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NFL Week 1: 10 burning questions, including Buccaneers-Cowboys opener

Vincent Frank

NFL Week 1 will get going Thursday evening when the defending champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills in what could be a Super Bowl preview.

The week’s slate continues Sunday afternoon with two second-year quarterbacks in Justin Fields and Trey Lance doing battle. Later Sunday afternoon, new Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell will start his career in Minneapolis as his team hosts reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Will Minnesota be up to the task in this one?

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys open their season at home against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’s numerous questions for head coach Mike McCarthy and Co. Monday night will then feature longtime former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson making his Denver Broncos debut in the Pacific Northwest. How will fans welcome the Super Bowl winner? These are among the 10 burning questions for NFL Week 1.

Related: NFL Week 1 schedule and TV information

Dallas Cowboys left tackle, wide receiver situations

nfl week 1: dallas cowboys offensive line situation
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas just landed nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters to replace the injured Tyron Smith as Dak Prescott’s blindside protector. That will not play a role come Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith is slated to start against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. Whether he’s ready to handle the pressure remains to be seen.

“Do I wish we had Tyron? Yes. Will we get Tyron back? Likely. But in the meantime, he’s going to come in and he’s going to get a Harvard doctorate degree in playing left tackle between now and then. Will we pay some price for it? Yes. Can we win with him paying a price? I think so, yes.”

Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones on left tackle situation heading into NFL Week 1

Dallas’ wide receiver situation behind CeeDee Lamb is also nearly as unsettled. It was forced to trade Amari Cooper in a cost-cutting move during the offseason. Free-agent addition James Washington is on injured reserve. Meanwhile, No. 2 wide reciver Michael Gallup remains sidelined as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered late last season. These are a ton of question marks for Dallas as it prepares to take on Tom Brady and Co. Sunday night on NBC.


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Two second-year quarterbacks locked in Windy City duel

nfl week 1: trey lance against justin fields
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Lance against Justin Fields. A San Francisco 49ers team with realistic title aspirations against a Chicago Bears squad in the initial stages of a rebuild under new head coach Matt Eberflus. There’s so many storylines heading into this NFL Week 1 matchup. Primarily, how these two 2021 first-round picks will perform out of the gate.

For the 22-year-old Lance, it’s all about the pressure that comes with being San Francisco’s starting quarterback. Franchise legend Steve Young spoke on that recently. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo’s presence as Lance’s backup adds another layer to the pressure that the youngster is going to feel in 2022.

Fields’ situatition is different in that Chicago lacks the true playmakers to help the sophomore succeed. It was a major issue during his rookie season, too. Though, a strong preseason finale for Fields has given Bears fans some hope as they open up against a vastly superior 49ers squad on the road.

Second-year progression from Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions

nfl week 1: dan campbell's detroit lions
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a certain level of confidence coming from Dan Campbell and Co. heading into the coach’s second season with the team. It has nothing to do with the disastrous 3-13-1 record for Detroit in Campbell’s first season. Rather, it’s all about Detroit’s young talent and how much Lions players love Campbell and how he attempts to lift them up.

“He always believed in his players, regardless of what we were going through. Every game, we went in with the mindset that we could beat anybody. Regardless of the team we’re playing, they have to block the gates. We in there with them.”

Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker on Dan Campbell, via The Athletic

Whether this translates to Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles remains to be seen. It’s going to be a pretty big barometer of where the Lions are at in this stage of their rebuild. A strong performance from Jared Goff and Co. in this one will have fans in Detroit hopeful for the first time in eons.

Related: NFL Week 1 power rankings

Baker Mayfield sets sights on former Cleveland Browns team

nfl week 1: baker mayfield against the cleveland browns
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

If we had told you this time last year that Baker Mayfield would be starting for the Carolina Panthers against the Cleveland Browns, you should have shut us down as loons. But here we are. Months removed from Cleveland replacing Mayfield with a suspended Deshaun Watson, the former No. 1 pick opens up his Panthers career against the Browns.

“No animosity towards Cleveland. It’s a good football town that gave me the first four years of my career and thankful for those trials and tribulations, all the challenges, a lot to learn from and look back on and reflect.”

Baker Mayfield on the Cleveland Browns

Recent comments credited to Mayfield don’t say the same thing. Sure the quarterback denied that those words were ever spoken. But you better believe there’s some animosity here.

An impending free agent, Mayfield not only wants to make a statement in NFL Week 1, he must prove to the masses that he can be a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL. That starts against Cleveland backup Jacoby Brissett in Carolina Sunday afternoon. It’s one of the biggest questions heading into opening week around the league.

NFL Week 1: Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots going in different directions?

nfl week 1: new england patriots and miami dolphins
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of talk about the Patriots heading into the opening week. Is Mac Jones prepared to take his game to the next level as a sophomore or is he slated to regress? With Joe Judge and Matt Patricia splitting play-calling duties, these questions have been magnified. Heck, it led to at least one former Patriots great questioning the direction of the organization years removed from their dynastic run.

On the other hand, Miami will start anew with respected first-year head coach Mike McDaniel calling the shots. General manager Chris Grier provided him with an electric receiver in Tyreek Hill to work with third-year signal caller Tua Tagovailoa. Though, there’s also a question mark regarding the Alabama product’s ability to be a top-end quarterback in the NFL.

These are two teams that could be headed in different directions. Despite some drama involving owner Stephen Ross, the Dolphins seem to be on an upward trajectory. Meanwhile, New England doesn’t look like much more than a bottom-end playoff contender in the AFC. What we see Sunday afternoon in South Beach will be the first indicator of where things stand for these two AFC East rivals.

