Hope springs eternal and excitement abounds in NFL cities as most teams are undefeated right now. That is the beauty of NFL Week One.
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s slate of NFL games.
Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks
In the wake of 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick, and a few other players, sitting during the national anthem to protest the supposed oppression of African Americans, Seattle Seahawks plan to lock arms during the song in a sign of solidarity, perhaps, to help bring the nation together. Not a bad idea, since race-baiting demagogues constantly try to divide the country. Most of you know who they are.
The Seahawks might try locking arms on their offensive line to help protect quarterback Russell Wilson. Their re-worked offensive line is a mess right now.
But even with potential protection issues, the Seahawks at home should beat the Dolphins, who are starting over once again with a new coaching staff. There will be growing pains for Miami early in the season with players learning yet another playbook.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Falcons QB Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan need to work better together, or they both could be looking for work in a year or two. Last year, their first together, they often weren’t on the same page. They need to take a page from Paul Ryan and the Democrats, who work exceedingly well together.
As for Tampa Bay’s quarterback Jameis Winston, will he suffer through the sophomore slump so common for second-year quarterbacks? We shall see.
This game is a toss-up.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
The Bills enter this game very healthy. The Ravens play without pass rusher par excellence, Elvis Dumervil.
The Ravens get franchise QB Joe Flacco back from a Week 11 knee injury that ended his 2015 season prematurely. It might take him some time to shake off the cobwebs.
The Buffalo News reported Bills coach Rex Ryan has been given an ultimatum by the owner — make the playoffs this year or look for another job. A win over his former employer, the Baltimore Ravens, where he served as a long-time assistant, would be a huge confidence-builder for his charges.
This game is too close to call.
Chicago Bears at Houston Texans
When Houston’s best player and team leader, defensive end J.J. Watt, underwent back surgery on July 21, it looked like he was going to miss some games at the beginning of the season. Guess what? He’s playing.
This should give the Texans a huge jolt, and help spearhead a Houston win, against a Bears team with myriad question marks, including on the offensive line.
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Make-or-break year for Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley.
After being given two years to rebuild, the Jaguars are loaded, and owner Shad Khan expects a winning season. Not an unfair request, since the Jags haven’t had a winning season since the self-made billionaire bought the team in 2012.
With a loaded roster, they seemed poised for a big season in 2016.
But having QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to town for their opener presents a huge challenge.
This game could go either way.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers, who’ve endured major injury problems the last couple of seasons, enter this game very healthy.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, enter the season a little shorthanded, without perhaps their top two players – outside linebacker Justin Houston and running back Jamaal Charles, both still rehabbing knee injuries.
Don’t be shocked if the visiting Chargers leave with a victory.
Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints
It’s a quarterback-driven league. In this contest, a future Hall-of-Famer, the Saints’ Drew Brees (lethal at home), competes against the Raiders’ Derek Carr, still a work-in-progress.
Led by Brees, the Saints should win their home opener.
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
Most NFL fans hate the Pro Bowl, and the Bengals faithful might be at the top of the list.
The team’s star tight end Tyler Eifert hurt his ankle in the last Pro Bowl, still isn’t 100 percent, and will miss this game.
The Bengals also lost their #2 and #3 receivers from last year in free agency, Marvin Jones (Detroit) and Mo Sanu (Atlanta), and Andy Dalton is still getting comfortable with his replacements.
With so much uncertainty in the Cincinnati passing game entering this game, the Jets should be able to get-by the visiting Bengals.
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
If you are going to start a rookie quarterback, it’s important for him to get as many reps as possible in training camp and the preseason.
The Eagles start rookie Carson Wentz, who missed most of the summer with a hairline rib fracture. It’s almost impossible to know what to expect from a guy hardly on the field this summer.
The Browns are rebuilding, again, and have 17 rookies on their 53-man roster.
Good luck trying to figure out how this game turns out.
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
After losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a season-ending knee injury, the Vikings traded a first-round pick to Philadelphia for QB Sam Bradford.
But Bradford won’t start this game. The Vikings will go with veteran backup Shaun Hill.
On the road, it’s hard to communicate on offense due to crowd noise. And throw in the Titans’ blitz-crazy defense under coordinator Dick LeBeau, and it’s better for Hill to start this game, and prepare Bradford for the Vikings home-opener in Week Two.
With the cerebral Hill managing the game, complimented by RB Adrian Peterson and a stout defense, the visiting and more talented Vikings should win this game.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
With Tony Romo out with a back injury, Dallas starts rookie Dak Prescott at quarterback.
Prescott looked good in the preseason, but NFL teams play vanilla defenses in the exhibition season.
Let’s see what Prescott does against Rocky Road defenses. Expect the Giants to blitz him like crazy.
The Giants led by veteran franchise QB Eli Manning should prevail against a team led by a rookie in his first NFL start.
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts gave quarterback Andrew Luck a $140 million contract this offseason.
With that kind of an investment on a quarterback, coming off a lacerated kidney, you would think they would construct a better offensive line to protect him. The Colts line looked awful this summer, and one of the NFL’s best pass rushers, Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah, comes to town.
If the Colts line improves from the summer, the Colts should win this game. But if they continue to struggle, the visitors could pull the upset.
New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
The Patriots compete without their two best players – QB Tom Brady (suspended) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring injury). Also, their offensive line is banged-up. And their best pass rusher from the last couple of years, Chandler Jones, is now a member of the Cardinals.
Expect Arizona to win their home opener.