After weeks of dissecting offenses, defenses, and starting line-ups, the NFL season will begin Thursday night with a matchup between the Super Bowl Champions, New Orleans Saints, and Brett Favre’s Minnesota Vikings. The rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game leaves no love lost between the two teams. Brett Favre’s ankle was operated on as a result to injuries sustained during the title match. A war of words has since erupted between the Vikings and the Saints. The Vikings have claimed that the Saints played dirty and were going after Favre. As the saga is played out on the field, look for the Drew Breese to do what he does best. Everybody assumes that the Saints will have another solid year. The Vikings will be tested early. Can Favre’s ankle hold up? Peterson should be the star of this game for the Vikings. If the Saints struggle to stop the run game, the Vikings may spoil the Saints party.
Sunday’s 1:00 Games
Cincinnati at New England
Although many are predicting the Bengals to be Super Bowl bound this year, game one will be a challenge as they must play the Patriots in New England. This could be the battle of the diva receivers. Randy Moss has verbally stated his displeasure with New England. Terrell Owens and Ochocinco look to share the spotlight in Cincinnati. Ochocinco has already started to tweet a large number of Patriot players prior to Sunday’s game. Carson Palmer and Tom Brady should both perform without glitches. Can Cincinnati’s defense finally come through for them this year?
Indianapolis at HOUSTON
The Texans will rely on quarterback Matt Schaub to lead their offense. Running back, Steve Slaton is prone to fumble. Defensively, rookie Darryl Sharpton will have to step up his play in order to replace suspending LB Brian Cushing. As Peyton Manning looks to return the Colts to the Super Bowl, he will probably face more frustrations from the umpiring positioning rather than the Texans defense. Do not expect the Texans to be able to stop the passing genius of the Colts.
Carolina at NY Giants
The Giants took a nasty fall from grace last season. Do not assume that the Giants will walk all over the Panthers during this game. Eli Manning will look to prove that he can lead his team back to play-offs. However, I believe this game will be won on the ground.
Miami at Buffalo
Trent Edwards will be the starter for Buffalo. With a weak offensive line and a sub-par quarterback, Buffalo will struggle offensively. Last year, the Bills struggled to stop the run. Miami’s running backs, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, along with the wildcat offense, should be enough to secure Buffalo’s doom.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Dennis Dixon has been named the starter for the Steelers. The Steelers have many questions offensively with Roethlisberger suspended. Their defense will have to play strong to stop Atlanta’s Matt Ryan’s explosive attack. Atlanta seems to be the up and coming team. Will they be able to beat a tough Steeler defense on the road?
Detroit at Chicago
The Chicago Bears weak offensive line may cause problems for Jay Cutler. Remember Cutler’s early season meltdowns last year? If Cutler fails to have time to throw, interceptions are sure to follow. The Bears will rely on their defense and Julius Peppers to come out of this game ahead. Do not underestimate the Detroit Lions. They should have a solid offense this year that can produce a solid number of points on the board. However, the defense is not quite up to par. Ndamukong Suh will be a defensive key for the Lions. After the “dirty” tackle against Jake Delhomme during the preseason, many quarterbacks will not be looking forward to taking a hit from this rookie.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay
The Browns have been on a win streak since they defeated Pittsburg on a very cold December day. Shedding free from non-accurate quarterbacks, the Browns have seemed to have found a quarterback that will produce until Colt McCoy is ready to play. Jake Delhomme should have an easy time of passing against Tampa Bay, but with Delhomme interceptions will always be a problem. Josh Freeman will start at quarterback for Tampa Bay. Freeman and Delhomme both threw 18 interceptions last season. Both secondaries better be ready to catch some passes!
Denver at Jacksonville
Denver could struggle this year against non-division opponents. The AFC West could be the weakest division in the NFL this year. At times, Kyle Orton, can prove to be a solid quarterback. Yet, Denver is not consistent and lacks offensive power. Jacksonville will have to run the ball, Denver had the third best defense against the pass last year.
Oakland at Tennessee
Sports writers are not in agreement as to how good the Raiders will be this year. The absence of JaMarcus Russell will be a positive. Jason Cambell will start at quarterback for the Raiders over Kyle Boller. Tenessee must have a solid running game to beat the Raiders and Tennessee’s offensive line should provide plenty of running room. Vince Young should be able to relax and allow the Titans to win this game.
Green Bay at Philadelphia
Green Bay enters the season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Their offense is explosive. Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is near perfection. What will hinder the Packers from winning will be their defense, specifically their pass coverage. Kevin Kolb will be under center for the now McNabb-less Eagles. Consider this a rebuilding year for the Eagles. Receiver DeSean Jackson will be the first to test the strength of the Packer’s secondary.
San Francisco at Seattle
Pete Carroll’s Seahawks will face a difficult San Francisco team. The 49’ers should win their division this year. Mike Singletary is turning out to be an impressive coach. Alex Smith needs a solid game for the 49’ers to escape a Seattle upset. Main question for Seattle is if Matt Hasselback can stay healthy.
Arizona at St. Louis
Despite Derek Anderson being a liability for the Arizona offense, the Cardinals should manage to escape what would be an embarrassing opener against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams should be thankful that the NFL does not regulate teams as they do in European soccer leagues. For Sam Bradford’s sake, let’s hope that the St. Louis offensive line is able to give him some time. The Cardinals will suffer from key loses from last year’s phenomenal team. It will be interested to see how they can cope mentally if they fall behind.
Dallas at Washington
Donovan McNabb will start on Sunday despite his sprained ankle. His lack of mobility will not help the Redskins who will be outmatched by the Cowboys. The Cowboys usually start seasons strong. Tony Romo should be productive but the real Cowboy weapon against the Redskins will be the running game.
Baltimore at NY Jets
If the Ravens are aggressive defensively, they may be able to rattle sophomore quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Flacco should be more poised and dangerous this year. This game should be close and won or lost in the secondary. Baltimore may shock some Jet fans.
San Diego at Kansas City
Kansas City loves their football, but they may have to wait another year before they see any promising results. Kansas City should be strong offensively. Matt Cassel should have stronger play calling with Charlie Weiss now on staff. Kansas City’s main issue will be their defense. Last year, the Chiefs were 31st in opposition run yards. San Diego’s rookie running back Ryan Matthews will attempt to provide Phillip Rivers and the Chargers some non-passing offense. The Charger defense should stop the Chiefs from doing any damage.