The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys seized their opportunities to set the tone for the 2012 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts did not.
There are few Americans who failed to notice that professional football returned this weekend—it's too bad that some teams didn't seem to care.
Each grade is based on what the team did on the field compared to outside expectations. The rankings are just as subjective in nature, but reflect an opinion on where the team currently sits.
So click through to find out where your team is ranked and its grade for the first week of NFL play.
Yikes. That's a one-word summation of the Miami Dolphins' opener.
Ryan Tannehill looked the part of a rookie quarterback, as he was overwhelmed by a dominant defense. He completed just 20 of his 36 attempts to his teammates and another three to the Houston Texans.
Reggie Bush had a solid 4.9-yard average, but was only given 14 carries since the Dolphins were playing catch-up all afternoon.
At least the special-teams unit made a positive impact with Marcus Thigpen's 72-yard punt return for a score.
The fans can safely start planning for the 2013 NFL draft. Until then, enjoy the weather.
Dear Andrew Luck: The preseason is over. Sincerely, the Chicago Bears.
The Indianapolis Colts can take heart that Luck continued to pound away, eventually notching his first career touchdown pass with 10 minutes left. That doesn't erase the three interceptions, though.
The rushing game posted a solid 4.2-yard average and the team was only penalized three times. The defense even returned an interception for a touchdown.
Other than that, the rebuilding Colts were provided with a laundry list of things to work on.
Jake Locker got the start, but he didn't get to finish.
The eighth pick of last year's draft was knocked out in the fourth quarter after performing admirably. Locker completed 23 of his 31 attempts for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Chris Johnson did nothing to persuade the league that he was officially back. In fact, he averaged an incredible 0.4 yards per carry.
The defense was overmatched. The New England Patriots' passing was used to balance out a surprisingly dominating rushing attack.
The Tennessee Titans never really threatened the Pats in Locker's first start. If his performance was any indication, that will change in the future.
Creating five turnovers is a great sign. Not winning the game when you cause five turnovers is an apocalyptic sign.
The Cleveland Browns took every gift the Philadelphia Eagles gave them. They just couldn't exchange them for something they really needed: points.
Brandon Weeden looked atrocious. He completed a whopping 12 of his 35 attempts for a paltry 118 yards and four picks. LeSean McCoy almost had as many yards rushing as the Browns did passing (110 to 111).
Trent Richardson soldiered his way through 19 carries for 39 yards. Not the debut this sportswriter envisioned, but he showed some serious grit while working back from a knee injury.
Ultimately, there is an incredible amount of work left to be done in Cleveland. It remains to be seen if Mike Holmgren will be around to complete it.
Jeff Fisher almost pulled off the upset and got his St. Louis Rams tenure off to a nice start. As it stands, there was progress and then there was more of the 2011 Rams.
The defense stifled the high-flying Detroit Lions for most of the day. Fisher, a coach who prides himself on his defensive game planning, put together a strategy that harassed Matthew Stafford into three first-half interceptions.
However, the offense was essentially nonexistent.
Steven Jackson kept pounding the rock, but he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Sam Bradford had an efficient game (17/28, 198 yards, 1 TD), but he just didn't have too many opportunities to change the outcome.
The offensive line was ravaged by injuries to Scott Wells and Rodger Saffold. The Rams came close, but still have plenty of room for improvement.
There isn't much for the Jacksonville Jaguars to hang their heads over. Unfortunately, there isn't much to hang their hat on, either.
Blaine Gabbert continued to show improvement. He completed 23-of-39 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a costly fumble that led to Adrian Peterson's second touchdown.
The defense stonewalled the Minnesota Vikings' offense for the bulk of the game. However, it should be noted that the Vikings' offense isn't exactly the greatest show on turf.
In an interesting turn of events, Maurice Jones-Drew saw plenty of playing time, as Rashad Jennings went down early. He finished with 77 yards on 19 carries in a decent outing.
At least the Buffalo Bills have C.J. Spiller's performance to remember, because there sure isn't much else to take from their dismantling.
While the game didn't make the New York Jets' season a success, it also didn't doom the Bills to irrelevancy. It just feels like it.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had three interceptions and just as many touchdowns. His onerous contract looks worse when considering his 195 yards on 32 throws.
