The Best Games from Week 1 of the NFL Playoffs


Bria Garrett

A photo of a rare Cannelton football.

Football is officially back, and with that comes the surprises and the upsets that are always lurking at this time of the year. Starting on Thursday with the defending Super Bowl Champs, all the way to a team playing their first game with fans in their brand new stadium.

Thursday nights are for football, and Thursday night never disappoints. Especially in Week 1. It’s the first game of the season, so everyone will be watching, thus the reasoning for such a great matchup between the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Dallas Cowboys. With many eyes on the Cowboys and their returning quarterback, Dak Prescott, expectations were all over the place. At the beginning of the season, my prediction was for them to win the NFC East and finish 11-6. One of those predicted losses was to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season’s first game. It started fast, as the Bucs scored a touchdown with just under 11 to go in the first quarter, on a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin. However, the Cowboys answered quickly with a touchdown to CeeDee Lamb. Lamb is in his sophomore season and has evolved into a good quarterback at the helm, so there are a lot of high expectations for him. In game one, he surpassed the expectations, to say the least, finishing with 104 yards and a touchdown, catching 7 of his 15 targets. It was a back and forth game throughout. The Cowboys would score and take the lead, followed by a score from the Bucs. The Buccaneers were up 21-16 at the half, following a 47-yard touchdown reception from Antonio Brown. The Cowboys kicked a field goal out of the break, cutting the deficit to two points. But Tom Brady threw his fourth touchdown of the game to Rob Gronkowski, who had two receiving touchdowns in the game, to give Tampa Bay a nine-point lead. The Bucs had the Cowboys’ offense stifled, and things were not looking good for the boys in blue. Yet they put together a 75-yard drive, capped off by a 21-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper. The Dallas defense, which had a lot of question marks behind it after a historically bad season last year, performed well late, getting the stops that were needed for the Cowboy offense. It led to a Dallas field goal, leaving 1:22 left on the clock for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay offense to get into field goal range. And if you’ve ever watched a single Tom Brady game, you know that that is way too much time for the seven-time Super Bowl Champion. Brady drove the Bucs down the field into field goal range, and the game was ended on a 36-yard field goal from Ryan Succop, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 31-29 win. The Cowboys must take a trip across the country to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers (1-0), and the Buccaneers get to stay at home, playing a divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons (0-1).

When looking at the schedule heading into Week 1, people weren’t looking very closely at Paul Brown Stadium, as the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. Former number 1 overall pick two years ago, Joe Burrow, makes his return after tearing his ACL back in November. Despite that, the Bengals still passed on an offensive lineman at number 5 in the draft and took Ja’Marr Chase, a receiver from LSU. Starting the game, both teams punted the ball three times, which led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen to get the Vikings on the board and break the scoreless tie. Cousins is another guy that many Vikings fans have their eyes on this season. After finishing 7-9 last season, it was clear that the Vikings could need a little remodeling. Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had a great season, and even Kirk Cousins himself had an excellent year. However, they still finished below .500. And game 1 of 2021 wasn’t looking very good for Minnesota, as the Bengals scored 21 unanswered points on two Joe Burrow touchdown passes and a Joe Mixon rushing touchdown. However, with barely any time left in the third quarter, Kirk Cousins threw his second touchdown pass to Adam Thielen, cutting the lead in half. The Bengals answered back with a field goal, extending the lead back to ten, but the Vikings put together a drive of their own with a Dalvin Cook touchdown. Still, there was a lot of football to be played, and at the end of regulation, Greg Joseph put a ball through the uprights, forcing overtime. And in a game that appeared to be ending in a tie, the Vikings were moving into field goal range in an attempt to end the game. However, on a Dalvin Cook rush up the middle, the ball popped free, and the Bengals recovered. When it went to review, though, it seemed as if the call would be overturned and the Vikings would retain possession of the football and inevitably win the game. Cook’s butt seemed to have touched the ground before the ball came loose, meaning Minnesota would still have the football. However, the officials said that the ruling on the field stands. The Bengals moved down the field just enough to kick a field goal and won the football game. Despite all of the controversy surrounding this game, the Vikings (0-1) must continue forward, taking on MVP candidate Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals (1-0). The Bengals (1-0) travel to Chicago to take on the Bears (0-1), who have their own quarterback situation.

Before reaching the Monday night game, some other games around the league that took place on Sunday had a lot of implications. The Chiefs did what they do best and pulled off a comeback against the Cleveland Browns, as they start out 1-0 with a 33-29 victory in Kansas City. The Green Bay Packers had the complete opposite start to the year they wanted against the New Orleans Saints, as they lost 38-3. Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns in his first start since the retirement of Drew Brees. In his first game since leaving the New York Jets, Sam Darnold took on his former team and led them to victory, 19-14. The number 2 overall pick, Zach Wilson, threw for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. Wilson looks to get more protection from the line in Week 2 against the Patriots. The Colts faced a challenging task in the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1, as they fell 28-16. Carson Wentz threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns in his Colts debut. The Buffalo Bills took on the Steelers in Buffalo, and Pittsburgh pulled off a huge upset to start their season. Josh Allen never really could get it going, and the MVP candidate was tallied with the loss, 23-16.

There was a lot of discussion at the beginning of the year around Derek Carr and the future of the Las Vegas Raiders. However, the best way to shut down all debate is to knock off a Super Bowl contender in week 1. In a roller coaster of a game in Las Vegas, Carr did precisely that. A ten-yard touchdown pass from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to Hollywood Brown gave Baltimore a quick 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Things were not looking suitable for the black and silver, as they were down big early, with the ball in their hands. However, a Josh Jacobs touchdown and a Ravens turnover gave the Raiders some life at the end of the first half. They would kick a field goal heading into the break. The third quarter was dry, with the Ravens only kicking a field goal, pushing their lead to 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter. And while the third quarter was dull, the fourth quarter made up for it. The two teams went back and forth, as the Ravens took a 27-24 lead and the ball in possession of the Raiders. And on five plays and only 35 seconds, Las Vegas drove down the field to even the score and force the game into overtime. The Raiders would start with the ball, as Derek Carr threw an interception, meaning that if Baltimore scored, they would win the game. Yet in a dramatic turn of events, Lamar Jackson fumbled the football, giving the ball back to the Las Vegas Raiders. They would score on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones, giving the Raiders the victory on Monday night to start the year. Following this big win, Las Vegas (1-0) must travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers (1-0). The Ravens (0-1) don’t get a break at all, as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) in Baltimore.