NFL 8 Opening Day Matchups NFC

Come take a look at our preview of the NFL 2018 opening day matchups, beginning with the eight AFC games: Falcons at Eagles; Buccaneers at Saints; 49ers at Vikings; Jaguars at Giants; Cowboys at Panthers; Redskins at Cardinals; Bears at Packers; Jets at Lions.

NFL OPENING DAY MATCHUPS: NFC

Before you know it, September will be here and the first games of the 2018 NFL season will be underway, so we thought we’d go through all sixteen of the opening day matchups and offer a little background and perspective on each game.

This is the NFC.

As football fans know, on Week 1, every team is equal, but some games are potentially more exciting than others. For that reason at the end of each preview we offer advice as to whether you should watch the game live, record it and view it later or just wait for the highlights. Feel free to add why you think a game is watch-able or skim-able in the comments down below.

Did you know the NFL is moving up the kickoff times for its prime-time games?

  • “Monday Night Football” will now start at 8:15 p.m. ET (15 minutes earlier);
  • “Sunday Night Football” will now kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET (10 minutes earlier);
  •  “Thursday Night Football” will begin at 8:20 p.m. ET (five minutes earlier).

Adjust your DVRs accordingly.

Now let’s check out all the Week 1 NFC games.

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

Thursday, Sept. 6, 8:20 p.m. ET

What a perfect matchup to start the 2018 NFL season – a prime time Thursday night game between the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons.

During their most recent encounter, the Eagles barely overcame the Falcons 15-10 to win the NFC division and eventually the Lombardi trophy for the first time in franchise history. This time quarterback Carson Wentz is healthy and will start, ready to prove that his pre-injury 2017 numbers from just 13 games – 3,296 passing yards, 33 TDs, 7 picks plus 299 yards rushing – were no second-year fluke. Or at least that’s the plan. The backup plan, as usual, is Nick Foles.

The Falcons want revenge for that game because they know they could have won it and gone to the Super Bowl if receiver Julio Jones hadn’t fallen down in the end zone on the final play of that game. Or if Jones could have made that game-winning touchdown catch regardless of being off balance and slightly out-of-bounds. Or if Matt Ryan, the sixth best quarterback in the NFL last season could have outplayed Wentz’s backup Foles, like he was supposed to.

The Falcons had to chew and choke on all those ‘ifs’ this entire offseason – a Week 1 win over the Eagles and suddenly they’re breathing a whole lot easier.

This game’s in Philly, so expect fanfare and crowd noise

The Eagles are defending Super Bowl champions so this 2018 opening-weekend hometown matchup will probably involve some major celebrations: a banner raising, some speeches and maybe some wild fan outbursts. Point being the sold out Lincoln Financial Field will be loud so the Eagle’s 4th ranked defense can take advantage whenever Ryan struggles to hear or communicate audibles. How big a factor will Philadelphia’s Twelfth man be?

Only two seasons ago, Ryan and his Falcons represented the NFC in the Super Bowl, so they’re not intimidated facing the defending champion Eagles in Week 1. The noise will be a factor for sure, but their offense ranked 8th overall last season (Philly ranked 7th) so chances are head coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian and Ryan will have well-oiled strategies to work around all types of distractions and fan racket.

Still, will it work?

Philadelphia and Atlanta both need this

Like a lot of underdog winners, it’s possible the Eagles have a slight ‘we earned it’ chip on their shoulder and a solid Week 1 victory against a formidable opponent like the Falcons would prove their only Lombardi trophy was no accident. Wentz could use a successful outing to prove his knee has healed, but if it hasn’t yet, a Foles-led win would confirm that he’s no fluke, either.

With an Atlanta win over defending champs Philadelphia, the Falcons show that they’re worthy of being in the Super Bowl LIII conversation. Last season they almost took a Wildcard spot to the Big Game, beating the team that prevented that would be a great way to start 2018.

#TouchdownTuesday | #FlyEaglesFly

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Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

It’s the very first matchup of the NFL season, it’s two playoff-bound teams going head-to-head, plus it’ll have all the excitement and pageantry of a playoff game – absolutely watch it live.

If you’re any kind of NFL fan, waiting for the highlights of this one is simply out of the question.

Besides, it’s on a Thursday night – what else you got to do?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Sunday, Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

Last season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints met up twice.

