With exception of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, every NFL team has lost a game at some point in the NFL season. As we approach the 2021 season, here's a projection of the first loss for all 32 teams.
The Cardinals come into the season with high hopes but are also early underdogs at Tennessee. The A.J. Brown/Julio Jones combo has a chance to exploit Arizona's cornerback weakness early, while also keeping the fearsome pass rush of Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt honest due to Derrick Henry's ability to run the ball.
Arthur Smith faces another first-year head coach in the season opener vs. Philadelphia, and the return of a healthy Eagles offensive line could wreak havoc on the Atlanta defense. Matt Ryan has more than enough ability to keep his team in the game, though the loss of Julio Jones will likely to show in the offense's ability.
The Ravens have been known to get out off to strong starts recently, though a season opener at Las Vegas does present a challenge with a Raiders squad that should be fired up in their first home game with fans. They will also have a short week heading into Week 2 after playing on Monday Night Football, which is a bad position to play the Chiefs. Kansas City has had Lamar Jackson's number over the last three seasons and should have a tightened up gameplan to expose his weaknesses again.
Buffalo opens with a difficult schedule, hosting the Steelers followed by a visit to Miami. They are heavily favored at home against Pittsburgh, with a front seven that could wreak havoc on the Steelers' new offensive line. Josh Allen will have to be at his best in a visit to Miami in Week 2, however, with the Dolphins sporting an elite secondary. Buffalo emerged as three-point winners at Hard Rock Stadium last season but could get a more formidable challenge against a Miami squad that continues to improve.
Sam Darnold has an opportunity to get revenge against his old team in Week 1 when the Panthers host the Jets, and the Panthers also have winnable games in Weeks 2 and 3 vs. New Orleans and at Houston. The Week 4 visit to Dallas could be too much for Carolina's young defense to handle, assuming the Cowboys are healthy with a myriad of weapons and Dak Prescott dispersing the ball.
Regardless of whether Justin Fields is starting at quarterback in Week 1, the Bears will have their hands full at the Rams. Chicago's offensive line issues are a huge concern against a defensive line led by Aaron Donald, and Matthew Stafford has the ability to make LA's offense vertical again.
Joe Burrow could start the season slowly after returning from a torn ACL, and there remain concerns about Cincinnati's offensive line. The Vikings should be able to generate pressure with Danielle Hunter back healthy, and their balanced offense could cause problems for a Bengals defense with a lot of young and new faces.
Cleveland is considered by many to be a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate, but they have to get by the Chiefs first. They couldn't have received a tougher assignment in the season opener as they try to get revenge for their AFC Divisional Round loss. Cleveland's great running back should be able to move the ball, but the Browns had trouble stopping Patrick Mahomes when he was healthy in last year's game and there's not much reason to think that will change after the Chiefs improved their offensive line. Baker Mayfield could need the game of his life for the Browns to start 1-0.
The Cowboys open the season on a Thursday night affair at Tampa Bay, which is a brutal assignment for a defense that's in transition and an offense that's returning from injury. Dak Prescott is expected to be fine for Week 1 after a should injury scare in training camp, but the Cowboys don't have the horses on the defensive side of the ball to keep up with Tom Brady and company.
It's unclear who will start under center in Week 1 for the Broncos, but it might not matter. The Broncos have a loaded defense, particularly in the secondary, but their quarterback issues could hold them back again this season between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. The Giants ramped up their offensive talent and will be a challenge for most defenses if Daniel Jones can hold onto the ball.
The Lions are set for a long year with a new coaching staff, quarterback, and loss of talent in free agency. Their offensive strength running the ball doesn't match up well with a San Francisco defense that employs Fred Warner at linebacker, and Jared Goff doesn't have the wide receivers to challenge San Francisco's cornerback weakness.
The Packers have gone to back-to-back NFC Championships, and hope to go further in what could be Aaron Rodgers' swan song with the team. A Week 1 visit to New Orleans is tough, even without Drew Brees still employed in the bayou, but Week 2 should be a gimme with a home opener vs. the Lions. The Week 3 visit to San Francisco will be rough for the Packers, as their transitioning offensive line will have to block Nick Bosa and company. The creative 49ers running game could also pose a problem for the Packers' defense.
Unfortunately, the Texans are likely to lose early and often this season given their lack of talent. Head coach David Culley does have a shot in Week 1 with the Texans can avoid turnovers against a young Jaguars squad, but Houston's lack of defensive talent could have a tough time holding down rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Houston will try to run out the clock with Tyrod Taylor and a deep group of running backs.
It's looking more and more like Carson Wentz will be ready for Week 1 following foot surgery, but his lack of training camp repetitions could still cause a slow start for the Colts. The defense should play tough against a Seahawks team that usually struggles on the road, but Wentz and the Colts wideouts might not have the giddy-up to exploit Seattle's secondary.
Urban Meyer's NFL coaching career should get off to a nice start in Week 1 at Houston if Trevor Lawrence can protect the ball, but the young offense could be in trouble against a Broncos defense loaded with talent. With the return of Von Miller and major additions in the secondary, Denver could make a quick learning curve for Lawrence in Week 2.
The Chiefs enter the season as the Super Bowl favorites and are favored in all 17 games. Still, they've had some regular season slip-ups in surprising fashion during the Andy Reid/Patrick Mahomes era, such as a shocking loss to the Raiders early last season. Las Vegas came on a miracle Mahomes game-winning drive away from defeating the Chiefs twice last year, and have the offensive weapons to keep up with KC on a good day. That good day could come again in mid-November at home.
