You can point to the moment the Seahawks became a serious contender two years ago, when the beat the Packers on the Fail Mary with the help of replacement refs on Monday Night Football. Now for the first time the teams meet again in the Thursday Nigh Opener, as the Seahawks raise the Super Bowl banner. It won’t be a shock if either of these teams meet again in January and win the Lombardi Trophy this season. With the crowd extra jacked up and the Lombardi Trophy in the house, I look for the Seahawks to start their title defense with a win.
For the second straight season these two Dixie Land rivals open the season. The Saints coming off a loss season earned the win last year at the Superdome, this year it is the Falcons who are opening at home off a lost season. The Falcons should bounce back from their 4-12 season, but the Saints have much higher goals as one of the top teams in the NFC. As with every game with these two, this game will be close, but in the end the Falcons will come up short again, as the Saints get a late Field Goal from …well I am sure the Saints will have a kicker by the time the game starts.
Last year coming off a Super Bowl Championship the Ravens had their opening week spoiled by the Orioles who refused to give up a Thursday Night home game to allow the Raven to open the season at home. Instead they were horse whipped by the Broncos. This year they begin the season at home, but will be without Ray Rice. Rice may have gotten off easy with a two game suspension for domestic abuse, but the first two games for the Ravens are against key division rivals at home. Very important games, and the first one will be a loss as the Ravens defense can’t contain the Bengals and the Ravens offense can’t get anything going without Ray Rice.
When the Bears have been at their best historically it has been with a strong running game and a powerful defense. This year the Bears will try to win with a high powered offense. The problem is Quarterback Jay Cutler is not always the most reliable passer. The Bears do have a solid group of receivers, but eventually their defensive decencies will catch up with them. However, against the Bills that should not be too much of a problem as the E.J. Manuel does not have the arm to match with Cutler at Soldier Field.
J.J. Watt got a fat new contract, and a new teammate in Jadevon Clowny that will make the Texans defense give quarterbacks nightmare for years. Both teams are coming off terrible seasons and will hope to start the year fast. The Texas just picked up Ryan Mallett and he will soon get his chance at quarterback, while the Redskins have Robert Grfiffin III trying to rebound off a tough season. Playing this Texans defense is not the way to start fast, the game will not have much offense, but the Texans will find a way to win at home.
Last season the Chiefs jumped out of the gate, winning their first nine games against a rather easy schedule. Once the Chiefs started playing contenders things were quite different as they lost six of eight including dramatic postseason collapse against the Colts. The Chiefs this year open the season against the Titans, and if they are to make the playoffs again they will need to take advantage of games poorer teams like the Titans, who are a team in transition with a new coach and the departure of Chris Johnson.
The Patriots have not lost the season opener since 2003, and they have the pieces that make them look like one top teams in the AFC again. The Dolphins beat the Patriots last year and the Pats always like to send a message when they lose their previous meeting. The Dolphins are missing a few key players on defense, especially pass rusher Dion Jordan who has been suspended for the first four game. The Dolphins are also still a big fat mess after last season’s December collapse. This has disaster written all over it for the Dolphins.
The Jets are another team that needs to get off to a strong start, as Coach Rex Ryan begins a crucial season with his posterior securely on the hot seat. Second year Quarterback Geno Smith is making strides, while Michael Vick is on the sideline as an insurance policy. The Jets also should be helped by the addition of Chris Johnson at Running Back. The Jets front line should play a big role in the opener as they face the Raiders starting a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr. The Raiders don’t play well when traveling east, this game is made to order for the Jets and is a good choice for those of you in Knockout Pools.
The Jaguars are turning the corner, as Blake Bortles soon will be the starting quarterback and could be there for the next decade. This team will be better in December, but as it starts on the road against the Eagles it finds itself in a bad situation. The Eagles finished last year strong won the NFC East and have one of the most dynamic offenses in the entire league. With the addition of Darren Sproles they may be even better this year, look for the Eagles to run the Jaguars up and down the field and tally up a big day for Nick Foles and LaSean McCoy to get the season off on the right note at home.
The Steelers after two mediocre seasons are hoping to get back in the playoffs. One key will be erasing slow starts that they have endured in recent years. Opening at home against the Browns should help, as the Browns have only won one game at Heinz Field in the stadium’s 13 year history. The Browns are wise in not starting Johnny Manziel in this hostile environment, but I would not be shocked to see him come on later in the game as the Steelers win this one by two touchdowns.
Perhaps no team had a worse pre-season than the Rams, who had the only loss that matters in the exhibition season when Quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Rams have a solid defense, but back up Shaun Hill is not going to get them very deep NFC. Starting the season at home against the Vikings, they will miss Bradford right away, as Adrian Peterson get a pair of scores, while the Rams offense stalls and starts the year with a loss.
So confident in the Cowboys this season, Owner Jerry Jones has already started printing playoff tickets. He may be the only in the Dallas who feels that way as a more objective eye sees a bleak situation for the Cowboys. A porous defense has lost perhaps their two best players with the departure of DeMarcus Ware and the season ending injury to Sean Lee. QB Tony Romo meanwhile is coming off back surgery and will be asked to carry the team. Starting against the 49ers is not a good way to get off to a flying start either, look for the Niners to run the ball up and down the field at Jerry’s world to a strong season opening win.
A new era begins in Tampa as Lovie Smith becomes the new captain at the helm of the pirate ship. There is a spirit and optimism around the Buccaneers that the team is on the way to become a strong contender in the NFC, as new QB Josh McCown has a talented receiver corps at his disposal. One thing for sure they will be a much stronger team this season. The Panthers meanwhile are entering off a big season and look to be in danger of a major step back, as they have lost most of their receivers from last year, and begin the year with QB Cam Newton fighting broken ribs. Those can really slow a player down and a loss to start the season seems written in the stars.
Last year when Peyton Manning opened the season in primetime he had a record tying seven touchdown passes against the Ravens. Hosting his old team and wanting to erase the bad taste from Super Bowl XLVIII, you can expect Manning to have another big night. The Colts could keep the game close for a while as Andrew Luck is on the verge of writing his own name among the NFL’s best passers. However, this is still Manning’s time and the Broncos gallop away with a win in an old fashioned Mile High shootout.
Two teams looking for something to prove meet on Monday Night, as the Lions with a new Coach host the Giants with a new offense. The Lions main concern is discipline and avoiding the mistakes, turnovers and dumb penalties that have held them back in the past. The Giants need to find themselves and protect QB Eli Manning. In the preseason, Eli looked uneasy with the new system. With Ndamukong Suh getting the pass rush going it could be a long night for Big Blue, as the Lions start the Jim Caldwell era in style.
Opening the season on Monday Night Football has become old hat for the Chargers, who are playing the nightcap in ESPN’s opening week doubleheader for the six time in seven years. Last year they blew a big lead at home against the Texans. This year they begin the season in the same stadium the hope to end the season, University of Phoenix Stadium home of Super Bowl XLIX. The Cardinals last year won ten games but missed out on the playoffs, with a few departures it will be tough for them to equal their win total especially with a tougher schedule. This one should be a good one and I like the Cardinals to find a way to win the game with a late Field Goal as their secondary making life hard for Phillip Rivers.