The NFL season kicks into gear this weekend, with the first batch of games always featuring a surprise or two along the road.
Week 1 can often foreshadow a change in tides, as showcased last year by the Washington Redskins topping the New Orleans Saints. A win as everyone remains on an even playing field can also mislead the masses, such as the Arizona Cardinals opening up the 2012 season with a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
There's bound to be an unforeseen upset or two that questions what we know about those squads, but these teams should not fret the dreaded stunner too much.
Anything can happen on any given Sunday, but logic indicates that these three clubs should fare just fine against their over-matched opponents.
Note: Betting lines are courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
New England Patriots (-10) at Buffalo Bills
The Patriots have an entirely new look on offense without Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. The progress reports on Rob Gronkowski are positive, with NESN reporting that the tight end could return as early as Week 2.
That does them no good during the first week, but luckily they start the season light against the Bills.
Don't say this is an easy matchup in front of the guys tasked with chasing down C.J. Spiller, who will look to explode now that he is finally the top dog in Buffalo. Then again, that job should belong to New England's entire defense with Jeff Tuel or a recovering E.J. Manuel starting under center.
Could the uncertainty befuddle New England, who must plan for two contrasting styles of play? Will Tom Brady immediately sync with Zach Sudfeld and Kenbrell Thompkins?
After scoring 89 points on Buffalo in their two bouts last season, Brady should lead the Patriots to more than enough points to emerge victorious. Neither Tuel nor Manuel should be expected to produce much in his first taste of NFL action.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) at New York Jets
Last season, Mark Sanchez led the Jets to a 48-point outburst over the Bills during their season opener. Maybe they're just hot starters who have intentionally spent the entire preseason fooling the Buccaneers into mistakenly thinking their Week 1 opponents are littered in dysfunction.
Or maybe they are a team without any direction that seriously has to consider starting undrafted free-agent Matt Simms at quarterback.
With Mark Sanchez unlikely to be available, ESPN New York is labeling Geno Smith, who looked woefully unprepared to take control in preseason action, the probable Week 1 starter under center.
The highlight of Smith's exhibition came when the rookie ran himself out of the end zone for a safety. If he chooses to actually throw the ball, he should avoid star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will be seeking vengeance against his old squad after years of ugly contract disputes.
Even though Revis is no longer affiliated with Gang Green, he still might catch more passes from New York's quarterback than any of the team's wideouts.
This is also the perfect opportunity for Tampa Bay to prove its credibility by pounding an inferior opponent into submission. Last season, the Jets ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed, and that Doug Martin guy lacing up for the Buccaneers is pretty good.
Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Jets 10
Houston Texans (-4) at San Diego Chargers
The NFL couldn't have picked a worse team for Philip Rivers to initiate his redemption tour against.
After recording 3,606 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, both his lowest marks since 2007, Rivers' career appears to be blemished with a downward arrow. The 31-year-old does not have much help with Danario Alexander sidelined for the year, and Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews are each a sneeze away from landing back on the injury report.
Even after some late-season slippage, the Texans finished in the top 10 in yards and points allowed. They also collected 44 sacks, while the Chargers surrendered 49.
The more interesting battle will occur between Houston's apex rushing attack and San Diego's stout rushing defense. San Diego can make the Monday night affair interesting by forcing Matt Schaub out of managerial duties, but it won't matter in the long run if the Chargers' bruised and battered offense can't muster any points.
Prediction: Houston 17, San Diego 9
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