At long last, the 2015 NFL season kicked off this past weekend. From Thursday night’s opener through Monday evening’s doubleheader, there were an array of nail-biters, blowouts and standout individual performances.
Every single team – no matter how they have started their year – still have 15 more games scheduled and there are no locks for the postseason quite yet. Some teams like the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns still looked like they were in preseason mode, while others made early impact statements in their first victory of the season.
Here is an analysis of the four most impressive teams from week one action.
1. Buffalo Bills (Won 27-14 vs. Indianapolis Colts)
It’s just one week of play, but boy did the Buffalo Bills look good on Sunday. They outplayed the visiting Indianapolis Colts in every aspect of their 27-14 drubbing in northern New York and have another big test in week two versus the New England Patriots.
Despite playing on their home turf in front of a pumped-up crowd, the Bills entered the game as underdogs. From the opening drive, quarterback Tyrod Taylor (making his first career start) was sharp. He connected with new acquisition Percy Harvin on a 51-yard bomb for the game’s first score and the highly-touted Buffalo defense lived up to the hype, completely neutralizing arguably the best quarterback in the game in Andrew Luck. Carrying a 17-0 lead into the half, the Bills were able to hold off the Colts impressive offense once Luck finally got going.
Completing an efficient 14-of-19 for 195 yards, Taylor arguably outplayed Luck, and the Bills well-balanced running game scored two touchdowns as well. Given the quality opponent and the lofty expectations given to them entering 2015, the Bills probably had the most impressive win in week one.
2. St. Louis Rams (Won 34-31 in OT vs. Seattle Seahawks)
The NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams needed overtime Sunday afternoon to settle one of the best games of the opening week. The host Rams picked up the victory 34-31 after an eventful extra period which featured a very questionable onside kick and stud running back Marshawn Lynch being stuffed on a fourth-and-one to close the contest.
Like the Bills, the Rams – despite holding the home field advantage – were not favored to come out on top against the defending NFC champions. After Seattle scored a touchdown as the only first quarter points, St. Louis led 24-13 going into the fourth quarter. The Seahawks came back to lead 31-24 until Nick Foles hit Lance Kendricks with a 37-yard touchdown pass and an extra point tied it with 53 second remaining in regulation. The bizarre onside try by Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka to start overtime led to great field position and an eventual go-ahead field goal by the Rams Greg Zeurlein. Forced to go for the short fourth down conversion from the Rams’ 42-yard line in response, the Rams tackled Lynch for a loss, wrapping up the upset win.
While the results were much closer in Missouri, the circumstances and expectations entering the Bills/Colts game were similar to that of the Rams/Seahawks match. The bottom line is, the Rams knocked off the two-time defending conference champs and that certainly warranted a spot on this list.
3. Dallas Cowboys (Won 27-26 vs. New York Giants)
For much of Sunday night’s Dallas Cowboys’ 27-26 win over the New York Giants, it appeared that fans in Big D were in for more of the same – disappointment. Even as Giants quarterback Eli Manning received the third-down snap dropped back and curled right in the Dallas red zone with under two minutes left, things didn’t look great for Tony Romo and company. In what ended up being maybe the most discussed quarterback decision of the opening week, Manning overthrew his intended target in the end zone, leading to a field goal and just a six-point lead when Romo and company started their game-winning drive. More importantly however, Manning stopped the clock with the incompletion, whereas taking a sack would have kept the clock running, giving Romo significantly less time for his drive.
Despite their three turnovers and sub-par play for most of the night, Romo found tight end Jason Witten for an 11-yard touchdown with seven seconds left in the fourth to seal the comeback win. Putting into consideration the magnitude of the game, the divisional rivalry on display and the never-say-die effort, the Cowboys had one of the best wins of the first weekend.
The victory of course came at a potentially significant cost though, as star wide receiver Dez Bryant was injured Sunday and will miss a good chunk of time.
4. New England Patriots (Won 28-21 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
Although they obviously had no idea what would transpire on Sunday, the New England Patriots did in fact need to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night in Foxboro to keep pace in what some are calling a suddenly stacked AFC East. Luckily for the Pats, with quarterback Tom Brady back in action, their offense was rolling from the start in their 28-21 defeat of the Steelers.
Brady and the Gillette Stadium crowd were (to nobody’s surprise) absolutely fired up for the league-opener, given their tumultuous off-season. Brady threw four touchdowns, including three to tight end Rob Gronkowski and despite a valiant attempt at a comeback, the Pats defense barely held ground against the high-flying Pittsburgh offense.
The Patriots and Bills were both among the most impressive teams in week one, which makes their already enticing week two matchup in Buffalo that much more juicy.
All data courtesy of NFL.com.
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