What the hell was that? When it comes to the first week of the 2022 NFL season we really got it all. A 20-20 draw, sad Bill Belichick, game-deciding referee decisions, a laces-in field goal that decided a game, and a sloppy Soldier Field that turned a battle in the trenches to a literal battle in the trenches, like it was something out of World War I.
Part of me is so glad that the absolute bonkers unpredictability of 2021 has carried over to this season, because dumb football is the best football. There are a lot of games which deserve a deeper dive this week, but none that had the stakes of Packers vs. Vikings to assert early NFC North dominance.
This was really a toss-up heading in. We were all split, basically down the middle in our Week 1 expert picks, and nobody has especially strong convictions about the outcome, except for Michael Irvin, who somehow believed Kirk Cousins would break the NFL single-game touchdown record.
Someone came close in Week 1, but we’ll get to that later.
For now Packers-Vikings has me all feeling blah. The Packers looked like absolute ass, but they looked like ass in Week 1 of 2021 too — remember, that’s when they were blown out 38-3 by the Saints in a game where Jameis Winston threw five touchdowns and looked absolutely indestructible. Oh, those heady days of Saints-based optimism. Anyway, the point is: The Packers can look like an absolute dumpster fire and then turn everything around, so I wouldn’t go dancing on Aaron Rodgers grave just yet for two key reasons:
- Rodgers will probably turn this around and make you look like an idiot
- He likely planted ‘shrooms in that fertile grave soil and disturbing them will release hallucinogenic spores
Meanwhile, the Vikings looked … fine? They won the game against the Packers, so obviously they are not a bad team, but this was a mammoth case of unconvincing domination. When Minnesota jumped out to their 17-0 first half lead I expected them to keep running up the score, especially considering Green Bay had absolutely no answer for Justin Jefferson. Instead the foot was taken all the way off the pedal, and instead the Vikings aimed to coast in for the W, rather than shut the door.
It gave off a really familiar feeling in the 3rd quarter that they were leaving this door far too open, for far too long. I’m not going to lie, when it was 17-7 and Minnesota answered a Packers touchdown with a nine play, 20 yard drive it felt like Groundhog Day and I was just waiting for the comeback that would lead to a crushing single-score loss for Minnesota.
I don’t understand how the Vikings keep putting themselves in this position. The coaches can change, the weapons can be improved, but they’re forever turning games into battles of “can we beat ourselves in this one?”
Justin Jefferson is an absolute monster. When the dust settles I think he’ll cement himself as the best receiver in the NFL, but he is not going to go off for 180+ yards every week. Teams will bracket him, effectively double him, and force Kirk Cousins to find more options in the passing game — and I just don’t know if this team has the firepower past JJ in the passing game. On Sunday Jefferson was targeted 11 times for 184 yards, while every other Vikings pass catcher combined for 20 targets and 93 yards.
The saving grace is that Minnesota’s run game is really good. Neither Dalvin Cook nor Alexander Mattison were spectacular in their own right, but together they put up a tidy game which showed this team does have some offense to squeeze if Jefferson isn’t feasting on the outside.
I’m left really struggling to buy in wholeheartedly. It’s weird because on paper I absolutely should in a game where they easily beat the Packers, but we’re going to look at a couple of teams this week who also played really strong opponents, but who looked far more dangerous that the Vikings.
Minnesota fans, I’m all for y’all buying in, and I’ll purchase based on your recommendation — but best believe I’m keeping the receipt and circling the 30 day return deadline on my calendar.
For now, the Minnesota Vikings are your first winner of Week 1.
Winner: Patrick freakin’ Mahomes
I told you we’d discuss a player who almost broke the single-game touchdown record. “Almost” might be a tad generous, but Mahomes had thrown FIVE with just under five minutes left in the third quarter and I think we all believed it might have been a possibility.
Mahomes isn’t a winner because of what he did on Sunday, but what he didn’t do — which was struggle. I know the idea of Mahomes struggling might seem novel, but this is the weakest receiving corps he’s ever had in Kansas City. Outside of Travis Kelce, the Chiefs more or less entered the season with a handful of beans, and No. 15 is the … rain to turn them into a … okay, this metaphor has gotten away from me. Point is: Mahomes decided to light the Cardinals on fire and stomp through their ashes without any care for their feelings.
Along with the five touchdowns he finished with 360 yards, on a brutally efficient 9.2 YPA. Any thought that he would struggle without Tyreek Hill was erased in one week, and already JuJu Smith-Schuster is looking like a hell of a signing who is going to thrive in this offense when he’s fully acclimated.
The Chiefs are good again, who knew? (extreme sarcasm intended)
Loser: LACES OUT DAN!
My goodness was it a bad week for kickers not named Cade York, which I mention only so my coworker Colby, who is a die-hard Browns fan, won’t yell at me today.
CONGRATS ON GETTING A GOOD KICKER, COLBY. THE BROWNS ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO NEED ONE WHEN THEY STRUGGLE WITH A TEAM LIKE THE PANTHERS, AND WE’RE GOING TO GET TO THAT DEBACLE SOON.
Anyway, outside of the cheatin’ ass refs who propelled Cleveland to victory, the kicking this week was abysmal — but nothing was sadder than Evan McPherson for the Bengals, and it wasn’t even his damn fault.
