The Baltimore Ravens earned a confidence building win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. The Ravens defense was especially encouraging, they held the visitors to 160 total yards of offense and a 23% third down conversion rate.
This head-to-head victory over a potential contender may help the Ravens chances to make the playoffs. The Bills could develop into a better team when the best players on their defensive front become available, and their offensive tackles return. But it was revealed on Monday that star receiver Sammy Watkins has pain in his surgically repair foot, he is questionable to play a full slate of games this season.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Bengals were fortunate to earn a road win over the Jets. Cincinnati held on to a one-point win with a late interception despite an almost ten minute disadvantage in time of possession. A.J. Green carried them with a 180-yard receiving output, but their offensive line should be a concern. They allowed seven sacks and averaged three yards per rushing attempt against the ferocious Jets d-line.
The Cleveland Browns fell to the Eagles on the road, after allowing rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to turn in a near flawless debut. News that quarterback Robert Griffin III will be placed on injured reserve adds to the sadness. The Browns will face the Ravens at home in Week 2, and are hoping to improve upon their 2-14 record against the Ravens since John Harbaugh became head coach.
In a Monday night road contest against Washington, the Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection was locked in. The Steelers passing offense was complimented by an impressive rushing performance from DeAngelo Williams and an opportunistic defense that secured two interceptions.
In the AFC West, the Broncos beat the Panthers in a Super Bowl rematch. If Trevor Siemien can progress into an upgrade over what they received from the quarterback position last season, the AFC could be in trouble, because their defense still has the pieces to dominate.
The Chiefs, another playoff team from last year, displayed the determination that propelled them on an extended winning streak last season when they overcame a 17-poiint fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Chargers. Kansas City's offense did not miss Jamaal Charles, but their pass defense appears vulnerable without Sean Smith. The Chargers, on the other hand, were not expected to compete for a playoff spot this season. That task became even more difficult with the revelation that star receiver Keenan Allen tore his ACL in Week 1.
The Raiders and Jaguars, two of the most hyped AFC teams during the offseason, both played reasonably well. Oakland pulled out a thrilling win in a New Orleans shootout when coach Jack Del Rio made the ballsy decision to go for a make-or-break two point conversion with less than a minute left in the game. The Jaguars lost at home, but were able to hang with the favored Packers until the final minutes of the game. Both of these projected wild card contenders showed some flaws on pass defense, it will be telling to see how they fare against lesser quarterbacks.
Brock Osweiler and the revamped Texans offense bested the Bears in yet another close contest. Houston has some bonafide playmakers on offense and their defense could be scary if Jadeveon Clowney, who notched a sack in this game, fulfills his pass rushing promise opposite J.J. Watt. Indianapolis allowed 39 points to the Lions in defeat. Andrew Luck looked healthy and produced gaudy stats, but the Colts could get buried fast if their secondary does not get healthy soon.
Looks like more of the same in the AFC East. The Patriots were missing Rob Gronkowski to injury, Tom Brady to suspension and three other starters in the trenches. Still, playing shorthanded did not prevent New England from earning a road win over the well regarded Cardinals. Arizona missed a potential game winning field goal with less than a minute remaining. The Patriots coaching staff is the best in the business, they running an offensive scheme that gets receivers open in space and instill exceptional technique in the secondary that turns journeymen into capable cover corners. Miami was the third AFC East team to lose in Week 1, falling to Seattle on the road in a tight defensive struggle. The Dolphins defensive line should be a force this season, but the team has not proven they have the mental toughness to win close games against top teams.
So after the first week of action, the Baltimore Ravens sit tied for first place in the division. They head to Cleveland in Week 2 for an important early season matchup. The Bengals travel to Pittsburgh in Week 2, presenting an opportunity for the Ravens to gain a game on one of their divisional rivals if they can defeat the Browns.
The AFC field is deep with high quality teams. It is crucial for the Ravens to conquer their winnable early season contests since the schedule grows more challenging later in the season.