NFL Week 1 Games to Watch

Week+1+kicked+off+on+Sept.+10%2C+with+the+Sunday+games+taking+place+Sept.+13.

Week 1 kicked off on Sept. 10, with the Sunday games taking place Sept. 13.

 

What better way to ensure that the National Football League (NFL) season opener doesn’t flop and become a punting contest? Pick a game that ended with 82 total points last year. On Thursday night, the defending champions Kansas City Chiefs took on the Houston Texans, led by versatile quarterback Deshaun Watson. Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the standout player, rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown to lead the Chiefs to victory. The Texans could not keep up offensively, and only in the fourth quarter did they manage to close the point differential. Arrowhead stadium in Kansas City is usually one of the loudest stadiums in all of football. However, with their quota at around 20% of maximum capacity, their home environment just wasn’t the same. With the pandemic going on indefinitely, it’s hard to see a home field advantage as significant as it has been in the past. 

 

Texans @ Chiefs was only one of the significant games that is happening in week 1. Here are some of the 3ten staff’s games to watch of the first weekend of football, and our predictions for each game.

 

Luke’s picks:

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams

Rams win 21-24

All images courtesy of USA Today

The Cowboys and Rams will kick off the first Sunday Night game of the 2020 NFL season in what could be one of the tightest games of week 1. The Dallas Cowboys boast an impressive offense held together by the likes of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, and wide receiver Amari Cooper. In addition to these three, Dallas gifted Prescott a new toy by drafting Oklahoma Wide receiver, CeeDee Lamb. Despite their promising offense and defense, Dallas was only able to end the season with 8 wins out of 16 games. This could partially be blamed on the absence of their primary defensive playmaker, Leighton Vander-Esch, in the back half of the season. 

The Los Angeles Rams, on the other hand, boast a fairly decent offensive core with quarterback Jared Goff, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Unfortunately, the primary offensive weapon for Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, was traded away in the offseason. However, the team was able to pick a promising rookie running back with Cam Akers in April’s draft. Additionally, the Rams added 3x Pro Bowler Cornerback Jalen Ramsey to their stellar defense in the middle of the 2019 season. Keeping all of these aspects into account for both teams, it can be assured that neither team will be blown out of the water in Sunday night’s game. However, taking into consideration the fact that Los Angeles will have home field advantage as well as a weakened Dallas secondary for Goff to operate against, the Rams will come out on top in week 1.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints 

Saints win 21-31

Drew Brees and Tom Brady, two first ballot Hall of Famers, each with their own set of offensive weapons, will face off for their season opener. The New Orleans Saints have consistently been one of the best teams in the league over the past few years with help from offensive stars such as running back Alvin Kamara, wide receiver Michael Thomas, and of course quarterback Drew Brees. These three alone have proven to be near unstoppable in the past three years and have shown no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, in the 2020 draft they only had 4 picks, which didn’t open up much room for improvement, although their first round pick, center Cesar Ruiz, will provide a boost in run blocking which will make Kamara even more of a threat. Defensively, the team stands where they were last year with the real threat being Marshon Lattimore and the defensive secondary. On top of this, with the addition of veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, their young secondary can only hope to improve in 2020, although they will have to compete against Tom Brady. 

He, being arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, will definitely have his work cut out for him in week 1. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were this year’s most talked about team in the offseason. Even before the addition of Tom Brady, the team was an offensive threat with two excellent wide receivers- Mike Evans and Chris Godwin- and on top of this they got tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement. A notable time period when Tom Brady had top tier receivers to throw to was during his time with Randy Moss on the Patriots, and during that season Brady threw for almost 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes. To make matters worse for opposing teams, Tampa put together enough money to sign Leonard Fournette, a star running back from Jacksonville. On the defensive side, one notable aspect is that 2019’s sack leader, Shaquille Barrett, is still very much a threat as an outside linebacker (OLB) and is teamed up with Jason-Pierre Paul, a good but older OLB. Tampa has a young secondary operating in the backfield but proved last year they could get the job done. Taking all of these points into account for Sunday’s game, as well as the fact that Tampa Bay will be playing an away game against a hungry New Orleans team, Tom Brady’s Bucs will not leave New Orleans week 1 with a win.

 

Adrien’s picks:

Green bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

Packers win 27-17

This division rivalry has been interesting for the past couple of years, since both teams have consistently made the playoffs. The Packers are coming off of a National Football Conference (NFC) Championship appearance, and their only achilles’ heel was the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, they won all six of their divisional matchups. Although many experts expect the Packers to decline this season, they are still led by future hall of fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his favorite wide receiver, the quick route-running specialist Davante Adams. Rodgers may not have many other offensive weapons, but the Vikings are unlikely to be able to compete with Adams unless they double cover him consistently, which will leave holes for the Packers’ veteran leader. On defense, the Packers boast a stellar defensive line with Za’darius Smith taking most of the sacks. 

Minnesota’s main transaction this offseason was the loss of Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. Therefore, wide receiver Adam Thielen will see an increased role in their run-heavy offense led by Dalvin Cook. Cook was elusive and efficient all season until his injury in the last two games. Being fully recovered, he is likely to resume that role and make the Packers defense panic. Minnesota’s defensive line will have to deal with the loss of Everson Griffen, who formed a deadly pair with pro-bowler Danielle Hunter. Meanwhile, their safety pair of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris is arguably the best in the league, so Aaron Rodgers will not be able to throw the ball deep. With only these facts in mind, the Vikings would probably have an advantage. However, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t show up in big games (unless it’s against the Saints). Therefore, the Packers will increase their divisional game win streak to seven in a row.

 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Chargers win 19-13

Getty Images

The Chargers and Bengals will kick off the season with a new player controlling the ball on offense. This matchup will be important in defining the future of both of these teams, neither of which is a favorite to make the playoffs. Joe Burrow of the Bengals is looking to continue on his record breaking path that he set in his fifth year of college, when he threw for a record 60 passing touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. The most likely rookie of the year candidate is paired with star running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who is coming off a breakout season. In addition, the Bengals team will see the return of seven time pro bowl wide receiver AJ Green. On defense, the Bengals are aging quickly, but their defensive line led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap should prove to be successful in at least one more season. Their addition of safety Vonn Bell from the Saints should also prove worthy.

Likewise, the Chargers are starting off with a new look offensively, after getting rid of quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon. Veteran Tyrod Taylor will take the snaps as rookie Justin Herbert will sit the beginning of the season to most likely become the franchise quarterback. On defense, the Chargers are led by opposing defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who were a deadly duo last year. Expect this game to have not too many turnovers but a lot of sacks and punts, with the Chargers prevailing.