Week 1 of the NFL is always an exciting time. The itch for football finally gets fulfilled after a seven-month offseason. Plus, the NFL usually schedules exciting matchups, ensuring the season starts with a bang.
Several 2022 season-openers look promising. The season kicks off with a Thursday night battle between Super Bowl contenders, the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. NFL odds have Buffalo as the top choice (+650) and Los Angeles as the fourth choice (+1100) to win the Super Bowl. Week 1 is capped by exciting Sunday games: the Chiefs vs. Cardinals, Raiders vs. Chargers and Buccaneers vs. Cowboys.
As we anticipate Week 1, let’s look at the seven best NFL opening week games since 2010.
- September 7, 2014: New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
NFC South rivals, the Saints and Falcons, met in 2014. It was a high-scoring game with over 1,000 yards of offense. Drew Brees threw for 333 yards while Matt Ryan racked up 448 passing yards.
In the final nine minutes, New Orleans and Atlanta went back and forth. Mark Ingram rumbled into the end zone with 8:46 remaining, giving the Saints a 27-24 lead. The Falcons answered as Jacquizz Rodgers reeled in a 17-yard passing touchdown with 2:50 on the clock. Down 31-27, New Orleans scored again thanks to an Ingram rushing touchdown. Atlanta had 1:20 to tie or take the lead. Ryan showed why he’s called “Matty Ice.” Matt Bryant capped a 47-yard drive with a 51-yard field goal. The game headed to overtime.
New Orleans won the toss. On the Saints’ second play, Atlanta’s defensive back William Moore forced a fumble. The Falcons took over on the Saints’ 38-yard line. Bryant hit a 52-yard field goal to seal the deal. Atlanta emerged victorious, 37-34.
- September 13, 2015: Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams
Through three quarters, this game was nothing special. The Rams had a double-digit lead as Seattle struggled on offense, but things would quickly change. After a Seahawks touchdown, St. Louis fumbled in the red zone. Seattle took advantage of the mistake, converting a 35-yard field goal following a 58-yard drive. The game was tied at 24 with under five minutes to go.
The Rams continued to make massive mistakes. Only seven seconds later, the Seahawks returned a fumble to the end zone. After two fumbles, St. Louis was down 31-24 with 4:39 remaining. In the dwindling seconds, the Rams finally avoided a costly mistake and capped an 84-yard drive with a 37-yard Lance Kendrick receiving touchdown.
With 53 seconds on the clock, the Seahawks could not score fast enough. St. Louis won the overtime coin toss and hit a 37-yard field goal. On 4th-and-1, Marshawn Lynch was stuffed by Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. Somehow, someway, the Rams were able to gain their footing and come away with a 34-31 overtime win.
- September 11, 2016: Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts
If you like elite QB play, this was the game to watch. Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck went arm-to-arm in 2016’s Lions vs. Colts Week 1 matchup. Luck finished with 385 passing yards and four touchdowns while Stafford totaled 340 passing yards and three touchdowns.
After a 16-yard touchdown reception from Jack Doyle, the game was tied at 28-28 with 8:19 in the fourth. Stafford had an answer. Detroit went on a 75-yard drive, ending with a 13-yard passing touchdown. Indianapolis took over down 31-24 with about four minutes left. The QB duel continued. Luck threw another passing touchdown as the clock hit 37 seconds.
No way the Lions could score in 37 seconds, right? Stafford completed three consecutive passes for a total of 50 yards. Following an incomplete pass, Matt Prater hit a 43-yard field goal.
Detroit took a 37-35 lead with four seconds left. The game ended with a safety on the kick return; the Lions won 39-35. This Week 1 classic was a memorable QB duel that went to the final seconds.
- September 11, 2016: Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
The NFL’s opening week of 2016 was fantastic. The Raiders vs. Saints was another high-scoring affair with quarterbacks rolling. Derek Carr had 319 passing yards and Amari Cooper reeled in 137 receiving yards. For New Orleans, Drew Brees finished with 423 passing yards and Willie Snead IV had a career-high day with 172 receiving yards.
With about eight minutes left in the third, Oakland trailed 24-10. The Raiders converted a field goal before the final quarter. The Saints led 24-13 entering the final quarter of play. The Raiders’ offense erupted for 22 points in the fourth.
