NFL Week 1 Grades: What Sophomore Slump?

It was an exciting week of football, starting with an explosive showing by the ageless veteran Peyton Manning.  And while all eyes were on the Baltimore Ravens-Denver Broncos rematch of the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs to usher in the new NFL season, for once, it seemed that the NFL community also had their radar on Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. 

Wilson deserves such attention, especially after his unexpected, breakout rookie season last year.  Though his talents are sometimes recognized, he is often overshadowed by other quarterbacks in his class, like Robert Griffin III (RG3), Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick*.

*Though this is Kaepernick’s third season in the NFL, last year was his first as a starting QB, similar to Wilson, and thus they are often grouped together and compared.

Let’s take a look at how Wilson stacked up against his peers this week.

Russell Wilson: Good But Could Be Better / B

With the lethal combination of arguably the number one defense in the NFL and a 5’11” QB who can make adjustments and read the field with hawk-like precision (pun intended), many thought the Seahawks had their first game against the Carolina Panthers in the bag.  But the Panthers didn’t go quietly and their defense made Wilson and company work. 

While the Seahawks had minimal rhythm the entire game, it was the lack of protection by the offensive line that largely impacted Wilson’s performance.  He was forced to scramble and loss yards on sacks during crucial plays.  But like a pro, Wilson made those adjustments and finally threw his only touchdown pass of the game in the fourth quarter.  It was a beauty: a 43-yard deep pass to WR Jermaine Kearse that put the Hawks up permanently, 12-7.  Wilson finished the game with 25 of 33 passes for 320 yards.  The game was lost by the team with the bigger mistakes, and that was the Panthers’ fumble in the red zone with less than six minutes to go, rather than Wilson and the Hawks’ sloppy game.

RG3: Will Improve / B-

On Monday night, the Washington Redskins entered the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles with a perfect preseason record, but it was accomplished without their star QB.  RG3’s absence due to his (right) knee surgery in January was apparent when he made his ’13 season debut and the Redskins were out for the count early in the game.  RG3 looked tentative all night, unable to plant that right foot to follow through with his passes.  His first TD pass didn’t come until the fourth quarter, but the Redskins gained momentum with Griffin’s growing confidence and made a late surge.  But it wasn’t enough, especially with ex-Oregon head coach Chip Kelly now at the Eagles’ helm. The Skins lost, 27-33.  RG3 completed 30 of 49 passes for 329 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.  Of these four QBs, he had the lowest Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 15.7.

Though the Hawks and Redskins aren’t scheduled to meet during the regular season, watch out for a rematch of last year’s NFC Wild Card playoff game, but hopefully this time with a healthy RG3 for a proper matchup. 

Colin Kaepernick: Impressive / A

As a Hawks fan, I root for whoever plays against the Green Bay Packers (especially after their crying and whining over the “Fail Mary” last year) or the San Francisco 49ers (naturally, because SF and Seattle are division rivals).  So, it was somewhat painful to settle for the lesser of two evils and hope for a Packers’ win. It was even worse to watch Kaepernick play one heck of a game.  It felt like a playoff game, with the score see-sawing back and forth and tension running high with fights breaking out. But the 49ers were in control the whole game.  Kaepernick had three TDs and no interceptions, completing 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards, the most by a QB in a 49ers’ season opener.

With the new addition of WR Anquan Boldin (aka John Harbaugh’s Super Bowl consolation prize to his younger brother Jim) and apparently Kaepernick’s new go-to guy (13 catches for 208 yards), the Hawks are going to have to step it up next Sunday.

Andrew Luck: Good Start / B+

Luck was the Indianapolis Colts’ 2012 first overall draft pick and the successor of the aforementioned future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.  But with a slew of exciting second-year QBs to watch who can throw and run, Luck gets outshined in my book.  But on Sunday, when the Colts hosted the Oakland Raiders, Luck surprisingly showed he’s got legs too and ran a 19-yard TD in with five minutes left on the clock and for the win, 21-17.  Overall, Luck had a solid game, completing 18 of 23 passes for 178 yards, including two TD passes and no interceptions.  He had the highest QBR of these four QBs at 95.1.  But considering the Raiders are projected to be one of the worst teams this season, I would’ve expected the Colts to have an easier win. 

Look for the Seahawks to face the Colts Sunday, October 6, week five of the regular season in Indianapolis.  This will be Wilson and Luck’s first head-to-head.

Carina Fung

About Carina Fung

Carina is a native Seattlite and a die-hard Seattle sports fan: Sonics, Mariners, Seahawks, Huskies -- in that order. On her sports bucket list, she would love to see: the OKC Thunder restored as the Seattle Sonics, the Mariners win the pennant, and the Seahawks beat the "Stealers" in a Super Bowl! Oh, and visit every baseball stadium in the U.S. (seven down, 23 to go)!