The aforementioned Spiller had a career-high 169 yards while filling in for an injured Fred Jackson.
As for the defense, there isn't much to celebrate. Let's just move on.
Adrian Peterson returned to the field the only way he knew how: by visiting the end zone on multiple occasions.
The knee injury seemed a distant memory, as he carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Christian Ponder failed to notch any scoring passes, but he did complete 20-of-27 passes for 270 yards. Not a bad yard-per-attempt average for the second-year signal-caller.
The defense might have slowed down a budding star in Blaine Gabbert—or it was victimized by the ongoing fallacy of his ascendance. Time will tell.
The Seattle Seahawks endured a tough beginning to the Russell Wilson era.
The surprise starter completed just 18 of his 34 passes for 153 yards, as well as one touchdown and interception apiece. He kept rallying the team, but fell short by failing to get the Seahawks into the end zone with seemingly 24 plays inside the red zone in the closing moments.
Marshawn Lynch battled through the pain for a workman-like 85 yards on 21 carries, and Braylon Edwards led all receivers with five catches for 43 yards. The numbers show a team that struggled to find its offensive rhythm all game.
The defense obliterated the Arizona Cardinals' rushing game, but couldn't contain Kevin Kolb once he entered for the injured John Skelton. It also forced a pair of turnovers, but recorded just one sack.
In the return game, Leon Washington reminded everyone that he was still more than competent with a couple of long returns to set up 10 points.
Lastly, penalties were a problem, as the Seahawks garnered 13 calls against them.
The day belonged to Kevin Kolb.
The beaten-out-but-not-down backup quarterback entered the game for John Skelton and demonstrated poise under pressure, leading the Arizona Cardinals down the field for the deciding touchdown. He completed all six of his passes on the drive, including the scoring toss to Andre Roberts.
On the other side, the defense spoiled Russell Wilson's debut. It harassed the rookie into an 18-of-34 performance and forced two turnovers.
Even more impressive, it kept Marshawn Lynch largely in check and made him work for each of his 85 yards.
Penalties were an issue, as the Cards were flagged for 10 fouls resulting in just over 100 yards.
New head coach Dennis Allen is going to need more than a few months to makeover the Oakland Raiders. I mean, we are talking about a team that drafted a kicker in the first round.
The Raiders defense put on a show in a wasted effort. They continuously shut down an ailing San Diego Chargers offense, but couldn't force a turnover or stop committing penalties.
The offense was of little help. Carson Palmer completed three-yard dumpoff after three-yard dump off to Darren McFadden, which resulted in zero points. He did find Rod Streater in the end zone with under a minute to go, but the game was beyond reach at that point.
It's tough to be too hard on the defense when Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo's injury doomed Oakland. With nobody to handle the long-snapping duties, three failed punts gave the Chargers an advantage that the Raiders couldn't counter.
Regardless of the injury, the offense looked weak and the defense couldn't get out of their own way.
Rough day for the Carolina Panthers.
Anytime you rush for a grand total of 10 yards, you're probably going to lose. If you outspend the entire league on running backs, it's a certainty.
Starting running back DeAngelo Williams failed to register a positive rushing output, finishing with negative-one yard on six carries. Cam Newton wasn't much better, with four yards on five carries.
The Panthers were able to move the ball in the air, just not into the end zone. Newton completed 23 passes for just over 300 yards, but he had twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
The defense performed admirably, only not as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' unit.
The San Diego Chargers would do well not to get too cocky, it won't be every week that the opposing team's long snapper will suffer an injury that will cripple their opponent. However, on this particular night, they got the unexpected boost they needed.
If San Diego had been left to their own devices, it would have been a rough outing. The offense looked only slightly better than last year's inept version.
The Chargers struggled moving the ball through the air or on the ground (258 total yards) and missed multiple opportunities to score touchdowns instead of field goals. They did, however, take care off the football, something they couldn't be relied upon to do last year.
Aside from the above-mentioned gift, the defense deserves the credit for this win.