The first time in Week 9 was not so pretty – the Saints thumped the Bucs 30-10, and after getting sacked twice in the first half, Tampa Bay starting quarterback Jameis Winston had to leave the game with shoulder soreness and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick took over. He was also sacked twice.

The Saints’ second-team All Pro and All Rookie running back Alvin Kamara had two TDs and Saints’ receiver Ted Ginn Jr. caught a long ball from Drew Brees while sliding in the end zone.

Their Week 17 meeting ended quite a bit differently.

Despite throwing three interceptions already, with 1:41 left in the game Winston marched his underdog Buccaneers down the field and with a 45 yard throw hit receiver Chris Godwin in the end zone to beat the Saints 34-21. That ended their five-game losing streak, their second of the season.    

And by the way, all that happened with Brees in the game.

Oh, what a difference a healthy Winston makes

Winston threw for 363 yards that game and a TD plus 32 rushing yards with another TD. Sure, he threw 3 interceptions, but he also threw for almost 120 yards more than Brees, the fourth best quarterback in the league that season. Can he put up those same kinds of dominating numbers in this 2018 Week 1 matchup (minus the picks)? Only if his offensive line, who allowed 40 sacks last season, protects him.

In the end, Brees and his Saints didn’t technically need that Week 17 win over the Bucs to get to the playoffs, but Brees played because that win sure would have made it easier. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s squad not only limited Brees’ passing yards to 245, they also managed to sack him twice. Not bad for a team who only had 22 sacks all season (worst in the NFL) against a New Orleans team that allowed 20 sacks all year (second best in the NFL).

Can the Bucs’ upgraded defense get to Brees again?

Both defenses improved in the offseason

To help their 32nd ranked defense, the Bucs general manager Jason Licht brought in three new defensive ends – they traded the Giants for Jason Pierre-Paul and signed free agents Vinny Curry (PHI) and Mitch Unrein (CHI). Licht also got two new defensive tackles – first round draft pick Vita Vea and free agent Beau Allen (PHI). Bucs deepened their secondary that allowed an NFL worst 260.6 yards per game and snagged only 13 interceptions by drafting two cornerbacks, M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and a safety, Jordan Whitehead. But can they stop Brees?

The Saints’ weakness (if you had to name one) was their defense, ranked 17th in the league overall. Average, unless you consider that the two years prior they were ranked 32nd and 31st.  Saints’ general manager Mickey Loomis moved up in the draft and in the first round grabbed an edge rusher, UT San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport, who’s considered raw but talented. He also made sure his quarterback hunting defensive end Alex Okafor was happy by signing him to a two year deal so that he and Cameron Jordon can continue racking up the sacks in 2018. Will they get to Winston?

The TOP 3 #saints plays of 2017! 🔥 (#Repost @NFL)

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Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

If you like to seeing the underdog grab the day, this matchup is a good one to watch.

Brees’ Saints are a notoriously bad September team (over the past four seasons they’ve started 1-3, 0-3, 0-3 and 0-2) and Winston is healthy and ready to win this three-game rubber match.

This game’s an upset waiting to happen – watch it live.

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

The last time these two teams met was in a game that didn’t count, Week 3 of the 2017 pre-season. Quarterback Sam Bradford and his Minnesota Vikings beat Brian Hoyer’s San Francisco 49ers 31-32 and Minnesota went on to a 13-3 season. In the postseason, the Vikings beat the Saints 29-24 but got whumped by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Eagles, 38-7.

The 49ers, on the other hand, ended up 6-10, but as dismal as that record sounds, the great news was that they won their last five in a row. After Hoyer and backup C.J. Beathard could only eek out one win out of eleven games, general manager John Lynch traded a second-round pick in the 2018 draft for the much sought after backup to Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s now 5-0 as the San Francisco starter.

But Garopplo’s not the only quarterback in this matchup who changed teams.

Will Cousins continue to score big? Will Garoppolo?

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had spent several prior seasons making $53 million in salary cap space, and this offseason he was able to sign highly sought after free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to the first ever fully guaranteed and highest paying NFL contract for $84 million over three-years. In 2017, for the third consecutive season, Cousins (29) threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 TDs with 13 picks for a passer rating of 93.9 while also running for 179 yards and 4 more TDs, all for the Redskins. Can he bring those numbers to Minnesota?

