I’m back, baby!
Welcome to the first installment of the 2023 campaign for my weekly NFL Column: This Week in the NFL. My goal is to watch everything so that you don’t have to. I will present to you the best games to watch back; the craziest moments; the best individual performances and the season-long stat leaders and records. I will also be previewing the upcoming gameweek, too.
If that sounds like something you’re interested in, check in each week.
Not everybody in the UK has the ability to watch almost 20 hours of live NFL every week, but I’ll make sure you don’t miss anything you’d wish you didn’t. So, without further delay…
This is what happened This Week in the NFL.
Game of the Week
If you can only watch one full game in its entirety, watch this one:
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers
Alright, so if you’re new here. I won’t spoil the game initially. By selecting my GOTW, I am actively encouraging you to go and watch the game – or at least the highlights – before reading on.
So, go on then, go and watch it, then come back.
Miami Dolphins 36 – 34 Los Angeles Chargers
What. A. Game.
Every week there’s always at least one game that looks like it’s going to be epic. Sometimes they disappoint, but not this week. This one was destined for a shootout and it delivered.
The Miami Dolphins, led by Tua Tagovailoa and his dynamic duo of WR’s, walked into SoFi Stadium and put on a show, as they outlasted the Chargers with an intense back and forth.
The first half was fairly exciting, and very closely fought. It ended with what – in hindsight – now feels like an astronomical mistake, where J.C. Jackson gave up a completely unnecessary DPI penalty that gifted Miami a field goal, to send them into the half up 20-17.
In the second half, Tua and his star wide receiver Tyreek Hill went ballistic, and dominated on their way to the win. Connecting for two touchdowns, including a gorgeous throw and catch for what proved to be the game-winner. Hill ran a goalline fade and managed to pull down a pinpoint pass that Tagovailoa placed just inches above the defender, making it 36-34.
A missed PAT added to the tension, meaning that if Justin Herbert and co were able to put together a couple of passes, a FG would have won it, but they couldn’t get it done.
The 36 points shows that Miami’s offense was firing, but Tua and Tyreek’s stat lines show just how ridiculous their connection was this weekend. The Miami signal-caller threw for 466 passing yards – the fourth most in a season-opener, ever – and Cheetah totaled 215 receiving yards – the third most in a season-opener, ever.
What a start to the season.
Other games to watch back
Lions @ Chiefs
Jaguars @ Colts
Upset of the Week
Dallas Cowboys 40 – 0 New York Giants
Yep. You’re reading that right.
The Dallas Cowboys defense absolutely devestated the Giants this week.
A win for Dallas isn’t a shock to me, but that scoreline secured the upset of the week. That level of dominance wasn’t on anybody’s bingo card. The ‘boys defense held New York to 171 total yards while forcing three turnovers including a pick-six, and sacking them 7 times. The first score of the game came in epic fashion, with a 58-yard field goal block return. After that, it just continued to go downhill for the Giants. While the defense did the heavy lifting, Dallas’ offense also held up their end of the bargain, with Tony Pollard rushing in a pair of touchdowns to help run the score up.
Sorry Giants fans. I hope for your sake you didn’t stay up and watch it live.
Detroit Lions 21 – 20 Kansas City Chiefs
Winners and Losers
Detroit Lions (1-0)
Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
Cleveland Browns (1-0)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)
New Orleans Saints (1-0)
San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Washington Commanders (1-0)
Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Las Vegas Raiders (1-0)
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Miami Dolphins (1-0)
Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
New York Jets (1-0)
Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)
Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
Tennessee Titans (0-1)
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
Houston Texans (0-1)
Chicago Bears (0-1)
Denver Broncos (0-1)
New England Patriots (0-1)
Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
Seattle Seahawks (0-1)
New York Giants (0-1)
Buffalo Bills (0-1)
Standout Individual Performers
Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
11 receptions on 15 targets, 215 receiving yards and 2 TD’s.
If your QB throws for 466 yards, somebody else has to have a pretty great game, too. There are few receivers in the NFL who are capable of putting up over 200 receiving yards, but Tyreek Hill is right up there as the most likely. His jaw-dropping speed, plus underrated route-running and great rapport with Tua all combine for a deadly combination. Hill was targeted 15 times and caught 11 of them for 215 receiving yards, which tied his second-best yardage. He also scored two touchdowns, one of which was a really impressive play for a smaller player. Seeing someone under the height of 6’0 is run a goalline fade is very rare, but the Cheetah can do whatever he wants, at this point. He’s just too good.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
62.2% completion rate, 466 passing yards and 3 TD’s, 1 INT. 110.0 QB Rating.
