Week One of the National Football League’s 2016 campaign began with a hush and a bang. As the Carolina Panthers missed a second attempt at a 50-yard field goal (after nailing the first) and time expired in Denver, the Broncos found themselves with a 1-point win and a narrow escape. Repeating what they managed in February by upsetting the fan-favorite Panthers, the Broncos start the season 1-0 as the Panthers have already lost their chance of going on an undefeated run again.
Now, let’s look at some potentially big matchups for the week and for this coming year in pro football. Thinks are already different from last year and it is quite literally anyone’s game right now.
Raiders v Saints– Now, this might not be the first two teams that come to mind when you think of a “big” matchup, however this first game could determine how the season is going to go for both teams. Will the up and coming Raiders win the shooting match against the experienced Drew Brees and co? Last year the Raiders barely missed the .500 cutoff, however they made their point that the tide could finally be shifting in Oakland’s favor. The Saints also went 7-9 but it was an entirely different, disappointing story for them.
Vikings v Titans– Here’s another surprising matchup waiting to happen. The Titans are a sneakily good team, or at least they have the potential to be if they can get over the hump and post a .500 season or better. They now have DeMarco Murray AND Derrick Henry. Plus Marcus Mariota. The Vikings just lost their star quarterback and picked up the unimpressive Sam Bradford. It could be anybody’s game at this point. The Vikings clinched their division and went 11-5 last year, riding the Adrian Peterson freight train to victory after victory and only losing to the everlasting luck of the Seahawks thanks to a shanked kick. The Titan went 3-13 respectively after an impressive Week One in 2015 where Mariota rushed for an unseemly amount of yardage and passed for equal an equally impressive amount.
Patriots v Cardinals– Tom Brady isn’t playing thanks to his suspension deal that’s finally panning out this season. The Cardinals returned more players than most teams and have one of the deepest talent pools in the NFL currently. The Patriots are innately good, but are they THAT good? Both teams saw varying success meet with disappointment in last year’s playoff campaigns but are looking for a fresh start this season. The Patriots went 12-4 behind the likes of the Broncos and Bengals in the AFC and the Cardinals went 13-3 with the second best record in the NFL and in a conference where they’re forced to square up with Seattle twice a year. Those records were both impressive, but only one can win this game.
So those are my top three games to watch for the week, but here are a few others to be on the lookout for and their respective reasons:
- Chargers v Chiefs- Could the Chargers post a winning season after the slew of misfortunes that accosted them last year? Will the Chiefs prove that they are for real…again?
- Browns v Eagles- Will Cleveland’s fortunes change alongside RG3’s? Are the Eagles in better hands? Only time will tell.
- Bills v Ravens- With Flacco back at the helm, can Baltimore keep from capsizing for a second year in a row? Will the Bills prove to be even more of a potent force this year and replicate last year’s Week One victory over the Patriots?
- Lions v Colts- Can the Lions take advantage of the Colts’ virtually nonexistent offensive line and manage to injure Andrew Luck for his second straight season, thus all but ensuring the Colts sink into mediocrity for a second season?
- Steelers v Redskins- Just how good is this Steeler’s team? They lucked out against the Bengals in the playoffs last year but then they also held their own with the likes of the Patriots and other squads throughout the season. Is this game going to be a shooting match between Kirk Cousins and Big Ben or will it be a one-sided contest?
And that’s that. The first game has already drawn the line in the sand but now we have to wait a couple of days to see how the rest of the pieces are going to fall. It’s just another week in pro football, but don’t even get me started on college… I’m looking at you SEC.