The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS host the CLEVELAND BROWNS on Kickoff Weekend. The Chiefs have won their past six Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the AFC and tied for the longest active streak in the NFL.
The BALTIMORE RAVENS, who visit the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS on Monday Night Football in Week 1, have won their last five Kickoff Weekend games, the AFC’s second longest active streak. Since 2016, Baltimore has outscored their opponents 177-26 on Kickoff Weekend and haven’t allowed more than 10 points in any of their previous five Week 1 games. • The reigning NFC North division champion GREEN BAY PACKERS open their season on the road against the reigning NFC South division champion NEW ORLEANS SAINTS. The Packers have won 58 games on Kickoff Weekend, the most in the NFL. Green Bay has won their 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. 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. HEAD COACHES: New England’s BILL BELICHICK is 18-8 (.692) on Kickoff Weekend and his 18 wins are the most among active head coaches…Belichick, Baltimore’s JOHN HARBAUGH (10-3; .769) and Kansas City’s ANDY REID (14-8; .636) are the only active head coaches who have won at least 10 Kickoff Weekend games…Reid has won six consecutive games on Kickoff Weekend, the longest current streak among active head coaches… Los Angeles Rams’ SEAN MCVAY (4-0 and Green Bay’s MATT LAFLEUR (2-0) are the only active head coaches with perfect records on Kickoff Weekend…Seven head coaches – Detroit’s DAN CAMPBELL, Houston’s DAVID CULLEY, Jacksonville’s URBAN MEYER, New York Jets’ ROBERT SALEH, Philadelphia’s NICK SIRIANNI, Atlanta’s ARTHUR SMITH and the Los Angeles Chargers’ BRANDON STALEY – make their Kickoff Weekend debuts.
Both the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (AFC North) and WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (NFC East) won their division after missing the postseason in 2019 and at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years.
Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before. Seven teams that missed the postseason in 2019 – CHICAGO, CLEVELAND, INDIANAPOLIS, LOS ANGELES RAMS, PITTSBURGH, TAMPA BAY and WASHINGTON – accomplished the feat in 2020.
The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS won their second Super Bowl title in 2020 and begin their quest to repeat as champions as the race to Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI kicks off. Only eight teams have repeated as champions since the first Super Bowl in 1967, with the 2004 Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX) being the last team to accomplish the feat. • Seven teams enter the 2020 season with a new head coach – DAN CAMPBELL in Detroit, DAVID CULLEY in Houston, URBAN MEYER in Jacksonville, ROBERT SALEH with the New York Jets, NICK SIRIANNI with Philadelphia, ARTHUR SMITH with Atlanta and BRANDON STALEY with the Los Angeles Chargers. Seven head coaches in their first year with a new club have led their teams to the playoffs over the last four seasons: RON RIVERA (Washington) and KEVIN STEFANSKI (Cleveland) in 2020, MATT LAFLEUR (Green Bay) in 2019, MATT NAGY (Chicago) and FRANK REICH (Indianapolis) in 2018, and SEAN MCVAY (L.A. Rams) and SEAN MCDERMOTT (Buffalo) in 2017. • Five quarterbacks – Clemson’s TREVOR LAWRENCE (No. 1 overall, Jacksonville), BYU’s ZACH WILSON (No. 2, New York Jets), North Dakota State’s TREY LANCE (No. 3, San Francisco), Ohio State’s JUSTIN FIELDS (No. 11, Chicago) and Alabama’s MAC JONES (No. 15, New England) – were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. At least one rookie quarterback has started in Week 1 in 13 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.
Several notable players were on the move during the offseason, including quarterbacks JARED GOFF (Detroit) and MATTHEW STAFFORD (Los Angeles Rams); running backs JAMES CONNER (Arizona) and KENYAN DRAKE (Las Vegas); wide receivers COREY DAVIS (New York Jets) and KENNY GOLLADAY (New York Giants); tight ends HUNTER HENRY (New England) and JONNU SMITH (New England); offensive linemen ORLANDO BROWN (Kansas City), TRENT BROWN (New England), COREY LINSLEY (L.A. Chargers) and JOE THUNEY (Kansas City); defensive linemen TREY HENDRICKSON (Cincinnati), YANNICK NGAKOUE (Las Vegas) and J.J. WATT (Arizona); linebackers BUD DUPREE (Tennessee) and HAASON REDDICK (Carolina); and defensive backs MALCOLM BUTLER (Arizona), KYLE FULLER (Denver), MIKE HILTON (Cincinnati) and JOHN JOHNSON (Cleveland).