The Raiders' first home game with fans will be a tough one, as the team faces an early-season bully. The Ravens have been a dominant Week 1 team in recent seasons with a creative offense that's tough to prepare for with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Raiders' new defensive talent, led by Yannick Ngakoue, give them a better chance to hang around, but a downgraded offensive line could also hurt Derek Carr.
The Chargers have a rough early schedule that includes a visit to Washington in Week 1 and hosting the Cowboys in Week 2. Justin Herbert will have his hands full against Washington's elite defensive line before, while the defense will be tested in Week 2. If they get through those two tests, the Week 3 visit to Kansas City seems almost insurmountable. New head coach Brandon Staley is expected to have a great impact on the Chargers' defense, but he would need to work a miracle to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
LA faces some early tests this season, including Week 2 at Indy and Week 3 vs. Tampa Bay, but they seem to be confident with Matthew Stafford adding dimension to an offense that has stalled recently. Even if the team gets past those tests, a Week 5 visit to the rival Seahawks could be too much. Seattle continues to play excellent with the aid of the 12th Man and took a 20-9 loss at Seattle in Week 16 last season.
The Dolphins begin their second in Foxborough for the second consecutive year. They lost 21-11 in Week 1 last season, and face a revamped Patriots roster this year. Bill Belichick has the talent to work with on defense to make young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's day difficult, and the Patriots still have enough talent on the ground to avoid Miami's elite secondary.
Minnesota opens their season with two road games. They have enough talent and offensive continuity to out-man the Bengals in Week 1, but Kirk Cousins will need to be at his best to keep up with Arizona's offense in Week 2. The Cardinals have too much receiver talent against a Vikings secondary that's in transition and could be exposed early in the season.
The expectations are sky-high in New England after Bill Belichick's offseason shopping spree. It remains to be seen when rookie quarterback Mac Jones will take the field, but the team has some tough early tests, in any case. The running game could curb a tough Miami defense in Week 1, and the defense should be able to handle the Saints quarterback issues in Week 3. However, the visit from Tampa Bay in Week 4 presents a big problem for a roster that's meshing after major changes. The Bucs should be able to get off to a quick start after returning all of their starters, and Tom Brady will have a chip on his shoulder in his return to Foxborough.
It remains to be seen if Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will start under center in Week 1. Either way, the Saints have to be concerned with their passing game, as Michael Thomas will miss the start of the year due to ankle surgery. The New Orleans defense can hold up for a while, but the team is unlikely to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
The Giants had a busy offseason and look like an improved club. Week 1 is a good matchup against the Broncos, with the defense able to hold down Denver's lack of passing, but Daniel Jones could get all he can handle at Washington the following week. While the Giants did win both matchups last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick gives Washington much more firepower this season.
Zach Wilson has impressed in camp, but the rookie still has a tall task early in the year. The Jets defense is also lacking on the backend, which is a problem against a group of talented Carolina wideouts.
The Eagles are high on Jalen Hurts, particularly behind an offensive line that's now healthy, and should be able to beat a weak Falcons defense in Week 1. The test becomes much tougher against the 49ers in Week 2, with a defense that's full of stars and a running game that could expose Philadelphia's linebackers.
The Steelers return elite defensive talent, but their new offensive line is a major concern. While rookie running back Najee Harris should make their job easier, they have a tough task in a hostile environment against a talent Bills defense. Buffalo's offense should also be able to put up points against any defense if Josh Allen plays like he did last season.
Coming off an injury-plagued season, San Francisco has high hopes for a rebound after advancing to the Super Bowl two years ago. Despite opening with two road games, San Francisco has very beatable opponents in Detroit and Philadelphia to begin the year. The home opener vs. Green Bay could be a shootout, as could the following week against the rival Seahawks. The team would probably be happy to go 1-1 in those two home games in what should be fun offensive showdowns.
Seattle has high hopes again this season, but a tough early schedule stands in their way. Carson Wentz's lack of preseason snaps with his new team play to the Seahawks advantage on the road in Week 1. The Seahawks usually play on another level at home, which might be required against the talented Titans offense in Week 2. A visit in Minnesota in Week 3 is certainly winnable, but Russell Wilson and company will have to be on their game on the road against a Vikings squad that has top talent on both sides of the ball.
The Bucs are returning all 22 of their Super Bowl starters, and that should go a long way early in the season when other teams are finding their footing. Tampa Bay also begins the year with two home games, vs. Dallas and Atlanta. Those games are very winnable against poor defenses, but a visit to the Rams in Week 3 is much tougher. LA will be out to prove they are an NFC contender again, and Matthew Stafford should be able to keep up with Tom Brady in friendly confines. The Bucs stand the significant risk of another loss the following week at New England, as well.
The Titans have high hopes in the AFC, particularly after adding Julio Jones in the offseason. The defense could have a tough time against Arizona in Week 1, but Ryan Tannehill and company should be able to score enough on the Cardinals' defense. The Week 2 matchup might be too much, however, as the Seahawks are consistently one of the best home teams in the league. Seattle's elite wideouts could also expose Tennessee's transitioning secondary.
Washington is very excited about its offense with the additions of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel, and the pressure will be on against a talented Chargers team in Week 1. While the elite defensive talent should be able to stall Justin Herbert, Fitzpatrick's history as a gunslinger holds some downside in a game that looks like it could be a toss-up.
Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.