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Winners and Losers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL Season

By Gary Garry in NFL
| September 16, 2020 4:34 am PDT
Winners and Losers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL Season

It’s definitely weird to watch football games played in huge, almost empty stadiums, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season is in the books, and I’m going to look at some of the winners and losers in this post.

Winner – Washington Football Team

I can’t say that the temporary name is a winner, but some good things happened for the Washington Football Team on the field.

The Eagles were 5.5 point road favorites with all the top online betting sites, and they jumped out on top with a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. It looked like the rout was on, but Washington’s defense held the Birds scoreless the rest of the game on the way to a 27-17 victory.

They sacked Carson Wentz eight times, and he thew a pair of picks. The Eagles have been forced to go with a reshuffled offensive front due to injuries to Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard, and it showed. But give all the credit to a Washington Football Team that overcame adversity when they could have folded their tent.

It was a good win, but their divisional opponents made them one of the big winners of Week 1. The Cowboys and the Giants both lost, and of course the Eagles are in their division, so Washington sits alone atop the NFC East.

Loser – Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs

Like a lot of people, I expected Tampa Bay to have an explosive offense. They have a pretty amazing array of talent on that side of the ball, and Brady ain’t what he was, but I thought he would thrive with this surrounding cast.

I was very wrong if Week 1 is indicative of things to come. Brady didn’t look the GOAT—he looked like the goat. Tampa Bay’s play was downright ugly at times, and they have a long way to go to find some chemistry.

Their defense was even worse than offense. The Bucs D took up where they left off last year surrendering 34 points.

Granted, the Saints are a good team on both sides of the ball, and the game was in NOLA, but the Buccaneers were clearly Week 1 losers.

Winner – Colts Running Back Jonathan Taylor

Indianapolis lost at Jacksonville 27-20 on Sunday as 8 point faves, so they were big losers from a team perspective. However, in a strange twist of fate, it may have been a positive turning point for the Colts in the big picture.

They traded up to be able to draft Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor with the 41st pick in the draft prior to this season. I thought he should have gone much higher, but that’s another story.

Marlon Mack was the incumbent starter going into this season and he deserved it, so Taylor was going to see spot duty during his rookie year. Everything changed when Mack went down with an Achilles injury after carrying the ball four times for 26 yards.  He will not return in 2020.

Taylor didn’t kill it on Sunday with just 22 yards on 9 carries, but he will step into the RB 1 role going forward. The rookie is expected to be handed a huge workload, and this golden opportunity makes him a Week 1 winner.

Loser – Titans Kicker Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, but he dropped down a notch or two after his horrendous performance on Monday Night Football.

It was his first game with the Titans, and he missed three field goals and an extra point. He banished himself to the far end of the bench for much of the game and he looked like a defeated man.

The Titans were down by a point when they were driving down the field at the end of the fourth quarter and Gostkowski was the 800 pound gorilla. When the drive stalled deep in Broncos territory, they had to turn to the embattled one.

He nailed a 25 yarder to give Tennessee the lead and they held on to win the game.

As a former Patriot with three Super Bowl rings who will make the Hall of Fame, he has always been a winner. On Monday, he was a big loser, and his job is in jeopardy if you ask me. Yes, he kicked the game winner, but it was a gimme with a perfect snap and hold.

Winner – New England

There are not two, but three certainties in life: you will die, you will pay taxes, and Bill Belichick’s Patriots will win more than they lose.

I know that the Pats played the lowly Dolphins in Foxboro, so getting the W they were supposed to get doesn’t earn them a spot on this list. They are winners to me because the Pats still look like a team to be reckoned with is spite of their depleted roster.

The Patriots D was suffocating last year, but they lost seven key players to defections and opt-outs, including Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower. How did they respond? They held Miami to 11 points and they picked off three Ryan Fitzpatrick passes.

On offense, you can say Cam is actually an upgrade over Brady at this point, and that may be true. But the importance of a structural change of that magnitude cannot be overstated, and their weapons are limited. They adapted with Newton as a running threat and an efficient short passing game.

Bum Phillips was a colorful coach of the now-defunct Oilers and the Saints back in the day, and he had a folksy way with words. He famously said this about legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant:

“Bryant can take his’n and beat your’n, and then he can turn around and take your’n and beat his’n.”

That description applies to Belechick as well. The guy can always find a way.

We’ll say how they play against better competition, but for Week 1, they’re winners.

(Disclaimer: I hate the Patriots and Belechick.)

Loser – Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys lost a close road game to a tough opponent in the Los Angeles Rams, so I’m not going to come down on them for that. They are Week 1 losers because of the key injuries that they suffered during that Sunday night game.

Tight end Jason Witten left Dallas to play for Jon Gruden in Vegas, but the Cowboys had no worries. Blake Jarwin was supposed to step up and have breakout year, but that ain’t happenin’. He tore his ACL, and his backup is lightly regarded Dalton Schultz, who had one catch a year ago and 12 receptions in 2018.

That’s a big loss, and on the other side of the ball, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a broken collarbone and he is expected to be out for six to eight weeks. Vander Esch is a very promising young player that missed seven games last year with a neck injury, so his fragility will cloud his future.

In the present, the 2020 Cowboys are Week 1 losers in more ways than one.

Winner – The City of Las Vegas

I lived in Las Vegas years ago when the idea of an NFL franchise in the city was an absurd pipe dream.

Since it was the only place in the country where you could gamble on sports legally, Vegas was the forbidden zone. The leagues thought that a Vegas team would somehow tarnish the legitimacy of the major sports.

It’s actually a great place for an NFL franchise. Vegas has always been a sports town because of the sportsbooks. The gambling is an asset that ratchets up excitement—it’s not a liability. Locals are huge sports fans, and they proved it with their immediate rabid support of the Golden Knights.

Of course, it’s also a great destination, so it attracts fans of visiting teams. Las Vegas franchises add value to the leagues, and the naysayers have finally seen the light.

The Raiders got off on the right foot in Week 1 with a nice 34-30 win on the road against the Panthers. Josh Jacobs toughed it out for 93 yards and three touchdowns, and Derek Carr played a solid, turnover-free game.

Starting right tackle Trent Brown went down with an injury early in the game, and his replacement Sam Young joined him in the third quarter. In spite of these setbacks on the offensive line, Carr put the ball in the air 30 times without being sacked.

They will christen beautiful $1.8 billion Allegiant Stadium this coming Monday when they play their home opener against the Saints.

The Biggest Week 1 Winners – The Fans

In my estimation, the biggest winners this week where people like me and you. It’s been a tough six month stretch for sports fans (and everyone else for that matter), and nobody knew how this would play out.

Football is a traditional constant that keeps coming around year after year to give us a dose of normalcy when times are hard. We knew that we loved it, but now we know how much we need it.

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