To celebrate the first week of the season, fans were treated to a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader that featured plenty of fireworks.
Early, it was the Houston Texans visiting the New Orleans Saints. This one proved to be an entertaining, see-saw battle all game long. It wasn’t until the last second ticked off the clock that we knew which team would win, as New Orleans eked out a 30-28 victory.
Late in the evening, the AFC West was on display with a rivalry game featuring the Denver Broncos visiting the famed Black Hole and the Oakland Raiders. To the delight of the home crowd, the Raiders dominated, winning 24-16.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the season-opening “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.
Winner: The Hyde/Johnson duo is pretty dynamic
When the Texans lost Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL injury, it was easy to panic about their ability to run the ball consistently. Then, Houston pulled off a trade for Carlos Hyde. That proved to be a savvy move, as the power back was huge in Week 1.
Hyde rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, providing the thunder in Houston’s offense. Former Cleveland Browns back Duke Johnson provided the lightning with 57 yards on the ground. He also provided a spark in the passing game with four catches for 33 yards. The duo combined on 175 yards from scrimmage and appears to be a solid tandem the Texans can count on this season.
Loser: J.J. Watt was practically invisible
When Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a pauper’s bounty, many wondered if the Texans could remain dominant up front without him. It was only one game, but on Monday it was pretty clear they won’t be the same.
In particular, star defensive end J.J. Watt was unbelievably unproductive. In fact, Watt didn’t register a single stat. Not one tackle. Not one quarterback hit. Not one pass defended. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Watt is too good to struggle like this all season. But perhaps he benefited from Clowney more than anyone realized. We’ll soon find out.
Winner: Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — still pretty darn good
Last season, Saints receiver Michael Thomas had one of the most impressive statistical seasons any wideout has ever had in the NFL. He caught an absurd 85% of the passes that came his way to the tune of 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. On Monday night, Thomas picked up right where he left off. Catching 10 passes on 13 targets, he racked up 123 yards and was the main weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal all game long. He’s already living up to the monster contract he signed this summer.
Fantasy football players also once again rejoiced at the production of Alvin Kamara on Monday night. He’s such a dynamic weapon, and he’s among the best the NFL has to offer in terms of bang for your buck. That was on display against Houston as Kamara racked up the yardage. He piled up 97 yards on just 13 carries and another 72 yards on seven receptions. That’s an average of 8.45 yards per touch.
Loser: Houston’s offensive line is still a huge problem
Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times last year and hit 125 times, and not surprisingly he got banged up quite a bit in the process. The Texans tried to fix this issue in the draft and then by trading for Laremy Tunsil right before the season began. But based on what transpired in Week 1 against New Orleans, this problem isn’t going away any time soon.
Hopkins was pummeled by the Saints. From the opening drive until the end, he took big hits in the pocket (and outside of it as well). Houston’s offensive line allowed six sacks and gave up 11 quarterback hits.
That puts Watson on pace to be sacked 96 times this year, and absorb 176 hits in the pocket. That’s not sustainable. And it’s going to get this young man hurt badly at some point.
Winner: Wil Lutz called game
The final minute of the Texans-Saints game was insanely fun to watch for anyone who is not a Houston fan. It was also one of the best things we’ve seen in sports for some time now.
Deshaun Watson made two of the best throws under pressure you’ll ever see and tied the game on a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. Then, Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point, only to get a second chance due to a penalty. He made the kick, putting the Texans up by one point with just 37 seconds remaining in the game.
That’s when Drew Brees marched the Saints 35 yards down the field in 35 seconds, setting up a potential game-winner from 58 yards out.
Wil Lutz stepped onto the field, took a deep breath, and then called game.
Loser: Broncos struggled in the red zone
The Broncos made a few nice pushes into to enemy territory against Oakland Monday night. They just couldn’t do much once they got into the red zone.
Four times, Joe Flacco had Denver in a position to score touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Three times, the Broncos came up short. The only successful trip came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already practically over.
Rookie offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello struggled with the game plan. Flacco struggled to avoid pressure in key situations. The Broncos had one touchdown go right through their hands (literally), which we’ll get to in more detail later. Just an awful performance by Denver’s offense when it mattered most.
Winner: Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs give Raiders some juice
No Antonio Brown? No problem. The Raiders have plenty of offensive firepower, thanks to the emergence of ‘Hard Knocks’ star, tight end Darren Waller, free-agent acquisition Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs.
Waller was a tremendous go-to option for Derek Carr in the middle of the field. He came through with seven catches for 70 yards and appears to be a centerpiece on this offense.
Williams did for Oakland what he’s been doing for the Chargers the past few years — make big plays down the field. He hauled in a gorgeous 43-yard pass and scored a touchdown, finishing with six catches for 105 yards.
Jacobs did an incredible job on the ground, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 28 yards through the air.
This trio looks really good.
By: Jesse Reed