Welcome to the 2nd annual series I call “NFL Stats That Stick Out”.

During each week of the season, I will take note of those players who performed at the top level. I will also include at least one dubious distinction for either a team, player or coach.

Beyond just statistics, though, each of these players, coaches or teams that I intend to spotlight have an interesting story to tell.  My goal with this series is to find them and tie them into their statistics.

I hope you all enjoy reading these weekly articles as much as I do writing them…

Alex Smith, QB (Chiefs)

KC 42 at NE 27

The Chiefs played the much-anticipated first game of the 2017 season against the Patriots last week in Foxboro.  Given that KC hadn’t won on New England soil since 1990 prior this game, and the Patriots had just hoisted their fifth championship banner, all eyes were on QB Tom Brady, not Alex Smith.  But the 33-year old outshined his future Hall of Fame counterpart by completing 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and 4 TDs/0 INT (2 of these TDS – 75+ yards each). This performance was good enough for a 148.6 QB passer rate and the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.  Only Vikings QB Sam Bradford could hold a candle to what was one of Smith’s best career performances when Bradford nearly topped the total passer rating with his 143.0.  Smith’s heightened performance in Week 1 was a stark contrast to his career stats since he entered this season with just 2 TDs over 75 yards and a career 85.8 QBR.  Known primarily as a good “game manager”, Smith has now likely been motivated to step it up after the Chiefs’ No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft (QB Pat Mahomes) lit it up in the preseason.  Time after time, the former Texas Tech QB showcased his ability to throw downfield bombs, be versatile, and handle pressure in the pocket which had many wondering when he might step in to replace the 13-year veteran.  However, after how sharp he looked in Week 1, it is safe to assume that Smith’s job is safe for now, barring any freak injuries.

Kareem Hunt, RB (Chiefs)

KC 42 at NE 27

This 22-year-old rookie out of Toledo was magnificent in his league debut coming away as Week 1’s leader in total rushing yards (148) on 17 carries.  He also scored his first NFL rushing TD and added 98 more yards on 5 catches (plus 2 more receiving TDs).  Additionally, Hunt ran for 246 yards from scrimmage which was the most ever by a player in their first NFL game.  But what impressed most about the Chiefs 3rd round draft pick was his ability to bounce back after fumbling his first-ever NFL carry.  Head coach Andy Reid said about Hunt, “It started out just a little bit shaky but it was all heart… I am proud of him for getting right back on it and doing a good job.”  Hunt credited the Chiefs O-Line for “making great holes all night” as a key to his success and the defense for having his back after the fumble.  He said his teammates told him, “We got you man.” Indeed, they went on to get a fourth-down stop with no points which inspired to Hunt to “step up and make plays”.  After the game, the team reportedly gave Hunt a huge ovation for his overall performance, an indication that chemistry is alive and well in this locker room.  Could it help propel KC past the others in the tough AFC West division towards Super Bowl 52?  If so, it would be the Chiefs’ first appearance in the championship game since 1969.

Antonio Brown, WR (Steelers)

PIT 21 at CLE 18

Largely credited with helping the Steelers pull out a win on the road against the slowly improving Browns, the 29-year-old elite receiver caught for 182 yards on 11 receptions in Sunday’s opening game making him the Week 1 leader in this category.  It was also the fourth consecutive year in which the 5-time Pro Bowler has caught for 100+ yards in the season opener.  Overall, since the start of 2013, Brown’s record of 481 receptions is considered the “most productive four-year run by a wide receiver in NFL history.”  Stats and multiple records aside, Brown’s reputation for touchdown celebrations is becoming legendary.  In years past, he’s been slapped with several “excessive celebration” penalties.  But for this season with the newly relaxed rules, it’ll be interesting to see what the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver comes up with next.  Earlier this month, he admitted on ESPN’s NFL Live that he has a running list of dances planned.  Too bad he didn’t have a chance to unleash one of them in Week 1, as he had 0 TDs.

Calais Campbell, DE (Jaguars)

JAX 29 at HOU 7

The Jaguars’ four-year, $60 million deal to sign this 10-year veteran in the off-season paid off immediately, as Campbell became the Week 1 leader in sacks with his franchise-record 4.0 against the Texans.  The 6’8, 300-pound lineman also claimed an AFC Defensive Player of the Week Award for his performance.  His contribution, plus 6 other sacks from 5 other Jags added up to a franchise single-game record 10 sacks in 1 game (6 against QB Savage in 1H; 4 against QB Watson in 2H).  This was the first double-digit sack total for an NFL team since 2014.  Many experts are expecting bigger things as the season wears on for this Jacksonville defense.  These expectations are why Campbell said he signed on with the team in free-agency, rather than going to his hometown Denver Broncos.  Campbell admitted to SI that he took criticism for this decision, but he “[felt] like the rest of the world doesn’t see Jax the way I do.  I think Jax is close.  They lose 10 games last year by 1 score… Jax is right there.  We just have to find a way to win those games… That’s where you have to be prepared for any situation, and you have to execute.” And, execute is something Campbell clearly knows how to do.

B.J. Goodson, MLB (Giants)

NYG 3 at DAL 19

There weren’t many bright spots for the Giants in Week 1’s embarrassing loss to the Cowboys, but this 2nd year “Mike” (a/k/a Middle Linesman) out of Clemson was one of them.  The 24-year-old 6’1, 241-pounder played 73 of NY’s 74 defensive snaps and collected an impressive 18 tackles (14 solo + 4 Assists).  He also played 9-of-24 special teams snaps.  Compare that to 13 total defensive snaps played all of last season during his rookie year.  Unfortunately for Goodson and the Giants defense, the offense did not put in the same effort against Dallas and had so many 3-and-outs that the defense spent almost 9 more total minutes on the field than the offense.  While the Giants’ defense managed to hold the Cowboys to 1 TD, admittedly all the energy spent “gassed” them out and effected the team’s bottom-line.  Going forward, the Giants need a better performance from the offensive side of the football as they head into one of the toughest schedules for any team in the league including 4 trips to the Pacific and Mountain time zones.

Andy Dalton, QB (Bengals)

BAL 20 at CIN 0

It’s no wonder the boos rained down on Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati during Week 1. There’s enough talent on this Bengals roster that many felt this team had a legitimate chance for a potential playoff run this season.  But, instead of taking charge of a banged-up Ravens team that should finish somewhere around .500 by the end of the year, Cincinnati became shutout for the first time in a season opener since 1979.  They also have the dubious distinction of becoming the first NFL team to get shutout in a home opener since 2006.  Much of the blame (and rightly so) has squarely been put on Dalton who was unholy bad on Sunday.  He went 16 for 31 (51.6 completion %), 4 interceptions, 1 fumble and finished with a total QBR of, get this: 0.6.  It’s true that getting the giant goose egg wasn’t completely the carrot-topped QB’s fault.  The rest of the offense was bad too and the O-Line allowed him to get sacked 5 times.  The good news (if there is any) is that Dalton owned up to his beastly play quickly and he has shown to rebound in past years after up-and-down moments.  But, for this week, he gets the ugly award.  Up next for the Bengals is Thursday night football (tonight) versus the Texans.  Let’s see if Dalton has truly put Sunday’s performance behind him.  If not, those boos may be even louder tonight at the Paul Brown.


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