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NFL Week 1 Live Analysis: Buccaneers and Cowboys Face Off in Sunday Night Football

NFL football is back, and Sports Illustrated is tracking all of the action and excitement.

It’s finally Week 1 of the NFL season, and Sports Illustrated is here to provide live analysis and updates all day long. Thursday's matchup between the Bills and Rams provided fans with a spectacle worthy of a season opener: Josh Allen threw for three touchdowns in a 31–10 win over the reigning Super Bowl champions, sending a clear message that the Bills can live up to the hype surrounding them. (Buffalo entered the season as the betting favorite and at No. 1 in our MMQB power rankings, with six of eight first-place votes.)

And the action continues today—follow along with SI’s Conor Orr for live analysis all day long.

8:20 p.m. window

(9:32): The Buccaneers have dominated the Cowboys in the first half but have only three field goals to show for their efforts. And it’s second-year player Micah Parsons who has primarily kept the Buccaneers from scoring. Parsons, who was one of the best players in the league as a rookie in 2021, has two sacks and three tackles for the Cowboys. We talk all the time about the greatness of Aaron Donald, but it could be Parsons who wins Defensive Player of the Year instead.

(9:08): Brady connected with Julio Jones for the first time, a quick square-in route. He then connected with Jones again on a 48-yard pass to put the Buccaneers in scoring position late in the second half. Brady’s receiving crop of Jones, Godwin and Evans has to be considered one of the top target threesomes in the league.

(8:44):If there were any doubts about whether Tom Brady was locked in for the season opener, he erased them. The veteran QB lead the Buccaneers to a field goal on their opening drive; Brady hit Chris Godwin on a wide receiver screen for a first down and then threw a bullet to Mike Evans to get the Buccaneers into scoring range. Even at 45, Brady can still sling it. His decision to unretire looks good based off one drive. And his wife, Gisele Bündchen, tweeted her approval.

4:25 p.m. window

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Chiefs vs. Cardinals

(6:34): How scary is it for the rest of the NFL that the Chiefs are still winning on plays they created for Tyreek Hill, but without Tyreek Hill on the roster? That touchdown—Mahomes’s fifth, by the way—to Mecole Hardman seems like a staple speed mismatch play they’d run at the goal line last year. 

(6:21): Why are we not talking more about the fact that Justin Reid hit an extra point and then proceeded to drill a kick into the end zone for a touchback? Kicking is incredibly hard, and while all athletes are naturally gifted in some way, that’s a wildly different skill set. Have you ever approached a football and tried to blast it as hard as you can? More times than not, you end up looking like Charlie Brown.

Giants vs. Titans

(7:05): This is why you hire Brian Daboll as head coach—relevant in the waning moments despite a roster in tatters. Saquon Barkley with a revival, Kadarius Toney getting the ball in space. This is, despite 13 points on the board, a mere fever dream for Giants fans a year ago with Jason Garrett calling plays. 

(5:11 p.m.): Seeing a lot of “same old Giants” tweets this afternoon. I have to caution: It’s going to look bad for half a season. It’s a rebuild without a teardown. But I came out of training camp really high on this staff, as they tried to combine the best principles of the front offices of the Chiefs, Ravens and Bills. I think it’s a forward-looking operation. In the meantime, enjoy watching Daniel Jones. He’s playing for his future in New York right now.

Packers vs. Vikings

(4:50 p.m.): The look on Aaron Rodgers’s face said it all. Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson beat Patrick Peterson and was wide open for what looked like an easy touchdown, but the ball went right through Watson’s hands and the Packers were forced to punt. Rodgers had expressed frustration with the rookie receivers throughout preseason, and it’s been a frustrating game for Rodgers and the Packer offense with no points and three minutes left in the half—what was normally money in the bank with Davante Adams is now loose change. 

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1 p.m. window

Lions vs. Eagles

The Dan Campbell effect is on full display in Detroit. The Lions may not win this thing, but they are absolutely on fire deep in a game against an opponent that is clearly better from a personnel standpoint. 

Bengals vs. Steelers

  • If you want to see an example of why Mike Tomlin is the best defensive mind in football, just watch the Bengals’ fourth-and-goal attempt at the end of that game. Cincinnati has one of the deepest receiver rooms in the NFL. There was absolutely nowhere for Joe Burrow to go with that football.
  • Joe Burrow’s drive-saving pass to Ja’Marr Chase with a little more than five minutes to go in the second quarter reminds me of something I discussed with NFL vet J.T. O’Sullivan for the Burrow piece we did a few weeks ago. Burrow is a young, but athletically superior clone of Tom Brady in the pocket. What does that mean? While Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen can escape and run, Burrow can continue escaping within a tight window to make a throw off a sound platform. That’s how he keeps drives alive. A lone bright spot for the Bengals today, who have already seen three Burrow interceptions and a fumble.

