From the moment the confetti fell at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona and the Kansas City Chiefs emerged victorious over the Philadelphia Eagles, winning their second Super Bowl in five years, the interim was anything but uneventful. From record-breaking contracts to blockbuster signings, this past offseason teed up the 103rd NFL season to be unlike any other. Now, this season boasts both new powerhouses excited to show what they can do and established organizations anxious to finally take home the Lombardi trophy, ongoing contract negotiation dramatics, and rookies ready to make a splash.
When Week One finally arrived, it did not disappoint. On Thursday night, the Detroit Lions spoiled the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration at Arrowhead Stadium. While Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell said he expected his team to win, not many outside of the Lions organization did. The first game of the season was evidence that as great as Patrick Mahomes is, he cannot do it all for the Chiefs, who were without tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones—two of the best players in the league at their respective positions. Still, the Chiefs had a chance to win, but they let it slip away, primarily through the hands of wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who failed to make numerous important catches that should be routine for an NFL wideout. With no clear favorite, the Lions could make some noise in the available NFC North.
After the Thursday night preview, Sunday finally came around, marking the real start to the NFL season. The first slate of games began rather uneventfully, but gained momentum, producing a good afternoon of football. The Washington Commanders squeaked by at home, beating the Arizona Cardinals 20-16 to start off their first season under new owner, Josh Harris, with a win. Hidden behind the deceptive scoreline is a struggling Washington squad that got sacked six times and had to pull from behind after going into the fourth quarter down 16-10 against a team that is expected to finish amongst the worst in the league.
The San Francisco 49ers came out firing with a 30-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They demonstrated that they are a definite Super Bowl contender and showcased an array of weapons on offense, which was led by the wide receiver duo of Brandon Aiyuk—who scored two touchdowns—and Deebo Samuel. The defense was suffocating and posted five sacks and two interceptions. The Steelers, on the other hand, need to shape up—head coach Mike Tomlin put it best, saying that his team “got kicked in the teeth,” after struggling to generate momentum, converting on just one third of downs and achieving their first first down with just two minutes left in the first half. It is safe to say the Steelers have some early-season soul searching to do after this one.
In New Orleans, the Saints edged past the Tennessee Titans, winning by a single point in an uneventful and clumsy game. There was a single touchdown in this game—a 19-yard pass from Derek Carr—with the rest of the points coming from eight field goals. But, amid the offensive darkness, there was some reason for optimism for each team. For the Titans, Derek Henry is still a beast, capable of stiff arming defenders into the nosebleeds, and for the Saints, second-year receiver Chris Olave showed promise, posting eight catches for 112 yards. The Saints have just three games to go before their All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara comes back swinging, and it couldn’t come soon enough.
The later half of Sunday produced five noteworthy matchups.
The Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers put on a show, combining for 70 points in a game that came down to the wire and showing that both teams have firepower on offense and need some work on defense. The Dolphins took a two-point lead with 1:45 to play on Tyreek Hill’s second touchdown of the evening (part of his 11-catch, 215-yard night), but Justin Herbert’s Chargers could not make anything happen on their final possession, getting sacked twice on the drive. Despite the loss, the Chargers look very good—Herbert is solid and their weapons are performing. Now they must perform when it matters most.
The Chicago Bears fell to the Green Bay Packers—their interdivisional rival. In a game meant to crown the next great franchise quarterback in the NFC Central after Aaron Rodgers’ departure to New York, Green Bay’s Jordan Love stepped up. My Chicago-native roommate Casey McMenamin ’26 put it best, saying that “every year [he] is hurt, every year.” This year now looks set to be no different for McMenamin. Sky-high expectations for Chicago quarterback Justin Fields, the loser for the battle of the crown that Love won, and upgrades at nearly every position made the Bears seem poised to succeed. But it now looks like McMenamin will instead witness his 11th below .500 season in his lifetime. On the other hand, Love was masterful, throwing for 245 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions—he looks legit.
Week One of the NFL was all about expectations. Meeting them, beating them and whatever the Bears did. This NFL season has a plethora of contenders and only a handful of really bad teams. There are playmakers on almost every roster, and after Week One, almost any underdog can catch momentum and make a splash, if the Detroit Lions beating the champs at home taught us anything.