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NFL Week 1 storylines: Aaron Rodgers debut, Detroit Lions and more

Detroit Lions Jared Goff
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

In our NFL Week 1 storylines, we look at all 16 games on the opening week schedule. It starts Thursday night with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions. How will Kansas City’s defense look against a juggernaut of an offense with star Chris Jones holding out?

Looking at the rest of the NFL slate for Week 1, we’re highly intrigued to see how rookie quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson perform in their regular-season debuts.

Sunday afternoon will see the San Francisco 49ers visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle of two impressive young quarterbacks. And then on Monday, Aaron Rodgers makes his regular-season debut as a member of the New York Jets at home on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These are among the top NFL Week 1 storylines.

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NFL Week 1 storylines

Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

nfl week 1 storylines: detroit lions at kansas city chiefs
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Reid is a veteran head coach. Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes has proven to have ice running through his veins. None of this takes away from the human nature of a defending Super Bowl champion opening the following season at home. Things are going to be electric at Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night. The largest question here is whether the Chiefs will be a bit too amped up early, helping Detroit out to a big start.

Despite putting up a stellar 2022 campaign for the Lions, Goff struggled on the road. As you can see above, he threw just six touchdowns in eight starts. For comparison’s sake, Goff tallied 23 touchdowns against three interceptions at home. If the Lions are going to have any real chance of coming out on top on the road to open the 2023 NFL season, they’ll need Goff to reverse course.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, 1 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: carolina panthers at atlanta falcons
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Two young quarterbacks taking over for teams with playoff aspirations in an otherwise mediocre NFC South. Remember, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won this division with an 8-9 record last season. It is wide open heading into NFL Week 1.

No. 1 pick Bryce Young will make his first regular season debut on the road after some major struggles during the exhibition slate. The biggest storyline for Young’s Panthers team is whether the offensive line can hold up in front of him. As for Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder, he has the necessary playmakers to succeed. That includes electric rookie running back Bijan Robinson and young wide receiver Drake London. But Ridder is also going up against one of the best young defenses in the NFL. It’ll be a fun matchup.

Related: Bryce Young and the top 2023 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines: cincinnati bengals at cleveland browns

Among the top NFL Week 1 storylines will be how the embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson performs after struggling in his first season with the Browns (7 TD, 5 INT in six starts). He had an entire offseason to learn this offense. Cleveland boasts some real talent on offense. Taking on the cream of the crop in the AFC North, all eyes will be on Watson come Sunday.

Despite suffering a calf injury early in training camp, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is set to go. The storyline here is two-fold. Just how healthy is Burrow? Can he hold up against what promises to be an elite-level Browns pass rush that consists of Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith? It won’t be easy out of the gate for the MVP candidate and his Super Bowl-contending Bengals squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 1 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: indianapolis colts
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Richardson’s regular-season debut with the Colts will come with several major backdrops. That includes star running back Jonathan Taylor being sidelined and unlikely to ever suit up for Indianapolis again. Set to take on a pretty talented Jaguars defense, it’s going to be interesting to see how the raw Richardson performs.

On the other side, Jacksonville finished last season by winning its final five games before pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history. This coincided with Trevor Lawrence playing great football down the stretch (8 TD, 2 INT) during five-game winning streak. The Jags know they belong among the AFC’s best. It’s time to prove that against inferior competition.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 1 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines: tampa bay buccaneers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Among the top NFL Week 1 storylines is Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. He could very well be entering his final year in Minnesota with expectations somewhat muted after the Vikes went through the NFL’s equivalent of a fire sale. Hosting a pedestrian Buccaneers squad to open things up, we’re intrigued to see how Cousins looks.

On the other side, Tampa Bay is opening the post-Tom Brady era. Even more than Baker Mayfield getting the Week 1 start, we want to see how everything comes together for this squad. Who will step up at running back? Is Mike Evans going to finish out the season in Tampa? What about a still-talented defense? How will that unit hold up? Week 1 will tell us a lot about the Bucs.

