Green Bay @ Chicago
The Chicago Bears begin the season with a new coach, a new GM, and hopefully a new outlook on what professional football should look like in Chicago. The offense looks somewhat similar to last years with the caveat that there are a lot of injuries with their starting wideouts (Kevin White, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marques Wilson ). The biggest question is how much will Cutler be handing off this year instead of throwing the ball to Forte (102 receptions last year) and can he finally find a way to limit turnovers.
The Bears defense is in a full rebuilding mode as they try to go from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. They weren’t able to bring in a lot of new talent so it was mostly moving existing pieces around and we’ll see how that works. I’m looking for Pernell Mc Phee to become the leader of this defense and hopefully provide this defense with some semblance of toughness. It’s going to be interesting to see Jared Allen standing up and playing LB this year also. The surprise player on this defense may be Shea McClellin who probably should have been cut from this team years ago, but someone that played in a 3-4 previously, he should be a better fit in this defense. It’s going to be a long year for the Bears,……a very long year.
The Green Bay Packers start the season with the pain of losing Jordy Nelson firmly in the front of their minds. With him gone, Davante Adams, along with the recently re-signed James Jones, will be expected to fill in admirably for Nelson. Randall Cobb is nursing a shoulder injury, but he plans to be on the field on Sunday for the game. Much of this may not matter when you have the baddest man on the planet at QB, Aaron Rodgers, so no one seems to be panicking in Green Bay. Add to that the fact that the Packers still have a healthy Eddie Lacy and the only thing that worries me is whether the Packers’ right tackle can keep Rodgers alive all season.
Packers’ defense returns most of their folks from last year and this defense just has to figure out a way to stop the run and allow their offense to get back on the field.
Winner – Packers
Kansas City @ Houston
Houston comes fresh off their appearance on Hard Knocks as they prepare for their season opener against the Chiefs. As most years start the question for the Texans is who is their QB and will he be able to manage the game on offense to allow that defense to do the heavy lifting. Arian Foster is out for a few weeks so they will turn to Alfred Blue/Jonathan Grimes/Kenny Hilliard for their running game and it looks like Brian Hoyer will start at QB. I am very interested to see how Hoyer responds with this type of talent around him.
The Texans defense got a boost from acquiring Vince Wilfork to pair with the great JJ watt. Wilfork should provide the push upfront that he was able to do for the Patriots for all these years. The question mark on the defense is whether the often hurt Jadeveon Clowney will ever be consistently on the football field playing professional football. Coaches think he’s ready and the hope is that he plays the entire season to actually see what havoc he can cause alongside Watt and company.
The Chiefs enter this game still trying to get a WR to score a touchdown. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin, anyone with a bet on how soon the Chiefs get a WR to score a TD, should expect this drought to end in Week 1. The same crew is in the backfield, and as usual, expect Jamaal Charles to get a lot of touches no matter where he lines up.
The Chiefs defense is bolstered by the return of Eric Berry who had been out last year battling cancer. The ferociousness is still there and Berry looks like he’s going to be an impact player for this defense (great to have you back Mr. Berry, good luck). The Chiefs feel that with Hali, Houston, and Johnson back, this Chiefs defense may be one of the best in the AFC.
Winner - Chiefs
Cleveland @ New York Jets
The New York Football Jets come off a strange off-season where their starting QB got his jaw broken over $600 and the hilarity ensued from there. The Jets are now starting Ryan Fitzpatrick until a better option comes up, or Geno’s jaw heals. Fitzpatrick does have two pretty good wideouts in Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall to go along with the Jets more dominant running game which was a little improved with Zac Stacy being added to the roster. It’s going to be a lot of ground and pound and hope that the WRs can make a few plays, but not much is expected of the Jets this year as they seemed to be limited by their QB situation.
On the other hand, the Jets’ defense is primed to probably win a lot of 10-9 games this season. The re-addition of Darrelle Revis and this secondary, you’d be wary to expect to throw on them too much during a game. This defense could have a great year and this team will probably go close to 8-8.
Cleveland trots out Johnny Football,
finally maybe. He looked pretty good during the preseason
but the hope is that this is the beginning of the Manziel Era in
Cleveland. Here’s to hoping that it’s
better than any of the other iterations of Cleveland Browns’ QB eras. As far as talent on the Browns side,…there
isn’t much. Isaiah Crowell is a little
more than serviceable and they picked up Dwayne Bowe (from KC) and I’m not so
sure if his best days are behind him or not.
Browns need to make a splash in free agency or through the draft next
year to get some talent for Manziel.
The Browns defense will be decent. They have some quality guys in Haden and Whitner in the secondary and a decent front 7. Their only hope is that this offense finds a way to put some points on the board so that they can stay in some of the games this year.
Winner - Jets
Indianapolis @ Buffalo
Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have a fresh new coach, some new talent on the offensive side of the ball (McCoy, Clay, Taylor), and an always impressive defense. Tyrod Taylor gets the nod at starting QB over Cassel and Manuel and I think that was the correct decision. Taylor is athletic enough and provides this team with best chance of winning, and hey he’s a former Raven so I gotta give him some love. On paper, this team has some players on offense IF McCoy and Harvin can stay healthy. This may be the best group that the Bills have trotted out on the field in a long time.
