Packers @ Bears (Thursday night)
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Bears and Packers face off in their first game of the season. It was just last season we saw the division rivals in a Week 1 matchup. The Bears held a 20-0 lead on the Packers with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter. What came next was Aaron Rodgers at his finest. Rodgers led the Packers back to a 24-23 victory.
Anything can happen when Aaron Rodgers is on the field. However, the Packers have a very different team than they had a season ago. Between coaching and player changes, this is a very different Packers team. Although the Bears made a few changes as well, they feature the NFL’s best defense from a season ago. Can the Packers come together with all their new pieces, or will the Bears’ defense get the best of them?
Chiefs @ Jaguars
After missing the playoffs last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars aim to make it back this year. A win against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs would certainly place them in the playoff conversation early on. This offense should get back to its 2018 form because of a healthy Leonard Fournette. He’ll carry the load for this offense once again, but there are still question marks surrounding the passing game. Nick Foles is an upgrade at quarterback, but their doesn’t seem to be a number one receiver for this offense. If the offense can’t move the ball, they’ll have to rely on their defense, who didn’t get as much credit as they deserved last season.
Although the Jaguars have one of the best defensive units in the league, they’ll face a tough test against the electrifying offense of the Chiefs. With Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, they’re already hard enough to stop. Now they’ve added Shady McCoy to the mix, as if they weren’t hard enough to stop already.
Falcons @ Vikings
The Vikings didn’t get what they were hoping for from quarterback Kirk Cousins last season. Now it’s time for Cousins to step up and prove he was worth the investment. Their offensive line should be better, and running back Dalvin Cook is back and healthy. This adds dynamics they didn’t have a season ago.
For the Falcons, they’ll be looking to regain their form defensively after suffering many significant injuries on that side of the ball last season. In 2017, they were a top eight defense, but they fell all the way to 25th last season. With a healthy team, can they regain their form defensively. We’re not worried about the offense.
Titans @ Browns
This is probably one of, if not the most anticipated Browns opener in the history of their franchise. Baker Mayfield looks to have a strong second season. They added Odell Beckham Jr. to their group of receivers. Their backfield is absolutely loaded. This defense is led by one of the best pass rushers in the league in Myles Garrett. Is this finally the year the Browns make it back to the playoffs. That’s been the talk all offseason. Now let’s see if they can back it up against the third best defense in the NFL last season.
We know what the Titans can do on defense, but questions remain about their offense. Can Derrick Henry pick up where he left off? He started off slow last season, but was one of the best runners in the league the second half of the season. They’ll need him to start off fast for this offense to get going. Then there’s Marcus Mariota. Can he finally take the next step? If he can, can he stay healthy long enough to take that step? We’ll see how they look against a Brown defense that should be much improved from a season ago.
Bills @ Jets
With McCoy no longer part of their offense, the Bills will lean more heavily on second year quarterback Josh Allen. Last season, Allen completed just 52.8% of his passes, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in 12 games. If the Bills really are going to rely on Allen to carry this offense, they’re going to need much more from him than what they got a season ago.
The Jets also have a second year quarterback in Sam Darnold, who will also be relied upon to carry this team. Darnold was better than Allen last season, but not by much. He completed 57.7% of his passes. He did throw more touchdowns than interceptions, but not by much, throwing 17 touchdowns to his 15 picks. Look for the winner of this game to be the team who has the best second year quarterback. Will Allen or Darnold step up?
Ravens @ Dolphins
After trading away some of their best players recently, the Dolphins look to be in perfect tanking form. Maybe they know something we don’t. They do have Ryan FitzMagic as their quarterback, but if this Ravens defense is anything like it was a season ago, there’s a greater chance we’re going to see FitzTragic instead.
Lamar Jackson looked much improved in the preseason, but now it’s time to really put him to the test. After the Dolphins were second in the league in interceptions last season (21), we know their defense is no slouch. Will we see Jackson simply using his legs to make plays, or will he show us he’s made strides as a passer? This game will be a good first test for Jackson and his receivers.
Redskins @ Eagles
Case Keenum won the starting quarterback job over rookie Dwayne Haskins. How long can he keep it? He has a tough first test against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are looking to regain their title as the NFC East division champs. While how long Keenum can keep his starting job is the question for the Redskins, how long Carson Wentz can stay healthy for the Eagles is a question. We know Carson Wentz can play at a high level when he’s on the field, and we expect him to do so to start the season, but can he be there the entire year? We’ll keep an eye on him as the season goes on.
Although most people are picking the Eagles in this game, we can’t count out the Redskins. This team was leading the division before Alex Smith got hurt last season. With a solid quarterback once again, can the defense carry the load for this team? They look to be one of the best defensive units in the NFL this season.
Rams @ Panthers
After their offense was held in check by the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Rams want to come out and prove they can bounce back. With a healthy Todd Gurley back and a recently paid Jared Goff, expect nothing less than what we saw from the Rams during the regular season last year. This was the second best scoring team in the league last season, and we expect them to be right there once again.
