Let’s take a look at the first week of the NFL from different angles – match-ups, fantasy and my thoughts of the game. I am not really picking the winners – with the spread – because if I was any good at that I would have retired years ago. So please don’t place any bets on what I say. Just have fun with it.
CAROLINA PANTHERS AT DENVER BRONCOS
MATCH-UP – Last year’s Super Bowl opponents, a game won by Denver’s defense behind OLB Von Miller (2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) as neither offense stood out. Will it be more of the same in the opener? Will QB Cam Newton return to MVP form? Will now healthy WR Kelvin Benjamin team with TE Greg Olsen and WRs Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, Jr. to make a dent on the Bronco defense?
FANTASY – Watch TE Virgil Green, who has moved on to many experts Top 10 list.
I THINK – The big story is how will QB Trevor Siemian run the Denver offense. If he can connect with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos could be one of the best teams in the AFC once again.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT TENNESSEE TITANS
MATCH-UP – The rugged Vikes defense will battle the Titans, who look to pound the ball this season. The defending NFC North Champions They have a solid defense, which will have to carry them if their QB situation (Sam Bradford/Shaun Hill) doesn’t develop. The running game will have to perform to give second-year QB Marc Mariota a chance.
FANTASY – Watch Tajae Sharpe, the Titans’ top WR as a rookie. Might be on the waiver wire in your league. Also watch the time share RB program for Murray/Henry, the latter who could start for many teams.
I THINK – Will DeMarco Murray and Derek Henry make a dent in Minnesota’s defense. If not, the Titans could be in trouble with one of the weakest receiving corps in football.
CHICAGO BEARS AT HOUSTON TEXANS
MATCH-UP – Do you think JJ Watt will be fired up to hit someone after sitting out with back surgery? It will be interesting to see what QB Jay Cutler, RB Jeremy Langford and WR Alshon Jeffery can do against the Texans defense? Not much, probably. Houston newcomers QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller join WR DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best in football. Edge goes to Texans.
FANTASY – Plenty of things to watch here. Miller at RB, Osweiler at QB and former No. 1 draft pick Kevin White with the Bears.
I THINK – How quick Osweiler develops could be the key to Houston having a great season vs a good season. Josh Sitton or not, I think it’s going to be a long year for the Bears.
CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
MATCH-UP – RGIII debuts as a Brown against Eagles rookie Carson Wentz and that’s the story to look for. Key for Cleveland is to get something out of the RB-Tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and keep the ball away from Philly. But until Josh (Flash) Gordon is eligible, Cleveland doesn’t have a real threat for RBIII to throw. Ryan Mathews can have a good season if he can stay healthy because there is no real time-share in the backfield.
FANTASY – Two good fantasy players to watch are TEs Gary Barnidge of Cleveland and Zach Ertz of the Eagles. Others – RGIII, rookie WR Corey Coleman and converted WR Terrelle Pryor for Browns. Same with Philly’s WR Jordan Matthews if he is healthy enough to play.
I THINK – Neither of these teams will contend for anything this year, but in the screwy East Division, who knows. Eagles should win easily.
BUFFALO BILLS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS
MATCH-UP – Usually this a defensive battle, but Bills have suffered several injuries and Baltimore was not as good last year at in the past. But Neither offense is really exciting. RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins and QB Tyrod Taylor give the Bills a good starting point. Ravens have several RBs and WRs, but the talent is questionable.
FANTASY – Watch the Bills’ Big 3. See Joe Flacco’s and Steve Smith, Sr.’s comebacks from surgery. Figure out who does what in the Ravens’ backfield (Justin Forsett, Terrence West) and look for the development of Baltimore’s Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman. The Ravens have been raving about Mike Wallace.
I THINK – There could be more points scored in this game than usual because the defenses aren’t as good. But that doesn’t mean anyone will reach 24 points.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
MATCH-UP – Could be a game in the high 20’s – could be. Phil Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates are a good place to start. Danny Woodhead, you know what you have, and Melvin Gordon, you don’t, although he should be better. Alex Smith is a game manager, who sometimes can win a game by himself. Jeremy Maclin is what the doctor ordered at WR. Chiefs have plenty of RBs.
FANTASY – Chiefs backfield is what to watch for as Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles will split time until the latter looks healthy, but Ware will be the goal line guy. Watch Gordon’s development and Gates will catch a TD.
I THINK – Defense is the name of the game and only one team on the field has one, so I like the Chiefs.
OAKLAND RAIDERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
MATCH-UP – Points should be quickly showing up on the scoreboard with David Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Tim Crabtree and Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks all getting in on the action.
FANTASY – Want to see Carr’s continued development after a fine season last year. Also want to see Cooks become a big time WR. Plenty of fantasy talent here.
I THINK – Saints are hard to beat in the dome, but Oakland has a solid defense and offense and could make it interesting.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS
MATCH-UP – The better defense will win this game, but the game is at Atlanta. Might end up being a field goal game.