Cincinnati engineered one of the most stunning comebacks of the day in a game most had written off by halftime. Joe Burrow looked like a shadow of himself, the Bengals’ line couldn’t block to save their life, and everything was falling apart — but somehow, some way, they managed to put together an overtime drive that gave them a potential win on the back of a 29-yard field goal from one of the league’s most automatic clutch kickers.
This is special because it really takes skill to field an atrocious high snap and manage to rotate the ball into the absolutely worst position possible for a right footed kicker. Obviously the kick was shanked abysmally to the left, and the Bengals went on to lose, but shout out to tight end Mitchell Wilcox in the above photo for getting steamrolled so badly he looks like he’s mid-fall in a Life Alert ad, and is getting ready to yell “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
It wasn’t just McPherson who was bad on the day — it was damn near everyone. Seven field goals were missed on Sunday, with missed kicks deciding three games.
Loser: Refs in the final drive of Browns vs. Panthers
Let’s make something abundantly clear before we get into this: The Carolina Panthers absolutely deserved to lose on Sunday because of their piss-poor offensive game planning, horrible play from Baker Mayfield, and an offensive line that couldn’t open any holes for Christian McCaffrey — all while the defense was getting gashed all day by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
I think it’s important to note that Carolina deserved to lose, before whining about why they actually lost, which was down to the final drive of the day. I generally abhor blaming things on the referees, but sometimes there are mistakes which are so egregious they deserve mention because they absolutely change the outcome of the game.
Firstly, we have this “roughing the passer” call on Brian Burns.
This came with 1:13 left on the clock, the Browns were out of timeouts. It flipped a 2nd and 10 from the 25 into a 1st and 10 from the 40. It absolutely should not have been roughing, either literally by the letter of the law, or in its spirit.
Defensive players are getting penalized enough as it is, now they’re getting penalized for pushing an offensive player back into a quarterback.
To me, this was the worst of the two game-defining decisions by the referees — but it was the second that truly sealed the game.
The rules on stopping the clock with a spike are very clear, and Brissett did not follow them. In order to stop the clock with a spike the quarterback has to:
“immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.”
This did not happen. Brissett received the snap, took one step back while looking to see if Amari Cooper was open, then decided to spike the ball. This is absolutely not allowed, and violates item 4 on delayed spikes.
“A passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him.”
Brissett delayed the spike to see if a receiver was open (the strategic purpose), then spiked it anyway. It should have been called as intentional grounding, which absolutely would have changed the game’s outcome. This play happened on 3rd and 1, at the Panthers 40 yard line, with 0:13 left on the clock.
If the play was ruled correctly it would have resulted in a loss of down, the Browns being pushed back 10 yards, and a 10 second runoff. It would have resulted in 4th and 11, a 68-yard field goal attempt that never would have been possible — and the Browns needing Brissett, who struggled all day, to try to win on a Hail Mary.
The Panthers were a bad team on Sunday, but they absolutely got robbed.
Winner: Saquon Barkley
I’m not going to pretend that one week erases the hilarity of Dave Gettleman taking a running back with a No. 2 overall pick at a de-emphasized position that sees talented players last much longer in the draft, but damn did Barkley do work on Sunday.
In unquestionably the biggest impact a running back had on Sunday, Barkley ran for 164 yards on just 18 carries, scoring a touchdown and adding 30 yards receiving.
You know you have a special day when your running back almost gets more yards on the ground than your quarterback does through the air. Saquon averaged 9.1 yards-per-carry to Daniel Jones’ 8.9 yards-per-attempt, and that was a good game from Jones!
Time will tell on the Brian Daboll era, but the Giants have some definite life to them and are going to be a team to watch in the NFC East.
Loser: This poor guy trying to enjoy his popcorn in Chicago
I still can’t believe that game took place. The NFL should be ashamed that athletes needed to endure the field as it was.
Winner: Lamar Jackson’s bank account
While the Ravens keep balking at the contract demands of Lamar Jackson, and are so obviously leaking the negotiations to NFL media to make their own QB look greedy, he’s just out here balling still.
Sources: Lamar Jackson rejected a Ravens’ 6-yr contract offer with $133 million fully guaranteed at signing, which is more than Russell Wilson ($124 million) and Kyler Murray ($103.3 million) but well short of the $230 million fully guaranteed deal that Deshaun Watson got.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 11, 2022
I’m not going to pretend this was the most dominant game of Jackson’s career, but he was literally the only thing this team had on offense — against the Jets. While he only threw for 213 yards, the three touchdowns he threw decided the game, and once again proved that Lamar Jackson just wins.
The longer Baltimore keep farting around delaying paying Jackson it’s only going to keep costing them more money. It’s clear this team cannot win without Jackson, and last I checked Steve Bisciotti is worth $6.4. Spare me concerns about whether he can find the guaranteed money to put in escrow.
Winner: The Chargers’ defense
We all knew Justin Herbert was going to be great, and he was — but this Chargers defense is what’s truly terrifying now, and could be what puts them over the top.
On paper a five point win over the Raiders might not look like dominance, but Los Angeles won the battle at every level. This defense feasted on Derek Carr, sacking him six times, intercepting him three times, and forcing him to fumble twice.
I don’t know how protections around the league are going to account for Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa AND players like Derwin James in the secondary who can blitz you out of your boots. Man, this team is looking so, so good right now, and next week against the Chiefs is going to be fun.
Losers: All of us who watched the Buccaneers vs. Cowboys on Sunday Night Football
That game sucked. Cowboys are washed. Congrats to Leonard Fournette.