Grading Every NFL Team After Week 1 (2020) – Best and Worst Grades
One week of NFL action is in the books, and the pro football landscape was about as unpredictable as expected.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers hanging 43 points on the Vikings on the road? I didn’t see that coming. Tom Brady and Drew Brees both looking washed in a would-be NFC South shootout?
File that in the unexpected column, too. And I haven’t even gotten to massive upsets by the Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Football Team.
It was a wild first week, but it was only a good one for maybe half of the teams. See who graded out well – and who didn’t – in our NFL week 1 grades.
Best NFL Teams in Week 1
You’re not always going to be able to peg the best teams in the NFL based on one week of action. Look at last year, when the Cowboys and Rams started off 3-0 and didn’t even make the playoffs.
That said, the best teams tend to fare pretty well in week one. Here’s a look at the best of the best, with week one’s best NFL team grades.
Baltimore Ravens (A+)
The Ravens top the list for me with the best week one NFL grade. Reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson picked up right where he left off last year, as he tossed three touchdowns in an easy 38-6 win.
It was all smooth sailing for Baltimore on offense, while the defense dominated a talented Browns team. Cleveland scored just once all game, while the Ravens forced three turnovers and sacked Baker Mayfield twice.
Arizona Cardinals (A+)
Arizona’s performance wasn’t nearly as dominant, but taking down the supposedly superior 49ers on the road qualifies as a big moment.
Kyler Murray was virtually unstoppable, as he ran all over San Francisco and connected with new weapon DeAndre Hopkins 14 times.
Defensively, the Cardinals bounced back after a 10-0 deficit, sacking Jimmy Garoppolo three times and limiting the 49ers’ offense following a hot start.
Kansas City Chiefs (A+)
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got 2020 started off in style, as the offense unveiled prized rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire in an easy 34-20 win over Houston.
The defending Super Bowl champs made it look easy, as they built a 31-7 lead over the Texans, and held on for the win.
Kansas City wasn’t even that aggressive in this game, which makes you wonder how many points they could have scored if they were relentlessly targeting their many weapons down the field.
They unearthed a gem of a running back in CEH, however, and also watched a still underrated defense dominate a capable offense for over three quarters.
Green Bay Packers (A)
Green Bay was the least impressive of this group defensively, but their offensive showing was thoroughly dominant in a tense road game against a rival.
The Packers rebounded from a few execution miscues early, and saw Aaron Rodgers deliver a vintage performance with over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers 96.0 PFF grade was the highest week 1 grade by a QB since 2011 ?— PFF (@PFF) September 15, 2020
The Aaron Rodgers revenge tour is officially underway pic.twitter.com/0AVUZTrdXM
Green Bay’s offense put up 43 points in what was otherwise a rout, with Green Bay at one point leading by 19 points. The final score doesn’t indicate it, but Green Bay’s defense was plenty solid, as the unit recorded a crucial safety early, and ended the day with two sacks, and an interception.
Worst NFL Teams in Week 1
You have your top NFL week one performances, and then you have your worst week one NFL performances. These can land you a failing grade, or something close to it.
It’s just my opinion, but some of this is hardly subjective. There were a handful of teams that looked terrible in week one, or fell way below expectations.
Here’s a look at the worst NFL grades for week one.
New York Jets (D-)
The Jets weren’t competitive in week one. I doubt many gave them much of a chance against a superior Buffalo team, but New York could have offered a better performance.
New York’s defense got torched early, as they could not contain the Bills on the ground, and fell into a 21-0 hole. Josh Allen had his way with a depleted defense that clearly misses Jamal Adams, while the offense didn’t do it any favors.
Sam Darnold never looked comfortable, and the Jets could predictably not get anything going on the ground. New York scrambled late to make this game look close, but it really wasn’t.
Philadelphia Eagles (D-)
The Eagles were on their way to a passing week one NFL grade, but they couldn’t sustain their production after building a 17-0 lead.
I don’t know what is worse; the fact that they blew a 17-0 lead and lost, or that they did it against the lowly Washington Football Team. Philly looked good initially, but Wentz tossed two costly interceptions, and ate an alarming eight sacks.
With the Eagles never able to get their running game going, Washington cut into the lead, and by the end of the game, had gone on a 27-0 run to close out the victory.
Philly was favored by almost a touchdown and they blew a 17-point lead. In every way imaginable, this was one of the worst week one NFL performances.
Cleveland Browns (F)
The Eagles blew it in week one, but nobody held a candle to the Cleveland Browns, who probably would have been better off not showing up for their matchup with Baltimore.
I loved the Browns as a nice ATS pick going into this game, but their uber-hyped offense was non-existent in a 38-6 drubbing.
The Browns were supposed to be ready to challenge for the AFC North crown, but Baker Mayfield could get nothing going. The third-year passer threw a pick, took two sacks, and completed just 53% of his passes in an abysmal effort.
Cleveland ran the ball well, but lost two fumbles, and their productivity on the ground didn’t translate to much. Defensively, they had zero answers for Lamar Jackson and obviously allowed 38 points.
All Other NFL Grades for Week 1
Seattle Seahawks (A)
Russell Wilson once again willed his Seahawks to a win, but unlike recent memory, their shellacking of the Falcons wasn’t particularly close. The Seahawks quieted the critics who had written them off with a borderline flawless week one performance.
Washington Football Team (A)
I didn’t expect to see Washington here, but Ron Rivera’s defense (8 sacks!) looks to be a problem. Washington’s offense still wasn’t great, but it was good enough.
Buffalo Bills (A-)
Josh Allen gets his fair share of criticism for his reckless play, but it resulted in three touchdowns and an easy win. Buffalo needs to clean up the turnovers, but their defense was stingy at every level and maybe good enough to cover up some warts.
