The best NFL stories of Week 1 include AJ Brown and Minkah Fitzpatrick
With Monday night football between the Broncos and Seahawks at the end of Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle, Week 1 of the NFL’s 17-game second season is on the books. While we can’t access everything – like kickers scoring extra points and field goals as if it were going out of fashion – here are four of the key storylines to emerge in the first 16 games of the season and if we buy or sell on them.
Buy: AJ Brown takes Philly to the top of the NFC East
Traded to the Eagles in the 2022 NFL Draft and immediately signed to a four-year, $100 million extension by Philadelphia, wide receiver AJ Brown drew rave reviews in training camp for what he was able to do in the field with third-year quarterback Jalen hurts. Sunday against the Lions, Brown showed the world what it’s all about with a historic opening day performance.
A gifted point guard who never really seemed to get his due with the Titans, Brown burst for 155 yards and 10 catches as the Eagles overcame an early deficit and a brave Lions team for a 38- 35 at Ford Field in Detroit. Philadelphia needed every inch of Brown’s yardage because he accounted for more than half of Philly’s passing yards (155 of 243) and Eagles’ catches (10 of 18). Only Anquan Boldin (208 yards, 49ers) and Randy Moss (183 yards, Patriots) have had better starts after being traded in the last 30 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In Brown, the Eagles finally have a big-play receiver for opposing defenses to explain who can help balance a heavy offense that’s even more dangerous on the ground thanks to Hurts and his ability to run. It’s only been a week, but the Hurts-to-Brown connection looks to be the best in the Philadelphia Division and gives the Eagles a great shot at winning NFC East, where the Cowboys will now be without starting quarterback Dak Prescott for that long. only two months and the Giants and Commanders, who both won yesterday, looked destined to fight.
“Honestly, he just made a lot of catches and a lot of good plays,” Lions safety Tracey Walker said. “Jalen Hurts, kudos to him for putting the ball in good places and AJ Brown for making good catches. Sometimes you can have great coverage and at the end of the day, the quarterback and the receiver have a better throw and catch.
Expect Hurts and Brown to keep doing them and the Eagles to fly to the top of the NFC East.
Sell: Bengals have chance to return to Super Bowl
Playing in their first game since losing the Super Bowl to the Rams, the Bengals showed the same weaknesses that ultimately helped them fall in Los Angeles in February as Cincinnati allowed franchise quarterback Joe Burrow to take a beating and gave up seven sacks to Pittsburgh in a loss. Burrow, who was also sacked seven times in the Super Bowl and 19 times in the playoffs (the two most in NFL history), also turned the ball over five times total with four interceptions and a fumble.
Unquestionably one of the NFL’s biggest surprises last season, the Bengals seem destined to be one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season as it seems incredibly unlikely that Cincinnati can make it back to the Super Bowl and could even end up completely miss the playoffs. Currently the only winless team in the AFC North heading into Week 2, the Bengals appear to have failed to address the protection issues that plagued their offensive line last season as the Bengals won with 56.3% of their pass blocking attempts below the league average. on Sunday. If the line can’t block, Burrow won’t have time to pass the ball to Ja’Marr Chase and the sacks and picks will keep piling up.
While that won’t stop the Bengals from winning short-term games over the next few weeks against opponents like the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins, Cincinnati has a tough season-ending slate that includes matchups against the Chiefs, Bills, Buccaneers, Ravens and a rematch with Pittsburgh. It’s only been one game and Cincinnati’s year is far from over, but the Bengals’ inability to correct their fatal flaw from last season doesn’t bode well for their chances of making another trip to the Super Bowl to represent the new and improved AFC.
“Obviously you don’t want to throw four picks, but I never panicked,” Burrow said. “We stayed balanced and came back and put ourselves in a position to win.” Just like the Bengals did in the Super Bowl – which they also lost.
Buy: Minkah Fitzpatrick is a bad, bad man
Somewhat related to the above item, one of the players who gave Burrow fits on Sunday was Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who scored the NFL’s first touchdown of the season when he jumped a corner road that was thrown too far inside for a pick-6 early in the first quarter. Traded to the Steelers during the 2019 season, the former Alabama star also had a huge play in the fourth quarter when he was able to block an extra point late in regulation to keep the Bengals and Steelers tied at 20 points each and send the game to overtime.
On the field for the Steelers’ 100 defensive snaps, Fitzpatrick also had a game-high 14 tackles and made the $73.6 million, four-year extension he signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason a godsend. It was a deal Fitzpatrick, who earned All-Pro honors in 2019 and 2020 but wasn’t as dominant last season, wasn’t guaranteed to get. But after Fitzpatrick’s game on Sunday, the Steelers look like geniuses for locking down the 25-year-old.
For Pittsburgh to continue having success this season with quarterback Mitch Trubisky executing an offense that could only score one touchdown against the Bengals, Fitzpatrick and the Steeler defense will need to deliver it every week. It’s going to be a little tougher for them moving forward as reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt is likely out for the rest of the season with what we think. be a torn pectoral muscle.
With Watt on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Fitzpatrick will have to take over as the leader of what could be a very formidable defense. “Minkah is a complete player,” Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward said. “A lot of people sleep on Minkah and what he’s capable of, whether it’s a safe or a ball hawk or even blocking kicks. Minkah is a leader in this secondary.
It certainly looked like that on Sunday.
Sell: Jimmy Garoppolo will remain a backup quarterback
A far cry from the team he helped lead to the NFC Championship Game last season for almost the entire offseason assuming he would be cut or traded, Jimmy Garoppolo surprisingly returned to the 49ers before Week 1 to serve replacement in San Francisco for second-year player Trey Lance.
Lance started his first game for the 49ers on Sunday after a torrential downpour in Chicago in what was expected to be an intense affair against the Bears. For Lance, who was just 13 for 28 with 164 yards and one interception through the air, the ground game was the only one he seemed equipped to play as he led the Niners in rushing with 54 yards in 13 races. Combined with the weather, Lance’s play limited San Francisco’s offense to 10 points in an upset loss.
One of the players who helped contain Lance and San Francisco’s passing game, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson, had some choice words about the young quarterback after the game. “What do you think he did?” Johnson asked reporters. “He does nothing. We made him play quarterback. We know he hurt us in the running game with his feet, and everyone knows that at some point he’s going to run and make a play. But I feel like we really had to. play the quarterback.
What’s unclear is just how capable Lance is of playing quarterback at the NFL level, but San Francisco is committed to finding out after trading a substantial amount of draft capital for go on to select it last April. For now, that commitment is unwavering, but that could change if the 49ers, who entered the season with Super Bowl expectations and brimming with talent on both sides of the ball, continue to lose ball games with Lance underwhelming. at QB.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan won’t admit it, but that’s why Garoppolo is back with the team as he provides some kind of insurance policy if 22-year-old Lance can’t pull himself together. If Lance starts having success, Garoppolo becomes expendable and could become an attractive piece to trade with a team with an injured (Cowboys) or ineffective (Seahawks) quarterback. Either way, Jimmy G should end up starting games somewhere this season.
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