By Don Banks
September 05, 2013
Clay Matthews and the Packers have spent all offseason thinking about how to stop Colin Kaepernick.
Jeff Lewis/Icon SMI
Last week: 0-0; Season 0-0
Sunday, Sept. 8
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
This is how Doug Marrone will know he's not in college anymore. No opening-week creampuffs on the schedule. The Bills are 2-23 against the Patriots in their past 25 meetings, and New England has won 11 consecutive games in the AFC East. Let's see, the Bills have a rookie head coach, a rookie starting quarterback (EJ Manuel) coming off a knee issue and a rookie backup quarterback (Jeff Tuel). Has that ever happened before in a season-opener? It's not a bye week for New England, but I like its chances.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
If the Titans can get their Chris Johnson-led ground game going early behind that retooled offensive line, they might be able to steal this one in the Steel City. But Pittsburgh is 6-0 in home openers in the Mike Tomlin era, and has won 10 straight home openers overall. With rookie running back Le'Veon Bell out until mid-September with that mid-foot injury, look for Pittsburgh to put this game on Ben Roethlisberger's shoulders and air it out.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton's back on the sideline calling his favorite plays, but the real story of this game will be how Rob Ryan's new-look 3-4 defense fares against Matt Ryan and the Falcons' high-powered offense. Defense has often been an after-thought when these NFC South rivals collide, but I can't wait to see if the Saints set an early tone for the season on defense, playing that aggressive, blitz-happy style that Ryan demands. Keep an eye trained on Saints rookie safety and first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro. He's an impact player in the literal sense.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
The return of ex-Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis might actually get overshadowed a bit with New York rookie quarterback Geno Smith making his NFL starting debut. Revis said he'll "spill the beans" on scouting the Jets on the Bucs' behalf, and I think that's the least he can do, given the big contract extension Tampa Bay awarded him. Don't you think? I know it looks ugly at the moment, Jets fans, but don't forget about last year's opener, when New York scored 48 points in a win over Buffalo, after the first-team offense sleep-walked through the preseason. I suppose something similar could happen this year. But I doubt it.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Hey, how come everyone's not billing this as a showdown between the Chiefs' Eric Fisher and the Jaguars' Luke Joeckel, the top two picks in April's draft? You know we would be blowing it up if they were rookie quarterbacks, but offensive right tackles don't quite move the needle in the same manner. New Chiefs coach Andy Reid returns to the scene of his Super Bowl loss with the Eagles (the Patriots and Eagles played Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla.), but I like the quarterback matchup in this one. Blaine Gabbert told me this summer that he relates to Alex Smith as a first-round quarterback who had to keep working at it before the pieces fell into place.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Pretty interesting stuff from Steve Smith the other day, on how ex-Carolina-offensive-coordinator-turned-Browns-head-coach Rob Chudzinski was part of the problem in Charlotte in 2012. Smith's case will get considerably stronger if Cam Newton and Co. go out on Sunday and knock off a Seattle team that has chic Super Bowl pick written all over it. But even without Gus Bradley at coordinator, I think the Seahawks' defense is too stout to let the Panthers do much damage.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
I suppose if I picked the Bengals to be my AFC Super Bowl team, I should at least have the fortitude to ride them in their road opener, even though Soldier Field can be a tough place for opposing quarterbacks. I'd feel better about Cincinnati's offensive prospects if I knew starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) was going to be there to protect Andy Dalton's blind side, but he's looking doubtful. No matter. The Bengals' defense is legit, and I'm just not ready to buy the Bears until I see what effect new head coach Marc Trestman has had on juicing up the offense.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
New Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace is going to look up Sunday and think he's right back in the middle of those AFC North wars he knew so well in Pittsburgh. Not really, Mike. These Browns are better than the Browns the Steelers used to regularly beat. I'm expecting a hot start by second-year Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden, who last year had the most wins ever by a Browns rookie quarterback (five). You read that right. Five. From Mike Phipps to Tim Couch, that bar was set pretty darn low.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Do you realize that if Adrian Peterson doesn't rush for at least 156 yards against the Lions he's already behind the pace he'll need to reach those 2,500 yards he has set as a goal? And if he doesn't run for at least 132, he won't be on track to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105, the mark he narrowly missed last season. I'm just doing the math so you don't have to. But come game's end, will the running back who steals the show be Detroit's Reggie Bush?
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
The Raiders are going with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback because somebody has to start under center. Matt Flynn, meet rock bottom. The Colts will get this season off to a winning start at home, where quarterback Andrew Luck went a sizzling 7-1 last season, keeping the Indy fans blissfully distracted from the remarkable Peyton Manning comeback season in Denver. Has anyone called this game the Darrius Heyward-Bey Bowl yet? Because it has a nice ring to it.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
I talked to Clay Matthews a couple times in recent months and suffice to say the Packers' defense has been fixated on this game and slowing down the Colin Kaepernick Express that ran over Green Bay in the playoffs. Matthews talked this week about being able to hit the quarterback as he's carrying out his play fake in the read-option attack, and that got 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh a bit irritated, because he sees a gray area in how the QB protection rules might be interpreted. Oh, yeah, this is our Game of the Week. Sunday at Candlestick is definitely going to be dramatic.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
Watch the two rookies in this one: Rams receiver Tavon Austin and Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. They should go head-to-head plenty when Austin lines up in the slot. I bet they both make their share of plays, but Austin and the Rams will make a few more.
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
The Giants absolutely love playing at Cowboys Stadium, or whatever they're calling it these days for a big, fat naming-rights check. Tom Coughlin's guys are 4-0 there, and own the place to the degree that they even feel comfortable writing on the walls. But I've got the feeling that Tony Romo is going to say enough is enough, and will Dallas to a season-opening win. Romo has had some gaudy passing yardage totals against New York of late, and this time he'll roll up enough points that even Eli Manning can't mount a successful comeback.
Monday, Sept. 9
6:55 p.m. ET (ESPN) Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
The Eagles are going to score in Chip Kelly's debut, because the Redskins' secondary can be exploited. But I think Robert Griffin III's celebrated return from knee surgery is going to have FedEx Field jacked to the gills, and the Redskins are destined to win this one with No. 10 leading the way both through the air and at times with his feet.
10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers
Somewhere it is written in the office of the league schedule-maker: The Chargers shall open their season in the second game of the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader, when a good portion of the country is starting to think about going to bed, and has overdosed on that first blast of regular-season action. This is the third time in four seasons that San Diego has drawn that opening-game time slot, but this one won't be worth staying up too late for. Houston has won four consecutive road openers, and if the Texans have Super Bowl aspirations, this is the kind of game they have to put in the win column.
BURKE: Ravens top Season Preview Power Rankings predictions: Super Bowl XLVIII, awards and more
MMQB: Predictions and more thoughts on what to expect
BANKS: Twenty bold predictions for 2013 season
KING: Key questions facing all 32 NFL teams
BURKE & FARRAR: Division-by-division predictions's Week 1 Fantasy Football Projections

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