In 16 of the past 18 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. In fact, of the 49 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 26 of them have done so in the past 18 years (2003-20), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006. Two teams during that span, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, won the Super Bowl after finishing in last place in their division the season before.
In the 19 seasons since realignment in 2002, 30 different teams have won division titles. In 2020, five divisions – AFC East (Buffalo), AFC North (Pittsburgh), AFC South (Tennessee), NFC East (Washington) and NFC West (Seattle) – saw a new team finish in first place.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North) and Washington Football Team (NFC East) won their division after missing the postseason in 2019 and at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years. Washington completed the “worst-to-first” turnaround, winning the NFC East the season after finishing in last place in the division. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 16 of the past 18 seasons.
Getting off to a strong start is important. Over the past 10 years, seven teams – NEW ENGLAND, GREEN BAY, KANSAS CITY, BALTIMORE, DALLAS, SEATTLE and BUFFALO – have a winning percentage of at least .600 through the season’s first month. Those seven clubs have combined for 44 playoff berths and 10 Super Bowl appearances – including six Super Bowl championships – during that span.
In 2020, the four teams to appear on Championship Weekend – BUFFALO, GREEN BAY, KANSAS
CITY and TAMPA BAY – began with a combined 11-1 record during the first month of the season.
Over the past 10 years, six NFL teams – NEW ENGLAND (118-42, .738), GREEN BAY (105-53- 2, .663), SEATTLE (105-54-1, .659), PITTSBURGH (102-57-1, .641), NEW ORLEANS (101-59, .631) and KANSAS CITY (100-60, .625) – have won at least 100 regular-season games. Those six clubs have combined for 44 playoff berths, nine Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl championships in that span. The New England Patriots, under the guidance of head coach BILL BELICHICK, have the best regular season record over the past 10 years, qualifying for the postseason nine times and winning Super Bowls XLIX, LI and LIII. “When you look at these guys and what they’ve done in terms of consistency, that really is the truest measure of performance,” Los Angeles Rams head coach SEAN MCVAY said about the Patriots. “Nobody has done it better than they have over the last handful of years and that’s why you have so much respect and appreciation for them.”
With so many close games in the NFL, it’s no surprise that 10 contests in the regular season went to overtime. The LOS ANGELES CHARGERS played three overtime games in 2020 while the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS and TENNESSEE TITANS each played extra time twice last year. Titans running back DERRICK HENRY recorded game-winning touchdown runs in Week 6 and Week 11, becoming the first player with multiple overtime rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.
One hundred and fifteen years ago the forward pass was legalized and football has never been the same. But all the aerial activity that has captivated fans for decades had a very modest beginning. On Thursday, October 25, 1906, the first authenticated pass completion in a professional game occurred when quarterback GEORGE “PEGGY” PARRATT of the Massillon Tigers completed a pass to end DAN “BULLET” RILEY in a victory over a combined Benwood-Moundsville, West Virginia team in a 61-0 decision. The pass was a mere footnote in newspaper accounts of the game, as Parratt’s 65- yard run from scrimmage and 100-yard kickoff return seized the headlines. Earlier that year, on January 12, rules were passed that forever changed the nature of the sport – the forward pass was legalized, the length of the game was reduced from 70 to 60 minutes, the neutral zone separating the offense from the defense by the length of the ball was established, the distance required for a first down was increased to 10 yards, and six men were required to be on the line of scrimmage. Because the pros still followed collegiate rules, these changes were just as important to them as to college football. An early believer in the possibilities of the passing game was Pro Football Hall of Famer CURLY LAMBEAU, who teamed with GEORGE CALHOUN in 1919 to form what is now the Green Bay Packers. Lambeau – one of nine coaches in NFL history to amass 200 total wins (229-134-22) – enjoyed an NFL playing career with Green Bay that stretched from 1921-29 and included 24 touchdown passes. “I always loved to pass,” Lambeau said. “I used to practice passing in the spring. The ball was harder to throw then – it was bigger around. They changed the ball in the early ’30s, which made it easier to throw. Our offense those days was 75 percent passing. Other teams passed in desperation – we threw on first down. I’d rather pass. I figured it was the easiest way to pick up yards.”