With four weeks of preseason action plus training camp in the books, the first NFL Sunday of the 2017 regular season arrived and did not disappoint. The Patriots- Chiefs game provided some exciting moments on Thursday night, but nothing beats a full slate of games to kick off the season. Fans watched entertaining games, big plays, and head-scratching moments.
Here is a closer look at the best and worst from Week 1 of the 2017 season.
Eagles WR Nelson Agholor
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor has been under high scrutiny over the past two seasons due to his ineffective play. Last season was not kind to the former first-round pick, as he had 36 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns. He was not a bright spot in an Eagles’ wide receiver corps that had its fair share of issues across the board.
However, beginning this preseason, Agholor emerged as a different-looking receiver, catching everything coming his way and not making debilitating mistakes. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound wideout carried his solid preseason performance into the regular season and showed everybody on Sunday that last season was a fluke.
Agholor, who was playing in the slot, flanked by new acquisitions Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, scored the Eagles’ first touchdown of the season. On the Eagles’ third play of the game, quarterback Carson Wentz eluded pressure from the Washington Redskins’ defensive line and found Agholor for a broken play 58-yard touchdown reception.
It was a great start to the season for Agholor as he finished the game with six receptions (eight targets) for 86 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles will need Agholor to step up big time this season with opposing defenses looking to take out both Jeffery and Smith. If Agholor can be consistent going forward, it will give Wentz another target that he can depend on.
Bears RBs Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen
Last season for the Chicago Bears was not great They finished with a disappointing record of 3-13, along with losing quarterback Jay Cutler to injury and Jeffery to a four-game suspension due to PEDs. However, there was one bright spot from last season — running back Jordan Howard.
The fifth-round pick out of the University of Indiana had a Pro Bowl season, rushing for 1,313 yards on 252 carries and six touchdowns. Then, in the offseason, the Bears decided they wanted to bring more excitement to their backfield and drafted running back Tarik Cohen out of North Carolina A&T in the fourth round.
On Sunday afternoon, the thunder and lightning combination in the Windy City gave Bears fans a reason to cheer. Even though Chicago lost to the Super Bowl 51 runner-up Atlanta Falcons, 23-17, Howard and Cohen were two major reasons why they had a chance to win.
Howard had 52 yards on 13 carries for a touchdown and added 14 receiving yards. Howard’s lone touchdown came with Cohen being quarterback in the Wildcat offense. Cohen, on the other hand, showed off his shifty skills and made Falcons defenders look silly to the tune of 113 total yards and a touchdown.
The 5-foot-6 running back also led the Bears in receiving yards with eight receptions for 47 yards. Chicago will need both running backs to continue to be factors in the receiving game because they could be without wide receiver Kevin White for the rest of the season.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown
It was business as usual for the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, who received a four-year, $68 million contract extension in the offseason, continued to show why he is one of the game’s best wide receivers on Sunday.
Against the Cleveland Browns defense, Brown carved up their secondary to the tune of 182 yards on 11 receptions. While he did not have a touchdown, he caught everything in his path. The Central Michigan product was far and away the best wide receiver on the field as the Browns simply did not have an answer for him.
Furthermore, the Steelers’ offense needed Brown to have a good game because the running was non-existent. If you had Brown on fantasy football, you are loving what he did in Week 1.
Lions WR Kenny Golladay
Sticking with the wide receivers theme, the Detroit Lions have a potential young star in the making. After having a productive preseason with spectacular and dazzling catches, rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay continued that in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Coming into this game, the Cardinals’ focus on defense was to try and slow down veteran wide receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. While they did their best to slow down Tate, who had 10 receptions for 107 yards, it was the rookie out of Northern Illinois in Golladay, who reaped the rewards.
Golladay made a ridiculous touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter, beating Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel on a go route for 45 yards. The former Northern Illinois product finished the game with four receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions may have found a diamond in the rough in Golladay, who they drafted in the third round of this year’s NFL draft.
Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette made headlines after his first preseason game saying that the NFL transition was easy. Fournette, who was a beast at LSU, may have left some people scratching their heads with that statement but showed on Sunday afternoon that maybe the NFL is easy.
Going up against the Houston Texans’ defense, who only gave up 99.7 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 12th in the league, Fournette totally changed that dynamic as he pounded Houston’s defense to the tune of 100 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown. Last season, the Jaguars did not have a 100-yard rushing game from a running back until Week 9 from Chris Ivory.
With quarterback Blake Bortles’ less than stellar play to begin the season, the Jaguars would be wise to keep giving the ball to Fournette.
Los Angeles Rams
Last season for the Los Angeles Rams was not great, as running back Todd Gurley took a step back after a dominating rookie season, and at the time rookie quarterback Jared Goff did not look ready for the big lights.
Thankfully, the Rams decided to get rid of head coach Jeff Fisher and turned the reins over to 31-year old Sean McVay, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator. Along with the hiring of McVay, the Rams upgraded their receiving corps with the additions of Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, and Robert Woods.
With those major changes, the Rams could be a formidable offense. However, in their Week 1 game against the Indianapolis Colts, no one foresaw the clinic that they would be putting on. Goff had an efficient game in the 46-9 beatdown, completing 72.4 percent of his passes for 306 yards and a touchdown.
