With Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season almost in the book, it’s a good opportunity to look at Sunday’s games and decipher what is and isn’t real going forward. It’s easy to overreact to one game, and the results of the first week often don’t reflect how teams eventually end performing during the season. Here’s some of the biggest storylines that stood out in Week 1.
Are the Bengals in trouble?
Cincinnati has gone to a Super Bowl and two AFC Championship games under Joe Burrow, so the expectation heading into this season was to reach the same level or exceed it. Burrow signed a massive contract in the offseason and appeared to recover from his calf strain in time for Week 1 against a division rival.
The Bengals looked more like miserable house kittens in the Cleveland rain, struggling to muster anything offensively. Burrow was eventually benched when the game was out of hand, and Tee Higgins was held without a catch. Ja’Marr Chase complained about losing to elves. It was an ugly result from every angle.
In 2020, the Bengals started 2-5-1 before the bye week. In 2021, the team was 5-4 at the bye week. In 2022, the team was again 5-4 at the bye week. This is a group that has started slow every year. Furthermore, the Bengals are 1-6 against the Browns in the last seven meetings. This team will eventually round into the Super Bowl contender many expect it to be. The going doesn’t get easier in Week 2 against a tough Ravens defense but the Bengals are not going to fold this season like Week 1 may have suggested.
Packers, 49ers, Bucs show importance of supporting cast
All three franchises made quarterback changes from a season ago, and the combined stat lines for Jordan Love, Brock Purdy and Baker Mayfield don’t exactly jump out with a 61% average completion rate and 212.7 average passing yards. And yet all three quarterbacks got wins.
Combining for seven touchdowns and no interceptions definitely helps, but these three wins highlighted the importance of having a well-rounded roster. Aaron Jones and Chrisitan McCaffrey took pressure off their quarterbacks, while Tampa Bay’s defense created three massive turnovers. As long as Love, Purdy and Mayfield play within themselves and don’t force throws, the Packers, 49ers and Bucs will be able to contend.
Tyreek Hill is going to challenge Calvin Johnson’s record
“Megatron” went for 1,964 yards in 2012, a mark Cooper Kupp nearly broke in 2021. Hill went for 215 yards in Miami’s Week 1 win over the Chargers, which puts him on pace for a whopping 3,655 yards. As long as Tua Tagovailoa holds up, Hill should continue to see massive target shares every week. The Dolphins have a much greater challenge in Week 2 against the Patriots, but Hill is off to a tremendous start in 2023.
One good year is not enough to be considered good
The Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants entered 2023 coming off strong playoff campaigns, which led many to believe they would once again be contenders. The Seahawks, with a seemingly resurgent Geno Smith, folded against a Los Angeles Rams squad missing Kupp. The Giants looked good for the first 10 plays against the Cowboys before looking awful for the rest of the game. Adding to the problem is the fact both losses came at home, where these teams should’ve been more prepared to show out. Smith and Daniel Jones were two quarterbacks who showed promise last season, but there were definitely some doubters. Those doubters now have a bigger leg to stand on after Week 1, and it’s up to both Smith and Jones to prove them wrong once again.
NFL remains the king of parity
Of the 14 games played Sunday, seven were decided by one possession. Three others were two-possession games. Parity in sports is important to maintain interest among fans, because that directly leads to better ratings and TV money for the league. NBA and MLB executives have struggled with this in the past, largely due to the ability for teams to spend beyond the salary cap without significant consequences. The NBA is implementing harsher penalties for repeat luxury tax teams, and MLB will surely consider adding something if it means a more competitive playing field. For now, the NFL is undefeated in this particular arena.