NFL Week 1 Grades: Raiders get an 'A' for unusual win, Bengals a 'D' for Dalton

Signing a 27-year-old kicker -- who's never played in a regular season game -- less than 24 hours before your regular opener isn't something that usually works out for you, but it definitely worked out for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. 

New kicker Giorgio Tavecchio , who spent time in six NFL training camps over the past five seasons before finally getting a shot to play this week, was the star of the game for Oakland. The former Cal kicker went 4 for 4 on the day, hitting field goals from 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards in the win. 

It's fitting that the Raiders went with a kicker who has such an unusual backstory because the Raiders won in an unusual way. Going into the season, the biggest question in Oakland had to do with whether or not their defense would actually be able to stop anyone. 

We know the Raiders can win a shootout, but can they punch you in the mouth and win with defense?

If Sunday's 26-16 win over the Tennessee Titans is any indication, then the answer is yes. 

The Raiders defense didn't completely shut down the Titans, but they did come up with big plays in key situations. While clinging to a 13-10 lead to start the second half, it wouldn't have been a shock to see the Raiders give up a few big drives, which would have turned the game into a shootout, but that's not what happened. 

On six offensive possessions in the second half, the Titans only got inside the red zone one time, and even then, the Raider still came up big. The biggest play of the game might have been a third-and-2 play the Titans ran from Oakland's 7-yard line. On the play, DeMarco Murray got stuffed for a one-yard loss by rookie Nicholas Morrow

At this time last year, Morrow, who was an undrafted free agent, was playing football for D-III Greenville University. The linebacker's story is almost as wild as Tavecchio's. 

After the Murray play, the Titans were forced to kick a field goal, which made the score 16-13 Oakland. If the Titans had scored a touchdown, they would've been leading 17-16 late in the third quarter. 

The fact that the Raiders are able to lean on their defense could be mean big things for the 2017 season because this was a unit the team couldn't really trust last year (the Raiders finished 26th overall in total defense in 2016). It's still way early, but if the Raiders defense can just rank in the top 20 this year, that could be exactly what they need to make a run at the AFC West title. 

Raiders 26-16 over Titans

Raiders: A

Although we just spent five paragraphs talking about the Raiders' defense, let's not forget about Derek Carr and the Raiders offense.  Carr was consistent throughout the game (22 of 32, 262 yards, two TDs) and he made sure to involve pretty much everyone when he was throwing the ball: The Raiders quarterback completed passes to a total of eight different receivers. 

Oh, there was also Beast Mode, who went full Beast Mode in his Raiders debut. 

That is Marshawn Lynch mowing down Titans' All-Pro defensive lineman Jurrell Casey . There aren't many running backs on the planet who can do that. Lynch averaged an impressive 4.2 yards per carry in the win (18 carries, 76 yards). 

Titans: B-

Titans coach Mike Mularkey put his team in an early hole when he called for an onside kick on the game's opening kickoff. The Titans didn't recover the ball and the Raiders ended up scoring a touchdown four plays later. When your secondary is one of your team's biggest issues, putting them in a tough spot on the opening series of the season seems like a horrible idea. Mularkey's decision didn't necessarily cost Tennessee the game, but it put them in an early hole in a game where Tennessee never had the lead. 

Baltimore Ravens 20-0 over Cincinnati Bengals

Ravens: A-

Four days before the Ravens played the Bengals, Baltimore safety Eric Weddle perfectly described his team's gameplan for winning, "Play great on defense, play unbelievable special teams, and play solid on offense -- that's going to be the secret for us to win," Weddle said. 

Play great on defense? Check. They forced five turnovers against the Bengals. 

Play unbelievable special teams? Check. Justin Tucker was 2 of 2 on field goals. 

Play "solid" offense? Check. The Ravens' offense didn't do much against the Bengals, but they did get a 48-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jeremy Maclin

If the Ravens had played great on offense, this would be an 'A', but they were only "solid," so it's an 'A-.'

