The emotional edge has become a big part of the Saints game when they play in the Superdome, a large loud home crowd has given the Saints extra energy since their first home game after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. Expect the same emotion to be there as the Saints raise the Super Bowl banner and begin defense of the Lombardi Trophy. In a rematch of the NFC Championship Game look for the Saints to pull out another close one with the arm of Drew Brees being the difference.
In recent seasons the Dolphins have gotten off to slow starts, they were able to overcome it in 2008, but not 2009. If they are to be serious contenders this year they must get out of the gate quickly, especially against an awful Bills team. The Dolphins defense is better against the run, and the Bills pass offense looks like one giant question mark. Look for a tough debut for Running Back C.J. Spiller, who may be the only bright spot for the Bills this season, as the Dolphins march into Buffalo and win their opener.
The Lions won a mere two games last season, but it was two more than they won the year before, and any signs of improvement will be seen as a positive. The Bears meanwhile are entering the season with just about everyone sitting on the hot seat, as Coach Lovie Smith and QB Jay Cutler need to rebound of a disappointing 2009 season to assure they will continue to reside in Chicago. At home against a weak team they need to make a strong statement in Week 1. Look for a strong game from Jay Cutler, as Julius Peppers makes a difference on defense.
Quick starts have become the hallmark of the Colts, as they have routinely gone unbeaten through September and October. The Texans have been on the wrong end of many of these early season Colts wins. Forever next year’s team; the Texans once again appear to be a strong team on paper. However, to have any serious chance at challenge the Colts for the division title, they must win their home game, which is in Week 1, especially with the Colts offensive line banged up.
The Jaguars are trying to erase their blackout troubles of last season, and to do so they must win games, especially against an awful Broncos team at home. The Broncos who are already without last year’s top receiver Brandon Marshall, who they traded away, have seen their running game decimated by injury. In addition they lost Elvis Dumervil their top defensive player from last season to a season ending pectoral injury.
The Patriots defense playing without Leigh Bodden will get an early test as they face the Bengals and their VH-1-2 punch of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. If they are to win the game, they will need a big day from Tom Brady and their own big game receiver Randy Moss. With the game it Foxboro it should play into the hands of the Patriots, but it will be close throughout, in the end Brady’s ability to win close games will save the day for New England.
Last year the Giants season ended with an 8-8 disappointment, losing their final game at Giants Stadium to the Panthers. Now they will be opening their new stadium against the Panthers. If the Giants are to rebound and have a better season, winning this game would certainly be important to their psyche. The Panthers are not quite the same team as last year as they lost pass rusher Julius Peppers, which should help Eli Manning have a big day.
In the four games Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss, this could be the difference maker for the Steelers, who need to do no worse than 2-2. With games against the Titans, Buccaneers and Ravens to follow beating the Falcons at home will go a long way to their goal of winning two games with Dennis Dixon. However, with their running game still a question mark and Dixon an unknown quantity the safe pick here is to pick the Falcons who have playoff aspirations. Look for a solid game from Matt Ryan and the balanced Falcons attack who win on the road.
For a young Buccaneers team coming off a 3-13 season, it is important to get off to a quick start. There certainly are no lofty expectations in Tampa this year as second year quarterback Josh Freeman has a lot room for improvement. However, when facing a Browns team that is equally as bad at home these are the games the Bucs must win if they are going to start showing some progress. The Browns are a team that is almost in a suspended state of development as Coach Eric Mangini looks over his shoulder at Mike Holmgren, with veteran QB Jake Delhomme who is trying to rebound off a terrible 2009 season.
With QB Jason Campbell the Raiders should be able to make some strides this season. Meanwhile, after a 0-6 start last season the Titans who won eight of their last ten games after Vince Young got his job back the Titans must get off on the right foot. With the best player on the field being Titans RB Chris Johnson, expect the Titans to center around their running attack against the undersized Raiders defense playing the dreaded early game on the road. Things will be better in Oakland this season just not in Week 1 as they get rocked in Nashville.
Two years ago the Packers were in the same position the Eagles find themselves now, beginning life with a new quarterback who was selected in the first round to replace a longtime member of the team. While Aaron Rogers has become a star after replacing Brett Favre, there were some early bumps in the road. For Kevin Kolb who is replacing Donovan McNabb with the Eagles expect the same bumpy ride, as Rogers and the Packers get off to a quick start against the Eagles questionable secondary.
After a 1-15 season, the Rams only have room to go one place and that is up. However, with rookie QB Sam Bradford under center it will be hard to imagine them getting off to a fast start against the Cardinals who have gone to the playoffs each of the last two seasons. The Cardinals have their own quarterback issues with Derek Anderson taking over after Matt Leinart was released and Kurt Warner retired. However, Anderson’s job will be much easier throwing to Larry Fitzgerald than Bradford who needs to find a go to receiver.
Of all the games in the opening week, this one may have the biggest implications on the postseason, as the 49ers and Seahawks meet in an early NFC West showdown. The division is wide open, with the retirement of Kurt Warner, and the winner of this game will have an early jump. For the Seahawks it’s important for Coach Pete Carroll making his NFL return, while the 49ers want to prove early they can win on the road. Look for defense to make the difference as Patrick Willis and the 49ers take aim at an immobile Matt Hasselbeck who could soon be on his way to the bench if he struggles early.
Its debut day in D.C., as the Mike Shanahan era begins with the hated Cowboys visiting on Sunday Night. The bad news for the Redskins surrounds their big off-season acquisition QB Donovan McNabb, who was banged up in the preseason. If the Redskins are going to win this game, they will need a sharp McNabb. Meanwhile with the Super Bowl dreams, the Cowboys will be looking to make a big statement in primetime. Look for the Cowboys to take control early, and win comfortably.
The Jets have spent the entire off-season walking and talking full of swagger, but as they open their new stadium expect the Ravens to deliver a dagger. Sure the Jets have lofty Super Bowl dreams, but the Ravens know Coach Rex Ryan’s schemes. These Ravens are no joke they are the real deal and with Ray Rice and Joe Flacco they will edge a Jets team playing with Mark Sanchez who struggled throughout the postseason, as those Ravens defenders led by the one and only Ray Lewis still have something left in the tank.
Like the Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium has undergone some heavy renovations over the last few years. On Monday Night the Chiefs will be rededicating their stadium, and hoping the team that plays in it looks just as good. Whether or not they will be ready to contend this season remains to be seen, but an early win against a key division rival will go a long way. Look for the Chiefs to use their home field to their advantage as they stun the Chargers, who historically struggle in Arrowhead to wrap up Week 1.