The Rams’ 20th ranked defense from a season ago remains the biggest question, but they have a great chance to get off on the right foot against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Panthers can be good on offense, but it only seems to happen when Cam Newton is healthy. He’s coming back from an ankle injury during preseason. Will he be 100% come game time? We shall see.
Colts @ Chargers
Both teams are missing key players heading into this game. Andrew Luck recently retired, leaving the Colts a hole at the quarterback spot. However, the Colts are smart to have Jacoby Brissett as their backup. He’s an experienced guy who may be able to keep this offense afloat.
On the other hand, the Chargers are missing one of the better running backs in the league in Melvin Gordon. No progress has been made on a new deal, and Gordon will miss games until he gets what he wants.
Bengals @ Seahawks
Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green isn’t playing in the season opener. It’s unfortunate, because injuries seem to be a very common problem for the Bengals recently. Green is their best player, and without him, can Andy Dalton get this offense going? It’ll be tough to do against a Seattle defense who ranked 11th in the league last season. This defense also added two dynamic pass rushers this offseason in Ezekiel Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney. Can the Bengals hold up along the offensive line long enough to give Dalton time to throw? Oh, and then there’s Russell Wilson, who’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He got paid this offseason, and he’ll continue showing us why this year.
Giants @ Cowboys
Feed Zeke! The Dallas Cowboys open their season at home against their division rivals. To make it even better, Ezekiel Elliott will be on the field after signing a six-year, $90 million contract to make him the NFL’s highest paid running back. This will also give us our first real look at a Dak Prescott who’s on a mission to prove he’s among the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Don’t forget about this defense. Last season they were the NFL’s sixth best defense, but they want more this year.
For the Giants, the play of Eli Manning will be closely monitored. He’s got rookie quarterback Daniel Jones breathing down his neck for the starting job, so he needs to perform well. Can he do it after the Giants got rid of their best receiver in Odell Beckham Jr.? Manning has Saquon Barkley in the backfield, but his worst performance came against the Cowboys last season. Can Dallas shut him down once again?
49ers @ Buccaneers
Is this the year the 49ers make their way back to relevance? Jimmy Garoppolo is back and ready to play at a high level. Can this team finally put things together under Kyle Shanahan? We’ll see how it all comes together.
The 49ers take on a team also wanting to put things together. With Bruce Arians now in Tampa Bay, will this be the year Jameis Winston finally takes the next step and lives up to his draft status? How far this team goes will all be dependent on how Winston progresses under Arians.
Lions @ Cardinals
The debut of the number one overall pick, Kyler Murray, is upon us! We finally get to see how Murray will adjust to the NFL game. He looked good at times during the preseason, but he also had some struggles. Can he put it all together against the Lions, or will it take him more time to get things going?
It’ll also be a challenge for Murray going against veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. Although the Lions weren’t a great team last season, this will be their second year under Head Coach Matt Patricia. Will another offseason in his system change how this team performs?
Steelers @ Patriots (Sunday night)
The reigning Super Bowl champs take on a Steelers team who has been trying to get past them for several seasons now. However, this Steelers team looks a little different, as now they no longer have Antonio Brown. We finally get to see how things will look with JuJu Smith-Schuster as Big Ben’s number one target, but they’ll need more than him to step up for this passing game to be effective. Who will step up for this offense?
There’s not much to worry about for the Patriots. They no longer have Rob Gronkowski, but we all know the Patriots are the best at using the strengths of the players they do have.
Texans @ Saints (Monday night)
After starting off the season 0-3 last year, the Houston Texans ended up winning their division and finishing 11-5. This year they’ll look to have a much better start, but it’ll be tough against the New Orleans Saints, especially with the Saints at home. However, the Texans feel like they’ve made some moves that can take them to the next level. Their biggest problem last season was their offensive line, as Deshaun Watson was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. They’ve recently addressed that problem by trading for Laremy Tunsil. They hope he solidifies their offensive line. If they can fix that problem, they’re in good shape.
For the Saints, this season feels like a revenge tour of sorts. Not against the Texans, but against everyone standing in their way of a Super Bowl title. We all know they should have gone to the Super Bowl last season, but a blown no call stood in their way. This year they don’t care who it is, they plan on lighting them up. It will be a tough start against a Texans defense who ranked fourth in the NFL last season.
Broncos @ Raiders (Monday night)
We’ll finally get to see Antonio Brown take the field with the Oakland Raiders. What will he do to create attention for himself this time? We all know Brown has caused many distractions this offseason. How will that impact the Raiders on the field? I can’t help but think it’s going to cause problems. We’ll see how Brown reacts the first time Derek Carr doesn’t throw him the ball.
The Broncos don’t have an Antonio Brown level distraction, but they do have a new quarterback in Joe Flacco. Can Flacco take this offense to a new level this season? The defense of the Broncos was good last year, but their offense couldn’t do enough to help them out. With a defense that should be one of the best once again, can the offense give them enough help?