2021 Week One Preview
Cowboys @ Buccaneers
Ladies and gentleman, we have arrived. The NFL season is finally here and the football gods have blessed us with an incredible matchup to start off the season. The Super Bowl winning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, versus America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only should this game bring in a lot of viewers, but it should bring in a lot of scoring. Two of the best offenses in football going toe-to-toe. The big story line for the Cowboys is Dak Prescott's return to the field. This is the first time we get to see Prescott in live, game-action since his week five, season ending ankle injury in 2020. With all 22 starters returning for the Buccaneers, the big storyline has to be avoiding the Super Bowl hang over. This is the first time in history that a Super Bowl team has had all 22 starters return which is why I believe the hangover will be avoided. All the Bucs had to do was sign back all of their guys and drink some "Pedia-Lyte".There will be zero sign of Super Bowl hangover in this first matchup against the Cowboys. The Cowboys will be debuting the 2021 season without the help from their superstar guard, Zack Martin, who recently tested positive for COVID-19. This is a brutal hit to the Cowboys offensive line because of how good the Buccaneers defensive line is. I don't expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a major impact in this game. It will be hard for Dallas to sustain any type of run game with Vita Vea and Ndamokung Suh lining up head-to-head against a backup guard. That also means that Dallas wont be able to develop the play-action. Offensively Dallas' playbook will be limited and their defense won't be able to limit what the Bucs offense does. The biggest mismatch from the Buccaneers' offense vs the Cowboys' defense is: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown against Tre'Von Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown. Tom Brady should be able to dissect this defense and rip them to pieces. I like the Cowboys to cover the nine point spread. But it wouldn't hurt to tease this down to Buccaneers -6 and pick them to cover. I expect pure domination from the Buccaneers.
What to Watch For: Dak Prescott's return from injury
Player of the Game: Vita Vea DT Buccaneers
Final Score: Cowboys 23 Buccaneers 31
Seahawks @ Colts
This is a great game to start the morning slate. We get to see Russell Wilson in a new offense versus Carson Wentz on a new team. The biggest question mark for Seattle revolves around their new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron. Waldron, who came from the Rams, is going to bring a west-coast flavor to this team. With Pete Carroll's affection for the ground game, I'm curious to see how balanced this offense is. Will the Seahawks run the ball down hill with Chris Carson or will they continue what they did last year and throw the ball 1,000 times a game? While there are offensive questions for the Seahawks, they don't compare to the mystery behind the Colts quarterback. Will we be seeing the 2017 version of Carson Wentz who looked like the best quarterback in the NFL, playing under Frank Reich? Or will we be seeing 2020 Carson Wentz who got benched for Jalen Hurts? My guess is that it's closer to the 2017 version. Great coaches can make good players great. We know what Wentz is capable of in Reich's offense, but the Colts need to be careful with his foot. Just five weeks removed from surgery, if Wentz feels something wrong in his foot, he needs to be pulled immediately. Due to Wentz's injury questions, I'm leaning towards the Seahawks. The best head to head matchup in this game is Tyler Lockett vs Kenny Moore in the slot. That's the matchup to watch. DK Metcalf has the advantage over both Rock Ya-Sin and Xavier Rhodes on the outside, so I'm really keeping my eye on the inside. For the Colts offense, it's vital that Frank Reich gets Jonathan Taylor going early. The Colts need to own the time of possession and keep Russell Wilson on the sideline. This should be a close game that comes down to the wire, but I trust Wilson down the stretch more than Wentz. For that reason I like the Seahawks to win this game 27 to 24.
