Since February 12, NFL fans have been forced to find other hobbies or look for ways to fill their time in the absence of their favorite sport.
But no longer. After Thursday’s shocking season opener, Sunday saw the bulk of NFL franchises take to the field for the first time.
Some sent fans home on cloud nine with victories under their belts, while other supporters might be wishing they had stuck with their hobbies after defeats that could signal a long season ahead.
With one final game to go – the Buffalo Bills travel to the New York Jets later on Monday – let’s have a look at the action from Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.
Browns dominate Bengals, 24-3
Coined the ‘Battle of Ohio,’ clashes between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals have always been tempestuous.
However, on Sunday, the 100th encounter between the two franchises was far from that, with the Browns thrashing the Bengals 24-3.
In a game which was dominated by both defenses, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for one touchdown and threw for another to tight end Harrison Bryant to separate the two teams.
The rest was done by the strong Browns defense which forced Cincinnati to punt 10 times, restricting superstar quarterback Joe Burrow to just 82 passing yards and its No. 1 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to 39 receiving yards.
Since Burrow’s arrival in 2020, the Bengals have typically been one of the league’s best offenses but looked out of sorts throughout Sunday’s game, being held to just 142 total yards, the lowest in head coach Zac Taylor’s 57 games in charge.
But Burrow – playing in the first game since injuring his calf in preseason, which he said felt “good enough” – insisted afterwards that “nobody is panicking in here” about the defeat and performance.
“Week 1 doesn’t define anybody’s season,” he said. “Obviously, not very good out there.
“Anybody that watched saw that. But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years. That’s what we are going to do.”
For the Browns, hopes are high for an improvement on last season’s disappointment. And there were glimpses of positive signs, including Watson’s improvement, running back Nick Chubb running for over 106 yards and the defense’s impressive stoutness.
But at the end of it all, the game showed there is still that fire between the two Ohio teams, with Chase expressing his frustration at losing to the Browns.
Before the clash, Chase had fanned the flames of the rivalry, saying he was going to call Cleveland players “elves” – the team has a mascot, Brownie the Elf.
And after that chastening losss, Chase expressed his frustration at losing to the Browns after all his big talk.
“It’s frustrating because I called they ass elves and we just lost to some elves,” said Chase of the Browns. “So I’m pissed on my part, I’m pissed on that end.
“We got missed opportunities, we didn’t capitalize … and we lost.”
Rodgers-less Packers beat Bears, 38-20
The Green Bay Packers have a long history of excellent quarterbacks. The period of leadership under Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers saw the team excel during the regular season – although the team arguably underperformed in the playoffs.
So following Rodgers’ departure to the New York Jets in the spring, a new era has been ushered in in Wisconsin under Jordan Love.
And it began in perfect fashion, continuing the Packers’ stranglehold over the Chicago Bears with a 38-20 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago which saw Love excel in his first start having been named the team’s official No. 1 QB.
The fourth-year quarterback threw for 245 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in an almost perfect performance as the Packers used a big second half to pull away.
Running back Aaron Jones had two touchdowns – one on the ground and one through the air – as the Packers recorded their ninth straight victory over their NFC North division rivals and fifth straight at Soldier Field.
With all eyes on Love after spending three seasons as Rodgers’ back-up and the weight of the Packers’ excellent record against the Bears weighing on his shoulders – Rodgers went viral two seasons ago for shouting “I still own you” after scoring against the Bears – the 24-year-old said he was just appreciative of an opening-week victory.
“We knew what type of game we were in for,” Love said. “Obviously, my first game in this rivalry, so I mean it felt good.
“They’re a good team. Obviously, first half was close and, second half, the way we just bounced back and came out there in the second half and just total domination. It felt good. It just feels good to get a win, never take that for granted.”
Cowboys record historic 40-0 trounce of Giants
In the final game of Sunday’s action, the Dallas Cowboys laid down a serious marker with a dominant victory over their division rivals, the New York Giants.
It was the defense which was the game changer, with Noah Igbinoghene scoring his first career touchdown on a return of a blocked field goal and DaRon Bland scoring on a 22-yard interception return.
Dallas sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones seven times, with Stephon Gilmore also intercepting Jones. It was the largest shutout victory in Cowboys history, according to NFL Research.
“I mean, that’s who we are,” Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy said of his team’s pass rush. “I clearly feel like we have taken another step.
“You could see that in training camp, but you look at the way teams are going to try to play us. You look at their first series. They’re going to try to pound the ball and challenge our run defense over and over again and try to soften our pass rush. But, yeah, the pass rush was relentless tonight. We gave up contain a couple times early, but after that, it clearly was in total control of the game.”
The Giants had only 171 yards and three turnovers in the disappointing home season opener.
They were completely mismatched throughout, with kicker Graham Gano unsuccessful on two field goal attempts and Jones not even finishing the game such was the domination.
Full Week 1 scores
Away vs. home
Detroit Lions 21-20 Kansas City Chiefs
Carolina Panthers 10-24 Atlanta Falcons
Houston Texans 9-25 Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals 3-24 Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville Jaguars 31-21 Indianapolis Colts
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-17 Minnesota Vikings
Tennessee Titans 15-16 New Orleans Saints
San Francisco 49ers 30-7 Pittsburgh Steelers
Arizona Cardinals 16-20 Washington Commanders
Green Bay Packers 38-20 Chicago Bears
Las Vegas Raiders 17-16 Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins 36-34 Los Angeles Chargers
Philadelphia Eagles 25-20 New England Patriots
Los Angeles Rams 30-13 Seattle Seahawks
Dallas Cowboys 40-0 New York Giants
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets