Opening Night, the Super Bowl Champions are on the field, the banner is unfurled, but the seats are empty. Like the rest of the sports world, the NFL season will feel different from the COVID pandemic continuing to cast a pall on everyday life. The Kansas City Chiefs have a considerable advantage with the crowd noise at Arrowhead Stadium, noise that will not be there. The Chiefs spotted the Houston Texans 24 points in the playoffs and stormed back on the way to the Super Bowl title. The Texans offense can be dynamic, but they cannot match the Chiefs, who start the season with a win.
The Seattle Seahawks again enter the season with Super Bowl aspirations, the Atlanta Falcons meanwhile appear to be a team in transition. The Falcons coming off a pair of 7-9 seasons, are at a crossroads, with coach Dan Quinn on the hot seat. The Falcons face a big test early as the Seahawks have a strong secondary, with the addition of Jamal Adams. The Falcons will have a hard time keeping Russell Wilson under wraps as the Seahawks quarterback appears poised for a big season. Look for the Seahawks to soar as the Falcons get off on the wrong foot.
Led by MVP Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens were the best team during the regular season last season. However, it was a disappointment in the playoffs as they lost in the Divisional Round. For the Cleveland Browns, who had all the hype at the start of the season, it was nothing but disappointment as they finished 6-10. Starting over with a new coach again in the Kevin Stefanski, the Browns hope to get their rebuild back on track. The Browns should be better over 16 games, but starting in Baltimore is hard for even the top contenders. Look for a big game from Jackson as the Ravens get the bad taste of the playoffs out of their mouths.
Last season in a game that was symbolic of both teams’ season, the New York Jets jumped out to a 16-0 lead in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, only to end up losing 17-16. The Bills went on to make the playoffs as the Jets were a massive disappointment. It was a turbulent offseason for the Jets as Jamal Adams forced his way out as players continue to clash with coach Adam Gase.
Whether they are in Oakland or now known as the Las Vegas Raiders, it is hard to trust the Silver and Black when they play an early game in the Eastern Time Zone, as they rarely win games with the early start. The Carolina Panthers may be retooling, but with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and Christian McCaffery in the backfield, expect them to have their moments. Expect a strong game from Bridgewater, as the Panthers playing as a home dog, start the season with a win.
The Chicago Bears have won the last four games in this NFC North rivalry. The Detroit Lions are hoping for a bounce-back year with the return of Matthew Stafford. It is going to be a make or break season for Chicago, as Mitch Trubisky is likely on a short leash, a leash that will likely get shorter with a loss to the Lions. Look for Trubisky to continue to misfire, as Stafford makes a triumphant return.
Philip Rivers is 38, a veteran who has some success with the Chargers but has never been to the Super Bowl. Now with the Indianapolis Colts, he looks to prove himself all over again while riving a team that was left spurned by Andrew Luck. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a giant mess; Garnder Minshew hopes to prove he is an NFL quarterback, while the rest of the team has an expansion feel. An eight-point underdog at home shows just how many people are doubting the Jaguars this season. That Colts will win the game, but it is hard to seem the covering that large spread.
The Green Bay Packers reached the NFC Championship Game last season, and the Minnesota Vikings had some success in the playoffs themselves with an upset of the Saints in the Wild Card Game. The Packers won both meetings with Minnesota last season. The Vikings had their way with Green Bay in the previous three seasons. With no much separating the teams, a home win for the Vikings will be critical if they want to take the NFC North. Look for a strong game from the Vikings secondary that shut down Drew Brees to give Aaron Rodges fits.
Last season the Miami Dolphins played the role of spoiler to expertise, beating the New England Patriots in Week 17 and forcing the Patriots into a Wild Card game that served as their Waterloo. The Dolphins are not quite contenders yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the season under center, but don’t be shocked if Tua Tagovailoa gets at least one series. The Dolphins are about growth, the Patriots, with the end of the Tom Brady era, are about hanging on with Cam Newton. Newton coming off an injury-plagued season, is hoping to show early he can an elite quarterback again. The Patriots will get the win, but it won’t be easy, as neither team will be satisfied leaving the field.
After a tumultuous offseason, the team that was once known as the Redskins has no name, as pressure to change the name swept 80 years of tradition away. The team with no name may be the team without wins, as the Washington Football Team will have fans yelling WTF all season. Look for the Philadelphia Eagles to swoop in the FedEx Stadium and sore to an easy victory as team WTF will be shouted from the stands as the team with no name is the team with no game, and that is quite the shame.
It is a new era in Southern Ohio as number one pick Joe Burrow makes his debut for the Cincinnati Bengals. Justin Herbert, also drafted in the top ten, will begin the season as the backup for the Los Angeles Chargers, though it will not be shocking if he sees some reps. The Bengals coming off a 2-14 season, have room for improvement. A good performance in Week 1 will do plenty to help excite the fan base. The Chargers season has already taken a significant hit as Derwin James is lost for the season with a knee injury. James is among the top defensive players on the Chargers and will be missed.
The battle of the aged, the battle of the legends, the battle of the NFC South features Tom Brady now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Brady will have his struggles early in the season as he gets used to his new surroundings. Starting the year against the Saints in the Superdome does him no favors. Look for Brees to come out firing as the Buccaneers pass defense remains somewhat suspect. This will be the first salvo in what promises to be a season-long battle between two of the greatest quarterbacks ever.
After their loss in Super Bowl LIV, the San Francisco 49ers are hoping they can avoid the Super Bowl hangover that seems to curse the team that loses the big game. The Arizona Cardinals are a team on the rise, as Kyler Murray looks to follow up his Rookie of the Year performance. The Cardinals usually play well against the 49ers. While they may not win the game, the Cardinals should keep the score close. Look for the Niners to win the game, but they will be hard-pressed to cover the spread as many teams in Week 1 will have their hiccups.
One year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the Los Angeles Rams open their new stadium without fans. SoFi Stadium is one year late, but one expected to be a state of the art facility Rams’ fans will enjoy for years, once they are allowed to attend the games. After years of underachieving under Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys hope they can finally play up to their potential with Mike McCarthy. This Sunday Night game should be a good one as both teams are evenly matched. Look for the Rams to win a close one as their defense, led by a content Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, keep the Cowboys under wraps.
After missing most of last season, expect Ben Roethlisberger to come out firing as the Pittsburgh Steelers open the season on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants. New coach Joe Judge ran the Giants through the wringer during training camp, but the Big Blue has a long way to go before they are back to contending for the playoffs. Daniel Jones is now the man in the Meadowlands, and he will have its bumps in the road. Facing a Steelers team that can be explosive, the Giants’ defensive deficiencies will be exposed as they start the season with a loss at home.
As training camp came to an end, the Denver Broncos suffered a devastating blow, as Von Miller sustained a potentially season-ending ankle injury. The Tennessee Titans come into the season of a stunning run to the AFC Championship Game last season and are out to prove that was no fluke. The Titans’ path to the championship game was on the back of Derrick Henry, who ran all over the Patriots and Ravens. Without Miller, the Broncos will have a hard time handling Henry, who will have a big game on Monday night to lift the Titans to a win in Denver.