Bengals: D

The 'D' here stands for Dalton because Andy Dalton almost single-handedly lost this game for the Bengals. Not only did Dalton throw four interceptions and look horrific while doing it, but he also lost a fumble after driving the Bengals inside of Baltimore's 10-yard line. Everything that could go wrong for Dalton did go wrong. Maybe he should change his name to Andy Murphy. This was all basically every Bengals fan after watching Dalton play. 

This game marked just the third time since 2002 that the Bengals have been shut out. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 21-18 over Cleveland Browns

Steelers: B-

After skipping all of training camp, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell went out against Cleveland and played liked he skipped all of training camp, which wasn't a good thing for the Steelers. Fortunately for the Steelers, they had Antonio Brown , who seemed to eager to make up for the lost offensive production from Bell.

Brown caught 11 passes for 182 yards in the game, which was good news for Pittsburgh, because without Brown, the Steelers offense did nothing. Ben Roethlisberger went 13 of 25 for 63 yards when targeting receivers who weren't Brown. The Steelers also got some surprising production from tight end Jesse James , who caught six passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Before Sunday, James had only caught four touchdowns in his entire career. As for Brown, the 182 yards marked the sixth time he's hit the 180-yard mark in his career. 

Browns: B

Some day, the Browns will win an opener, but Sunday wasn't that day. For the 13th year in row, the Browns lost their opener; however, they might actually be feeling hopeful after this one. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer looked somewhat capable (20 of 30, 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and the Browns defense did a good job of shutting everyone down (except for Antonio Brown). The Browns haven't had much to cheer about over the past 18 years, so a 21-18 loss to the Steelers might actually be a small step forward. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 29-7 over Houston Texans

Jaguars: A

The Jaguars have already renamed themselves Sacksonville, which might sound silly, but we all should probably call them that after the game they put together in Houston. 

The Jaguars racked up a total of 10 sacks in the game, which fell just two sacks short of the NFL's single-game record for one team. Leading the way for Sacksonville was the unstoppable Calais Campbell , who racked up four of the Jags' 10 sacks. The Texans' 203 total yards of offense marked the first time since 2011 that that Jags held an opponent under 205 yards. 

Thanks to their defense, and an impressive performance from rookie running back Leonard Fournette (26 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD), it didn't even matter that Blake Bortles came through with one of his patented below-average performances. Kicker Jason Myers also struggled, and speaking of sacks, maybe it's time for the Jaguars to sack him. 

Texans: F

Duane Brown is probably going to get a healthy raise after what happened to the Texans' offensive line. Brown, who is usually the starting left tackle for the Texans, didn't play on Sunday because he's holding out for more money. If the Texans are smart, they'll give him quadruple whatever he wants. By the way, the line didn't get much help from Houston's two quarterbacks in this game. Both Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage threw a pick and lost a fumble in the game. 

Buffalo Bills 21-12 over New York Jets

Jets: C-

For a team that's tanking, a nine-point loss is borderline respectable. That being said, it was a miracle that the Jets were able to stay in this game: They were outgained by nearly 200 yards (408 to 214) as Josh McCown threw two interceptions. They only rushed for 38 yards and they only converted 4 out of 14 of their third-down conversions. 

Bills: B

It's impossible to know if the Bills are actually any good since they only beat the Jets, but one thing's for sure. They know who their bread and butter player is on offense: LeSean McCoy .

Not only did McCoy rush for 110 yards, but he also tacked on 49 receiving yards, a total that includes an impressive conversion second-and-20 that you can see below. 

Even though he picked up his first career win, new Bills coach Sean McDermott has probably already forgotten about this game because he had an even bigger game next week. The Bills will be traveling to Carolina, which is where McDermott spent the past six seasons before being hired by Buffalo this year. 

