With jaw-dropping performances in Week 1, the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos proved they are the class of the NFL.
Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a statement win over the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, putting together a record-tying performance in the process.
Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers proved that the victory over the Packers in the NFC divisional round last January was no fluke, shredding Green Bay for over 400 yards through the air.
Sure, there were other teams that made a great impression in Week 1 (see: Saints, New Orleans and Eagles, Philadelphia), but the defending champions of the NFL’s West divisions reinforced what many football fans already knew: they’re the cream of the crop.
Anquan Boldin looks like the most important off-season addition of 2013. His leadership, toughness and 200-plus yards receiving made the 49ers’ lack of depth at receiver a moot point. We already know Colin Kaepernick can use his legs, but Sunday he displayed his incredible arm strength. He can throw a bullet.
After all of the off-season hype surrounding the read option and running quarterbacks, Peyton Manning went out and threw a record-tying seven touchdown passes. That Broncos offence is as good as expected, if not better. The defence is no slouch, even without Von Miller.
The offence struggled against a really solid Panthers defensive unit, but Russell Wilson had a huge fourth quarter through the air and made plays when Seattle needed it the most. That dominant defence lived up to its billing, holding Cam Newton and company to just seven points.
The lack of experience at receiver hurt the Patriots as their inability to get it done through the air early kept the Bills in the game for way too long. Luckily for the Pats, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman came up huge in the second half and on the game-winning drive. The loss of Shane Vereen to a wrist injury will sting for a while.
The Saints passing offence is explosive, no shock there. The surprise was the New Orleans defence, the worst unit in NFL history one year ago, who came up big at the right times and put a ton of pressure on Matt Ryan. If the Saints can continue to perform well, this will be the team to beat in the NFC South.
Jay Cutler wasn’t perfect but played well in the second half, leading his team to a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Marc Trestman must be having a positive effect. The defence played well without Brian Urlacher and only really struggled slowing down A.J. Green, but who can blame them?
Yes they lost, but the Packers went toe-to-toe with a well-oiled offence on the road. Clay Matthews and the Green Bay defence contained Kaepernick and company on the ground but stopping him through the air was another story. Is the Packers secondary a weakness or just the victim of a top-notch passing game?
Brian Cushing showed the football world exactly why the Texans gave him that contract, making a big play when it mattered most. Matt Schaub and the offence recovered nicely from early struggles for a big character win. Giving up four passing touchdowns to Philip Rivers is a tad concerning.
New year, same problems for the Falcons. Like in the NFC title game, missed opportunities in the red zone sunk Matt Ryan and the Falcons once again. Inexperience on the offensive line also caused a lot of issues for Atlanta.
The Tony Romo-Jason Witten connection looked as strong as ever. Even better, the offensive line seems to have finally gotten it together. Dallas’ new-look defence had a solid first half but the performance of the secondary in the second half left a lot to be desired.
Despite a scare from the unexpectedly competitive Raiders, Andrew Luck put together a solid game through the air and made up for a poor ground game, running for the winning score. He can do it all and will probably have to all season long.
With Alex Smith at the helm, this offence looked completely different. Jamaal Charles ran the ball well but his quadriceps injury has to be worrisome. Sure, it was the Jaguars, but a huge improvement on offence and solid play defensively is why this team will contend in the AFC Wild Card race.
These are the same old Bengals. Taking an 11-point lead into the third quarter, bad turnovers coupled with undisciplined penalties hurt this team late. Old habits die hard. On the positive side, A.J. Green looked spectacular and may challenge Megatron as the league’s best receiver.
One thing is for sure with the Eagles — this offence is going to be fun to watch. With 53 offensive plays in the first half, the most for any team since 1998, Chip Kelly displayed exactly what all the hype was about. The defence also showed vast improvements, playing physical and tackling well. The big question is: can the offence sustain their pace for four quarters?
Baltimore did a good job sticking around with the Broncos in the first half and actually looked like the better team early, but the defence really struggled in the second half (understatement of the year). Joe Flacco and the offence are going to need to score a lot of points this season.
With nearly 200 yards on his own, Reggie Bush made a huge impact on this team offensively and will help the Lions compete in the NFC North. The defence struggled against Adrian Peterson early, and the stupid penalties remain an issue, but they got a lot of help from Christian Ponder.
