The long-awaited start of the season is already knocking on the door. It's time to once again check the stocks of chips, popcorn and various drinks, make sure that the composition in the fantasy is set, and, finally, remind the household that you are going to nirvana. On the night of Thursday to Friday, Chiefs and Texans will open the regular season, while we will take a look at the main intrigues and stories of the first game week. Let's go!
Chiefs vs Texans
Show from the 2017 draft headliners
Team leaders Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson rebooted the quarterback market this offseason by signing new contracts. They are now the top two highest paid passer in the NFL. And I must say that these contracts are more than deserved.
There are few rivalries in the league where you can see two high-profile quarterbacks who can, whatever their action, raise the question, "What the hell was that?" Mahomes and Watson consistently rank among the top players in PFF ratings. Both are able to build a big play out of the blue, in any situation.
Last season, Patrick, who played with an ankle injury, earned his lowest score of the year against Houston: 40.0 from the PFF. Both quarterbacks are now healthy and are likely to give the opponent's secondaries a nightmare. There are questions for this part of the defense in both teams. Bashaud Breeland will not play for the Chiefs due to disqualification, who is likely to be replaced by second-year Rashad Fenton. Houston will be delighted to see progress from Vernon Hargreaves and Lonnie Johnson, who ranked 108th and 115th in 2019 by the PFF among 115 qualified cornerbacks.
It is unlikely that the teams will again shoot 82 points, as they did in the playoffs, but the game will be productive for sure.
Washington vs Eagles
Magnificent defensive lines against Carson Wentz and Dwayne Haskins
This offseason, the PFF released a ranking of the best defense lines in the league, with Washington and Philadelphia finishing second and third respectively. The offense of both teams will have a very difficult time.
The Eagles defense leaders are Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. This couple has been playing together for a very long time and they do not need to be explained how to create problems for an offense. Graham has had 338 pressures on a quarterback in the past five years, sixth in the NFL. Cook is in seventh place with 336 pressures. In the offseason, the team was joined by Javon Hargrave, one of the best defensive tackles in terms of efficiency in this aspect of the game. Malik Jackson also recovered from the injury.
Their goal should be the left side of the Washington line. Geron Christian is expected to take the place of the left tackle in the offensive line, while Wes Martin or Wes Schweitzer will play the guard. This is not the best matchup. To make matters worse, in 2019, Dwayne Haskins was the most hit in the league by a sack when he had to go back under pressure. Taken together, this can lead to large losses of yards.
The Defensive end are doing better on defense. Selected in the last two first-round drafts, Montez Sweat and Chase Young are set to oust veteran Ryan Kerrigan from the squad. Young as a whole is capable of immediately playing at the level of the NFL elite pass rushes. The Defensive tackles, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, are also effective pass rushers, although Allen lacks stability.
The Eagles lost two starting linemen due to injuries: the right guard Brandon Brooks and the left tackle Andre Dillard. Pro Jason Peters was urgently assigned to the key role. On the right you can expect Matt Pryor. Last year, Philadelphia's offensive line was good and generally did not get much worse, but confidence in its reliability diminished. In the first game of the season, they will have a great test.
Patriots vs Dolphins
Cam Newton and the Patriots Offense enter a new era
The great and terrible Tom Brady had left Foxboro, now the keys to the New England offense are in the hands of Cam Newton. These quarterbacks are very different in terms of play style, and it's not just about their ability to run. During the Carolina season, Newton had one of the highest average shot times at 2.9 seconds. Cam's average passing distance was 9.7 yards, the third highest in the league among 32 qualified quarterbacks. Tom Brady takes diametrically opposite positions in both of these categories. It will be interesting to see if Newton's playing style changes or if we see something radically new in the Patriots offense.
Obviously, Cam has to be useful in the team's end-to-end play. Since joining the league, no quarterback has had so many off-hand combinations tailored specifically to him. At key moments in games, this can play an important role. This is not the kind of game we are used to seeing the Patriots play, although it did happen from time to time when Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissette took the field. Either way, Newton's debut with the new team is well worth seeing.
