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 54 Super Bowl winners have a 44-9-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl LIV champion KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who host Houston in the NFL’s annual primetime kickoff game on Thursday (8:20 PM ET, NBC), have won their past five 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 losers of an opening game:
- Of the 617 teams that won openers…322 went to the playoffs (196 won division titles).
- Of the 616 teams that lost openers…148 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 2019, the 12 playoff teams compiled an 11-1 record on Kickoff Weekend and all four participants in the conference championships – Green Bay, Kansas City, San Francisco and Tennessee – were victorious in Week 1.
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STARTING STREAKS: The Chiefs aren’t the only team to have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of other notable active NFL Kickoff milestones and streaks:
- The defending AFC North champion BALTIMORE RAVENS, who host the CLEVELAND BROWNS on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), have won their last four Kickoff Weekend games, the AFC’s second-longest active streak.
- The GREEN BAY PACKERS open their season on the road against the MINNESOTA VIKINGS on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). The Packers have won 57 games on Kickoff Weekend, the most in the NFL. Green Bay has won its past five Kickoff Weekend games while the Vikings enter the 2020 season having won their past four openers.
- The DALLAS COWBOYS visit the LOS ANGELES RAMS on Sunday Night Football in Week 1 (8:20 PM ET, NBC). With a winning percentage of .661 (39-20-1), the Cowboys own the best Kickoff Weekend winning percentage in the NFC.
- In the first of two Monday Night Football games on Kickoff Weekend, the NEW YORK GIANTS host the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7:10 PM ET, ESPN). The Giants have 50 wins on Kickoff Weekend, third-most among all teams, while Pittsburgh’s 43 wins are the most among AFC teams.
- The DENVER BRONCOS, who begin the season by hosting the TENNESSEE TITANS in the second Monday Night Football contest (10:20 PM ET, ESPN), have also posted a .661 winning percentage (39-20-1) on Kickoff Weekend, the top mark in the AFC. Denver has won seven of its past eight Kickoff Weekend games.
*From 1920-71, tie games were not included in winning percentage
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START ME UP: Some players have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable individual performances on NFL Kickoff Weekend:
- New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES has 39 touchdown passes in 18 career Week 1 games, while Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY has 37 touchdown passes in 17 career Kickoff Weekend games. The two rank first and second in NFL history, respectively, in career touchdown passes on Kickoff Weekend and face off this Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
Brees also leads all players with 5,406 career passing yards on Kickoff Weekend, while Brady ranks third with 4,693. With at least 44 passing yards on Sunday, Brady will surpass PEYTON MANNING (4,736) for second place on the all-time list.
- Detroit running back ADRIAN PETERSON has 999 rushing yards in 12 career season-opening games and needs one rushing yard on Sunday against Chicago (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the fifth player with at least 1,000 rushing yards in season-opening games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers EMMITT SMITH (1,247), WALTER PAYTON (1,067), EDGERRIN JAMES (1,062) and JIM BROWN (1,043).
Peterson also enters the season with nine career rushing touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend and needs one more to join Pro Football Hall of Famer MARCUS ALLEN (12), CHUCK MUNCIE (11) and PRIEST HOLMES (10) as the only players in NFL history with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in season-opening games.
- Arizona wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD, who recorded eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown on Kickoff Weekend in 2019, has 92 receptions in 16 career Kickoff Weekend games, tied for the most all-time. With at least one reception on Sunday at San Francisco (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Fitzgerald will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (92 receptions) for the most career receptions in season-opening games in NFL history.
Fitzgerald has 1,181 receiving yards in Week 1 games and with at least 45 receiving yards on Sunday can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers RANDY MOSS (1,194) and ANDRE REED (1,225) for the second-most in NFL history. Rice has the most receiving yards on Kickoff Weekend with 1,385.
- Philadelphia wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON, who had 154 receiving yards on Kickoff Weekend in 2019, 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 Washington on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Jackson would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (six) for the most 100-yard receiving games on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history.
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START ’EM EARLY: Cincinnati rookie quarterback JOE BURROW, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, is expected to make his first career start against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS). With a start by Burrow, at least one rookie quarterback will have started in Week 1 in 13 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.
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|
|*No. 1 overall pick|
|^Expected to start Week 1|
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BRADY & BREES: Quarterbacks TOM BRADY and DREW BREES will face off as division rivals for the first time, as Tampa Bay travels to New Orleans on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX). Brady (age 43) and Brees (41) are the two oldest active players in the NFL, and Sunday’s meeting will be the first in league history between two starting quarterbacks both age 40 or older.
