The NFL season has now arrived, thank goodness! With an off-season that was chuck full of talk about deflategate and its impact on the landscape of players union relations with the NFL front office, as well as the potential to change CBA litigation forever, we are finally back to football.
Say what you will about Judge Berman's decision, something shady was going on in Foxboro, Massachusetts involving Tom Brady and the Patriots, but, like the rest of the country we have to accept the decision and move on. And trust me, while the NFL hates to lose to Brady, they love the fact he's back on the field.
With the Patriots blowout win on Thursday night against the Steelers the NFL season has now officially opened, and it feels really, really good. Now it is time to take a look at some of the other potential match-ups in Week 1 and pick some winners to open up another season.
Cleveland @ NY Jets (-2.5): The Jets open up the season at home for the sixth straight season, only this time they will look totally different. No more Rex Ryan. No more John Idzik. No more circus. No more Geno Smith ... errr ... at least for a couple months anyway, but you catch my drift. The Jets needed a facelift and they got it in the hires of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles.
Both men are Jersey guys; both men are also no-nonsene football men. This is exactly what New York needs. Problem is they don't have a quarterback yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start week 1, and they have inherited a lot of players from the previous administration.
The one positive for New York is their defense (at least the potential anyway). Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are back, adding veteran depth and physical toughness to a defense with a stout front 7. They could have a good day against Cleveland.
The Browns are stuck with Josh McCown at quarterback. McCown had some moments with Chicago a few years back, but like Fitzpatrick he's been everywhere, and is not a solution to the Browns problems. For the Browns to be successful they really need Johnny Manziel back under center. He's expected to be available Sunday, but I doubt he plays a lot. Like the Jets, the Browns can play some pretty decent defense. They were ranked eighth in the league in pass defense last year.
Expect a very ugly football game with New York making less mistakes than Cleveland in this turnover fest. JETS 21, BROWNS 17
Colts (-2.5) @ Bills: Speaking of Rex Ryan, he's baaaaacckkk. Ok, he didn't really go anywhere, but he is back in the head coaching saddle this time in Buffalo. Ryan has talked a lot of trash this off-season (what else is new from him), about how the Bills will be a playoff team in 2015. He added LeSean McCoy, which certainly will make the Bills running game explosive, but he can't find a quarterback. The Bills quarterback situation is such a question mark they are going with career third stringer Tyrod Taylor as its starter! The Bills still have E.J. Manuel who was once the Bills starter. Matt Cassel who was released for financial reasons, returns on a cap friendly deal as the back-up. I guarantee all three will start this year.
As for Colts, the question for them is can they make the big run to the Super Bowl after the additions of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore on the offense? Both players are very talented, but getting up there in age. However, with Andrew Luck running the show they should score a lot of points. Can the Colts stop anybody? That is another big question surrounding Indy. Then again, defense has never been the Colts strong suit, even when Peyton Manning used to run the show for the Colts.
This is a rough way for Rex Ryan to open up his coaching career in Buffalo. While the Bills will get some pressure on Luck, he will make too many plays that will push Indianapolis over the top. COLTS 30, BILLS 14
Ravens @ Broncos (-4): Who are the Denver Broncos this season? That is going to be the question of the season. The Broncos enter 2015 with a new head coach in Gary Kubiak, and Peyton Manning, age 39, now in a new offense run by Kubiak. Not only is Manning's adjustment in the new system going to be something to watch, but he's going to have to do it with a makeshift offensive line. Ryan Clady is injured, and the team just recently singed guard Evan Mathis from Philadelphia. Manning will also have a rookie center in Matt Paradis. In short, it could be rough at times for Denver.
The Ravens return mostly the same crew that went 10-6 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs last season. Joe Flacco will be with his 4th offensive coordinator after a couple very successful seasons under Kubiak (yes, the current Denver HC) as his most recent offensive coordinator. This will be an adjustment period for Flacco as well.