Oakland tied the game at 27-27 following a 75-yard rushing touchdown from Jalen Richard. New Orleans quickly answered, scoring a touchdown with 6:03 remaining. The Raiders completed a 75-yard drive with a passing touchdown. Jack Del Rio, Oakland’s Head Coach in 2016, made a dramatic decision to go for two. With the game on the line, the Raiders converted the two-point try, giving them a 35-34 lead.
With 47 seconds to spare, Brees tried his best to get the Saints into field goal range. New Orleans attempted a long shot of 61 yards. Wil Lutz was off left, completing Oakland’s comeback victory. Week 1 of 2016 was a treat to watch.
- September 9, 2018: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
In 2021, Aaron Rodgers scrambled into the end zone against Chicago. Following the touchdown, Rodgers emphatically yelled at a hostile crowd, telling Bears fans, “I own you. I still own you.” Of course, some colorful language was involved as well. In Week 1 of 2018, Rodgers tormented Bears fans with a comeback win.
In the second quarter, Rodgers left the game with a knee injury. Chicago’s lead inflated to 17-0 by halftime. Rodgers returned in the third quarter, but the Packers were down 20-0 with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
Green Bay pieced together a 46-yard drive in the third, ending with a converted 42-yard field goal. The Bears led 20-3 going into the fourth. This is when Rodgers took over. Chicago fans slowly saw the big lead shrink. Rodgers delivered three passing touchdowns in the final quarter. None were more crushing than Randall Cobb’s 75-yard scamper to the end zone.
Cobb’s touchdown put Green Bay up 24-23 with 2:13 remaining. The game ended after the Packers forced a fumble on a sack. The comeback was complete. It’s true… Rodgers owns the Bears.
- September 9, 2019: Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints
The stars came out for the Texans and Saints battle in Week 1 of 2019. Deshaun Watson threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins had 111 receiving yards with two touchdowns. New Orleans’ three-head monster was in full force. Brees had 370 yards passing, Alvin Kamara finished with 169 scrimmage yards and Michael Thomas totaled 123 receiving yards.
This was a fun back-and-forth game, but the final seconds were pandemonium. The fourth quarter was calm up to the last minute. The Saints scored a touchdown seconds into the fourth, giving them a 24-21 lead. With 50 seconds left, Lutz hit a 47-yard field goal. Houston took over down by six; needing a touchdown.
Watson made it look easy. First, he dropped in a beautiful 38-yard deep ball along the sideline to Hopkins — who made an impressive over-the-shoulder grab. On the next play, Watson threw a dime over the middle to a crossing Kenny Stills. It was a 37-yard passing touchdown. The Texans led 28-27 with 37 seconds on the clock.
Brees answered with three consecutive completions. This put New Orleans in field goal range. Lutz lined up for a 58-yarder. As time expired, the Saints celebrated after Lutz drilled the kick. The Saints won a thriller, 30-28.
- September 13, 2021: Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Last season, Monday Night Football ended Week 1 with a matchup between the Ravens and Raiders. The atmosphere was electric in Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. In front of a ruckus crowd, Baltimore led 17-10 heading into the fourth.
In the final 10 minutes, the two combined for five scores. Las Vegas tied it at 17-17 with 9:18 on the clock. The Ravens quickly answered with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Latavius Murray rushing touchdown. The game was knotted at 24 following a 10-yard Darren Waller touchdown reception.
Baltimore took over with 3:44 remaining. Justin Tucker converted a 47-yarder, giving the Ravens a 27-24 lead with 37 seconds left. The drama continued. Carr dropped in a couple of dimes, putting the Raiders in field goal range. Daniel Carlson forced overtime with a 55-yard field goal.
Las Vegas won the coin toss and marched down the field. The Ravens’ defense held strong on the goal line. On 3rd and goal, Baltimore’s Anthony Averett corraled a deflected ball. Lamar Jackson fumbled five plays later. Carr found a wide-open Zay Jones for a 31-yard touchdown. Las Vegas defended home turf with a 33-27 win.
Hopefully, we get another classic to kick off the 2022 season. Several matchups certainly look promising. Don’t forget to check out NFL lines for the opening week games.