For the 49ers, Garoppolo’s offensive coordinator in 2018 is also second year head coach Kyle Shanahan. Last season, despite using perennial backup Brian Hoyer as his starting quarterback, Shanahan’s offense ranked 12th in the league overall, 9th in passing yards per game with 245.3. With Garoppolo under center, look for receivers Marquise Goodwin (56 catches for 962 yards and 2 TDs last season) and Pierre Garcon (40 catches for 500 yards) and tight end George Kittle (43 catches for 515 yards and 2 TDs) to put up even bigger numbers in 2018.

The defenses will be the difference

Minnesota had the #1 defense in the league last season and it got even better in 2018 with the signing of veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (44 combined tackles,27 solo, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 pick and 1 forced fumble last year for the Seahawks) to a 1-year deal. The Vikings’ secondary, ranked 2nd in passing yards allowed per game (192.4), is returning including All Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes and hard hitting All Pro safety Harrison Smith plus their first round pick cornerback Mike Hughes, an aggressive interceptor who excels in the return game.

San Francisco’s defense, on the other hand, was ranked 24th and looks to be about the same. They only had 30 sacks last season and only 10 interceptions, but newly signed veteran cornerback Richard Sherman (SEA) is questionable for Week 1 with an Achilles injury. Can the 49ers’ struggling secondary really stop a fired-up Cousins from hitting second-team All Pro wide receiver Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs? Or ball-snagging tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught for 532 yards and 8 touchdowns last season?

Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

Cousins’ new team vs. Garopollo’s new team?

A killer defense vs. one that might be kinda sorta meh?

Oh, absolutely watch this one live, it’ll be a great game, but also record it so you can watch it again right before these two teams meet in the playoffs. It could happen.

There are high hopes for both franchises, for the Vikings to repeat 2017 (but go further) and for the 49ers to repeat the 5-0 part of 2017 that included their new quarterback and return to glory. Or at least the playoffs.

The highlights from this one will be replayed all week.

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants

Sunday, Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

This is one of those non-primetime matchups that some casual fans could easily overlook. It’s a cross-conference battle on NFC turf between two teams that had vastly different 2017s.

Last season the 10-6 Jacksonville Jaguars had the 2nd best defense and the 6th best offense in the league. They won their division and then beat the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard game, 10-3. They beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 in the Divisional playoffs, but then got beat by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, 20-24, barely losing their chance to go to the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants’ offense ranked 21st last season while their defense ranked a pitiful 31st. After a promising 2016 where they went11-5, the 2017 Giants ended up with a 3-13 record and a disappointing last place NFC East finish.

Jags should win this matchup easily, right?

Here’s why the answer to that question might be no.

Two words: Saquon Barkley

The player who makes this particular game entirely watchable is Giants’ first round pick, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who got a 4-year deal worth a total of $31.2 million. In three college years, Barkley ran for 3,843 yards and 43 TDs, caught for 1,195 yards and 8 TDs and even returned two of his 19 kickoff returns for 2 TDs. A once in a generation player, Barkley’s job is to turn the Giants’ 26th ranked running offense around and pull defensive attention away from one of the league’s most productive receivers who’s finally healed, Odell Beckham Jr. Together with quarterback Eli Manning, this pumped-up triplet will be a lot of fun to watch.

The Jaguars have 1st team All Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Beckham and 2nd team All Pro corner A.J. Bouye on whoever else tries to catch a Manning pass. Almost everybody on the Jags’ defense is returning in 2018, including virtually the entire offensive line with 1st team All Pro end Calais Campbell. Can linebackers Myles Jack and 2nd team All Pro Telvin Smith and company stop both Barkely and Beckham Jr.?

Other interesting factors and reasons to watch, if needed

Jaguars executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin was the Giants’ head coach from 2004 through 2015 and with them became the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl. In 2015, he either retired or (more likely) was fired, depending on who and when you ask. Can Coughlin’s new team make his old team regret their decision?

For the last three seasons in a row, the Giants have opened up against the Dallas Cowboys and are 1-2, so it’s entirely debatable whether this matchup with the dominating 2018 Jaguars is preferable. The Giants are 46-64-2 lifetime against the Cowboys and are a more hopeful 3-3 lifetime against the Jags, so this Week 1 matchup might be a little more promising for head coach Pat Shurmur’s Giants.

Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

Would you have loved to watch Hall-of-Fame running back Barry Sanders’ first game live?

