Winner No. 1
Brian Burns - Carolina Panthers OLB
After much debate about whether or not he'd suit up, edge rusher Brian Burns once again put the Carolina Panthers before his own business. Something that's been evident throughout the offseason as he handles an ongoing contract dispute with nothing but professionalism.
Burns' presence on the field gave everyone a huge lift. He absolutely flew out of the traps, causing havoc at will and making things extremely uncomfortable for quarterback Desmond Ridder during the opening exchanges.
The former first-round pick's influence was so great that Falcons head coach Arthur Smith spent the half-time break altering his game plan to move things away from Burns. He still managed three tackles in the second half, but Atlanta had far more joy going to Justin Houston's side to emerge as comfortable winners.
Despite the poor result, Burns only heightened his importance and perhaps even added more dollars to his demands. This whole saga has become tiresome given Carolina has no leverage whatsoever, so fans will be apoplectic if the Florida State product isn't given a new deal before Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints.
With seven tackles and 1.5 sacks to begin the campaign, Burns was one of the standout performers. Carolina's defense overall was pretty decent - it was the offensive side of things that let them down more than anything else.
The Panthers are playing hardball after delaying sorting out a new deal for Burns. But after this, yesterday's price might not be today's price.