The lesson of the first weekend of the NFL season is that parity can make for exciting finishes.
New Orleans beat Atlanta on Wil Lutz’s 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds left and Cleveland rookie Code York hit a 58-yarder with eight seconds left to beat Carolina. And the Titans lost to the Giants when Randy Bullock missed a 47-yarder as time expired. Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yarder with two minutes left in overtime so the Colts had to settle for a tie with Houston.
On top of all that, Chris Boswell hit a 53-yard field goal with no time left in overtime to give the Steelers a 23-20 victory over the Bengals. The loss of long snapper Clark Harris proved to be critical for the Bengals as the Steelers blocked an extra point at the end of regulation and Evan McPherson missed a 29-yarder in overtime when backup snapper Mitchell Wilcox had a high snap. It didn’t help that the Bengals also had five turnovers, including a pick-six that was one of the four Joe Burrow passes the Steelers intercepted.
And Denver lost to Seattle when Brandon McManus missed a field goal in the final minute. But nobody blamed him because new coach Nathaniel Hackett had him try from 64 yards instead of letting Russell Wilson go for the first down on fourth-and-5. The Broncos have to wonder if Hackett is ready to be a head coach.
it is probably too early to jump to conclusions after the first weekend but let’s do it anyway. Here goes:
–Dak Prescott’s broken hand that will sideline him for six to eight weeks probably knocks the Cowboys out of the playoff race and opens the door for Philadelphia to win the NFC East. And for another NFC team to get a playoff spot the Cowboys likely would have gotten with Prescott. The Eagles opened with a victory over the Lions.
–The Steelers got a costly victory over the Bengals when T.J. Watt was probably lost for at least five weeks with a pec injury. That means Cincinnati is still likely to win the division despite their opening game loss.
–Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are probably headed towards a collision course in probably the biggest game of the regular season when the Chiefs host Buffalo on Oct. 16The two teams also could be headed towards a duel in the AFC title game after the Chiefs routed the Cardinals and the Bills beat the Rams in the Thursday night opener. Mahomes didn’t miss Tyreek Hill as he threw five touchdown passes in the chiefs 44-21 win over the Cardinals.
–Kyler Murray got a big contract, but the one sided loss to the Chiefs raised more doubt whether he is ready to compete against the other young QBs in the league.
–Justin Herbert would like to crash the Mahomes-Allen AFC party and he showed he might do it by throwing three touchdown passes in the 24-19 victory over the Raiders, whose playoff hopes are probably a long shot because they are in a division with the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos.
–Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle in his debut in Denver turned out not to be a good homecoming. The Broncos didn’t play well and lost 17-16 to journeyman Geno Smith, who threw two touchdown passes in the first half, but threw just 10 passes in the second half. Peyton Manning suggested it was unfair for the NFL to have Wilson go back to Seattle in his debut because of all the emotion involved although he threw for 340 yards. Still, the Broncos were not sharp and ran eight plays in the third period inside the Seattle 12 and got no points and had two fumbles. And they had three more plays inside the Seattle 10 in the fourth period and settled for a field goal. Hackett didn’t help with a curious decision not to go for it when Broncos had fourth and six t the Seattle 46 in the final minute. Instead, he let the clock run down to 20 seconds before having McManus try a 64-yard field goal attempt. According to Sportsradar, kickers are 2 of 35 from 64 yards or more since 1991.
–Do the Vikings and Kirk Cousins have a chance to overtake the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Central? It looks that way when the Vikings opened with a 23-7 win over the Vikings.
–The switch to Trey Lance by the 49ers got off to a slow start when they lost to the Bears in the opener. But the game was played in a monsoon so it is too early to make judgments on Lance.
–Tom Brady still isn’t showing his age, but it was the defense that carried the way in the Bucs 19-3 victory over the Cowboys.
–First-year coach Brian Daboll went for two rather than play for overtime and got the Giants a 21-20 victory over the Titans when they made the two point conversion. The Titans could have pulled it out but Bullock missed that 47-yarder as time expired. But it wasn’t costly for the Titans because none of the AFC South teams won although the Colts and Texans tied.
–The Browns didn’t miss Deshaun Watson, who is suspended, as backup Jacoby Brissett led the Browns to a 26-24 win over the Panthers as York made the game winner from 58 yards. It was a frustrating loss for Baker Mayfield, who was dumped by the Browns to make room for Watson.
–Lamar Jackson, who is betting on himself by taking the fifth year option contract for $23 million because he wants more guaranteed money than the Ravens are offering, got off to a good start by throwing three touchdown passes in a 24-9 victory over the Jets. The Ravens were a popular pick in the survivor pools.
–Time to rebuild in New England. The dynasty is over. The Patriots may be only the third best team in their division after losing their opener in Miami. The Patriots are now 6-8 in their last 14 AFC East And four of those six wins are over the Jets. The lesson of the first weekend of the season is that parity can make for exciting finishes.