Praise the heavens and all things pigskin, because football is back.
The return of the NFL regular season sent all but two of the league's 32 clubs to the field for action in Week 1. That means 15 teams started their seasons away from home.
It sounds daunting, sure, but beginning the campaign on the road also has its sneaky positives. As the road team, you get a chance to ruin someone's home opener, their welcome back in front of their faithful. You get to play spoiler, and leave with the last laugh, a sweet way to begin your own campaign.
No one did this better than the Kansas City Chiefs, who were lined up as the New England Patriots' intended sacrifice on opening night, placed on the table with an apple in their collective mouths as handshakes, high-fives and words of praise were exchanged among reigning champions. After all, it was the night the Patriots revealed their Super Bowl LI banner. The party was all about them.
Greatest on the Road
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City appeared to lose a major part of its offense when Spencer Ware went down with an injury. The resulting opportunity for Hunt, though, might end being all the difference.
It sounds a little extreme this early, but that was on display in Week 1. The Chiefs rolled into Foxborough, Alex Smith found his rookie running back early and often, and the result was a victory that sucked the air out of Gillette Stadium and gave the Chiefs about as much momentum as one team can have after one week.
Hunt sure didn't look like a rookie. The former Toledo Rocket (shoutout #MACtion) ran with a burst and power usually seen in veterans in their prime, gaining 148 yards and scoring one touchdown on 17 carries. Hunt was just as effective in the passing game, catching five for 98 yards and two touchdowns. His final blow came on a toss sweep in the fourth quarter, which didn't end up in the end zone but put the Chiefs deep in Patriots territory and took any remaining Patriots mojo out of Foxborough.
Hunt's inspiring preseason created decent expectations for the runner. He shattered those in just 60 minutes.
Also considered ...
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown brought the substance behind the flash, serving as Cleveland's nightmare embodied by a man in a No. 84 jersey. Brown twice caught passes on third down to extend drives, and made another incredible catch in the fourth quarter on second and long from deep inside the Steelers' own territory to help Pittsburgh burn clock and preserve its lead. In short, when Pittsburgh needed yards, it turned to Brown, who delivered (UPS pun unintended).
Brown's final line: 11 catches, 182 yards. Pittsburgh is happy with a close win, and fantasy owners are smiling thanks to AB.
Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars
For the first time in the last three years, Jacksonville's defense finally looked like the unit most everyone expected it to be. In fact, it was more than that, with much thanks due to Campbell.
The veteran free-agent acquisition wreaked havoc on Houston's offense almost from the opening play, setting the franchise's single-game sack record in the first half alone with 3.5. Campbell keyed a Jacksonville pass rush that finished with 10 sacks (he had four of them), forced three fumbles (Dante Fowler returned one for a score), chased starting quarterback Tom Savage out of the game at halftime and forced more mistakes out of replacement Deshaun Watson in the second half.
The Jaguars won by limiting mistakes on offense and playing stifling, relentless defense. Campbell was a big reason why it worked. As my colleague Jason Hirschhorn said, Campbell might be the best defensive player you've never heard of. After reading this, now you have.