What to Watch For: Tyler Lockett vs Kenny Moore
Player of the Game: DK Metcalf WR Seahawks
Final Score: Seahawks 27 Colts 24
Jaguars @ Texans
While this may be one of the worst games on Week one's slate, it will be fun to watch Trevor Lawrence have his way against the Texans defense. Lawrence looked like his "Clemson-self" against the Cowboys in the preseason, and I expect his success to continue against the Texans. The Texans are arguably the worst team in the NFL and this game should be an absolute, WWE style smack-down. One detail to keep an eye out for is how these teams are coached. Two rookie coaches, Urban Meyer and David Culley, are coaching their first NFL games. Can the Texans prove me wrong and upset the Jaguars? Brandin Cooks and Tyrod Taylor would need to step up if that is going to happen. Defensively, Justin Reid is a player to watch. The Texans could use him in a similar way to how the Chiefs use Tyrann Mathieu. He can line up anywhere on the defense and he's capable of causing Trevor Lawrence some problems. Going back to the Jaguars' offense, it'll be interesting to see how James Robinson looks in year two. Will his rookie success continue or is he destined for a sophomore slump? While this game may not draw the most eyes, it will answer questions revolving around the future of these teams.
What to Watch For: How do David Culley and Urban Meyer Coach?
Player of the Game: Trevor Lawrence QB Jaguars
Final Score: Jaguars 20 Texans 13
Eagles @ Falcons
This battle between the birds has to be one of the most exciting matchups of week one. While it features two teams that were drafting in the top ten this year, this game is very important to watch. There are so many question marks for both teams: how will the quarterbacks look? how will these new coaches coach their teams? can either team get the run game going? how will these new revamped defenses play? I can go on. When it comes to the Eagles, I'm looking forward to seeing Jalen Hurts' connection with Devonta Smith. All offseason, we've been hearing that the Heisman trophy winner is, "too small" for the NFL. That he will struggle to adapt to the physicality of the pro's. I can't wait to see Smith prove people wrong and show that he can not only separate from defensive backs, but separate himself as far and away the Eagles number one receiver. I'm looking at two things for the Falcons both offensively and defensively. How does Arthur Smith run his offense and did the Falcons do enough this offseason to upgrade their defense? The Falcons offense is going to be fun, I expect Mike Davis to be running through open gaps and over defenders. He is a bowling ball, and I expect him to knock down a few pins not very sparingly. I'm also looking forward to seeing Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley lined up out wide. While the Eagles have a new, revamped secondary, it isn't going to be enough to hang with Pitts and Ridley. With that being said, I don't think the Falcons did enough to their defense to hang with Hurts, Smith, and Miles Sanders. The public eye has been forecasting a down year for Miles Sanders. He has fallen in fantasy football drafts and I'm excited for him to prove people wrong. I don't know if the Eagles offense will be able to keep up with the Arthur Smith's innovative run game and there isn't a defensive back who can match up against Kyle Pitts on the Eagles defense.
What to Watch For: The first round receiving threats, Kyle Pitts and Devonta Smith
Player of the Game: Mike Davis RB Falcons
Final Score: Eagles 30 Falcons 33
Chargers @ Football Team
This game could be a preview of two playoff teams. Both the Chargers and Football Team (WFT) have deep rosters filled with super stars. While all eyes will be on the Chargers offense going against the WFT's defense, don't sleep on the other side of the ball. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, Antonio Gibson going into year two, and Terry McLaurin looking to take his third year jump into superstardom; The WFT's offense is going to be electric. Defensively for the Chargers, expect discipline and an attack like mentality. Derwin James is returning this year after facing back-to-back season ending injuries, and I'm anticipating him playing like a menace. Staying in the Chargers secondary, keep an eye on Asante Samuel Jr. The rookie out of Florida State will most likely be going head to head against Dyami Brown, the rookie from North Carolina. I was high on both of these rookies coming out of the draft and they have both established themselves as starters from day one. Jumping to the other side of the ball, we get to see the 2020 offensive and defensive rookie of the year face off against one another. Justin Herbert is legitimately in the MVP race this year while Chase Young is a top three candidate for defensive player of the year. How will Herbert look in Joe Lombardi's offense? Herbert was extremely successful under Shane Steichen in 2020, but will his success continue under a new offensive coordinator? I am confident it will. As for the WFT's defense, how will William Jackson III look? He was overshadowed in Cincinnati, but I expect his play to come to light in Washington. This game can go either way, but I expect Terry McLaurin to step up in the fourth quarter and help the WFT pull off the upset.
