The Green Bay Packers head to the often-deafening CenturyLink Field to take on the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. The game marks the start of the new NFL season, a moment football fans have been eagerly anticipating for months.
As always, the defending Super Bowl champions must attempt to avoid a title hangover. After a long and grueling journey en route to the Lombardi Trophy, it's often difficult to completely refocus on the task at hand, especially early in the next regular season.
After the opener on Thursday, the first full slate of action follows on Sunday, and Week 1 closes with a Monday night doubleheader. Let's check out the complete schedule, along with the over-under odds, picks and a breakdown of the top choices.
Week 1 Over-Under Odds and Selections
Odds via Odds Shark as of 9/4
Over: New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons finished in the middle of the pack offensively last season, in large part due to various injury woes. Now that Julio Jones and Roddy White are both healthy and back in action at the same time, there's no reason Matt Ryan shouldn't be able to guide one of the league's top aerial attacks.
That's expected from the Saints every year under Drew Brees. The addition of Brandin Cooks gives him another intriguing weapon. So there's clearly no shortage of firepower on either side of the rivalry, which is quietly one of the best. Former New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle remembers it well:
Saints vs Falcons week was favorite game week and still is! I will not resist the urge to tweet this week. Gonna be fun lol— Scott Shanle (@scottshanle) September 3, 2014
Atlanta knows if it wants to bounce back into contention after a frustrating 2013, beating New Orleans at home is key. In all likelihood, that means winning a shootout because the team's revamped defense still has some question marks heading into Week 1.
The Falcons should be more prepared for that type of game this season. And the Saints will be happy to oblige with the belief their defense is better suited to get the one or two key stops they need. Both teams should reach the upper 20s or lower 30s, which will put the final score comfortably over the line.
Under: Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets
The Raiders decided to go with Derek Carr under center after a strong preseason. It was the right decision after he completed 67 percent of his throws with four touchdowns. That said, there's a big difference between an exhibition defense and what he's going to face from the Jets.
What's your pick for the Raiders vs. Jets game?
On the flip side, New York still lacks weapons on offense. Eric Decker would have been a nice signing as a No. 2 wideout, but he doesn't possess the game-breaking ability of a true top target. It's also hoping for a bounce-back season from Chris Johnson to lead the ground game.
Defensively, the Jets underwent some changes but are still going to get major contributions from their front seven, led by Muhammad Wilkerson. The Raiders should expect improvement thanks to the arrival of Khalil Mack, who's a legitimate game-changer.
The oddsmakers understand all of that, of course, which is why the line is so low. That said, even with the low number it's a safe choice to go under. It's a game that's likely to feature plenty of punts and more big plays from the defenses than the offenses.
Over: New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions
This is the perfect storm for a high-scoring game because there are two separate scenarios where the game should go over comfortably. Both of them surround the fact the Lions have all the pieces for a dynamic offense and the Giants are looking to move quicker on that side of the ball.
The second part of that is interesting. New York had a sluggish season offensively last year, but instead of trying to overhaul the entire group of skill players, it simply is changing the approach. Howie Kussoy of the New York Post provided comments from Victor Cruz about the uptempo style.
That [quicker] tempo is what we needed, I felt like. We're all guys that want to get up on the ball and make plays and make things happen. … It's something that's going to be different for us, but I think that's going to be beneficial for us, for receivers like myself and Rueben [Randle], guys who like to make plays and like to do things fast and keep the defense off balance.
There were definitely some growing pains during the preseason, but that's fine. Even if the Giants fall behind early, the Detroit defense remains suspect, which means there's a good chance Eli Manning and Co. will eventually find a rhythm and start racking up some points.
Alternatively, if the Giants come out flying, then Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson lead an explosive group ready to keep pace. The only concern in terms of reaching the number is poor play from the Detroit offense. That shouldn't happen against a defense that gave up 24 points per game last season.