NFL Week 1 winners and losers: Calvin Ridley is back, Steelers, Tagovailoa among headliners

Here are all the best and worst performances from the opening Sunday of the 2023 NFL season

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Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled in Week 1, while Calvin Ridley returned for the Jacksonville Jaguars in a big way.

Football is finally back.

The 2023 NFL season got underway on Sunday, with 14 games taking place in an action-packed Week 1.

Players across the league showed out in the opening games, while other struggled out of the gates.

Here are the winners and losers from the early and afternoon slate of Week 1 games:

Winner: Rookies make some plays

It usually takes time for rookies to adjust to NFL speed. That wasn't the case on Sunday.

Five rookies scored touchdowns in the early window -- Bijan Robinson, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, Jordan Addison and Tank Bigsby.

Robinson had a shifty touchdown on a screen pass in the second quarter of the Falcons' 24-10 win.

Richardson used his arm and legs to find the end zone twice in the Colts' 31-21 loss.

Young had two interceptions, but added his first career touchdown pass in the Panthers' 24-10 loss. Addison, meanwhile, caught a 39-yard touchdown on a deep ball from Kirk Cousins. Elsewhere, Ravens rookie Zay Flowers had nine catches for 78 yards in his debut.

LOSER: Steelers' preseason hype train derails

Fresh off a 7-2 finish last season and a dazzling preseason, the Steelers were a popular playoff pick. That excitement quickly turned to disappointment after a 30-7 blowout loss at home to the 49ers.

From the opening drive, this game wasn't particularly close. The Steelers' first five possessions ended with four punts, an interception and zero (!) first-downs. On the other side, the 49ers jumped out to a 20-0 lead before the Steelers scored just before halftime.

After the break, though, it was more of the same. San Francisco scored on a 65-yard run from Christian McCaffrey less than a minute into the third quarter. Pittsburgh's offense remained stagnant in the second half. One game doesn't make a season -- especially against an opponent like the 49ers -- but the Steelers were a huge Week 1 loser.

WINNER: Welcome back, Calvin Ridley

Last year, the Jaguars acquired a star receiver who couldn't play due to a season-long gambling suspension. In his debut for the team, Ridley immediately showed why Jacksonville wanted him.

The former Falcons wideout had eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, with most of his damage coming in the first half.

The Jaguars picked up a divisional road victory over the Colts, 31-21.

LOSER: Offense in Ohio

Mother Nature was a clear winner on Sunday in Ohio. Raining on and off all day, the Browns and Bengals battled in a sloppy game -- with one side making a clear statement.

The Browns won 24-3, and the Bengals pulled Joe Burrow for the final four minutes of the game when it was out of reach. Burrow and the Bengals' offense couldn't move the ball at all -- he finished just 14 of 31 for 82 yards. After signing a new $275 million contract days before the season, this was a troubling start to 2023.

Cleveland's offense wasn't much better than Cincinnati's, but it made timely plays when it had to and capitalized in key moments. Deshaun Watson and Co. took a 10-0 lead into halftime and gradually built the margin in the final two frames. Nick Chubb had 106 rushing yards, while Watson finished 16 of 29 for 154 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and one interception.

WINNER: Cardinals' tank job is underway

The Josh Harris era in D.C. began with a 20-16 victory, as the Cardinals found a way to lose an ugly, winnable game.

All offseason, the chatter around Arizona was that the team was a long way from competing. That line of thinking looks true so far, as the Cardinals struggled offensively in a close loss. Joshua Dobbs, acquired in a preseason trade, started at quarterback and finished 21 of 30 for 133 yards and two lost fumbles.

Washington, meanwhile, picked up a win that it had to have if it wants to compete this season. Sam Howell, in his second career start, went 19 of 31 for 202 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and two turnovers (interception, fumble).

LOSER: Kirk Cousins bit by the turnover bug

The Vikings, who finished 13-4 last season, lost to Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers at home to open the season. Much of the blame can be pinned on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The former Pro Bowl quarterback had an interceptions and two lost fumbles, all in the first half, in the three-point loss. He ended up with a solid statline -- 33 of 44 for 344 yards and two touchdowns -- but two of the turnovers happened with his team in scoring position.

New Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield played a clean game for the visitors. Tampa Bay, entering the season with little expectations after Tom Brady's retirement, is off to a productive start.

WINNER: Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill shine in sunny Southern California

The game of the week may have transpired in sunny Southern California, where the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers lit up the scoreboard. The former emerged victorious 36-34, with Tagovailoa leading the charge as he tossed for 466 yards (28-for-45 passing), three touchdowns, one pick and no sacks. Hill was his main target, collecting 215 receiving yards on 11 catches and two touchdowns.

The Chargers were led by the running back pairing of Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley (208 combined rush yards), but they couldn't get it done late to get a late winner at home.

LOSER: Sean Payton, Broncos struggle moving the ball at home

Sean Payton's first game back as a head coach saw him call an onside kick to start the first quarter. It almost worked if it wasn't for a flag, but that just foreshadowed what was to come for Denver. The defense did its thing against the Las Vegas Raiders, but Russell Wilson and Co. just didn't have the consistency needed to grab a win. Maybe getting back a healthy Jerry Jeudy will help, but this was a win that slipped from their hands.

On the other hand, Jimmy Garoppolo's life in the silver and black started just as you'd expect. Garoppolo threw a pick in the end zone -- which was a deflection -- that could've derailed the Raiders' chances. Instead, Jimmy G led a touchdown-scoring drive to take the 17-16 lead, then made a crucial run on their last drive to pick up a first down on a 3rd-and-7 to seal the win.

WINNER: Jordan Love's debut starts with a win

All eyes were on Jordan Love's debut with the post-Aaron Rodgers era underway in Green Bay. But the Packers didn't seem to miss a beat with Love under center, as the 24-year-old looked composed late on to help his team win 38-20 at Soldier Field.

Love threw for 245 yards, three touchdowns and no picks on 15-for-27 passing with an average of 9.1 yards a throw. There's plenty he can build off of too, and his ability to make something out of nothing on a few occasions stood out. Getting Christian Watson back will provide him another big target down the field.

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