NFL | Sep 12, 2023

2023/24 NFL Week 1 Recap

By Harry Bazley

USATSI 21391922

A Bengals blunder, a Big Blue blowout and jeopardy for the Jets highlight Week 1 of the 2023/24 NFL Season.

That's right! We're back for another year of sarcastic comments and biased calls. A hell of a lot went on this week, but don’t worry, we’ll be cutting things down moving forward.

THE NFL IS BACK PEOPLE! Now, let's get into it...

Lions 21 - 20 Chiefs

This certainly wasn’t the toughest underdog call - with Travis Kelce and Frank Clark out, I’m sure plenty of you joined me on the Lions moneyline - but boy, did Mahomes make it close.

As much as it’s nice to see a switch up from the usual script, I have to say Mahomes didn’t deserve this. He was still up to his usual tricks, despite an offense full of subpar weapons (sorry guys), but none of them could keep up with No.15, especially Kadarius Toney...

Don’t let the Chiefs’ terrible receivers take away from Detroit’s performance though.

It was clear from the start that Dan Campbell came to make a statement at Arrowhead. On just their second possession, a fake punt from their own 17-yard line led to a 91-scoring drive capped off by an Amon-Ra St. Brown TD, who looks to be the centrepiece of this offense.

The Lions made big calls and some even bigger plays, while Mahomes’ teammates did everything they could to throw this game. I will always try my best to hate on Jared Goff, but sadly, I’m expecting big things this year. And I just hope for Andy Reid's sake that Kelce recovers fast or he could have a rough few weeks ahead.

Bengals 3 - 24 Browns

I’ll put aside the fact that Nick Chubb cost me a 130/1 parlay, because I just love to see the Bengals lose like this.

After all the trash talk that came with last season’s success, Cincy finally got the reality check they deserved and it was beautiful. The Browns defense held the Bengals to just 3 points while they dominated all over the field.

So, could Cleveland be for real this year?

Well, despite humbling one of the most explosive offenses in the league, I’m yet to buy into the hype. Besides Chubb being reliable as ever and the defense looking very solid, Watson made some seriously bad throws and this could very well be their downfall as the season progresses.

Now, you might want to give Joe Burrow the benefit of the doubt with his calf injury and zero preseason playtime, but this doesn’t explain a 45% completion rate, 82 passing yards and 0 touchdowns.

Given how toxic the Bengals can be, I’d love to see this form continue - especially with Chase continuing to call the Browns “elves”, despite being held to 39 yards. But unfortunately, I think they’ll bounce back by Week 3.

Texans 9 - 25 Ravens

Well, Baltimore didn’t give C.J. Stroud the nicest welcome to the league…

Stroud caught his own pass on his first NFL attempt and capped off the drive with a fourth-down sack at his own 36, while 4 more takedowns kept the Texans to three measly field goals. The second overall pick showed flashes of talent, but he’ll continue to struggle with limited weapons on this Texans roster.

And while the Ravens put up 25 points, Jackson was seriously careless with the ball as he threw a sloppy interception alongside 2 fumbles. This will need to change with Baltimore yet again facing concerns in their backfield, after JK Dobbins suffered a torn achilles.

Justice Hill & Gus Edwards should run a split ground game from here on, but we’ll need to see much more of this from Jackson moving forward…

Buccaneers 20 - 17 Vikings

I still don’t know how the Vikings managed to lose this game.

The Bucs consistently made terrible play calls, including running the ball with Rachaad White on three separate three-and-outs. They struggled to move the chains all day and gave Minnesota countless opportunities to take advantage of their mishaps.

Kirk Cousins may have posted a good stat line - 33-of-44, 344 yards and two touchdowns - but don’t let that fool you… Cousins sabotaged this game. He fumbled a snap in field goal range, fumbled again, threw a redzone interception before the half, and missed a wide-open touchdown by wildly overthrowing Alexander Mattison.

Justin Jefferson did his best to carry the offense - catching 7 of 10 targets for 138 yards in the first half alone - but for some reason, Cousins stopped looking his way. After the break, No.18 caught just 2 more targets for 12 yards and the Vikings paid the ultimate price.

The moral of the story? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Put the ball in Jefferson's hands.

Panthers 10 - 24 Falcons

In the most wide-open division in the league, both Carolina and Atlanta have a good shot at making the postseason, but they have a lot of tidying up to do.

The Falcons run game was about as good as everyone expected. The 8th overall pick, Bijan Robinson, stole the spotlight with some impressive moves out of the backfield. The rookie combined with Tyler Allgeier for 130 rushing yards, but is certainly being eased into the workload with a 40% rush share. The passing game was mediocre at best, so this duo should be the focal point of the offense all year if Arthur Smith has any sense.

Meanwhile the 2023 No.1 pick, Bryce Young, failed to complete a pass over 14 yards. Hardly what was expected of the former Alabama star. Young should have elevated the Panthers passing game, but it looks like they’ll have to rely on Miles Sanders moving forward.

Cardinals 16 - 20 Commanders

The theories around Arizona tanking to pick up Caleb Williams are now seriously in question.