The Oakland Raiders seemingly moved the ball at will early in the game. Yet, the Chargers settled in, took control, and limited a healthy Darren McFadden to 2.1 yards per carry. Without their stud running back to turn to, San Diego only had to keep Carson Palmer under wraps, which isn't quite the same as stopping Tom Brady. Or Blaine Gabbert for that matter.
Well, there were a couple of good things to take away from this game.
The Cincinnati Bengals showed a lot of moxie storming back after going down 10-0 and again just before the half. Additionally, Marvin Lewis showed confidence in Benjarvus Green-Ellis and the offensive line by going for it on fourth down.
And that's about it.
The defense was consistently blown off the line by the Baltimore Ravens on running plays. They never really affected Joe Flacco (apart from the three sacks) and the no-huddle offense seemed to leave them in a daze.
Besides the two above-mentioned drives, the offense failed to find ways to score. They did garner 10 first downs, but little else.
At least it's only one week.
It wasn't pretty, but you get the impression that's just the way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like it.
Tampa pounded the Carolina Panthers into submission, forcing its division rival to take to the air in search of points. The Panthers found plenty of yards up there, just few points.
As mentioned in the last slide, the Bucs limited Carolina to an astonishing 10 yards rushing, matching the Panthers' point total.
The Tampa offense wasn't spectacular, but it was steady.
Tampa Bay controlled the clock for over 37 minutes, using Doug Martin to the tune of 24 carries for 95 yards. Josh Freeman's number wasn't called much, as he only had 138 yards and one touchdown.
Well, LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick found their way eventually—they just took their sweet time doing it.
McCoy lost his grip on the ball early, but rebounded to rack up 110 yards rushing. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson combined for a nice effort with 173 yards and a touchdown.
The defense did fine, holding the toothless Cleveland Browns to 16 points. There just wasn't anything particularly inspiring about it.
The 12 penalties will be hard for Andy Reid to swallow as well.
A win counts in the standings, but it won't raise the Detroit Lions' grade much.
Matthew Stafford and the offense looked out of sync the entire day, with the exception of two big fourth-quarter drives. The fourth-year quarterback repeatedly made poor decisions, while receivers continually dropped balls that hit their hands.
After three first-half interceptions, Stafford rallied and led the Lions on a last-minute drive for the game-winning touchdown. So there is a redeeming factor despite his 69.4 rating.
The defense performed well, even though the secondary was patched together with duct tape and kindergarten paste. It held the St. Louis Rams to 261 yards, but failed to force a turnover.
Special-teams play was solid. Jason Hanson was perfect, Stefan Logan consistently made up ground in the return game, and punter Ben Graham pinned two inside the 20.
While there were a few positives on the day, Detroit has plenty of room for improvement.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were never out of it; they just couldn't make the big plays when the time came.
Ben Roethlisberger posted a meager 6.1 yards per attempt and was brutalized for five sacks. He did throw two touchdowns, but his interception (which resulted in a touchdown) proved too costly.
The running game never got off the bus. Regardless of who is running the ball, 75 yards on 26 carries won't get it done.
The defense was average. Key mistakes by veterans (Troy Polamalu taking a poor angle on Demaryius Thomas' long touchdown) plagued the Steelers all evening.
Pittsburgh did dominate the clock for 10 extra minutes. However, that doesn't make up for a lack of execution.
The Super Bowl champs looked like they hadn't forgotten that they were the current kings. They did, however, forget that nobody bows or curtsies in the NFL.
The New York Giants looked flat most of the opening evening, although quite a bit of that can be traced to the Dallas Cowboys' defense.
Eli Manning was somewhat uninspiring. He averaged a scrawny 6.7 yards per attempts with one touchdown. The receivers didn't aid the cause with their constant inability to catch balls that hit their hands.
He wasn't given much help from the rushing game, either, as the Giants managed a total of 82 yards on the ground.
The defense wasn't terrible, but it had to be dominant for the Giants to upend the Cowboys on this particular night.
The Kansas City Chiefs were without a lot of defensive talent in Tambi Hali, Brandon Flowers, Kendrick Lewis and Anthony Toribio, so their performance cannot be deemed a horrendous failure.
