NFL 2018: Week 1 Winners and Losers

Football season is finally upon us. Weeks of following any sliver of football news and the hours of preparation for fantasy football has finally led us to the real deal. The 2018 start to the season didn’t disappoint. We were treated to high scoring games, upsets and some nail biters. It truly didn’t disappoint.

Writing this article I will try my best to push my bias and fantasy football frustration aside. Let’s start off on a good note, for some, the winners.

WINNERS

Cleveland Browns Defence

My oh my. The Cleveland Browns are undefeated……but still winless. Going into this week many expected the Steelers to roll over the Browns, even with the absence of star running back, and current hide and seek champion Le’Veon Bell. It was easy to expect Big Ben to thrash around the Browns, even with his road record looming over him.

Since 2008 Big Ben had a record of 15-2 against Cleveland. That didn’t seem to matter when the teams lined up last week. Roethlisberger was picked off twice by rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, three times in total.

Myles Garrett also lived up to his level with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Conditions and home field advantage played a factor no doubt, but the Browns defence ended with a total of 85 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INTs and 3 fumbles.

The Browns defence kept them in the game and ultimately it ended in the typical Cleveland-esque style with a missed FG to win it. It’s very early days but no doubt new DC Greg Williams will be thrilled with what he saw and hope to see some more positive signs.

Next up a difficult away journey to the Saints. If they can manage to worry Drew Brees then nervous optimism will soon turn into pandemonium. But hey, the Brown’s faithful have had enough to deal with in recent times, let them have this.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers did what he does best. It’s nearly foolish of us to still get surprised by his greatness but for any of those who spent the off-season in the Brady/Rodgers debate Aaron gave them all another masterclass to consider.

Carted off with an injury leading to the Packers falling 17-0 to the Bears was where this begins. Bears fans pinching themselves at the idea of getting one over on their fierce rival….only for A-Rod to come marching back to the field, on a heavy dose of something, to lead the comeback, topped off with a touchdown drive in the last 3 minutes to seal the win.

And just when we thought nothing could top that he treated us with a bizarre interview on the field after. To paraphrase When Harry Met Sally , I’ll have what he’s having!

Fitzmagic

Currently residing in the majority of every Fantasy League’s waiver the magician struck again. The Saints entered the game with their normal Superbowl buzz from fans and the media, with little attention put on Tampa Bay and their QB stepping in for the suspended Winston. THEN THE MAGIC HAPPENED!

We all sat shocked at what was unfolding. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossing for 417 yards and 4TDs in a brilliant shoot-out game to start the year. What’s even more impressive was his 75% completion. All this against a defence that many had been bigging up during the off-season.

It left me speechless. The majority of us expect things to return to normal next week when Tamp play current Super Bowl Champs, the Eagles, but maybe, just maybe Fitzmagic has another card up his sleeve!

Minnesota Vikings

This one may go under the radar with the opening we had but the heavily tipped Vikings impressed in their opener. The 49ers were hyped, after Jimmy G steered the ship around last season he was quickly given the mantle of franchise QB, with all eyes on this season. Vikings D had other ideas. Forcing 3 INTs against Jimmy including a Pick 6, coupled with a goal line forced fumble truly slowed the hype train in San Fran.

Their Offence with new starter Cousins also looked impressive, but it truly is a credit to how well the defence played that they are the highlight of this game.

You would expect this offence to only improve with more game time together but the defence is already looking solid. We’ll test that against the Packers next.

The Fans

Awww guys. Come on, hug it out. A soppy one I know but surely we all feel like winners? Sitting down to watch redzone felt like I was a child opening Christmas presents again. Instead of faking smiles while unwrapping another pair of socks (ironically one of my favorite presents now) we were treated to all the toys we could imagine.

Maybe I just had too much withdrawal but it was an exciting opening week, with every game offering something that’s worth discussing. No real duds that lacked drama. Even with my team in real life and fantasy losing, I still foolishly feel like a winner.

Other notable winners: James Conner, Patrick Mahomes, Broncos and Miller, Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Sam Darnold

Now….for the bad. It’s Loser Award time.

LOSERS

Buffalo Bills

My god. Jesus. As a Bills fan what do you say here? What positives can be taken? I’m not going to even try salvage anything by clutching at straws around Allen. It was a disaster, both sides of the ball. At least when your bad at either offence or defence you know what needs to be done, but when you suck at both what can you really do?

