Tonight, Thursday, September 9th, 2021, the National Football League marks the start of an exciting NFL Season that features 17 regular season games, and fans-open games throughout the league, paced by the new stadiums in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Allegiant Stadium and So-Fi Stadium. With the constant spectre of COVID-19, we’re all doing our best to get on with life, and that’s certainly true with the NFL. So, to kickoff what promises to be the most exciting NFL Season ever, here’s the league’s press release on what to look for this NFL Kickoff Weekend 2021.
SUPER STARTERS: History 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.
— NFL —
STARTING STREAKS: The 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.
— NFL —
START ME UP: Some 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.
— NFL —
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:
|SEASON||QUARTERBACK||TEAM||STARTING RECORD AS ROOKIE|
|2009||Mark Sanchez||New York Jets||8-7|
|2010||Sam Bradford*||St. Louis Rams||7-9|
|2012||Robert Griffin III||Washington||9-6|
|2013||Geno Smith||New York Jets||8-8|
|2014||Derek Carr||Oakland Raiders||3-13|
|2015||Jameis Winston*||Tampa Bay||6-10|
|2018||Sam Darnold||New York Jets||4-9|
|2021||Mac Jones^||New England||–|
|2021||Zach Wilson^||New York Jets||–|
|*No. 1 overall pick|
|^Expected to start Week 1|
— NFL —
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).
The players with the most career passing yards in NFL history:
|Drew Brees||San Diego Chargers, New Orleans||80,358|
|Tom Brady||New England, Tampa Bay||79,204|
Brady also enters the season with 99 career games with at least 300 passing yards. With at least 300 passing yards on Thursday against Dallas in the league’s annual primetime Kickoff Game (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Brady will join Brees (123 games) as the only players ever with at least 300 passing yards in 100 career games.
The players with the most career games with at least 300 passing yards in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM(S)||GAMES WITH 300+ PASSING YARDS|
|Drew Brees||San Diego Chargers, New Orleans||123|
|Tom Brady||New England, Tampa Bay||99|
This Thursday will also mark the 300th regular-season career start of Brady’s career, making him the first quarterback in league history to reach the milestone.
Other quarterbacks that can reach career passing milestones in Week 1:
- With at least 231 passing yards on Sunday against New Orleans (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Green Bay quarterback and reigning MVP AARON RODGERS (51,245 career passing yards) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY (51,475) for the 10th-most passing yards in NFL history.
- With at least four touchdown passes on Sunday at Buffalo (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER (396 career touchdown passes) can become the eighth player ever with 400 career touchdown passes.
— NFL —
KICKOFF KELCE: Last season, Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE ranked second in the league with 1,416 receiving yards, the most ever by a tight end in a single season. He also became the first tight end in NFL history to record at least 1,200 receiving yards in three different seasons. In 111 career games, Kelce has 7,881 receiving yards, the 10th-most all-time among tight ends.
With at least 119 receiving yards against Cleveland on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Kelce will become the fastest tight end (112 games) to reach 8,000 career receiving yards in NFL history, surpassing ROB GRONKOWSKI (120 games).
The tight ends to reach 8,000 career receiving yards in the fewest games in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM(S)||GAMES TO REACH 8,000 REC. YARDS|
|Rob Gronkowski||New England, Tampa Bay||120|
|Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||137|
|Travis Kelce||Kansas City||111*|
|*Has 7,881 receiving yards entering Sunday|
Kelce also enters this season with 48 career receiving touchdowns. With at least two touchdown receptions on Sunday, he will become the fifth-fastest tight end to reach 50 career receiving touchdowns, surpassing VERNON DAVIS (115 games).
The tight ends to reach 50 career receiving touchdowns in the fewest games in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM||GAMES TO REACH 50 REC. TOUCHDOWNS|
|Rob Gronkowski||New England||59|
|Jimmy Graham||New Orleans||73|
|Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||92|
|Vernon Davis||San Francisco||115|
|Travis Kelce||Kansas City||111*|
|*Has 48 receiving touchdowns entering Sunday|
— NFL —
TITANS DEBUT: Tennessee wide receiver JULIO JONES enters his first year as a Titan with 848 receptions for 12,896 receiving yards and 60 receiving touchdowns in 135 career games.
Jones needs two receptions on Sunday against Arizona (1:00 PM ET, CBS) to become the second-fastest player (136 games) to reach 850 receptions in NFL history, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (140 games).
The players to reach 850 career receptions in the fewest games in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM(S)||GAMES TO REACH 850 RECEPTIONS|
|Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh, New England, Tampa Bay||133|
|Andre Johnson||Houston Texans||142|
|*Has 848 receptions entering Sunday|
With at least 104 receiving yards, Jones can also become the fastest player ever to reach 13,000 career receiving yards, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (154 games).
Additionally, Jones enters this season with at least 100 receiving yards in 58 career games. With at least 100 receiving yards on Sunday, he will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (59 games) for the third-most such games in NFL history.
The players with the most games with at least 100 receiving yards in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM(S)||GAMES WITH 100+ REC. YARDS|
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle||76|
|Randy MossHOF||Minnesota, Oakland, New England||64|
— NFL —
DUAL-THREAT BACKS: Carolina running back CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY has totaled 5,817 scrimmage yards (3,145 rushing, 2,672 receiving) and 45 touchdowns (29 rushing, 16 receiving) in his first four seasons, while also recording nine games with both a rushing and receiving touchdown, the most ever by a player through his first four seasons.
With both a rushing and receiving touchdown against the Jets on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), McCaffrey will surpass CHUCK FOREMAN (nine games) for the most such games by a player through his first five seasons in NFL history. New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA, who is also entering his fifth season, has eight such career games and can tie Foreman when New Orleans takes on Green Bay Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
The players with the most games with both a rushing and receiving touchdown in their first five seasons in NFL history:
|Abner Haynes||Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs||8|
|Alvin Kamara||New Orleans||8*|
|*Entering fifth season|
— NFL —
ROOKIES NO MORE: The 2020 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT, and the 2020 Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, Washington defensive end CHASE YOUNG, will meet in Week 1, when the Chargers visit the Washington Football Team on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
It will mark the fourth time in NFL history, and second-consecutive season, that the two reigning Rookies of the Year will meet on Kickoff Weekend. In 2020, Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY and San Francisco defensive lineman NICK BOSA met in Week 1.
The Kickoff Weekend matchups featuring the reigning Associated Press Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year in NFL history:
|SEASON||REIGNING OROY (TEAM)||REIGNING DROY (TEAM)||WEEK 1 RESULT|
|2021||QB Justin Herbert (L.A. Chargers)||DE Chase Young (Washington)||???|
|2020||QB Kyler Murray (Arizona)||DL Nick Bosa (San Francisco)||AZ 24, SF 20|
|1989||RB John Stephens (New England)||DB Erik McMillan (N.Y. Jets)||NE 27, NYJ 24|
|1975||RB Don Woods (San Diego Chargers)||LB Jack LambertHOF (Pittsburgh)||PIT 37, SD 0|
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