Week 1 is for defying expectations. Spare me the speak about all the possible “upsets” that might occur today when there is so little separating most NFL groups. With the possible exception of Washington checking out Philadelphia, the majority of the matches on the opening slate are much closer to a coin flip than the talking heads admit.
That’s one method of saying that nobody has any clue what’s going to happen in any week, but specifically this one. So let’s have some enjoyable previewing the best week on the NFL calendar, the one where stagnant offseason presumptions go to die, the one with the longest horizon of glorious football stretching in front of us.
TOUGHEST GAME TO PREDICT: Los Angeles Rams 28, Carolina Panthers 27
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)
Fantastic coaches adjust. The Panthers’ Ron Rivera, author of among this decade’s most constant defenses, transitioned this offseason into integrating more 3-4 looks to fit his personnel and make Carolina’s unit harder to prepare for. Rams coach Sean McVay will unquestionably tweak some of the offensive trademarks that defined his very first 2 Rams groups, perhaps with fewer three-wide formations or more shotgun snaps. However the Rams’ structure of tossing play-action passes while producing useful matchups through pre-snap disguises should remain, as will Rivera’s ability to optimize talent in the secondary. Fantastic coaches do not change what makes them excellent.
I anticipate to see both of these teams in the playoffs. Webcam Newton’s foot sprain shouldn’t be a major factor, but its influence on Carolina’s red-zone rushing is simply enough for me to give the minor edge to L.A., with McVay out to prove he’s long past adjusting from the Super Bowl loss.
Philadelphia Eagles 31, Washington Redskins 14
1 p.m. ET (FOX)|Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia).
While these companies are unequal in numerous methods, the battle in advance when the Eagles have the ball will reveal much about where both teams are headed in 2019. If Eagles left tackle Jason Peters and best guard Brandon Brooks put their injury issues aside well enough to handle the Redskins’ rugged protective line, led by Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, Philadelphia’s offense will look primed to steamroll its schedule. If the Redskins’ engaging front seven has any opportunity of keeping its group in playoff contention, the ‘Bama huge uglies need to dominate.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson stated Monday he expects Brooks, linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerback Ronald Darby and defensive take on Fletcher Cox to go back to the field after the quartet jointly missed much of August rehabbing various injuries, a significant advantage for a group that is also welcoming back quarterback Carson Wentz and safety Rodney McLeod from season-ending ailments. Much better injury luck may be all the Eagles require to earn a playoff bye.
SNEAKY EXCELLENT GAME OF THE WEEK: Buffalo Costs 20, New York Jets 17.
1 p.m. ET (CBS)|MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.).
This early heat look for two young coaches and their more youthful quarterbacks signifies the changing AFC East times. It may just be the most fascinating division game not including the Patriots considering that Buffalo’s Drew Bledsoe and New york city’s Chad Pennington faced off 15 years earlier. Sean McDermott’s defense going into Year 3 should have an advantage over Adam Gase’s offense getting in Game 1. The underrated Costs secondary, led by safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, can limit huge plays, while Sam Darnold and his new caddy, Ryan Kalil, will have their line protections challenged by a Costs pass rush boosted by the ninth overall choice in the 2019 draft, Ed Oliver. When Buffalo has the ball, the brand-new backfield of Frank Gore and novice Devin Singletary need to have a likewise hard time handling the Jets’ stout line, even if No. 3 overall choice Quinnen Williams turns off the bench.
All this defense could result in a last rating that looks like numerous others in the previous gloomy years of AFC East play, but the playmaking quarterbacks on both sides make this one even more watchable.
Minnesota Vikings 34, Atlanta Falcons 27.
1 p.m. ET (FOX)|U.S. Bank Arena (Minneapolis).
Dalvin Cook’s arms silently made the case for Preseason MVP last month. New Vikings genius Gary Kubiak could make the case for Assistant Coach of the Year in the coming weeks. Kubiak, Minnesota’s assistant head coach/offensive advisor, has something better than the coordinator title: employing power. Kubiak brought offending line coach/running video game organizer Rick Dennison (who spent 2 seasons with Kubiak in Denver) to Minnesota, and their success building strong running video games and improving line play is almost without equivalent this century. The Vikings, with first-round center Garrett Bradbury, have sufficient O-line skill to change a major weakness into a strength, making Kirk Cousins’ life simpler.