Sam Bradford is thanking his lucky stars for the addition of tight end Jared Cook. The former Titan paid big dividends in his first game as a Ram, racking up 141 yards and two scores. Third-year defensive end Robert Quinn is a game-changer on the defensive line, sacking Carson Palmer three times and forcing two fumbles in the process.
Despite 450 yards and four touchdowns from Eli Manning, the Giants were their own biggest enemy Sunday night, turning the ball over a whopping six times. New York is going to struggle in the backfield after David Wilson climbed back into Tom Coughlin’s doghouse, fumbling twice and getting benched.
There was bound to be rust on Robert Griffin III, who seemed to be getting back to normal by the last frame, but the rust on the rest of the team was a major surprise. Albert Morris couldn’t hold on to the ball and the offensive line continued to hurt the team with penalties in the most inopportune moments. The early turnovers doomed this team Monday night.
Larry Fitzgerald must be giddy with the addition of Carson Palmer, who connected with him for two passing scores, half of the Fitzgerald’s total from all of last season. Despite the duo’s performance, the turnovers and inability to capitalize on the Rams’ mistakes ultimately sank the Cards.
Adrian Peterson scored a 78-yard touchdown on his first carry, and accounted for the Vikings other two touchdowns, proving once again he’s the only good thing Minnesota has going for them offensively. The turnover-happy Christian Ponder cost his team.
Thanks to bounty-gate co-ordinator Gregg Williams, the Titans’ new-look defence sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and held the Steelers to just two points until the final two minutes. Quarterback Jake Locker was mostly ineffective, but a solid game from Chris Johnson helped the Titans offence move the ball.
Led by former CFLer Cameron Wake, the Dolphins defence caused fits for Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden, sacking him six times and adding three first-half interceptions. Ryan Tannehill played well, but they only ran for 20 yards all game. Reggie Bush will be missed in South Beach.
This defence is legit. Carolina’s defensive line had Russell Wilson running for his life all game and held the Seahawks’ offence in check for three quarters. If Cam Newton and the offence can step up, this team makes the NFC South that much more competitive.
A great effort by Buffalo but once again penalties were their undoing. EJ Manuel proved he was worth that first-round selection; he has that “it” factor. The defence played much better than expected, getting a lot of pressure on Tom Brady. But where the heck was C.J. Spiller?
Philip Rivers’ four-touchdown performance gave Chargers fans an idea of what new head coach Mike McCoy’s offence will bring to San Diego. But the ghosts of Chargers’ past continue to haunt Rivers and company as San Diego blew a big lead, something they did five times last season.
Wait a second, the Jets won? Well, Geno Smith can thank Lavonte David for his first career victory. If it wasn’t for the Bucs stupidity, the Jets would’ve lost this one. But credit needs to be given where it’s due, and Smith made some clutch plays down the stretch.
This is a low for Mike Tomlin’s Steelers. Pittsburgh didn’t score a touchdown until the final minutes of the game and are in a heap of trouble offensively. Big Ben has no protection and losing their best offensive lineman, Maurkice Pouncey, for the season doesn’t help.
Lavonte David’s unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Jets the win perfectly sums up the play of the Bucs. Terrible penalties and mistakes (like the safety that kicked off the game) handed New York what should’ve been an easy victory for Tampa. Coach Greg Schiano has some serious work to do.
Sorry, Matt Flynn. Terrelle Pryor is going to give the Raiders a chance to win games like he did against the Colts. He outrushed Indy on his own and kept Oakland alive on third and fourth down multiple times. His inexperience showed at the end of the game but the defence did a good job slowing up the Colts after a fast start from Andrew Luck.
With three picks in first half, Brandon Weeden just doesn’t look like the answer at quarterback in Cleveland. The defence created a whole lot of trouble for Tannehill and the Dolphins offence, but with no help offensively, the effort was for naught.
Two points? Really? Jacksonville is as bad as expected. The Jaguars offence couldn’t do anything against the Chiefs and Blaine Gabbert was unproductive, finishing with a quarterback rating of just 30.8. The Jags’ punter set a franchise record with 11 punts; that about sums it up.