By: Ryan Croke and Jeremy Park
The first weekend of the 2021 NFL season wrapped up on Monday night, and what better way to kick off the year than to give a brief recap of each game? In this article, Jeremy Park and Ryan Croke give you their thoughts on the games that took place in Week 1.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat Dallas Cowboys 31-29
This was a perfect way to start off the season. Two elite NFL teams, one of them being the defending Super Bowl champions, having an incredible down-to-the-wire game to kick it all off. Tom Brady and Tampa Bay impressed, as their offense lit up the Cowboys’ defense all night long, which was to be expected. Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski all played great, and it was awesome to see Brady and Gronk dominate as they did years ago in New England. However, the Bucs’ defense left cause for concern, despite going up against one of the most talented offenses in the league. The secondary had trouble all night long, especially after Sean Murphy-Bunting went out with an injury, as Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb toasted the secondary for almost 250 combined receiving yards and 3 TDs, and Dak Prescott showed to all the doubters that he is one of the best QBs in the league. This was an outstanding game, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, but Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys’ kicker, missed 2 field goals and an extra point that had he converted, the Cowboys would have won the game. Despite his troubles kicking the ball, the Cowboys took a 1 point lead with under 2 minutes left, but everyone watching knew they left Brady too much time. And they did. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, and that is run an incredible 2-minute drill that resulted in the game-winning field goal. This was an incredible way to start off the season, and the way these two teams played should remind fans of just how talented these teams are, especially the frequently overlooked Cowboys.
Seattle Seahawks defeat Indianapolis Colts 28-16
The Seahawks marched into Indianapolis and flat out embarrassed the Colts on their home turf. The Colts, boasting a defense that was one of the most dominant units in the league last year, that prides themselves on stopping big plays, was torn up by Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett, as Lockett put up 100 receiving yards and 2 TDs on only 4 receptions. The Colts clearly weren’t themselves on defense, and the Seahawks coasted to an easy victory. Indianapolis’ new QB Carson Wentz put up solid numbers, and so did RB Johnathan Taylor, who picked up where he left off last year in his impressive rookie season, as he led the team in both receiving and rushing. The problem with the Colts is their receivers, as they have almost nobody that qualifies as a solid NFL wideout. They should be pretty pleased with their performance on offense, but their defensive issues need to be sorted out fast because if they aren’t, this team will be a massive disappointment. The Seahawks looked like they did last year; a big-play-oriented offensive unit leading the way for a sub-par defensive unit. That won’t fly in the playoffs, and it didn’t last year, but it might win them some games during the regular season, and it did in this game. This team has a lot of talent, but their ceiling is a lot lower than people realize. Regardless, they played well in week 1, but they showed a lack of growth as a team that will catch up to them as the season progresses.
Houston Texans defeat Jacksonville Jaguars 37-21
It’s unlikely that the total number of viewers this game got is high, but if it weren’t for Trevor Lawrence, it would have been trending towards 0. The number 1 overall pick from the 2021 draft made his highly anticipated debut and showed a lot of promise, throwing for 332 yards, and 3 touchdowns, however, his 3 interceptions held him back from a cleaner stat line. He found 8 different receivers with his arm but didn’t show much with his running game, one of his strongest traits in college at Clemson. On the Houston side of things, Tyrod Taylor in his Texans debut did very well, throwing for nearly 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. While it will take them playing an actual defense to prove if Taylor is Houston’s guy, he is off to a good start. Both of these teams could use a boost on their defenses, but the offense for Jacksonville has lots of young potential, while Houston will have to hold on to Tyrod Taylor, Brandin Cooks (5 catches, 132 yards), and an armful of running backs to keep their offense afloat.
Philadelphia Eagles defeat Atlanta Falcons 32-6
This was one of the most shocking results of the weekend, as the Falcons, 3 point favorites, were embarrassed by the Eagles. Atlanta, who has a promising core on offense consisting of Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Davis, couldn’t get anything going with Matt Ryan under center. The Eagles front 7 dominated the entire game, and the Falcons’ o-line gave Ryan no time to make a play if he even can at this point in his career. It has to be asked when the Falcons will finally move on from the veteran QB, as it’s clear that something has to be done, and it’s been that way for a few years now. Philadelphia wiped the floor with Atlanta and toyed with the lackluster Falcons defense all game long. Jalen Hurts played lights-out, and the Eagles looked like a legitimate threat to win the NFC East. Now, it is only week 1, and there is plenty of football left to play this season, so it’s unlikely the Eagles will be able to sustain this, especially with the glaring issues on their roster. Regardless, this is an impressive performance Eagles fans should be encouraged by.
