By Tiffany Williams –
As we countdown the final days of Summer, we put behind us an action-packed offseason, and look ahead at the path to State Farm Stadium and Super Bowl LVII in Arizona. It all begins Thursday night when the NFL kicks off its 103rd year of competition.
11 teams will start week one and this is my Top 5 What You Should Know:
1. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen will return to his native state when Buffalo begins the season against defending Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams Thursday night. Allen, who has guided the Bills to consecutive AFC East titles, is 3-1 against teams from the NFC West, including a win in California over the 49ers in 2020. Meanwhile, the Rams’ Sean McVay has won each of his five season-opening games as a head coach. The last head coach to win his first six season-openers was Mike Shanahan (1988-89, 1995-98). Incidentally, Shanahan hired McVay, then 24, as an assistant tight ends coach in 2010 with Washington.
2. Twelve teams are expected to open their seasons with a starting quarterback age 25 or younger. Two of the NFL’s three youngest quarterbacks expected to start in Week 1, the 49ers’ Trey Lance, 22, and the Bears’ Justin Fields, 23, meet at Soldier Field on Sunday. Meanwhile, when New England plays at Miami on Sunday, Mac Jones, 23, meets Tua Tagovailoa, 24. Each of the last four Super Bowls have kicked off with a starting quarterback under 26.
3. All five active players with at least one Associated Press MVP open 2022 away from home. Tom Brady (Tampa Bay at Dallas) led the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and passing touchdowns (43) in 2021. He is expected to make his 20th career Week 1 start, surpassing Drew Brees (19) for the most by a quarterback all-time. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore at N.Y. Jets) has nine touchdown passes with no interceptions and a 150.2 rating in three career starts on Kickoff Weekend. Since 2019, the Ravens have outscored opponents 124-49 (+75) in those three contests. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City at Arizona) is 4-0 as a starting quarterback on Kickoff Weekend with 13 touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 133.7 rating. He led the NFL with 22 touchdown passes on the road last season. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay at Minnesota), the reigning back-to-back NFL MVP, led all qualified passers with a 109.7 rating on the road in 2021. Matt Ryan (Indianapolis at Houston) makes his Colts debut and needs 265 passing yards to become the second-fastest player ever (223 games) to reach 60,000, trailing only Drew Brees (215 games).
4. According to Next Gen Stats, Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby led the NFL with 82 quarterback pressures in 2021. On Sunday at SoFi Stadium he’ll line up across an offensive line featuring Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater, who earned Pro Bowl and second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors as a 2021 rookie. Slater’s quarterback, Justin Herbert, was pressured on only 4.2 percent of his dropbacks last season, fourth in the league behind Tom Brady (2.9), Josh Allen (3.6) and Patrick Mahomes (3.8). Herbert’s 9,350 passing yards and 69 touchdown passes are both the most ever by a player in his first two seasons.
5. The Kansas City Chiefs have opened each of the past seven seasons (2015-21) with a victory, the NFL’s longest active Week 1 winning streak. With a win on Sunday at Arizona, Kansas City will tie Pittsburgh (eight, 2003-10) for the league’s fourth-longest season-opening winning streak since 1981, when the Cowboys established the NFL record of 17 consecutive Week 1 victories (1965-81). Arizona, meanwhile, has won four consecutive home games against head coach Andy Reid (regular-season wins in 2005, 2012 and 2014 as well as the 2008 NFC Championship Game).