If you answered yes, then you might want to watch this one live, too, because some say Barkley is a ‘next-level’ Sanders. Can he pull attention away from a healthy Beckham, or will Ramsey still shut Odell down? Will Manning figure out how to balance the Giants’ running and passing game effectively? Will Jags quarterback Blake Bortles prove himself worthy of his new 3-year, $54 million contract?

Watch this game live and tell your kids all about it.

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Sept. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET

Think about this: if it weren’t for the last time Dallas played the Carolina Panthers back in 2015, the Cowboys’ current quarterback Dak Prescott might not yet be their starter. Back in that 14-33 loss to Cam Newton’s 15-1 (and eventual Super Bowl 50-losing) Panthers, Tony Romo’s left collarbone was broken in the third quarter after being sacked by linebacker Jordan Hicks. Enter backup quarterback Prescott, and Romo has never started an NFL game since.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Panthers went 11-5 and scored a Wildcard spot in the playoffs, only to get beaten by the New Orleans Saints 31-26. This offseason, general manager Marty Hurney decided Newton needed more deep-threat targets to throw to besides Devin Funchess, who caught 63 balls for 840 yards and 8 TDs.

Newton’s got new targets, Prescott’s got the same

Last season, Newton’s numbers were decent:

  • Threw for 3,302 yards (ranked 18th) but with only a 59.1 completion rate;
  • Threw for 22 TDs but with 16 interceptions and 9 fumbles, only one of which were lost;
  • Rushed 139 times for 754 yards and 6 TDs, which was over a third of the team’s total rushing yards of 2,102, 4th in the NFL.

Hurney traded the Eagles for wide receiver Torrey Smith who made 36 catches for 430 yards and 2 TDs and in the first round drafted speedy Big Ten Receiver of the Year D.J. Moore who made 80 catches for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs last season, a school record. Will Moore be the big man to finally replace Panthers legend Steve Smith?  Even Smith thinks…maybe.

During 2017, seven Cowboys players had at least 100 receiving yards, yet the Cowboys ranked 26th in the NFL in passing yards with 3,141. Prescott was an offensive powerhouse averaging 196.2 passing yards per game for 22 TDs while also rushing for 357 yards and 6 TDs. But game-changer tight end Jason Witton retired and Brice Butler left for the Arizona Cardinals, so Prescott’s main targets are now wide receivers Terrance Williams (53 catches for 569 yards) and Cole Beasley, whose 36 catches for 314 yards and 4 TDs in 2017 were less than half of his career high numbers from the last season. Will they be effective against Carolina’s 7th ranked defense?

Rivera gets his home opening, Garrett faces somebody new

After the Panthers had to open at Denver in 2016, Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera questioned schedule makers about the rematch of Super Bowl 50 that was played less than eight months earlier. Rivera felt the defending NFC champions deserved to open at home. So this season, the league granted Rivera’s wish and then some with as high a profile a home opener as an NFC team can get – against the Cowboys. Will Rivera’s team rise up?

The Cowboys made the playoffs in 2014 and 2016, so they’re hoping to keep their even-year streak alive in 2018. For the last three seasons, Dallas has opened up against the New York Giants and are 2-1, so facing the Panthers will be a challenging change of pace. Another 2018 difference is that running back Ezekiel Elliott gets to play all sixteen games unlike last year when he missed six due to suspension. Can he get back to his earlier form in Week 1?

Together.

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Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

This is one of those games that hardcore football fans won’t want to miss watching live.

Two NFC teams who could be playoff bound (most probably Wildcard spots, given their divisional rivals) trying to get a step ahead of each other in Week 1, both with equally matched defenses and quality offensive triplets. Dallas was 6-2 on the road last season while Carolina was 6-2 at home, so it might just be anyone’s game.

Whatever your football interest level, this is a matchup you’ll definitely want to see live.

Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, Sept. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET

On the surface, this matchup between the Washington Redskins, a 7-9 team last season, and the Arizona Cardinals, who went 8-8, looks to be like one of those games you might want to record so you can skim through it later.

After all, when these two teams met last season in Week 15, the Redskins beat the Cardinals 20-15 in a semi-snoozer that saw 11 punts, 5 turnovers, 7 field goals and only 2 touchdowns.

So what makes this 2018 matchup between these two middling franchises interesting to watch?

Two reasons: both teams will be starting new quarterbacks.