Los Angeles Chargers defeat Washington Football Team 20-16
Justin Herbert vs Ryan Fitzpatrick, the reigning offensive rookie of the year vs the 16-year veteran. Chase Young vs Rashawn Slater, the reigning defensive rookie of the year against the 13th overall pick from the 2021 draft. This matchup wasn’t getting much hype leading up to it, but I was pretty excited to see how they would do in their first game against a playoff team. Granted, said playoff team was part of one of the worst divisions last year the NFL has ever seen, but a playoff team nevertheless, that far exceeded expectations against the eventual Super Bowl 55 champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now onto this game. A dynamic LA offense against one of the best defensive lines in the league was sure to be a close one. However, rookie o-lineman Rashawn Slater took care of Washington’s front line, refusing to give up even a single pressure, giving Justin Herbert plenty of time to throw for 337 yards, a touchdown to Mike Williams, and only a single blemish of one interception. The sophomore did a great job spreading the football around to multiple receivers (a rather Tom Brady looking trait I must say), as 8 different players got at least one catch, with the always-underrated Keenan Allen leading the game with 9 catches and an even 100 yards. On the Washington side of the offense, Taylor Heinicke had to step in as quarterback midway through the second quarter after Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury. Heinicke performed well against a very talented Bucs defense that won a championship early this year, but it looked like the Chargers, with star safety Derwin James back from injury, met the match. Washington had only half the number of first downs as LA, and Dustin Hopkins, a kicker, was the Football Team’s leading scorer, not exactly an admirable trait for an offense. Justin Herbert gave up 2 turnovers, an interception, and a fumble, but Washington just couldn’t capitalize on either. Had it not been for those Herbert turnovers, this game most likely wouldn’t have been as close as the scoreboard said. The heroes of this game for the Chargers were the rookie Rashawn Slater, Derwin James who had a PFF grade of 90.0, the highest of any defensive player this week, and Keenan Allen, who was a reliable target for Justin Herbert all four quarters and sealed the game with a first down on a crucial third. And who could forget the Chargers’ new head coach, Brandon Staley? He truly knows what he’s doing, and it sure looks like he will turn the Bolts around into a potential playoff team. The Chargers return to Los Angeles next week and will face another formidable NFC East opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, who look to be leaving their blunders of past years behind with the return of potential MVP candidate Dak Prescott. The Football Team will stay in Washington and also play an NFC East team, the New York Giants led by Daniel Jones himself.
Pittsburgh Steelers defeat Buffalo Bills 23-16
It’s highly unlikely many people saw this result coming. The Bills, riding high after an AFC Championship game appearance last year, despite having a controversial off-season, are poised to only improve, and maybe give the Chiefs a real challenge for the conference championship. But they didn’t play like it in this game. Things looked fine in the first half, as Buffalo had some trouble on offense, which was to be expected, as the Pittsburgh defense is one of the best in the league, and the Buffalo defense was able to keep the Steelers from scoring a single point through one half. On top of that, Big Ben threw for only 188 yards throughout the entire game. So what happened? The Bills fell apart in the second half, allowing 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a blocked punt TD scored by the Steelers special teams unit. The Bills will recover from this embarrassment, but this is a concerning showing, and this pivotal loss against a conference rival may come back to haunt them in terms of seeding later down the road. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, impressed, as many people wrote them off and underestimated the Steelers after they were obliterated on their home turf by the team they had written off as a non-contender, the Cleveland Browns. This team is more talented than people give them credit for, boasting one of the best defensive fronts in the league, but this team has had issues at every position on offense. Big Ben is way past his prime, and with their offensive line becoming significantly worse in the offseason, they can no longer use the running game as a crutch for Ben’s lack of talent at QB, no matter how talented rookie RB Najee Harris is. Their WR core is notorious for talking trash and not being able to back it up. To put it frankly, this team should not be a threat come playoff time, but they may enjoy some regular-season success, which will evidently include a win against a vastly superior Bills team.
