Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season is in the books and there is a lot of excitement and optimism as we progress into the new year.
The NFL’s two West divisions were the biggest winners, with each AFC and NFC West team winning their respective season openers while the NFC North each came away with losses.
One of the most exciting aspects of Week 1 of the NFL season was the return of fans at full capacity in stadiums bringing back an excitement to games that was sorely missed last year.
This excitement was felt most in the first Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. Raider Nation asserted themselves into the game as if they were one of the players on the field, and it led to an epic overtime triumph.
With our eyes headed toward Week 2 of the season, here are some of the biggest takeaways from Week 1.
1. Tom Brady continues to age backwards
Even though Tom Brady has already solidified himself among the greatest players in NFL history, he continues to do the one thing most athletes fail to do: Beat father time.
Last season, Brady led the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl championship in franchise history beating curtailing the back-to-back championship bid of the Kansas City Chiefs.
As a result, Brady won his second Super Bowl in three years bringing his total to seven career championships which was already an NFL record.
Not slowing down anytime soon, Brady and the Bucs come into this season as a favorite to win their second straight Super Bowl. Their road to back-to-back titles got off to a hot start defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
While Brady was not alone in the Buccaneers excellent season opener, it is hard not to marvel at the performance he put up at his age.
At 44 years old, Brady kicked off his 22nd season in the NFL with an extraordinary performance, tallying 379 passing yards, completing 64% of his 50 pass attempts and notching four touchdowns. This is the fourth season in a row that he has thrown for at least two touchdowns in Week 1.
The win spoiled the return of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott who played excellent in his first game since missing the last 11 games of the season last year with a fractured ankle. He finished the game with 403 passing yards completing 72.4% of his passes scoring three touchdown.
2. Taylor Heinicke should be the Washington Football Team’s full-time starter
As the beginning of the 2021 season approach, there were already questions about who would be the starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team in the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Ultimately, Washington chose Ryan Fitzpatrick as their Week 1 starting quarterback. The 39-year-old was coming off a 2020 season with the Miami Dolphins in which he started seven games recording the seventh highest completion percentage in the league.
Meanwhile, they decided against Taylor Heinicke who started for the team in their Wild Card playoff loss against Tampa Bay last year. He took full-advantage of the opportunity 306 passing yards scoring a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown.
In the second quarter, Fitzpatrick was forced to leave the game with a hip injury, leading to Heinicke to take his place. His great playoff performance carried over in this game, as he had 122 passing yards on a 73% completion rate.
After trailing for the entire first half, Heinicke connected with Logan Thomas on an 11-yard touchdown to give Washington the lead. However, they were unable to keep the lead, falling short against the Chargers by a score of 20-16.
Although the team lost, Washington had a much better chance at winning with Heinicke under center as the offense moved the ball down the field much more efficiently.
Whenever Fitzpatrick is ready to return to the lineup, Washington should stick with Heinicke as the full-time starting quarterback.
3. Seattle Seahawks should keep Russell Wilson at all costs
There were reports that there was interest amongst multiple NFL teams to potentially trade for Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson.
While Wilson did have preferred trade destinations if a trade were to occur, he and the Seahawks made it known that a blockbuster deal was not on the cards.
Wilson has been with the Seahawks since he entered the NFL in 2012, leading the team to the playoffs in all but one season. He led the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances back-to-back in 2013 and 2014, winning the title in 2013 alongside the team’s dominant defense, highlighted by the “Legion of Boom” secondary.
Imagining Wilson on a team outside of Seattle seems bizarre, especially after the masterful game performance he put together in the season opener.
He finished with 254 passing yards, completing 78% of his passes with all four of the Seahawks’ touchdowns through the air, leading Seattle to victory over the Indianapolis Colts. This is the second straight year that Wilson has started with four touchdowns with a completion percentage of over 70%.
This game showed, above all else, that even though the Seahawks are far removed from winning the Super Bowl, Wilson is still plenty good enough to make the team a dark-horse pick.
4. Arizona Cardinals spoil debut of new-look Tennessee Titans
One year ago, the Arizona Cardinals made the biggest move of the offseason acquiring one of the top wide receivers in the NFL DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans pairing him with then-reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year quarterback Kyler Murray.