Smith & Bradford might make this game exciting

Last offseason, the Redskins’ Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams traded the Kansas City Chiefs for 34-year-old quarterback Alex Smith and refused to give their 29-year-old stud quarterback Kirk Cousins a long-term contract. In 2017, Smith threw 4,042 passing yards for 26 TDs with only 5 picks for a stellar passer rating of 104.7. He also ran 355 yards and a touchdown. But can he put up those kinds of numbers with a brand new team?

In the first round of the 2018 draft, Arizona general manager Steve Keim selected NFL-ready Josh Rosen, the UCLA quarterback who in his junior (and final) year completed 283 passes for 3,756 yards, 26 TDs and 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 147. In Week 1, he’ll most probably be on the sideline, but he apparently has the skills to start if needed. Keim signed starter Sam Bradford, a free agent who spent most of 2017 on injured reserve. But during a healthy 2016, he had 395 completions for 3,877 yards, 20 TDs and only 5 interceptions. Can Bradford return to his pre-injury form quickly enough before the crowds start calling for Rosen?

But will there be more scoring than punts?

Tough to say - the Redskins’ run game was ranked 28th last season, so Williams drafted “high maintenance” LSU running back Derrius Guice, who rushed for 1,251 yards  and 11 TDs and caught 18 balls for 124 yards and 2 TDs his junior year. Guice is immature, but can he score?

Smith will target receivers Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and free agent Paul Richardson, who caught 44 balls for 703 yards and 6 touchdowns in Seattle last year. Tight end Jordon Reed’s injured hamstring kept him out of all but six games last season, but he still caught 27 receptions for 211 yards and 2 TDs. Can new-guy Smith connect with them all in Week 1?

Arizona running back David Johnson says the wrist injury that kept him out last season is healed and he’s ready to play. Healthy in 2016, Johnson ran 293 times for 1,239 yards and 16 TDs and caught 80 balls for 879 yards and 4 TDs. With an effective quarterback, Arizona has the weapons to score big. Star wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson along with 2nd round draft pick Christian Kirk, who caught 71 passes for 919 yards and 10 TDs his junior year, will give Bradford plenty of targets to aim for. But after a year off, will he be too rusty to hit them?

Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

Hardcore NFL fans will be curious as to how Smith & Bradford will do and will want to watch that action live. It might be a little fun for casual fans, too.

Did Redskins’ Williams make a good call losing Cousins and grabbing Smith? Will Chandler Jones’ and Budda Baker’s 6th ranked Cardinal defense stuff Smith? Is Bradford healthy and can he still play? And lead an Arizona team with a brand new head coach (Steve Wilks) and new offensive (Mike McCoy) and defensive (Al Holcomb) coordinators?

Casual fans can watch the highlights of this one and be just fine.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

Sunday, Sept. 9, 7:20 p.m. ET

This Week 1 matchup is solid for some very watchable reasons.

First off, Chicago Bears versus Green Bay Packers is the longest continuous rivalry in football, as these two teams have played each other at least twice a season since 1932. So far, Green Bay leads 96-94-6.

Plus, this is the Packers’ 100th season, so with this Prime Time game being played in Green Bay, there will be plenty of festivities, celebrations and celebrity sightings. If you like that sorta thing.

Of course, some might ask: didn’t both these teams kinda stink last season?

Well, it’s not at all about their unimpressive records.

It’s about Rodgers and Trubisky

Forget that the Chicago Bears went 5-11 last season and the Green Bay Packers were only 7-9. Those losing 2017 records don’t truly reflect who either of these teams are in 2018. Both franchises had huge quarterback issues but now those look to be solved.

The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Week 6 and backup Brett Hundley just couldn’t get the job done. With Rodgers healthy, he’ll target receivers Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison and try to re-ignite an offense that was only 26th in the league. Added free agent pass-catching tight end Jimmy Graham will also benefit from Rodger’s return.

The Bears struggled last season because they had to use their rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after Mike Glennon got to a 1–3 start. Trubisky threw for a league-worst 175.7 yards per game, and he passed for 2,193 yards and 7 TDs but with 7 picks on top of 10 fumbles, 3 of which he lost. General manager Ryan Pace got him some better targets – receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel plus tight end Trey Burton (and his shiny Super Bowl LII ring).

Who will win the quarterback duel – the veteran or the kid?

Careful, these defenses can sack

Last season the Packers defense had 37 total sacks while the Bears had 42. When they played each other in Week 10 there were 8 total sacks in the game and the Packers won 23-16.

