After months of waiting, anticipating and prognosticating, the first NFL Sunday has come and gone from the 2017 season. There were players with new teams who stepped up, like Mike Gillislee with three touchdowns. Eli Manning was held out of the end zone and Aaron Rodgers managed to navigate around a still exceptional Seahawks defensive unit.
It’s dangerous to put too much emphasis on week 1 of a 17 week season, as trends are nearly impossible to differentiate from the flukes with such a small sample size. Yet there are some things that stood out, even among the various unexpected and exciting developments of week 1, that are going to be a part of the NFL landscape for the rest of the year. Here are my top five takeaways from Thursday and Sunday’s games.
Fast Five Takeaways From The NFL Week 1
5. The Colts Miss Andrew Luck, Bad
So maybe nobody is shocked that the Colts had trouble stopping the run. Maybe it’s not even that surprising that the Indianapolis defensive unit as a whole looked ineffective and paper thin in places—but the offense looking like a catastrophe in motion is certainly something worth noticing. Andrew Luck’s temporary replacement Scott Tolzien threw two interceptions, no touchdowns and was sacked four times on his way to a miserable QBR of 6.3.
The Rams looked like world beaters in this outing, scoring two defensive touchdowns and taking full advantage of the Colts humiliating display. There was a glimmer of hope for Colts fans, as trade acquisition Jacoby Brissett made the most of his limited opportunities in the game. Brissett was only allowed to throw the ball three times, but he completed two of those attempts for over fifty yards. (Final: IND-9 LAR-42)
4. Welcome Back, Beast Mode
In spite of their premier aerial threat, Amari Cooper, having a bad case of the Opening Day dropsies (5 rec. out of 13 targets), the Oakland Raiders handily defeated a much improved Tennessee Titans squad, largely thanks to Marshawn Lynch taking firm hold of the Oakland backfield. Silencing the many sportscasters and fantasy analysts who insisted that Lynch was too old to return to his prior form, or that he couldn’t handle the kind of workload he was responsible for in Seattle, but Lynch didn’t seem to have slowed at all. In addition to devouring 18 carries from the backfield for 76 yards, Lynch also caught a pass for 16 yards, not to mention against a very good Dick Lebeau led defense. Lynch looked just like his former self, charging through initial contact and requiring multiple defenders to take him down. Though he failed to score a touchdown, Lynch certainly put his stamp on this game and made it clear that he is THE running back in Oakland as long as he’s healthy. (Final: OAK-26 TEN-16)
3. Calais Campbell and the Jacksonville D Shred Savage
The Jaguars put a great deal of cash and attention on the defensive side of the ball and based on their week 1 performance it’s paying off. Granted, the Jags were aided slightly by what seems to be a wealth of misplaced trust in quarterback Tom Savage who looked like a hot mess under center and got sacked six times and stripped twice. Things got a little better for the Texans when they allowed Rookie signal caller Deshaun Watson to take over the reigns of the offense, but even Watson was harassed by the new look Jaguars defense, led by Calais Campbell, finishing with one passing touchdown, one interception, and was sacked four times. (Final: JAX-29 HOU-7)
2. Matthew Stafford Still Manages to be Underestimated
When Calvin Johnson was the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL, Matthew Stafford was a sneaky mid-round fantasy option with a high floor and a top five ceiling. Since then, Stafford has remained a reliable (though unsexy) option at quarterback.
Little by little, the Lions have been assembling pieces around Stafford—not huge names like Johnson, but reliable, high motor, exceptional work ethic guys like Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, and Theo Riddick. Rookie deep threat Kenny Golladay seems to be the missing piece to the Detroit offense, based on his two touchdown receiving performance, contributing to Stafford’s impressive 4-touchdown performance against Arizona’s elite secondary. Stafford didn’t try to throw around Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu but rather fired his way through one of the best pass defenses in football. (Final: AZ-23 DET-35)
1. Kareem Hunt Is For Real
The 2017 rookie class is exceptionally loaded with talent, and for some reason, NFL teams seem more dependent on rookies at important skill positions than average. Leonard Fournette, Marlon Mack, DeShone Kizer, Tarik Cohen and Deshaun Watson were all tasked with contributing in huge ways for their new teams in week 1. Many of these rookies went above and beyond what most expected of them, but none made a more powerful entrance into the NFL than Kareem Hunt.
Similar to the cohesion demonstrated by Detroit with the addition of their rookie phenom, Kansas City’s offense absolutely dwarfed last year’s Super Bowl Champion Patriots and Alex Smith threw for four touchdowns and a QBR over 90 (Tom Brady’s QBR was 35).
After coughing up a costly fumble on his first carry, Hunt rallied back to be an impact player in various phases of the offense. Hunt carried the ball 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. He caught all five of his five targets for 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Hunt was all over the field on Thursday and New England’s defense never saw him coming, and no other player made a stronger case for rookie of the year in week 1. (Final: KCC-42 NE-27)