What to Watch For: Asante Samuel Jr. vs Dyami Brown
Player of the Game: Terry McLaurin WR WFT
Final Score: Chargers 26 Football Team 27
Vikings @ Bengals
The battle of the Bayou boys, Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase vs Justin Jefferson. This should be a fun one. While I do expect to see a lot of players hitting the "griddy" in the end zone, this game is going to be sloppy. Both teams have faced some controversy (in very different manners) this offseason. For the Vikings, it revolves around their quarterback who is unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Critics, including myself, have questioned his leadership, but can he put all of the questions behind him and ball out in week one? He better against this Bengals defense. With the departure of William Jackson III and Trae Waynes on the side line, expect domination from Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Dalvin Cook is also poised for a stellar game in week one. The Bengals had the 29th ranked run defense in the NFL in 2020 and now they are going against last year's second leading rusher. That is a ginormous mismatch. The doubts surrounding the Bengals mostly has to do with their offense. Joe Burrow has looked hesitant coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, Ja'Marr Chase supposedly has a hard time "seeing the stripes" on the football, and this offensive line is at the bottom of the league. While I don't think the Vikings defense is great, especially with Anthony Barr sidelined, it should be able to find success against Cincinnati's offense. Even though I'm excited to see key members of the 2019 LSU offense face off against each other, this game is going to be sloppy. The Bengals defense won't be able to keep up with the Vikings offense. I have the Vikings taking this game in an ugly one.
What to Watch For: Joe Burrow's protection and confidence
Player of the Game: Justin Jefferson
Final Score: Vikings 24 Bengals 17
Steelers @ Bills
These two teams finished 2020 in the same manner, but in very different lights. The Steelers lost their last six games while the Bills won their final six games. The big similarity between the two is that they lost in the playoffs. Both teams are coming back this season with a vengeance, this game will be filled with grit, and the winning team will be the one who wants it more. In this game, we get to see a heavy weight fist-fight between the Bills offense and the Steelers defense. The Bills offense, led by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, added Emmanuel Sanders this offseason and has Zack Moss returning from an injury riddled rookie season. The Bills offensive line will need to establish their dominance against TJ Watt, Cameron Heyward, and the Steelers star-studded front seven. The Steelers secondary will need to find a way to contain Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receiving yards in 2020. On the other side of the football, I'm keeping an eye out for both team's first round picks. Najee Harris should be electric. Slippery like a bar of soap, I don't expect the Bills defense to get a grasp on him the entire game. My bold prediction for today is that Harris starts his career with over 150 yards from scrimmage. As for Gregory Rousseau, I'm expecting at least two sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have a completely different offensive line in 2021 than they had the previous year. As an offensive line unit, it takes time to build chemistry. They aren't used to communicating with each other and don't know each other's cues yet. I expect Rousseau and Ed Oliver to give this team nightmares and be the determining factor in this game. It should be a close one, but I'm giving it to Josh Allen and the Bills.
What to Watch For: Will Najee Harris be as dominant as he was in college?
Player of the Game: Gregory Rousseau DE Bills
Final Score: Steelers 27 Bills 31
Jets @ Panthers
It's funny how the NFL schedule works out. In Sam Darnold's first game as a member of the Panthers, he gets to play his former team, the New York Jets. While I've never been a big Sam Darnold guy, I think he's going to go berserker mode against his former team. Not only is this a Darnold revenge game, but it's a Robby Anderson revenge game. While both of these players will be playing with vengeance, I expect Christian McCaffrey to be the biggest star on the Panthers offense. Coming back from injury, McCaffrey will be playing with a fire in his soul. The Jets defense won't be able to stop Carolina's offense. Their corners are all guys who should be on the practice squad and they have to go toe-to-toe against DJ Moore all game. While I love Robert Saleh, his defense won't be a match for Joe Brady's passing attack. With that being said, I am excited to see Zach Wilson in Mike LaFleur's offense. This is the perfect scheme for Wilson to thrive in, but they'll have to put up a lot of points to keep up with the Panthers offense. I anticipate Darnold getting his revenge and whooping up on his old team in week one.
