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Two games reached the overtime two-minute warning Sunday, coming around the same time two other contests saw game-winning field goals beyond 50 yards. Saquon Barkley and Khalil Mack re-emergences took place in the afternoon as well, and the Cowboys were dealt a brutal blow Sunday night. Here are the grades from the 2022 season’s action-packed first week.
1 of 30
Bucs defense smothers Cowboys in Todd Bowles’ debut
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Last year’s No. 1 scoring offense mustered three points — the lowest Cowboys output with Dak Prescott since a December 2018 Indianapolis shutout. For all the questions injuries, free agency defections, retirements, unretirements, and sabbaticals have saddled Tampa Bay’s offense with, the Bucs’ defense showed its ability to provide a safety net. A defense preventing any NFL team from advancing past its 30-yard line, let alone the Cowboys, is an eye-opening accomplishment. Although issues on offense will need to be resolved, the Bucs (1-0) have the defensive ingredients — Bowles’ Super Bowl LV crew feat. Logan Ryan and Akiem Hicks — to buy the team’s higher-profile unit time.
BUCCANEERS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Saints (Sun.)
2 of 30
Dak injury brings to light missed opportunities
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dak Prescott’s late-game thumb injury leading to surgery and reportedly a six- to eight-game absence thins the Cowboys’ margin for error. But the 2022 Dallas edition (0-1) already narrowed its path because of losses (La’el Collins, Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory) and Tyron Smith’s injury. Last year’s team turned a No. 1 DVOA ranking into a wild-card loss. A 2019 squad that still rostered rookie-deal Dak and a better Ezekiel Elliott went 8-8. With Prescott staring at perhaps a half-season absence, healthier Cowboy teams’ missed chances come to mind. The 2020 season reminds us of what can happen when Prescott is unavailable.
COWBOYS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.)
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Already 2-for-3 in first-team All-Pro nods as a Steeler, Fitzpatrick is now in position — via the four-year, $72.99 million extension — to gun for a Troy Polamalu-esque Pittsburgh run. The newest Steeler star safety showed up Sunday, taking one of Joe Burrow’s four INTs back for six and tallying 14 tackles. Fitzpatrick saved the Steelers (1-0) from a collapse with his overtime-forcing PAT block. The Steelers’ offense nearly squandered a game in which its opponent committed five turnovers. The Mitch Trubisky-Kenny Pickett situation will not quiet after this escape, but Fitzpatrick at least ensured Pittsburgh could address its QB matter after an upset win.
STEELERS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)
4 of 30
Zac Taylor, long snapping close Joe Burrow escape hatch
Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
Burrow’s ineffective counterpart should have allowed the AFC’s Super Bowl LVI starting QB to undo his own Week 1 damage. Despite the Steelers’ Trubisky-fueled listlessness, the Bengals (0-1) blew numerous chances for Burrow to overcome his five-turnover day. Burrow twice connected with Ja’Marr Chase on would-be game-winning touchdowns, but Taylor bizarrely did not throw a challenge flag on a clear Chase TD. Backup long snapper Mitchell Wilcox then impeded the next two game-winning sequences. The Bengals punting 13 seconds early on their final overtime possession had a rather big impact on their loss as well. To say nothing of more O-line woes, Cincinnati’s loss could be a problem in a stacked AFC.
BENGALS GRADE: D | NEXT: at Cowboys (Sun.)
5 of 30
Largely unaddressed O-line wounds much-hyped Raiders
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Weakened by bungled investments (Trent Brown, Alex Leatherwood), the Raiders offensive line surprisingly looked similar to the team’s bad 2021 unit. Kolton Miller and a quartet of question marks — Josh McDaniels’ midgame tinkering expanded it beyond a quartet — were no match for a reloaded Chargers pass rush. The Bolts sacked Derek Carr seven times, and the Joey Bosa-Khalil Mack duo’s presence undoubtedly had a hand in the veteran QB’s three-INT day. Las Vegas’ only notable outside blocking hire was third-round guard Dylan Parham. As Mack and Bosa bullied right tackle starter Jermaine Eluemunor, an ex-Patriot backup, it highlighted the 0-1 Raiders’ mistake of not doing more to fix this position group.
RAIDERS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Cardinals (Sun.)
