NFL Kickoff Weekend: What to Look For

SUPER STARTERSHistory indicates that the best way for a team to start its drive toward a Super Bowl championship is to win in Week 1.

The 55 Super Bowl winners have a 44-10-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl LV champion TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, who host the DALLAS COWBOYS in the league’s annual primetime Kickoff Game on Thursday (8:20 PM ET, NBC), became the first eventual Super Bowl winners to lose the opening game of their championship season since New England in 2014.

The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who have appeared in each of the past two Super Bowls, host the CLEVELAND BROWNS in an AFC Divisional playoff rematch on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS). Kansas City has won its past six Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the AFC and tied for the longest active streak in the NFL (Green Bay).

Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season-openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than those that lose an opening game. This season will feature a 17-game schedule for each team for the first time ever.

  • Of the 633 teams that won openers…333 went to the playoffs (204 won division titles).
  • Of the 632 teams that lost openers…151 went to the playoffs (86 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season-opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999-2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.
 
In 2020, the 14 playoff teams compiled an 11-3 record on Kickoff Weekend, with the eight division winners going a perfect 8-0.
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STARTING STREAKSThe Chiefs aren’t the only team to have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of other notable active NFL Kickoff Weekend milestones and streaks:

  • The BALTIMORE RAVENS, who visit the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS on Monday Night Football in Week 1 (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/ABC), have won their last five Kickoff Weekend games, the AFC’s second-longest active streak. Since 2016, Baltimore has outscored its opponents 177-26 on Kickoff Weekend and hasn’t allowed more than 10 points in any of its previous five Week 1 games.
  • The reigning NFC North division champion GREEN BAY PACKERS open their season on the road on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX) against the reigning NFC South division champion NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Packers have won 58 games on Kickoff Weekend, the most in the NFL. Green Bay has won its past six Kickoff Weekend games, tied with Kansas City for the longest active streak in the NFL.
  • The CHICAGO BEARS visit the LOS ANGELES RAMS on Sunday Night Football in Week 1 (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Chicago has 55 wins on Kickoff Weekend, the second-most in the NFL, while the Rams have won four consecutive Week 1 games, the second-longest active streak in the NFC.

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START ME UPSome players have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable individual performances on NFL Kickoff Weekend:

  • Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY has 39 touchdown passes and 4,932 passing yards in 18 career Kickoff Weekend games, trailing only DREW BREES (41 touchdown passes and 5,566 passing yards) for the most in NFL history on Kickoff Weekend in both categories.
  • Tampa Bay tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI has eight touchdown receptions in eight career Kickoff Weekend games, the second-most all-time by a tight end, trailing only WILLIE FRAZIER (nine touchdown receptions).
  • Tennessee wide receiver JULIO JONES has 1,001 receiving yards in 10 career Kickoff Weekend games and is one of 11 players in league history with at least 1,000 career receiving yards in season openers. If Jones, who had nine receptions for 157 yards with Atlanta last year on Kickoff Weekend, records at least 99 receiving yards on Sunday against Arizona in his Titans debut (1:00 PM ET, CBS), he will become the sixth player to reach 1,100 career receiving yards on Kickoff Weekend.

    Jones also has 67 career receptions in Week 1 and can become the ninth player in league history to reach 75 career receptions on Kickoff Weekend.
  • Los Angeles Rams wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON has six career games with at least 100 yards receiving in Week 1, tied for the most all-time. With at least 100 receiving yards against Chicago on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Jackson would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (six) for the most 100-yard receiving games on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history.
  • Including a sack last year in Week 1 with Indianapolis, Baltimore linebacker JUSTIN HOUSTON has 11 sacks in nine career season-opening games, tied for the sixth-most on Kickoff Weekend since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. With at least two sacks in his Ravens debut at Las Vegas on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), Houston would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer LAWRENCE TAYLOR (12.5 sacks in 12 games) for the fourth-most in Week 1 contests.

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START ’EM EARLY: Jacksonville rookie quarterback TREVOR LAWRENCE, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, New York Jets rookie quarterback ZACH WILSON (No. 2), and New England rookie quarterback MAC JONES (No. 15), are each expected to make their first career starts on Sunday, when Jacksonville travels to Houston (1:00 PM ET, CBS), the Jets visit Carolina (1:00 PM ET, CBS) and New England hosts Miami (4:25 PM ET, CBS).

With a start by any of the three players, at least one rookie quarterback will have started in Week 1 in 14 consecutive seasons, extending the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.

This season is expected to join 2012 (five rookie quarterbacks) as the only seasons since 1970 in which at least three rookie quarterbacks started in Week 1. It can also become the first time that multiple rookie quarterbacks each start in Week 1 since 2016 (DAK PRESCOTT and CARSON WENTZ).

The rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 since 2008:

CHAMP CHASING HISTORY: Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters his 22nd NFL season as the league’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (581) and is in striking distance of the league’s all-time passing yards record. Brady has 79,204 career passing yards, trailing only DREW BREES (80,358).

COURTESY NFLmedia.com

Posted in NFL
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