What to Watch For: Zach Wilson's first start
Player of the game: Christian McCaffrey RB Panthers
Final Score: Jets 16 Panthers 27
49ers @ Lions
No matter how many of the 49ers' knee caps are bitten off, I expect them to win this game. What's important is HOW they win. Is it with Trey Lance coming into the game every few plays? Or is it with Jimmy Garoppolo running this offense to perfection? Also look out for how the 49ers defensive coordinator, Demeco Ryans calls this game. This is his first time calling plays for San Francisco's defense, and I anticipate a little more pressure and five man rushes from the 49ers' defense. As for the Lions offense, keep an eye out for how the split up their carries. D'Andre Swift deserves the load, but Anthony Lynn (Lions offensive coordinator) will most likely end up divvying it between him and Jamaal Williams. For the Lions defense, I'm watching how Jeff Okudah looks in year two. He struggled in his rookie season, but I'm expecting him to turn it around. In week one he gets to face a fellow 2020 first round pick, Brandon Aiyuk. That match up should be fun to watch. The Lions are playing without Taylor Decker and have Penei Sewell playing in first NFL game. The 49ers defensive line should dominate and leave their imprint on the city of Detroit.
What to Watch For: Trey Lance Packages
Player of the Game: Nick Bosa DE 49ers
Final Score: 49ers 33 Lions 16
Cardinals @ Titans
This is one of the best offensive matchups of week one. Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derrick Henry, AJ Brown, and Julio Jones. While Murray is one hell of a runner, I anticipate most of his success coming through the air. Hopkins is facing off against rookie corner, Caleb Farley, who is playing his first NFL game. That just isn't fair. The Titans will have to double team Hopkins all game long, which will give AJ Green and Rondale Moore opportunities downfield. For the Cardinals defense, I expect them to struggle. Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, two young linebackers, will need to stop Derrick Henry, who ran for over 2,000 rushing yards in 2020. If they over commit to stopping the run, then AJ Brown and Julio Jones will be running open behind them. My favorite matchup in this game is Cardinals defensive end, Chandler Jones, against Titans offensive tackle, Taylor Lewan, who is returning from a torn ACL. This game should feature a lot of scoring, but I don't see the Cardinals secondary being able to contain Brown and Jones. "The Boys" are back!
What to Watch For: Chandler Jones vs Taylor Lewan
Player of the Game: AJ Brown WR Titans
Final Score: Cardinals 28 Titans 31
Broncos @ Giants
This is another game where both teams have a lot of questions. With that being said, the Giants might be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. Daniel Jones looked like a rookie in preseason and the Giants offensive line has struggled in camp. If the Giants win this game, I expect it to be in a low scoring fashion. They had one of the best defenses in 2020 and with Saquon Barkley returning, I anticipate them running the ball a lot. That means that the clock will be rolling. Danny Dimes scares me, especially now that he's facing Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, one of the best pass rush duos in the NFL. One matchup that I will be watching is the battle of the first round picks, Kadarius Toney and Patrick Surtain II. I was high on both players coming out of the draft, but I have a feeling Surtain is going to win this one. Also keep an eye out for how aggressive Teddy Bridgewater is. With Jerry Jeudy and Courtalnd Sutton lined up out wide, he will have opportunities to let it rip. Jeudy vs James Bradberry should be another great head-to-head matchup. I expect the Giants offense to underperform and the Broncos to get a big win in week one.
What to Watch For: Daniel Jones' progression in year three
Player of the Game: Von Miller OLB Broncos
Final Score: Broncos 24 Giants 13
Packers @ Saints
In years past, this would have been looked at as the premiere game of week one, but without Drew Brees under center, it is being overlooked. The Saints should still be a ton of fun this year as long as Jameis Winston is throwing the ball and Taysom Hill is running loose. Alvin Kamara baptized the Packers defense last year, and he should have another big game against an "iffy" Packers' front seven. Other than Kamara's success, I expect this game to be dominated by the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is returning after arguably his best NFL season. With Davante Adams lined up out wide and a rotation of Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers, the Saints secondary will be having fits all game long. Aaron Jones is also a guy who constantly gets forgotten about despite being one of the best running backs in the NFL. I expect Aaron Rodgers to pick up where he left off last year and do anything he desires to the Saints defense.
