NFL Kickoff Weekend: What to look for

Posted at 12:22 PM, Sep 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-05 12:29:38-04

A general view of Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY (NFL Communications) – Thursday night, the first of 256 NFL regular season games kicks off, when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers in the regular season opener. Courtesy of NFL Communications, here are some storylines to follow during Kickoff Weekend.

SUPER STARTERSHistory indicates that the best way for a team to start its drive toward a Super Bowl championship is to win in Week 1.

The 53 Super Bowl winners have a 43-9-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl LIII champion NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, who host Pittsburgh in their season-opener on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), have won nine of their past 10 home openers played on Kickoff Weekend, the most in the NFL over that span.

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 602 teams that won openers…311 went to the playoffs (189 won division titles).
  • Of the 601 teams that lost openers…147 went to the playoffs (85 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 2018, three of the four participants in the conference championships – Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams and New England – were victorious on Kickoff Weekend, including both Super Bowl teams.

Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears awaits the snap against Aaron Rodgers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

STARTING STREAKSSome clubs have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable active NFL Kickoff milestones and streaks:

The CHICAGO BEARS host the GREEN BAY PACKERS on Thursday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC) to kick off the NFL’s 100th season. Green Bay’s 56 Kickoff Weekend wins are the most all-time and Chicago’s 54 wins rank second. The Packers have won their past four Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the NFC.

The DENVER BRONCOS, who begin the season by visiting the OAKLAND RAIDERS on Monday Night Football (10:20 PM ET, ESPN), have posted a .672 winning percentage (39-19-1) on Kickoff Weekend, the top mark in the league. Denver has won its past seven Kickoff Weekend games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The defending AFC West champion KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who visit the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS in Week 1 (1:00 PM ET, CBS), have won their last four Kickoff Weekend games, tied for the league’s second-longest active streak.

The defending NFC East champion DALLAS COWBOYS host the NEW YORK GIANTS in a division showdown (4:25 PM ET, FOX). Dallas and New York face each other on Kickoff Weekend for the fourth time in the last five years. With a winning percentage of .655 (38-20-1), the Cowboys own the best Kickoff Weekend winning percentage in the NFC.

The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, who returned to the playoffs in 2018, host the CINCINNATI BENGALS (4:05 ET, CBS). Seattle has won 10 consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in the league.

The WASHINGTON REDSKINS face the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES on the road to start the season (1:00 ET, FOX). Washington has won its past three road openers, the longest active streak in the league.

*From 1920-71, tie games were not included in winning percentage

START ME UPSome players have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable individual performances on NFL Kickoff Weekend:

  • New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 34 touchdown passes in 16 career Week 1 games and needs one touchdown pass against Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC) to surpass PEYTON MANNING (34) for the second-most touchdown passes in season-opening games in NFL history. New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES leads all players with 37 touchdown passes in 17 career Kickoff Weekend games, as New Orleans hosts Houston on Monday Night Football (7:10 PM ET, ESPN).
  • Brees, who led all players with 439 passing yards on Kickoff Weekend in 2018, has three career 400-yard passing games in season-opening games, the most by any player in NFL history. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS, who passed for 424 yards in Week 1 last season, and Manning are the only other players with multiple 400-yard passing games on Kickoff Weekend.
  • Washington running back ADRIAN PETERSON has 999 rushing yards in 12 career season-opening games and needs 1 rushing yard on Sunday against Philadelphia (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) and JIM BROWN (1,043),as well as EDGERRIN JAMES (1,062). 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.
  • Philadelphia wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON, who had 147 receiving yards on Kickoff Weekend in 2018 with Tampa Bay, has five career games with at least 100 yards receiving in Week 1, tied for the second-most all-time. With at least 100 receiving yards against Washington on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Jackson would tie Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (six) for the most 100-yard receiving games on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history.

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

START ’EM EARLY: Arizona rookie quarterback KYLER MURRAY, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, is expected to make his first career start against Detroit on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX). With a start by Murray, at least one rookie quarterback will have started in Week 1 in 12 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.

The rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 since 2008:

2008 Joe Flacco Baltimore 11-5
2008 Matt Ryan Atlanta 11-5
2009 Mark Sanchez New York Jets 8-7
2009 Matthew Stafford* Detroit 2-8
2010 Sam Bradford* St. Louis Rams 7-9
2011 Andy Dalton Cincinnati 9-7
2011 Cam Newton* Carolina 6-10
2012 Robert Griffin III Washington 9-6
2012 Andrew Luck* Indianapolis 11-5
2012 Ryan Tannehill Miami 7-9
2012 Brandon Weeden Cleveland 5-10
2012 Russell Wilson Seattle 11-5
2013 EJ Manuel Buffalo 4-6
2013 Geno Smith New York Jets 8-8
2014 Derek Carr Oakland 3-13
2015 Marcus Mariota Tennessee 3-13
2015 Jameis Winston* Tampa Bay 6-10
2016 Dak Prescott Dallas 13-3
2016 Carson Wentz Philadelphia 7-9
2017 DeShone Kizer Cleveland 0-15
2018 Sam Darnold New York Jets 4-9
2019 Kyler Murray*^ Arizona
*No. 1 overall pick
^Expected to start Week 1  ​

WONDERFUL WILSON: Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has 196 career passing touchdowns and 25,624 career passing yards in 112 career games during his eight-year NFL career.

With four passing touchdowns on Sunday against Cincinnati (4:05 PM ET, CBS), Wilson can surpass TOM BRADY (116 games) to become the fifth-fastest player in league history to reach 200 career passing touchdowns.

The players to reach 200 career passing touchdowns in the fewest games in NFL history:

Dan MarinoHOF Miami 89
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay 99
Peyton Manning Indianapolis 106
Brett FavreHOF Atlanta, Green Bay 107
Tom Brady New England 116
Russell Wilson Seattle 112*
*Has 196 career touchdown passes

With four touchdown passes, Wilson would also become the first player in league history with at least 200 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns (16) in his first eight seasons.

MOVING ON UP: Washington running back ADRIAN PETERSON enters 2019 with 106 career rushing touchdowns during his 12-year NFL career.

With a rushing touchdown on Sunday at Philadelphia (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Peterson can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN (106 rushing touchdowns) for the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in league annals.

The players with the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history:

Emmitt SmithHOF Dallas, Arizona 164
LaDainian TomlinsonHOF San Diego, N.Y. Jets 145
Marcus AllenHOF L.A. Raiders, Kansas City 123
Walter PaytonHOF Chicago 110
Jim BrownHOF Cleveland 106
Adrian Peterson* Minnesota, Arizona, Washington 106

RINGING THE BELL: Running back LE’VEON BELL makes his New York Jets debut on Sunday against Buffalo (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

Bell, who has 7,996 career scrimmage yards in 62 games, need four scrimmage yards to become the fastest player to reach 8,000 career scrimmage yards in league history.

The players to reach 8,000 career scrimmage yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

Eric DickersonHOF L.A. Rams 64
Edgerrin James Indianapolis 65
LaDainian TomlinsonHOF San Diego 65
Jim BrownHOF Cleveland 67
Marcus AllenHOF L.A. Raiders 68
Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh, N.Y. Jets 62*
*Has 7,996 scrimmage yards​

DUAL THREAT: New England running back JAMES WHITE enters his sixth NFL season with 19 career receiving touchdowns.

With a receiving touchdown against Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), White can join CHUCK FOREMAN (23 receiving touchdowns) and BRIAN WESTBROOK (23) as the only running backs in league history with at least 20 touchdown receptions in their first six seasons. ​

The running backs with at least 20 receiving touchdowns in their first six seasons:

Chuck Foreman Minnesota 23
Brian Westbrook Philadelphia 23
James White New England 19*
*Entering sixth season

700 CLUB: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES has 698 receptions for 10,731 yards and 51 touchdowns in 111 career games.

Jones needs two receptions on Sunday at Minnesota (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the second-fastest player to reach 700 receptions in NFL history.​

The players to reach 700 career receptions in the fewest games in NFL history:​

Antonio Brown Pittsburgh 111
Marvin HarrisonHOF Indianapolis 114
Andre Johnson Houston 120
Brandon Marshall Denver, Miami, Chicago 121
Anquan Boldin Arizona, Baltimore 123
Julio Jones Atlanta 111*
*Has 698 receptions