Football fans, listed below is everything you need to know to get ready for Week 1 of the NFL season. This will be a weekly post going up every Thursday with all the match-ups, narratives and games you should be keeping an eye on over the weekend. Below is your Week 1 Primer:
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots – Does the perfect season start/ end here?
For an excellent write up of how the Kansas City Chiefs can beat the New England Patriots – click here! The Patriots look even stronger than last season with explosive weapons on offense and a lock-down secondary that has two no.1 corners. New England are not invincible and the pass rush looks suspect outside of Trey Flower. Head Coach Bill Belichick and DC Matt Patricia will hope that the back-end can help out the front-end with Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler forcing QBs to hold the ball for longer (aka coverage sacks). Kansas City’s offensive line outside of RT Mitchell Schwartz is hardly impressive so it should be interesting to see how New England’s young pass rushers perform. A lot of ‘experts’ have the Patriots gunning for a perfect season in 2017, will the Chiefs ruin the party and cause an upset in Week 1?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Miami Dolphins – Rescheduled
The much anticipated showdown between two young, hot teams from Florida has been postponed. As Hurricane Irma wreaks havoc over much of the Northern Caribbean, NFL executives made the decision to pull the hotly anticipated showdown between the stars of this years Hard Knocks and the Jay Cutler-led Miami Dolphins.
While clearly outside of the teams control, the decision to re-play the game in November certainly raised some eyebrows as somewhat of a disadvantage for both teams. Both teams will not only start the season a week late, but will be forced to play 16 games back-to-back, unprecedented in the NFL. For most teams the Bye Week cannot come soon enough by mid-season as teams are decimated by fatigue, injuries. The mid-season Bye is a chance for players to heal, recover and for coaches to review and scheme ahead. The prospect of 16 back-to-back games plus the addition of playing in London this year could hurt Miami’s chances of returning to the play offs in 2017.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers – NFC Championship Game Preview?
The Defense of the 2010s facing off against the QB of the 2010s. It’s amazing that Aaron Rodgers at 33 years old has only been to 1 Super Bowl (7 seasons ago) despite being the best quarterback on the planet. A lot of the blame for that has to be placed at the door of Packers GM Ted Thompson for how he has constructed this team over the years – stop blaming long-time DC Dom Caper!
Russell Wilson needs danger money to take snaps behind Seattle’s O-Line so it should be interesting to see how the Packers defence performs against a poor Seahawks O-Line. This game could be a shoot out with potentially the NFL’s best offence going up against its best defence. What a treat for Week 1!
Also watch out for the two Bennett brothers who will be going head-to-head as TE Martellus could be charged with chipping and blocking DE, brother Michael
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys – NFC East Showdown
The Giants got the better of the Cowboys on both occasions last year and no team has won the NFC East back-to-back since the Eagles did it in 2003 and ’04. New York’s mantra on defense is stop the run and force teams to throw against their ball hawking secondary. This allows JPP and Vernon to pin their ears back and tee-off against quarterbacks.
For the first time in a few years, there appears to be a question mark on the Cowboys O-Line. The left guard position looks like a weakness and RT La’el Collins is being throw in at the deep end being tasked with going head-to-head with JPP. The Cowboys have said they will open up the playbook as Dak Prescott looks to further develop in his 2nd year. Fans should watch and see just how willing Prescott is to test CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and safety Landon Collins. This has all the makings of a brutal rivalry game as both teams will look to dominate in the trenches.
Match Ups to Watch
The Los Angeles Chargers have created plenty of buzz this off season (read my article about the emerging Chargers here!). While both teams have excellent cornerbacks, I am most excited to see Denver’s ‘No Fly Zone’ go up against tight ends Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates and wide receivers Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen.
The Washington Redskins look from the outside like a dysfunctional franchise. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles after two years have built a young, dynamic and emerging team around quarterback Carson Wentz on offense and a dominant front seven on defense. Philadelphia are well built in the trenches and it should be fun to watch the NFL’s best left tackle, Trent Williams, go up against Philly’s excellent pass rushers in Vinny Curry, rookie Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham if he lines up on the right side. It will also be worth monitoring how Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins performs after losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
If there were ‘hipster’ teams in the NFL, it would certainly be the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans heading into 2017. Both teams appear to be ‘trendy’ as fans are buying in on the deserved hype surrounding Derrick Carr and the interesting exotic smash-mouth offence that the Titans have constructed. Tennessee will try chew the clock and control the game through their excellent offensive line and ride running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. By pounding the ball and forcing Oakland to defend the run, this opens up play action, read option and should stop Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin from pinning their ears back and going after Mariota.
Much has been made of the curious personnel decisions madeby the New Orleans Saints this off season. Sean Payton’s pass happy system normally relies on quarterback Drew Brees putting up big numbers. The Saints running back room looked OK last season with Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower, but the Saints allowed Hightower to walk and instead replaced him with Adrian Peterson (2yr, $7m deal) and drafted Alvin Kamara. It’s difficult to see the Saints becoming a more run-orientated team given Brees and Payton’s history but an excellent testing ground for this offense will be against a Vikings defense which could legitimately be a top-5 unit.
Best Match Up of the Week
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey followed Hopkins in both games during his rookie season and wasn’t afraid to get chippy with the 4-year veteran. Both are young star players and it should be fun to watch a physical match-up as both players are extremely aggressive at the line of scrimmage.