Currently in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the Browns-Jets game. New York ity was amazing for someone who was never there before.
Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here, and once again, we’ve got 3 Primetime games coming up on Sunday and Monday. So keep your head(set) up, let’s get to the predictions and previews of New York Giants vs. Dallas, Atlanta vs. Philadelphia, and Minnesota vs. San Francisco.
Sunday Night Preview: Another QB Showdown With Eli and Romo
Disappointed with the results of the season opener? Fear not, as Sunday Night’s Giants-Cowboys game offers a much better matchup.
The 2 teams feature 2 of the best QB-WR duos in the land, with top QBs in Tony Romo and a revived (and newly extended) Eli Manning leading the way. Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham played at a very elite level last season in addition. This is sure to be one of the more anticipated primetime games of the year.
You see, since 2011, Eli and Romo have usually engaged in bitter quarterback duels, including some of the best performances of their respective careers. As expected, these duels often lead to bigger security in the NFC East stronghold, as well as strong fantasy matchups.
As the chart below explains, be prepared for a shootout between the 2 quarterbacks.
Both QBs have their interceptions inflated somewhat by single games (Eli in Week 1 of the 2013 season, and Romo in week 8 of the 2012 season), but they usually tend to rack up serious yards and touchdowns. The Cowboys defense isn’t anywhere close to being efficient, and a regress is expected to occur from the manageable core from 2014. The Giants aren’t behind at all, as they’ve lost key players on their defense to injury, including Jason Pierre-Paul. Yards galore.
The Cowboys offensive line was incredible last season, but will they be able to mask over the loss of DeMarco Murray? We shall see. The Giants don’t have as good of an OL or run game, and Victor Cruz won’t play on Sunday. That won’t help heal a lack of receiving depth outside ODB. Dallas faces a similar issue outside Dez Bryant, but the #1 WR is expected to do big things this season (as per usual). Depending on if Odell Beckham Jr. does NOT suffer from the Madden Curse, I expect a close game.
As always, many will watch to see when Tony Romo fades next in the spotlight, a ridiculous notion. For the last year and a half, I’ve been attacking the narrative claiming the Cowboys’ signal caller chokes when it matters most. In reality, he has the same amount of struggles as guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. It’s exaggerated to an extent that talking about Romo’s MVP-caliber performance last season goes under the radar. Any mistake, and everything great he’s done is irrelevant to the public eye.
This happens despite Romo having the most game winning drives since 2011 (18), throwing 10 TD and 0 INT on Sunday Night Football in 2014, being the first QB to lead at least 4 game winning drives in 4 consecutive seasons, and exceeding expectations as one of the game’s greatest undrafted players ever. He’s been the most important player on the Cowboys for a reason, and it includes his clutch success in the 2010s’. He’s made Dallas mirror the competitive nature of the 90s’ teams, in spite of his injury history.
As for Eli Manning, I scoff at claims that he has a long way to go to become a Hall of Fame player. One more Super Bowl run should do it, or an MVP-caliber season. The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since their 2011 Super Bowl run, but Eli’s 2 Super Bowl runs rank as 2 of the best, and he’s been among the top QBs from 2008-12, as well as last season. I say no right now, but he’s closer than people imagine. Having a healthy Odell Beckham should help matters.
The gameplan for both teams is to somehow shutdown the #1 receivers on both sides and make Eli/Romo find other targets to beat them. Dallas’ run game has a long way to go to earn some trust, and the Giants don’t exactly have a good one. I think the run blocking for Dallas will keep breathing room for the pass game, but consistency must occur for the backup receivers.
The game will be played in Arlington, so the Road Warriors of 2014 will have to wait. This should be a close matchup, and I have the Cowboys barely winning. Don’t expect to be shocked if New York wins though. This is a matchup that could go either way.
Monday Night Preview (Part 1): Sam Bradford Controls His Destiny At Last
It’s the Battle of the Birds on Monday Night, with the Atlanta Falcons taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles host an explosively talented squad, and the Falcons host a new coach in Dan Quinn and (presumably) a rejuvenated defense.
Matt Ryan has been under slander for not leading the Falcons to more than 10 wins in the last 2 seasons, as well as only winning one playoff game. Blasphemy. Without him, ATL wouldn’t be in consideration as NFC South Champions this season. True, Ryan committed a few ill-advised turnovers, but much of the blame should be placed on costly timeouts from former head coach Mike Smith, a poor offensive line, poor run game, poor receivers (outside Julio Jones of course), and a defense that ranked at the bottom. That totals to a 6-10 season and a complete screw over of the perception of a top-10 QB in Matty Ice.
Everything I said above about Atlanta describes my faith in them winning on Monday Night. The Eagles, on the other hand, have everything on their side. Sam Bradford, while underwhelming career-wise, hasn’t had the offensive line or receivers to excel with. This time around, he has been put in a perfect situation. The talented strong-armed QB is surprisingly accurate deep when actually given time, and under Chip Kelly he should prove successful. The receivers are very talented, including Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles, NOT RILEY COOPER, and Nelson Agholor. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews highlight the backfield in addition.
The defense is no pushover either, with Connor Barwin and Kiko Alfonso highlighting the other side of the ball. I don’t expect Matt Ryan to have a problem putting up points and yards, but I expect him to play from behind because of the situation. Dan Quinn’s defense should improve from last season, but the odds aren’t in his favor against a Chip Kelly offense.
This should be a considerable victory for the Eagles, who are in a few Super Bowl predictions. I’d hesitate on that idea for now, but they’re certainly a playoff team at the moment.
Monday Night Preview (Part 2): Jed York Lost With Class
What a turn of events. From a dominant contender to the bottom of the barrel, the 49ers controversially fired Jim Harbaugh, and everyone on the entire team soon left the Bay Area. This led to perhaps the worst offseason I’ve ever seen, and frankly it isn’t close.
Excellent work, Jed York.
New coach Jim Tomsula (formerly San Fran’s defensive line coach) is in the worst situation possible for a rookie HC, witnessing most of San Francisco’s key veterans leave, get arrested, or retire. Colin Kaepernick’s play rapidly declined in 2014, giving uncertainty to if he’ll remain the long-term starter. Combined, it’s a disaster on paper.
Which leads to Monday. The Vikings are coming to town, and they have Adrian Peterson returning, as well as talented backup Jerick McKinnon. Teddy Bridgewater played a very nice rookie season, but now must make the leap away from a short passing game. Mike Zimmer has done incredible work to a defense that was god awful in 2013, and they’re expected to improve this year, especially with excellent rookie Anthony Barr returning.
The matchup features a team with playoff potential (Minnesota) with a team that used to have it (San Francisco). Carlos Hyde is a very promising runningback, but behind that offensive line, he will struggle. On the other hand, the Vikings have one of the league’s worst offensive lines as well, and Matt Kalil is extremely close to bust material in a 2012 draft class full of them.
As a result, it won’t be the blowout many think will happen, but with Peterson back on the field, it should be a comfortable victory for the Vikings.