A high-powered offense exposed their defense, yet the Chiefs didn't completely fold. They toughed it out for a half before succumbing to the aerial onslaught.
Matt Cassel had a fumble and two picks, but he also had a couple of touchdowns (one rushing and passing). He threw for 258 yards as well.
Jamaal Charles flashed his pre-injury form with a 5.4-yard average. Unfortunately, the recently added Peyton Hillis didn't perform nearly as well.
Lastly, the wide receivers for the Chiefs never arrived. If anyone should find them, please return them to Arrowhead Stadium.
The New Orleans Saints didn't exactly turn the negative energy surrounding the offseason into fuel for their collective fire—quite the opposite, really.
Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins barnstormed the Saints and never looked back. The Saints made a late run behind Drew Brees' 339 yards and three touchdowns, but it just wasn't enough.
The running game was abandoned quickly because of deficit, but New Orleans only averaged 3.2 yards per carry anyway. Not exactly a quality showing.
Anytime the defense gives up 40 points, there will be few positives to accentuate. Actually, make that none, just to match the number of turnovers the Saints created.
Additionally, the Saints' blocked punt is completely negated by the 12 penalties assessed against them.
The night belonged to Peyton Manning, but it was another newcomer who put the final nail in the coffin.
New Orleans Saints transplant Tracy Porter grabbed a Ben Roethlisberger pass with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. He then promptly returned the ball 43 yards to end the Pittsburgh Steelers' bid for a comeback.
Getting back to the man of the hour, Manning looked just fine in his Denver Broncos debut. He posted an impressive 9.7 yards per attempt to match his two touchdowns against zero picks.
To be fair, one of those touchdowns was Demaryius Thomas taking a screen pass 71 yards. Former Indianapolis Colts running mate Jacob Tamme caught the other scoring toss.
The defense was solid all around. The Steelers were never able to get a running game going (2.9 yards per carry), and the Broncos held Roethlisberger to just 22 completions on 40 attempts.
Where in the world did that come from?
Mark Sanchez led the point-per-minute New York Jets, and that phrase is not an exaggeration. The much-maligned quarterback put up an astonishing 9.9 yards per attempt to go along with his three touchdowns.
The Jets' defense continued its personal vendetta against Ryan Fitzpatrick, snatching three of his passes while also allowing him three touchdowns. The only other drawback was giving up 196 yards rushing.
One game doesn't make a season for better or for worse. However, the other team from New York got off to one heck of a start.
The Dallas Cowboys did not lack for heroes on opening night.
Want the beleaguered-veteran-quarterback-does-good storyline? Tony Romo had three touchdowns and over 300 yards while outdueling his more celebrated counterpart.
Need a breakout fantasy stud? Kevin Ogletree announced that he was ready for his closeup, hauling in eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
DeMarco Murray wasn't a slouch, either, racking up 131 yards on 20 carries.
The defense did enough to keep the New York Giants at bay, although nobody on the team will be happy with the 13 penalty flags they incurred.
The NFC East just got more muddled because Robert Griffin III gave Washington Redskins fans a legitimate hope of immediate playoff appearances.
Mike Shanahan was smart enough to get Griffin's confidence rolling with short passes, and then Pierre Garcon grabbed a slightly errant pass on his way to an 88-yard touchdown. Griffin took things over from there, piling up 362 total yards with two touchdowns.
He wasn't the only Redskins rookie making noise. Alfred Morris had 98 rushing yards and a couple of scores.
So as not to be forgotten, the defense was stout, limiting the New Orleans Saints' rushing attack to 32 yards and forcing three turnovers. However, it still allowed 326 yards through the air and yielded 25 points.
Despite the punt team giving up one touchdown via block, going into the Superdome and notching a W requires nothing less than an A-.
Green Bay Packers fans can take solace in their team's ability to make a seemingly foregone conclusion appear interesting.
The Pack seemed dead, down, 23-7, in the fourth quarter, when Randall Cobb took a San Francisco 49ers punt up the right sideline and to the house. The big special teams play powered the team to a frenzied finish.
Aaron Rodgers completed a couple of two-point conversions and drove the Packers down the field one more time after the Niners responded to Cobb's outburst. They just simply got going too late, thanks to the San Francisco defense.
