Winners and losers from the opening Sunday of the NFL season

American football is back with a bang, as 28 teams got their season underway on Sunday. Planet Sport takes a look at the winners and losers from first weekend of the NFL.

Fourteen matches were played on Sunday in the NFL, and it was a bit of a mixed bag for some of the big names and the rookies looking to make a name for themselves.

Planet Sport casts its eye over the winners and losers from week one.

Winners

Arizona Cardinals

Murray showing off his mobility
Murray showing off his mobility

In their opening game of the season, the Arizona Cardinals got their season off to the best possible start. On the road against the Tennesse Titans, Arizona executed in all three phases of the game and ran out 38-13 winners.

This was a statement win for the Cardinals and shows their intent in a very competitive NFC West.

On offense, they were led by former number one pick Kyler Murray who passed for 289 yards and four touchdowns as well as running for 20 yards and scoring a touchdown.

Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones registered a mammoth five sacks against the Titans. In just one game, he tallied five times as many sacks as he did in the entirety of last season.

The former first-round pick had a monster game for a Cardinals team and helped restrict the Titans offence to 86 rushing yards.

Evan McPherson

For a kicker, opportunities to win games are hard to come by, which makes the better ones so valuable. That chance came in the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings game, which went into overtime despite the Bengals leading by two touchdowns in the third quarter.

Throughout the game, rookie Bengals kicker Evan McPherson had been perfect. He was 3/3 on field goals, one being a 53-yarder to keep his team in the game.

In the 2021 NFL Draft, McPherson was the only kicker drafted by a team and he showed why in overtime. With the game tied and time running out, the rookie, out of Florida, drilled a 33 yard field goal to give the Bengals a 27-24 win.

Not a bad way for your first NFL game to go.

The Rams-Stafford marriage

Stafford during his opening game of the season as an LA Ram
Stafford during his opening game of the season as an LA Ram

Sunday Night Football was highly anticipated because it was the first game in the Sean McVay-Matthew Stafford era.

Stafford did not disappoint as he threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a dominating win for his new team.

McVay is recognized as being one of the most talented coaches in the NFL, who has taken the Rams to a Super Bowl and a string of playoff appearances. Stafford had been putting up big numbers as a Detriot Lion but had not received the praise wide.

The Rams went out and traded for Stafford, gambling that he would be able to give the team their quarterback of the future. One game is a small sample size but the evidence suggests that the Rams did the right thing.

College teammates

One of the trends of the 2021 NFL Draft was teams reuniting former college quarterback and wide receiver duos.

The Bengals took Joe Burrow first overall in 2020, then used their first pick in the 2021 draft on his LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase. The Dolphins went with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall in 2020; then nabbed his Tide teammate Jaylen Waddle sixth overall this year.

The Eagles used a second-round pick on Jalen Hurts in 2020 out of Oklahoma; they used their 2021 first-round pick on Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, who played with Hurts when he was at Alabama.

All three pairings were an instant hit, with all three connecting for touchdowns on the opening Sunday.

The Eagles first touchdown of the season was an 18-yard pass from Hurts to Smith. Chase proved he could catch an NFL ball, touching the Vikings secondary on a 50-yard connection with Burrow. Waddle did not have the best day out of the three but he did catch the game-winning touchdown from Tagovailoa. 

Traditionally, rookie wide receivers struggle in their debut NFL season. Since 2015, 28 wide receivers have been picked in the first round of the NFL draft; before Sunday, all these players had combined for just three touchdowns in their NFL debuts.

Maybe these rookies can buck the trend and have glowing NFL debut seasons.

Fans

Fans celebrating returning stadiums
Fans celebrating returning stadiums

One of the big winners from the opening games of the season was the fans.

For the first time since the 2019 season, fans from all 32 teams will be able to watch their heroes in person. Due to the vaccine roll-out and the flattening curve in states across America, all 32 teams will be playing in front of capacity crowds.