Detroit Lions 35-23 over Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals: D

Carson Palmer was thinking about retiring this offseason, and after watching him on Sunday, the Cardinals are probably wishing they had let him. Palmer threw an interception on Arizona's opening drive of the game, and then, things only got worse from there. Palmer threw a total of three interceptions in the game, including a pick-six to Detroit's Miles Killesbrew that iced the game for the Lions. Unfortunately for Arizona, the ugliest part of the loss might have not even been Palmer's play. Cardinals star running back David Johnson injured his wrist and will be undergoing an MRI on Monday

Lions: B

The Lions' decision to invest $135 million in Matthew Stafford looks like a smart one after Sunday's game. Although Stafford got off to a slow start -- he threw a pick-six on his first pass of the season -- he followed that up by throwing for 292 yards and four touchdowns.

Lions receiver Kenny Galladay is someone you might want to think about picking up on fantasy this week. The rookie caught four passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns, a total that includes the 45-yard touchdown catch you see below. 

The Lions actually trailed heading into the fourth quarter, but that's a pretty a normal thing with Detroit. Last season, the Lions rallied to win eight games in the fourth quarter, an NFL record, and they're already on pace to break that record this year. 

Atlanta Falcons 23-17 over Chicago Bears

Falcons: B

The last time we saw the Falcons, they were blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, and there's a good chance that Falcons fans started to have some deja vu toward the end of this game. The Falcons almost blew a 20-10 fourth quarter lead, but they were able to avoid the upset thanks to a huge sack from Brooks Reed that came on a fourth-and-goal play with the Bears only five yards from the end zone. If the Falcons are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, someone forgot to tell tight end Austin Hooper , who caught two passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. 

Bears: B+

If the Bears have proven one thing under John Fox, it's that no one knows how to draft late-round running backs better than they do. Last year, Jordan Howard was one of the top rookies in the NFL after being selected in the fifth round of the draft. This year, the Bears have a budding star in Tarik Cohen , who was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft.

The Falcons had no answer for the shifty Cohen, who totaled 113 yards from scrimmage (five carries for 66 yards on the ground and eight catches for 47 yards and a touchdown through the air). Cohen must have been watching the Chiefs-Patriots game and taking notes on Thursday when Kareem Hunt played, because Hunt was the only offensive rookie who was more impressive in Week 1. 

Philadelphia Eagles 30-17 over Washington Redskins

Eagles: B+

The Eagles had zero running game in Washington, which means it was up to Carson Wentz and the Philly defense to win the game, and that's exactly what happened. Wentz threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, and on one of those touchdowns, he may or may not have morphed into Brett Favre. 

As for the Eagles defense, they held the Redskins under 270 yards of total offense, which is usually a good sign in Philly. The Eagles are 8-1 in their past nine games where they hold their opponent under 270 yards. 

Redskins: C

It's a good thing Andy Dalton exists, because if he didn't, Kirk Cousins would likely go down as the worst quarterback of Week 1. In just one game, Cousins almost justified the Redskins' decision not to sign him to a long-term contract. The Redskins quarterback turned the ball over three times, which includes a lost fumble that the Eagles returned for a touchdown with under 90 seconds left in a 22-17 game (the defensive touchdown pushed the Eagles lead to 30-17). 

Although the play was controversial -- Cousins' arm appeared to be going forward -- do you really think he would've led the Redskins on a game-winning touchdown drive? He had no protection in the game (he was sacked four times) and had a hard time hitting receivers. 

Los Angeles Rams 46-9 over Indianapolis Colts

Rams: A+

Firing Jeff Fisher might be the best thing that's ever happened to the Rams. In their first game under new coach Sean McVay, the Rams looked like a revitalized team, starting with franchise quarterback Jared Goff . During his rookie year in 2016, Goff didn't hit the 300-yard mark once and he also never won a single game in seven starts. That all changed against Indy.

Goff thrived in McVay's new, more open offense. The second-year quarterback finished 21 of 29 for 306 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Rams had a huge game, despite the fact they were missing star defensive lineman Aaron Donald

As a matter of fact, when we say they had a huge game, we mean they actually outscored the Colts on their own. The Rams tallied two pick-sixes and also picked up a safety for a total of 16 points. 