6 of 30
Khalil Mack reacquaints himself with Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Swarming Carr off the left and right edges, Mack made Sunday an awkward reintroduction with his 2014 Raiders draft classmate. The former Oakland-developed Defensive Player of the Year sacked Carr thrice, bulling through Eluemunor for No. 1 and then beating Miller for his final two. Mack sealed the Chargers’ victory by pushing the top Las Vegas O-lineman into Carr for a sack-strip that effectively showed he is over his 2021 foot injury. Mack and Bosa profile as one of the most talented edge-rushing duos to form in many years. The twice-traded Pro Bowler looks like he will have a major say in how the loaded AFC West plays out.
CHARGERS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Chiefs (Thu.)
7 of 30
Vintage Saquon Barkley shows up in Nashville
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The Giants’ new regime took trade calls on Barkley this year after the one-time superstar-in-training had finished a third straight injury-plagued season. Barkley entered 2022 with one more chance to prove the elite version of 2018 and ’19 could resurface. His leading the Giants (1-0) to an upset of the Titans announced said resurfacing. Barkley blazed to 194 scrimmage yards (his fourth-best career mark), two TDs, and the Giants’ game-winning two-point conversion. The two-pointer confirmed the former No. 2 overall pick is again healthy; a deft Barkley cut led him to an open end zone path. He needs to stay healthy this season, but a comeback route is back in play.
GIANTS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)
8 of 30
Post-A.J. Brown Titans fail to capitalize in winnable spot
Andrew Nelles / USA TODAY NETWORK
As Brown dominated for his new team, his old employer could not establish a steady offense. Despite the Giants’ defense missing its starting edge rushers — Azeez Ojulari and first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux — and featuring cornerback vulnerability, the Titans (0-1) did not do enough to build on their 13-point halftime lead. New de facto No. 1 wideout Robert Woods caught one pass, and Ryan Tannehill only led one second-half scoring drive. OC Todd Downing’s bizarre third-and-1 handoff to backup tight end Chig Okonwko — rather than deploy a certain two-time rushing champion — also led to the Giants’ game-winning drive. The Titans rallied after a Week 1 blowout loss last year; they had a better team last year.
TITANS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: at Bills (Mon.)
9 of 30
Browns’ kicker carousel finally stops
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns tried to draft Evan McPherson last year, but the Bengals beat them to it. That led Cleveland to pull the trigger on York early this year, making the LSU product the highest-drafted kicker since Roberto Aguayo in 2016. The move paid off big Sunday. York’s 58-yard field goal saved the Browns, as they try to stage a workmanlike effort to stay in contention with Jacoby Brissett. Deshaun Watson’s fill-in looked himself Sunday (a ghastly 4.3 yards per attempt), and Baker Mayfield had his former team facing certain defeat. The Browns (1-0) have used a different primary kicker in each of the past nine seasons. After sealing Cleveland’s first Week 1 win in 18 years, York seems like he will stop that merry-go-round.
BROWNS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Jets (Sun.)
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mayfield (235 yards, 8.7 Y/A) fumbled four snaps, had four passes batted down, and threw an interception. But he still looked to have done enough to secure a win over a team he was (technically) still part of two months ago. Brian Burns’ roughing-the-passer call represented the less sketchy of the two controversial final-drive plays that went against the Panthers (0-1); Brissett spiking the ball after faking that action should have moved the Browns out of York’s range. York bailed out the Browns offense anyway after the odd spike forced a 58-yard try, but a rulebook item against delayed spikes did not produce a penalty.
PANTHERS GRADE: C | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)
11 of 30
WR plan leads to another Packers Week 1 letdown
Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY NETWORK
The Vikings may still have defeated their NFC North rivals had Christian Watson hauled in a would-be 75-yard touchdown strike, but the rookie second-rounder’s agonizing drop did change the game’s course. The Packers (0-1) used their new lead receiver quartet (sans de facto WR1 Allen Lazard, who was out), but none of Green Bay’s post- Davante Adams/Marquez Valdes-Scantling troops stepped up in Sunday’s 16-point loss. No Packer receiver topped 37 yards. The Packers lost 38-3 in their 2021 opener, with Aaron Rodgers rallying to his fourth MVP. But the long-anticipated receiver challenge he has been oddly asked to face at age 38 looks very real.
