NFL Kickoff Game: Trivia and Memorable Games

Some fun facts and memorable contests from the history of the NFL Kickoff Game.

It’s finally Bears week. In a breach of tradition going back to 2004, the NFL’s opening kickoff game will not be hosted by or feature the defending Super Bowl champion, but for good reason—the NFL’s oldest rivalry will headline the first week of the league’s 100th regular season.

Here’s a quick look at some fun facts about the NFL kickoff game, and some memorable contests.


-This marks the third time the Packers have played in the NFL Kickoff Game, and the first time for the Bears. The Packers are 1-1 in kickoff game appearances, defeating the New Orleans Saints in 2011 but losing to the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.

-The only team to have appeared in the game more times than the Packers is the New England Patriots (4). The New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers have also appeared three times.

-The home team is 14-3 in the kickoff game.

-The game has ended with the loser within one score only about half (9) of the times.

-Only two previous times has the kickoff game featured divisional rivals. Both were NFC East contests, with the defending champion Giants defeating the Washington Redskins in 2008, and the defending champion Giants losing to the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.

-Only once has the game gone into overtime—in 2009 when the Steelers edged out the Tennessee Titans 13-10.

Five Memorable Contests

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers, 2011

One of the wildest openers to the season since the NFL began the kickoff game tradition, there wasn’t a whole lot of defense played. The Packers won 42-34, with both teams repeatedly marching up and down the field and with outstanding performances from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Both quarterbacks spread the ball well, and neither team did a whole lot of running. The memorable play was Randall Cobb taking a kickoff to the house in his debut game with the Packers, executing a “barrel roll” along the way.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots, 2004

In one of many outstanding games between these two teams during the Brady vs. Manning days, the Patriots just barely managed to take home the 27-24 victory in a rematch of the previous season’s AFC Championship game in what would turn out to be the first win of a second-consecutive Patriots Super Bowl season. The Colts got some great work in from Edgerrin James, who ran the ball 30 times and racked up 142 yards, but his two fumbles lost ended up being the key difference makers in the game, while Brady just outplayed Manning. The Colts attempted to rally late, but came up just short.

Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos, 2016

This game marked the only time the NFL Kickoff Game was a rematch of the previous season’s Super Bowl. The Panthers and Broncos finished the 2015 season and kicked off the new one, and the result was the same, albeit slightly closer. It was a hardfought 21-20 contest in favor of the Broncos. What these teams didn’t realize was that neither would get back to the playoffs after their Super Bowl appearance of the previous year. The Panthers got off to a 1-5 start, showcasing an awful Super Bowl hangover. They became the first team in NFL history to win 15 games and then finish last in their division the following season.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, 2010

There was plenty of pregame hype for this one, given the way the NFC Championship between these two teams ended the previous season. The Saints managed to take home a win again, 14-9, and harassed Brett Favre, resulting in the QB having a 71.7 rating. This would turn out to be a tumultuous season for the Vikings, who would go on to see Favre collapse, end his consecutive starts streak and retire after the season, while coach Brad Childress would eventually be fired midseason after an embarrassing 31-3 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers (who had a habit of getting coaches canned that year).

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, 2017

The Chiefs put an absolute thumping on the defending champion Pats, 42-27, which created a sort of déjà vu moment in which many analysis pondered whether or not the Patriots and Tom Brady were finally “done” after yet another early season slaughter by Kansas City. This was just the third time the host of the kickoff game had ever lost. The Patriots, of course, were not done—they went on to win the AFC but lose in the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, and would win the Super Bowl the following season. Lesson learned yet again: never count out New England.



Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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