Go back to school, NFL head coaches. You failed your first test.
That would be Week 1 of the regular season, the final exam for training camp. Based on Sunday’s games, most teams didn’t use their six weeks wisely.
Outside of a few standout performances by the Lions, Dolphins, 49ers, and Cowboys, the football wasn’t very crisp. Scoring and passing were way down, and the fantasy football fireworks never really exploded.
The offensive fizzle is where we begin the Week 1 review:
▪ Perhaps coaches are struggling to adapt to the league’s ever-evolving offseason rules, as full contact is forbidden in the spring and strictly monitored and spaced out in training camp. Perhaps the rain in several games made it tougher to throw the ball. Maybe the league just isn’t very good.
Whatever the reason, offense was way down compared with previous Week 1s. With 15 of 16 games played, the 41.2 points per game were the second-fewest in the last 13 years, ahead of only 2017. Third-down conversions (36.8 percent) were the lowest in five years and tied for the third-lowest since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002.
Quarterbacks especially struggled, with just 35 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. Touchdowns were thrown at their lowest percentage (3.4 percent) since 2006. The 6.27 yards per attempt were the lowest since 2002. The sack percentage of 7.1 percent was the highest in 12 years. The longest pass was 51 yards to Packers running back Aaron Jones, making this the only year since 2002 without a 60-yard completion in Week 1.
Thirteen QBs — Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Young, Dak Prescott, Joshua Dobbs, Desmond Ridder, Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, and Joe Burrow — were held under 200 passing yards.
▪ The overriding theme of Week 1: Training camp matters.
Burrow missed practically all of camp with a calf injury, then completed just 14 of 31 passes for 82 yards in a listless 24-3 loss to the Browns. He clearly was affected by the injury, and by a lack of preparation with his teammates.
Another team that struggled was the Eagles, who escaped Foxborough with a 25-20 win. They barely played football during training camp; they didn’t practice on consecutive days for the first two weeks, and most of their starters didn’t play a single snap in the three preseason games. Then on Sunday, they gained just 251 yards and couldn’t put the Patriots away.
“You know we need to play a lot better than this if we are going to reach the potential and level of play we want this year,” center Jason Kelce said.
▪ The NFL should not schedule so many division games for Week 1. They are the most important on the schedule, carrying significant ramifications for division titles and wild cards. They are far too important to give the “extended preseason” treatment.
The Giants-Cowboys game was over by halftime, a total waste. Bengals-Browns was noncompetitive. Same with Rams-Seahawks. Raiders-Broncos featured two teams playing watered-down offenses with a new coach or quarterback. Falcons-Panthers was a snooze.
These games should be scheduled later, when teams have a better read on their own personnel and schemes. For Week 1, the NFL should schedule only cross-conference games — i.e. the 17th game the league recently added. They have the least at stake.
▪ That gulp you hear is the sound of Patriots assistant coaches Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo preparing for the Dolphins offense this Sunday. Tua Tagovailoa picked up right where he left off last year when healthy, slicing up the Chargers for 466 passing yards in a 36-34 win.
It was the fourth-most passing yards in a Week 1 game in NFL history, trailing only Norm Van Brocklin (554), Tom Brady (517), and Dan Marino (473). Tyreek Hill (215 yards, 2 TDs) and Jaylen Waddle are again looking like the Fastest Show on Surf.
▪ This year joined 2012 and 2021 as the only seasons since 1970 with at least three rookie quarterbacks starting in Week 1. None were impressive. The Panthers’ Bryce Young was just 20 of 38 for 146 yards, a touchdown and two picks in a 24-10 loss to the Falcons. The Texans’ C.J. Stroud was 28 of 44 for 242 yards in a 25-9 loss to the Ravens. The Colts’ Anthony Richardson was probably the best of the three, throwing for 223 yards, a touchdown, and a pick while also rushing for 40 yards in a 31-21 loss to the Jaguars.
▪ For all the talk of how much better the AFC is this year, the NFC won all four cross-conference games: Lions over Chiefs, Saints over Titans, 49ers over Steelers, and Eagles over Patriots.
Tracking People that Boston Football Fans Might Care About:
Raiders QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Went 20 of 26 for 200 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in a 17-16 win over the Broncos. He marched the Raiders 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown, then milked the final 5:08 off the clock, improving to 41-17 career as a starter. “Just does what it takes to win,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
Raiders WR Jakobi Meyers: In his Raiders debut, he caught 9 of 10 targets for 81 yards and 2 TDs, his first career multi-touchdown game. He’s going to feast on single coverage opposite Davante Adams. Meyers also was placed in concussion protocol Monday.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels: Boy, did he need to get off on the right foot, especially starting off in Denver. Next up: Another big game in Buffalo.
Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins: Had 7 catches on 13 targets for 65 yards in the loss to the Saints.
Cowboys CB Stephon Gilmore: Had 4 tackles and an interception in his Dallas debut.
Chargers CB J.C. Jackson: Returning from a ruptured patellar tendon that ended his 2022 season, Jackson made his first interception as a Charger late in the third quarter against Miami.
Ravens WR Zay Flowers: The former BC Eagle had 9 catches on 10 targets for 78 yards in the win over the Texans.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel: Might regret not doing more at QB this offseason. Ryan Tannehill threw for just 198 yards and had three interceptions in a 16-15 loss to the Saints.
Stats of the Week
▪ Road teams went 10-5 through Sunday, winning every game in the 4:25 and 8:20 windows.
▪ Hill’s 215 receiving yards were the third-most in Week 1 in NFL history, behind Frank Clarke (241) and Anquan Boldin (217).
▪ The 49ers’ Brock Purdy is the first QB in NFL history to win each of his first six career regular-season starts and throw two touchdown passes in each.
▪ Rams receiver Puka Nacua (10 catches for 119 yards) became the fifth player in NFL history to catch at least 10 passes in his NFL debut, joining Sid Blanks, Keke Coutee, Boldin, and Earl Cooper.
▪ Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner’s 19 total tackles were the most by any player in Week 1 since the league began tracking tackles in 1994. Colts LB Zaire Franklin had 18 tackles.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.