As I already mentioned, Tua absolutely dominated this game with a huge 466 passing yards (just 3 shy of his career-high game last year) and 3 TD’s with just one interception. In a shootout with the Chargers, the Miami QB reminded people just how good he is. When you come up against Justin Herbert you have to be ready to ball out, and he did just that. He looked like the best quarterback on the field on Sunday. As long as the Dolphins’ offensive line keeps him protected, I think Tua is on course for another fantastic year. Just please, boys, block for this man.
T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
5 solo tackles including 3.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Death, taxes and T.J. Watt sacks. The Steelers had a difficult start to the year, landing a week 1 matchup with the Niners. However, a tough game with a one-sided scoreline doesn’t mean that their superstar outside rusher was quiet. Watt opened his 2023 account with a hat-trick, making 5 solo tackles, three of which were sacks. He also forced two fumbles in the process and recovered one of them.
Jordan Whitehead, S, New York Jets
1 solo tackle, 1 assist, and 3 INT’s.
Wow. What a performance. The Jets had the literal worst possible start to their Monday Night Football matchup, with Aaron Rodgers going down. However, they managed to pull out a gutsy win against an AFC-favourite Buffalo team. The biggest contributor to the win was actually on the defensive side of the ball, safety Jordan Whitehead. He pulled in 3 interceptions, including one that was an absolutely brilliant read, driving down from center field to an out-breaking route. When New York’s defense had to step up against tough odds, Whitehead did just that.
Josh Allen, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
8 solo tackles, including 3.0 sacks and 2 assists.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have an exciting young team. There’s been hype for the offense during the offseason, but one of their best young players is on the other side of the ball. Josh Allen was drafted in 2019 and has proven himself to have some serious skills. This week, he put on a show, with 8 solo tackles, including 3.0 sacks, against Anthony Richardson and the Colts. Baring in mind that last season he put up 7 sacks in 17 games, this start to the season shows that he’s ready to reach a different level.
Darius Slay Jr., CB, Philadelphia Eagles
1 solo tackle, 2 assists and a 70-yard pick-six.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a stacked football team, but they didn’t put the Patriots away as effectively as you might have expected. In a narrow 25-20 victory at Foxborough, the difference between the two sides was an electric play from the veteran corner, Darius Slay. He scored on a 70-yard pick-six in the first quarter, to make it 10-0.
Drake Jackson, OLB, San Francisco 49ers
3 solo tackles for 3.0 sacks.
While T.J. Watt did have a couple of extra stats to pad out his performance, he wasn’t the only man with three sacks in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Drake Jackson also recorded a hat-trick, on just 3 solo tackles. Jackson was on the winning side, so while a fumble recovery is great, I imagine Watt would have given the extra trimmings on the stat line for the win in a heartbeat. Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t do anything whatsoever, this week, and Jackson was one of the many benefactors.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
8 receptions on 8 targets for 129 receiving yards and 2 TD’s.
The Niners defense dominated, no doubt, but the offense was incredibly efficient, too. The star performance was that of Brandon Aiyuk, who pulled in all 8 of his targets, for 129 receiving yards. He also scored twice, including an incredibly impressive contested catch on a nice back-shoulder throw from Brock Purdy.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers
22 carries for 152 rushing yards and a 65-yard TD, plus 3 receptions for 17 receiving yards.
As you can tell, San Francisco played pretty well this week. We’re all used to this particular 49er in my standout individual performances section by now. Christian McCaffrey is one of the most talented players in the league. Now that he’s in the Niners scheme, and has fully acclimated to it and is no longer on a snap count, he’s set up for a huge year. He carried the ball 22 times for 152 rushing yards, 65 of which came on an explosive TD-run down the sideline. He also caught 3 passes for another 17 yards.
Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers
55.6% completion rate, 245 passing yards and 3 TD’s.
The amount of confidence that the NFL community has in Jordan Love is not particularly high. After sitting behind Aaron Rodgers for a couple of years, and patiently waiting, it was finally his time to shine. And, you know what? He did shine. While facing the divisional Rivals on the road in Chicago, he calmly and methodically totted up 245 passing yards and 3 TD’s. He showed an ability to create huge plays for Aaron Jones out of the backfield, which is something truly key to the offense. Jones had just 2 receptions, but for an impressive 86 receiving yards and a TD.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
9 receptions on 12 targets for 150 receiving yards.
If you’re a fantasy football player, there’s a pretty high likelihood that Justin Jefferson went off the board at the 1.01 in your draft. The Vikings wideout is on a different planet, and he proved it this week. He opened his 2023 campaign exactly as he means to go on, seeing 12 targets. On 9 receptions, he recorded 150 receiving yards, against a very solid Tampa Bay defense. If this is what Jettas can do against the Bucs D, it’s going to be fireworks when he gets a good matchup.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
9 receptions on 10 targets for 81 receiving yards and 2 TD’s.
