Defending champions Tampa Bay off to a winning start as NFL 2021/22 gets underwayFriday, September 17, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
Week 1 of the National Football League (NFL) season kicked off last week Thursday with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers barely getting past the Dallas Cowboys and ended with an overtime thriller on Monday night between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens (with a few surprises in between).
In the opener, the Buccaneers won a close game that had no business being that close. The Cowboys were victims of their own misfortunes — dropped passes, wayward kicks and missed opportunities — coupled with a Tampa Bay offensive push-off, non-call with 14 seconds left in the game and Dallas leading 29-28, the victory was practically handed to the home team. The Buccaneers subsequently scored a field goal to take the lead (31-29) with only two seconds left in the game and that was all she wrote.
Dallas quarterback (QB) Dak Prescott was fantastic (passing for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns) in his first game back since Week 5 of last season and steadily outplayed his more illustrious counterpart, but a few flashes of brilliance by Tom Brady was enough to seal the Tampa Bay win.
Last Sunday, a slew of performances highlighted the day — the Arizona Cardinals' offense looked great in a big 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, as QB Kyler Murray starred with five total touchdowns. Tennessee struggled all day, as did another American Football Conference (AFC) powerhouse, the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo, coming off a stellar year, is expected to again challenge in the AFC but their performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 left some in doubt. Despite a dominating defensive effort in the first half and leading 10-0, the Bills allowed 20 unanswered points to the Steelers coming out of the break, lost the lead and the game (23-16). Buffalo's QB Josh Allen, despite facing (possibly) the lowest blitz rate of his career, completed 30 of 51 passes, a career high in pass attempts, for 270 yards against the Steelers and had trouble connecting with his receivers. Being outscored 23-3 in the second half is a telling statistic, but the Bills have grown in the last few years and getting past this bump should not be a major concern.
The defense of the Kansas City Chiefs was a surprising non-factor for three quarters against the Cleveland Browns and, up to halftime, it appeared the defending AFC champions were on their way to an opening game defeat. The combination of QB Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill got it together in the second half to outscore the Browns 23-7 en route to a narrow 33-29 victory. Obviously, the Chiefs have the capability to score at will but, the defense will need to avoid putting as much pressure on the offense as they did on Sunday.
The New Orleans Saints blanketed the reigning league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers 38-3 in what must be considered the 'jaw-dropper' of the weekend. Not much was expected of the Saints so early in the season following the retirement of QB Drew Brees, then the team relocating to Dallas over the previous two weeks and a “home” game in Jacksonville, Florida, because of Hurricane Ida. The level of dominance, with Saints' QB Jameis Winston throwing five touchdowns and Rodgers throwing two interceptions, was completely unexpected.
The Green Bay offense looked like a well-oiled machine all pre-season and are still (basically) the same team that won thirteen games last season but, they lost convincingly on a day that they had no business losing.
QB Matthew Stafford had a monster game in his first outing for the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday night against the Chicago Bears with a 321-yard performance and three touchdowns (including two touchdowns for 55+ yards each). Los Angeles' running game found very little traction (as expected with Cam Akers out for the season) but Chicago's much-touted defense allowed multiple openings that cost them the 34-14 defeat.
The Monday night closing game for Week 1 provided an exciting, overtime encounter between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. In a game where both teams had multiple opportunities in the fourth quarter and overtime to claim the win, the difference came down to two costly fumbles by Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson — one in overtime to set up the Raiders' game-winning touchdown drive. The Raiders' offense was lethargic early but found energy in the fourth quarter and overtime. And as terrible as their defense was last season, it did enough to ensure a 33-27 win.
The Ravens will face the Chiefs this Sunday night in the marquee matchup of Week 2. Kansas City had a very poor start in their opener against the Browns but managed to bag the victory while Baltimore was leading 17-10 after three quarters but coughed up 17 points in the fourth leading to the overtime defeat.
The Chiefs certainly have some issues to address from their opening week win, but they also did a lot of things well. As for the Ravens, they gave up 408 passing yards in Monday's loss but were just a couple of fumbles away from victory. The Ravens will be home for this one and it pits two of the most exciting QBs in the league on the opposite side of the pitch – Don't miss it!
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Super Bowl LVI Champion
Kansas City Chiefs 5.60
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6.20
Los Angeles Rams 12.00
Buffalo Bills 13.00
San Francisco 49ers 13.00
Cleveland Browns 16.00
Green Bay Packers 16.00
Baltimore Ravens 17.00
Seattle Seahawks 17.00
New Orleans Saints 21.00
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