It’s hard to know what to expect in the early weeks of the NFL season. The league has the longest offseason of any major American pro sports league, so a lot can happen between the Super Bowl and the next season.
The first week of the regular season is fun to watch because it’s unpredictable. This was proven again in 2021 when the AFC West and NFC West did something that hasn’t happened in the NFL’s opening week in 50 years. And the divisions can thank Derek Carr and the Raiders for part of it.
The Raiders’ wild start to the 2021 season
The Raiders hosted the Ravens for the first week of the 2021 season. And Allegiant Stadium’s first game with fans in attendance ended in an overtime thriller. As NFL.com reports, the teams combined to score 27 points in the fourth quarter alone, with five straight scoring drives.
The game ended when Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Zay Jones, capping off the 33-27 win in overtime. The Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2016. But this overtime win may give them the momentum needed to maintain a winning record in 2021.
Both the AFC West and NFC West were undefeated through Week 1
With the Week 1 win, the Raiders concluded a perfect weekend for the NFC West and AFC West. Both divisions went 4-0 in season openers. According to ESPN, this is the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that multiple divisions have had all of their teams win their first game of the season.
In the AFC West, the Chargers and Broncos won road games against NFC East opponents. The Chiefs pulled off a late comeback for a 33-29 victory at home against the Browns. On the NFC West side, the Cardinals, 49ers, and Seahawks all won on the road in impressive fashion. The Seahawks’ 28 points were the fewest scored among the group.
The remaining NFC West team, the Rams, didn’t struggle to beat the Chicago Bears at home on Sunday Night Football. With a final score of 34-14, the teams opened up SoFi Stadium to fans for the first time in the regular season.
Which teams in the West will have successful seasons?
Winning the first game of a season fires up a team’s fan base. But it doesn’t guarantee success throughout the year, especially now that the NFL has a 17-game regular season. Of the AFC West teams that won openers, it’s essentially a given that the Chiefs will end up with the best record. They have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes.
The Chargers could have a strong season with second-year quarterback Justin Herbert — if he can improve on his strong rookie season. Broncos and the Raiders fans aren’t as optimistic, despite Denver maintaining a 2-0 record through Week 2. Among the NFC West teams, Seahawks fans put great faith in Russell Wilson to lead Seattle to a winning record, despite the team’s Week 2 loss.
The other NFC West franchises have more questionable quarterback situations. The 49ers are on shaky ground with rookie Trey Lance behind veteran Jimmy Garoppolo on the depth chart. The Cardinals may have the best quarterback of the three teams, with Kyler Murray throwing to receiving weapons like DeAndre Hopkins. The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford in the offseason and hope a change in scenery will benefit the longtime Lion. So far, so good.