San Francisco 49ers defeat Detroit Lions 41-33
This game should have been a cakewalk for San Francisco, and it was, for the first 3 quarters. The 49ers dominated the game early on, going into halftime with a 31-10 lead, led by standout performances from WR Deebo Samuel and rookie RB Elijah Mitchell, who replaced Raheem Mostert after he went out with a hip injury that looks like it will keep him out of action for 8 weeks. The 49ers have long been plagued by injuries, and after Mostert had injury trouble last year, it’s a shame that it’s happened again. Despite this, the 49ers were able to dominate Detroit, which has one of the worst rosters in the league. However, down the stretch, Detroit was able to claw their way back into the game, scoring 16 points in under a minute, and found themselves down by 8 with only 1 minute to go. That, however, wasn’t enough, as San Francisco recovered the onside kick attempt, and the game was thought to be over. But Deebo Samuel fumbled the ball and Detroit had a chance. However, the Lions were unable to score, and the 49ers were barely able to walk away from this game with a win. This is a concerning performance for San Francisco, whether it’s bad luck, or the team had an off day, the team should have played much better than they did, and allowing Detroit back into the game the way they did is inexcusable. For the Lions, this is an encouraging loss, as they took a quality team to the brink as one of the worst teams in the league as far as roster talent goes. It’s unlikely this will continue, but D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams were a great pairing in the backfield in this game, and if that keeps up, they may be able to give Detroit a small push.
Cincinnati Bengals defeat Minnesota Vikings 27-24
The Vikings and Bengals put on a great game on Sunday. The two teams have a lot of promise, Minnesota with Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson on the offensive end being a three-headed monster, and Cincinnati, a young team with great talent such as QB Joe Burrow, the 1st overall pick in the 2020 draft, a great young receiver core, and one of if not the best safeties in the league in Jessie Bates. RB Joe Mixon led the Bengals, as he put up 127 yards on 29 carries, along with a TD. Ja’Marr Chase, the rookie WR out of LSU who played with Burrow in college, impressed on Sunday, after being made fun of by fans for dropping a concerning amount of passes in camp. He put up 101 receiving yards and a TD on 5 receptions. The Vikings’ weapons also played well, with Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson both playing well, but Adam Thielen had a monster game, putting up 92 yards and 2 TDs on 9 receptions. This performance wasn’t enough, however, as the Vikings lost in overtime in a thrilling game.
Carolina Panthers defeat New York Jets 19-14
The QB battle for this game was an interesting storyline. Sam Darnold in his Panthers debut after being traded from the Jets, against Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from the 2021 draft. The Panthers showed lots of promise last year with Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Jeremy Chinn, however, the ever-dynamic running back Christian McCaffrey was missing for all but three games, and Teddy Bridgewater just wasn’t the man at quarterback. They hope to turn it around this year with McCaffrey back, the addition of Sam Darnold who looks to turn around what has been a lackluster career so far, WR Terrace Marshall Jr. out of LSU, and defensive end Haason Reddick. On the Jets’ side of their rebuild, Zach Wilson did as much as he could with an o-line that left gaping holes for the Panthers to attack. Even with problems in the o-line, Wilson’s massive arm power was put on display, as he threw for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns both to Corey Davis in his debut. Not eye-popping stats, but against a talented defense and being guarded by Swiss cheese, it was still impressive, and fans should be looking forward to the rest of his rookie season. On the other side of the offensive game, Sam Darnold threw for 279 yards and a touchdown to Robby Anderson. Many believe that fit was the problem in New York for Darnold, and it looks like that will be proven true as the season goes on. This Panthers team is showing a lot of good signs, and they will be a team to look out for as this season continues. The Jets have already made a leap from last season, with the hire of Robert Saleh as head coach replacing one of the worst coaches in recent memory, Adam Gase. If they can improve on defense and develop an at least decent o-line, this rebuild could look like a success in only a couple of year’s time.