Rodgers finished with 303 yards, a couple of scores and a pick. Unfortunately, he also led the team in rushing with 27 yards.
The defense struggled, giving up 186 yards on the ground. Frankly, it couldn't get the stops the team needed when they were required.
The Chicago Bears came extremely close to earning that exclusive plus. They just couldn't overcome the penalties and an unfortunate pick-six.
The Bears welcomed Andrew Luck to the NFL by showing him what he accomplished during the preseason is ancient history. They roughed up the rookie with three sacks and as many interceptions.
For Chicago, the newcomers were the theme of the offense.
Aside from the aforementioned penalties and turnover, Chicago did exactly what it was supposed to do. Now comes time for a more difficult challenge in the Green Bay Packers.
Performing under the weight of expectations has knocked more than one team off of its pedestal. Do not count the 2012 Houston Texans among them.
The Texans did what they were supposed to and smacked the Miami Dolphins around.
They forced Ryan Tannehill to temporarily rethink his profession, snatching three of his passes and making things uncomfortable. In fact, they limited the entire team to a total of 275 yards.
Arian Foster picked up where he left off last January. He only tallied 79 yards rushing, but provided two scores on the ground. Andre Johnson did the rest through the air, with 119 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Schaub was steady, as he completed 20 of his 31 attempts, including the aforementioned connection with Johnson.
Just another ho-hum victory for the New England Patriots, who have now reeled off nine straight in season openers.
The defense set the tone early and didn't let the Tennessee Titans get off the mat. The redemption-seeking Chris Johnson was held to a measly four yards on 11 carries.
The offense was equally as efficient, scoring 34 points behind a suddenly potent rushing attack. The Pats stuck with the run and were rewarded with a 4.6-yard average.
The ballyhooed passing attack was only given 31 opportunities. Tom Brady completed 23 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
Another statement game for the San Francisco 49ers, another victory.
Alex Smith shook off the criticism from the outside (this writer included) to complete 20-of-26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Basically, he did what was asked of him.
The touchdown belonged to Randy Moss (four catches, 47 yards), but the day belonged to Michael Crabtree. The spark that the 49ers were looking for by bringing in so many new receivers apparently lit a fire under the former first-rounder.
Crabtree hauled in seven passes for 76 yards and appeared to be everywhere. Whenever the Niners needed a big catch, Crabtree would find space and move the chains.
Frank Gore joined the party with 117 yards on just 16 carries, with one resulting in a touchdown.
The defense remained its dominant self. Holding Aaron Rodgers and company to 22 points is a feat, especially when the Green Bay Packers only had seven through the first three quarters.
Pushing them to that coveted "plus," David Akers tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal.
Statement made. Emphatically.
The Atlanta Falcons handled the pressure of being one of the most talked-up teams of the preseason incredibly well. They marched into hostile Arrowhead Stadium and laid the smack down on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Matt Ryan averaged an impressive 9.6 yards per attempt while tossing three touchdown passes. Just for good measure, he added another on the ground.
Julio Jones was the primary beneficiary of Ryan's wizardry, racking up 108 yards on six catches with a couple of scores. The last touchdown pass was caught by homecoming king Tony Gonzalez.
The defense wasn't as dominant as the offense, but we aren't going to punish the Falcons for giving up 24 points to such an explosive offense—especially considering Atlanta was opportunistic enough to force three turnovers.
The Baltimore Ravens missed out on a shot at the Super Bowl last year due to an errant kick.
It doesn't appear they've forgotten.
Joe Flacco looked extremely comfortable playing in the no-huddle offense. He stood confidently in the pocket and delivered an astonishing 10.4 yards per attempt with two touchdowns.
Just as impressive was the rushing game. The line consistently cleared holes in the Cincinnati Bengals defense to allow Ray Rice to rush for 68 yards on only 10 carries.
Despite their advanced age, the defense looked as they do every year. All thoughts about Terrell Suggs were forgotten by the end of the first drive considering the defense forced two turnovers and kept Andy Dalton in check all night.
This team is downright scary and gets the nod in the top spot thanks to the lack of obvious holes.