16 winners and losers from the first Sunday of the NFL season

16 winners and losers from the first Sunday of the NFL season
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Kyler Murray completes a run against the Tennessee Titans.
Kyler Murray. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
  • The first week of the NFL season is in the books.

  • Kyler Murray was a big winner of Week 1, as were rookie wide receivers.

  • Aaron Rodgers on the other hand had a pretty rough day.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The first weekend of the 2021 NFL season is in the books.

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals were big winners, as were rookie wide receivers reuniting with their quarterbacks from college.

Conversely, Aaron Rodgers had a tough day at the office, as did new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer.

Take a look below at the winners and losers of the first Sunday of the NFL season.

WINNER: Rookie receiver reunions

Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow celebrate a touchdown.
Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL draft class was loaded with talented wide receivers, and three standouts had brilliant debuts with some help from old college buddies.

Ja'Marr Chase, the fifth pick in the draft, caught 20 touchdown passes from Joe Burrow in 2019 as they led LSU to the national championship. Against the Vikings on Sunday, Chase and Burrow showed they haven't missed a step with the Bengals, connecting for 5 receptions, 101 yards, and a score in the overtime win.

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DeVonta Smith and Jalen Hurts won a national championship together at Alabama in 2018 and played their first NFL game together on the same field as the national championship. Smith took his first NFL touchdown into the same corner of the end zone that he scampered into to win the college title.

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Smith finished with 6 catches, 71 yards, and a score, and the Eagles beat the Falcons to take an early lead in the NFC East.

Tua Tagovailoa and rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle were was also on that 2018 Alabama roster and had a solid day for the Miami Dolphins. Waddle finished his first game in the NFL with 4 catches for 61 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.

LOSER: Rookie quarterbacks

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2021 draft, with three of them - Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones - starting in Week 1. All three failed to win their debuts. For Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars' 37-21 loss to the Texans was his first regular-season loss since he started playing quarterback in high school.

In fairness, all three quarterbacks played well. Lawrence threw for 332 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Wilson went for 258 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 pick. Jones finished the day with 281 yards and a score. The speed of the NFL didn't overwhelm them; they just didn't get the W.

Comically, you could argue that Trey Lance had the best debut, coming in for a goal-line set for the 49ers, completing the only pass he threw for a touchdown and helping his team to a 41-33 win over the Lions. Still. he may be stuck backing up Jimmy Garoppolo for a while longer after a solid performance in the season opener.

Justin Fields also scored a touchdown during his brief stint for the Bears as a part of a goal-line set.

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WINNER: Kyler Murray's MVP case

Last year, Kyler Murray opened the season by throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another in eight of the Cardinals' first nine games. Against the Titans, Murray started a new streak, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for one more to lead Arizona to a 38-13 win.

Not only did Murray put up stats, but he also did it in style. This is a type of play that maybe three quarterbacks in the NFL are capable of pulling off. Murray is one of them.

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Murray entered the year at 12/1 odds to be named MVP. If the Cardinals catch fire to start the season, don't be surprised to see that number drop.

LOSER: Josh Allen's MVP case

Ahead of Week 1, Josh Allen was one of the most popular picks by bettors in Las Vegas to win MVP in 2021, but his season opener with the Bills left plenty to be desired.

What the heck is this?

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Allen threw for 270 yards and 1 touchdown and rushed for 44 more yards in an upset loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Allen's numbers might not pop off the page as terrible, two troubling stats emerge. Allen completed just 30 of his 51 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 58.8% - a mark that would have been the third-worst performance of last season for Allen. For a quarterback whose meteoric rise coincided with a sudden jump in completion percentage last year, it's an eyebrow-raising line.

Allen also completed just one pass for more than 20 yards. Given Allen's cannon arm, it's not great that the Bills couldn't find a way for him to unleash it more.

WINNER: Chandler Jones

Edge rusher Chandler Jones was just as dominant on defense as Kyler Murray was on offense, finishing with five sacks and two forced fumbles.

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Opposing quarterbacks, you have been warned.

WINNER: Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor had not played an NFL snap since he lost the starting job with the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the 2020 season. After a team doctor punctured Taylor's lung while administering a pain-killer injection just before kickoff, the Chargers turned to rookie Justin Herbert. He played well, and the team never looked back.