The pair enter the 2020 season as the league’s top-two all-time leaders in passing yards and touchdown passes. Their Week 1 meeting marks the first game since at least 1950 between the league’s top-two all-time leaders in touchdown passes.
The players with the most career passing yards in NFL history:
|Drew Brees||San Diego, New Orleans||77,416|
|Tom Brady||New England||74,517|
|Peyton Manning||Indianapolis, Denver||71,940|
The players with the most career touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Drew Brees||San Diego, New Orleans||547|
|Tom Brady||New England||541|
|Peyton Manning||Indianapolis, Denver||539|
With at least two touchdown passes on Sunday, Brees (165 games) will surpass PEYTON MANNING for the second-most such games in NFL history, trailing only Brady (173). With at least three touchdown passes, Brees (93 games) will surpass Manning for the most such games in league annals. Brady enters the season third on the all-time list with 86 games with at least three touchdown passes.
The players with the most career games with at least two touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Tom Brady||New England||173|
|Drew Brees||San Diego, New Orleans||165|
|Peyton Manning||Indianapolis, Denver||165|
The players with the most career games with at least three touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Drew Brees||San Diego, New Orleans||93|
|Peyton Manning||Denver, Indianapolis||93|
|Tom Brady||New England||86|
If Brees records a passer rating of 125 or higher, he would also surpass Manning (50 games) for the most such games in NFL history.
Other career passing milestones that can be reached in Week 1:
- With at least three touchdown passes on Sunday at Jacksonville (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Indianapolis quarterback PHILIP RIVERS (397 career touchdown passes) can become the sixth player with 400 career touchdown passes in NFL history.
- With at least 290 passing yards on Sunday against Seattle (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Atlanta quarterback MATT RYAN (51,186 career passing yards) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY (51,475) for ninth place on the league’s all-time list.
- With at least 58 passing yards on Sunday at Minnesota (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS (46,946 career passing yards) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer FRAN TARKENTON (47,003) for 12th place on the all-time list.
- With at least 266 passing yards on Sunday at Atlanta (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON can reach 30,000 career passing yards, becoming the 11th player to do so in his first nine seasons in league history.
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RUSHING INTO THE RECORD BOOKS: Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON became the youngest quarterback to win league MVP in NFL history last season after leading the league with 36 touchdown passes and rushing for 1,206 yards, the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history.
Jackson had five games with at least 100 rushing yards last season, the most by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history, and enters 2020 with 1,901 career rushing yards through his first two seasons.
With at least 132 rushing yards on Sunday against Cleveland (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jackson can surpass CAM NEWTON (2,032 rushing yards) for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in his first three seasons in NFL history.
The quarterbacks with the most rushing yards in their first three seasons in NFL history:
|*Entering third season|
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RECEPTIONS LEADER: New Orleans wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS led the NFL with 149 receptions for 1,725 receiving yards last season, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (143 receptions in 2002) for the most receptions in a single season in NFL history. He also registered nine games with at least 10 receptions, the most in a single season in league annals.
Thomas enters his fifth NFL season with 470 career receptions and needs at least 12 receptions on Sunday against Tampa Bay (4:25 ET, FOX) to surpass JARVIS LANDRY (481 receptions) for the most receptions by a player in his first five seasons in NFL history.
The players with the most receptions in their first five seasons in NFL history:
|Jarvis Landry||Miami, Cleveland||481|
|Michael Thomas||New Orleans||470*|
|*Entering fifth season|
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CLOSING IN ON 800: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES has 797 receptions for 12,125 yards and 57 touchdowns in 126 career games.
Jones needs three receptions on Sunday against Seattle (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the second-fastest player to reach 800 receptions in NFL history.
The players to reach 800 career receptions in the fewest games in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM||GAMES TO REACH 800 RECEPTIONS|
|*Has 797 receptions entering Sunday|
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ROOKIES NO MORE: The 2019 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY, and the 2019 Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, San Francisco defensive lineman NICK BOSA, will meet each other in Week 1, when the 49ers host the Cardinals onSunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
It will mark the third time in NFL history that the two reigning Rookies of the Year will meet on Kickoff Weekend. New England running back JOHN STEPHENS and New York Jets defensive back ERIK MCMILLAN met in Week 1 of the 1989 season, while San Diego Chargers running back DON WOODS and Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker JACK LAMBERT met in the season opening game in 1975.
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|
|2020||QB Kyler Murray (Arizona)||DL Nick Bosa (San Francisco)||???|
|1989||RB John Stephens (New England)||DB Erik McMillan (NY Jets)||NE 27, NYJ 24|
|1975||RB Don Woods (San Diego)||LB Jack LambertHOF (Pittsburgh)||PIT 37, SD 0|