What a fantastic first NFL Sunday!
You gotta love sports.
Which developments could have the most significance -- for better or for worse -- going forward? Let's take a look, Schein Nine style:
1) Marshawn Lynch, running back, Oakland Raiders
"Beast Mode" is back. After sitting out the 2016 season, Marshawn Lynch looked fresh while barreling over the Titans in a statement road win for Oakland in Nashville. Lynch is a major upgrade over Latavius Murray, and his value goes beyond the box score (18 rushes for 76 yards, plus a 16-yard catch). Lynch provides tremendous balance for the great Derek Carr (22 of 32 for 262 yards and two touchdowns, with a 114.3 passer rating), who picked up right where he left off before breaking his leg last Christmas Eve. And when Lynch clobbers and carries opponents across the gridiron, it busts a defense's will. The 31-year-old back set the tone right off the bat on Sunday, taking his first carry of the season 14 yards in a cutting, spinning, tackle-breaking blur of action.
The NFL is just better with Marshawn Lynch on the field. The burst and power is definitely still there. And the return to his hometown Raiders is glorious. Dude looks good in silver and black. Lynch and Oakland made noise with this quality road win, a few days after the rival Chiefs did the same in New England. As many assumed all offseason, the AFC West is shaping up to be a bear of a division in 2017.
2) Sean McVay, head coach, Los Angeles Rams
Absolutely love this cat. McVay's energy and offensive acumen, as well as the all-star coaching staff he put together, have reinvigorated this franchise.
I know, I know: His Rams beat up on the Andrew Luck-less Colts in this 46-9 blowout. L.A. took full advantage of Scotty Tolzien, a quarterback who shouldn't even be in the league, much less starting a season opener. All that's true -- it's why the Rams were my Week 1 pick in the survivor pool. But let's give some credit where credit's due.
McVay's Rams looked like a real football team, as opposed to the underachieving, inept mess we saw for years under Jeff Fisher. Jared Goff looked the part, posting the first 300-yard game of his NFL career. McVay, of course, rose to prominence in Washington by getting the most out of Kirk Cousins. Los Angeles brought in the 31-year-old coach to have a similar impact on the No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft. So far, so good.
The Rams didn't sleepwalk or overlook a weak foe, despite playing in front of a sparse crowd at home. A dandy debut for McVay.
3) Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions
I never understood anyone who criticized the Stafford contract. Is he the best quarterback in the NFL? Absolutely not. But he's a true franchise quarterback, and true franchise quarterbacks get paid. Yes, at the moment, he's the highest-paid player in the NFL. That will be the case until the bill comes due on another true franchise quarterback. This is how business is done with the game's most important position. Get over it.
The Lions wisely took care of Stafford before the season. It eliminated distraction -- and paved the way for Stafford to do what Stafford does: snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Detroit's QB set an NFL record with eight fourth-quarter comebacks last season. And he notched his first such win in Week 1 of the 2017 campaign. Trailing throughout the first three quarters on Sunday, the Lions outscored Arizona 20-6 in the final period, giving Detroit a 35-23 win. Stafford completed more than 70 percent of his passes, with four TD strikes (against one interception) and a 113.1 passer rating.
I don't love the Lions' roster or head coach. But Stafford's gritty comeback ability is absolutely the real deal.
4) Calais Campbell and the Jacksonville Jaguars' toughness
For all of the Blake Bortles jokes this past offseason (I made more than a few), everyone saw the potential in Jacksonville's defense. After the Jaguars signed Campbell in free agency, I gushed about the impact -- tangible and intangible -- this would have on the team. In his regular-season debut, Campbell was a straight-up game wrecker, spearheading the 29-7 road beatdown of the Texans. Honestly, it looked like Campbell was cloned for this game, given all the damage he did to Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson and Co. (SEE: four sacks, five QB hits and six tackles). Fellow free-agent signee A.J. Bouye had a strong debut, too. And Myles Jack was all over the field.
On the other side of the ball, Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 overall pick in April, had a sturdy debut, rushing for a crisp 100 yards and also catching three passes. Remember when Doug Marrone said he wants a back who can run the ball when the opposition knows it is coming?
Marrone can coach. The Jaguars' attitude and toughness was omnipresent Sunday. If you love blue-collar football, it was fun to watch. And with the brutal news that top receiver Allen Robinson tore his ACL and is done for the season, it puts even more pressure on the Jags' defense and run game to carry the day.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers newbies T.J. Watt and Joe Haden
The Steelers' first-round pick made quite a first impression on Sunday, becoming just the third player ever to record two-plus sacks and a pick in his first NFL game, a 21-18 Pittsburgh win over Cleveland. And it was Haden, the former Brown, who received the game ball in his first contest as a Steeler.
6) Carson Palmer, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
I've always been enamored with the Cardinals' talent and approach under Bruce Arians, but never been a big Carson Palmer fan. And now, with the great David Johnson expected to miss an extended period of time with a dislocated wrist, the pressure and scrutiny on Arizona's aging QB is magnified. And I'm not confident he can handle it.
While Stafford deserves credit for the comeback in this game, Palmer was the main culprit in the Cardinals blowing a lead. The 37-year-old threw three gruesome picks. On the heels of last year's underachievement, this is a real concern. Arizona needed to start fast to show last year was a fluke (as I believed it was). Spitting the bit in a winnable game -- especially given how sloppy Detroit's offense looked in the first half -- was quite disconcerting.
7) Cincinnati Bengals
Yet still, Cincinnati got trounced 20-0 -- at home. It was the perfect time to play the Ravens, but the Bengals were asleep at the wheel. Andy Dalton looked like he was in a playoff or prime time game, racking up four picks and taking five sacks. It was alarming. Joe Mixon didn't get the requisite touches. Cincy's defense was lackluster.
This is one of those games that raises a familiar question: How does Marvin Lewis hold his job? Cincy was flat as a pancake at home in Week 1. Unacceptable.
8) Seattle Seahawks' offensive line
Without question, Dom Capers' defense had a fantastic game in Green Bay's 17-9 win over the Seahawks. But Seattle's offensive line -- a big problem for Russell Wilson and Co. last season -- was a major issue once again. Packers DL Mike Daniels and OLB Nick Perry terrorized the unit throughout Sunday's marquee matchup, finishing with 1.5 sacks a piece.
I still think Seattle will win the division, but this kind of O-line play would be crippling in the playoffs.
9) New York Giants' offensive line
Yes, the Giants obviously missed Odell Beckham Jr. in Sunday night's 19-3 loss at Dallas, but that's not the biggest reason the Giants were limited to a measly three points and 233 total yards of offense. Big Blue might have the worst offensive line in the NFL. The unit made a suspect Cowboys defense look elite, made Demarcus Lawrence look like Lawrence Taylor.