This match establishes as a fantastic first showcase for these new Vikings. The Falcons’ defense flies around, but it is often soft up front under coach Dan Quinn. Atlanta’s defense likewise has a practice of beginning the season slowly. Beating Matt Ryan and pals normally needs a shootout, and the Vikings are now built to win high-scoring affairs.
Baltimore Ravens 24, Miami Dolphins 9.
1 p.m. ET (CBS)|Acid Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.).
The Dolphins’ offensive line, which wasn’t exactly the 7 Blocks of Granite a year back, is drastically diminished: Miami traded left take on Laremy Tunsil last week after permitting right deal with Ja’Wuan James to walk in totally free firm. The Ravens’ protective front 7 was likewise minimized after C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith signed elsewhere in March, however that does not make this an equal match when Ryan Fitzpatrick actions behind center for the Dolphins on Sunday.
While Miami’s most current biannual workout in an overall organizational shift has assistance from the analytics neighborhood, the Ravens have a reliable infrastructure in location. They understand how to change left skill, they understand how to cover weaknesses and they understand what their gamers can do best. They know their secondary is still deep as hell. The Dolphins are winging it.
Kansas City Chiefs 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 22.
1 p.m. ET (CBS)|TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Week 1 is frequently about unknowns. But the explosive Chiefs offense– the very best in the AFC– is a known amount by now. So is the Jaguars’ defense– the very best in the AFC– which is loaded for battle, particularly along the D-line, where novice Josh Allen is providing new versatility.
It’s easier to envision the Jaguars’ defense decreasing ruling MVP Patrick Mahomes because the unit did it a year back. Mahomes was chosen off two times during a video game in which the Chiefs’ offense scored simply 23 points, recording its third-lowest offensive effectiveness of the regular season, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. This video game, then, might come down to Nick Foles versus Steve Spagnuolo’s Chiefs defense. These are the unknowns. While the Jags’ offense and the Chiefs’ defense ought to reveal meaningful development this year, I’ll take a regular-season MVP over a Super Bowl MVP any day.
Cleveland Browns 23, Tennessee Titans 20.
1 p.m. ET (CBS)|FirstEnergy Arena (Cleveland).
Hype versus anti-hype. Tasty (Baker Mayfield) versus tasteless (Marcus Mariota). Boundless possible versus 9-7 ‘Til Infinity. Strip away the narratives, and these groups aren’t so mismatched, although Tony Romo isn’t spending the weekend in Cleveland to view the Titans.
The best chance for a Tennessee upset is for Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees’ defense to grow up quick in Year 2. Their deep veteran secondary can compete with Cleveland’s weapons, and the Titans’ linebacker corps (Cameron Wake, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown) might expose the Browns’ greatest group weakness: the offensive line. Try to find Tennessee to keep it close, but selecting against the Browns in this opener would resemble picking against Santa Claus on Christmas.
Indianapolis Colts 28, Los Angeles Chargers 23.
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)|ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park (Carson, Calif.).
These are not the same Colts and Chargers groups everyone expected in June. The Bolts are missing 3 of their cornerstone players in left deal with Russell Okung, safety Derwin James and running back Melvin Gordon. The Colts are embarking on something called The Jacoby Brissett Age.
There was factor to expect some regression from the Chargers after they finished last season 12-4, based mainly on their record in close games (5-1 in matches decided by 7 points or less). The missing out on players only exacerbate that issue, with an offending line that collapsed late last season looking even worse with Okung on the non-football health problem list. It’s fair to question whether the Colts have the ideal pass rushes to take advantage, much like it’s reasonable to question if the team’s abundant rallying around Brissett just makes for excellent preseason copy. If it is, I’m buying what Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and T.Y. Hilton are offering.