I don’t think that O-Line would even be able to keep me away from the bar after one too many. Giving up 6 sacks and letting the defence rush the passer at ease. It went hand in hand with Peterman crumbling under centre. I wanted to believe this year he could try push last season behind but my word. 28% completion, 24 yards, 2INTs, negative fantasy football points. HIS QB RATING WAS 0! 0!

The defence too. Letting Ravens put 47 on them and making Flacco look like he was Aaron Rodgers. I must have been the only idiot/fool in the world who convinced myself the defence would at least put up some points in Fantasy due to sheer amount of time on the field.

I should probably stop before this turns into just a Bills rant. I want to believe there is hope with Allen but am more worried of him thrown in behind that line and getting tossed about.

No doubt not the last time they will feature on our weekly losers list.

Deshaun Watson

It wasn’t a disaster for Watson, like for the Bills but it was a complete disappointment. I can imagine he left many people pulling their hair out. Watson lit it up last year, and even during the off-season was discussed as one of the MVP candidates for this year and the future of the position.

Like many including Kevin here has pointed out, it’s early days for him, and he may take time to get back to the level we expect but throwing 176 yards, 50% completion, 1TD and 1INT is not what was to be expected from someone who dominated when playing last year.

He should only improve but definitely etches his name in my losers group for week 1.

Jon Gruden

Giving a coach who had been out of the setup for nearly 10 years, a $100 million contract was always going to draw some skepticism, even with his career (something we’ve called into question before).

Things were already worrying for Raiders, trading Khalil Mack after the contract dispute wasn’t met with a great response. It wasn’t helped with Mack stepping in straight away for Bears and making plays.

Then the Raiders took to the stage and were met with Derek Carr tossing 3 INTs on the way to a 33-13 defeat to the Rams. The Rams are one of the better teams in the league but when both your star QB Carr and your star WR Cooper have stinkers it’s not going to go over well.

It’s hard to see how the season will go for Gruden and the Raiders but it has certainly not begun right. They will give him time, that contract assures that.

Possibly the best loser moment was when Gruden said he will have to look at the reasons why Goff wasn’t put under pressure by them. I think we all know the reason. And he’s wearing a Bears jersey right now.

 

Cowboys and Dak Prescott

Many believed the Cowboys would be going back into playoff contention with the added benefit of having Zeke starting Week 1. Back to that explosive Dak and Zeke combo from before.

Despite Zeke being back Dak struggled at QB. He tried to rally a comeback but ultimately he didn’t do much to suggest he is in for a stellar year. A big reason for this is due to the loss of his main receivers in Bryant and Witten. The Cowboys look unsure on where to pass the ball, scratch that, they look sure but for now it’s just Beasley. I like Beasley but when you have him contributing 73 out of your 170 passing yards you are in trouble. As talented as he is, he’s no Julio or Antonio.

Things should improve with Cowboys as Dak develops a better connection with the likes of Hurns but then again we said things would improve with Zeke back in the lineup. For now Dak earns his loser spot as the debate surrounding his actual ability and ceiling will rage on for another week at least.

Also why on earth did they cut Bailey!

Le’Veon Bell

Ok this is a controversial one. Many claim he is a winner this week, with Steelers failing to beat the Browns. In my eyes James Conner’s explosive debut has to push him out to a loser this week.

Conner dominated in the passing and rushing game for Pittsburgh. People have now flocked on the idea that Bell may not be as good as many rate him and that rather he benefits from a system set up to get the best out of RBs. Brady has faced similar arguments when he’s missed games and his back-ups have performed, but things are different for Bell.

If what we hear is to be believed then Bell isn’t playing for a long time, that just gives Conner more chances and if he can continue to tear up defenses that argument will just gain more ground. Conner deserved his own winners section to be honest, so I will give him credit now. It was one of the stand out performances I have seen, and I look forward to seeing how he continues. Give him 5-8 weeks and he could well have made a big claim to continue on as their starter.

Finally for Bell, it also doesn’t help your case when your teammates take to the media to criticise you. Hard for me to see this week as anything other than a loss for him.

Other losers, who even lost out on sections: Dez Bryant currently a free agent and getting caught out with burner accounts on twitter, Saints Defence, Big Ben, Matt Patricia, scratch that, all the new Head Coaches, New Roughing the Passer Rule, Matt Stafford

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