Related: NFL Week 1 QB rankings

How will Seattle Seahawks fans welcome Russell Wilson?

nfl week 1: russell wilson against the seattle seahawks
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson spent the first 10 seasons of his legendary NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks, leading them to two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl title in the process. He is the single-best player in franchise history. Wilson will now head back to the Pacific Northwest to play Seattle in his Broncos debut Monday night. The storylines write themselves. Wilson was traded by Seattle this past offseason as the two sides decided a divorce made the most sense. It was a drama-filled situation behind the scenes between Wilson and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

Fresh off signing a massive contract extension with Denver, Wilson’s first order of business will be to dispose of his former team in front of fans who had cheered him on for the past decade.

“For me, it wasn’t really about how much (money), necessarily. It was about how many Super Bowls we can win. That’s really the focus,” Wilson said after signing his $245 million extension with Seattle. The future Hall of Famer also concluded that he won’t have to “shoulder the load” in Denver like he believed was the case with Seattle.

Common logic seems to suggest that Wilson will be well-received when he heads on to the field in Seattle come Monday night. However, there’s also something to be said about bitter feelings. Seahawks fans are not happy about how the Wilson era ended in Seattle. It could lead to the boo-birds coming out in full force.

Daniel Jones’ pressure-packed season debut

nfl week 1: daniel jones, new york giants
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Entering his fourth season with the Giants, Daniel Jones knows full well that this could make or break his tenure in New Jersey. Continued struggles, and he will be looking for a backup role with another team as a free agent next spring. New York’s brass of head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen don’t have a built-in relationhip with Jones, leading to speculation that the leash could be incredibly short to open the 2022 campaign.

Daniel Jones stats (2021): 64% completion, 2,428 passing yards, 10 TD, 7 INT, 84.8 QB rating

New York brought in veteran Tyrod Taylor to back Jones up during the offseason. There’s been some talk that Taylor could take over sooner rather than later. That was magnified when he took first-team reps at times during training camp.

For Jones and the Giants, it starts NFL Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. Tennessee has taken a step back itself. There could be an opening for the Giants to pull off a surprising road win. If not, more talk about Jones’ job not being safe in New Jersey will come to pass.

Related: NFL Week 1 offensive rankings

Kirk Cousins, new Minnesota Vikings regime looking to make statement

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Some might view Mike Zimmer’s eight-year tenure as the Vikings’ head coach in a positive manner. He did lead Minnesota to three playoffs appearances during that span while boasting a combined record of 72-56-1. Unfortunately, Minnesota never reached conference title contention under Zimmer. The hope is that this changed with Kevin O’Connell coming over from the Los Angeles Rams to lead a more dynamic offense in the Twin Cities.

With all of that said, it’s going to be Kirk Cousins who is under a microscope in 2022. His contract was just recenty extended, primarily because the Vikings’ new brass had no other real options. Despite his solid numbers, Cousins has not been able to lift up the Vikings during his tenure with the team.

“Kirk Cousins is very accurate, he’s one of the more accurate passers in the NFL. His weaknesses, a lot of people question, can he finish games? Can he lead comeback victories? That’s how many great quarterbacks are measured. Sure, Kirk has had some comebacks in recent years, but he probably hasn’t had enough of them.”

Vikings insider Chris Tomasson told Sportsnaut recently

That’s the crux of the issue. Closing out games and performing at a high level against elite competition. It will start Week 1 against two-time reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Since joining Minnesota, Cousins is 3-3-1 against the Packers. He’s performed well against this team. If that continues Week 1, the narrative surrounding Cousins will change as the O’Connell era gets going in Minneapolis.

Derek Carr and Las Vegas Raiders as legitimate conference title contenders?

nfl week 1: las vegas raiders at los angeles chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bettors are backing Las Vegas to win the Super Bowl in a big way. Whether that’s unjustified optimism or something else remains to be seen. What we do know is that the Raiders have a certain level of confidence under first-year head coach Josh McDaniels. Things have changed big time in the desert following the drama of the 2021 season. Others around the league are noticing it, too.

“I think there is a feeling for people who’ve covered the Patriots for a long time, that they can’t believe what they are seeing from them so far. The way things played out in the last preseason game vs the Raiders, just confirmed what we’ve all been thinking and in some cases saying. It’s taking us all by surprise the Patriots would be so complicit in their own demise. In his first yr as HC Josh Mcdaniels’ team looks more like the Patriots than the Patriots do … unreal.”

Former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson on the Las Vegas Raiders

Adding one of the game’s best receivers in that of Davante Adams adds to the confidence. Derek Carr’s ability to act as a team leader while upping his individual game could also be a major backdrop here. For the Raiders, it’s now all about doing their talking on the field. That will start during NFL Week 1 against the divison-rival Chargers in Los Angeles following their epic Week 18 matchup last season.

Related: Sportnaut’s updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

The Buffalo Bills as biggest threat to the Los Angeles Rams?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills made the necessary moves this past offseson to be seen as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The addition of Von Miller coupled with Josh Allen’s otherworldly performance has Buffalo thinking title. Sean McDermott’s squad is well-oiled. It has elite-level playmakers on offense and one of the best defenses in the game.

We’re darn sure that Allen and Co. will want to prove their worth at SoFi Stadium against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams come Thursday evening. It’s clearly one of the best matchups on the NFL Week 1 slate.

As for the Rams, they have some questions heading into this opener. Is Matthew Stafford anywhere near 100% after concerns over his throwing elbow popped up during the offseason? How is Los Angeles’ running game going to look behind Stafford? We’ll find out soon enough whether Los Angeles has what it takes to repeat as champs. Buffalo will be a great initial test.