Seattle Seahawks 23, Cincinnati Bengals 22.
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)|CenturyLink Field (Seattle).
Taking a trip to Seattle isn’t such a bad opening project for incognito Bengals coach Zac Taylor. New Seahawk Jadeveon Clowney will still be discovering the playbook and getting into game shape. Even following the outrageous pilfering of the Texans, Pete Carroll is coaching up a top-heavy protective line and a shaky Seahawks secondary. Rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf is coming off knee surgical treatment for among the league’s thinnest wideout groups.
Taylor wishes to build long drives based upon short Andy Dalton tosses, while the Seahawks’ defense is willing to give up yardage in an effort to prevent big plays and try to find turnovers. Combine that with Seahawks offensive organizer Brian Schottenheimer’s new-wave run-run-pass offense, and you have a dish for a close game filled with long field goal drives and late Russell Wilson heroics. Like it ever was!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, San Francisco 49ers 24.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)|Raymond James Arena (Tampa, Fla.).
49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander gets the unusual chance for a Week 1 revenge game in a new uniform. He belongs to a boom-or-bust 49ers defense filled with players returning from injury, consisting of No. 2 total pick Nick Bosa. They will try to stop Bruce Arians’ boom-or-bust offense, which figures to consist of plenty of deep strikes and plenty of hits on quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston is 2 years more youthful than Jimmy Garoppolo, with 44 more profession starts. However they inhabit a similar place in the NFL landscape, requiring strong seasons to guarantee they keep their existing gig. No last score in this video game would surprise me unless it included a nothing.
Dallas Cowboys 26, New York City Giants 20.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)|AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas).
For more than 20 years, the Cowboys have actually struggled to manage success. The gap in between making the playoffs and its inherent obstacles appears smaller sized in Texas than anywhere else. Ezekiel Elliott, who’s unlikely to be ready for a complete workload after ending his holdout on Wednesday, could be in a similar boat as the lots of Cowboys who are relieving their way back from injury. That list consists of cornerback Byron Jones, guard Zack Martin and protective linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. From the Giants’ point of view, this might be a good week to capture the ‘Boys.
However, each week might be a good week to capture this Giants defense. There are couple of expectations for Big Blue this year, possibly why this match is a late-afternoon game instead of the standard Al and Cris Invitational. The Giants do not have much of a pass rush, the linebackers can be blown off the ball and the secondary is irregular at best. Coach Pat Shurmur’s best opportunity at leaving Dallas with a win will be for Saquon Barkley to make an early statement. The 2018 Offensive Novice of the Year is the best back in the division, if not the league.
Detroit Lions 30, Arizona Cardinals 20.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)|State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.).
In a week filled with unknowns, there are no offenses more mysterious than Arizona’s and Detroit’s. Visualizing Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s take on an NFL attack is mostly guesswork since he didn’t show much in the preseason. The Lions under new planner Darrell Bevell have a similarly opaque identity. Will they go run-heavy like Bevell performed in Seattle or get funkier like he made with Brett Favre in Minnesota?
Bevell and Matthew Stafford could not ask for a better opening task. With all the attention on Kingsbury’s offense, it’s been easy to miss out on that the Cardinals’ defense might be the most badly constructed group in football. This is what takes place when groups alter coaches and plans every year, then lose 3 beginners to suspension (Patrick Peterson), injury (Robert Alford) or release after an arrest (Darius Philon) before the season even begins. Arizona’s offending line also is overmatched by Detroit’s D-line talent. Anticipate this Matt Patricia season to leave to a much better start than last year’s Week 1 disaster against the Jets.
New England Patriots 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 17.
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)|Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.).
Mike Tomlin’s defense must be ahead of the Patriots’ offense, a sentence that hasn’t frequently been uttered over the last years. (Although it was likewise true in Week 15 last season, when the Steelers held the Patriots to 10 points in a game that should have ended Tom Brady’s streak of playoff byes.) This Patriots offense is undercooked. Ted Karras is expected to begin at center for David Andrews, who will miss the season. Brady didn’t get much practice time in August with his top receivers (Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas) and the Patriots regularly spend September finding out what they have and what they don’t.
