The first week of the NFL regular season has come and gone, and now we get to do the best part of the season after Week 1: it’s overreaction time, folks! Every team who lost is officially bad and should be tanking for the top pick in the draft, and every team who won is Super Bowl-bound and should buy their plane tickets to Las Vegas now while prices are cheap.
Obviously there are some things that you can wash away because, well, it’s Week 1, but there are some aspects of the game where you can say “hmm, that might be a problem” despite it only being Week 1.
That’s where we come in. We’re going to dive into some overreactions to the week 1 slate and tell whether it’s fact or fiction, and if you should be worried or not.
Fact: The Jets are doomed without Aaron Rodgers
On Monday night, Aaron Rodgers went down four plays into his New York Jets debut, suffering a ruptured Achilles, taking him out for the entire season. It’s one game, and coming after a win over the Buffalo Bills, but it’s tough to see the Jets being competitive without Rodgers in at QB. We know what backup Zach Wilson is, and with an extremely difficult schedule coming up, they’re going to need a QB who can actually help them win the game.
The only real way the Jets could be competitive without Rodgers is if they get four takeaways like they did against Buffalo on Monday night. Turnover variance is real, and despite how good the Jets’ defense was last year, they only finished 30th in takeaways. Maybe if they can get some more turnovers they can be fighting for a playoff spot, but without number 8 in the backfield, it’s looking grim.
Fiction: The Bengals and Chiefs are doomed
The final two teams standing in the AFC last year got off to a rough start, both losing their season openers in grim fashion. However, I think both of these teams will more than likely be just fine. A lot was made about the Chiefs wide receiver group (and some of it is true), but getting back TE Travis Kelce will help unlock the rest of the pass catchers in the group. The receiving core is much more built complement a superstar weapon in Kelce than solve a game on their own, and getting the veteran TE back will help ease some of the issues they had offensively. In addition, Chris Jones will also be back, filling a large gap in the middle of that defense. They might not be absolutely perfect, but they’ll be fine once those two guys get back up to speed.
Cincinnati I feel a little less hopeful for, but they also should be just fine. After losing to the Browns 24-3 in a game where Joe Burrow threw for 82 yards, it could be fine to chalk this up to a bad rain game, but the reason that I’m a little bit more worried about the Bengals than the Chiefs is because of all the pressure QB Joe Burrow faced. Per Pro Football Network’s Jay Morrison:
Joe Burrow was pressured on 38.3 percent of his dropbacks yesterday.
That’s his fifth highest total since the start of 2021.
47.5 vs SF in 2021
41.4 at Broncos in 2021
405 vs Browns in Dec. 2022
40.4 vs Chargers in 2021
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 11, 2023
Whether that be due to lingering effects of Burrow’s injury or the offensive line needing more time to gel together, that problem could be an issue to watch. However, the same thing was said about this team last year and they were a few plays away from making another Super Bowl. So I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Fact: Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is on the hot seat
Walk with me on this one. Last year, without Joey Bosa, JC Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Jackson, the Chargers dismantled the Miami Dolphins in a defensive masterpiece. Fast forward and you now have all of those guys, you run for 234 yards and score 34 points … and then lose because the defense played one of the worst games of the Brandon Staley era.
Six Dolphins receivers averaged more than ten yards per catch, and there were guys running wide open the entire game. Not only was the offense good enough, the run game was one of the most efficient we’ve seen in a decade.
For a team that has made as many high priced investments on defense as the Chargers do to give Brandon Staley everything he needed, these problems still are coming up. This defense is too talented to have complete meltdowns like this, and for all of the stock people consistently buy in the Chargers, someone is going to have to pay the bill eventually. That might be Staley, who’s defenses just haven’t played the same since not having Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey became his new reality.
Fiction: The Rams might actually be good this year
Trust me, I want to believe, but we should pump the brakes on this one. The Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-13 in a game where QB Matthew Stafford turned back the clock and dazzled in his first game back since a season-ending injury, and DT Aaron Donald is … well … Aaron Donald. The reason I’m not going to buy too much into the Rams right now is because I still have questions about the defensive depth on their roster. The youth and overall talent level in the secondary still scares me, especially as they play more difficult opponents.
However, I will say that the offensive performance is encouraging, especially when you consider that WR Cooper Kupp didn’t play. Despite that, I’ll hold off on anything with the Rams until we get a clearer picture.
Fact: The Bears’ rise was greatly exaggerated
I honestly just feel kinda bad for Bears fans. All the hype in the offseason after trading for WR D.J. Moore and addressing the offensive line, to then be promptly pantsed on national television at home by your biggest rival. I think the lesson here is simple: the Bears are still a team that lacks supreme talent and depth on the level of the Packers. QB Justin Fields was under duress for most of the game, and when he wasn’t the inaccuracies were also a problem. Moore only seeing two targets is a massive issue that will hopefully be fixed as the season goes on, and defensively the Bears fell apart late in the game.
This is a rebuilding team that still has major questions. However, the proof of concept is still missing, and that might be a problem. OC Luke Getsy has come under fire for the poor offensive performance, but really it’s an all around problem. Give it another year until they’ll be ready to contend for the playoffs.
Fiction: The Cleveland Browns are the best team in the AFC North
Again, let’s pump the brakes here. After the Browns dismantled the Bengals, combined with the Steelers laying an egg against the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens looking shaky against the Houston Texans, the thought would be that the Browns run the division. However, there are still some major issues with that Browns team, especially offensively. QB Deshaun Watson had an up and down performance, leading the Browns on a couple of touchdown drives, but also passing the ball unevenly in the driving rain. You can chalk it up to the rain, which is fair, but Watson missed on many throws despite the offense being called fairly well by head coach Kevin Stefanski, which still makes me question the ceiling of the offense.
However, they play the Steelers on Monday with the chance to go up two in a loaded division, so maybe it might lead to them winning the division. However, I’ll still hold out until I see more production out of the passing game.