The first opponents of the Patriots will be the Dolphins, whose defense was one of the worst in 2019. In the offseason, Brian Flores worked on this problem and the Miami roster was joined by free agents and drafted rookies Byron Jones, Kyle van Noy, Noah Igbinoghene and Shaq Lawson. Xavien Howard also recovered from the injury.
Vikings vs Packers
Young group of Green Bay receivers will compete with the same youth in Minnesota's secondaries
These teams are the favorites of the NFC Northern Division, however, there are questions for them as a result of the ended offseason. Some of the biggest questions are the depth of the Packers receivers behind Devante Adams and the rookies in the cornerback positions at the Vikings. Their duel will have a direct impact on the outcome of the match.
The only significant addition to the Packers' receiver corps is the free agent Devin Funchess, but the club will not benefit from this as the player decided to skip the season. In the Green Bay Draft, they opted for a potential replacement for Aaron Rodgers (Bryce Love), stunt double for Aaron Jones (A.J. Dillon) and tight end Josiah Deguara. The latter is the only newcomer with the potential to influence the Packers' passing game. In this way, the management expressed their confidence in their young WR Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeus St. Brown.
Their opponents in the first game will be the inexperienced Minnesota cornerbacks. In two-player schemes, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill will be on the field in this position. Newcomer Cameron Dantzler from the third round of the draft will be seen. Jeff Gladney is also running for a starting position. Whoever ends up on the pitch, Devante Adams is going to be a major challenge to the Vikings' defense. He is one of the best in the league for route work. His Redzone score since 2016 is 88.1, the best in the NFL.
Jaguars vs Colts
Philip Rivers with the best offensive line in the NFL will prove he's too early to write off
If you suddenly had the chance to watch the Chargers games last season, then you might have noticed that Rivers's hand strength is not the same. Because of this, he made programs throughout the year that he would not have cast in his best years. This often led to the risk of losing the ball. However, let's not forget about Rivers' passing accuracy: by this measure, he is quite capable of entering the top five quarterbacks in the league.
The Colts Rivers will have the best offensive line of their career. The unit, led by Quenton Nelson, has been playing in the same composition for a long time and has practically no weaknesses. Indianapolis is ranked number one in the PFF's preseason offensive line rankings. All of this should give the veteran confidence that he won't have to worry about a defender who can ruin the rally. The defense Jaguars, which has lost almost all the leaders, is the rival in the game against which you can demonstrate high performance.
Lions vs Bears
Mitchell Trubisky continues to fight for a place in Chicago
Instead of signing Cam Newton or Jameis Winston without extra spending for the team, the Chicago office chose to barter Nick Foles, who eventually lost the fight for a place in the long-suffering Trubisky. As a reminder, Mitch's overall rating from the PFF since 2017 is 65.9, which is 29 out of 32 qualified quarterbacks. Bears is in a difficult position and is expecting a significant step forward from Trubisky, while this step is very unlikely.
However, Lions is a historically convenient contender for Mitch. He played three of his five best passing games against Detroit. In this game, we can see the decent stats of the Chicago quarterback again and get another hope for something better in his performance.
On the other side of the field, it will be possible to appreciate the updated defense of the Lions. In the offseason, Darius Slay left the team, and Desmond Trufant, Daron Harmon, Jamie Collins, Jeffrey Okudah and Julian Okwara joined the roster. Head Coach Matt Patricia continues to recruit Patriots 'boyfriends' in Detroit.
Panthers vs Raiders
First check for offense by Matt Rhule and Joe Brady
Joe Brady last year became one of the symbols of LCJ's triumph, along with team quarterback Joe Burrow. This success earned him an invitation to serve as offense coordinator at Matt Rhule's headquarters in Carolina. And Brady has more than enough work. Teddy Bridgewater did not shine last year, but proved himself to be a reliable, stable and confident quarterback. His appearance is a clear boost to the Panthers over 2019.
Bridgewater also has a suitable weapon. It's about DJ Moore, who was very good in the first two seasons of his career and is now the best receiver in the draft of 2018. Brady with his system can take Moore to the next level. In addition, Christian McCaffrey and Robby Anderson with Curtis Samuel added color to Carolina's passing offense.
