On Thursday, the Lions pulled off what felt like their biggest win in decades, as Dan Campbell's team upset the defending champion Chiefs in Kansas City. The other AFC conference finalist wasn't spared, as the Bengals were blown out in the Battle of Ohio by the Browns. In the NFC, the Seahawks were manhandled by a Rams team many wrote off before the season, even before it lost wide receiver Cooper Kupp to injured reserve.
The Chiefs and Bengals would consider anything short of a Super Bowl title to be a disappointing season. I'm not sure the Seahawks are quite there, but after a surprising 2022, they expected to compete for a division title and win a playoff game in 2023.
What happened to each of these teams in Week 1? And are there reasons to be concerned that what we saw will continue to be a problem as the season goes along?
For quarterback Joe Burrow, Sunday was supposed to be a coronation. Just days after signing the contract that made him the first $55 million-per-year player in NFL history, he walked into Cleveland expecting to start the season with a big game and a victory. He left with the AFC North turned upside down. He endured arguably his worst start as a pro, going 14-of-31 for just 82 yards. His minus-0.44 expected points added (EPA) per dropback was the second-worst mark of Week 1, ahead of only Daniel Jones', and the second-worst single-game mark of his career. By the fourth quarter, Joe Cool had been taken out of the game for his own protection and replaced by backup Jake Browning.
Weather didn't make it easy to pass in Cleveland. Sheets of rain impacted both quarterbacks, as the Browns' Deshaun Watson went 16-of-29 for 154 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It wasn't a banner day for Watson after an offseason of wondering whether he would look better in a Browns uniform after a full offseason of preparation, but he averaged twice as many yards per attempt as his counterpart. Watson disappointed. Burrow was confoundingly bad.