PACKERS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)
12 of 30
Sean McVay disciple starts off hot in Minnesota
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin O’Connell was in Los Angeles for Cooper Kupp’s breakthrough and Matthew Stafford’s career-reshaping run, but McVay calls the Rams’ plays. O’Connell’s only play-calling gig came for a 3-13 Washington team in 2019. The Vikings hire had generated steady offseason buzz, and while O’Connell is no sure thing, the latest McVay tree branch started off as well as he could have hoped. O’Connell’s offense continued to send Justin Jefferson into wide-open spaces, as the star wideout amassed a career-high 184 receiving yards, and a healthy Packers defense was left scrambling. A fourth straight Packers NFC North crown became more complicated Sunday.
VIKINGS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Eagles (Mon.)
13 of 30
At long last, Saints’ WR room full again
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Emmanuel Sanders’ cap-related release and Michael Thomas’ rogue 2021 surgery decision left the Saints with probably the NFL’s worst receiving corps last season. Last year’s key pass-catching principals are on this year’s squad, but the Saints (1-0) saw the value quality receivers provide in Atlanta. Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave contributed as Jameis Winston led a 16-point fourth-quarter comeback. Thomas’ two back-shoulder TD grabs came against ascending cornerback A.J. Terrell, and Landry’s final-minute leap into double coverage set up Wil Lutz’s 51-yard game-winner. Landry (114 yards) remaining capable of this performance level raises the floor of one of the league’s most improved position groups.
SAINTS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Buccaneers (Sun.)
14 of 30
Falcons fumble momentum-building opportunity
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Cordarrelle Patterson’s career-high 120 rushing yards bettered Alvin Kamara by 81, and Atlanta’s unproven pass rush hit Winston eight times. Marcus Mariota was outplaying his counterpart, too, but the stopgap starter saw that effort unravel thanks to two fumbles. Mariota’s scramble-fumble sequence stopped a Falcons drive that moved past the Saints’ 10-yard line, and his botched third-and-1 snap exchange led to the visitors’ game-winning drive. While Arthur Smith played the “Everyone is counting us out” card (perhaps correctly) postgame, the Falcons (0-1) could easily have won their opener. With draft capital still the name of the game for the rebuilding team, moral victories absolutely count.
FALCONS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Rams (Sun.)
15 of 30
Chiefs’ receiver-replacement plan starts well
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Of last season’s Chiefs wideouts, only Mecole Hardman is back in a prominent role. Fortunately, the Chiefs have the league’s best QB-HC duo to break in the new pieces. As Patrick Mahomes connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the unhyphenated Skyy Moore — divvying up completions to nine targets — the 2018 MVP reminded the football world betting against him is dumb. Josh Allen and Justin Herbert have gained ground on him, but Mahomes’ 30-for-39/360/5 line in Arizona — as the other QB icon breaking in new receivers (Rodgers) sputtered — showed the Chiefs (1-0) will probably be fine post- Tyreek Hill. Mahomes now has an 18-0 TD-INT ratio in his five Week 1 tilts (5-0).
CHIEFS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Thu.)
16 of 30
Cardinal corners no match for Patrick Mahomes
Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic
Kyler Murray faced an uphill battle in his first Mahomes showdown. The absences of DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and guard Justin Pugh limited the now-well-paid Pro Bowler. But the Cardinals’ long-undermanned pass defense did not give Murray much of a shot. The Cards (0-1) let Chandler Jones walk, and J.J. Watt is reinjured. Mahomes’ pocket movement kept giving his Travis Kelce-fronted aerial corps sufficient space, and the Cards allowed five touchdown passes for the first time in 14 years. Byron Murphy remains Arizona’s lone above-average corner. That has been an area of concern ever since Patrick Peterson’s decline commenced.
CARDINALS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)
17 of 30
New QB, same Week 1 pattern
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
While the end result was different — the NFL’s third Week 1 tie in the past five years — the Colts (0-0-1) continue to change quarterbacks and not open seasons 1-0. On its sixth Week 1 QB in six years , Indianapolis did upgrade to a tie. But they needed a feverish rally to avoid a ninth straight season-opening loss (the eight L’s: Broncos, Bills, Lions, Rams, Bengals, Chargers, Jaguars, Seahawks). Matt Ryan threw an interception, lost a fumble, and recovered two more of his fumbles. Frank Reich has now been with the Colts for five of these Week 1 non-wins. While Week 1 deceives, this is too extensive of a sample size to ignore regarding Colts readiness.
