The dog days of summer have officially come and gone, Labor Day has passed which means you’re no longer allowed to wear white and the beginning of the 2017 NFL regular-season is a blink of an eye away. So make sure that you have your favorite beverage in your hand, perfect your family’s guacamole dip recipe and buckle-up your proverbial chin strap – the hard-hitting action of NFL Week 1 is finally here y’all.
Chiefs @ Patriots
A tribute to the 2016 New England Patriots will be on display at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. You can expect to see the Lombardi Trophy being passed around amongst high-level brass, a Super Bowl LI Championship banner being raised and a raucous bunch of New Englanders shouting, “Go beat those freakin’ Chiefs!”
Tom Brady, now 40-years-old, will more than likely prove that he’s still the best quarterback in the league. He’ll lack one critical target with Julian Edelman out for the season after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. However, Rob Gronkowski will be suited up again after missing the end of last season due to back surgery. Gronk will certainly stretch the middle of the field for the Pats much like Edelman did late last season. And don’t believe for a second that New England can’t find a replacement for Edelman – Bill Belichick always finds a way to fill a void with a perfect fit. As a diehard Denver Broncos’ fan, it makes me nauseous. . . Yet, it’s the truth.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, their defense should be solid, giving them the ability to compete in a three-team horse race in the AFC West. The Chiefs, Broncos and Oakland Raiders will be the teams to watch once again – it looks like the Raiders might be in the driver’s seat if Derrick Carr can stay healthy. To have any chance against the defending champs in the 2017 NFL Kickoff game on Thursday Night, Kansas City must get Tyreek Hill involved as much as humanly possible. Alex Smith must look to target him as a receiver, the offense will need to script some misdirection plays for him and a big time punt return for a touchdown from the speedy little jitterbug would be a nice touch. If he gets a crease, it’s beep, beep and bye-bye with Tyreek’s afterburners.
Jaguars @ Texans
This game will hold a lot of weight in the wake of devastating Hurricane Harvey. The flooding in Houston from Harvey was unprecedented, and it will take many months if not years for the city to come back to full strength. J.J. Watt and the Texans will bring hope and much needed entertainment on their home turf inside NRG Stadium, if only for a few fleeting hours. Our prayers and support continue to go out to those impacted by Harvey’s malice.
Putting the damage in the Houston area, other cities in Texas as well as Louisiana behind us, there’s an NFL football game to be played on Sunday. Tom Savage will lead Houston under center, and he’ll be looking DeAndre Hopkins’ way often – Hopkins has been dealing with a thumb injury that has kept him out of practice for nearly a month, but says he’s “1,000 percent” ready to play a major role against the Jags come Sunday.
On the other side of the coin, the Texans’ defense has the chance to be one of the league’s best this season. If healthy, the combination of Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus is frightening. Jags’ quarterback, Blake Bortles, better hope these studs aren’t in full-on feast mode if he hopes to survive and start again in Week 2.
Bortles was named Jacksonville’s starter for their opener against Houston, but not without controversy. To say that Blake has struggled mightily in recent memory would be an understatement. Bortles regressed in 2016 from his 2015 season with the Jags. In 2015, he accounted for 4,428 yards through the air with 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions – however, Jacksonville finished with a lowly 5-11 record. As for last season, Jacksonville finished just 3-13 with a plethora of mistakes that could easily be put on the shoulders of Bortles – a glaring drop-off of 3,905 passing yards along with 23 TDs and 16 INTs in 2016. After playing poorly in the preseason, he was still named the teams’ starting QB. Jacksonville looks to be much improved this season, but they’re likely to live or die according to the accuracy of Bortles’ right arm.
Seahawks @ Packers
With Russell Wilson taking the snaps and Richard Sherman still leading the way on defense, these Seahawks should be Super Bowl contenders yet again. Look for Doug Baldwin to be Wilson’s safety valve at wide receiver. As an undrafted free agent in 2011, Baldwin still plays football with that proverbial chip on his shoulder. Expect big things from the Wilson to Baldwin combination this season.
Sticking with offensive firepower, the Packers have plenty of it; potentially representing an ‘air show’ of epic proportions. The only three names that you need to remember are quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receivers’ Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson is returning after missing all of 2016, suffering an ACL tear in the preseason. Rodgers and Nelson together are like peas and carrots. . . Again!
Giants @ Cowboys
Always a fantastic NFC East battle, the Cowboys and NYG open the season slate together at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. While Dallas awaits a ruling on Ezekiel Elliott’s potential 6-game suspension, they’re preparing as if he’ll play against the Giants in primetime on Sunday night. If the suspension is upheld, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris can flat play – Cowboys’ fans shouldn’t worry about this situation whatsoever. And the last I checked, Mr. Dak Prescott is still the man under center for Dallas. Prescott’s ability to get the pigskin between the hashes to Jason Witten will be key.
Giants’ fans are holding their collective breath to see if their star receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., will play on Sunday night. Beckham injured his ankle approximately two-weeks ago in a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. If Odell doesn’t suit-up for the Giants and I suspect he won’t due to the severity of the injury, Eli Manning will have no choice but to rely heavily on Brandon Marshall to haul in some big time catches. And he’ll need plenty of pass protection, or the Dallas “D” will have Eli on his heels and the turf.