NFL Week 1 Winners and Losers: Tua Tagovailoa and Jordan Love Shine, Joe Burrow Struggles, and Calvin Ridley Is Back

The NFL is back, and we watched every game on Sunday. Who are the winners and losers from Week 1's action?

The 2023 NFL season technically opened on Thursday night, but we all truly started drinking from the firehose during Sunday’s Week 1 action. Who looked the best during today’s action, and who’s already looking ahead to Week 2?

Here are all the winners and losers from Week 1 of NFL action.

Winners and Losers From NFL Week 1 | Early Slate

Winner | The Brock Purdy-to-Brandon Aiyuk Connection

Brock Purdy was consistently ahead of schedule this summer as he recovered from the UCL injury that knocked him out of the NFC title game earlier this year, and the 49ers quarterback looked perfectly comfortable against the Steelers in Week 1.

Purdy completed 19 of 29 attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns in San Francisco’s dominant 30-7 win over the Steelers.

Purdy only hit four receivers on the day, and his favorite target was breakout candidate Brandon Aiyuk, who appears poised to compete with Deebo Samuel for WR1 status as he enters his fourth NFL campaign. Aiyuk brought in eight catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, while Samuel managed 5 for 55.

Winner | Cleveland Browns

This season looks like a make-or-break year for Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, and his club’s opening game against the Bengals could hardly have gone better.

Deshaun Watson didn’t look like the Pro Bowler he was with the Texans, but he played better than he did during the back half of the 2022 campaign, completing 16 of 29 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown, and one pick. Still, Cleveland could have won by even more had Watson been efficient.

Cleveland’s defense was outstanding in the team’s 24-3 win over the reigning AFC North champions. Joe Burrow looked like a shell of himself, completing fewer than half his passes for just 2.6 yards per attempt while taking two sacks.

The Browns invested in their defense over the offseason, adding Dalvin Tomlinson, Za’Darius Smith, and Juan Thornhill to a unit that already included Myles Garrett. In Week 1, those investments paid off.

Loser | Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals have appeared in each of the last two AFC title games, but they didn’t look anything like the team that has regularly been in the Super Bowl mix over the last two seasons.

Burrow didn’t play a snap in the preseason after suffering a calf strain early in training, and his rust was apparent. He never looked comfortable in the pocket and missed on several throws, although the weather conditions clearly played a role in his performance.

Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Steelers consistently gave up big plays to the 49ers and couldn’t generate any consistent offense of their own. Pittsburgh averaged just 3.9 yards per play and either punted or turned the ball over on their first five possessions.

Kenny Pickett and Co. were the NFL’s best offense during the preseason, but that production didn’t translate to Week 1. If Diontae Johnson or Pat Freiermuth’s injuries are serious, the Steelers could be in trouble.

Winner | The Jaguars’ Trade for Calvin Ridley

The Jaguars have to be pretty pleased with how their offseason trade for Calvin Ridley is working out thus far.

Jacksonville only had to give up conditional fourth and sixth-round picks to acquire Ridley from the Falcons after he was suspended for the entire 2022 campaign for betting on the NFL.

If Week 1 is any indication, Ridley is already Trevor Lawrence’s WR1. Ridley received 11 of Lawrence’s 32 targets, hauling in eight for 101 yards and a touchdown. Zay Jones got seven targets, but no other Jacksonville pass catcher saw more than five.

Even though their win over the Colts was a little closer than they may have hoped for, the Jaguars walked away with a victory and can feel confident about Ridley’s fit in their offense.

Loser | Turn Off Injuries, Please

Injuries are often a common occurrence during Week 1 of the NFL season, but this week seemed to have more health issues than usual.

J.K. Dobbins suffered the most serious injury of the day, tearing his Achilles against the Texans. But the Ravens RB wasn’t the only player to go down on Sunday.

Here’s just a brief list of the players who suffered an injury in Week 1:

  • Colts RB Evan Hull
  • Steelers WR Diontae Johson
  • Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth
  • Browns OT Jack Conklin
  • Jaguars G Brandon Scherff
  • Vikings C Garrett Bradbury
  • Panthers CB Jaycee Horn
  • Ravens S Marcus Williams
  • Texans S Jalen Pitre
  • Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett
  • Packers RB Aaron Jones
  • Raiders WR Jakobi Meyers

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and updates with PFN’s NFL and Fantasy Player News Tracker!