COLTS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)
18 of 30
In defense of the tie
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Caserio canning David Culley and promoting Lovie Smith created a scenario in which the Texans (0-0-1) have a second bridge coach ahead of their presumed time to contend. Smith, 64, did have his still-undermanned team ready to go, at least. And while his Tampa-2 scheme opened the door to the Colts staging a rare run-oriented comeback drive — during a 161-yard Jonathan Taylor rushing day — Smith playing for the tie is fine. Reich gifted the Texans a 2018 win by going for an overtime fourth-and-4 from his own 43. Smith indicated his fourth-and-2 punt came because the defense was gassed. In a process-over-results year, tying is perfectly fine for this particular team.
TEXANS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)
19 of 30
Jets comply with part 1 of Lamar’s statement year
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Unless he agrees to a Mahomes-esque 10-year deal, Lamar Jackson is not topping Deshaun Watson’s $230 million guaranteed. Not on a Ravens contract, at least. As this saga makes a beeline for franchise tag No. 1, Jackson began the season on a high note — 213 passing yards, three TD tosses. With a steadily criticized receiver array, Jackson navigated the Jets while only running six times. The former MVP (615 carries through four years — 148 more than anyone else through four seasons) is taking a risk a second notable injury would not affect his value. Facing the prospect of a shorter career due to his style, Jackson’s contractual quest now becomes far more interesting than Kirk Cousins or Dak Prescott’s.
RAVENS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets (0-1) were right to get out while they could on Sam Darnold, collecting three picks (including a second-rounder) for the former would-be franchise QB. But Zach Wilson’s knee trouble is now a concern. The Jets starter missing at least three games will extend his run of NFL knee-related absences to seven in two years, delaying the central purpose of Gang Green’s 2022 season. The longer Joe Flacco or Mike White (if vocal Jets backers get their way) play, the odder Robert Saleh’s tenure becomes. Saleh is tied to Wilson, who has shown little to indicate he can be a solidified starter. Flacco threw 59 passes in a nine-point Jets outing. Another season could be lost soon.
JETS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)
21 of 30
Will Patriots’ OC strategy slow Mac Jones’ development?
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
While the other angle of 2022’s chief Patriots storyline has Matt Patricia being one of the unlikeliest success stories in NFL play-calling history, conventional wisdom says Bill Belichick installing his longtime defensive coordinator to be the point man for Jones’ second season is an unnecessary risk. The Pats (0-1) fell behind 17-0 in Miami, and while the Tom Brady years featured south Florida struggles, Belichick risks stalling his post-Brady option’s development by not properly replacing Josh McDaniels. It is too early to proclaim this, but after New England loaded up on 2021 free agents, Belichick’s Patricia plan may be moving the team off the playoff tier in a deeper AFC.
PATRIOTS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)
22 of 30
Timely turnovers swing Mike McDaniel’s debut
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
McDaniel did not replace Brian Flores’ defensive coordinator, retaining Josh Boyer. The latter’s unit stepped up Sunday, shutting out the Patriots in the first half to set up a comfortable Dolphins win. Two teamwork Dolphin turnovers — a Xavien Howard tip-turned-Jevon Holland INT and Brandon Jones blitz-turned- Melvin Ingram TD stroll — gave the Pats’ low-voltage offense too much to overcome. The latter play gave McDaniel’s new offense, which featured plenty of Tua Tagovailoa-to-Tyreek Hill midrange connections, a lower-stress game. A decently kept secret: the Dolphins (1-0) have now beaten the Patriots in Miami in eight of the past 10 seasons.
DOLPHINS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)
23 of 30
Trey Lance deserves more time; how much more will he get?
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
A 2021 finger injury slowed Lance, and he started his 49ers QB1 tenure on perhaps the NFL’s worst field. Although Soldier Field deteriorating into a soggy quagmire brought another bad break for Lance, his afternoon — 13-for-28, 164 yards, an INT, some flashy runs, and a missed TD strike to Tyler Kroft — did plenty to move the 49ers from a 10-point lead to a 19-10 loss against a bottom-tier Bears team. Lance will receive more time, likely in better conditions. But is this 49ers set up — a strong roster topped by five All-Pros — conducive to development? The Jimmy Garoppolo ETA may be moving up. That could be the best thing for the current 49ers (0-1), but punting on Lance’s starter gig stands to alter his progress.
49ERS GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Seahawks (Sun.)
