Odell vs. Ramsey, Brady vs. Watson: Breaking down the biggest matchups of Week 1
Welcome back, NFL! If Thursday night in Philadelphia was a prelude for the 2018-19 NFL season, then fans can get excited.
With Philadelphia needing a spark in the second half, Doug Pederson reached in to his bag of tricks and pulled out a very familiar play.
“The Philly Special,” a play that will be remembered for decades, made its return and ignited a Philadelphia drive on a must-have third down. From there, the Eagles seized momentum and hung for dear life for an opening night, 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
I was hit with a slight sense of déjà vu as Atlanta once again had a chance to come in to Lincoln Financial Field and play the role of the Big Bad Wolf. Much like their 15-10 playoff loss to the Eagles in last year’s playoffs, the Falcons’ inept red-zone offense prevented them from coming away with a win.
On the first drive of the game, Atlanta was stuffed on fourth and goal, and on fourth and goal with one second remaining in the fourth quarter, Julio Jones was shoved out-of-bounds after coming down with a difficult catch, albeit a poorly thrown ball by Matt Ryan. His blandness at quarterback is resembling white rice more and more each time he takes the field.
Atlanta had the game well within their grasp, but it was Philadelphia that made the plays. Every NFL fan was on the edge of their seat with the game on the line, and that’s about all you can ask for.
The rest of week one is just as appetizing as Opening Night. Here are the games to keep an eye on during Week 1.
New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 PM at MetLife Stadium
I can’t wait to take my Odell Beckham Jr. out of the closet this Sunday. Giants fans everywhere are excited for the potential that this team has. With Saquon Barkley adding his electricity to the running game, and Nate Solder solidifying the offensive line, the Giants will be expecting a playoff push.
They open the season at home, but it doesn’t get any tougher than Week 1 against one of the best defenses in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Eyes will be glued to the TV when Odell lines up across from Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is arguably the best cornerback in the league, but the best trash-talker without a doubt.
The two flamboyant personalities will be on the precipice of taking it too far on Sunday. The drama in this single match-up could overshadow the game itself.
With Odell recently becoming the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, many expect him to be on his best behavior. However, Odell feeds off his emotions and thrives when he can be himself on the football field.
Ramsey can shut down the best wide-outs and won’t shut up while doing it. His goal will be to bait Odell in to unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and intercept a few passes in the process.
The two rising stars will be in the spotlight all afternoon on Sunday.
Prediction: Giants, 16-13
New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans, 1 PM at Gillette Stadium
The kings of the AFC will take on the likely usurpers in a Week 1 showdown. Last year, the Texans traveled to Gillette Stadium in Week 3, and many fans are hoping for a repeat performance.
The Patriots outlasted the Texans in an offensive showcase, 36-33. Deshaun Watson’s coming out party was spoiled by a late touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds remaining. The play resembled a Picasso as Brady dropped in a 25-yard dime and Cooks tapped his toes to secure the catch.
Many fans were salivating at the chance to see this match-up again in the playoffs, but weeks later Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Patriots went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
With a healthy Watson the Texans will want to take what should have been their W last season. Watson’s dual-threat ability has him in this season’s MVP discussion if he can stay healthy.
Brady has seemingly lost every wide receiver this offseason. Most were cut by the team and Eric Decker even retired before the preseason came to an end. If any quarterback can do less with more, its Tom Brady. Let’s not throw a pity party just yet, he still has future Hall-of-Famer Rob Gronkowski as his go-to target.
The game figures to be a shootout, and one that will be hard to turn off.
Prediction: Patriots, 31-24
San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 PM at US Bank Stadium
With every team in action during Week 1 it’s hard to narrow it down to just three games, but I tried my best.
Jimmy “GQ” Garoppolo is undefeated as a starter in the NFL. The jury is still out as the impressive start to his career includes a small sample size of seven games. With 12 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions and quarterback rating a shade under 100 (99.7), you can see why fans in the Bay Area are excited.
Week 1 in Minnesota will be his toughest test yet. The Vikings went 8-1 at home last season if you include the playoffs. On top of that, they have rattled off six wins in a row at US Bank Stadium.
With quarterback Kirk Cousins coming in to the fold and Dalvin Cook returning from injury, Minnesota can’t wait for kickoff.
Minnesota’s defense expects to be just as stingy as last season. They would love nothing more than to be the first blemish on the quarterback’s perfect record.
The Niners were a popular pick to make a Wild Card playoff spot in the NFC, but late in the preseason former Viking, Jerrick McKinnon, tore his ACL.
That delivered a blow to the potentially potent 49ers offense. Veteran running back Alfred Morris will look to step in and provide some punch in the ground game as Garoppolo targets Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon through the air.
Prediction: Vikings, 23-17
Andrew Luck’s return to the football field has many fantasy owner’s holding their breath. Will he return to his All-Pro form or just return?
James Conner will have his time to shine. With LeVeon Bell nowhere in sight for Pittsburgh, the second-year back will look to take this opportunity and run with it. Literally.
Can Khalil Mack make the Chicago Bears defense a viable option in fantasy? The top-tier pass rusher will bring a presence that the Bears haven’t had in a while. His first game is a daunting one as Chicago travels to Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers.
Adrian Peterson will get his opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. We’re looking at you Shannon Sharpe. The Redskins will be feeding AP all day in Arizona as the Redskins looks for a road win to open the season.