Given his undeserved dismissal last year, it was nice to see Taylor shine in his first start with the Houston Texans, throwing for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns and leading his team to a win.

LOSER: Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer reacts during a game against the Houston Texans.
Urban Meyer. AP Photo/Matt Patterson

Urban Meyer might be rethinking his decision to try his luck in the NFL.

While turning around the Jacksonville Jaguars was set to be a tall order after the team finished as the worst team in football in 2020, Meyer had many things going for him heading into Sunday. First overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence is as sure of a bet as you can get in a rookie quarterback, and the Jaguars were facing off against a Texans team that's arguably more broken than Jacksonville.

But the Jaguars put up a stinker, losing to the Texans 37-21 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated.

Behind the scenes in Jacksonville, things may already be dire, according to Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports.

Per La Canfora:

"[Meyer] has everyone looking over their shoulders already," said one source with direct knowledge of the daily operations in Jacksonville. "He becomes unhinged way too easily, and he doesn't know how to handle losing, even in the preseason. He loses it and wants to take over the drills himself. It's not good."

If that was the mood in the locker room before Sunday's loss, it's tough to imagine things getting better soon.

WINNER: Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts has a year to prove he is the guy the Philadelphia Eagles want to lock in as their long-term quarterback. He made a pretty good case for himself, throwing for 264 yards and 3 scores. He added another 62 yards on the ground to cap off a dominant 32-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

That stat line is not something that happens often.

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It's only one game, but if Hurts can keep the momentum rolling, he could secure his future in Philadelphia. After the Eagles' disastrous deal with Carson Wentz ended with him being traded for pennies on the dollar in the offseason, it's a welcome development.

WINNER: Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston celebrates after a win against the Green Bay Packers.
Jameis Winston. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

In the most jarring stat line of the NFL week, Jameis Winston needed only 14 completions to throw five touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in the first game of the post-Drew Brees era in New Orleans.

Even more impressive, he didn't throw an interception.

In 2019 with the Buccaneers, Winston led the league in passing and threw for more touchdowns than every quarterback aside from MVP Lamar Jackson. He also led the league in interceptions that year with 30 - nine more picks than any other quarterback.

If Winston can keep the good parts and avoid the mistakes, he could be in for a big year with the Saints.

LOSER: Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career on Sunday.

Completing just 15 of 28 passes for 133 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions, Rodgers had a QB rating of 36.8. Last year, Rodgers had a QB rating higher than 105 in 14 of 16 regular-season games during his MVP season.

Further, he made mistakes that were uncharacteristic of his now-expected greatness. I can't remember the last time he missed a throw this badly.

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Rodgers joked that the brilliant season he had in 2020 ruined his plans to leave Green Bay in the offseason. Maybe Rodgers decided to make sure he could make a run for it after 2021.

WINNER: Letting Russ Cook

Last year, the "LET RUSS COOK" mantra propelled the Seahawks to great success early in the season and had Russell Wilson earning MVP buzz through the first half of the year.

On Sunday, Seattle showed that they are once again ready to let Russ cook, with Wilson throwing for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns while completing 18 of his 23 passes, including this gorgeous deep ball to Tyler Lockett.

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If there is a more efficient quarterback in the NFL, I haven't seen him.

WINNER: Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold calls a play against the New York Jets.
Sam Darnold. AP Photo/Nell Redmond

In the offseason, the New York Jets dumped Sam Darnold off to the Carolina Panthers, choosing instead to put their fortunes in the hands of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

Darnold got to make the Jets pay for their decision the very first week of the new season, leading the Panthers to a 19-14 win over hid old team behind a solid stat line of 279 yards and a touchdown. Congratulations, Sam. Revenge surely tastes sweet.

LOSER: Fans of the Washington Football Team

Being a Washington football fan is hard enough. On Sunday, fans paid their hard-earned money to watch their team lose to the visiting Los Angeles Chargers 20-16.

On top of that, some fans had a pipe burst over their heads inside the stadium.

"That's sewage," one fan can be heard saying, informing the crowd that their already dire situation was infinitely worse than they had dared imagine.

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Look on the bright side, Washington fans - things can only improve from here.

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