The Bills defense is nasty. The newly paid Marcell Dareus paired with Mario Wiliams should cause opposing QBs little rest during the game. This defensive secondary looks pretty good with Gilmore, Darby, Graham and Williams. With Rex making the defensive calls, I expect this defense to be one of the top ones in the league.
The Colts have Andrew Luck, and hopefully some other type of luck. They finally brought in a running back that should be able to produce all season long in Frank Gore (Ray Rice is also available Colts) and the addition of Andre Johnson to TY Hilton should make for an interesting combo for Luck to throw to. The big thing this year is Luck has got to pare down on some of his YOLO throws before people start comparing him to Jay Cutler. With a veteran added to the running game, look for the Colts to hand the ball off a little more and pound defenses to protect their own.
The Colts defense is still smallish, but they find a way to get off the field,..most of the time. If they can find a way to get a few more turnovers and keep teams from running on them,…the Colts may easily make the Superbowl this year as some have already put their money on.
Winner – Bills
Miami @ Washington
The Washington (redacted) have been nothing short of a comedy routine unfurling right before our eyes. RGIII and his performance (and injuries) are so sad when you go back to 2012 and realize that he was good for this team. I guess the Kirk Cousins Era will officially start, but I imagine that this will be short lived. In my mind Cousins has 2 games before he’s hurt or pulled, and if he’s pulled I’m not so sure that they will even go with RGIII. They just need to release him and let him start over somewhere. It’s going to be a long year in Chicago and Washington if you’re rooting for your local professional football team.
The Dolphins are being picked to win the AFC East. I am trying to let that digest, but it just seems wrong to put that expectation on this team. Yes, they have a work horse in Lamar Miller and some viable receivers to throw the ball to, but they lost Charles Clay and Mike Wallace in the off-season. I don’t yet believe in Ryan Tannehill, but I guess this is the year he turns the corner and becomes ‘that guy’ for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins defense will surely help this team with their addition of the Ndamukong Suh to pair with Cameron Wake on that left side of their defensive line. With Grimes and an improved Taylor in the secondary, this Dolphins team may surprise. We’ll see if they are real after Week 13 as they really have a pretty soft schedule to start the season. This game against Washington should be a cakewalk.
Winner - Dolphins
Carolina @ Jacksonville
Jacksonville is an interesting young team to me. I like Blake Bortles and what he showed late in the year last year. He’s got some decent WR targets and Denard Robinson seemed to transition from college QB to an every-down back, but I’m expecting TJ Yeldon to prosper as a rookie running back and make Robinson more of a 3rd down back or an option in the Jags passing game. It’s going to be important for Bortles to take the next step to improve his play and if he does, the Jags should be respectable.
I actually feel sorry for the Panthers. They lost their #1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a knee injury and I honestly have no idea who Cam Newton will be throwing the ball to. Yes, he still has Greg Olsen, but I’m not sure he can replicate his play from last year. Some expect Devin Funchess to make the rookie leap that Benjamin did last year, but if he doesn’t it looks like Ted Gin Jr is going to have to step it up the entire year. I see a down year for Cam Newton and a very limited offense.
On defense the Panthers are led by arguably the best LB in the game in Luke Kuechly (just got paid too). This defense is solid all around and if they can find their rhythm early, they may make some noise in the NFC South.
Winner - Panthers
Seattle @ St. Louis
The first great game of the season. The Rams get a visit from the Seahawks and the Nick Foles Era begins in St. Louis. The Rams are solid and I think that Foles will play well for this team. He definitely has some weapons in Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, and Brian Quick. Add to the mix the rookie Todd Gurley and the Rams should be able to put some points on the board. That Rams defense might just be special. It’ll be interesting to see how they match up against this Seattle offense and what they bring to the table.
The Seahawks retooled over the summer and have Jimmy Graham as their main receiving target. I bet you money they wish they would have run that ball last year in the Superbowl. Anyway, I expect a good season for Russell Wilson and the regular crew, but look out for that late add of Fred Jackson as a backup to Lynch as he should be able to spell Lynch and still give them something close to Beastmode.
The Seahawks defense is missing Cam Chancellor. That’s a big hole to try and cover up, but I expect that defense to show up and play well. I hope Chancellor gets his money, but I would love for him to play this year for the Seahawks.
Winner – Seahawks
New Orleans @ Arizona
The Cardinals welcome the Saints to the desert. Carson Palmer comes back and the hope is that he can stay healthy. With a healthy Palmer, this Cardinals team is dangerous. It seems like forever since Larry Fitzgerald has been good, but I’m expecting a big year for him this year. Chris Johnson also is a few years removed from being good and maybe, ust maybe he isn’t finished yet.
The Cardinals defense has changed with the release of Darnell Docket and the losses over the summer to free agency, but this is like Pittsburgh West and they’ll reload pretty quickly. Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell will be stout on that defensive line which will allow those LBs to roam and make plays. The one things the Cardinals need is good health for this team and we may hear from them in the playoffs.
