It’s football season! Week 1 is finally at our doorstep and that means we have a full slate of NFL games to watch that actually mean something. We’re finally going to see Marshawn Lynch take the field in silver and black and witness Adrian Peterson go head-to-head with his former squad. This week also features multiple divisional rivalry games that are guaranteed to go a long way towards quenching your football watching thirst.
Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a brief preview of the action ahead, as well as my own prediction for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots - 8:30 pm ET on NBC
The 2017 NFL season kicks off with a bang, as two of the top contenders for the AFC crown face off in one of the league’s most infamous stadiums. Roger Goodell himself will be in attendance for opening night, showing his face in Foxborough for just the second time since the Patriot’s win over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014-2015 AFC Championship game now better known as “Deflategate.” This game will give us our first look at New England’s revamped offense, a unit I believe will help them get a win to start the season.
Score prediction: New England 30 - 23 Kansas City
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
As I stated above, there are plenty of divisional games to go around to open the season, but this might just be the weakest of the bunch. The Jets have practically thrown in the towel on the season, as evidenced by their trading of Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week, while the Bills are attempting a mini-rebuild of their own after hiring new head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills, however, have a far more talented roster at almost every position. I don’t expect this one to be close.
Score prediction: Buffalo 24 - 10 New York
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
If you like defense, then this is the game for you. Houston boasted one of the league’s top units last season, while this season’s iteration of Jacksonville’s defense looks to be one of the best, at least on paper. Blake Bortles and Tom Savage are not exactly top tier quarterbacks, and players like J.J. Watt and Calais Campbell will look to have a field day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least seven total sacks and five total turnovers in this game.
Score prediction: Houston 17 - 13 Jacksonville
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
The Browns may have gone 4-0 in the preseason, but don’t expect that winning streak to continue into the regular season. The Steelers offense is absolutely loaded, especially with the return of one of the league’s most dangerous running backs in Le’Veon Bell. With Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, and Martavis Bryant all on the same field, Cleveland’s defense might as well not even show up for this contest.
Score prediction: Pittsburgh 31 - 14 Cleveland
Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
This is one of the tougher games of the week to call. The Cardinals travel to Detroit in what appears to be the beginning of a year that could be the last NFL campaign for some of their roster staples. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are now at the stage in their career where each season could be their last, and the team is hoping to capitalize on a rapidly closing Super Bowl window. The Lions will trot out an offense that features the NFL’s highest paid player, a quarterback named Matthew Stafford who will look to prove that he deserves the richest contract in the history of the gridiron.
Score prediction: Arizona 23 - 21 Detroit
Note: The Dolphins-Buccaneers has been canceled due to the impending effects of Hurricane Irma.
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
The Falcons will travel to the Windy City hoping to show no signs of the dreaded “Super Bowl hangover,” and won’t face a very imposing squad in the 2017 Bears. While the Bears have playmakers on defense, Chicago’s offensive unit simply doesn’t have the firepower to match Atlanta’s multifaceted offense. Mike Glennon and company pale in comparison to an offense loaded with superstars like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman.
Score prediction: Atlanta 28 - 17 Chicago
Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
This matchup features two of the league’s most talented young passers, both of whom are returning from serious leg injuries suffered last season. With both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota presumably fully healthy, it will be exciting to see what these two offenses have in store. With talent oozing on both sides, this could end up being one of the most exciting games of the week.
Score prediction: Oakland 27 - 24 Tennessee
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
No matter the winner, the course of this game is heavily contingent on Joe Flacco’s recovery from an offseason back injury. Should the veteran passer be fully recovered, the Ravens stand a far better chance of managing a win over their division rivals. One of the under the radar storylines in this game will be centered around Cincinnati’s backfield. How much of the ground game will be run by committee, and will rookie Joe Mixon get the lion’s share of the carries?