Their opponents in the first game will be a young line of secondaries Raiders, especially after Prince Amukamara's expulsion. Rookie Damon Arnette and second year Trayvon Mullen are likely to take the cornerback positions. In place of safety, for the first time since the first game of last season, Jonathan Abrams will appear. In 2019, the Raiders were the worst defending pass in the NFL. A major improvement in this aspect should not be expected, although the roster has replenished with talent, and linebacker Cory Littleton will be useful. However, Carolina's attack shouldn't be too problematic.
Bills vs Jets
Sam Darnold vs. Josh Allen and both have a lot to prove
The 2020 season should be a defining season for both quarterbacks. Darnold's place looks a little hotter simply based on the teams' performance over the past two seasons. However, with Blake Bortles as an example, we saw that reaching the playoffs is not a guarantee of getting a stable job.
If we look at the ratings of both players from the PFF, we can see that they played at about the same level. Allen ranked 28th out of 32 with 65.3, Darnold ranked 29th with 64.9. The Bills seem to be the favorites for simply giving Josh the best environment.
Allen is protected by the eighteenth-ranked PFF offensive line, and he will be shooting the fifth-strongest group of receivers. Similar Jets units occupy 27th and 31st places. New Yorkers in the offseason tried to strengthen these positions, but questions remain. Will Mekhi Becton cope with the role of the left tackle? Can the newly arrived free agents win back at last year's level? Will Breshad Perriman progress? How will Denzel Mims play after injury? The answers to them may be different. But Darnold has to show progress in his game anyway. The same goes for Allen.
Ravens vs Browns
Cleveland's next attempt to convert talent into results
The Browns were expected to progress and reach the playoffs before the start of last season. Did not work out. Mayfield played weaker than in his debut season. The leading defender was disqualified. Odell Beckham had the worst year of his career. On the whole, the command mechanism was failing.
However, the Browns still have a very talented roster. The offensive line was reinforced by tackles Jack Conklin (80.5 from the PFF in 2019) and Jedrick Wills. Austin Hooper came in, briefly the highest paid tight end in the NFL. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Freddie Kitchens was replaced as head coach by Kevin Stefanski, who had been successful in the Minnesota offensive.
On defense, the Browns have Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. There are also a lot of promising and talented players next to them. The first game of the season against the best team of the 2019 regular season is a good opportunity to make a name for yourself.
Falcons vs Seahawks
Updated Seattle Secondary Line vs. Atlanta Passing offense
With the disintegration of the Boom Legion, the Seahawks' d-back corps became, as expected, weaker. This offseason, the team's office has worked hard to reboot the secondaries and so far it seems they have succeeded.
It all started with the acquisition of Jamal Adams, who can play in different positions in depth of field. In the past two seasons, only Stephon Gilmore has been the PFF's most valuable defensive player. Adams is all about reliability in covering the pass and acting against the clearance, as well as the threat of a pass rush from a strong safety position. Adams' trade overshadowed another deal - the move of Quinton Dunbar, PFF's second-rated cornerback for the 2019 season. In addition, Seattle has Shaquill Griffin and Quandre Diggs.
Much the same can be said about Atlanta's passing offense. Matt Ryan finished last year with the worst PFF rating of his career, but he still has a shot at being one of the league's top quarterbacks. The host is the brilliant Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Their confrontation with the Seahawks defense will be the decoration of the game.
Bengals vs Chargers
Derwin James absence won't make life easier for Cincinnati Bengals players
James's injury, which will make one of the NFL's top defenders miss most of the season for the second year in a row, is a problem for the Chargers. However, even without him, the team has talented d-backs: Casey Hayward, Chris Harris and Desmond King. Let's not forget about the chic tandem of D-ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Since 2016, Bosa has been the league's most efficient pass rush at 21.7%.
On the other side of the field, they will face the Bengals offensive line, one of the worst in the NFL. In the draft, the team strengthened with left tackle Jonah Williams, but Joe Burrow is unlikely to be able to calmly feel in the envelope. However, Burrow's passing rating under pressure was the best in college football last season. Even against the good defense of the Chargers, he has to show why he was chosen as number one.