Despite playing in Jacksonville due to Hurricane Ida, New Orleans Saints fans saw their team put on a show against last seasons MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Also for the first time in league history, teams will play 17 matches meaning that fans will get that extra game to see non-playoff teams.

It's good to be back.

Losers

New York Jets

Despite flashes of quality from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, it was business as usual from the Jets as they lost 19-14 on the run against the Carolina Panthers.

What made the loss worse for New York was that the Panthers quarterback was former Jet first-round pick, Sam Darnold.

Darnold performed how the Jets thought he would when they drafted him in 2018, throwing for 279 yards and a touchdown and rushing for one touchdown.

For the Jets, the killer blow came in the second quarter when Darnold threw a 57-yard bomb to another former Jet in Robby Anderson.

In spite of the loss, Wilson threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Corey Davis and is one of the favourites to be rookie of the year with Planet Sport Bet.

Tennessee Titans

Henry was last seasons NFL Offensive MVP
Henry was last seasons NFL Offensive MVP

The Titans season could not have got off to a worse start as they were outplayed by the Arizona Cardinals on route to losing 38-13.

Three-time pro-bowler Taylor Lewan was bullied by Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, who sacked Titan quarterback Ryan Tannehill five times. While JJ Watt got Tannehill once, to make a cap a miserable day.

The Titans offensive line was ineffective as was last season's Offensive Player of the Year, Derrick Henry. On 17 carries, Henry rushed for only 58 yards. Not much went right for Titans, Tannehill had a total quarterback rating of just 17.6 as the Titans were outperformed by the Cardinals. 

Lewan took to Twitter to apologise and credit Jones for his stellar performance, ouch. 

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Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence during his opening game of the NFL season
Lawrence during his opening game of the NFL season

Trevor Lawrence's first game as a Jacksonville Jaguar did not exactly go according to plan.

Despite throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns, Lawrence also threw for three interceptions. At times he looked lost playing against an NFL defence and made ill-advised throws that come from being a rookie.

There were moments of promise for the Jags but they were beaten by a Texans team that went 4-12 last year. The Texans were predicted to be the worst team in the league but behind Tyrod Taylor who threw for 291 yards, outperformed the Jaguars in a 37-21 victory.

Things for the Jaguars should improve especially with Lawrence and decorated head coach Urban Meyer but their season definitely did not get off to a good start.

Aaron Rodgers

Last seasons MVP Aaron Rodgers had statistically the worst game of his NFL career.

If a quarterback throws the ball into the dirt on every play his passer rating would be 39.6, Rodgers had a passer rating of 32.8 against the Saints. Yikes!

He threw zero touchdowns and two interceptions as the Green Bay Packers lost 38-3. It was the third time in his 16-year career that he threw multiple interceptions and no touchdowns.

On countless plays, Rodgers looked lost. In the third quarter, he threw a deep ball intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling but overthrew him and was intercepted by Marcus Williams. It was ugly and lazy and not the Rodgers that won MVP last year.

In the entire offseason, Rodgers played games with the Packers hierarchy before agreeing to play in the 2021 season. Maybe now he regrets the decision to return.

Daniel Jones

Jones is entering his third seaosn as quarterback of the New York Giants
Jones is entering his third seaosn as quarterback of the New York Giants

Daniel Jones was supposed to be the leader of the New York Giants offense when they drafted him with the sixth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, things have not gone to plan for the Giants and "Danny Dimes". In their opening game of the 2021 season, the Giants lost 27-13 against the Denver Broncos.

Despite throwing and rushing for a touchdown, Jones registered his 40th turnover as a Giant in just 28 games, when he fumbled the ball in the third quarter. Jones set several records as a Giants rookie but since then he has struggled to consistently perform in New York.

This is a make or break campaign for Jones as he enters his third year for the Giants with hopes of finally registering a winning season. One thing is for certain, to achieve that he will have to play better than he did against the Broncos.