One year later, the Tennessee Titans took a page out of the Cardinals book trading for longtime Atlanta Falcons’ receiver Julio Jones.
Jones is joining a Titans offense that already features reigning two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is coming off the best season of his career.
With the eyes of the world on what many believe could potentially a top offensive juggernaut, the Arizona Cardinals played spoiler beating the Tennessee Titans 38-13.
The Titans only recorded 162 yards of total offense, with three turnovers that all came from Tannehill. Many expected a shootout in this one, yet it was Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones who walked away as the talk of the town.
Jones had the best performance from an individual defender in the opening week of the season, recording five of the team’s six total sacks, six tackles, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
The Titans will have another tough test in their next outing, as they face the aforementioned Seahawks in the home of the 12th Man.
5. Historically bad season debut for Green Bay Packers
While the Seahawks had a quarterback who was the subject of trade talks that did not go through only to have an incredible season opening performance, the Green Bay Packers are on the absolute opposite end of that spectrum.
In the offseason, it was reported that Packers longtime quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not want to return to the team, with Rodgers himself confirming those reports.
This was motivated by the Packers in the 2020 draft trading two draft picks, including the 30th pick, for the 26th overall selection, which became quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State. Love is the eventual replacement for Rodgers.
In an effort to force the organization into trading him, Rodgers did the customary holdout, not reporting to the team’s mandatory training camps. While there were talks of the Denver Broncos being a potential suitor in a trade for the former MVP, he ultimately ended his holdout and reported to the team.
Through all the controversy, there was still expectation for the Packers to be a contender, as they have appeared in each of the last two NFC Championship Games. Rodgers has remained among the elite quarterbacks in the league, leading the NFL in touchdowns and completion percentage last season.
Many wondered how the Packers would look in their season debut against a New Orleans Saints team that were opening the season without Drew Brees under center for the first time since 2005. What the fans saw was one of the worst games the Packers have ever played in the Aaron Rodgers era, losing 38-3.
Jameis Winston showed out in his first start with the Saints, completing 70% of his pass attempts, and recording five passing touchdowns with no interceptions.
This was the first season opener that the Packers did not score a touchdown in a season opener since 2006. It was the first time they did not score an offensive touchdown since 2007. This was also the first time Rodgers did not score a touchdown in Week 1 since becoming the full-time starter for the Green Bay Packers.
This was also first time the Packers failed to reach the end zone in any game since December 2018. The last game in which Rodgers failed to throw a TD was in October 2020 against the Buccaneers.
While the Packers are far from being in panic mode, they will need to find their chemistry fast before things get out of hand to the point of being beyond repair.
6. Las Vegas Raiders show resilience in thrilling win
Continuing the discussion of the Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens, if there was an award for Game of the Weekend, that would go hands down to the Monday night overtime thriller.
This game had it all: an epic introduction, a hype crowd, drama, twists and turns this game had literally everything an NFL fan could ask for in a game.
In the end, it was the Raiders that came away with the victory in their home opener ending a four-game losing streak in their stadium dating back to last season.
The game was sealed by a 31-yard touchdown pass by Derek Carr — one of his two TD passes in the game — to go along with his league-high 435 passing yards.
This was an encouraging start to the season for the Raiders, who have not been the same since the disappointing end to their 2016 season. Carr was having the season of his life through 14 games, leading the Raiders to an 11-3 record. Things took a turn in the penultimate game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts when Carr suffered a fractured fibula on a sack by Trent Cole.
The Raiders have struggled to recover since, failing to finish a season with a record above .500. A change from Jack Del Rio to Jon Gruden as head coach hasn’t yielded a big change in the team’s fortunes thus far.
Through it all, Carr has never failed to post amazing numbers, with over 4,000 passing yards in each of the past three seasons and a combined completion percentage of 69%.
If the Raiders are able to step up and give Carr the help he needs, not only could the quarterback return to his status as an MVP-caliber player, but Las Vegas could get back to being a contender in the AFC.