Just as quickly as it arrived, Week 1 of the NFL season is now officially in the books. The first week of the new season brought us some incredible moments, performances and games that are sure to set the tone for the remainder of the 2022 campaign. Though there were a number of memorable moments from this week, some storylines stand out more than others. With that being said, here are three headlines from Week 1 and whether those headlines will continue to trend into Week 2 and beyond.
A grand return for Saquon Barkley
It feels like an eternity ago that Barkley was a perennial All-Pro and an Offensive Player of the Year candidate as a rookie, when totaled over 2,000 scrimmage yards along with 15 total touchdowns over 16 games. After following up his rookie campaign with another solid year in 2019, Barkley has been forced to grind through two tough seasons leading up to the beginning of this one, as a torn ACL along with other various injuries have limited Barkley to only 15 games the last two seasons. Despite positive reports floating around Giants training camp this summer, there was still skepticism over whether Barkley could return to the form of a true workhorse running back.
Though so much time has passed since he was a rookie in 2018, Barkley seemed to shake off any rust he might’ve accumulated against the Titans. Barkley managed to compile 194 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on a stout Tennessee front-seven. His 164 rushing yards are the most for the running back since Week 16 of the 2019 season. He routinely managed to rip through Titan defenders to gain positive yardage whenever he got the ball, but the biggest play from Barkley came on the opening play of the second half when he was able to streak down the left sideline for a 68 yard gain. Riding the coattails of their most talented offensive player, the Giants were able to pull off an impressive 21-20 comeback victory after being dominated in the first half by the Titans. In fact, it was a two-point conversion from none other than Barkley that cemented the victory for New York in the final period.
Week 1 was just the showing Giants fans were hoping to see from their leading back following the positive reports that were swirling all summer. If this week was any indication, then Barkley seems to have regained his footing as the focal point of New York’s offense. Can he repeat his success next week when his Giants face the Carolina Panthers for New York’s home opener? Though almost 200 total yards are a hard feat to accomplish, Barkley is one of the few players capable of gashing a defense for that kind of yardage. With Carolina not known for being one of the elite defenses in the NFL, an encore wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and would further solidify what fans have been hoping for: Barkley is back, and he’s here to bludgeon your favorite team’s defense.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers faceplant versus the Vikings
What else is there to say about Aaron Rodgers? One of the greatest quarterbacks to ever step foot on the gridiron, Rodgers is a Super Bowl champion and MVP and has won the regular season MVP award a grand total of four times. He’s a ten-time Pro-Bowler, a four-time league passing leader, and a two-time league touchdown leader amongst other career records that construct quite a resume and will ensure Rodgers will safely be enshrined in Canton when he becomes eligible to enter the Hall of Fame.
Apparently though, there’s more to be said about Rodgers, especially after an ugly showing in Green Bay’s opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Following an offseason that saw the Packers ship their best wide receiver, Davante Adams, out of town, there were questions about whether Rodgers would be able to operate Green Bay’s offense without the presence of a true alpha receiver. Those concerns were validated when the Packers only managed one score against their division rivals, with Rodgers contributing 195 empty yards and two turnovers. The Packers leading receiver was AJ Dillon, a change-of-pace for the backup running back that isn’t known for his receiving abilities. That alone should signify the type of night that Rodgers had on Sunday. The offense simply couldn’t find any sort of rhythm, as Rodgers and his receivers appeared to be completely out of sync. After the game, Rodgers told the media that the team was only “hurting itself” with “too many mental mistakes.”
While lacking the reliability of a true number one wide receiver, the Packers should find a way to rebound and get their offensive approach straightened out ahead of their next matchup. Remember, Green Bay faced a similar — arguably worse — beatdown in Week 1 last year at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, another game that Rodgers disappointed in. Last season, Rodgers followed up the subpar performance with a 22/27 showing that yielded 255 passing yards and four passing touchdowns the following week. Next week will see the Packers play their first game of the new season in Lambeau Field, when the Bears will be in town. Can Rodgers rebound in the spotlight of the marquee Sunday Night matchup? To put it frankly: yes. Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur have proven time and time again that adversity isn’t enough to shake them. Even without a player of Adams’ caliber, the two will put together a game plan that will set both Rodgers and the Packers up for success.
Joe “Brr” Burrow off to frigid start
Coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, many were high on Burrow entering his third year as a professional. There is good reason to continue to be optimistic, as the quarterback has shown consistent improvement and his chemistry with his receivers continued to grow throughout last season. Though his value and his talent are unquestioned, Burrow could not have gotten off to a worse start of the 2022 season than his performance against the Steelers on Sunday.
In a high-profile division contest, Burrow was responsible for a whopping five turnovers (four interceptions and one lost fumble) as he single-handedly gave Pittsburgh the opportunity to stay in the game and eventually win in overtime. Though he threw 338 yards and added two passing touchdowns, the five giveaways are far too many if Cincinnati hopes to continue their domination of opposing teams that began last year. Four of Burrow’s turnovers came in the first half, making him one of just two quarterbacks to ever have four turnovers in one half in the past 20 years. His first pass attempt was intercepted by Steelers cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick on a play that silenced the relentless Cincinatti crowd. In the end, the Bengals had secured the possession battle by almost 20 whole minutes, had managed 32 first downs compared to Pittsburgh’s 13, and dominated the total yards on offense. Although Cincinnati showed more firepower, it was Burrow who earned his team the loss.
Bengals fans have a bad taste in their mouth following the early season defeat and they will look for a rebound effort from Burrow in Week 2 against the Dallas Cowboys. Though Dallas possesses a strong defensive unit, they shouldn’t be able to put the clamps on Burrow in the same way that the Steelers did on Sunday. Does Burrow rebound from his ice-cold start to lead Cincinnati back on the right track? I would say yes, but not as confidently as I am in Barkley or Rodgers. Burrow entered this season being monitored for an injury that had lingered in training camp and he will be tasked with traveling to Dallas where he will be faced with both a hostile defense and fanbase. Another poor performance will start to raise red flags as Burrow looks to find his footing.