Tomlin’s group is flying high after a productive camp where novice Devin Bush emerged, Pittsburgh’s strong defensive line remained healthy and the group’s young secondary talent stepped up. The Patriots must be likewise optimistic about their defense’s prospects with a potential hotshot brand-new play-caller called Bill Belichick and the deepest linebacker group and secondary considering that Willie McGinest patrolled the field. The Patriots enjoy to collect info and find advantages within. Week 1 has the tiniest body of work to learn from. Those were the numerous reasons the Steelers are dangerous, yet choosing versus Brady in Foxborough remains a fool’s errand.
MONDAY, SEPT. 9.
New Orleans Saints 36, Houston Texans 30.
7:10 p.m. ET (ESPN)|Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans).
▶ 3 dark-horse contenders in ’19.
▶ Leading 25 rookies getting in 2019.
▶ Week 1 bold predictions.
▶ The Allen-Darnold connection.
▶ 16 keys to stopping Cards’ Air Raid.
▶ Week 1 game picks.
There’s no rational reason for the Saints to miss out on the playoffs. There are illogical ones, like, “Hey, it’s football!” and “Drew Brees will fall off a cliff” after one of his finest total seasons. The Saints’ defense has actually never been more skilled, and the star power alongside Brees has never ever shined brighter. With 13 wins, this group would match the Sean Payton/Brees era’s 2009-2011 peak in regular-season victories. However the routine season only means so much to these Saints, which raises another illogical theory about potential battles: Only the playoffs matter to this sad fan base.
The Texans’ issues are much easier to detect. Even after the tsunami of Texans trades last week enhanced the group’s 2019 outlook, Expense O’Brien is still training a top-heavy roster with depth-chart pits on the offending line, at tight end and in the secondary. The process to obtain Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills was bothersome, but that doesn’t quell my enjoyment to see Deshaun Watson play with this group of pass-catchers, consisting of trade acquisition Duke Johnson. Anticipate a fireworks reveal.
Denver Broncos 27, Oakland Raiders 24.
10:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)|Oakland Coliseum (Oakland, Calif.).
Long live the Week 1 nightcap. Matches like this one– including 2 interesting, if insufficient, roster remodellings– need to make the case for more doubleheaders on the “Monday Night Football” schedule. Jon Gruden, fresh off his star turn on “Hard Knocks,” transitions back to his previous (and future?) TELEVISION residential or commercial property on ESPN with a significantly enhanced arsenal of players around Derek Carr.
This is a tricky first test in Carr’s season-long audition to make it to Las Vegas. While Gruden spent much of the last decade chopping it up with Mike Tirico, Broncos coach and defensive play-caller Vic Fangio was cutting the latest offending trends to size. The pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should force Carr into making too-quick decisions and Fangio will camouflage coverage behind them. The leap from awful to amusing has actually already happened in Oakland, however the leap to winning consistently may take more time.
Green Bay Packers 20, Chicago Bears 17.
Soldier Field (Chicago).
A lot can change in a year. Bears coach Matt Nagy went from an unidentified Andy Reid acolyte to the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. Packers coach Matt LaFleur journeyed from an unverified play-caller for a mid-level Titans quarterback to an unverified play-caller for a two-time MVP. The Bears quickly changed from substantial underdogs in last season’s opener against the Packers to NFC North favorites in 2019. It’s not a crown, awarded due to the fact that of an unsustainably fantastic defense, that I anticipate them to use well.
One match in this video game that hasn’t changed is Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s DB-heavy group dealing with Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. No team utilized six protective backs more frequently, and the security duo of novice Darnell Savage and former Bears starter Adrian Amos need to help unlock Pettine’s coverage options for a Green Bay group that held Trubisky to 6.44 lawns per attempt over 2 games a year ago prior to it went through a remarkable personnel update this offseason. What much better method to start the NFL’s 100th season of unpredictability than to start it similar to the 99th, with Aaron Rodgers leading a comeback triumph in this rivalry.