NFL Week One Games: Ranking the Games, From Worst to First
This is the first of a weekly slideshow series ranking the best match-ups week in and week out. If there are two games on at the same time and like me you don't have DVR, then you have to make a decision.
I am here to help you make that decision and if you think I'm full of it you're not the first. There are some very compelling games on the slate this week, let's get started.
15. Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (CBS)
Unless you're a Browns or Bucs fan, this game doesn't provide any reason for immediate anticipation or excitement (sorry Mr. Wolf).
The Browns, although a franchise I consider to be on the rise, lacks a lot of explosiveness on offense especially in the receiving corps.
The Bucs really haven't been the same since Jon Gruden was let go and despite drafting a quarterback in the first round (Josh Freeman) and having a decent stable of running backs, the Bucs' offense is still as boring as Gods and Generals was on that field trip I had in 8th grade.
The Browns' secondary could be a bright spot and the defensive line is improving and the Bucs' defense just isn't of the John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks variety.
Let's see if Jake Delhomme and the Browns' West Coast, dink and dunk offense can do enough to outscore the Bucs' young trio in Freeman, Mike Williams (no, not that Mike Williams) and Kellen Winslow.
14. Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (FOX)
A lot of questions surround both of these teams and I don't expect either to be very good or entertaining, at least at first.
Arizona has to learn to live without Kurt Warner which could be pretty hard for Larry Fitzgerald. From 2007 to 2009, Fitzgerald racked up 293 receptions, 3,932 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns, most of which came via Warner.
Derek Anderson is more unpredictable than what Nicolas Cage's next role will be (yeah, that's a bad thing, see: The Sorcerer's Apprentice). Anderson can be good one year (2007) and awful the next (2009). Maybe Anderson can throw 29 touchdowns again with Fitzgerald as his go-to-guy but don't count on it.
The Rams start their new, shiner franchise quarterback this week, Sam Bradford. I wonder what the over/under is on him getting his block knocked off before mid-season, with such a poor offensive line.
I like what I have seen from him in the preseason, especially against the Patriots. But will his shoulder hold up for the entire season? Can the offensive line provide the kind of protection required to keep Bradford's jersey clean?
Darnell Dockett could have the final say in this one.
13. Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (CBS)
Take this match-up 15-20 years back and it might have been at the top of the list but the teams are no longer lead by Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, the Bills would settle for one trip to the Super Bowl rather than four and the Dolphins are "Wild" about their running game.
Please forgive that awful play on words but yes, these teams are dramatically different from the teams they once were in the 1990s. The Dolphins brought the Wildcat in its current form into the NFL and have transformed the league with their direct snap to the running back, quarterback split out wide formation.
Despite their desire to pound the rock, the Dolphins might have a pretty good signal caller in former Michigan product Chad Henne. He progressed well late, throwing for 300+ yards in three of the last five he played in 2009.
The Bills would give an arm and a leg to have a decent quarterback but that doesn't mean they do not love their running game as well. Buffalo has a three-headed stable of running backs in C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
If you like the running and defense, this game is the one for you.
12. Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars (CBS)
DISCLAIMER: I am aware that Tim Tebow is a polarizing figure, whether you love him or hate him, people talk about him...a lot.
This is my promise to you, unless Tim Tebow becomes the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos or scores three touchdowns in the previous week's game, I will refrain from talking about the Touchdown Messiah.
Kyle Orton is a pretty good quarterback believe it or not. Despite the additions of Brady Quinn and you know who in the off-season, Kyle Orton has a firm grip on the starting quarterback spot and for good reason.
Last year Orton threw 21 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions, completed 62.1 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,800 yards. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the Jags' pass rush and pass defense, led by Rashean Mathis.
11. Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders (CBS)
Chris Johnson is a bad, bad man and should play the part against Richard Seymour and the Oakland Raider's defense.
His goal for this year is 2,500 yards on the ground, too bad he didn't play the Raiders every week, Oakland allowed 2,488 rushing yards in 2009. Other than C.J., the Titans have a physically and mentally healthy Vince Young to lead this up-and-coming offense.
If he can create the type of chemistry he has with his tight ends with Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, the Titans could find themselves in contention for the playoffs in 2010.
It will be interesting to see how Jason Campbell adjusts to being in a new place and with new "weapons". I am skeptical of nearly every receiver on this team other than tight end Zach Miller, so if Campbell can help make guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy viable options in the passing game, the Raiders could have something in a few years.
Keywords there being "a few years". The Raiders are not ready to compete for the playoffs, not by a long shot and this game should prove it.
10. Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (FOX)
Some say he's overrated, other say he's a beast (I tend to agree with this faction), no matter what type of quarterback you think he is, the Lions and most Lions fans, love Matthew Stafford.
Last season he had the one overplayed, over-hyped game where he showed guts and gained admiration against the Cleveland Browns. But Stafford is more than that and his 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2009 are shallow numbers compared to what he is capable of.
The former Georgia Bulldog had Calvin Johnson at his disposal last year but often found him in double or even triple coverage. With the addition of Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler, Stafford and the Lions could have a few barn burners on their hands this year and could compete for the playoffs in a couple of years when the defense catches up.
It will be interesting to see if this game will be more about Julius Peppers and the defense of the Bears, Jay Cutler and Mike Martz's new offense or the Lions' gunslinger and his trusty sidekicks.