49ers vs Cardinals
Arizona offense check against one of the best defenses of last season
The team's test is San Francisco's defense, one of the best in the league last season. Some regression can be expected from them, but a powerful line with the support of Richard Sherman, Cavon Williams and Jimmy Ward is able to stop any offense. The main question of the match: how Kyler Murray, last year most of all hit by a sack, will cope with the crazy pressure of the opponent.
Saints vs Buccaneers
Forever young quarterbacks whose offense could be the most effective this year
One of the central games of the first week of the season. Tom Brady on a new team against the excellent Saints.
There has been enough talk in the past year that Brady has given up badly. But everything is not so simple here. Skill position matchmaking in the Patriots left a lot to be desired, while in Tampa he has two top 10 receivers: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Another element of the attack is the return of Rob Gronkowski, as well as Cameron Brate with OJ Howard. The reunion of Brady and Gronk is one of the most intriguing plots of the season.
Drew Brees has long been a stable member of the league's quarterback elite. His PFF score of 94.9 over the past three seasons is the best. The Saints offense, bolstered by Emmanuel Sanders, should get better. And despite the fact that the defenses of the opponents are of a very decent level, with such an attack the match should be productive.
Rams vs Cowboys
Will Dallas casualty line of offense handle Aaron Donald?
In the offseason, there was a lot of hype around Dallas, behind which problems with the offensive line remained unnoticed. Two positions are closed by elite Tyrone Smith and Zach Martin, but the other three are a big question, especially considering La'el Collins injury.
Connor Williams and Joe Looney have experience playing left guard and center, but they failed to prove themselves well. The right tackle will be Cam Erving, who replaced Eric Fisher in the Chiefs last year but received a 44.8 rating from the PFF.
Pass rush Rams are not among the best in the NFL, but this is where the best pass rush player Aaron Donald plays. He grabs the attention of the opponent, copes with double and even triple blocks, helping his partners get free passes to the opponent's quarterback. Over the past three years, he has pressured the quarterback 277 times, ahead of his closest pursuer, Vaughn Miller, who has 53 less. Donald is the machine that will cause trouble for Dallas.
Dak Prescott must be assisted by his hosts Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb to cope with this machine. All of them are capable of beating their opponents early in the rally and breaking out into the field, perhaps better than any other receivers in the NFL.
Giants vs Steelers
Big Ben returns and an easy contender for Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers offensive was very ineffective last season, but the team ended it 8-8. This is largely due to the actions of the defense, which forced the opponent to make 37 losses, but it also shows the potential of the Pittsburgh offensive. The team can be one of the best in the conference, you just need a stable and reliable quarterback.
From 2015 to 2017, Roethlisberger was ranked fourth by the PFF, behind only Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. The slump in his game happened in 2018, but even then Ben became the leader in the number of passing yards. Now the intrigue will be in which direction his career will move after an elbow injury.
The Giants are probably the most suitable opponent for the first game after returning. The team has lost DeAndre Baker, who is steeped in crime, and Xavier McKinney's second-round pick in 2020 is injured. Veterans Logan Ryan and James Bradberry have come to the Giants, but this is not enough to solve all the problems. Roethlisberger's experience should help him take apart the opponent's defense.
Broncos vs Titans
Tennessee and Denver clash for the best position behind the backs of the AFC favorites
Predicting the composition of the AFC playoffs, we can only speak with confidence about Chiefs and Ravens. Almost all other teams have a chance to get there. Broncos and Titans in the first week have a chance to secure a small head start by defeating a competitor.
Titans, who made it to the final of the conference last year, look more promising, but many are afraid of Ryan Tannehill's likely regression. He was not a bad quarterback in Miami, but expecting him to become one of the best players in his position in the AFC is also ridiculous. To help Tannehill should brightly debuted last year, receiver AJ Brown.
In Denver, season expectations are also tied to the quarterback figure. Drew Lock showed what he was capable of in matches against Houston and Detroit, but did not look well against the Chiefs. His little experience in the starting lineup and his past at the University of Missouri are only foggy. Lock begins his second season and must answer who he really is. Matching skill positions in the Broncos allows him to fulfill his potential.