Jacksonville Jaguars (A-)
Is this the real Gardner Minshew? Minshew Magic staved off the Trevor Lawrence hype for at least one week, as the mustached hero incompleted just one pass en route to an upset win.
Jacksonville’s defense is still a big question mark, however.
New Orleans Saints (A-)
The Saints got a fairly easy win in a game where Drew Brees didn’t go nuts and Michael Thomas was MIA. That’s a testament to this team’s underrated balance and (gulp) borderline elite defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers (B+)
Ben Roethlisberger’s return to action couldn’t have gone better. Big Ben fired in three touchdowns in a strong performance, while his nasty defense made Daniel Jones and the Giants look even worse than they probably are.
Los Angeles Rams (B+)
The Rams allowed Dallas to stay in the game throughout their week one battle, but they came up big late, and were surprisingly very stout on defense. The passing game missed the mark, but the Rams appear intent on running the ball and keeping things balanced.
New England Patriots (B+)
One game in, and Cam Newton’s arrival in New England is a resounding success. The jury is still out on the Pats’ passing game and the absence of key defensive bodies – this was Miami, after all – but the week one returns are encouraging.
Cincinnati Bengals (B-)
Joe Burrow looked relatively sharp in his pro debut, as he completed 63% of his passes, got burned by some bad drops, and even shook the Chargers for a nice rushing touchdown. Cincinnati’s previously inept defense even held serve in a respectable 16-13 loss to the Chargers.
Las Vegas Raiders (B-)
Jon Gruden has a winner in 2020. The Raiders wisely rode running back Josh Jacobs to a 34-30 win over Carolina, while Derek Carr completed 73% of his passes. Las Vegas needs to be better defensively, but otherwise looked like a dangerous team in a nice week one road win.
Indianapolis Colts (C+)
Indy actually played a pretty good game all around, but two Philip Rivers turnovers doomed them in the end. Losing to the Jaguars has to sting, too, especially since a supposedly good defense couldn’t slow down Gardner Minshew II.
Los Angeles Chargers (C+)
Austin Ekeler never got going in week one, but the Bolts still found a way to produce on the ground and did what was needed to win. Defensively, the Chargers forced two turnovers and racked up three sacks as they avoided the embarrassment of losing to the Bengals.
Dallas Cowboys (C+)
Mike McCarthy has to live with the blunder of passing up an opportunity to tie the Rams late in week one, but the Cowboys otherwise played a solid game. Ezekiel Elliott was productive across the board, but the Dallas defense had issues getting off the field.
Chicago Bears (C+)
For three quarters, the Bears looked hopeless. Their vaunted defense allowed the team to fall in a 23-6 hole, and Mitch Trubisky looked as bad as advertised. His insane fourth quarter heroics saved the Bears and helped them get a week one passing grade.
Tennessee Titans (C+)
Tennessee survived numerous missed kicks by would-be reliable kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The important thing is they committed to the run, defended fairly well, and got a solid road win.
Carolina Panthers (C+)
Had the Panthers been able to get a key defensive stop in week one, they’d have had a nice win and gotten a grade bump. Christian McCaffrey heads a very nice offensive effort, but Carolina’s defense just isn’t where it needs to be.
Detroit Lions (C-)
The Lions were on the wrong side of that Bears game, as they dominated for three quarters, only to implode and allow Mitch Trubisky to own them. New year, same story for Detroit fans.
Minnesota Vikings (C-)
The Vikings were picked by many as the new team to win the NFC North, but the roster turnover I’d been talking about all offseason came back to bite them. Minnesota’s offense was unstoppable late, but they dug too big of a hole against Green Bay.
Miami Dolphins (C-)
The Dolphins get credit for hanging tight with New England, even though the Pats completely dominated the time of possession. Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t get out of his own way in this one, either. The Tua Era should be arriving soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (C-)
Tom Brady got his Bucs tenure started off on the right foot initially, but saw his Bucs outscored 24-0 following a 7-0 lead. Brady committed two bad turnovers, and the much-hyped Tampa Bay offense fell flat on a huge stage.
Denver Broncos (C-)
Drew Lock looked good in week one, playing mistake-free football and nearly taking out a good Titans team. Denver’s defense also stood their ground, but poor game management by head coach Vic Fangio doomed the Broncos in the end.
Atlanta Falcons (D+)
Offensively, the Falcons proved once again they can put up some points. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley went off, while Todd Gurley scored his first touchdown as a Falcon. Atlanta’s defense killed them, however, as they had no hope of slowing down Russell Wilson in week one.
San Francisco 49ers (D+)
The 49ers weren’t awful in spirit in week one, but the defense really couldn’t contain Kyler Murray, and allowed a key score to lose this game. Offensively, Jimmy Garoppolo badly missed the mark in a surprise upset loss at home.
New York Giants (D+)
Saquon Barkley dazzled at times and Darius Slayton scored twice, reminding everyone that the Giants have some nice offensive upside. New York’s defense fell apart in the second half, however, and Daniel Jones made too many bone-headed mistakes to overcome.
The first week of the NFL regular season is usually pretty intense. It’s made that way even more when we have knee-jerk reactions to what transpired.
If you had strong convictions about players and teams that were reinforced in week one, that’s one thing. But overreacting too much to surprise situations may be ill-advised.
For example, the Cardinals were on my radar as a rising team going into 2020. I also felt like Green Bay’s offseason changes would actually help them, even when the NFL world mocked the franchise.
Due to that, I’ll stand by the Packers and Cardinals as interesting teams to bet on moving forward. Am I planting my flag on Washington being an elite defense or a playoff contender, though? Not just yet.
Interpret the first week of NFL action how you choose, and from there, you can decide how you want to bet. Just make sure you’re using the best online sportsbooks to place your bets when you do.