Expect Kubiak to give Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips some hints about Flacco's game that Denver's D can take advantage of late in this contest. Manning won't be at his best, but he's still going to throw for a number of touchdowns in this game. A very competitive game at that. BRONCOS 28, RAVENS 24.
Giants @ Cowboys (-5): The Dallas Cowboys have had to hear about Odell Beckham's catch for almost a year. Last November the Giants star receiver made the Cowboys look foolish with his insane back handed catch in the end zone last year. Ironically it was a game New York still lost, but, people forgot about that. The Cowboys will
try to remind them.
Dallas comes into this season without DeMarco Murray who now calls Philadelphia home. While this is a great subplot for when Dallas faces the Eagles in Week 2, the entire season will be about whether Dallas has replaced Murray's production. As good as that offensive line is, Darren McFadden is not Murray. Not to mention McFadden never stays healthy. Also, can this offensive line be at full strength for another entire season like it was last year? That is a good question too. I have no questions about Tony Romo, he will be fine.
Defensively though Dallas will miss Orlando Scandrick (out for the year with an ACL injury), and will miss Greg Hardy who will serve a 4-game suspension for violating the League's Personal Conduct Policy. Those two out of the lineup means Dallas could be vulnerable, and an explosive passing team like the Giants could take advantage.
That being said the Giants have questions as well. Big Blue will likely be without Victor Cruz on Sunday night, as the wide out has been bothered by a calf injury in camp. Cruz didn't practice on Thursday, the Giants final full scale prep day before Sunday's big game. That could mean Cruz might miss the game.
In addition, the Giants have many questions defensively, including but not limited to whether Jon Beason is ready to go. He's dealing with a knee injury and there is question about his availablity for Sunday. Plus, the team has a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnoluo. Well, not really new, but new to at least these Giants.
Spagnoluo was the Giants D-coordinator from 2007-2008 when Big Blue won it's first of two Super Bowls in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era. Spags' defenses live on pressuring the quarterback, but it will take some time for this group to grasp his system fully. Remember in 2007, the Giants got ripped up their first couple games when Spagnoluo was in his first season with that unit.
Oh, and did I mention Jason Pierre-Paul and his missing finger? Yeah, well, I don't think we'll be seeing Mr. JPP in a blue jersey anytime soon.
The only thing the Giants have going for them in this match-up is Eli Manning and Beckham Jr. It will be fun to see Manning throw to both Beckham and Victor Cruz all season. Expect a high scoring affair in Big D, but the Cowboys get the last laugh. COWBOYS 35, GIANTS 31.
Green Bay @ Chicago: Aaron Rodgers all day. Packers 34, Bears 24
Chiefs @ Texans: A Texas sized upset of a good Chiefs team. Texans 20, Chiefs 17
Dolphins @ Redskins: Washington on it's way to the number 1 pick. Dolphins 23, 'Skins 16
Seahawks @ Rams: Remember when the Rams stunned Seattle last year? So does Seattle. Seahawks 27, Rams 17
Panthers @ Jaguars: Do the Jaguars finally get over .500? Oh, hell I'll throw them a bone. Jaguars 26, Panthers 24.
Saints @ Cardinals: The Cardinals should win this game, but I don't really trust them. Saints 29, Cardinals 24.
Lions @ Chargers: The Lions lost a lot on defense, and Phillip Rivers will remind them. Chargers 37, Lions 24.
Bengals @ Raiders: The Raiders are up and coming, while Cincy must Win now! Raiders 24, Bengals 20
Titans @ Buccaneers: Battle of the rookie QBs = ugliest football game EVER (if that's possible). Buccaneers 16, Titans 15.
Eagles @ Falcons: Chip Kelly's put his trust in Sam Bradford, and if Bradford goes down, Mark Sanchez. Ouch. And people expect Philly to be a Super Bowl team? Really? Falcons 24, Eagles 21.
Vikings @ 49ers: The Jim Tomsula era begins in San Francisco with a shaky 49ers team. Adrian Peterson is back for the Vikes. Vikings 23, 49ers 20.