Not a bad Sunday to start off the 2022 NFL season, eh? Seven game-tying or go-ahead scores in the final two minutes of regulation -- yeah, that'll do.
The Browns spoiled Baker Mayfield's revenge attempt, with a rookie kicker blasting a 58-yard game-winner at Carolina. Meanwhile, A.J. Brown instantly made his presence felt in the Eagles' offense, guiding Philadelphia past Detroit with 10 catches for 155 yards. The Ravens and Jets are who we thought they were, with Lamar Jackson and Co. cruising to a road victory over an inefficient, Joe Flacco-led operation. And the Colts and Texans immediately/fittingly mucked up the AFC South standings with a tie.
What else happened around the league? A lot. What mattered most? Good question.
Big deal, little deal or no deal at all? Allow me to separate significance from Week 1 overreaction, Schein Nine style.
1) Cowboys lose to Buccaneers, lose Dak, lose hope
One Sunday in, the Cowboys' season feels doomed. This is not an overreaction -- it's reality.
Even one week ago, before Dallas lost Dak Prescott to a hand injury, I didn't have the 2022 Cowboys as a playoff team. Now Dallas is all alone in the NFC East cellar at 0-1, the franchise quarterback is set to miss multiple weeks after surgery, and the weight of leading "America's Team" falls on the shoulders of ... Cooper Rush? Better luck next year, 'Boys.
Beyond another devastating Dak injury, Dallas has personnel issues. And coaching issues. Tom Brady was hardly G.O.A.T.-esque in Sunday night's win at Jerry World, with Leonard Fournette's 127 ground yards really leading the Tampa Bay charge. But the Buccaneers' 19 points were more than enough, as the Cowboys managed just three points with a measly 244 yards of total offense. Blame Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore for the game plan. Blame the Joneses for an uninspiring offseason. And yes, blame Dak, whose fourth-quarter injury followed three-and-a-half quarters of uninspired play (SEE: 48.3 completion percentage, 47.2 passer rating).
Philadelphia is winning this division. Dallas is in for a long season.
2) Dolphins destroy Patriots, underscore AFC East shift
I spent much of this offseason crushing the Patriots, writing multiple times in this space that New England is the 14th-best team in the AFC alone. Simultaneously, I deemed Miami the NFL's Cinderella team in 2022, predicting Tua Tagovailoa would enjoy a breakthrough campaign and the Dolphins would snap a five-season playoff drought. So, the winner of this game wasn't exactly surprising to me. But the ease with which Miami dispatched the longtime AFC East bully -- winning 20-7 in Mike McDaniel's first official game as a head coach at any level -- was significant. This was a big deal, within the division and beyond, as Miami looks like a lively upstart while New England resembles a rudderless ship.
McDaniel showed off his smarts and aggressiveness, blowing the game open right before half by going for it on fourth-and-7, allowing Jaylen Waddle to take a simple slant 42 yards to paydirt. Tua rocked steady and spread the ball around nicely in a 270-yard, zero-turnover outing. His favorite target was -- surprise, surprise -- Tyreek Hill (eight catches for 94 yards), whose mere presence on the field changes everything for Miami. And the continually underrated Dolphins D completely stifled Mac Jones and Co., yielding one scoring drive while forcing three turnovers and providing a touchdown of its own.
These two teams are clearly heading in opposite directions. The biggest question: How low will Bill Belichick's group go?
3) Steelers simply overwhelm reigning division/conference champion Bengals
First of all, Pittsburgh deserves so much credit for the 23-20 OT win. I warned everyone last week not to sleep on the Steelers. Mike Tomlin's defense forced five turnovers, while Mitch Trubisky did enough to win, forging a drive late in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Unfortunately, this feels like a Pyrrhic victory for Pittsburgh, as reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt suffered what appears to be a serious injury. Just brutal -- something that puts an enormous damper on an inspired, season-opening road win.
So, with those mixed emotions on the Steelers side, what did this outcome mean for the defending AFC champion Bengals? Yes, they lost to a division rival at home, and yes, Joe Burrow threw a career-high four interceptions. All that said, in the big picture, I do not think this is a big deal for Cincinnati. Praise the Steelers; don't ding the Bengals.
Burrow's ramp-up to the season was significantly hindered by an appendectomy, so the slow start was understandable. And even so, Cincy blew Pittsburgh away in total yards (432-267) and first downs (32-13). Burrow also threw what should have been the game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of regulation, but Evan McPherson's extra point was blocked, sending the contest to overtime. And then in the extra period, a horrible snap spoiled another would-be game-winning kick for the Bengals.
Zac Taylor had an odd day at the office with in-game decisions, but still, my worry level on Cincinnati is at zero.
4) Chargers meet expectations!