Arizona Cardinals defeat Tennessee Titans 38-13
Where to start with this one? The Titans, who added to their already loaded offense by acquiring one of the most talented receivers to ever play, Julio Jones, and he, along with the rest of the team proceeded to lie down and embarrass themselves at home against a Cardinals team that had no business beating them. Tennessee is loaded with talent, and although their defense is very shaky, this team’s offensive firepower is enough to put them in the dark-horse conversation for the Super Bowl. But this team hardly lived up to that potential in week 1, and it’s clear that something needs to be sorted out. This team will recover, they’re too talented not to, and if they don’t it would be a shocking disappointment. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are coming off a season in which they barely missed the playoffs, and Arizona is desperate to improve and earn a spot in the playoffs this time around. It will be tough, especially with them playing in the best division in football, but if they can play the way they did against Tennessee over a long period of time, they will be a force to be reckoned with. The offense had a field day against the Titan’s joke of a defense, but the Cardinals’ defense was the shocking bit, as superstar linebacker Chandler Jones racked up 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles all in the same game. There is reasonable doubt that they can keep this up, but Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins are extremely talented as a duo, and they have an underrated defensive unit that may be enough to propel them into the NFC championship conversation. Their difficult division is the only thing standing in the way of this team emerging as an immediate playoff contender.
Kansas City Chiefs defeat Cleveland Browns 33-29
A rematch of the controversial divisional championship game that saw the Browns be screwed out of several chances to win by bad officiating or stupid rules, Cleveland looked like a well-oiled machine in the first half, and Kansas City looked lame. Nick Chubb was running all over the Chiefs’ front seven, and the Browns pulled out all the stops to give them the lead. The score at halftime was 22-10 in favor of Cleveland, and the Browns looked like a team that had studied their opponent well and was ready to get their revenge. Unfortunately for them, the Chiefs are notorious for playing atrociously in the first half against teams that have no business beating them, and this was the case here. Kansas City came out in the second half and outscored the Browns 23-7 to end up winning the game. This wasn’t just the Chiefs dominating the game, the Browns made their own fair share of mistakes, including a botched punt that resulted in the Chiefs getting the ball at the Cleveland 15 yard line with 8 minutes to go and a chance to take the lead. They did just that, and the Browns failed to respond, giving Kansas City the win. Both teams shouldn’t be overly pleased with the result. The Browns gave the Chiefs a run for their money but failed to capitalize and finish off the game, and the costly mistakes they made towards the end of the game were the nail in the coffin. Kansas City, on the other hand, despite walking away with the win, needs to desperately stop playing down to their competition. This is an issue they have had for years now, and they have lost several games because of it. They were lucky to sneak away with this one, but if they meet Cleveland again and the Browns take a similar lead going into halftime, they may not be so lucky.
Miami Dolphins defeat New England Patriots 17-16
These two division rivals had an absolute slug-fest on Sunday afternoon. Two former Alabama quarterbacks, Patriots rookie Mac Jones and Dolphins second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa faced off in a low-scoring affair that the Dolphins won by a single point. It’s safe to say Mac Jones had the better day, especially considering the lack of quality receivers on the Patriots roster, but Tua’s team ultimately got the victory, as the Patriots had red-zone issues throughout the entire game, and were forced to settle for three field goals. Overall, this was an entertaining game, but the Dolphins are the better team as of right now, especially considering they did all of this without their newly acquired WR1 Will Fuller, who had to sit out of week 1 due to a suspension. It will be interesting to see how the result changes in 17 weeks, as the two play each other again in Miami to close out the season.
Denver Broncos defeat New York Giants 27-13
It was predicted that these two young, hungry, teams with stellar defenses would have a competitive matchup that could go either way, but this was not what happened on Sunday. The Broncos marched into MetLife Stadium and won the game in a blowout, as QB Teddy Bridgewater lit up the Giants’ secondary, completing 28/36 passes for over 250 yards and 2 TDs. RB Melvin Gordon also had a big day, posting 101 yards and a TD on only 11 carries. WR Jerry Jeudy played well until his unfortunate ankle injury which resulted in him being carted off the field. This is cause for concern, but the Broncos proved that they are not to be underestimated on Sunday. New York looked limp on both sides of the ball, as Saquon Barkley only got 10 carries for 26 yards in his return from a season-ending injury he suffered last year. Whether this is just the Giants being cautious or Saquon’s own mistakes, it is concerning for Giants fans, as this team has a pretty ceiling, but they won’t come anywhere close to it if their best player struggles as he did on Sunday.