Colts: F

If Andrew Luck doesn't get back soon, it could be a long season for the Colts. Not only did starting quarterback Scott Tolzien look like he was playing football for the first time ever, but the Colts defense got torched by a Rams offense that's never really been known for torching anyone. 

Carolina Panthers 23-3 over San Francisco 49ers

Panthers: A

Cam Newton (14 of 25, 171 yards) might have been a little rusty going into Week 1, but there definitely wasn't any rust on the Panthers defense as they went up against a familiar foe in new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. Although the Panthers struggled to stop Shanahan's offense while he was OC with the Falcons last season, they didn't have any problem stopping his offense on Sunday. 

The Panthers limited the 49ers to just 217 yards, forced two turnovers, and sacked Brian Hoyer four times in the win. The Panthers defense only let the 49ers in the red zone one time, and they also limited San Francisco to a 2-of-11 showing on third down conversions. 

49ers: D

It doesn't seem to matter who the coach is in San Francisco anymore, the 49ers look bad no matter what. After struggling under Jim Tomsula in 2015 and Chip Kelly in 2016, the Kyle Shanahan era isn't looking much better. Believe it or not, the 49ers actually had the longest Week 1 winning streak in the NFL going into this game -- they were 6-0 dating back to 2010 -- but that streak's now over, and Shanahan's going to have to figure out how to win games with a team that doesn't seem to have much talent. 

Green Bay Packers 17-9 over Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks: B-

If the Seahawks were handing out grades for this game, they would probably give the officiating an 'F.' The Seahawks were on the ugly end of several controversial calls, including a questionable ejection and an odd no-call on a possible pass interference of Jimmy Graham in the third quarter. 

Of course, the Seahawks can't completely blame the officiating. Seattle's offense struggled for most of the game, their 225 yards of total offense was the team's lowest since 2014. The Seahawks are now 0-3 at Lambeau Field under Carroll. 

Packers: B+

If you would've told someone before this game that the Packers' defense would outplay the Seahawks' defense, they probably would've thought you were crazy, but that's exactly what happened. The Packers limited the Seahawks to just 12 first downs -- compared to 26 for the Packers -- and they absolutely shut down Seattle's offense in third down situations (the Seahawks went 3 of 12 on third down conversions). 

Of course, you can't talk about the Packers without talking about Aaron Rodgers . A big reason why the Packers were able to pull off the win is because Rodgers went full Rodgers on a third quarter touchdown pass. With less than a minute to go in the third quarter, Rodgers caught the Seahawks defense with 12 men on the field, got it a free play, and then used that play to throw a 32-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson

Rodgers threw for 311 yards and a touchdown in the win. 

Cowboys 19-3 over Giants

Giants: D

The Giants offense has had some serious problems scoring points dating back to last season, and those problems continued against the Cowboys. Dating back to Week 13 of last year, the Giants haven't cracked the 20-point mark a single time, which is a span of seven games including the playoffs and this year's season opener. The loss of Odell Beckham for Sunday's matchup definitely didn't help, but even with him in the lineup, it's hard to imagine the Giants looking much better. The bad news for America is that we're going to be stuck watching the Giants offense again in Week 2 because they're playing on Monday Night Football. 

Cowboys: A

If the Cowboys defense was supposed to be the team's weak link this season, then the rest of the NFL might be in trouble, because the unit absolutely shut down the Giants on Sunday Night Football. During the Cowboys' win, Dallas limited the Giants to just 224 total yards, marking just the fifth time since 2012 that the Cowboys have held a team under 225 yards. The three points allowed marked just the second time since 2010 that the Cowboys gave up three points or fewer in a game. 

As for the Cowboys' offense, they weren't bad, either. Ezekiel Elliott hit the 100-yard mark (104), and six receivers finished the game with 30 or more yards, including Jason Witten, who passed Michael Irvin as the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver. 

By the time the game was over, Witten was up to 11,947 career yards. 

Anyway, the best part about this win for the Cowboys is that they were able to something they were unable to do in 2016: beat the Giants. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    All Access