What to Watch For: Jameis Winston's decision making
Player of the Game: Aaron Rodgers QB Packers
Final Score: Packers 34 Saints 23
Dolphins @ Patriots
My favorite story of week one is the battle between Alabama quarterbacks. There used to be a pattern of Alabama quarterbacks coming into the NFL and being backups and roll players. Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones have crushed that narrative. This is just the start of what will be a great division rivalry for years to come. I'm curious to see how the Dolphins receiving core does against a well-respected, Patriots secondary. I'm also curious to see if the Patriots receiving core can can get open against the Dolphins secondary which I think is a top three secondary in the NFL. If the Patriots are going to win this game, it's going to be because of Damien Harris who showed flashes of greatness last year. The winner of this game will dominate the time of possession. While I expect Mac Jones to show promise in his debut, the Dolphins defense will just be too much for the rookie quarterback. This is going to be a great game to watch and I see the Dolphins coming out on top.
What to Watch For: Mac Jones vs Tua Tagovailoa
Player of the Game: Christian Wilkins DT Dolphins
Final Score: Dolphins 24 Patriots 23
Chiefs @ Browns
GAME OF THE WEEK! The Chiefs are facing off against the Browns in a rematch of the 2020 AFC divisional round. Both Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes are coming back this season with a chip on their shoulder and a little extra motivation. Mayfield nearly upset the Chiefs in the Playoffs last year and the Browns are legitimate Super Bowl contenders this year. However, in order to get to the Super Bowl, they will need to beat the Chiefs either in week one or come January. The last time we saw the Chiefs play, Patrick Mahomes was running for dear life in the Super Bowl against the Buccaneers. I'm excited to see the Chiefs new, revamped offensive line. The additions of Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney will play a major role in keeping number 15 healthy. Those hogs up front will need to protect Mahomes from Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney come Sunday. This is the game to watch, but I just can't pick against Mahomes. Andy Reid is a magician and dominates week one every year. While Kevin Stefanski is a phenomenal coach, I expect him to be out-coached by Reid on Sunday.
What to Watch For: Odell Beckham Jr.'s return
Player of the Game: Travis Kelce TE Chiefs
Final Score: Chiefs 37 Browns 31
Bears @ Rams
There is no shot that the Bears defeat the Rams with Andy Dalton at quarterback. If Justin Fields is in the game, that is another question, but I just can't see it with the Red Rifle tossing the rock. The Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and on Sunday Night, they have to block Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd. That spells disaster. This is Matthew Stafford's first game in a Rams uniform, and I can't wait to see how Sean McVay uses him. With that being said, he's facing a very tough defense. Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith are two all-pro caliber players; however, he's used to playing the Bears. He has played against them twice a year for his entire career and I expect him to pick this defense apart. Unless Justin Fields is behind center, I don't expect the Bears to have a shot in this game.
What to Watch For: The Bears package for Justin Fields
Player of the Game: Matthew Stafford QB Rams
Final Score: Bears 16 Rams 27
Ravens @ Raiders
This is a great game to start off Monday Night Football! We finally get to see Allegiant Stadium with a full crowd cheering on the Las Vegas Raiders. Prior to all of the Ravens injuries, I would have picked them to dominate this game, but now it's going to be a lot closer. Lamar Jackson is going to have to carry this offense. I expect the Ravens to sling the rock this game because their starting running back wasn't even on the team just four days ago. That means Sammy Watkins is going to have to have an other legendary week one performance. The Raiders offense is at full go, but is it enough to keep up with the Ravens? I'm not sure. The matchup to watch in this game is Bryan Edwards vs Marlon Humphrey. Edwards has received more hype than any other player this offseason. He will have to prove himself against one of the best corners in the NFL. Even though the Ravens are riddled by injuries, I still have them winning this game in a close one because of what Lamar Jackson can do with his legs.
What to Watch For: Bryan Edwards vs Marlon Humphrey
Player of the Game: Marlon Humphrey CB Ravens
Final Score: Ravens 24 Raiders 23