Related: NFL Week 1 power rankings

Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines: new orleans saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee lost its final seven games a season ago. It still opted to retain Ryan Tannehill as QB1 despite selecting Will Levis in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. What happens if Tannehill and Co. struggle early in what promises to be a hostile environment? How quick will Mike Vrabel be to give him the hook?

As for the Saints, it’s now as much about new quarterback Derek Carr heading into NFL Week 1; we know what he brings to the table. Rather, we want to see how the tandem of Chris Olave and Michael Thomas work with Carr. Olave is coming off a tremendous rookie season while Thomas has played in just 10 games since his record-breaking 2019 performance.

San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 1 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: san francisco 49ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Under young quarterback Kenny Pickett during the preseason, Pittsburgh’s offense looked almost unstoppable. He has a great group of skill-position players, including running back Najee Harris and wide receiver George Pickens. The Steelers’ offense will be tested big time against a league-best 49ers defense. A strong performance during NFL Week 1 could be a harbinger of things to come.

Speaking of the 49ers’ defense, Nick Bosa remains a holdout as he looks for a new contract. There is not much behind him from a pass-rush standpoint in San Francisco. Even if Bosa signs before Sunday, he’ll likely be limited. We’re intrigued to see who might step up behind Bosa out on the edge. One player to watch is Drake Jackson who looked pretty good in limited action as a rookie.

Related: Nick Bosa and the top 100 NFL players of 2023

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Commanders (Sunday, 1 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: washington commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We have absolutely no idea who is going to start at quarterback for Arizona to open the season. For “competitive” reasons, new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon has not named a starter between veteran Joshua Dobbs and rookie mid-round pick Clayton Tune. With Kyler Murray sidelined and lacking talent, the Cards are expected to be among the worst teams in the NFL this season.

The same thing can’t be said for Washington. The team officially opens the Josh Harris’ era after embattled former owner Daniel Snyder sold the Commanders. It really does seem to be a completely different culture. We’ll get a first-hand look at the up-and-coming team, led by young quarterback Sam Howell, Sunday afternoon. The hope for Washington is that this new-found confidence can translate to the football field.

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 1 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines: baltimore ravens
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore’s new group of wide receivers has to be seen as one of the top NFL Week 1 storylines. Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. teams up with rookie Zay Flowers and fellow former first-round pick Rashod Bateman to form an elite trio for Lamar Jackson. He might need them to shine out of the gate with star tight end Mark Andrews hobbled by injury.

Related: NFL Week 1 injury report

Things are completely different with the Texans. First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans named rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud as his starting quarterback for Week 1. Stroud struggled to an extent during the preseason and is missing high-end skill-position talent. Taking on an elite-level Ravens defense, it will be interesting to see how the No. 2 pick performs.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: chicago bears
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Fields vs. Jordan Love. A Week 1 battle between old Black and Blue division foes. Two young quarterbacks looking to make their names known. Could we ask for more during NFL Week 1 at Soldier Field?

Fields was tremendous on the ground as a sophomore last season (1,143 yards, 8 TD). However, he struggled through the air (17 TD, 11 INT). General manager Ryan Poles made it a priority to get Fields more help, primarily by acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver D.J. Moore in a blockbuster trade. On the other side, Love becomes just the third full-time Packers starting quarterback since 1991, joining all-time greats Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. While he looked good during the preseason, the pressure will be on come Week 1.

Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines; denver broncos
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the focus of NFL Week 1 in Mile High will be on Russell Wilson after his struggles with the Broncos a season ago. Wilson put up a career-worst performance in 2022 (16 TD, 11 INT) en route to leading Denver to a 4-11 record in 15 starts. Hence, why the Broncos exhausted a first-round pick to trade for coach Sean Payton. He’ll also need to prove his worth as an innovative offensive mind all over again if Denver is going to have any hopes of turning it around. Taking on a bad Raiders defense at home could be just the tonic the Broncos need.

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Speaking of turning it around, the Raiders were a disaster under coach Josh McDaniels a season ago. They lost nine games by single digits and finished with a 6-11 record. Can the Raiders close games out better this season? Will their defense be up to the task. Is Jimmy Garoppolo an upgrade over last season’s iteration of Derek Carr? These are major storylines and questions heading into the opener.

Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines: new england patriots
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones will get an opportunity to prove himself all over again after struggling as a sophomore last season. He’ll get that opportunity with an experienced offensive mind in Bill O’Brien calling the plays. What better way to see if Jones has what it takes then to open against the defending NFC champions and one of the best defenses in the NFL?

As for Philadelphia, the top storyline heading into this one is actually on the offensive side of the ball. We’re intrigued to see how running backs D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny look in their regular season debuts with the Eagles. New England ranked in the top six of the NFL stopping the run a season ago. It’ll be a difficult test for the Eagles. That’s for sure.

Related: Philadelphia Eagles standing in our NFL Week 1 defense rankings

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

nfl week 1 storylines; miami dolphins
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Miami spent the entire offseason looking to provide Tua Tagovailoa an elite-level running back after finishing last season with the 25th-ranked rushing attack. It never came to fruition despite being linked to Pro Bowlers Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor. With Jeff Wilson sidelined to injury, it’ll be up to Raheem Mostert to provide that balance. Given Tua’s injury scares a season ago, this is a major NFL Week 1 storyline in South Beach.

There’s also a major question mark relating to Los Angeles heading into the season. Can Justin Herbert prove his worth as one of the game’s best quarterbacks? He signed the most-lucrative contract in league history during the offseason. Things are set up well for the Chargers to compete with Kansas City in the AFC West. A loss at home against another contender could be a harbinger of things to come for Herbert and Co.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

nfl week 1 storylines: los angeles rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams moved on from several key contributors this past offseason after struggling with injuries in 2022. They’re also now likely going to be without star wide receiver Cooper Kupp (hamstring) for NFL Week 1. Seen as one of the least-talented teams in the league, Sean McVay and Co. would love to make a statement on the road against a vastly superior Seahawks squad.

On the other side, Seattle re-signed reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith after the quarterback put up a brilliant 2022 season in replacing Russell Wilson.

The question here is whether Smith was a one-year wonder. Prior to 2022, he had just 34 touchdowns against 37 interceptions since entering the NFL back in 2013. Seattle’s ability to compete with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West will depend on Smith continuing to play better. Hosting one of the least-talented defenses in the league, Smith should eat well. If not, concerns will be raised.

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

nfl week 1 storylines: new york giants
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Jones, the $160 million man, heads into Sunday night’s primetime opener against the hated Dallas Cowboys coming off signing a surprisingly significant contract. He’s also coming off a 2022 campaign in which the former first-round pick led the Giants to a surprise playoff appearance despite some lackluster passing numbers (15 TD, 5 INT). He’ll be faced with a tough task against one of the elite defenses in the NFL. Struggles out of the gate will not be a great indicator of things to come for Jones and the Giants.

On the other hand, Dallas enters NFL Week 1 with heightened expectations. The team is looking to make its first conference championship game appearance since January of 1996. Dak Prescott led the NFL in interceptions a season ago, concluding his campaign with two picks in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. The onus is on Prescott to prove he’s capable of rebounding. Facing a tough opening matchup on the road against the Giants, all eyes will be on Prescott.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (Monday, 8:15 PM ET, ABC)

nfl week 1 storylines; new york jets
Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Aaron Rodgers making his home debut mere miles from the World Trade Center location. The league knew what it was drawing up when scheduling this opener. For the first time in his career, Rodgers will not be suiting up with the Packers. Taking on a championship contending Bills squad, it’s going to be a tough task for the future Hall of Famer.

Related: Ranking Aaron Rodgers and the NFL’s 32 starting QBs

The Bills’ offseason was defined by drama. Stefon Diggs drama. He’s upset about Buffalo’s lack of postseason success. He wants to win. The Bills have everything in place to get the job done. It’s now up to Diggs, Josh Allen and Co. to prove that they are still the class of the AFC East. Taking on pretty much everyone’s pick to win the division, Monday night in Jersey could be a statement game for Sean McDermott’s squad. It’s one of the top NFL Week 1 storylines.