A new season is upon us, and with it comes the inevitable upsets that occur on a weekly basis around the league. That’s what we’re diving into here as we look ahead to NFL Week 1.
With 13 games on Sunday and two more on Monday, there’s a lot that can happen the next couple of days. These are the teams who enter NFL Week 1 as favorites but could walk away from the first weekend of action with a big “L” on their record.
Note: Odds courtesy of Oddsshark
San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings (-5)
It’s easy to see why Minnesota opens the season as the favorite at home against San Francisco. The Vikings appear to have upgraded since last year — especially at quarterback — and they had a nice postseason run in 2017.
That being said, the 49ers have some intriguing young defensive talent (along with one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Richard Sherman) that could make life difficult for Kaptain Kirk and Co.
And on the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo — who is still without blemish as an NFL starter — has plenty to prove after inking a massive deal this offseason. What better way to prove he’s worth the cash than by taking down one of the league’s most dominant defenses to open the new season?
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) vs. New York Giants
The coming battle between Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be worth the price of admission when Jacksonville takes on New York at MetLife Stadium. Additionally, it’s going to be fun to watch Sacksonville’s front four go up against the revamped offensive line of the Giants.
There are two huge keys to this game, quite aside from all that entertainment. First, Saquon Barkley is a game-changing player for the Giants. If he has a huge game, then Big Blue absolutely has a chance to win at home over the AFC powerhouse Jags.
On the other side, Blake Bortles is known for throwing the ball to the other team at the worst possible time — he did that plenty in the preseason, too. If he’s giving the Giants second chances, then chances then all bets are off.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Patriots have started off slow before. Remember, they got trounced by the Kansas City Chiefs last year in Week 1, prompting forecasts of doom over their 2017 campaign.
Nobody should be surprised if another Week 1 loss is in the cards for Bill Belichick’s Pats in 2018, either. Julian Edelman is suspended. Their running back situation is far from settled. The offensive line is potentially an issue. We have absolutely no idea what to expect from their defense this season.
Then there’s Houston, which features one of the most potent offenses in the NFL with a healthy Deshaun Watson, who has amazing chemistry with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. And remenber, Watson almost beat the Patriots last year in New England. Now he has much more defensive help heading into Week 1, as J.J. Watt is healthy, along with Whitney Mercilus and a very hungry Honey Badger.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
If the Chargers win this game at home, then it’s likely it’ll have a lot to do with Kansas City’s secondary, which struggled big time this preseason to shut down opposing passing games. But if the Chiefs can somehow bottle up Philip Rivers and Co. when it comes time to defend the red zone, they have a real chance to pull off the victory on the road.
Of course, the big reason for this is that Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have immense potential to put points on the board. And if Sammy Watkins can figure out where he belongs in this lineup as well, opposing defenses won’t have enough guys to stop this offense.
Joey Bosa is out for Week 1, and the Chargers lost two starting cornerbacks to injury this summer. That’s not going to help them take on this challenge.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers (-2.5)
It’s going to be fun watching Carolina’s offense blossom under the guidance of Norv Turner. The Panthers have some intriguing playmakers on offense now, and Turner knows how to put them in a position for success.
But none of that matters if Cam Newton has no time to throw. The Panthers enter Week 1 without starting left tackle Matt Kalil, and starting right tackle Daryl Williams is questionable with a knee injury. Dallas can get after the quarterback off the edge, especially if Randy Gregory is able to contribute. Combined with a very good young secondary, the Cowboys have the tools defensively to negate much of what Carolina will try to do.
Then on the other side, look for Ezekiel Elliott to have a monster game as he opens the 2018 season with a huge chip on his shoulder.
New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions (-6.5)
The Jets are probably not going to win half their games this year as they roll with the youngest starting quarterback in the history of the league. That being said, New York’s defensive front is darn good, and it should have a field day against Detroit, which was awful up front offensively this preseason.
Should the Lions continue to struggle to protect Matthew Stafford — he had a miserable preseason — and fail to open up running lanes, then the Lions will fall in Week 1 barring an atrocious start by Sam Darnold.
The Jets did a fine job moving the ball on offense with Darnold in the lineup this summer. They have better playmakers than many people realize, and Darnold made good decisions with the football. Look for the rookie to log his first win in his first NFL start.