The 2021 NFL season is here, and even though my fantasy football teams went a combined 0-4 this week, I am as hyped for the football season as this woman working the Buccaneers game.
Top performances of Week 1:1. Kyler Murray 2. Jameis Winston 3 This lady pic.twitter.com/6f67D1zJ0O— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) September 13, 2021
In this and subsequent pieces, we will be breaking down former LSU players' performances in the NFL and looking past the box score for analysis, seeing how they truly affected the game.
Joe Burrow-QB & Ja'Marr Chase-WR (CIN)
After a year hiatus, Burrow and his top receiver of 2019 are back together, and Bengals fans are ecstatic for two reasons. First, Burrow looked good in his first regular-season game back after last season was cut short due to ACL and MCL tears in his left knee.
Second, after a shaky preseason, Chase had a dominant performance against the Vikings, showcasing why he deserved to be picked fifth overall in the 2021 draft and what the future could hold for the duo in Cincinnati.
Burrow went 20-27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-24 overtime win vs. the Vikings. Late in the third quarter, the Bengals were up 21-7; however, some questionable calls by Head Coach Zac Taylor and untimely sacks by Burrow let the Vikings back into this game.
What comes to mind is a Bengals 4th and 1 attempt from their 30-yard line that was stuffed and resulted in a touchdown four plays later by the Vikings, cutting the lead to 21-14. Burrow was sacked five times in this game, one of them by former Tiger Danielle Hunter. Before the draft, the debate of protection or weapons for Burrow has lingered, having gone Ja'Marr Chase then tackle Jackson Carman from Clemson in the second round. Carman only played five special teams snaps during the game.
Chase shined in his debut. Ja'Marr caught five of seven attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown and was the most targeted Bengal receiver for the day. Three of those receptions extended drives for the Bengals as Chase was often targeted to move the chains. Ja'Marr's first touchdown of his career came just before halftime on a 50-yard bomb that was cut up with the LSU clip above.
The Bengals will be traveling to Chicago to face the Bears in week two. The Rams were able to pass for 321 yards and three touchdowns in their 34-14 Sunday night win against the Bears. Hopefully, Zac Taylor, a disciple of Sean McVay, can put together a similar offensive performance on Sunday.
By the way...
Justin Jefferson-WR (MIN)
Justin Jefferson currently has the twelfth best passer rating in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is now 39th.
Jefferson also had five receptions on nine targets for 71 yards against the Bengals. Again, a decent day, but he left fans wanting more.
After a 2020 season where Jefferson had 88 receptions for 1400 yards and seven touchdowns, this Week One performance does not derail the chances of repeating. In addition, with the 17-game schedule, passing and receiving records will likely be broken across the league.
Jefferson was the second-most targeted receiver for the Vikings in Week One, with Adam Thielen getting the most looks.
Minnesota will travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday. The Cardinals throttled the Titans 38-13 in Week One. The Titan's top two receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones were both held under 50-yards.
The NFC West is regarded as the toughest division in football, and this defensive performance by the Cardinals could be trouble for the Vikings if this weren't a fluke. However, having former Cardinal and Tiger Patrick Peterson on the Vikings roster could help the team scheme up ways to attack this Cardinals defense.
Justin Jefferson watching Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase this season pic.twitter.com/UlZ4FPFnEc— Bengals Study Room (@report_bengals) March 31, 2021
DJ Chark Jr.-WR (JAX)
HOLY TARGET SHARE! Chark had a team-high 23.5% target share during the week one matchup against the Texans. The downside to this: Jacksonville was down at one point 34-7 in this matchup and lost 37-21. In addition, despite having such a high target share, Trevor Lawrence was only able to connect three times with DJ Chark for 86 yards and a touchdown. Still a decent day for the fourth year wideout, but it could have been much more.
The Jaguars will likely be trailing in most of their games this season, which will offer Chark and other receivers plenty of opportunities. The biggest contenders to cut into Chark's target share are veteran Marvin Jones Jr. and 2nd-year receiver Laviska Shenault Jr, both having nine targets in Sundays' loss.
In the past, Chark has shown his potential as a receiver, eclipsing 1000 yards receiving and catching eight touchdowns in 2019. After a step back in 2020, Chark will be looking to rebound in 2021 as his rookie contract is set to expire at the end of the season.
Jarvis Landry-WR (CLE)
Odell Beckham Jr. was a late scratch for the game after testing out his knee during pregame warmups. The knee in question was the one that required ACL reconstruction surgery in November of last year.
Jarvis Landry led the Browns in targets and receptions in Beckham's absence, catching all five of his targets. In addition, he had two rushing attempts, one for a touchdown and 84 total yards.
The Browns took a 12-point lead into halftime and committed some costly errors in the second half of the game.
First, RB Nick Chubb fumbled in Browns territory, which led to a Chiefs field goal. Second, after the Browns scored a touchdown to go up 29-20 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill on a 75-yard "F* it, Tyreek's down there somewhere" type of pass to close the gap again making it 29-27. Third, the next drive went three and out, and the Browns punter fumbled the snap on fourth down, allowing the Chiefs to take possession at Cleveland's 15-yard line with a turnover on downs. This resulted in another touchdown pass from Mahomes, flipping the game in just under four minutes of game time, KC 33- CLE 29. Finally, Baker threw a late interception in Kansas City territory with 1:16 left in the game, sealing the win for the Chiefs.
With preseason being cut to three games and most starters resting for those games, there will be a lot of sloppy football in September.
The defense for the Browns looks excellent, especially on the d-line with Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett attacking from opposite ends of that line. The hope is the Browns will make it later in the playoffs this season, as the Browns lost to the Chiefs in the Divisional round in 2020. But, of course, they will need Landry and Beckham to accomplish this, so it makes sense why the team is cautious working Odell back into game flow.
The Browns will host the Texans on Sunday and hope to have the LSU duo on the field when kickoff begins. DJ Chark and the Jaguars were able to haul in 332 yards receiving in their loss. It wouldn't be out of the question the Browns could put up those kinds of passing numbers given the weapons at their disposal.
The Browns are trying to flip the script on the franchise, but it isn't easy when each season starts the same.
The Browns' record to begin the last 17 seasons:0-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-0-10-10-10-1 pic.twitter.com/ng8CExCdqJ— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 13, 2021
Week two of the season will kick off Thursday night when Washington hosts the New York Giants, but the game that will be most intriguing for NFLSU purposes will be Sunday Night Football's Chiefs-Ravens matchup. There will likely be four former LSU stars taking the field in that matchup and one that will have lasting implications throughout the 2021 season and playoff seeding.