For eight months the Broncos had to stew over their loss in the divisional round to the Baltimore Ravens Now they open the season at home against the Ravens and they QB Joe Flacco is on a banner on their own stadium. If the Broncos were not peeved before they certainly are now. The Ravens are the Super Bowl Champs in name only their roster is a far cry from last year, while the Broncos are the favorites to win it all this year. In the Thursday Night opener look for the Broncos to make a statement as Peyton Manning has a big game in an easy win.
The Bills situation at quarterback is rather bleak; as they have two rookies one of whom already had a knee injury in the pre-season. That rookie is first round pick E.J. Manuel who the Bills hope can be a franchise quarterback. Before his knee injury Manuel was impressive, but beating the Patriots is a tall order for any quarterback let alone a rookie in his debut. The Patriots have dominated the Bills over the last ten years, winning 18 of their last 19 meetings and trend will continue.
In one of the best match ups of the opening week, two teams that both end the season strong look to carry the momentum forward into the new season. For the Panthers whose four straight wins to close the season covered up an otherwise poor season it is important to get off to a good start, as QB Cam Newton needs to start winning some games. The Seahawks are the trendy Super Bowl pick and though they struggle on the road, they won last year in Carolina. The Seahawks key is their strong defense that practices against a running quarterback and should be able to contain Cam Newton enough to start the year with a win.
After two straight playoff appearances confidence has never been higher in Cincinnati for the Bengals. This is with good reason as they have one of the best receivers in A.J. Green and a solid QB in Andy Dalton. The defense is also solid, with James Harrison joining a unit led by Geno Atkins to form one of the best units in the league. The Bears meanwhile have some work to do under new Coach Marc Trestman. Look for the usual Dalton to Green Touchdown and the Jay Cutler interception as the Bengals start the season with a road win.
The Dolphins come into the year with high hopes as the addition of Mike Wallace gives them a go to Wide Receiver. However, it is the Dolphins defense that will be a key to their success. Rookie Dion Jordan had an impressive preseason, while Cameron Wake remains one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. The Browns meanwhile continue roam aimless, starting the season with yet another new coach, something that seems to come every two years. Look for the new look Dolphins to get their season started off with a solid road win.
A year ago the biggest question for the Vikings was the knee of Adrian Peterson. After rushing for 2,097 yards and falling nine yards short of the record, the question this year can Peterson get those nine extra yards. Peterson has the odds stacked against him as nobody has ever had two 2000 yard seasons. The Lions with a strong defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh will prevent Adrian Peterson from getting off to a big start as the Lions needing to start strong at home, top avoid fans turning on them before the leaves change, beat the Vikings in a close divisional battle.
Two years ago the Colts after losing Peyton Manning to an injury embraced the suck of Luck mantra and got themselves another franchise quarterback. The Raiders may need to find their own mantra as this has the potential to be one of the worst teams in NFL history. Start at quarterback for the black and silver is former Ohio State star Terrelle Pryor, who simply does not have the makeup of a NFL quarterback. This game will get ugly fast as Andrew Luck starts his second season off with a bang as the Colts lap the Raiders.
The two teams with the worst record in the NFL last year meet in the opening week, with each team looking to erase bad memories right away. Each team comes into the game with new coaches, while the Chiefs new Quarterback Alex Smith is looking for something to prove. The Jaguars have the same lousy pair of quarterbacks that only managed a pair of wins last year and chances are they won’t win much more this year. The Chiefs now led by Andy Reid could be a dark horse and has more talent on the roster and should be able to get the win on the road.
Familiar old foes meet in Week 1, as the Saints happy to welcome back Coach Sean Payton look to get an early jump in the NFC South against the Falcons. Last year the Falcons first loss of the season came in New Orleans. That loss came after an 8-0 start, this time around it will be a loss right off the bat as the Saints win a thriller in the Superdome. This game should be a high scoring affair as the two teams usually play close game and have strong offenses. Expect it to go right down to wire with the game be deciding in the final seconds.
During the pre-season Jets Coach was asked to evaluate his quarterbacks and he said he did not watch them play following their first exhibition game. This week when asked about the quarterback situation Rex said, “I don’t get it,” all while visiting his son during cut day. It looks like the lame duck coach has already checked out and it’s a reason why the Jets are the first team eliminated from playoff competition. The fans will also being checking out as an epic disaster of a season starts with Darelle Revis returning at least one Geno Smith pass for a pick six as the Jets lose the first of many.
The Steelers enter the season without the usual high expectations as age and injury have them at point of transition. The Titans meanwhile are in a year of pressure as Coach Mike Munchak and QB Jake Locker are both firmly on the hot seat. The Titans have made improvements on the offensive line and that should free up Chris Johnson for a big year, but winning in Pittsburgh requires a good balance and that does not exist. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to start the season with a win as the Steelers win a close one at Heinz Field.
Last year the 49ers started the season with in Lambeau Field and then beat the Packers in the divisional playoffs. It is clear the Packers do not have an answer for the 49ers no matter who is at quarterback. The Packers to keep the game close will need a big game from Aaron Rodgers. However, if they Colin Kaepernick can come anywhere close to the numbers he produced in the playoffs the 49ers will win going away. Look for Kaepernick to excite the crowd for the final home opener at Candlestick leading the Niners to a impressive win.
Two teams looking to move up in the NFC West meet in an afternoon showdown in Week 1. The Rams have improved their offense, while the Cardinals have a secondary and special teams that is potentially explosive. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson if they can match their play from their days at LSU could get the Cardinals get back into contention rather quickly if they can get average play from QB Carson Palmer. The Rams meanwhile have a better offensive line and better receivers and help Sam Bradford get his season started off with a win thanks to Greg Zuerlein’s big boot as time runs out.
When the Cowboys played their first game at their brand new stadium in 2009, Giants QB Eli Manning was there to spoil the house warming, signing the wall outside the visiting clubhouse. Since then the Giants have owned the massive stadium in Texas, winning four in a row. However, a new name AT&T Stadium brings new luck as the Cowboys end the Giants curse. The Giants have just too many injury questions, with David Wilson their lone running back and Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul both questionable for the opener as the Cowboys have too much to prove to let this one slip away.
Robert Griffin III is healthy and ready to go as he looks for even bigger season in year two. One team who could not solve RG III last year was the Eagles, whom the Redskins beat twice, with Griffin having big games in each. This is also the first Monday Night game of the year and Robert Griffin III likes playing in front of national audiences having some of his best games last year in primetime. I expect RG III to show he is healthy and to have a big night as the Redskins easily handle the Eagles at FedEx Field.
With the addition of Ed Reed, the Texans who already had one of the best hard hitting defenses in the NFL hope they now have a super defense. The Texans defense is also getting a boost with the return of Linebacker Brian Cushing, whose knee injury left a gaping hole that was exposed twice by the Patriots. The return of Cushing frees up Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to be more aggressive and that means bad things for opposing quarterbacks, starting with Philip Rivers. Look for the Texans to close out Week 1 by shutting down the Chargers on Monday Night.