With the first weekend of college football over, it is time to turn our eyes to the NFL. In Week 1, we are going to see a glimpse of what is to come for the upcoming season. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to what teams are planning to do this year, but those will surely be answered soon. In this weekly article, there will be a detailed analysis and prediction for every game. This new NFL segment, along with several other new improvements, are a part of an exciting time for this site, so you can look forward to tons more content this fall across the NFL, NBA, CFB, CBB, and Golf. Also, don’t forget that you can find me on twitter @hardwiredsports.
All times eastern.
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m.
Kicking off the 2016-2017 season, we have a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. Reigning MVP Cam Newton brings back Kelvin Benjamin, who will give him another weapon on offense, but they are still reasonably limited. On the other side of the ball, Denver still has their top-tier defense, but losing Peyton Manning to retirement is a killer. Trevor Siemian will be the starting quarterback on Thursday, and you can expect Demaryius Thomas to see a heavy dose of targets. Nonetheless, I think the Broncos offense does not have the firepower that it will need to win this game.
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m.
The Jaguars are the classic upset pick this weekend, but I don’t see it happening. Bortles and Robinson are a nice duo on offense, but they are nothing compared to the connection of Rodgers and Nelson. Coming off the ACL injury, I think Jordy will look fresh and poised for a spectacular season. The heat might pose problems for the Packers in Jacksonville, but the coaching staff should have everyone ready for it.
Buffalo Bills @ BALTIMORE RAVENS, 1:00 p.m.
The Bills’ defense was not the same as it has been in the past last year, but the introduction of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should help them out. The Bills have the very solid combination of Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins offensively, but Joe Flacco has three talented receivers (Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace) around him. There are plenty of questions around who is going to get the carries for the Ravens, but I think they’ll spend most of the second half trying to make a comeback through the air, and they might get it done.
Chicago Bears @ HOUSTON TEXANS, 1:00 p.m.
The Texans welcome new starting quarterback Brock Osweiler to their playoff roster from last season, and he will be a huge asset to their title hopes. Adding a consistent quarterback to throw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins is one thing, but giving Hopkins a partner-in-crime in Will Fuller could lead the Texans to having a great passing attack this season. As for the Bears, Kevin White will be seeing his first snaps at wide receiver alongside Alshon Jeffery. Jay Cutler is still under center, but he is facing a defense that is to be reckoned with, especially with J.J. Watt cleared to play. You can watch for the Texans to start off this campaign with a home victory.
Cleveland Browns @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, 1:00 p.m.
This might not be the most intriguing match-up for this weekend, but there will be a lot of people following the NFL debut of Eagles QB Carson Wentz and the hopeful resurgence of Robert Griffin III. This game also features rookie Corey Coleman, who will most likely take the WR1 spot for the Browns while Josh Gordon remains suspended. And while neither team is expected to be fighting for a Super Bowl this year, this could turn out to be a fun game to watch for several reasons.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m.
In Matt Ryan‘s first 5 years with the Falcons, the team finished a total of 56-24. However, in the last three years, the team success has dramatically decreased to just 18-30. Although they still tout both Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, there is not much else. As for Tampa Bay, last season’s Rookie of the Year Jameis Winston is looking to build on a 6-10 season in 2015-2016, and I think they get off to a solid start by knocking off Atlanta on the road.
Minnesota Vikings @ TENNESSEE TITANS, 1:00 p.m.
Neither Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford are on the same level as Teddy Bridgewater, but you cannot count the Vikings out this season. Just remember, this team is still very run-heavy and as long as Adrian Peterson is in that backfield, they are dangerous. The key for the Vikings in this one is to keep pounding the run and to control the time of possession. As for the Titans, they need to limit their turnovers. The finished last season ranked dead last in this category and hopefully Marcus Mariota can lead the Titans to a more careful year. I think that the Titans can take advantage of the Vikings before they get situated with a stable quarterback for the season and grab the victory here.
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ New York Jets, 1:00 p.m.
