Recapping Week 1’s Top Winners and Losers in the NFL (2021)

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| September 13, 2021 3:16 pm PDT

The 2021 NFL season is upon us and the opening weekend was a successful one.

Several teams lived up to the offseason hype. The defending NFC and AFC champions had thrilling victories that could springboard their seasons.

Many challengers to Tampa Bay and Kansas City came up short. Some were arguably disastrous. We still have many weeks of football remaining, so there is no need to hit the panic button.

That said, when recapping week one in the NFL, it’s still fair to point out the teams that failed, and the ones that impressed.

Here are the top winners and losers from the opening weekend of the 2021-22 NFL season.

Winner: Saints

The Saints were home underdogs to the Packers, and not many gave them much of a chance to pull off the upset. They had to play at Jacksonville, and everybody was pounding Aaron Rodgers in most sportsbooks.

Jameis Winston torched the Green Bay secondary for five scores, and he was borderline flawless in an easy 38-3 win.

Alvin Kamara was able to expose the exhausted Green Bay defense, as well.

Sean Payton has always loved Taysom Hill, but it was Winston that shut the naysayers up. New Orleans looked like they might be set for a step back in their play with Drew Brees retiring, but they were the top winners of Week 1.

Loser: Patriots

New England has been a trendy postseason pick all offseason, and Mac Jones was one of the top picks to win Rookie of the Year. The offense sputtered with two costly lost fumbles by their running backs.

Damien Harris was having a productive day on the ground but had a devastating fumble inside four minutes in the game.

They just needed to sit on the ball and kick a chip-shot kick.

Jones played well under center, but it still wasn’t enough without a star difference-maker on offense.

The defense did all it could but failed to turn over the Dolphins at the end of the game. Failing to cover Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker ended up hurting the team as well. New England could still be a playoff squad, but losing a divisional home game to start the season is usually costly.

Winner: NFC West

Going 4-0 in the division was impressive.

Here were the final scores.

  • Seahawks 28, Colts 16
  • 49ers 41, Lions 33
  • Cardinals 38, Titans 13
  • Rams 34, Bears 14

Two of them were heavy favorites, but Seattle found a way to ride the ship with their road victory at Indianapolis. D.K. Metcalf didn’t do too much, but Tyler Lockett had one of his patented performances with Russell Wilson.

The 49ers had no issues moving the football despite getting nothing from Raheem Mostert (knee) and Brandon Aiyuk. Trey Sermon was a healthy scratch, and the defense came away with a few takeaways that led to a three-plus score lead.

The Rams dominated the Bears, and the debut of Matthew Stafford in Sean McVay’s offense passed the eye test. Cooper Kupp exposed the Chicago secondary, and he could be a challenge for all opposing defenses. The ability to hit the home-run ball was a weakness of the Rams with Jared Goff, but it looks like a strength now.

The Arizona win on the road over Tennessee was one of the best wins of the entire weekend.

The defense was dominant thanks to Chandler Jones and his five sacks.

DeAndre Hopkins and the receivers made the necessary plays to come away with touchdowns instead of settling for three points. They looked like a playoff team going into the year, but this is a game that could get Kliff Kingsbury over the hump.

Loser: Packers

There may not be a bigger loser from the past weekend than Aaron Rodgers and this dreadful offense.

The performance was pitiful, and they will need to wake up if they want home-field advantage in January.

Playing in the NFC North is a bonus since the entire division lost, but Green Bay looked poor in all facets of the game.

They abandoned the run game but weren’t explosive enough. The secondary was terrible at defending the pass. Winston looked like the All-Pro quarterback, and the reigning MVP was non-existent.

There aren’t many must-win games heading into Week 2, but hosting the Lions on Monday Night Football is about as close as it gets. A loss there, and this team will need to look in the mirror and start searching for solutions before it becomes a lost season.

Winner: Bengals

Joe Burrow returned and had a game with his former college teammate. Ja’Marr Chase had a ton of hype going into the preseason, and many were jumping off his bandwagon after he had a poor month in August.

