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The 102nd NFL Season: Weeks 1 and 2

Image Courtesy of  Sports Illustrated

By Jonathan Norman

The 2021 National Football League (NFL) featured some riveting games and interesting storylines in the first two weeks of play.  From close games in primetime slots to rookie quarterbacks making noise, this NFL season is gearing up to be an entertaining one.

During Week One, the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs were locked into a close game at Arrowhead Stadium.  While many people have the Chiefs as Super Bowl favorites, the Browns came ready to play in the first half by taking a 12 point lead at halftime.  However, the Chiefs have always been a second-half team, and this game was no different.  The Chiefs scored 23 points in the second half, and the game ended with the Chiefs on top, 33-29.  The Chiefs continued their streak of winning Week One with Mahomes as quarterback, while the Browns continued their streak of failing to win Week One games for the last 17 years.

Also in Week One, NFL fans across the nation watched an amazing primetime Monday Night Football game, as the Raiders won in overtime against the Ravens.  The Ravens initially led 14-0, but the Raiders, behind veteran quarterback Derek Carr, were able to make the score 27-all and force overtime.  The Raiders won the coin toss and almost won the game on the opening drive; however, Derek Carr’s 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones was called back. Carr ended up throwing an interception in the end zone. However, this mistake proved to be insignificant because Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib made a huge play by forcing a fumble on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.  This gave the Raiders the ball back, and Carr was able to lead them down the field for a touchdown to beat the Ravens 33-27 in walk-off fashion.

A major storyline in Week One was that the quarterback of the local Washington Football Team, Ryan Fitzpatrick, will be out for eight weeks with a hip injury.  The next man up was the veteran undrafted free agent Taylor Heinicke.  Heinicke showed promise in a playoff game against the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers last year, but nobody knew what to expect from him this time around.  He shined in his Week Two start with 336 passing yards and 2 touchdowns and led the Washington Football team to victory over the New York Giants 30-29.

Week Two had a pair of remarkably close games on Sunday.  Earlier in the day, the Titans were able to come away with a three-point win in overtime against the Seahawks.  At halftime, the Seahawks were up 24-9 and even led 30-16 early in the fourth quarter, but that did not stop the Titans from mounting a comeback.  Titans running back Derrick Henry’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns and kicker Randy Bullock’s 38-yard field goal in overtime sealed the win for the Titans.

Then on Sunday Night Football in Week Two, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 36-35.  Ravens’ quarterback, Lamar Jackson, had two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown in his first career win against the Chiefs.  The Ravens were able to win this close game thanks to a fumble by Chiefs running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, that stopped the Chiefs from kicking a game-winning field goal.

The other topic that is buzzing around the NFL is the new wave of rookie quarterbacks.  Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones.  Lawrence, Wilson, and Jones each were named their team’s starter for Week One.  None of those three rookie quarterbacks were able to get a win Week One, but a Week Two matchup against the New York Jets made Mac Jones the first of these five quarterbacks to win a game as a starter.  Also in Week Two, Justin Fields took over for an injured Andy Dalton in a game where Fields’ Chicago Bears beat the Cincinnati Bengals.  Fans are still wondering if Fields will keep the starting job, as well as if Trey Lance will get a chance to start.

Going into Weeks Three and Four, some major questions remain: who will prove to be the best team in the AFC West? The Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are surprisingly leading the division over the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers with 2-0 records.  Also, everyone is wondering whether the Carolina Panthers are true contenders in the NFC South after a 2-0 start.  These questions and plenty more will certainly be answered by Weeks Three and Four.

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