9. San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (ESPN)
The Chargers on Monday Night Football and they're only 10th on the list? Yes. Why? Because they are playing the Kansas City Chiefs and much like when they opened the season against the Raiders a year ago, this one could turn into a laugher quite quickly.
Phillip Rivers will be without Vincent Jackson this week as he sits with the suspension but he will still have his all-pro tight end Antonio Gates, speedy Darren Sproles and rookie first-round pick Ryan Matthews. Eric Berry and the Chiefs' defense should still have fits with this offense.
Sorry New England West, this game is San Diego's to lose.
8. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (FOX)
Mike Singletary's defense was pretty damn good last year and despite what looks to be an improving offense for Seattle, should continue their impressive showing in week one.
Pete Carroll and Matt Hasselbeck hope to start a very beautiful friendship together but that might be a little hard with Patrick Willis in Hasselbeck's grill all day.
This could be a very close game because I believe the Seahawks are not as bad as their record for the two previous years shows. This team should be very efficient on offense and capable on defense.
And in the NFC West, just like K.G. said, anything is possible
7. Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers (FOX)
Denis Dixon looks to have a lot of promise but he isn't Ben Roethlisberger and the Falcons are not kidding around this year.
After an impressive rookie season in which he led the Falcons to the playoffs, Matt Ryan, is looking to bounce back in 2010 and with the help of Roddy White and Michael Turner, he and Atlanta might be able to secure a wild card berth.
I say that because the offense looks to be back to it's old self and the Saints happen to play in the NFC South.
The Steelers' defense will need to carry Pittsburgh through Roethlisberger's suspension. Steelers fans just better hope that the offense can produce enough each week to put themselves in a position to win.
6. Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (FOX)
Both the Giants and Panthers were disappointments last year but look to bounce back the way that worked for both before; by running the ball and running it often.
Everyone is aware of the impressive duos each have a running back, whether it's Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw for the Giants or DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, both are normally impressive and effective.
How each team's defense defends said run will determine the outcome of this one.
5.Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (FOX)
For the Packers it's all about Aaron Rodgers and because of just how impressive he has been since taking over for the ole gunslinger in Green Bay, many are picking the Packers to win it all.
That's a lot of pressure for a young quarterback but it seems as if the Cal product is taking it in stride. If the defense can stop short of surrendering 20 points a game, I don't see why this team and more specifically this offense, can't find themselves ahead at the end of regulation.
As in Green Bay, it's all about the quarterback in Philly. Kevin Kolb is for all intents and purposes starting fresh, last season he started two games for an injured Donovan McNabb and threw for 300+ plus yards in both starts. Kolb, although impressive at times, found it difficult to get the Eagles six points when they got into the red zone during the preseason.
The Eagles performance in the red zone could play a pivotal part in who wins this game.
4. Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (CBS)
Peyton Manning and the Colts are 15-1 against the Texans all-time, enough said.
I'm kidding, did you actually think as the Colts' Featured Columnist I wouldn't make a few notes? Houston seems to get better every year but that may not be good enough for Gary Kubiak, if the Texans don't find a way into the playoffs this year.
Houston secured their first winning season as a franchise last year going 9-7, just missing out on the playoffs. The Texan offense played a huge role in that and if they can find a way to be more physical in the ground game late, that could be the difference.
Either way, I see Peyton Manning and the Colts winning in a high scoring affair.
3. Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (NBC)
Donovan McNabb's regular season debut as a Redskin should be a good one, as long as Mike Shanahan's patented zone rushing attack can provide sufficient production and keep Tony Romo and company off the field.
McNabb looked average in the preseason but much of that had to do with a bum ankle and after some much needed rest, he should be fine. Chemistry between Washington receivers and McNabb will be vital to the team's success, that is something they seemed to lack during the preseason.
Romo and the Dallas offense also looked very shaky but if last year's consistently explosive performance is any indication, the Boys will be just fine.
2. Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots (CBS)
Tom Brady's week was an interesting one; first he was involved in a two-car accident and then he got paid and paid handsomely. Brady's 4-year 78-million dollar extension should ease any worries he may have had prior to this week's game against the Bengals.
Wes Welker's health is paramount because Brady is simply a better quarterback with him on the field. If Brady, Welker and Randy Moss can get in a rhythm this year, it could be a flash back to the Patriots of 2007. No, the Giants are not winning it all this year.
T.O. and Ocho, the twin tandem, the voices of Ohio, being from Michigan I find this to be a relief. (What kind of name is Buckeyes anyway?)
The duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco should not be as big a deal as many would like you to believe. This is a running team, first and foremost and Owens is in his mid-thirties. Don't get me wrong, they will be good but not as good as so many think.
This game should be a good one and even if it isn't, as long as Owens or Johns...I mean Ochocinco, get into the end zone, you'll be entertained.
1. Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets (ESPN)
We've heard the trash talk; Ray Lewis and Rex Ryan having a little fun the way they always do. But come Monday Night, all that talk will mean little to nothing.
Other than the Saints and Vikings last night, this is the marquee game of the week. Both teams are defensive juggernauts and have an attitude that matches their leaders.
Both Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco have a heavy task ahead and the difference in this one should be who makes the least mistakes and gives themselves the best chance to win at the end.
That might not be exciting to some but that's football ladies and gentlemen.