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The season is here. Let’s rejoice and get into thought process mode on these Week 1 morsels, the Top 12 matchups being offered up.


Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: Do Steelers receivers Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton have game-breaker in them here? Without suspended playmakers Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, it’s going to be easier to account for those two than it would’ve been, which means a Dri Archer or Darrius Heyward-Bey is going to have to emerge.

Tom Brady didn’t look great in August’s games and didn’t enjoy a normal preseason, but he’ll have Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman to make him look good. They’ve gotten plenty of work in during practices, so even if the Patriots look flat, “Deflategate” drama can’t be used as an excuse. At least not accurately.


Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: With Jordy Nelson out for the year, expect Randall Cobb to make good on his vow to play through shoulder trouble, but he isn’t likely to be 100 percent. The Packers offensive line has also had health issues over the past month, so there’s a chance they’ll be vulnerable.

The Bears have beaten their arch rival in only three of the last 15 games since 2008 and haven’t won in Soldier Field in five seasons, but they’ve never had John Fox at the helm. Whether that changes anything remains to be seen, but it’s probably not great that Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay hung 43 on the only occasion in Fox’s Denver tenure that they faced off.

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans: With Jamaal Charles liking the look of this year’s offensive line, he’s going to get a great litmus test as to just how good they are facing Houston’s front. Jadeveon Clowney is set to be out there after missing the entire preseason, so if he’s set on making up for lost time, the Texans are going to be remembered for more than Hard Knocks this season.

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills: Newly acquired RB LeSean McCoy is supposed to see his first game action since the preseason opener, but if that hamstring is not 100 percent and he tries to gut it out, this might wind up being a really long night for the home team.

Of course, it could swing the other way completely and expose the Colts as a team on the decline due to management’s inability to build an offensive line worthy of protecting Andrew Luck. The Bills are definitely built to take advantage and Ryan is going to have tricks in store.

Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins: Backup QB Robert Griffin III might be glad he’s on the sidelines since Ndamakong Suh will be roaming the field for the Dolphins in a game that counts for the first time. Since he bothered to be pretty great in preseason, it’s a safe bet Kirk Cousins will be hunted on every snap.

He’s going to have to avoid long-developing plays and give Jay Gruden exactly what he wants, a game manager who can keep a team on task and make plays from the pocket. Since there won’t be a hostile crowd to deal with – at least initially – Cousins has a chance to prove he’s the right choice after all.

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams: The Legion of Boom isn’t the same without Earl Thomas, so news that he’s been practicing without restrictions for well over a week means a team that’s one bad decision away from being two-time defending champs is nearly whole.

Safety Kam Chancellor remains a holdout, so Nick Foles won’t get the full experience, but the new Rams quarterback will be facing the NFL’s elite secondary for the first time. He also won’t have No. 1 running back Todd Gurley, who isn’t quite ready post-ACL tear, so this will really be some coming out party if he pulls a home upset.

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals welcomed back Carson Palmer for a few preseason cameos and he’s displayed a pretty deep ball and an ability to move the offense. With Drew Brees not locking in on Jimmy Graham, won’t he be better? With Brees not having Graham to lock in on in the red zone, won’t he be less productive? We’re getting a road game and a terrific defense with which to start finding out.

Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers: Effectively replacing Suh hinges on how healthy and prepared Haloti Ngata is after missing all of training camp healing up a hamstring and getting refreshed following his trade. If he’s still a force at 31 and can help replace all the beef the Lions lost up front, there’s a formidable team around him.

The Chargers couldn’t get their ground game off the ground all spring and go into the season opener hoping Melvin Gordon was just saving his energy over the past month.

Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Let’s not do the thing where we let this first game between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota dictate who gets to be deemed better for the next decade. It’s simply bragging rights. Winston has better receivers. Mariota has the better o-line. It’s one game though. Game on.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos: The Ravens arrive in Denver unsure if rookie Breshad Perriman will be available, which means it could be the Steve Smith show. He’s definitely competent, but putting it all on his shoulders is a lot to ask. Peyton Manning no longer has the burden all on his now that Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking system is in place, so we’ll see how he balances a reduced role while maintaining his rhythm for when they need his arm.

N.Y. Giants at Dallas Cowboys: The last of the day’s three divisional battles will test which of these NFC East powers can be ready to play shorthanded. New York’s Victor Cruz isn’t likely to play, Jason Pierre-Paul is finally ready to show his face after his July 4 fun with fireworks, and there are other Giants banged up.

The Cowboys have to survive without Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain for four games and Orlando Scandrick the rest of the season. Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne just got back into the daily grind, so it’s on Eli Manning to make sure the Giants take advantage of an early opportunity.


Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons: Head coach Chip Kelly has handed the keys to his Eagles exclusively to Sam Bradford, so the mission to keep him upright begins. Philly can fly high if he’s healthy and would be grounded by Mark Sanchez if he’s not. Bradford could get a valuable weapon back if TE Zach Ertz is available, while the Falcons have Roddy White attempting to make it back from elbow surgery.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at Contact Tony at [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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