Reunions and revenge games highlight opening week action across the NFL

ByWilliam E. Ricks ESPN logo
Monday, September 12, 2022

The 2022 NFL season is here, and things look much different than they did last year across the league.

The offseason had a lot of movement because of blockbuster trades and free-agent acquisitions. The Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers shipped Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks moved Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Those were only a few of the familiar faces in new places heading into Week 1.

Reunions and revenge games will be plentiful this season. Week 1's action featured all kinds of past relationships -- ones that ended on good terms, harsh breakups and college connections were some of the subplots this weekend.

Here's what happened in this week's NFL reunion games, along with some backstory to get you up to speed.

Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson back in Seattle

Wilson opens the season against his old team on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN). In March, the Broncos acquired Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick from the Seahawks for quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 No. 9 overall and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 No. 40 overall and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round selection.

Wilson expressed his displeasure with Seattle during the 2021 offseason, citing the number of hits he took during a season.

Read more: Inside the Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks breakup

The Seahawks didn't trade Wilson that offseason and the team finished last in the division with a 7-10 record for the 2021 season. Wilson also missed time because of a finger injury -- the first time he was out due to injury in his career. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the team had "no intentions" of trading Wilson at the NFL draft combine in February, but he was moved to Denver weeks later.

Wilson addressed facing his former team and the 12th man during this offseason.

"I think it's going to be an exciting time," Wilson said at a news conference in May. "Obviously, Seattle's meant the world to me over the past 10 years. It's a special place to play."

Carolina Panthers QB Baker Mayfieldvs. the Cleveland Browns

Final score:26-24, Browns

Mayfield and the Panthers faced the Browns in what could have been seen as a revenge game for the Carolina signal-caller. Cleveland traded its 2018 No. 1 overall pick to Carolina for a 2024 conditional draft pick in July, nearly four months after acquiring Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.Mayfield played four seasons for the Browns, helping the team win their first playoff game in 26 years in the 2020 wild-card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A torn labrum suffered in Week 2 of the 2021 season hampered Mayfield and he finished 27th in QBR that year.

While the Browns were in the running for Watson in March, Mayfield requested a trade from the team, saying it was "in the best interests of both sides" to move on. He posted a message on social media thanking the Cleveland fans "who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city's hard working people." The Browns initially denied Mayfield's trade request before acquiring Watson.

Read more: Deshaun Watson suspended 11 games, fined $5 millionafter settlement between NFL, NFLPA

Mayfield discussed facing his former team in August.

"Obviously, there's a lot of attachment there," Mayfield said. "I'm not going to sit here and be a robot and say it doesn't mean anything. It will ... But after Week 1, there's 16 more that really, really matter. That's how I'm approaching it."

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reunited with Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury

Final score: 44-21, Chiefs

Kingsbury coached Mahomes at Texas Tech from 2014 to 2016, but now he has the task of defending him. Kingsbury knows how talented Mahomes is, as he watched him write his name throughout the Red Raiders' history books, becoming an NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion.

Mahomes looked forward to facing his former college coach in Week 1.

"He [Mahomes] sent me, like, a little eye emoji before it [the NFL schedule] came out," Kingsbury said during a news conferencein May. "So he'll definitely be revved up; we'll definitely have some Texas Tech fans tuned into that one, I'm sure."

Buffalo Bills pass-rusher Von Millerwas back in Los Angeles

Final score: 31-10, Bills

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had a familiar face pressuring the pocket when his squad faced the Bills. Miller, who was traded from the Denver Broncos to Los Angeles last season, signed a six-year, $120 million contract with Buffalo this offseason.

Miller's impact during the postseason was one of the reasons the Rams won the championship. He had four sacks and 18 pressures in the postseason, tied with former teammate Aaron Donald for the most in the playoffs.

"I saw what makes Aaron Donald Aaron Donald, and it was hard to walk away from that," Miller said in March. "... It had to be something special. It had to be the Buffalo Bills. What they've created here ... I had to be a part of that."

Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa faced former college teammate and New England Patriots QB Mac Jones

Final score: 20-7, Dolphins

Week 1's AFC East battle between the Patriots and Dolphins featured two former Alabama teammates going head-to-head. Jones and Tagovailoa joined the Crimson Tide in the same recruiting class (2017).

Both signal-callers sat behind current Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts in their first year at Alabama. After Tagovailoa's second-half heroics in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, he became the starter for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

In the Tide's 10th game of the 2019 season, Tagovailoa suffered a severe hip injury, and Jones stepped in for the remainder of the year. In 2020 after Tagovailoa entered the NFL draft, Jones was named the starter. He led Bama to an undefeated season and a national championship while earning All-American honors.

Because they are in the same division, Jones and Tagovailoa could see each other twice a season at least. After Week 1, the Pats and Dolphins won't play each other again until Week 17.

New York Jets QB Joe Flaccostarted against the Baltimore Ravens

Final score: 24-9, Ravens

Because of Zach Wilson's knee injury, Flacco is the man under center in New York for the foreseeable future. In Week 1, he faced the team that drafted him back in 2008 -- the Ravens.

Many Baltimore fans recall the magical Super Bowl run Flacco led them on during the 2012 playoffs, where he threw for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He helped the Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in SB XLVII and received MVP honors with 287 yards and three touchdowns. Flacco was traded to the Broncos in 2019 after 11 seasons with the Ravens.

When he found out he would face his former team in Week 1, Flacco said he would try to keep things in perspective.

"I'm going to try to make sure it's not the biggest deal in the world," Flacco said at a news conference in August.

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