The Raiders added Jimmy Garropolo because he was familiar with Josh McDaniels’ system and all of the verbiage he uses. Then, they also added Jakobi Meyers. So now the new Las Vegas WR2 has familiarity both with the system and his QB. In his Raiders debut, he saw 10 targets and caught 9 of them [compared to 6/9 from superstar WR1 Davante Adams]. He turned the 9 catches into 81 receiving yards and 2 redzone touchdowns. Meyers unfortunately took a really bad hit and is now in the concussion protocol. For the Raiders’ sake, they’ll be praying that it looked worse than it was and he can suit back up against Buffalo in Week 2.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
16 carries for 117 rushing yards and a TD, plus 4 receptions for 47 receiving yards.
The LA Chargers couldn’t get the W against a high-flying Miami offense, but that was through no fault of Austin Ekeler. He carried the ball 16 times for 117 rushing yards and a touchdown, while also adding 4 receptions for 47 receiving yards. The dual-threat halfback is one of the most prolific TD scorers in the NFL, right now, so it’s no surprise that he was the first to open his account for the Chargers this season.
Jessie Bates, S, Atlanta Falcons
5 solo tackles, 5 assists, 3 pass defenses including 2 INT’s and a fumble recovery.
When he was in Cincinnati, Jessie Bates proved that he was a great safety and his skills earned him a nice contract in Atlanta this offseason. If there was any doubt whether he deserved the 4-year $64 million deal, he proved his worth this week. Bates made 5 solo tackles, as well as 5 assists and secured 2 INT’s in the win over Carolina. Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable in a new scheme, but the veteran safety looked right at home.
Roquan Smith, MLB, Baltimore Ravens
8 solo tackles, 8 assists and a sack.
There are very few linebackers in the NFL who are household names, but Roquan Smith is deservedly one of them. He reminded us why in Week 1, when he recorded 8 solo tackles and 8 assists, including a sack where he burst through the offensive line like a missile. The Ravens linebacker absolutely wrecked this game, and the odds are that he’ll be back at it again next week.
Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seattle Seahawks
9 solo tackles and 10 assists.
If you want to talk about household names at MLB, might as well mention the future Hall of Famer, Bobby Wagner. After a brief change of teams, Wagner returned back to his home in Seattle and got right back to work. In a hard-fought matchup against the team he just left, he recorded 9 solo tackles and 10 assists, putting him atop the league with combined tackles through Week 1.
Germaine Pratt, MLB, Cincinnati Bengals
7 solo tackles, 4 assists, a sack and forced fumble.
The Cincinnati Bengals seriously struggled this week. Their offense was nothing like we’ve come to expect, and the Browns continued their trend of winning the Battle of Ohio. However, one Bengal deserves some love. Inside linebacker Germaine Pratt did the best he could. He recorded 7 solo tackles, including a sack, and 4 assists. Pratt also forced a fumble. I imagine he’d trade every single one of those stats to give his offense a kick up the butt instead, though.
Stat Leaders Through Week 1
Passing Yards – Tua Tagovailoa MIA – 466
Passing TD’s – Tua Tagovailoa MIA, Jordan Love GB & Mac Jones NE – 3
Rushing Yards – Christian McCaffrey SF – 152
Rushing TD’s – 4 players tied on 2.
Receiving Yards – Tyreek Hill MIA – 215
Receiving TD’s – 5 players tied on 2.
Total TD’s – 10 players tied on 2.
Tackles (combined) – Bobby Wagner SEA, 19
Sacks – T.J. Watt PIT, Josh Allen JAX & Drake Jackson SF – 3.0
Interceptions – Jordan Whitehead NYJ – 3
Week 2 Preview – What to watch
Week 2 Best Games
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals, 6pm
Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 6pm
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers, MNF
Tyler’s Bold Week 2 Prediction
Bounceback… Joe Burrow throws for 300+ yards and Ja’Marr Chase has 100+ yards and a TD as they host Baltimore.
Week 2 Storylines
Double trouble on Monday Night Football!! Saints @ Panthers, 12:15AM and Browns @ Steelers, 1:20am
Can Kirk Cousins perform on Prime Time for once, against a very tough opponent? Vikings @ Eagles, TNF
Can Jordan Love build on a strong week 1 performance? Packers @ Falcons, 6pm
After a disappointing start, can the Bills bounce back against a gutsy Las Vegas team? Raiders @ Bills, 6pm
One of the most electric divisional matchups in the league, Ravens @ Bengals, 6pm
Justin Herbert looks to bounce back against a tough Tennessee defense, Chargers @ Titans, 6pm
Will Kansas City bounce back and right the ship after an opening night? Chiefs @ Jaguars, 6pm
After an absolutely shambolic opener, can the Giants get in the win column, as they visit the favourites for the #1 pick? Giants @ Cardinals, 9:05pm
Can the best quarterback in Week 1, Tua Tagovailoa, keep up the elite level of production? Dolphins @ Patriots, SNF