MASSIVE DEAL!! I thought the Chargers had the best and most calculated offseason of any NFL team. Consequently, I picked them to win what could be one of the toughest divisions in NFL history. And with two division bouts right off the bat, including a Week 2 trip to Kansas City for Thursday Night Football, the season opener against the Raiders was crucial. You never call a Week 1 game must-win, but Sunday's bout was colossal -- especially coming against the rival squad that ended Los Angeles' 2021 campaign by outlasting the Bolts in overtime of the final regular-season game.
Long story short: The pressure was on the Chargers ... and they delivered!
This 24-19 result was a complete win for Brandon Staley's squad, a total team effort. Justin Herbert was splendid, per usual, efficiently picking apart Vegas' defense to the tune of three touchdown passes and zero picks. And L.A.'s D, which proved disappointing in Staley's debut season, demoralized Derek Carr, piling up three picks and six sacks. The new guy, Khalil Mack, had three QB takedowns of his own.
5) Mahomes torches Cardinals in desert
This is a very big deal. Many folks, myself included, had serious questions about Kansas City this offseason. That's only natural when a team loses an unparalleled playmaker like Tyreek Hill. Thankfully, I eventually came to my senses and at least predicted that K.C. would make the playoffs, thanks to the genius of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Given all the attention paid to other AFC teams this offseason, it wasn't hard to imagine Mahomes going on a Michael Jordan-style "And I took that personally" tour to silence the doubters.
6) Giants stun Titans in Nashville
Now, I'm not always on the aggressive side in these types of scenarios, as every situation is different. But the Giants were heavy underdogs playing on the road. And in the bigger picture, this is a franchise that's been to the playoffs just once in the past 10 seasons, cycling through a series of lackluster coaches in the process. For the new guy to come in and immediately go for the jugular ... Well, that was awesome, even if the G-Men didn't convert. But they did! And then the football gods smiled on Daboll and Co., with Tennessee missing a 47-yard field goal at the gun. New York won its opener for the first time in six years. Not a bad way to start off the Daboll/Joe Schoen era in the Big Apple.
Now, the Giants still don't have a quarterback. But RB Saquon Barkley provided his most inspiring performance in years, rushing for 164 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries, catching six balls for 30 more yards, and scoring the aforementioned two-point conversion with a nifty move. Daboll, the brilliant offensive mind who rightly yelled at Daniel Jones after a terrible pick, changes everything for this proud -- but downtrodden -- franchise.
I think it's still going to be a long year for Big Blue, as the roster just has too many holes. But this win showed New York finally might have a true Tom Coughlin replacement on the sideline, and for the long haul, that's a substantial deal.
7) Vikings smack Pack
For Green Bay fans ... R-E-L-A-X. Even with a thin receiver core, you still have Aaron Rodgers and a legit defense. The Packers lost 38-3 in Week 1 last season ... and went on to secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Pack will be fine despite this 23-7 setback.
But for the Vikings? Oh, hell yeah: Enormous deal. Kevin O'Connell is the perfect replacement for Mike Zimmer, who sucked the life out of this team during the last few years of his tenure. O'Connell brings a special playbook, positivity and passion. I said last week that Kirk Cousins was in for the best year of his career. Awesome start, with 277 yards passing, two touchdowns and a sparkling 118.9 QB rating. Of course, it helps when you have a target like No. 18.
Before the season, O'Connell came on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," and went in depth on how he planned to use Justin Jefferson. The third-year receiver's debut in the new offense: nine catches for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns. Yeah, I'd say O'Connell's plan worked out pretty well. There's a reason why I had Jefferson on my MVP sleeper list a few months ago. Like Jefferson predicted himself, I believe he'll be considered the best receiver in the game by season's end. Remember what O'Connell helped Cooper Kupp accomplish as the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles? Jefferson's gonna own the position this season. He's special -- and Minnesota is a playoff team.
8) Bears smother 49ers in season's first real weather game
On the 49ers side, Trey Lance struggled, which shouldn't have been surprising to anyone, given Lance's shaky offseason. The Niners have Super Bowl talent -- in fact, they might have the NFL's best roster, 2-53 -- but the quarterback position remains a serious hang-up. With Jimmy Garoppolo still on the roster, San Francisco cannot dawdle around hoping it finally clicks for the kid. I would not hesitate on pulling the ripcord on Lance and handing the reins back to Jimmy G. That's something I said before the season. But ...
... there was a huge mitigating factor with this game: the weather. As everyone who watched knows, the rain was coming down in buckets. So this game had some quirkiness. Therefore, although the result was eye-opening, I think we need to be careful about overreacting to this Week 1 development.
9) Frisky Falcons fall to late Saints surge
"A" for effort? Nah. Hey, I love Arthur Smith, but the Falcons were expected to provide maximum effort in a season-opening rivalry game at home. Frankly, on ebb and flow, they should've won. But they didn't. New Orleans erased a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to eke out a 27-26 win everyone expected them to get in the first place. So at the end of the day, not a big deal.
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