The Saints lost Jimmy Graham and that may hurt them long term. What is Drew Brees’ comfort worth? We don’t know what this team is going to be able to do on offense, but having Brees and some of the regulars (Colston and Cooks) should make this team a little better than most think they’ll be.
The Saints defense will have their hands full this year as they hope to be able to stop someone,…anyone this entire year. The additions of Cameron Jordan and Brandon Browner should help.
Winner – Cardinals
Detroit @ San Diego
The San Diego Superchargers are looking good this year. This team returns the usual suspects on offense with a newly paid Philip Rivers, but the expectation is that this offense will get a boost when Melvin Gordon has an opportunity to get on the field. This may be the swan song for Antonio Gates, but coming off of his suspension, we’ll see how much more he has to give this team.
The Chargers defense hasn’t changed much and this team has repeatedly had issues stopping the run. Can they get better or will they rely on the Chargers offense to win shootouts? We shall see.
The Lions are always going to be dangerous as long as they have the Stafford/Megatron duo, but the hope is that other people can continue to step up. Looking to see if Ameer Abdullah makes a big contribution this year.
The Lions lost Suh over the summer but they feel like they’ll be ok with Haloti Ngata (I’m crying Raven tears writing this). The rest of this defense is going to have to step up to get some stops and not allow their season to be one shoot out after the next.
Winner - Chargers
Tennessee @ Tampa Bay
The battle of the 2015 top two picks. Famous Jameis gets his first NFL start. I hope that he has a good career and hopefully it starts this week. Supposedly Doug Martin is back in rare form and he has got two of the biggest WRs in the game to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. This should be a good recipe for Winston to be successful.
Did I mention the Bucs have a pretty decent defense that should make some plays this year? Looking for good things from this team.
Marcus Mariota has been good in the preseason, but the more and more that I look at this team, they really haven’t given the kid too much help. Maybe, just maybe he’ll be the rookie of the year, but I hope that he doesn’t have to carry this team on his shoulders all year long.
Winner - Bucs
Cincinnati @ Oakland
The Raiders seem to be turning the corner on respectability (from a football standpoint). Derek Carr looks to build upon his few successes last year and he has some talent to work with. Amari Cooper already looks like he’ll carry the mantle for rookie WRs, similar to those studs from last year. Can Latavius Murray be ‘the man’ for the Raiders as he showed some flashes last year. If this offense finds a way to click, we might have some wins in Raider-land this year.
The Raiders defense is expected to be physical and they have a stud in Khalil Mack. With the recent signing of Aldon Smith, depending on his availability this year, this defense has some pieces that ought to make watching the Raiders fun this year. Get your popcorn ready.
The Bengals have lots of talent and they bring back many of the usual suspects, but this team is all about whether their QB/Andy Dalton can make strides to be a good/great QB on a consistent basis. That’s really the one thing that will make or break their season.
The Bengals defense will be consistent and can make some plays, but if Dalton sucks when it counts, none of their play will matter.
Winner - Bengals
Baltimore @ Denver
This is the second really good game this week. Denver brings Manning and crew with a slightly new offense. I expect a lot more running for this team this year to give Peyton’s arm a break. Julius Thomas is no longer in Denver, but Manning will find other people to catch the ball.
This could be the best Denver defense since the Orange Crush days. We’ll all get to see just how they attack teams and I expect Flacco to take some heat in this game.
The Ravens offense will have Flacco and Steve Smith Sr. but they will need someone to step up and help this team. The Ravens are more ball control and defense driven and none of that has changed. I always enjoy watching the Ravens defense.
Winner - Broncos
New York Giants @ Dallas
The Cowboys pick up where they left off last year,…and yes Dez caught the ball BUT it didn’t count. The Cowboys were successful by giving the ball to Murray last year and limiting Romo’s opportunities to mess it all up. Expect more of that this year and an improved defense, especially when Greg Hardy returns from his 4 game suspension.
The New York Football Giants have to hope that Eli shows that he’s truly ELITE and won’t lead the league in interceptions again this year. If Cruz can return and OBJ can continue his meteoric rise from last year, that should help Eli. That Giants defense is in trouble, so they have got to win some shootouts.
Winner - Cowboys
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
The Falcons still have a great offense, but their big issue is can they stop someone? They’ll definitely have a test with the Eagles coming to town.
The Eagles get to trot Sam Bradford out on the field and you may want to take a picture as this may be the only time you see Sam Bradford healthy all year long. When he’s healthy he can be good, but I don’t think that Bradford has played a fully season since high school. Good luck man.
Winner - Eagles
Minnesota @ San Francisco
The 49ers have been decimated this offseason due to retirements and losses during the free agency period. They weren’t able to make any big time adds on offense and it looks like this is the make or break year for Colin Kaepernick. God help him,…cause the cupboard is bare.
The Vikings get AP back and oddly enough his absence was probably a good thing for Teddy Bridgewater last year. Teddy had to really learn the system and get comfortable with being ‘the man’ in a sense last year because of AP’s legal issues. I expect the addition of a dominant running game will allow this Vikings team to battle the Packers for NFC North.
Winner - Vikings