On Sunday they did everything they could to steal a victory, and even led 16-10 at the half. They regularly won at the line of scrimmage and even had an okay run game. But it all came down to the turnovers…

Joshua Dobbs fumbled 3 times on the day. One came at the end of the third to gift Washington a touchdown, while the next came at the end of the fourth, leading to a field goal and the final score of 20-16. Without these mistakes, Arizona could have gone 1-0. But props to the Commanders defense for a comeback win. Well, sort of - it is the Cardinals after all…

So, this could go one of two ways. Arizona rally behind the return of Kyler Murray in Week 5 and still seek out a winning season. Or Jonathan Gannon realises that even if they play at their best, they’ll still lose to mediocre teams. Tanking for Williams is the way.

Jaguars 31 - 21 Colts

As expected, Jacksonville performed like one of the strongest teams in the league. Now, a 10-point win is nice, but the scoreline is deceiving. The Colts only came vaguely close for one reason - plays like this:

Trevor Lawrence was dishing all game, spreading the ball out between Zay Jones, Calvin Ridley and Evan Engram for 241 yards and 2 scores.

Ridley looks like he hasn’t missed a beat despite being away from the turf for almost 2 years - as he hauled in 8 of 11 targets for 101 yards and a endzone grab. Meanwhile, Travis Etienne’s touchdown run turned the tide on what was a close matchup at the time (even though it never should have been). It's looking good for the Jags.

Anthony Richardson was okay for the most part - he looked comfortable in the pocket and his rushing ability was never in question. He went 24 of 37 with 223 yards, one TD and an interception, while also leading the ground game. But he got hurt on a run near the endzone and had to watch from the sideline while Gardner Minshew stepped in.

If Indy can figure out Jonathan Taylor’s contract, they could create one of the best run-option schemes in the league. If not, Richardson needs to follow the advice of Trevor Lawrence and protect himself. He won't last long running like he was last weekend.

49ers 30 - 7 Steelers

For all the hype around the second-year explosions of Kenny Pickett and George Pickens, there’s only so much you can do against the 49ers. Now, this doesn't lower my expectations for the Steelers heading forward, but it was a very poor performance from Tomlin’s side.

There’s no denying that the loss of Diontae Johnson hurt their offense, but San Fran are just so dominant on both sides of the ball that the outcome was clear from the start.

Former Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, looked calm and collected in the pocket and clearly has a connection with Brandon Aiyuk - who caught all 8 of his targets for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey did his usual thing, racking up 152 rushing yards and a score.

I was going to say the Steelers will find more success against the Browns next week, but that was before they held Cincy to a single field goal, so who knows…

Titans 15 - 16 Saints

After taking four sacks and throwing an interception, a struggling Derek Carr pulled out exactly the kind of finish he wanted for his debut in the black and gold.

Now, all props to Carr for bouncing back to score what would ultimately be the game-winning TD. But if we’re being honest, this victory goes to the defense.

Tennessee may have the worst O-line in the NFL, but holding Derrick Henry to just 4.2 yards a carry is nonetheless impressive. And without the usual game-breaking run on the cards, Ryan Tannehill was forced to put the ball in the air, and we all know how that goes…

The Titans had 5 possessions in the second half, and instead of finding the end zone, Tanehill found a three-and-out, two field goals and two more interceptions to fall painfully short of the win.

The bottom line is - I know that running when you’re down isn’t the best call, but I’ll take 4 yards a carry over Tannehill throwing the ball every day of the week.

Raiders 17 - 16 Broncos

‘Russ the Bust’ is back, people! And I think he’s here to stay…

Okay, okay… A one-point loss isn’t crazy but let me have my fun! I’ve been calling the downfall of Russell Wilson ever since Denver sold out their entire future for the trade.

But, let’s be fair - this may be the most even stat sheet in history. Both sides had 22 first downs, both were 5-of-11 on third down, the yardage was 261-260 and the per-play yardage was 4.7 to 4.5. This was a marginal victory and the stats reflect that perfectly.

It was all down to “making one more play than they did” as Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels put it. And that play was forcing the Broncos only 3rd-and-out of the game with 5 minutes remaining. With the one point lead, Vegas played slow and conservative, and never gave the ball back.

One key takeaway is the loss of JakobI Meyers who caught 2 touchdowns on the day, but suffered a suspected concussion late in the fourth quarter and never returned to the field. If Meyers is out, Davante Adams will need to step up if Vegas want to stay winning.

Eagles 25 - 20 Patriots

Philly started strong in week one, building a big lead early against New England, but beyond the defense nabbing a pick-6, a forced-fumble and a couple of sacks, the Eagles looked far less explosive than usual. The offense had just one touchdown, while Jake Elliot kicked 13 points through the uprights.

On the other hand, Mac Jones played some surprisingly good football. He threw for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns, but wasted a comeback opportunity after the defense recovered a fumble on the Eagles 41 with just 4 minutes left.

The upside looks good for New England as Jones seems to have stepped up his production from last year. Kendrick Bourne could be a top receiver, but the split backfield of Elliot and Stevenson was lacklustre to say the least. I'm not buying in completely, but I like the Pats this season.

