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Around the NFL: Ravens Make Statement in AFC North Opener

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Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the perspective of the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

THURSDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS

Kansas City Chiefs 34, Houston Texans 20 

The reigning Super Bowl champs proved early and often Thursday night why they are the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again this season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked as talented as ever, completing 24 of 32 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire dazzled in his NFL debut, almost immediately proving the Chiefs right for drafting him with the final pick in the first round. The former LSU Tiger carried the ball 25 times for 138 yards and a score.

The Chiefs defense made things difficult for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who looked out of sorts at time in his first game without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Running back David Johnson, who the Texans acquired for Hopkins, was solid in his Texans debut, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown. Houston’s warts showed Thursday night, especially on the offensive line, as Watson was sacked four times.

AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND

Baltimore Ravens 38, Cleveland Browns 6

With expectation high heading into the 2020 season, reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens delivered in Week 1, thrashing the Browns in all facets of the game.

Jackson was stellar, completing 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards. The former Heisman Trophy winner is making a habit of shining in season openers. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has completed 82 percent of his passes, thrown for 599 yards and eight scores.

Although they debuted a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, it felt like 2019 all over again for the Browns, who experienced similar offensive woes to what they had under Freddie Kitchens.

Third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield was inaccurate and erratic throughout the day, under constant duress by the Ravens’ defensive front. He went 21 of 39 for 189 yards and touchdown with an interception. Mayfield has now thrown an interception in seven-straight games dating back to last season.

Cleveland also struggled to get wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. involved, which was one of biggest errors of Kitchens’ tenure. The three-time Pro Bowler had the second-fewest receptions, yards and touchdowns of his career in 2019. He caught just three passes for 22 yards on Sunday, but was targeted ten times.

The Browns will have a short turnaround hosting the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, while the Ravens will battle Deshaun Watson and the Texans Sunday afternoon.

New Orleans Saints 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

In a duel of legendary passers, it was New Orleans’ Drew Brees that bested Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady on Sunday.

Brees was a solid 18 of 30 for 160 yards and two touchdown passes, but his supporting cast was just as successful. Fresh off his new five-year, $75 million extension, running back Alvin Kamara scored twice, through the air and on the ground. Tight end Jared Cook led the Saints with five catches for 80 yards.

While the Saints played well, it was self-inflicted errors that sunk the Buccaneers. Going 23 of 36 for 239 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), Brady’s two interceptions proved costly, resulting in 14 New Orleans points. The Bucs also muffed a perfectly executed pooch kickoff, which turned into a Saints field goal.

Brady and the new-look Bucs offense looked out of sync in their debut, in large part because of the New Orleans defense. The Saints pass rush kept Brady under duress all afternoon, while the secondary was opportunistic and blanketed receivers. They sacked the future Hall of Famer three times, hit him on six other occasions and held wide receiver Mike Evans to one catch for two yards, a garbage time touchdown.

The Saints will battle the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football next week. The Buccaneers will host another NFC South rival in the Carolina Panthers early Sunday.

Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos, 10:10 p.m. Monday, ESPN

Before the Steelers and Broncos meet at Heinz Field on Sept. 20, Denver will follow Pittsburgh on Monday night, taking on the Tennessee Titans in the second half of ESPN’s annual doubleheader.

Quarterback Drew Lock is entering his first full season as the starter in Denver. The Missouri product put up solid numbers as a rookie a year ago, throwing for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns over just five games.

With the addition of explosive rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler and Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon, expectation are high for Lock entering year two. He will get a favorable matchup to start his sophomore season, facing a Tennessee Titans defense that was 24th against the pass in 2019.

Fresh off an appearance in the AFC Championship last year, the Titans committed long-term to their workhorse Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Henry led the league with a career-high 1,540 yards last season, while Tannehill’s 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

Green Bay Packers 43, Minnesota Vikings 34

Washington 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17

Seattle Seahawks 38, Atlanta Falcons 25

Buffalo Bills 27, New York Jets 17

Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23

New England Patriots 21, Miami Dolphins 11

Las Vegas Raiders 34, Carolina Panthers 20

Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Indianapolis Colts 20

Los Angeles Chargers 16, Cincinnati Bengals 13

Arizona Cardinals 24, San Francisco 49ers 20

Los Angeles Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 17

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 7:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN

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