Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season is finally here! In a break from tradition, the defending Super Bowl champions won't kick off the action with a Thursday night opener. Instead, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears—who have the league's oldest rivalry—will face off on Thursday in celebration of the NFL's 100th season.
Week 1 will close with a Monday night doubleheader. The New Orleans Saints will host the Houston Texans, while the Oakland Raiders will welcome the Denver Broncos.
The weekend will also feature the defending champion New England Patriots against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants against the Dallas Cowboys and several intriguing matchups.
Here, we'll examine the full slate for Week 1, make some early score predictions, and take a closer look at the week's bookend games.
2019 NFL Week 1 Predictions
Thursday, September 05
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: Chicago 23-20
Sunday, September 08
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers: Los Angeles 30-24
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia 33-24
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Buffalo 24-22
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota 27-25
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins: Baltimore 27-17
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars: Kansas City 28-24
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns: Cleveland 28-25
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers: Chargers 30-22
Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks: Seattle 31-23
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay 24-20
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: Dallas 26-20
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: Detroit 22-19
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: Pittsburgh 30-28
Monday, September 09
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints: New Orleans 30-21
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: Oakland 22-20
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
This matchup should be one of the most anticipated games of Week 1. Not only do the Packers and Bears have one of the best rivalries in all of sports, but there are also several intriguing storylines involved in the matchup.
How will the Bears handle their playoff hangover? The looked like a legitimate title contender last season—and may be again in 2019—before a missed field-goal attempt handed them an early playoff exit.
Chicago seems to have solved its kicking issue, settling on Eddie Pineiro. However, the bad vibes and the disappointment from Cody Parkey's January miss could still linger.
For the Packers, this game will be the first time quarterback Aaron Rodgers operates in Matt LaFleur's offense—in a real game situation, anyway. LaFleur was hired to bring a new and innovative offense to Green Bay, but Rodgers has only run it in practices.
According to former Packers fullback John Kuhn, the offense has been coming along fine in those practices.
"The last couple weeks, you're really starting to see what could possibly be with this Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur relationship in Green Bay," Kuhn said on Taz and the Moose. "The offense has really started to show us some things, started to move the ball, and come up with some big, explosive plays."
Still, there's a big difference between making strides in practice and competing against a top-tier defense like Chicago's.
This is a Bears defense that allowed an average of just 17.7 points per game last season, fewest in the NFL. Chicago will have home-field advantage and will be playing an offense that cannot possibly be running at full speed just yet.
This will be a close game—these often are—but Chicago's defense will dominate enough to deliver a one-score victory.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
In the final game of Week 1, we'll see the Raiders and Broncos do battle in a rivalry game of their own. Like the opener, this one features a couple of interesting storylines.
Specifically, Monday's nightcap will feature a pair of significant debuts. Quarterback Joe Flacco will see his first regular-season action with the Broncos, while Raiders fans will finally get a look at Antonio Brown on the playing field.
Brown, Oakland's star offseason acquisition, appears ready to put his cryogenic debacle and his helmet grievances behind him and just play. He should be the star of Oakland's offense on Monday night.
"A.B. has a nastiness about him that I think Gruden likes," NFL Network's Michael Irvin said, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. "And he likes to try to build that offense around that. He'll get every opportunity to have a smashing year, because [Gruden] wants to prove that they're right."
Brown, rookie running back Josh Jacobs and the Raiders new-look offense will face a Denver defense that is still good but is no longer a championship-caliber unit.
Denver can corral the Raiders offense to some degree, but the Broncos are going to have to get a strong performance from Flacco and Co. to pull out the road win. It's certainly possible that they do—especially considering how bad Oakland's defense was last season—it allowed 29.2 points per game, most in the NFL.
However, Oakland took steps to revamp its defense, too. The additions of safety Lamarcus Joyner and rookie Clelin Ferrell should add some bit to the Raiders defense.
Expect that defense to make a few big plays late, allowing Oakland to squeak out a win in front of a rowdy home crowd—this will, after all, be the final season opener in the city.