Let the games begin!
With an offseason like no other, the 2018 season is already filled with storylines. Aaron Rodgers massive extension, Odell also getting paid, Aaron Donald holding out until finally getting paid, Khalil Mack being traded and then extended, and Le’Veon Bell not showing up to practice- still.
The Eagles fresh off a thrilling Super Bowl victory over the ageless wonder in New England, Cleveland coming off a winless season with numerous weapons on both sides of the ball, and rookies left and right ready to make an impact. Sunday can’t come fast enough, but don’t worry, you can dip your feet in the water Thursday night as Atlanta battles Philadelphia, who is going to be without Carson Wentz still.
Let’s not forget Jon Gruden’s return to coaching in Oakland, San Francisco expected to make some noise, and the Rams and Chargers both with legitimate paths for a Super Bowl appearance. Kirk Cousins the new quarterback for the Vikings, Keenum going to Denver, and the Bills starting Nathan Peterman (Why, oh why?) Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Most Intriguing game of the week
Youth against age. Watson vs Brady. O’Brien vs Belichick. This game is full of intrigue, as the Patriots are, of course, the Patriots. For the Texans Watson is coming off an injury, but DeAndre Hopkins is still a top-5 wide receiver, JJ Watt is back again, and the Texans added the Honey Badger to the back side of the defense. The Patriots, on the other hand, are very thin at receiver, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Brady and Belichick.
Worst game of the week
Jameis Winston is suspended for the four games of the season, Peyton Barber is starting at running back, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to be the starting quarterback for Tampa Bay. Does that sound like an offense anybody wants to see on the field? (Sorry Bucs fans.) On the other hand, Drew Brees with something to prove yet again, Alvin Kamara heading into his second season, and the Saints filled with weapons on both sides of the ball, this one shouldn’t be a problem for the Saints.
Thursday Night Matchup
Falcons @ Eagles
Carson Wentz isn’t cleared to play yet, but the Eagles do have Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles leading the way. However, Alshon Jeffrey isn’t ready to play either, and Ajayi has a lot to prove this year. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are poised to get back to the Super Bowl after that historic collapse two seasons ago, and Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley make for a dominant trio of receivers. The Eagles are going to experience a Super Bowl hangover, at least in week 1.
SCORE: Falcons 34, Eagles 20
Sunday Afternoon Matchups
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
Cleveland had a big 0 in the win column last season, traded away all their quarterbacks, acquired Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry, and drafted Baker Mayfield first overall in the draft. The Browns have a lot to like about them this season, with Johnson, Carlos Hyde, and rookie Nick Chubb at running back, and Flash Gordon back in the NFL again. The Steelers are still the Steelers, with or without Bell. Antonio Brown, Juju, and Big Ben are going to score points if Bell suits up or not, and Cleveland will have to wait one more week to finally get a victory.
SCORE: Steelers 31, Browns 24
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis
Andrew Luck is on track to suit up again for the Colts, and Andy Dalton’s touchdown pass allowed Buffalo to make their first playoff appearance since the 90’s. Jeremy Hill headed to New England and Joe Mixon is going to have a breakout season. With that being said, The Luck-Hilton combination is back in full force, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle are his tight ends, and the Colts just squeak by the Bengals in week one.
SCORE: Colts 27, Bengals 24
Tennessee @ Miami
The Titans have legitimate playoff aspirations this year, with Mariota, Derrick Henry, newly-added Dion Lewis, Rishard Mathews, Delanie Walker, and second-year receiver Corey Davis. The Titans defense is also ready to prove itself and should have a good chance in week one against Ryan Tannehill and the Fins. Kenyan Drake flashed moments of big-play ability last season and is ready to headline the offense, but without Landry, the Dolphins are lacking playmakers besides Drake and, I guess, Danny Amendola. Titans win this one easily in South Beach.
SCORE: Titans 31, Dolphins 13
San Francisco @ Minnesota
The Vikings were minutes away from a Super Bowl appearance, brought back basically their whole team, and swapped out Case Keenum for Kirk Cousins. Dalvin Cook is ready to go for week 1, and they have a favorable matchup against Jimmy G and the 49ers. Ex-Viking and current 49er Jerrick McKinnon tore his ACL last weekend, and the Niners are going to miss him a lot. Prepare for the Niners to hit some snags against a tough Vikings defense.
SCORE: Vikings 30, 49ers 17
Houston @ New England
This is my pick for game of the week, for reasons already mentioned at the top of the article. The Texans are a playoff team if Watson remains healthy. However, the Patriots are the Patriots. They still have Brady, Belichick, and Gronk, so you can really pick against them, even with their very thin depth chart of wide receivers?
