What does NFL Week 1 have in store for you?
Thursday night was a good appetizer, but Sunday is the main course. We have tons of great plates making their way to the table (a few forgettable matches too, like Jacksonville to Houston (??), and personally I couldn’t be more excited.
The best match on tap however is Cleveland to Kansas City (👍🏽) – a divisional round rematch from last season. Kansas City won the game, but Cleveland was clearly the toughest of their AFC playoff run. After Patrick Mahomes has fallen in the third quarter, the Browns made a great comeback effort that ultimately failed.
Both teams have improved this offseason. Cleveland again has a healthy OBJ as well as new weapons on the defensive side (Jadeveon Clowney and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah), while Kansas City has dramatically improved their offensive line via signings (Joe Thuney among others), trades (Orlando Brown ), and drafted players (Creed Humphrey). While Cleveland may have a better roster all around, the Chiefs are so explosive in so many positions it’s hard to imagine the Browns pulling this one out. The Browns haven’t won a Week 1 game since 2004, and have yet to win a Week 1 road game since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999.
It’ll be a great preliminary test for two of this year’s legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and what’s even crazier is that this Week 1 game could have an effect on the end-of-season standings as Cleveland and Kansas City will be competing for this. seed and goodbye to the playoffs.
There are also more than a few old faces in new places. In Week 1, none are more intriguing than Sam Darnold, as in his first game with Carolina he faces the team that drafted him, while the Panthers host New York Jets (??). Darnold never reached his full potential as a member of the Jets. He received a new slate, good weapons and the best head coach he has ever had. This Week 1 game is not only a chance for Darnold to make the Jets think twice about their decision to give him up, but it will also set the tone for what to expect from the Panthers with Darnold under the center.
Darnold currently has two years on his contract. It’s been two years to impress Scott Fitterer, and he can’t start soon enough. Of course, if Darnold isn’t doing very well, there’s always the Panthers offensive line to blame, but given what Darnold has had in the past, there’s little to no reason we shouldn’t see a Darnold’s major leap. The pressure is on him to succeed and prove that he is worthy of a starting position in the NFL. A Week 1 win over his promising young replacement would be a big boost to confidence and a table setter for the remainder of the season.
There are also new faces in new places. In particular the five rookie quarters drafted in the first round. Three of them have already secured the starting spots for their teams, and we can expect to see the third overall pick, Trey Lance from San Francisco, see the pitch to some extent as Kyle Shanahan most likely has some wacky plays up his sleeve aimed at his athletic young quarterback. The only one we won’t see is Justin Champs, and that’s a shame. While I have nothing against the Bears, I really hope Chicago loses this game by a wide margin and Matt Nagy realizes how immediate the move to Justin Fields has to be.
Trevor Laurent has never lost a regular season game in college, so unless the Jaguars go 17-0 this season, Lawrence’s streak will end. Luckily for the Clemson product, he gets the Houston Texans in Week 1 – arguably the weakest NFL team before the season. Of course, they still have Laremy Tunsil and… Brandin Cooks? I guess, but it’s a perfect game for Lawrence. He won’t get a serious test right off the bat, but that should give him a better sense of how fast the game is at the NFL level without immediately throwing him into the fire.
Plus, it will be interesting to see what type of system Urban Meyer plans to use. In recent years, coaches who move straight from college to the NFL tend to fight powerfully. The only ones that come to mind that have been very successful are Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. Bill O’Brien also had some success, but let’s face it, he was not on the same level as the other two. Matt Rhule has shown a lot of promise in a season as Carolina head coach, but it’s still too early to tell. Urban Meyer is now the last former college coach to try his luck in the NFL and is arguably the most accomplished at the college level of all of those I just mentioned.
When Meyer drafted Travis Etienne in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it appeared Meyer was planning to lean on Trevor Lawrence to carry the offense. With Etienne absent for the season, maybe Meyer had to adjust his plan slightly. Like I said, that first game against Houston shouldn’t be a big challenge. However, I hope it’s close, because if this game comes down to the wire, we’ll have a clue as to whether or not Meyer will lean on Lawrence or his half-back Robinson when the going gets tough.
And finally, here’s a story that I don’t think enough people are watching. In week 1, the Arizona Cardinals to travel to Nashville (??) to take on the Tennessee Titans. Both teams boast an incredible skill-position the players in attack. You have Kyler Murray, Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Browns, Julio Jones, and AJ Green all dressed up. We know the dynamic play that Kliff Kingsbury will bring to the table. However, despite the addition of Julio Jones, Tennessee’s offense could look a bit lackluster in their first game of the season.
Former offensive coordinator of the Titans, Arthur smith, packed his bags and traveled to Atlanta to become the Falcons’ new head coach. In his place awaits Todd Downing. While Tear down made it clear that he plans to continue using Derrick Henry as much as possible, any small change in blocking patterns or use of playing action could make a noticeable difference in Tennessee’s offensive effectiveness. With this game against Arizona sure to be one of the closest games of Week 1, a slight drop in attack could end up costing the Titans this game.