Panthers vs. Browns

  • One thing you can never do is count Baker Mayfield out. After scoring on a seven-yard run, Mayfield just hit Robbie Anderson on a 75-yard TD pass to pull the Panthers within 23-21. Can Baker finish the rally and get revenge on the Browns?
  • Myles Garrett was the Browns No. 1 overall pick in 2017. Baker Mayfield was the team’s No. 1 overall pick in 2018. Garrett didn’t mince words when asked about what he wanted to do playing against Mayfield on Sunday: “I think he has a great family, but he’s the opposition now, and at the end of the day, I’ve got to take him out,” Garrett told The comment was related to Garrett wanting to sack Mayfield multiple times... Garrett now has two sacks of Mayfield with another quarter to play. What a day for Garrett and the Browns and not-so good day for Mayfield.
  • Pretty obvious what the game plan is here for the Panthers RE: Baker Mayfield. If you have good pass rushers, you want to get the ball out quickly. Not only because it avoids a sack, but it gets edge rushers running at full speed for no reason. Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are (likely) especially interested in sacking Mayfied. It’s a good idea to burn off their juice.

Commanders vs. Jaguars

  • The Commanders gave up a couple draft picks for Carson Wentz and thought maybe they had their quarterback of the future. But the Jaguars have roared back from a 14-3 deficit to take a 22-14 lead, thanks to a couple Wentz interceptions. Remember, it was Wentz last year who cost the Colts a trip to the playoffs when he and the Colts lost to the Jags the last week of the regular season. Turnovers have plagued Wentz since his time in Philadelphia and now his mistakes might cost the Commanders in their home opener.
  • The Washington Commanders were selling mugs with a silhouette of Washington state in the background, Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason were fighting during CBS Sunday pre-game and a helpful text I sent to a group of older adults attempting their first fantasy league about potential rainy conditions was deemed subterfuge. Feels like we’ve never left, but either way, it’s good to be back, NFL.

49ers vs. Bears

  • We wrote earlier that bad conditions and Matt Eberflus’s defense were a recipe for disaster for the 49ers. And that’s exactly how it’s playing out against the 49ers at Soldier Field. Trey Lance has struggled and the Bears have taken advantage of the former No. 1 pick, intercepting him to set up a touchdown to give the Bears a 19-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Bears used to be known as the Monsters of the Midway. But they’ve also mastered the art of winning ugly.
  • Trey Lance was just sacked on a big third down. Soldier Field is an absolute swamp, which, despite Justin Fields’ struggles, heavily favors a defense coached by Matt Eberflus. At the combine this year, we talked about his development into a stunt master (meaning, the little maneuvers he has his defensive linemen make in order to help them get to the quarterback). He credited Rod Marinelli (former defensive coordinator/head coach) with coming up with a lot of those ideas. The Bears are going to get in the backfield using fewer defenders (and fewer premiere defenders) than any team in the NFL. In bad conditions this is deadly.

Colts vs. Texans

The trade of Matt Ryan to the Colts was one of the biggest stories of the offseason after the Falcons failed to secure a trade for Deshaun Watson. But Ryan has been thoroughly outplayed today by Davis Mills. The second-year quarterback out of Stanford has a pair of touchdowns to O.J. Howard, who was a late signing by the team after he didn’t make the final roster with the Bills. So maybe the Texans have something with Mills and Howard

Dolphins vs. Patriots

  • I love a good dead horse to beat, don’t get me wrong, but I approached the Patriots’ offseason with some hesitancy. I thought handing over playcalling duties to Joe Judge and Matt Patricia was not that big a deal, simply because the offense has been in place for 20 years and their presence could help whittle down what Tom Brady built into a tome. But after a half of football, this looks miserable. Bill Belichick exited last season to an absolute drubbing by the Buffalo Bills and is now being out handled by the Dolphins in the opener. 
  • As a side note, watch the way that Mike McDaniel gets players the ball with momentum heading toward the line of scrimmage. Coaches love the CFL because you’re able to get into a full sprint before you hit the line. That orbit motion pattern the Dolphins just ran to Cedrick Wilson has the same kind of impact while staying within the NFL rules
  • A game-altering play in Miami puts the Dolphins up 10-0, which is worth keeping an eye on. The defense generates a free runner on Mac Jones’ blind side, resulting in a strip sack returned for a touchdown. A lot has been made about the Patriots’ plan with their offensive coaching staff. Jones was without a net on that uncharacteristically long drop back.

Jets vs. Ravens

Baby steps obviously for the Jets, but first-round pick Garrett Wilson had one of the plays of the day so far, getting them within inches of a first down after a dead-in-the-water desperation pass from Joe Flacco. He broke a tackle, froze on a dime and juked a Ravens defender. Robert Saleh is getting booed for not trying to convert. It’s a fair criticism from Jets fans. You can’t out-field-position John Harbaugh. You’re going to have to throw a surprise uppercut at some point and keep Lamar Jackson off the field. 

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