SCORE: Patriots 37, Texans 27
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans
This was my boring game of the week. Tampa Bay is starting Ryan Fitzpatrick and Peyton Barber together for week one and are facing a very tough New Orleans team who was a “Minnesota Miracle” away from an appearance in the conference title game. Drew Brees, Mike Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Alvin Kamara will score points-a lot of points all season. Let’s not forget about the Saints vastly improving defense either.
SCORE: Saints 41, Bucs 13
Jacksonville @ New York Giants
The Jags made a trip the AFC Title game last season, gave Bortles a hefty extension (yes, you read that right), but lost Allen Robinson in the offense. Marqise Lee also got injured and will miss the whole season, so the Jags will need to rely on their running game and their defense yet again. As for the G-Men, a new coach will do wonders for Odell and company, and the Giants can crack the playoffs if things go well. Giants win a close game at home to start the year.
SCORE: Giants 24, Jaguars 20
Buffalo @ Baltimore
Nathan Peterman is the starting QB for Buffalo. That’s all you need to know about this one.
SCORE: Ravens 27, Bills 10
Seattle @ Denver
A Super Bowl rematch a few seasons ago, but this year’s matchup is nothing like that one. In fact, both teams are slated to finish in the bottom half of their respective divisions. John Elway threw a ton of money at Case Keenum to lead the offense and the Seahawks still have problems on their offensive line that will cause Russell Wilson to retire sooner than later. I’ll take Denver in this one, only for the fact that their defense is better.
SCORE: Broncos 20, Seahawks 17
Washington @ Arizona
The Skins lost Cousins but traded for Alex Smith, then proceeded to lose their rookie running back to a torn ACL. That led to them signing Adrian Peterson, who is poised to show he still has some stuff left in the tank. The Cardinals threw a grip load of cash at forever-brittle Sam Bradford, then selected Josh Rosen in the first round of the draft. David Johnson is healthy again, and Larry Fitzgerald is set for another big year, to nobody’s surprise. I’ll take the Redskins in the road victory.
SCORE: Redskins 27, Cardinals 20
Dallas @ Carolina
The Cowboys have almost no weapons outside of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Their defense is depleted also, but Jerry Jones and co. still have hope, like always. The Panthers let go of Jonathan Stewart, then signed C.J. Anderson and traded away Kelvin Benjamin. Cam Newton is a top-5 QB this year and the Panthers can potentially make another playoff trip, although they are in one of the best divisions in all of football.
SCORE: Panthers 31, Cowboys 10
Kansas City @ Los Angeles Chargers
Oh, how I almost typed San Diego. It’s their second year in L.A. and the Chargers have a ton of hype surrounding them- and for good reason. Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, and Mike Williams. Hunter Henry tore his ACL in camp, but the team brought back lifetime Charger Antonio Gates, who showed he could still produce towards the end of last season. The Chargers defense has top-5 potential, thanks to Casey Heyward, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram, along with first-round pick Derwin James. The Chiefs secondary is a bit depleted, and they swapped out Alex Smith to give the starting job to second-year Pat Mahomes. Andy Reid always does well with quarterbacks, and even better when he has weapons, as he does with Kelce, Hunt, and Hill. I’ll take the Chargers in this one, as their defense forces a couple turnovers and knocks down Mahomes.
SCORE: Chargers 31, Chiefs 17
Sunday Night Matchup
Chicago @ Green Bay
The Bears added Trey Burton and Allen Robinson to their offense, proceeded to trade for Khalil Mack and signed him for another five seasons. The Bears defense is scary, Mitch Trubisky is ready to show he was worthy of a first-round pick, and there is a lot to like about this Chicago team. Green Bay lost Jordy Nelson, will be without Aaron Jones for the first four games, but they added Jimmy Graham to their offense. Let’s not forget about Aaron Rodgers, and the Lambeau Field advantage. Packers take this one, but the Bears keep it close.
SCORE: Packers 28, Bears 20
Monday Night Matchups
New York Jets @ Detroit
This was a pretty close pick for least intriguing game of the week, but Sam Darnold makes for an interesting game. Matt Patricia finally got a head coaching gig, and the Lions are ready to make a run at an NFC Title. The Jets have weapons on offense, but the real question is how Sam Darnold will perform, and how will they make stops on defense? Matt Stafford has a field day in this one, and Detroit runs the Jets right out of town.
SCORE: Lions 38, Jets 21
Los Angeles Rams @ Oakland
Jon Gruden is back in Oakland, but their best player, Khalil Mack, was just traded a few days ago. Derek Carr is ready to have a bounce-back season, but the Raiders free agency was the most complexing of all 32 teams in the league. The Rams have Super Bowl aspirations and for good reason. Aaron Donald, Aqib Talib, and Marcus Peters are just a few names on that defense. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks are a few names on that offense. Chucky’s return to Oakland doesn’t start off well.
SCORE: Rams 34, Raiders 16