NFL Preseason Week One: Biggest Winners and Losers

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The first week of the preseason produced many surprising standouts on some teams and left much to be desired for others. Some winning teams emerged along with players who experienced real personal wins through their outstanding performances. Other teams bombed badly with players expected to do much better flopping and fumbling their first chances to impress fans on the public stage this year.

One of the week’s biggest losers, The Kansas City Chiefs, were also the only team to fail to score a single point in their preseason opener (as of the completion of all of Saturday night’s games). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored 25 points of their own in blanking the Chiefs.  Starting Quarterback Josh Freeman and his backup Josh Johnson combined for 16 completions on 25 attempts for 181 yards. Johnson threw for a touchdown while Freeman ran for the first score after the defense forced an early fumble deep in Chiefs territory.

Chiefs Starting QB Matt Cassell didn’t throw a single pass in his extremely brief appearance, and the Tampa Bay defense kept both Chiefs backup quarterbacks to an identical 4-8 for just 34 yards. Johnson was also the leading rusher for Tampa Bay with 57 total yards on the ground. Though multiple starters rode the bench for Kansas City, getting shut out at home showed their lack of depth and an extreme need for some major tuneups. Tampa Bay proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they are here to compete this year and will be a formidable squad for any team to face.

The New England Patriots put up the most total points in week one with a 47-12 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The most surprising aspect of their dominance was the fact that so many solid starters sat this game out. Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco didn’t play a single snap in the game. Other Patriots starters riding the bench for the preseason kickoff included Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty, and Jerod Mayo.

The defense kept the Jaguars to just 50 offensive plays in the game with no touchdowns. Brady’s backups Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett each nearly doubled the total passing yardage of the top Jaguar QB (Blaine Gabbert) during their 80 total offensive plays. More impressively, they were never sacked. Gabbert went 9-16 for just 85 yards while Mallett went 12-19 for 164 yards and Hoyer went 15-21 for 174 yards. Each Patriot backup had a touchdown through the air as well.

Rookie Running Back Stevan Ridley was one of the most impressive players out of all week one NFL standouts with 64 yards on 16 carries and two touchdown runs. Fellow Rookie RB Richard Medlin wasn’t far behind with two TDs of his own and 54 total yards on 14 carries. Rookie Receiver Taylor Price also raised some eyebrows with 105 yards and a touchdown on just 5 catches. Having these great throwing, running and catching rookies to complement the already experienced Patriot starters on offense is key. These young guns make this team much stronger than any NFL analyst could have predicted before this game put their true talents on display.

Depth is the word of the day for New England after such an amazing preseason start.

The Detroit Lions turned out to be one of the more surprising winners of week one after trouncing the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 34-3. The 31-point beating made their performance the second best point spread of the week. The Bengals are obviously in turmoil after losing Starting QB Carson Palmer to retirement and getting just a draft pick in exchange for Receiver Chad Ochocinco. Rookie Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw an interception and only managed 69 total passing yards on 11 completions out of 15 total attempts.

The Lions had a horrible 2010 season and really needed the morale boost this big win could provide. The individual winners in this game were Quarterbacks Drew Stanton and Matthew Stafford. Stanton threw for 110 yards on just 7 completions without a score while Stafford was nearly perfect in completing 6 out of 7 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

The Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings all turned out to be losers in week one by not scoring any touchdowns. The two teams who went head to head in the last Super Bowl also lost by nearly identical margins in their first appearances of the preseason. The Green Bay Packers fell Saturday to the Cleveland Browns by a score of 27-17 while the Pittsburgh Steelers cut it a bit closer by losing 16-7 to the Washington Redskins on Friday.

The New Orleans Saints were also worth an honorable mention for the week’s biggest winners by laying the smack down on San Francisco with a 24-3 beating. Losing Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins may not be as damaging to the Saints as some experts imagined it would be. The 49ers lost an array of important players this year and will likely continue to struggle until they find suitable replacements.

–Rich Bergeron

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