The start of the regular season over the weekend saw the Ravens gain a leg up in the AFC North, as they were the only team in the division to secure a victory. Baltimore lit up the Dolphins to the tune of eight touchdowns, 59 points, and over 600 yards of offense.
Elsewhere, the Browns were dismantled by the Titans at home, as Baker Mayfield and company stalled late. Cincinnati nearly pulled off an upset and the Steelers struggled on national television against the defending super bowl champions.
Ravens defeat Dolphins: 59-10
The story of the day for Baltimore, and perhaps the entire NFL, was Lamar Jackson. The second-year quarterback put forth by far the best performance of his young career. He tossed five touchdown passes, just one less than he had in seven games as a starter last season, and 324 passing yards, all while completing 17/20 throws. It was not just Jackson who delivered a stellar performance, though. Outside of two holding penalties by Ronnie Stanley, the offensive line was nearly flawless. Baltimore handled Miami’s blitzes well and Marshal Yanda, Matt Skura, and Bradley Bozeman particularly did a good job pass blocking and creating running lanes in the middle.
Like Jackson, Mark Ingram was a beneficiary of the offensive line play. Ingram rushed for over 100 yards and founded the endzone twice. Mark Andrews picked up right where he’s been all offseason, posting career-highs in both receptions (8) and yards (105). Marquise Brown led the team in receiving yards with 147 on just four catches, two of which went for touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards on back-to-back drives. On defense, Patrick Onwuasor, Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, and Earl Thomas were some of many standout performers. “Wink” Martindale’s unit gave up just 10 points and 200 yards of total offense.
Notable injuries: Jimmy Smith (MCL)
Defining stat: 643 yards of offense
What’s next: Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, Sep. 15 (Home)
Browns lose to Titans: 43-13
If Baker Mayfield woke up feeling dangerous on Sunday, it was the wrong kind of dangerous. An offseason full of hype and shiny new toys gave way to an underwhelming blowout loss in the team’s season opener. On the heels of an 8-play, 73-yard touchdown drive on the Browns’ first possession, things seemed promising. From there, however, it began to go downhill. Their next five drives went as follows: punt, punt, punt, punt, safety.
A David Njoku touchdown reception in the third quarter made it a two-point game, but the Titans immediately responded with a touchdown of their own courtesy of a Derrick Henry 75-yard reception. Cleveland’s defense was gashed in the second half to the tune of three touchdowns and the Browns were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Mayfield was sacked five times and threw three interceptions. Dating back to last year’s season finale against Baltimore, Mayfield has back-to-back games with multiple interceptions.
Notable Injuries: Baker Mayfield (wrist), Dontrell Hilliard (concussion)
Defining stat: 18 penalties for 182 yards
What’s next: New York Jets - Monday, Sep. 16 (Away)
Touted as one of the worst projected teams in the league this year, the Bengals performed far better than most expected on Sunday. Cincinnati traveled to Seattle, which is never an easy place to win, especially in September. In a hostile environment with less-than-ideal weather conditions, the Bengals fought hard and gave themselves a chance to win against a playoff-caliber team in the Seahawks.
Cincinnati held onto a 17-14 lead for the entire third quarter but failed to counter Tyler Lockett’s touchdown reception early in the final frame of play. The big performers here were QB Andy Dalton and WR John Ross III. Dalton completed 35/51 passes for a career-high 418 yards and two touchdowns. With big performances from other quarterbacks, namely Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott, Dalton quietly put forth an impressive outing. Ross, a former first-round pick, had by far the best game of his injury-riddled, albeit short career. Seattle had no answers for Ross, who caught seven passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Keep an eye on the status of Joe Mixon, who left Sunday’s action early with an ankle injury. In his absence, Giovani Bernard led the team in carries with seven but churned out just 21 yards. The lack of an established running game forced Dalton to throw the ball a lot, and a run-pass ratio of 14-51 is one the Bengals probably want to stay away from moving forward.
Notable injuries: Joe Mixon (ankle)
Defining stat: Three turnovers
What’s next: San Francisco 49ers - Sunday, Sep. 15 (Home)
Steelers lose to Patriots: 33-3
Despite losing Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the offseason, many national pundits and analysts projected the Steelers to actually perform better without their two top offensive weapons over the past few seasons. The reasoning? Removal of drama and noise from the organization. While both players can be a headache at times, more specifically AB, Pittsburgh sure looked like they could have used one of them on the field Sunday night.
It’s important to note they were going up against the defending champs, but the Steelers did not look like a team capable of contending for a division title. The offense mustered just THREE points on the night. Ben Roethlisberger threw 47 times but completed just 27 of his passes and averaged 5.9 YPA. Starting RB James Conner was ineffective on the ground (10 carries, 21 yards) and outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster, no pass-catcher made a significant impact.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Devin Bush led the team in tackles with 11, seven of which were solo. However, the secondary was carved up Tom Brady, who threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. To make matters worse, T.J. Watt, the team’s best pass-rusher, left Sunday’s contest early with a hip injury.
Injuries of note: T.J. Watt (hip)
Defining stat: 3/12 on third down conversion attempts
What’s next: Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, Sep. 15 (Home)