Meanwhile, Philly’s defense could be the route to their success once again.

Rams 30 - 13 Seahawks

Well, I did not expect this, and I’m a Rams fan…

Reigning comeback player of the year, Geno Smith looked was very underwhelming as he went just 16/26 for 112 yards, while the run game wasn’t all that special either.

But the real story here is Matthew Stafford putting on a show without Cooper Kupp. He threw for 334 yards, finding his new favourite target, rookie Puka Nacua, who had 119 yards in his first ever NFL game.

All of the Rams touchdowns may have been found on the ground, but Stafford & Nacua played lights out to put LA within just a few yards of the endzone for three easy scores.

There’s no doubt that the Hawks need to make some serious changes, but more importantly - could the Rams actually be good this year?

Dolphins 36 - 34 Chargers

This was easily the game of the week, but what were the Chargers thinking? You’re facing the fastest receiver in the league, in the most explosive, deep-threat offense and you decide to play a bunch of man coverage with little-to-no help over the top…

Nobody should be surprised that Tua Tagovailoa threw for a whopping 466 yards and 3 touchdowns against this scheme.

It’s a shame LA played such bad defense, because Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler did everything they could to keep the scoreline close - recording 234 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground.

Brandon Staley had a real chance to win this game. Hopefully he’s learned his lesson playing man coverage against the Dolphins. Either way, these two offenses will produce some of the most entertaining football this year.

Packers 38 - 20 Bears

With Rodgers now in New York, the Packers are turning to another Aaron to get the job done.

This matchup started and finished with Aaron Jones dominating on the ground and through the air. Jones led the team in both rushing and receiving, with 127 yards and two touchdowns.

With Christian Watson out following a hamstring injury, Jordan Love spread the offense, targeting 8 different players for a total of 245 yards. The completion percentage wasn’t all that impressive at just 55%, but 3 passing touchdowns and 0 INTs isn’t too shabby for only his second career start.

Cowboys 40 - 0 Giants

There’s a blowout, and then there’s this…

Despite a good-looking opening drive from Daniel Jones, everything changed when Dallas blocked the field goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown. Their next possession resulted in a punt, followed by a Cowboys field goal. Then a simple looking play to the always-reliable Saquon Barkley ended in disaster, and the Giants never bounced back…

Tony Pollard led a solid ground game for Dallas with 70 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Dak Prescott only had to pass for 143 yards to secure the win. Let's be real, the defense and special teams had this game wrapped up by the end of the first quarter and they never took their foot off the pedal.

Jones went 15 of 28 for 104 yards, where his top three outlets were all tight ends, and Barkley had just 51 rushing yards ahead of Jones’ 43. It was a mess from top to bottom for Big Blue and although a 40-0 loss looks like the start of a terrible year, I’m counting this as an anomaly in what should be another winning record for Daboll.

Bills 16 - 22 Jets

Last, but certainly not least, is the headline of the week: “Aaron Rodgers suffers a torn achilles during his first drive in New York”.

Obviously this sucks for any NFL fan - given it could well be Rodgers last time on the turf - but we really should have seen this coming… The guy is 40 years old and in his 18th NFL season. If not for Brady skewing our expectations on quarterback longevity, I’m sure every pundit on earth would have predicted something like this. I mean, this guy did...

So, the Jets are back to their old QB, Zach Wilson.

Wilson has had his fair share of issues over the years, but he’s now surrounded by one of the best supporting casts in the league. He went 14/21 for 140 yards and a touchdown to star WR Garret Wilson, but the real issue was the interception, which I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this season.

That being said, the Jets still found a win, despite trailing 13-3 midway through the 3rd quarter. And it was all down to three specific things - the run game, special teams and Jordan Whitehead…

New York outrushed Buffalo 172-92 in the matchup. Breece Hall looked good for the most part, but after suffering an ACL tear last season, it’s clear he’s still not back at full health - getting caught on what would have been a 96 yard TD. Expect more snaps for Dalvin Cook moving forward.

Meanwhile, the defense forced 2 fumbles, 5 sacks and 8 TFLs, but Jordan Whitehead is the real story here. 3 interceptions in one game against Josh Allen is by far the best individual defensive performance of the week.

And finally, following a back and forth final quarter, we went into OT at 16-16, where the rookie Xavier Gipson did not waste his moment to shine on special teams…

So, New York clearly have a lot going for them, but the question is: can the rest of this talented roster outweigh the mistakes that Zach Wilson is bound to make? Sorry to all you Jets spread bettors out there, but I’m not convinced.

As for the Bills: it's a tough loss, but I’m not worried at all. We’ll see Josh Allen in the postseason, as usual.

So, there you have it. Week 1 is officially in the books.

Do you think the Jets are done with Wilson back at the helm? Will the Giants be the biggest bust of the year? And could the Rams finally bounce back?

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter & Instagram and be sure to follow for all the latest sports and betting news.

Join us next week for another round of Russell Wilson slander in what will hopefully be a shorter recap.

(Header Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports)