The Fifth Down: The highs, lows and in-betweens of NFL Week 1

Sep 10, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (24) carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the game at Nissan Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Titans 26-16.  Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Week one of the 2017 NFL campaign is in the books, and it was a week that delivered more than its share of suspense. It is a week when hopes spring eternal on every sideline, as well as in the stands and on TVs around the country. For both the odds makers in Vegas and any number of online sportsbooks around the country, it had to be quite the week to try to get a grasp on and set the tone of expectations. And moving ahead to week 2, those expectations, while continuing to take shape, have already gone in a number of unforeseen directions already.

But before setting the table for week 2, lets recap the three days that made up the first week of the newly minted NFL season.

FIRST DOWN: Week 1 Sur

The toughest week of the year to get a grasp on is always the season’s inaugural one, where expectations and hype can be blindsided by the rise of a newly emergent team, of simple luck. But it is also a risky week to be too confident in, as some oversized expectations gave way to some aggressive realities, as well as set the table with new questions. Week one put to bed any notions of an undefeated Patriots run being in the cards, while also creating real questions about the condition of the Seahawks, Giants and Titans offenses.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings looked to have a revamped offense capable of keeping pace with its defense finally, as they thoroughly handled the Saints. And in the absolute biggest stunners of the week, the Los Angeles Rams scored more points in week one (46) than they did in the final month last year. Add on the Jaguars 10 sack, 29-7 win over the Houston Texans, and week one lived up to its billing, and more.

SECOND DOWN: David Johnson breaks his wrist….and the hearts across the country

The Arizona Cardinals were certainly not coy about showing what their game plan looked like for this year: get the ball to David Johnson by any means, early and often. As a matter of fact, with eight minutes left in the first quarter, Johnson had already either carried or been targeted 10 times in the opener against the Lions. But following a 24-yard catch and run in the third quarter, the collective course of the season for player, team and fan base alike fell off the rails.

Johnson was removed from Sunday’s game after dislocating his wrist, an injury that could cost him over two months of the year if surgery is necessary. It’s the type of outcome that will change the trajectory for the Cardinals and fantasy football owner’s fates alike, as the game’s most diverse back will prepare to miss the meat of the year.

THIRD DOWN: Le’Veon Bell’s late start showed

Pittsburgh’s star running back has been at odds regarding his contract for over a year with the Steelers, with neither side being able to come to terms on what a long-term agreement should look like. And as a result, Bell decided to take off the preseason, signing his one-year extension with the team just days before the season got started.

Alas, the preseason is not a time when players of Bell’s caliber are exposed much anyway, so not much is lost there. However, the rust of being away from the day in, day out experience of training camp did show, as the multi-skilled engine of the Steeler offense struggled to get into gear, posting a career-low 47 all-purpose yards. And although Bell’s snaps were limited, he still looked as if maybe some practice reps could have helped along the way, especially against a vulnerable Browns defense. It will be interesting to see what he looks like after his first week full week of routine, odds are that a different man will show up next Sunday to face the Vikings.

FOURTH DOWN: Beast Mode is back

Football, and really the world in general, is a better place when Marshawn Lynch is a part of it. And in his first week back in the game after a year off, Lynch definitively brought ‘Beast Mode’ to the Bay. Lynch unleashed his signature, punishing style of running the ball all over the Titans, dragging defenders up and down the field all day, even running clean over Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey in the fourth quarter. The Raider’s offense looked good and ready to pick up where it left a year ago, and clearly has itself a punishing new finisher on hand.

THE EXTRA POINT: Déjà vu hangover in San Diego….er Los Angeles?

In a performance, so familiar that even the officials calling the game credited the Chargers as still hailing from San Diego, the new era of Chargers football up the coast in Los Angeles got off to a start that looks reminiscent of what they left behind a year ago.

Going back to last season, Monday night’s loss marks the eighth time in the last year San Diego/L.A. lost by seven points or fewer. Plus, the difference between figuring out how to make those inches on the scoreboard turn in their favor could be the difference between miles in the standings–and from the playoffs— yet again, because they are the only AFC West team with a loss.

Yardbarker: NFL

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