Week 1 of the NFL season gave us many surprising and impressive victories.
The Baltimore Ravens obliterated the Buffalo Bills to a tune of 47-3. The New York Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold did the same to the Detroit Lions in a 48-17 romp. The Cleveland Browns didn’t lose! But they didn’t win either, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aaron Rodgers returned after a knee injury and led the Packers back from a 20-0 deficit to defeat the Chicago Bears 24-23.
But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-40 victory over the New Orleans Saints was the most shocking.
The Saints went 11-5 last season and won the NFC South. The Buccaneers went 5-11 and finished in last place. They played the game without starting quarterback Jameis Winston due to suspension. Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 37 of 45 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Alvin Kamara had three touchdowns. Michael Thomas had 16 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown.
It didn’t matter.
Backup quarterback Ryan
Fitzmagic Fitzpatrick out-dueled Brees as he completed 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating was near perfect at 156.3. A perfect rating is 158.3. Brees had a rating of 129.5.
I forgot to mention Fitzpatrick also rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown.
If the journeyman quarterback can take care of the ball, the Buccaneers have plenty of weapons for him to get it to.
Against New Orleans, running back Peyton Barber rushed for 69 yards, wide receiver Mike Evans had seven catches for 147 yards and a touchdown, wide receiver DeSean Jackson had five catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, wide receiver Chris Godwin had three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown and tight end O.J. Howard caught two balls for 54 yards. That’s all without mentioning their two shifty reserve running backs in Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Ronald Jones.
After giving up 40 points it’s hard to say much about Tampa Bay’s defense but it does boast many high-caliber players such as Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves III. Former Eagles Beau Allen and Vinny Curry are also solid pieces on the defensive line and will be eager to beat their Super Bowl-winning teammates.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Jackson (concussion) and Hargreaves III (shoulder) are also listed as questionable after getting hurt in the New Orleans game.
Much will ride on whether these players play and if Fitzpatrick can play as an above-average quarterback two weeks in a row.
But right now, after last week’s showing, the Buccaneers look like a dangerous team. A win against the defending Super Bowl champions would further this claim, but it won’t come easy.
The Philadelphia Eagles also got an impressive Week 1 win after defeating a projected-to-be strong Atlanta Falcons team in an almost identical game to last year’s NFC Divisional Round match-up.
Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Chris Long, Michael Bennett and Derek Barnett make up one of the best defensive lines in the league and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan is still out with an injury. Linebacker Jordan Hicks returned from a torn Achilles and made seven tackles, two for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Outside backer Nigel Bradham also returns against the Bucs.
In the Atlanta game, Julio Jones got his yards, 169 of them, but cornerback Ronald Darby prevented him from landing in-bounds on the would-be game-winning grab as time expired. Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills held their own, but need to be better against Tampa Bay’s Evans and Jackson, if he plays.
I think the Eagles will get pressure on Fitzpatrick and enforce a better run game than the Saints and come away with a 27-14 victory.