The Jets are certainly going to be an interesting team this season. People continue to think of the Jets as a weak team, but there are playmakers all over their roster. Darrelle Revis. Matt Forte. Brandon Marshall. Muhammad Wilkerson. Sheldon Richardson. These are all very talented players at their position and can make big impacts on any game. Now I am not saying that the Jets are going to be Super Bowl contenders, but they should not be slept on. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals are coming in with their Dalton-Green connection and a feisty defense looking for revenge after last season’s crushing playoff defeat. The Jets are talented, yes, but are they on the same level as the Bengals? I don’t think so.
OAKLAND RAIDERS @ New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m.
The Raiders are rising, the Raiders are rising! Are they? Sure, 7-9 is an improvement from some of their other seasons, but this is still a franchise that hasn’t finished over .500 since 2002. Yes, I think the Raiders are going to be better this season, but I don’t want people to get too far ahead of themselves here and label the Raiders a top team in the AFC. As for the Saints (another team that finished 7-9 last year, I might add), the great Drew Brees era seems to be coming to an end. They have had back-to-back years under .500 and the team around Brees is just not good enough.
San Diego Chargers @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, 1:00 p.m.
The Chargers were very disappointing last season (4-12), but you can expect a slight uptick from last season’s production this year. I know this sounds incredible, but I believe Melvin Gordon might actually score a touchdown this season (for real, I am still high on him). Still, the Chiefs are the much better team. Alex Smith continues to churn out above .500 seasons with Andy Reid‘s conservative play-calling, and I expect another one of those this year.
MIAMI DOLPHINS @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
The Dolphins are a pretty balanced team entering this season. They have an above-average defense and a solid amount of playmakers on the offensive side. Ryan Tannehill and Jarvis Landry have a great connection and the Jay Ajayi/Arian Foster RB duo could be potent. On the other side, the Seahawks kind of always start out slow, right? Marshawn Lynch may be gone, but Thomas Rawls is not the worst guy to have fill his place. Rawls should fit nicely alongside RW3 in the backfield and Doug Baldwin is still on the outside. Even with a loss in the opening week, people will still look at the Seahawks as one of the top teams in the NFC.
Detroit Lions @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 4:25 p.m.
The Lions are a greatly depleted team without Calvin Johnson at receiver. There are still some pieces on the edge, but both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are more interesting targets coming out of the backfield for Matthew Stafford. Andrew Luck is back for the Colts, but their offensive line is still weak. I think the Colts muscle out this win at home, but Luck will need to have a huge season for the Colts to move back into Super Bowl contention.
New York Giants @ DALLAS COWBOYS, 4:25 p.m.
Losing Tony Romo was not a great start to the season for the ‘Boys, but they still have some things to be excited about. Dez Bryant is a top receiver in the league, and Ezekiel Elliot is poised to have a tremendous rookie season behind their O-Line. The Giants will lean heavily on Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game again this season, as you can expect him to have another monster year. And even with the Giants’ advantage at the QB advantage, I like the Cowboys at home.
New England Patriots @ ARIZONA CARDINALS, 8:30 p.m.
The Patriots are without Tom Brady, and that it is a big deal, especially when going up against the fierce Cardinals defense. The Patriots will still hang in the game with Jimmy G at the helm, but the Cardinals combination of coverage and pass rush is pretty spectacular. Both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are getting up in years, but young guns John Brown and David Johnson are ready for big seasons.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ Washington Redskins, 7:10 p.m.
In our first Monday night game of the year, the Steelers will be without Le’Veon Bell due to a suspension. However, Antonio Brown will be there, and Josh Norman will have his hands full with him. Norman vs. Brown will definitely be the matchup of the night, but I think that Big Ben has the talent to find his star receiver when it matters most. This has the makings of a good game between two potential playoff teams in Week 1.
LOS ANGELES RAMS @ San Francisco 49ers, 10:20 p.m.
Ending the night is one of the least exciting match-ups of the weekend. The 49ers are a franchise that is very much struggling following their back-to-back-to-back NFL Conference Championship appearances from 2011-2013. On the other hand, the Rams recently made their move to Los Angeles, where their first home game will be on September 18th. And with the quarterback situations being so shaky on both sides of this match-up, this will come down to the defenses and the rushing attack. When taking those two into account, I got the Rams starting out 1-0.