The first week of National Football League action went a lot better for quarterbacks with new teams that it did for head coaches. The only losing quarterback starting for a new team was Arizona’s Sam Bradford, but the Cardinals defeat came against the Washington Redskins and their new quarterback, Alex Smith. In all, six quarterbacks were starting for new teams and one of them tied while four won, including the only rookie, Sam Darnold of the New York Jets.
As for the seven head coaches beginning with a new team … none of them won. That list includes Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears, Steve Wilks of the Arizona Cardinals, Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions, Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts, Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants, Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders and Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans.
The winning quarterbacks were Case Keenum of the Denver Broncos, Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings, Darnold of the Jets and Smith of the Redskins. The Kansas City Chiefs also had a new starter, although he was officially with Andy Reid’s team for a second season and making his second pro start, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs won on the road against AFC West Division rival Los Angeles Chargers, the ninth consecutive victory for Kansas City over the Chargers and their 17th AFC West Division win in their last 19 matchups against division rivals.
Then there is Tyrod Taylor, who is the new starting quarterback in Cleveland and led the Browns to a 21-21 tie against AFC North Division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Are the Browns ever going to win a game? Consider this, they collected six turnovers from the Steelers and only coughed the ball up once. That equates to a plus five on the all important turnover ratio, and in NFL history teams that have a turnover ratio of plus five or higher were 132-4-1. The Browns are the second tie.
No quarterback has created more buzz than Darnold in his first season with the New York Jets since Joe Namath began his career in 1965. He didn’t disappoint. His pro career began with a pick six against him on his first pass and the Detroit Lions led 7-0 before many of their fans had even found their seats.
But, that initial jolt did not deter Darnold from moving his professional career forward. On his next 20 passes he completed 16, to his own teammates, and led the Jets to a convincing 48-17 Monday Night Football road win.
In the second of two Monday Night Football openers, the Oakland Raiders were good enough to stay with the talented Los Angeles Rams for the first half, but Sean McVay’s team dominated the second half enroute to a breakaway win over Gruden and his Raiders.
In the other primetime matchup, on Sunday night, former Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack became the first player in NFL history to record a sack, fumble recovery, interception and touchdown in one-half of play. Unfortunately for his new Chicago Bears team, another superstar, Aaron Rodgers, played through a first half injury to guide the Green Bay Packers to a 24-23 win while overcoming the largest fourth quarter deficit in Green Bay history.
The biggest upset of the day was gained by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only double-digit opening day underdog outscored Drew Brees and the homestanding New Orleans Saints, 48-40.
If the Saints defense continues to struggle, then they can be added to the Chiefs as the most likely teams to run up scores and consistently go over the point total. No doubt both the Saints and Chiefs have offensive weapons but both appear vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. The over/under number for the Chiefs visit to Pittsburgh this week is 53, and both these teams are capable of clearing that number by themselves.
The books don’t set an over/under number that high without good reason.