During the offseason, the Bears drafted outside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round and added a pass rushing outside linebacker from the 49ers, Aaron Lynch. Will they put the hurt on Rodgers against a Green Bay line that allowed 51 sacks last season? Will the Bears secondary, including cornerbacks Kyle Fuller (69 tackles and 2 interceptions) and Prince Amukamara (45 tackles), shut a rusty Rodgers down?

To help the Packers defense to get at opposing quarterbacks, general manager Brian Gutekunst brought in free agent left defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson who had 3.5 sacks and a pick for the Jets last season. To boost their 23rd ranked pass defense, Gutekunst drafted cornerbacks Jaire Alexander in the first round, Josh Jackson in the second round and brought back free agent cornerback Tramon Williams. Can they get at Trubisky and scare the kid?

Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

Any chance a football fan gets to watch a future Hall-of-Famer like Aaron Rodgers on live TV, it’s a no brainer. Do it.

The Packers have a solid veteran quarterback but a questionable defense while the Bears have a solid defense but a questionable young quarterback. Which combination will win the matchup?

Casual fans will enjoy the giant spectacle of the historic Green Bay evening. The Chicago Bears, who were 2-6 on the road and 0-6 against divisional rivals last season, most probably will not.

New York Jets at Detroit Lions

Monday, Sept. 10, 7:10 p.m. ET

If you only have time to watch one of the two Monday Night Football games scheduled for Week 1, let’s just say that it isn’t this one.

Not only were the 5-11 New York Jets terrible on the road last season (1-7), they’ll have to travel to Detroit and at quarterback start either:

  1. Josh McCown who’s gone 23-50 lifetime;
  2. ‘Healthy’ Teddy Bridgewater who hasn’t played for 2 seasons because of a blown knee;
  3. Sam Darnold, the rookie quarterback Jets drafted in the first round.

On the other side of this cross-conference matchup are the Detroit Lions who went 9-7 with Mathew Stafford, the league’s third best quarterback last season who threw for 4,446 yards and 29 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions for a completion percentage of 65.7 and a passer rating of 99.3. The Lions’ defense, however, were ranked 27th and allowed opponents to gain 355.8 total yards and score 23.5 points per game.

So what’s to watch?

For serious and casual football fans, it’s two things, mainly…

…the Lions’ new pack leader who knows Jets

For Detroit, this game will be the head-coaching debut of Matt Patricia, who, because of being the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator, happens to be very familiar with the Jets' schemes and personnel. He and coordinator Paul Pasqaloni must improve their dismally ranked  defense.

To help with that, Lions’ general manager Bob Quinn drafted Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, who’s ready to prove himself in a line that contains franchise-tagged end Ezekiel Ansah and Anthony Zettel.

All Pro cornerback Darius ‘Big Play’ Slay wants to start a repeat of his 2017 when he had 60 tackles and 8 picks, which ranked 2nd in the league, as does All Rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis.

…the Jets starting quarterback, which will be…?

Josh McCown could only lead the Jets to 5 wins last season, so chances are their starter in Week 1 will be Bridgewater, who blew his knee before the 2016 season and hasn’t played since. He put up decent pre-injury numbers for the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, throwing for 3,231 yards, 14 TDs and 9 interceptions while rushing for 192 yards and 3 TDs. How effective will he be this early in the season? If he starts, that is.

This game is definitely worth watching if for some reason rookie quarterback Sam Darnold gets to play. The USC phenom threw for 4,143 yards and 26 TDs with 13 interceptions while rushing for 82 yards and 5 TDs and is said to be NFL ready. Be fun to see if he is.

No matter who starts at quarterback, the Jets’ offensive line has to do a better job protecting him than they did last season when they allowed 47 sacks (only six teams allowed more).

6️⃣9️⃣ days! #KrogerCountdown

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Watch it live or wait for the highlights?

It’s Monday Night Football, so watch it live no matter who’s playing, right?

Will the Jets’ newly acquired veteran offensive tools – Isaiah Crowell and Terrelle Pryor – help a struggling team in need of experience and leadership?

Will the Lions’ new scoring weapons – LaGarrette Blount and Luke Wilson – play well with the others, like Marvin Jones and Golden Tate? Can Stafford orchestrate them all?

If you’re truly short on Monday night free time, maybe skip this one and watch Rams / Raiders instead.

Otherwise, buckle in, football fans, it’s going to be a long, sweet Monday night of football.

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