Score prediction: Baltimore 23 - 20 Cincinnati
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
In one of two NFC East divisional matchups to take place on Sunday, the Eagles will travel to Washington to unveil a revamped offense featuring newcomers such as Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and LeGarrette Blount. The Redskins overhauled their offense as well this offseason, waving goodbye to the likes of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and former offensive coordinator and current Rams head coach Sean McVay. The team then welcomed ultra-athletic quarterback-turned-wide receiver, Terrelle Pryor. Gauging how quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins mesh with their new weapons will be the highlight of this contest.
Score prediction: Philadelphia 24 - 21 Washington
Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Rams - 4:05 pm ET on CBS
It’s now been confirmed that we’re not going to see Andrew Luck suit up for this game, so it will be up to Scott Tolzien to carry the Colts offense. Fortunately for Tolzien, Aaron Donald’s status for this game is up in the air, as the imposing defensive tackle is holding out for a contract extension, a holdout that may very well extend into the regular season. In my opinion, however, Luck’s absence will mean more to this game than Donald’s despite the All-Pro defender’s ability to impact games, meaning the Rams have a slight edge.
Score prediction: Los Angeles 20 - 14 Indianapolis
Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers - 4:25 pm ET on FOX
The Panthers felt the full force of the infamous “Super Bowl hangover” last season, but this newly humbled team has different mindset entering the 2017 season than they did one year ago. Should Cam Newton be fully recovered from last year’s shoulder injury, the Panther’s offense, filled to the brim with playmakers, will make waves this season. The 49ers lowly defense may just be the first to fall victim to SuperCam and Co. All that’s left for us viewers to do is to wait and see what Newton’s new trend setting celebration will be.
Score prediction: Carolina 27 - 13 San Francisco
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers - 4:25 pm ET on FOX
My personal favorite game of the week features two of the league’s most exciting passers going head-to-head in what could be a preview of this year’s NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers is nothing short of a magician when he steps on the field, but Russell Wilson is one of the few quarterbacks who can match his pressure escaping prowess, something he’s often been forced to do while playing behind a below-average offensive line for much of his career. While I think this contest will go down to the wire, I believe Rodgers will use the asset that is home-field advantage at Lambeau to seal a victory in their season opener.
Score prediction: Green Bay 31 - 28 Seattle
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys - 8:30 pm ET on NBC
While we’re all waiting to find out one of this game’s - and this season’s - most important storylines (Ezekiel Elliot’s pending suspension), let’s take a moment to appreciate the most important part of this game: the return of Carrie Underwood’s “Sunday Night Football” theme song. It’s one of the parts of the NFL season that is most difficult to live without during the summer months. No? Maybe that’s just me...
But seriously, even though Zeke has been cleared to play in Week 1, the Cowboys offense may have great difficulty moving the ball against New York’s stifling defense. Dak Prescott will have to play lights out to secure a win even with his second-year companion in the backfield. I just don’t see that happening with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon bearing down on him.
Score prediction: New York 27 - 24 Dallas
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings - 7:10 pm ET on ESPN
There is really only one storyline that everyone will be monitoring for this contest, and that’s Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota. Running the ball against that Viking’s front seven is a tough task, and doing so while sharing carries with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara will make it tough for All Day to accumulate any gaudy stats. A Saints win is what will really give Peterson the revenge he desires, but that’s a tall order when one’s defense is as bad as Sean Peyton’s.
Score prediction: Minnesota 24 - 23 New Orleans
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos - 10:20 pm ET on ESPN
The weekend comes to a close with an AFC West divisional matchup that will see the Broncos attempt to reestablish their status as an AFC powerhouse while the Chargers try to win their first regular season game under a name that doesn’t include “San Diego.” Will Trevor Siemian be able to cement his role as the Broncos’ starting quarterback? Well, he’ll at least have a few weeks to do it, as Paxton Lynch is nursing a shoulder injury and it doesn’t seem likely that Head Coach Vance Joseph starts Brock Osweiler anytime soon. That’s right, for those of you who somehow missed it, Osweiler is a Bronco... again.
Score prediction: Los Angeles 23 - 21 Denver