Preseason action is finally over and the Saints and Packers kick off Thursday night on NBC with apologies to Barack Obama. Many players will be caught off guard by the increased speed of meaningful games, but you shouldn't be blindsided by odd occurrences. Here's what will happen that very few would say heading into every teams' first game.
The Bengals and the Browns go at it Sunday at 1p.m. While it won't be the most interesting AFC North game with the Steelers and Ravens kicking off at the same time, it will show fans of the teams how their quarterbacks look early.
Cleveland's defense is not as good as Cincinnati's even though the Bengals lost Jonathan Joseph in the secondary. McCoy has worse options to look for than Dalton who has Gresham, Shipley, and Green. Leon Hall is still playing for Cincinnati and the pass rush of Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson will find McCoy more often than the ends for Cleveland will get to Dalton.
Brett Favre, who worked with Colt McCoy in the off-season, will translate McCoy's game into interceptions this week. Expecting the rookie to have a great game is far fetched, but expecting a quarterback with a 75 rating last year to be around that isn't. The Cincinnati Bengals will win by more than a touchdown.
The Detroit Lions are expected to be this season's breakout squad but the team still has huge holes in their secondary.
Nndamukong Suh and company can get to quarterbacks and a little extra, but Gerald McCoy has something to prove against the defensive tackle that was picked one spot ahead of him in the 2010 draft.
McCoy has a calm demeanor, but he gets irritated when asked about how he compares to Suh. Raheem Morris added two more pass rushers via the draft with first round pick Adrian Clayborn and second round selection Da'Quan Bowers.
Bowers and McCoy have slimmed down from their last playing weight as the Bucs will stress pass rush in a division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. As for the other Matt, Stafford will have to look for Calvin Johnson when Megatron is covered by Aqib Talib.
Freeman won't have to squint his eyes to see Mike Williams running wide open for at least a few plays on Sunday. The Bucs will get slight revenge on a team that kept them out of the playoffs last season.
Pittsburgh-Baltimore games usually see running backs have terrible games or walk away with broken shoulders. The latter was the case for a rookie Mendenhall against Ray Lewis years back.
In this 2011 season opener, things will be different. The Steelers will start off tossing the pigskin and then move towards the ground game against an aging defense that wasn't impressive in preseason. Pittsburgh will be able to throw against Baltimore but the ground game will still be needed in order for the Ravens to respect both the passing and rushing attacks.
Many Redskins fans wanted John Beck to start, apparently siding with the theory of "fear the known" instead of "fear the unknown."
With that said, New York's defense has had defensive backs drop like flies and is without last years leading sacker Osi Umenyiora. Manning lead the entire NFL last year in picks and the poor play will continue against Washington.
The Redskins 3-4 scheme still has LaRon Landry and Deangelo Hall in the secondary with linebacker Ryan Kerrigan teaming up with Brian Orakpo to find quarterbacks. A heavy dose of Tim Hightower will keep Grossman from throwing over 25 times even if Washington is down against New York.
Expect Washington to cover home field and send an early message to the entire NFC East.
What won't help matters for the Vikings is Kevin Williams being suspended. Contrary to popular belief, Norv Turner likes calling run plays and Mathews should get the bulk of the carries.
Adrian Peterson will be running behind a bad offensive line against a more physical defense for San Diego than that of last year. Takeo Spikes is in the middle while Bob Sanders will at least be healthy enough for week one. McNabb won't have a terrible game with the Chargers dwindling the clock, but he won't make the necessary plays late to bring the Vikings to a victory.
The Jets won't have enough good corners to shadow all three. While the same thing can be said about Dallas's secondary, Mark Sanchez hasn't been throwing the ball downfield enough and he won't be trusted by Shottenheimer week one with his clock accelerated by Demarcus Ware.
Expect a huge, possibly game deciding play from Dallas because of a delayed draw play or a slow developing running back screen pass. Division rivals have seen plays like this from Dallas often and they will continue.
Oakland still has a nice defensive line with players to rotate in and out, but the secondary will be dreadful. While Fox will want his rushing attack to lead the way in 2011, he'll have to settle for Orton dominating the first game.
This prediction may actually not be that bold considering the matchups for week one. Johnson just signed his new deal last week and hasn't had much practice time.
He's probably been working out on a track somewhere in Florida anyway, and Jacksonville's running defense isn't going to be mistaken for the Steelers or Jets. Maurice Jones-Drew will pile up yards as well against the Titans even though there are questions about his knees.
David Garrard and Matt Hasselbeck will play the role of caretakers this week as both running backs have huge games. By the way, Tennessee will come out on top on the road.
The Bills have made committments to be better at stopping the run, adding Kirk Morrison as a middle linebacker and Marcell Dareus next to Kyle Williams.
Kansas City isn't a particularly bad defense, but their front seven won't make Buffalo pay a high enough price for having such a terrible offensive line. Spiller will get many yards outside the tackles rather than in the middle where Fred Jackson will work.
Fitzpatrick will look for Spiller as a safety valve on swing passes when Stevie Johnson is covered. The second year running back out of Clemson will start his season off right like he did last year but he'll continue his progress in 2011.
Carolina will travel all the way to Arizona, but they'll be gaining three hours instead of losing time. Cam Newton could have used more time to get adjusted to the pro game, but he's still a better option than Jimmy Clausen.
Arizona's defense has never been known to be strong against the run and Ron Rivera will keep the clock running by not having Cam Newton have a ton of imcompletions. DeAngelo Williams is at least healthy for this game and the same goes for Jonathan Stewart.
The key to this attack will be Newton making runs outside the pocket that can't be accounted for. For at least this week, the Panthers will look like the Michael Vick era Atlanta Falcons and Newton will play better than the last time he was in the University of Phoenix Stadium.