If you scan the NFL’s Week 1 schedule, you’re going to find some great matchups – like Green Bay at Seattle, for example. But both of those teams are fairly safe bets to make the playoffs, so win or lose, those teams will live to fight another day.
And then you delve deeper.
The Jets, Chiefs and Bears are all playing at home against inferior teams (the Raiders, Titans and Bills, respectively). They’re also teams that are good, but not so good that they’re considered playoff locks.
“You better win,” co-founder at Cheesehead TV Aaron Nagler said on The MoJo Show. “And I’ll tell you: Week 1 is a strange beast. It never fails. Every year, Week 1 comes along and there’s one or two games that just absolutely shock you. It’s inevitable. It happens where somebody’s done something over the offseason preparing for Week 1 – because these coaches are like mad scientists gearing up for months to (win) the opener. Defenses are like, ‘What is going on?’ Inevitably, there’s some shocking scores.”
If you’re looking for an upset special, look no further than 49ers/Cowboys. Dallas, especially its defense, is expected to be awful this season, but San Francisco will be without Aldon Smith, who has been suspended for the first nine games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, and NaVorro Bowman, who is still recovering from a torn ACL and MCL that he sustained in the NFC Championship.
Oh, and the game is in Big D.
“For the last two or three years, we’ve heard how well the 49ers have drafted, but none of the guys they’ve drafted have really had to play,” Nagler said. “The Cowboys can put up some points. That’s the thing. It could be a shootout. Who do you trust in a shootout? I know Tony Romo has the fourth-quarter reputation, but he went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning last year. Colin Kaepernick was woeful in the passing game last year, so if that gets away from them early, it’ll be very interesting to see (whether) San Francisco (can) open it up. You’ve seen the struggles they’ve had in the preseason on the offensive side of the ball. They’re still a very good defense but without NoVorro Bowman, and now without Aldon Smith, I think it gives the Cowboys a fighting chance.”
Another intriguing Week 1 matchup? Redskins at Texans. We’ve got two rookie head coaches (Jay Gruden and Bill O’Brien), we’ve got the No. 1 pick in the draft (Jadeveon Clowney) and we’ve got a quarterback who’s still learning how to slide (Robert Griffin III).
“Anytime you get to watch J.J. Watt is a good thing, but (now you’ve got) Clowney in the mix,” Nagler said. “You got to wonder about RG3 and his ability to make it through four quarters with those two coming at him.”
On the flipside, Houston’s offense probably won’t light up the scoreboards this year, but Washington’s secondary got abused early and often last year, finishing 20th against the pass.
“With the adjustments the Redskins have made on defense, they’ve looked very good in the preseason,” Nagler said. “Now, they haven’t been like most teams. Most teams have been ultra-vanilla on the defensive side of the ball. Jim Haslett, we know he’s a blitzer. He likes to send the house and he hasn’t been afraid this preseason. But with that said, that means they’ve put a bunch on tape already. It’ll be very interesting to see how . . . that offense in Houston attacks a vulnerable secondary, especially when Haslett is bringing so much heat.”
But make no mistake: The No. 1 storyline in this game is how RG3 fares in his first game in a new system – and whether he’s able to make it through unscathed.
“It’s the Watt show,” Nagler said. “As much as Clowney will flash – and he will undoubtedly make plays – J.J. Watt is one of the two or three best players in the league. And I don’t just mean defensive players. I mean one of the best players in the NFL. He’s a joy to watch. Anytime he’s on the field, he’s going to command attention both from the offense and from the audience. So that’s going to be a fun matchup.”