Winner | The Falcons’ Running Game

The Falcons used the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft on Bijan Robinson, who was incredibly impressive in his first NFL game. The Texans alum took 10 carries for 56 yards while adding 27 yards and a touchdown through the air.

But don’t forget about Tyler Allgeier! The 2022 fifth-rounder topped 1,000 rushing yards in his first season with Atlanta and will still be heavily involved in the club’s offense.

MORE: Best Offensive Lines in the NFL in 2023

Against the Panthers on Sunday, Allegier outrushed Robinson, gaining 75 yards and scoring twice on 15 attempts.

We already knew the Falcons wanted to run the ball as much as any team in the NFL — now, we’re confident Atlanta can field (at least) a two-headed attack.

Winners and Losers From NFL Week 1 | Late Slate

Winner | Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

We were somehow treated to the best game of the NFL season in Week 1! (Who knows how the rest of the campaign will turn out, but it will be hard to top the Dolphins’ thrilling 36-24 win over the Chargers.)

Tua Tagovailoa is your early favorite for NFL MVP after averaging 10.4 yards per attempt en route to 466 passing yards and three touchdowns.

And Tyreek Hill would be the league’s Offensive Player of the Year if the season ended today. He finished with 255 yards through the air, putting him on pace for a tidy 3,655 receiving yards in 2023.

Few players had more trying 2022 campaigns than Tua, who dealt with multiple concussions and considered retirement after the season. But he was productive when on the field, and he carried that production into his first game of 2023.

Winner | Packers QB Jordan Love

Aaron who?

Jordan Love’s first game as the Packers’ full-time starting quarterback could hardly have gone better, as he completed 15 of 27 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He looked comfortable from the pocket and hit three different receivers for scores.

Love’s performance was all the more impressive considering he didn’t have Christian Watson at his disposal. Watson, projected to be Green Bay’s WR1, missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.

We’re not getting ahead of ourselves and projecting Love as the Packers’ next Hall of Fame quarterback just yet. But like Rodgers, Love already seems to own the Chicago Bears.

Loser | Bears QB Justin Fields

Speaking of those Bears, the Chicago area was hoping for better results from Justin Fields to start the 2023 campaign.

The Bears brought in DJ Moore and upgraded Fields’ offensive line in an effort to give the former first-round pick his best chance at success as he enters his third NFL season. But Fields struggled as a passer and mostly looked like the same quarterback we watched last year.

Fields averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt and couldn’t generate anything downfield, as his longest pass of the day went for just 12 yards. After leading the NFL in sack rate a year ago, Fields went down four times against the Packers and tossed a pick-six directly to Green Bay LB Quay Walker.

Fields generated a ghastly -0.22 EPA per play and completed 7.8% fewer passes than expected based on data points like field position, down/distance, and air yards, according to work from Ben Baldwin.

The Packers have an underrated defense, and Fields was still dynamic as a rusher (nine carries for 59 yards). But if he can’t progress as a pocket passer, he might’ve already hit his ceiling.

Winner | Matthew Stafford and Puka Nacua

Resetting. Rebuilding. Outright tanking.

Choose whatever term you’d like – they were all applied to the Rams after an offseason that saw Los Angeles shed most of its veteran contributors just a year after winning the Super Bowl.

But there was no tanking taking place in the Rams’ dominant 30-13 win over the division-rival Seahawks on Sunday. Matthew Stafford looked rejuvenated while throwing for 334 yards. He didn’t pass for a touchdown, but he didn’t turn the ball over or take any sacks and appeared more mobile than he did last year.

Running back Kyren Williams managed two touchdowns off the bench, but the stars of the L.A. offensive show were wideouts Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, each of whom posted 119 yards against Seattle.

If the Rams can play like this even without Cooper Kupp, maybe they can contend in 2023 after all.

Loser | The Seattle Seahawks

On the other end of the spectrum is the Seahawks, who were considered darkhorse Super Bowl contenders entering the season.

One opening-week loss does not a season make, and the Rams always seem to give Pete Carroll’s team trouble. But this wasn’t the way a team with Lombardi aspirations wanted to start the year.

Geno Smith managed just 112 yards through the air, while the Seahawks for just 85 yards. Both of their starting tackles – Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas – left Sunday’s game and did not return. Veteran wide receiver Tyler Lockett also missed most of the second half after being evaluated for a concussion.

But Seattle’s defense was the most concerning facet of the club’s Week 1 performance. A unit fortified with additions like Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, and Julian Love shouldn’t have given 30 points to a Kupp-less Rams offense. The Lions will present a much stiffer test in Week 2.

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