New Orleans Saints defeat Green Bay Packers 38-3
Aaron Rodgers. Oh my goodness. This particular section of this article isn’t going to be as professional as the rest. Straight up, he sucked. It really looked like he was trying to lose, and honestly, I honestly think he might’ve been. The reigning league MVP threw for 133 yards, zero touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Oh, he was also benched for Jordan Love. Enough about Aaron Rodgers though, we need to talk about the real MVP. Jameis Winston. Although he was the league leader in passing yards only 2 seasons ago, he just wasn’t panning out as hoped in Tampa Bay (as shown by his interception numbers). However, he took a gap year with his new home in New Orleans behind Drew Brees in his final year as a pro and was handed the reins to the starting quarterback job in training camp. In his first start with the Saints, he threw for 148 yards and a whopping 5 touchdowns. This is all without All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who will be out for the next 6 weeks, recovering from an ankle injury he got surgery on this past off-season. Winston’s total yardage didn’t pop off the charts, but the 5 touchdowns were all we needed to see. On the defensive side of the game, the Saints locked up one of the best offensive rosters in the league, but at the cost of star cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who chipped a bone in his thumb, only days after signing a 5-year, nearly 100 million dollar contract. The Saints as a unit looked amazing, and it was clear that they were playing with a chip on their shoulder, as the game was moved from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, a stadium that gives the Saints a massive home-field advantage with the incredible crowds, to Jacksonville, as a result of damage from Hurricane Ida. This was an extremely impressive showing from the Saints, and whether or not that was due to Aaron Rodgers being horrible at football will be proved next week against the Panthers. It may seem ridiculous, but Rodgers’ starting job could be at risk in his final year in Green Bay. It’s likely that Rodgers will rebound, but Jordan Love is a player fans should be keeping watch of as the weeks go by.
Los Angeles Rams defeat Chicago Bears 34-14
The Rams’ suffocating defense was the story of this game, as the best defensive unit in the league made things incredibly difficult for Andy Dalton and the Bears. Dalton looked like a lame duck, and made several questionable decisions, only fueling the crowd of Bears and NFL fans calling for their newly drafted rookie QB Justin Fields to get the starting job. This is extremely worrying for Chicago, as they have the talent to make a playoff run, but with this performance against a conference opponent, their legitimacy has to be questioned. The Rams were dominant on both sides of the ball, as Matthew Stafford, the veteran who is a Detroit Lions legend, impressed in his Rams debut. This is a team that can win the Super Bowl, as their defense can match up with just about anyone, and their offense has finally got the quality QB they have been missing. The Rams are contenders to win the NFC this year, and they proved why on Sunday.
Oakland Raiders defeat Baltimore Ravens 33-27
We might already have the game of the year in Week 1. This battle was just crazy. The Ravens looked like the better team going into the game, but with the loss of 3 running backs (JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill) to season-ending injuries, as well as star cornerback Marcus Peters mere weeks and days before the season opener, Baltimore was scrambling, to say the least. They didn’t look too shaken though, as they had the advantage for much of regulation, but a 55-yard Daniel Carlson field goal sent it to OT. The Raiders got the ball first and it looked like a Bryan Edwards touchdown won Las Vegas the game, but he was just a single yard short. Although it was called back, the Raiders were sure to have the game wrapped up, right? Wrong. A costly false start by rookie o-lineman and 17th overall pick Alex Leatherwood set them back 5 yards, and 2 plays later, what could’ve been a game-winning touchdown by Willie Snead turned into an interception by Anthony Averett. Advantage, Baltimore. All the momentum shifted to the Ravens, but a storybook ending for the Raiders was just fate. QB Lamar Jackson started working his way down the field, but it wasn’t long before a strip-sack by Carl Nassib got the Raiders the ball back. If you don’t recognize the name, Carl Nassib came out as gay in June this year and is the only active player in the league to have done so (Fun fact: he went to high school at Malvern Prep, very close to Garnet Valley). He had a game-breaking sack when the Raiders needed it most, and only three plays later, Zay Jones was found wide open for the game-winning touchdown. You could say the Raiders got lucky with Lamar Jackson losing 2 fumbles, but Vegas truly earned the win. QB Derek Carr came to play, and TE Darren Waller proved why he is one of the best in the business, even if the two weren’t completely on the same page for the entire game. The Ravens will return to Baltimore to take on Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs, and the Raiders will travel to Pittsburgh for another AFC North matchup with the Steelers.
Week 1 of the NFL season was full of exciting matchups, as several teams played their hearts out, leading to questions if they are underestimated, and many top contenders seemed to disappoint. We can’t wait to see how the action will unfold in week 2.
If you want to hear Jeremy and Ryan give a more in-depth analysis of NFL week 1, you can listen to their podcast Gen Z Sports here.