Winners and losers from the NFL’s week one

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Winners:

The Cleveland Browns (sort of):

Believeland. The Cleveland Browns broke their 17-game losing streak against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers at home Sunday. They also didn’t win. In one of the strangest games the NFL has seen, Hue Jackson walked away with a palindrome head coaching record of 1-31-1 to kick off his third year with the Browns.

The game was littered with penalties and sloppy mistakes in the heavy downpour of rain. The Steelers squandered a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over six times to an emerging Browns defense. In the last two minutes of overtime, we witnessed the Steelers miss a 42-yard field goal followed by a Browns three-and-out and a Roethlisberger fumble deep in Steelers territory.

But the Browns finished the game in the Browns-est way possible. After getting great field position from the fumble recovery, penalties pushed them to the 24 and the Steelers’ T.J. Watt got a hand on Zane Gonzalez’s 43-yard attempt to win it for Believeland.

Maybe next time, Cleveland.

Harvard:

The NFL’s famous Harvard alumnus Ryan Fitzpatrick had his one good game of the year for the Bucs this Sunday against the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints. Time to trade Jameis?

Fitzpatrick came out on top in his battle with Drew Brees, leading his team to a 48-40 shootout win that almost no one predicted. He threw for four touchdowns and more than 400 yards in a bizarre game that featured not one, but two DeSean Jackson receiving touchdowns. Has he even scored since the Miracle at the New Meadowlands punt return?

The Saints will still be fine. The Bucs will still be not fine.

Dez Bryant:

Former Dallas receiver Dez Bryant brought out the Twitter fingers Sunday watching the Cowboys-Panthers game on his couch as a free agent. Quarterback Dak Prescott had nowhere to throw the ball, and the offensive line did not perform in the same way it usually does.

The Panthers defense came to play and forced six punts and a missed field goal before surrendering the Cowboys’ only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Dallas sorely needed any type of playmaking, and even if Dez deserved to be cut, seeing the offense completely fall to pieces gave him some chuckles. Tough times for the ‘Boys.

 

Regression toward the mean:

Pump the brakes on signal-callers Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) and Deshaun Watson (Texans).

Both performed badly in losses that did not remind fans of the successes they enjoyed in short stints last season. But you could probably blame a lot of the passing struggles for both on subpar offensive line play. Whatever the reason, these quarterbacks are in for some adversity based off of what we saw Sunday.

Jalen Ramsey:

The brash Jaguars cornerback wins this week, but not exactly for his play on the field. Ramsey and the Jacksonville defense were still stellar, only allowing three field goals before Giants rookie tailback Saquon Barkley broke free for a sensational 68-yard touchdown run.

Ramsey wins because many of his assessments of NFL quarterbacks that he gave in an offseason GQ piece that made noise on the internet rang true in Week 1. Matt Ryan — “Overrated.” Ben Roethlisberger — “Decent at best.” Eli Manning — “Odell makes him.” Maybe these vets can get their act together for Week 2 to prove Ramsey wrong. (Probably not Eli, though.)

Matt Nagy:

The new Chicago Bears head coach and Andy Reid’s disciple revealed a modern offense that had second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky looking like a more-than-competent NFL quarterback.

The Bears held a commanding 20-3 lead late in the third and were threatening to hand Aaron Rodgers (only) his ninth loss at home for Green Bay after a scary leg injury sidelined him until the second half. The Cal alumnus had another magnificent, clutch performance, tossing three touchdowns in the fourth quarter en route to a 24-23 comeback win.

But Nagy and the Bears made progress in Green Bay. Even though the offense floundered in the second half, Chicago should be proud of its performance and be optimistic moving forward.

 

Losers:

Le’Veon Bell:

As if the drama on the field wasn’t enough for Pittsburgh, the Le’Veon Bell holdout situation is heading to the point of no return.

His replacement, former University of Pittsburgh product James Conner, had a fantastic game (save for one fumble) for the Steelers, racking up 192 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

Bell, arguably the best back in the league, took to Twitter after the Steelers botched the game and tied the Browns with a simple emoji. What he should really be focusing in on is the box score, which Conner stuffed and showed he can be more than just a legitimate replacement for the Pro Bowl running back.

Tyrod Taylor:

There is an argument to be made that rookie QB Baker Mayfield would have won that game for the Browns. Taylor gained some chunks of yardage on the ground and threw a few nice passes, but there were simply too many missed throws.

Cleveland — especially the defense — played its way to a +5 in the turnover margin and still was not able to capitalize. Mayfield had to be frustrated watching on the sideline as Taylor missed throws to the Browns’ talented receiver core featuring Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry.

Jon Gruden and the Raiders:

Defensive end Khalil Mack put on a pass-rushing clinic Sunday night against the Packers at Lambeau, recording a pick-six and a strip in which he literally took the ball from backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Mack is one of the most valuable players in the league right now, and if the Raiders weren’t going to pay him, then who will they ever pay? On Monday evening, they proceeded to collapse in front of their home fans to the upstart Los Angeles Rams. The Raiders are tanking, and I don’t think they realize it.

Dev Navani writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].