Luckily, the games don’t count in the summer, and September is a bit more vital.

Chase went off for over 100 yards with a score, and Burrow led them to an overtime victory. (standout text)

It nearly got away from them after a questionable decision on fourth down while leading by two scores.

Still, the Bengals opened the season with a victory in a gauntlet of an AFC North division. They need some love and look much improved from the past few seasons.

Loser: Rookie Quarterbacks

Almost every skill player drafted in the top 15 picks scored in Week 1, but struggles were evident. The top five quarterbacks didn’t have a ton of success in the win column, and while Trey Lance and Justin Fields didn’t start, they hardly played.

Here are the rookie passers, and how their teams fared.

Quarterback Team Result
Trevor Lawrence Jaguars L, 37-20
Zach Wilson Jets L, 19-14
Justin Fields Bears L, 34-14
Mac Jones Patriots L, 17-16
Trey Lance 49ers W, 41-33

Many were hoping to see several snaps and, or possessions in Week 1, but it was a challenge. Fields ran in for a score but only attempted two passes on the night, and he didn’t rush again after his three-yard score.

Trey Lance threw a touchdown pass, but it was his only passing attempt of the day against the Lions. He also only ran the ball three times, and the 49ers let Jimmy Garoppolo lead the offense.

Trevor Lawrence ended with 332 yards passing and three scores, but it was not an impressive debut.

He made a few awful decisions with the football and ended up throwing three interceptions. The Jaguars were playing from behind the entire afternoon and made the Texans look like a good team. Houston may not win another game, and Lawrence will need to take care of the ball better.

Zach Wilson had struggles with the Jets as well. The first half was miserable, but a late fourth-quarter drive and score padded the stats a bit. He ended up taking six sacks, and the Jets offense didn’t help him either. It could be a long rookie campaign for most of these potential future stars.

Winner: AFC West

This division is going to be much better than most gave them credit for in the preseason. The Chiefs won, but the Chargers and Broncos were far from locks in Week 1.

Both picked up tremendous road victories, which will likely put them in the playoff hunt if they can keep the momentum on their talented rosters. The Chargers have a loaded group that should win double-digit games this season. Staying healthy has always been an issue for the Bolts.

Denver lost Jerry Jeudy (ankle), and the reports are that he will miss 6-8 weeks. However, the Broncos had an exceptional game from Teddy Bridgewater. He was quietly one of the better signal-callers of Week 1, but their defense dominated the Giants’ offense.

The pure speed and talent of the top three of the West were impressive. The division will get two teams in the postseason this year despite many not jumping on board yet.

Loser: AFC South

The division isn’t going to be good this season, but it could be almost as bad as the NFC East of last season. Is that an overreaction?

Probably, but the Texans and Jaguars will be lucky to win eight games combined between the two. Indianapolis looked pedestrian against a decent Seattle defense, but the Seahawks are far from the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Tennessee looked lost in Week 1.

They were thumped at home by Arizona, and it all falls on their offensive woes. Tennessee was an offense that drew all the offseason and summer headlines. They added Julio Jones, but he only hauled in three catches for 29 yards. A.J. Brown had four receptions for 49 yards and a score. Derrick Henry was under 80 yards of total offense.

They need to find more balance early in games, so their defense can save some of its energy for the second half. There were too many shortened possessions that made the defense look gassed before halftime.

The division could be one where winning nine games could lead to a division crown. There is no need to panic, but improvement is needed.

Looking to Week 2 in the NFL

Week 1 in the NFL is now in the past, and it is time to look ahead.

Teams and players that failed to live up to expectations will get back to the drawing board. They will regain their confidence with a week of practice under their belt. 

The opening weekend is full of inconsistent and rusty performances that often create overreactions from their fanbases.

Week 2 has some featured matchups, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Love recaps? Check out the week two college football winners and losers, as well.

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