5 Teams That Should Be Worried Most After 2023 NFL Week 1

During my NFL management career, I always hated losing the regular season opener because it puts tremendous pressure on winning in Week 2 to avoid starting the season 0-2.

The NFL season is a roller coaster, and it’s never good to start 0-1 and see divisional foes get an early leg up in the standings, even if the logical view is there are 16 games left to catch up.

Upsets usually fill Week 1, and there were plenty last week. Most notable were six playoff teams from last season who lost as favorites, four at home — the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers — and the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, who lost on the road.

The New York Giants were the seventh. They were a three-point underdog but were embarrassed at home, 40-0, by the Dallas Cowboys.

Here’s my ranking of which teams should be worried most after their Week 1 defeat. I’ll eliminate the Chargers and Bills from this discussion since they had close losses. The Chargers lost by just two points, and the Bills almost won despite Josh Allen‘s four turnovers. 

5 Teams Who Should Worry

1. New York Giants

Yes, the Cowboys are a talented team on both sides of the ball, but this was an alarmingly bad home loss for the Giants. Dallas sacked Daniel Jones seven times, holding the Giants to 171 total yards, and Dallas scored on a blocked field goal return and a pick-six.

The expectations are high for Jones after signing his $40 million per year deal. His first game under this contract resulted in 104 passing yards, two interceptions and a 32.4 passer rating as his offensive line couldn’t protect him. The Giants’ defense only gave up 265 total yards as the Cowboys played conservatively with a big lead, but New York’s defense did allow five scoring drives.

The other NFC East teams won, and it’s clear Philadelphia and Dallas are among the NFC elite. The Giants have now lost five straight (and 12 of the last 13) to the Cowboys and four straight to the Eagles (including a 38-7 thrashing in last season’s NFC Divisional Playoff).

It’s highly unlikely the Giants will surpass these two teams, and they must quickly improve to become a wild card contender. The Giants need to shore up their offensive line and run the ball with Jones and Saquon Barkley, as they did so well last season. Dexter Lawrence must lead the defense that forced no turnovers in the opener.

They have a winnable game this week at Arizona, but then the schedule turns rough: at San Francisco (on a Thursday night), home to Seattle, at Miami and at Buffalo. It’s looking like a 2-4 or 1-5 start for the Giants.

Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll

2. Seattle Seahawks

Entering the season, the Seahawks thought they were in position to battle the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West title. The 49ers certainly did their part in whipping the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-7, on the road — not so much for Seattle in Week 1.

Who had the Los Angeles Rams — coming off a 5-12 season and in rebuilding mode — going to Seattle and outscoring the Seahawks 23-0 in the second half of a 30-13 upset? Apparently, there’s still life in Matthew Stafford (334 passing yards) and Aaron Donald, who led the defense that held Seattle to 180 total yards.

Seattle lost both of its starting offensive tackles to injury during the game (knee for Charles Cross and toe for Abraham Lucas), which allowed the Rams to put the heat on Geno Smith, who had only 112 yards passing. Cross and Smith are questionable for this week in a tough matchup at Detroit.

Coach Pete Carroll also has road games ahead in the first half of the season at the Giants, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He has a killer stretch in Weeks 12-15: San Francisco, at Dallas, at San Francisco and Philadelphia. It’s too soon to panic, but it looks like a difficult task for Seattle to make a return trip to the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings Kirk Cousins

3. Minnesota Vikings

Vikings Coach Kevin O’Connell might be rethinking his plan of not playing starters in preseason games after Sunday’s sloppy, mistake-filled loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Vikings were at least in the game until the end of the 20-17 defeat, but they squandered a chance to blow out the Buccaneers in the first half. They out-gained their opponents 287-95 but were tied 10-10 at halftime due to three turnovers by QB Kirk Cousins and costly penalties.

Cousins’ worst mistake was a forced first-down throw into traffic the Buccaneers intercepted at the Tampa Bay goal line in the final minute of the first half.

Justin Jefferson exploded for seven catches and 138 yards in the first half and then was inexplicably targeted only twice in the second half (with two catches for 12 yards). The Minnesota running game generated only 41 yards as the Buccaneers’ front seven won the physical battle. Vikings center Garrett Bradbury left early because of a back injury. He had a similar injury that cost him five games last season.

The Minnesota defense that ranked 31st last season and brought in Brian Flores as the new defensive coordinator did fine in the first half but wore down late as the Buccaneers sustained long drives.

The Vikings were 11-0 in one-score games during the 2022 regular season, but that didn’t carry over in last year’s playoff loss to the Giants and in Week 1. The Buccaneers are a team the Vikings were figuring to beat, and they could have to make up this loss by pulling an upset of their own in the weeks ahead.

Now, they’re looking up at rivals Detroit and Green Bay with an exceedingly difficult task on Thursday. They play against the defending NFC champion Eagles on a short week in Philly.

Home games with the Chargers, Chiefs and 49ers and a road test at Green Bay are looming in the next seven weeks. Cousins and the Vikings will need to get in sync if they want the Week 16 and 18 matchups with Detroit and Week 17 at home against the Packers to matter in the NFC North race.

Cincinnati Bengals Joe Burrow

4. Cincinnati Bengals

Anything can happen in a division rivalry game, especially in rainy weather on the road. Still, the ineptitude of Joe Burrow and the Bengals was totally unexpected in a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The day after he signed a record five-year, $275 million extension, Burrow completed only 14 of 31 passes for a career-low 82 yards.

Burrow has never won in Cleveland (0-3), and perhaps his calf injury that kept him out of the bulk of training camp is limiting him. The Cincinnati offense went three-and-out seven times as Cleveland’s defense put consistent pressure on Burrow (two sacks and 10 QB hits). He couldn’t get the ball to his excellent receivers Ja’Marr Chase (only 39 receiving yards) and Tee Higgins (no catches on eight targets).

The Bengals’ defense limited Deshaun Watson to 154 passing yards but allowed 206 rushing yards (106 by Nick Chubb).

We shouldn’t overreact to the Bengals losing in Week 1. Still, if they fall to the Ravens at home this Sunday, there’s some cause for concern. Their schedule includes difficult road tests beginning in Week 8. They play at San Francisco, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs looked like a shadow of their defending Super Bowl champion-selves on opening night, a one-point home loss to the Detroit Lions. Patrick Mahomes was victimized by his best-receiving threat (tight end Travis Kelce) missing the game because of a knee injury, and Kadarius Toney, who had three costly drops. One deflected to Lions rookie safety Brian Branch, who returned it for a touchdown. The Chiefs were an uncharacteristic five of 15 on third and fourth downs.

The Kansas City defense only sacked Jared Goff once and had only four hits on him. They sorely missed All-Pro DT Chris Jones (15.5 sacks last season), who ended his holdout one week too late to help against Detroit.

The good opening week news for the Chiefs was only the Las Vegas Raiders were victorious among their AFC West rivals. Kansas City has three of its next four games on the road. The Chiefs seek to get back on track this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be seeking revenge from last January’s seven-point loss in an AFC Divisional Round.

The Week 4 Sunday night game at the Jets looks less formidable with Aaron Rodgers out. So is Week 5 at Minnesota if the Vikings don’t get their act together.

I trust Andy Reid, Mahomes and Jones to have the Chiefs on track to another top-two AFC seed by the time they face the Chargers (Weeks 7 and 18) and Raiders (Weeks 12 and 16). They also play the Eagles, Bills and Bengals, who are on the second half of the season schedule.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.

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