NFL News: What To Look For – Kickoff Weekend

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 56 Super Bowl winners have a 45-10-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl LVI champion LOS ANGELES RAMS, who host the BUFFALO BILLS in the league’s annual primetime Kickoff Game on Thursday (8:20 PM ET, NBC), have won their last five Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the NFC. Last year marked the sixth time in the last seven seasons the eventual Super Bowl winner won the opening game of its championship season. 

The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who have appeared in four consecutive AFC Championship Games, travel to play the ARIZONA CARDINALS in Week 1 (4:25 pm ET, CBS), a matchup of two 2021 playoff teams. Kansas City has won its past seven Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the NFL. With a win on Sunday, they can become the sixth team in the Super Bowl era to win eight consecutive season-opening games. 

Arizona, meanwhile, has won each of its last two Week 1 games and KLIFF KINGSBURY is one of four active head coaches without a loss on Kickoff Weekend (not including first-year head coaches).

Since 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 clubs, 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. 

  • Of the 319 teams that won openers…166 went to the playoffs (112 won division titles).
  • Of the 317 teams that lost openers…78 went to the playoffs (48 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season-opening games due to the inclusion of 2017 Week 2 victories by Miami and Tampa Bay, which was the season-opener for each team (their Week 1 meeting was postponed due to Hurricane Irma).

In 2021, the 14 playoff teams compiled a 9-5 record on Kickoff Weekend.

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STARTING STREAKSThe Rams and Chiefs aren’t the only teams that have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of other notable active NFL Kickoff Weekend milestones and streaks:

  • Four other teams – the LAS VEGAS RAIDERSLOS ANGELES CHARGERSNEW ORLEANS SAINTS and SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – have won each of their past three season-opening games. The Raiders visit the Chargers to open the 2022 season (4:25 PM ET, CBS).
  • The reigning NFC North division champion GREEN BAY PACKERS open their season on the road against the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (4:25 PM ET, FOX). The Packers have won 58 games on Kickoff Weekend, the most in the NFL. The CHICAGO BEARS, who rank second with 55 wins in season-opening games, host the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS in Week 1 (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
  • The BALTIMORE RAVENS, who travel to play the NEW YORK JETS on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), are 5-1 in Kickoff Weekend games since 2016 and have outscored their opponents 204-59 in that span.

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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 43 touchdown passes in 19 career Kickoff Weekend games, the most Week 1 touchdown passes in NFL history. He also has 5,311 passing yards on Kickoff Weekend, trailing only DREW BREES (5,566 passing yards) for the most all-time. Brady is expected to become the first quarterback ever to make 20 career starts on Kickoff Weekend, surpassing Brees (19).
  • Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON has compiled a 3-0 record as a starter and has nine touchdown passes and no interceptions for a 145.4 passer rating in four Kickoff Weekend appearances, the highest passer rating ever by a quarterback on Kickoff Weekend (minimum 75 pass attempts).

    In four Week 1 starts, Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES is 4-0 with 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions for a 133.7 rating, the second-highest rating ever in Week 1 games (minimum 75 pass attempts).
  • Tampa Bay wide receiver JULIO JONES has 1,030 receiving yards in 11 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 records at least 70 receiving yards on Sunday Night Football at Dallas in his Buccaneers debut (8:20 PM ET, NBC), he will become the sixth player to reach 1,100 career receiving yards on Kickoff Weekend.

    Jones also has 70 career receptions in Week 1 and can become the ninth player in league history to reach 75 career receptions on Kickoff Weekend.
  • Last year on Kickoff Weekend, defensive end CHANDLER JONES recorded five sacks and two forced fumbles, becoming the third player to post at least five sacks in a Week 1 game since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. In 10 career games on Kickoff Weekend, Jones – now with the Las Vegas Raiders – has 11 sacks, tied with Baltimore linebacker JUSTIN HOUSTON and two others for the sixth-most on Kickoff Weekend since 1982.

    If either Jones or Houston records at least two sacks on Sunday, they would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer LAWRENCE TAYLOR (12.5 sacks in 12 games) for the fourth-most sacks in Week 1 contests since 1982. 

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HISTORY-MAKING DEBUT: Indianapolis quarterback MATT RYAN will be making his Colts debut when the team travels to play Houston on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). He enters the season ranking eighth in league history with 59,735 passing yards and needs 265 passing yards on Kickoff Weekend to become the second-fastest player ever (223 games) to reach 60,000 career passing yards.

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BURROW BECKONING: Last season, Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW led the Bengals to a Super Bowl LVI appearance after recording 4,611 passing yards and 34 touchdown passes in the regular season, both single-season franchise records. He also eclipsed 400 passing yards in three games, tied for the most in the league, including in each of his final two games of the regular season. 

With at least 400 passing yards against Pittsburgh on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Burrow would become the third player ever to record at least 400 passing yards in three consecutive regular-season games, joining RYAN FITZPATRICK (2018) and DAK PRESCOTT (2020). He would also surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (four games) for the most games with at least 400 passing yards by a player in his first three seasons all-time.

Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, enters the 2022 season with 7,299 passing yards in 26 career games. With 201 passing yards on Sunday, he will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (27 games) as the third-fastest player to reach 7,500 career passing yards in NFL history.

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OFF AND RUNNING: Philadelphia quarterback JALEN HURTS led all quarterbacks with 784 rushing yards last season, while Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON finished second with 767 rushing yards. Each signal-caller will be making milestone starts on Kickoff Weekend.

In 49 career starts, Jackson has 20 rushing touchdowns. With a rushing touchdown at the New York Jets on Sunday (1:00 pm ET, CBS), he will tie STEVE GROGAN (21 rushing touchdowns) and STEVE MCNAIR (21) for the fourth-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in his first 50 starts since 1970. Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY also has 20 rushing touchdowns in his first 46 starts and can tie Grogan and McNair against Kansas City on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS).


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