NFL Schedule 2011: Carolina Panthers and the League's Worst Week 1 Games
Celebrate! Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is almost here, and everyone just wants to see some football again. But if you are someone who can choose which games you watch, a few Week 1 contests in particular won't be on your list of favorites.
Chances are NFL fans will be drooling over marquee matchups like the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets vs. the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears vs. the Atlanta Falcons, and the Green Bay Packers vs. the New Orleans Saints.
While NFL fans are engrossing themselves in these games, other matchups will take a back seat, and a particular few of those will fail to generate anywhere near the level of excitement that the aforementioned matchups will.
Here we'll rank the six Week 1 contests, from worse to worst, that will pale in comparison to the heavyweights.
6. Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
The Carolina Panthers vs. the Arizona Cardinals checks in at sixth.
Initially, this game actually looks to be a mildly entertaining matchup.
The Carolina Panthers were the worst team in the NFL last year, but they re-signed star running back DeAngelo Williams and brought in tight end Greg Olsen to bolster their offense. This game will also feature the debut of highly touted rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Everyone will want to see what he can do.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, received veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb in a well-publicized trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kolb will be throwing to a talented group of receivers that includes Larry Fitzgerald (one of the NFL's best wideouts) and newly acquired tight end Todd Heap.
However, these two teams have enough problems that it will probably be a sloppy affair. There will easily be 10 games fans will desire to see more.
5. Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
The Oakland Raiders went 8-8 in a weak division in 2010, while the Denver Broncos were at the bottom of that same trash heap.
In 2011, this matchup looks to be scarcely different, except that the teams might be a little more even.
After losing star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, fans will find it less entertaining to watch the Raiders' defense, and other than young up-and-comers Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford, the Raiders have nothing to get excited about on offense. The loss of Zach Miller hurts.
Many people will be interested to see who starts at quarterback for the Broncos, but once Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton trots out onto the field for the first snap, there might not be much more for viewers to get excited about. Receiver Brandon Lloyd might be Denver's most intriguing weapon.
The rivalry between these two franchises saves the game a little bit. Unfortunately, both teams are in rebuilding mode, and this won't be a game that people outside of central California and Colorado will get pumped up for.
4. Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The Buffalo Bills have been at the bottom of the NFL for several years now, while the Kansas City Chiefs had a surprise playoff season that was heavily aided by a pillow-soft schedule and was brutally cut short at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Chiefs made some decent free agent acquisitions in nose tackle Kelly Gregg and receiver Steve Breaston. Meanwhile, running back Jamaal Charles will look to electrify the world once again if coach Todd Haley gives him the touches he deserves.
Outside of Charles and top receiver Dwayne Bowe, though, the Chiefs don't have a lot to get excited about offensively. Quarterback Matt Cassel is overrated, and Breaston has had a lot of injury issues lately.
Defensively, the Chiefs could be awesome with Gregg in the middle, Tamba Hali coming from the outside, and a secondary that rivals any in the NFL. But without the adequate offense to back it up, Kansas City is bound to regress.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills inexplicably did nothing to improve themselves this offseason, failing to upgrade at the quarterback position and losing linebacker Paul Posluszny. More disappointment should be expected by poor Bills fans. Buffalo's two most notable players are receiver Steve Johnson and running back C.J. Spiller.
Don't expect anyone to be overly excited about this one.
3. Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a divisional matchup that is usually an exciting contest, but the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars will both have less-than-spectacular seasons and finish behind the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans.
The Titans acquired veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in free agency and will pair with him Chris Johnson, one of the most exciting players in the game. But the troubled Kenny Britt is Tennessee's top receiver, and with the loss of stud linebacker Stephen Tulloch, the defense takes a hit.
Jacksonville could have a quarterback controversy between rookie Blaine Gabbert and David Garrard, but it might be the most unspectacular battle in the league at the position. The Jags have a stud running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and a talented new safety in Dawan Landry, but outside of those two and tight end Marcedes Lewis, they have little to offer a football-hungry fan.
These two teams playing each other doesn't amount to much this year.
2. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers had completely opposite plans for free agency, and neither one worked out very well.
The Seahawks brought in stud receiver Sidney Rice, but with him came quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson is nothing more than a backup who will be competing with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting gig. Those are not the two options I would want.
On defense, the Seahawks are still very young and didn't pick up any veterans to reinforce the lineup. Overall, Seattle doesn't look like a team who'll go places in 2011.
The 49ers, on the other hand, were very quiet during free agency. In fact, the only buzz they made was negative. After overpaying to re-sign mediocre defensive lineman Ray McDonald, they let top cornerback Nate Clements sign elsewhere. San Francisco has little at receiver outside of Michael Crabtree and even less at quarterback. First-round bust Alex Smith will compete with rookie Colin Kaepernick for the job.
Running backs Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore might put on a show—that is, if Lynch decides to show up mentally and Gore can stay healthy. Sadly, Vernon Davis and newly-signed Zach Miller, both tight ends, might be the stars of the show.
Needless to say, nobody will be talking about this game.
1. Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Ladies and Gentlemen, here is dishonorable mention No. 1 for Week 1 matchups. The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals look to be fielding a couple of the NFL's worst teams in 2011.
The Cleveland Browns should have a solid defense and are building for the future, but young quarterback Colt McCoy has no legitimate No. 1 option at receiver, and running back Peyton Hillis is in for a regression this season. To be quite frank, the Browns have no true stars at any position other than Joe Haden at cornerback, who is just emerging as a second-year player.
One team that might be even worse, though, is the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now that Carson Palmer wants nothing to do with the program, it looks like it's time to begin a new era in Cincy: the Andy Dalton era. Forgive me if I'm off base, but I can't wrap my head around Dalton having much success in his rookie season, even if he does have a star receiver to throw to in A.J. Green.
Remember, Green is a rookie too, and although I think he was one of the safest picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, you never know how a rookie is going to respond. Having one throwing to another as starters isn't often a formula for success. And with Cedric Benson at running back, it's not like Dalton will have a superior ground game to lean on.
Despite struggling on offense in 2010, the Bengals fielded a solid defense led by Johnathan Joseph at cornerback, Carlos Dunlap at defensive end and a group of solid linebackers. Now that Joseph is gone, Cincy's defense won't be nearly as good as it was.
Poor Ohio folks. At least you can look forward to your Ohio State Buckeyes this season... maybe.
Either way, this won't be a fun NFL season for the state, and Week 1 will show it.