24 of 30
Gutted Bears defense comes through in mud
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears jettisoned four members of their once-fearsome front seven (Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Goldman). One of the two bastions from that 2018 No. 1-ranked defense came through Sunday. Eddie Jackson’s interception stopped the 49ers for good. Jackson’s diving INT and return set up the back-breaking Justin Fields-to- Dante Pettis touchdown strike. (Pettis’ revenge measure on the 49ers, who cut him despite his second-round status, went better than Baker Mayfield’s or Joe Flacco’s on Sunday.) This was a nice bounce-back moment for Jackson, who did not play up to his standards in 2021.
BEARS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)
25 of 30
Immediate A.J. Brown incorporation
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
Last season, the Eagles stampeded through the Lions with a 236-yard rushing effort. Sunday, Philadelphia’s ground attack, featuring the same cogs, rolled through Detroit for 216 yards. But the Eagles (1-0) showcased their new aerial weapon early and often. Brown was already at 128 receiving yards before halftime, and the run-after-catch threat ran that number to 155 — the most by a first-game Eagle in the team’s 80-year history. The biggest Eagles receiver acquisition since Terrell Owens in 2004, Brown came as advertised. Short-, medium- and long-range Brown gains supplemented the Jalen Hurts-Miles Sanders run attack. Brown should give the Birds’ ground game more space to operate.
EAGLES GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Mon.)
26 of 30
With reinforcements, Lions still no match for Eagles’ run game
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
If this Lions rebuild reaches a stage where playoff berths are on the radar, more changes will likely occur on the team’s front seven. The Lions (0-1) have now allowed 452 rushing yards to the Eagles in the past two seasons. Hurts and Sanders gashed Detroit’s defense, and the Lions allowed four different Eagles to score rushing touchdowns. After ranking 28th against the run last season, the Lions have No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, second-round defensive end Josh Paschall (currently on short-term IR), and “Hard Knocks” riser Malcolm Rodriguez as new front-seven pieces. Moving on from the Eagles’ relentless run game is probably for the best.
LIONS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Commanders (Sun.)
27 of 30
Top Jaguars rusher back after Achilles tear
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Mistakes cost the Jaguars an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, but James Robinson did his part to salvage the effort. After a Boxing Day Achilles tear, Robinson returned on time — an iffy proposition throughout this offseason — and scored twice. Robinson and 2021 first-rounder Travis Etienne played in a game together for the first time and combined for 134 scrimmage yards. Marlon Mack and Cam Akers’ struggles recapturing their pre-Achilles-tear form served as a Robinson warning sign. But Jacksonville’s two-time rushing leader averaging six yards per carry Sunday is a positive for a team still assembling its long-term core.
JAGUARS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: vs. Colts (Sun.)
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
As McLaurin rose from third-round pick to No. 1 Washington wideout, he both played with a brigade of below-average QBs and lacked much complementary receiving help. After the Commanders (1-0) gave Curtis Samuel an eight-figure-per-year deal in 2021 and drafted Jahan Dotson in the 2022 first round, said support finally appears present. The duo combined for three TD catches Sunday; Dotson grabbed two. The shifty Penn State product’s second TD capped a 90-yard go-ahead drive. Carson Wentz played with a top-heavy wideout cast in Indianapolis and saw injury issues doom his Philly cadre. The oft-criticized QB may have more to work with in Washington.
COMMANDERS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)
29 of 30
Von Miller unleashes younger Bills rushers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
As Miller showed his late-season 2021 surge was not merely Aaron Donald-driven, the future Hall of Famer clearly affected Buffalo’s younger pass rushers Thursday. Three Bills holdovers and second-stint Bill Jordan Phillips notched sacks in Buffalo’s romp. Basically, every Buffalo edge rusher brought down Matthew Stafford at least once. Phillips, 2021 first-rounder Greg Rousseau, 2021 second-rounder Boogie Basham and 2020 second-rounder A.J. Epenesa combined for five sacks. This has not been a reliable Bills skill for years. Miller unlocking it will obviously pose a problem for most offensive lines.
BILLS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Titans (Mon.)
30 of 30
Rams offensive line in some trouble
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Rams already lost their top 2022 draft choice — guard Logan Bruss — for the season. They will now be without center Brian Allen for a while. Knee surgery will sideline Allen for approximately a month, moving guard Coleman Shelton to center and inserting 2020 seventh-rounder Tremayne Anchrum (zero career starts) into the lineup. With left tackle Joe Noteboom coming off a rough night, and straining an MCL, the Rams (0-1) will see their depth tested after a horrid performance. The team let three-year guard starter Austin Corbett defect to the Panthers in March, par for the course for the stars/rookie deals team. That hurts more now.
RAMS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)