Goff also did a good job spreading the ball around on offense, getting Kupp, Watkins, and Woods all involved. Watkins had five receptions for 58 yards, while Kupp had four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Then on the defensive side, led by coordinator Wade Phillips, Los Angeles destroyed Indianapolis, forcing quarterback Scott Tolzien to throw two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Rams’ defense also had five quarterback hits, four sacks, and a safety.
Sunday was a good day for McVay in his head coaching debut.
Coming into this season, there was a quiet optimism that the Eagles’ defense could a be a top-10 unit. After making a few offseason acquisitions, the Eagles’ defense looked poised to make that jump. On Sunday afternoon, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz unleashed his guys on the Redskins’ offense and they showed up big time.
The Eagles’ defense had several hits on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, four sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. Not to mention, one of their forced fumbles was returned by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox for a touchdown to ice the game for the Eagles.
The Eagles defense also did a good job of shutting down Washington’s running game as they held them to 64 rushing yards. The Eagles will be looking to carry their defensive momentum into next week’s game against the Chiefs’ offense, who scored 42 points on the Patriots.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton
While there were many great moments in Week 1, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton leads the way to begin the worst of today. The veteran quarterback did not have a great day at the office as he only completed 52 percent for 170 yards and threw four interceptions.
Coincidentally, the last time Dalton threw four interceptions in a game was back in Week 17 of the 2013 season against the Ravens. Nevertheless, Dalton should have known better this time around not to make the type of throws that he did, which led to those interceptions. One has to wonder, what it would take for head coach Marvin Lewis to bench the veteran Dalton in the future.
If Dalton comes out next week against the Texans on Thursday night football with a repeat performance of Week 1, we may see backup A.J. McCarron starting sooner than later.
Texans QB Tom Savage
Staying with the theme of poor quarterback play, Texans quarterback Tom Savage did not have a good regular season debut against the team’s AFC South rival Jaguars. Savage struggled behind a Texans’ offensive line that did not give him help as Jacksonville’s defense feasted on him.
Savage was sacked six times, including a strip sack that led to a Jaguars’ touchdown as defensive end Dante Fowler recovered the fumble and returned it for 53 yards. He lost another fumble in the game as well.
Savage only completed seven of 13 passes (62 yards) before being benched in favor of rookie quarterback and first-round pick Deshaun Watson. Watson took over and led the Texans on their only touchdown drive of the game, which was capped off by a four-yard reception by All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
It should be interesting to see what Texans head coach Bill O’Brien does at quarterback for Thursday night’s game against the Bengals.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer
Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer did not play up to his standards against the Detroit Lions. Palmer, who is now 37 years old, struggled in the game — throwing three interceptions, including a pick-six returned by Lions safety Miles Killebrew.
Palmer’s poor play — along with the Cardinals’ defense — was part of a 26-point swing that helped the Lions come back to win the game. Palmer finished the game by completing 56 percent of his passes (48 attempts) for 269 yards and a touchdown. Last season, in games where Palmer threw 40-plus pass attempts, Arizona’s record was 2-4-1.
With that being said, it appears that the 37-year-old Palmer is on the downswing of his career, with signs of him slowing down.
Saying the Colts struggled in their Week 1 matchup against the Rams would be an understatement. Without the likes of quarterback Andrew Luck and cornerback Vontae Davis, the Colts looked overmatched by the young, upstart Rams, who were without defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Indianapolis struggled mightily on both sides of the ball, starting with veteran quarterback Scott Tolzien. Tolzien, who took a majority of the first-team snaps in the preseason, completed 50 percent of his passes for 128 yards and two interceptions. The Colts’ offense is predicated on getting their wide receivers open downfield — rather than dinking and dunking –and Tolzien does not have the arm strength to make those throws.
Heading into their game next week against the Cardinals, the Colts may have a better chance to win with Jacoby Brissett starting at quarterback, rather than Tolzien. Brissett, who the Colts acquired in a trade with the Patriots just eight days ago, has a stronger arm than Tolzien, which is good news for the Colts’ wide receivers.
For Indianapolis to have any success on offense, they need to get T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief involved early and often. It would also help if the Colts’ offensive line can open up some running lanes for their running backs, who only had 73 rushing yards.
Finally, on the defensive side of the ball, the Colts need to find a way to create pressure as Rams quarterback Jared Goff had all day to throw. The Colts defense only mustered three tackles for loss and one sack, as they were not getting penetration into the Rams’ backfield. That cannot happen next week against the Cardinals, as they will be going up against a high-powered offense.
Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell
After missing the entire preseason due to a contract dispute, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell made his 2017 debut on Sunday. However, his debut did not go well at all, which hurt the Steelers’ offense.
Bell only had 32 yards on 10 carries, and 15 receiving yards on three receptions against the Browns. That’s not the type of stat line you’d expect from Bell. However, it doesn’t appear that there is cause for concern, as Bell missed all of preseason and training camp, which put him in a hole. He was clearly rusty from not being on the field, and was also out of sync with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
With another week of practice under his belt coming up, Bell should be in better shape to face the Vikings next Sunday. Last season, the Vikings’ defense gave up 106.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked 20th in the league. It’s safe to say Bell will bounce back in Week 2.