FANTASY – Julio Jones is the best fantasy player on the field by far. Hopefully he is healthy (ankle). Watch how much he helps Mohamed Sanu or vice versa. See how much Tevin Coleman cuts into Freeman’s time. Watch Winston’s progress.
I THINK – Doug Martin vs Devonta Freeman/Coleman could be the key to victory. Matt Ryan needs to get his act together this year. Jameis Winston is growing.
CINCINNATI BENGALS AT NEW YORK JETS
MATCH-UP – Hard one to call because each has offensive weapons (Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte) and solid defenses.
FANTASY – Watch how much NJY RB Bilal Powell takes away from Forte. Watch RB Giovani Bernard and WR Ty Boyd – is he really a threat for Cincy.
I THINK – Despite all the weapons, we’re looking at a score in low 20’s. I like Bengals defense better, but the Jets are at home.
MIAMI DOLPHINS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
MATCH–UP – Seattle at home will fillet the Dolphins. Russell Wilson, Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett vs Ryan Tannehill, Arian (Yes I’m still playing) Foster and Jarvis (I don’t score TDs) Landry – SERIOUSLY?
FANTASY – Watch the C-Mich/Rawls breakdown and see how much Lockett plays since Kearse moved ahead of him in the depth chart. Watch Foster and see if he gets into the second half until he gets hurt.
I THINK – Add the famous Seattle 12th-man into the picture and this should be a runaway.
NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS
MATCH-UP – Could be a heck of a football game. Rookie quarterback and running back and All-Pro WR in Dez Bryant for Dallas. Veteran Eli Manning, All-Pro WR in Odell Beckham, Jr. and interesting rookie WR. It was only exhibition season, but the Giants offense was pitiful.
FANTASY – Should be fun watching QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. NYG WR Sterling Shepard is being hailed as a top rookie. Will Victor Cruz finally be a threat again?
I THINK – Giants improved defense will get their first chance to show something. The Dallas rookies are for real and the game is in Dallas, so I’m taking the Cowboys.
DETROIT LIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
MATCH-UP – Lots of points could be scored here, since neither team has a defense. Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief have the ability to put points on the board.
FANTASY – Want to see if Luck bounces back from injury and a terrible season. Want to see how Jones affects Tate and Moncrief affects Hilton.
I THINK – The game is at Indy and the Colts have more weapons and the Lions and Bears will fight to stay out of last in the NFC North. I think Indy’s Adam Vinatieri might have some key field goals.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS
MATCH-UP – With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB and the game on the road, this will be one of the Pats’ losses without Tom Brady. RBs LeGarrette Blount and James White, WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski will have to carry the load. QB Carson Palmer struggled at the end of the year and Michael Floyd is the only healthy starter at WR. Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and John Brown (concussion) aren’t 100 percent.
FANTASY – Watch the health of the Arizona WRs and look for Chris Hogan to be a surprise fantasy contributor this year.
I THINK – David Johnson could be the best player on the field and he will key the Cards offense, despite all the weapons on the field.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS
MATCH-UP – Lots of firepower on both sides and should be high-scoring.
FANTASY – Second year in a row DeAngelo Williams will fill in for suspended RB Le’Veon Bell. See if WRs Marcus Wheaton and rookie Eli (I’m a sleeper) Rogers make up for Martavis Bryant and take some pressure off the best WR in football Antonio Brown. Watch for Redskins RB Rob Kelley behind the injury-prone Jones.
I THINK – It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s offense responds to the loss of Bryant who is suspended for the season. Is Kirk Cousins for real? Huge year for him contract-wise. TE Jordan Reed and WRs DeSean Jackson and a healthy Matt Jones gives Cousins weapons. The Steelers are the better team, but I think the Redskins will ride the Monday Night Football, Opening Night emotional wave and get the win.
LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
MATCH-UP – The Rams must beat the 49ers – I think SF is one of the worst teams in football – because LA won’t beat a lot of other teams. Probably a low-scoring game since the Rams have Todd Gurley and the 49ers have a backup QB who gets all the attention for kneeling during the National Anthem because he’s not worth much on it.
FANTASY – Gurley and Carlos Hyde, but with the 49ers trailing all the time how much work will he get.
I THINK – The kickers will play a big part in this game, a 13-10 thriller.
GREEN BAY PACKERS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
MATCH-UP – Saved the best for last. Both teams defenses are improved and the offenses have plenty of talent, but have struggled a bit in spring training or haven’t even played together. Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Eddy Lacy, T.Y. Yeldon/Chris Ivory, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
FANTASY – Watch how Jax uses Yeldon/Ivory. Watch Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery. One of them has to come through this year because the overrated Devante Adams won’t.
I THINK – I am very interested to how much sitting A-Rod down and not playing Nelson at all affects the offense. Watching all the young talent in the defensive backfield against Robinson and Hurns will be a real test. They are one of the best duos in all of football. Packers should win, but a Jaguars upset wouldn’t surprise me at all.