SportsPulse: Our first NFL Sunday is in the books and put to bed many offseason narratives and confirmed others. As Trysta Krick details, this Patriots team could be perfect.
USA TODAYFootball is finally back.Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season was in full force Sunday with a loaded slate of games, offering the first glimpse of what story lines will dominate and whether sone teams look like they might turn into contenders down the stretch.But even though every team has played just one game, it’s not too early to determine some winners and losers. Here’s the crop from Week 1:WINNERSTom BradyIt’s hard not to lump the Antonio Brown acquisition in here, but Sunday night proved that even without Brown and retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady and the Patriots are going to be just fine. Brady was surgical, carving up the Steelers, 33-3, in a methodical beatdown. This was a game in which Josh Gordon, the star wideout whom the team is bringing along slowly as he returns from a suspension, caught three passes for 73 yards, including a 43-yard bomb, and one touchdown. Phillip Dorsett, often looked at as an afterthought in this offense, was ultra-efficient with four catches on four targets for 95 and two scores. Julian Edelman was fairly quiet but still put up six grabs for 83 yards. Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) didn’t play. Now imagine adding Brown to this mix. If the Patriots can get AB to buy in, this offense, once again, could be absolutely lethal.John RossThe No. 9 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft looked like he was well on his way to becoming a bust for the Bengals in two years as a pro. But in his first game with rookie coach Zac Taylor leading Cincinnati, Ross nearly matched the yardage he posted in his first two years and was a big reason why the Bengals were so competitive at the Seahawks. Cincinnati ended up losing 21-20 against Seattle, but Ross was quarterback Andy Dalton’s favorite target, catching seven passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. In his previous 16 games with the team, Ross had compiled 210 receiving yards.Carson WentzNothing like adding a reliable deep threat to inject some more play-making into an offense. Wentz, the Eagles quarterback, shined in a 32-27 victory against the Washington Redskins, completing 28 of 39 throws for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Ten of those targets, eight of those receptions, 154 of those yards, and two of those touchdowns went to speedster DeSean Jackson, who made his return to the Eagles after spending the last five years with Washington and Tampa Bay. He had touchdowns of 51 and 53 yards, making him the first player to have a pair of scoring catches of 50-plus yards since Odell Beckham Jr. did in Week 6 of 2016. Jackson’s presence stretched the field and opened up the passing game, allowing Wentz to complete passes to eight different targets.Lamar JacksonPlaying nearby from where he grew up in South Florida, Jackson quieted some doubters in a serious way. In his rookie season, so many critics claimed the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick couldn’t play in the pocket and needed to use his mobility. Well, how’s this for playing in the pocket? Jackson absolutely shredded the Dolphins – the team he said he grew up watching and had only seen in person once before – by posting a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and going 17 of 20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns. He ran the ball just three times. His biggest win, though, might have been the shade he dropped on those critics. When asked in the post-game presser about his performance, Jackson quipped: “Not bad for a running back.”LOSERSMelvin GordonPerhaps the best argument for the Chargers not to cave in and pay Gordon, who is holding out from the team as he seeks a new deal, is Austin Ekeler. Gordon’s backup from last season stepped in and made everyone forget about Gordon’s absence. Ekeler finished Sunday’s 30-24 overtime victory against the Colts with 18 touches for 154 yards and three total touchdowns, including the walk-off game-winner. Though Gordon is certainly more adept at running between tackles than Ekeler, Los Angeles is paying Ekeler only $645,000 in base salary this season. The only problem for the Chargers is that Ekeler, the undrafted, third-year vet, is playing in a contract season. Still, it’s hard to overlook the valueBrowns’ disciplineYou could almost hear people jumping off the Browns bandwagon after an embarrassing 43-13 loss against the Titans at home. The Browns committed 18 penalties – the most for them in a game since 1951 – for 182 yards. Starting left tackle Greg Robinson was ejected for kicking safety Kenny Vaccaro in the face. Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. The one slice of good news? Many of these issues can be fixed. The offensive line woes, however, might be more of a problem after Mayfield was sacked five times.Adam GaseIn Gase’s first game as the Jets’ head coach, New York held a 16-0 lead in the third quarter at home against the Bills in a game in which Buffalo had committed four turnovers. Yet, the Jets allowed 17 unanswered points and lost 17-16 despite spending serious money in free agency to bring in additions like running back Le’Veon Bell, receiver Jamison Crowder and linebacker C.J. Mosley. Unfortunately, Mosley suffered a groin injury, but the bigger concern was the offense. Gase’s group accounted for only eight points, while New York scored eight more on a pick-six by Mosley and a safety. In the fourth quarter, the Jets’ four series resulted in a pair of punts, a turnover on downs and a fumble on the last-ditch lateral play that ended the game. That’s nowhere near good enough.Nick FolesFoles has simply not been blessed with luck as he has toiled to regain a consistent starting gig. He finally landed it this offseason when he signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jaguars. But in a 40-26 loss to the Chiefs, Foles suffered a broken clavicle, leaving him out indefinitely with surgery scheduled for Monday. It’s a significant blow, as Foles almost surely was facing a period of adjusting to the scheme, system and roster in Jacksonville. Now, he’ll have to rehab for weeks before he even gets the chance to work through that transitional period.Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideIf you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.