down the middle of the field, on the way to a a 28-16 opening day win. Wilson’s passing game was complimented by a rushing game which yielded 140 yards on 27 attempts.
On the other side of the ball Seattle can be pleased with the way their defense showed up, particularly in the run game. Colts RBs, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines were kept largely quiet, managing a combined 82 yards on 25 carries. They also recorded several 4th down stops, including one in the redzone in the 4th quarter with Indy trailing by 2 scores.
Seattle host the Titans in week 2 – potentially another test of their defense from an offense with plenty to prove
Fly Eagles Fly
Outside of the Saints and the Cardinals did any team have better day than the Eagles on Sunday? Outside of the organisation many pundits have written this off as a season of transition but Philadelphia have other ideas. On Sunday they went into Atlanta and routed the Falcons in a 32-6 win. QB Jalen Hurts looked superb as he threw for 3 TDs and rookie receiver, DeVonta Smith found the endzone with his first NFL reception. It was a near perfect start for new Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, who must have been pleased with the performance of his offensive line. Watching them pick up a series of blitz packages from the Falcons defense, keeping Hurts upright and giving him time to find receivers downfield. A much sterner test surely awaits next weekend when they face the 49ers but for now, this was a performance to savour.