GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEKEND
CLEVELAND @ KANSAS CITY, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The weather: Sunny, high of 94
The line: Chiefs by 5-1/2
The story: The Browns should’ve beaten these guys in the AFC divisional game. They didn’t. And they didn’t because … well, because they couldn’t figure out how to stop … Chad Henne? We don’t make ‘em up. So how are they going to figure out Patrick Mahomes? They’re not. The Browns haven't won a season opener since 2004. I’m more interested in seeing how a Chiefs' defense shredded in Super Bowl LV looks vs. an elite running game. Cleveland thinks it’s Super Bowl ready. OK, prove it.
Something to consider: Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid is 8-0 vs. the Browns (4-0 with Philadelphia; 4-0 with Kansas City).
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL-OF-FRAMING
PITTSBURGH @ BUFFALO, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The weather: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 76
The line: Bills by 6-1/2
The story: The Steelers won their first 11 games last year, then disappeared – losing five of their last six, including their playoff opener. So what happened? Injuries, that’s what. Their defense was decimated, and the results speak for themselves. Where they surrendered an average of 18.4 points the first 11 games, they hemorrhaged 28.6 the last six, including 48 to Cleveland in the playoffs. No one in the AFC scored more than Buffalo (501). Consider this a measuring stick for what’s next.
Something to consider: The Steelers haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer in 26 consecutive games.
GREEN BAY @ NEW ORLEANS in Jacksonville, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 87
The line: Packers by 3-1/2
The story: Packers by 3-1/2? To channel John McEnroe? “You can’t be serious!” The Packers have reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. The Saints have Jameis Winston. Check, please.
Something to consider: The Saints’ Alvin Kamara had 197 scrimmage yards, 13 receptions and two TDs the last time these two teams met.
MIAMI @ NEW ENGLAND, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 83
The line: Patriots by 3
The story: There’s not supposed to be pressure in Week One, but tell that to rookie Mac Jones. He’s the first quarterback Bill Belichick chose – ever -- in the first round of a draft. Now he’s the Patriots’ starter, and good luck with that. Already comparisons are drawn to Tom Brady, and talk about a reach. First of all, Brady sat for a year. Second, he learned under Drew Bledsoe. And, third, there were no expectations when he jumped into the huddle. Oh, yeah, fourth: He hasn’t won seven Lombardi Trophies, either.
Something to consider: The Patriots’ J.C. Jackson is the only player with five or more interceptions the past two years.
OUR BEST BETS
(All picks are made vs. the spread)
Ron Borges – GREEN BAY (--3-1.2). Rodgers on the road vs. Winston on the road. Easy pick … and it isn’t the Big Easy.
Rick Gosselin – CAROLINA (+5). Sam Darnold’s first game with Carolina is vs. the team that quit on him. Plus, he’s home.
Clark Judge – L.A. RAMS (--7-1/2). I believe in Matt Stafford. I don’t believe in Andy Dalton.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Ravens not only haven’t lost any of their last five season openers; they outscored opponents 177-26 and never allowed more than 10 points in any game.
BELIEVE IT OR DON’T
Since 2015 the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins is the only quarterback to throw for 3,500 and at least 25 touchdowns in six consecutive seasons.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
1. RUSSELL WILSON, QB, Seattle – He’s 12-1 in his last 13 games in the Eastern Time Zone, with a 117.9 passer rating, 26 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
2. BILL BELICHICK, Coach, New England – He’s 18-8 on Kickoff Weekends, the most wins among active coaches.
3. DALVIN COOK, RB, Minnesota. He scored 10 times in seven road games last year.
4. TREVOR LAWRENCE, QB, Jacksonville. He can become the fifth rookie quarterback chosen first overall in the NFL draft to win his first start.
5. DERRICK HENRY, RB, Tennessee. He averaged 100.8 yards rushing in eight home games last year and scored six times.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
1. A rookie quarterback has started a season opener the past 13 seasons, the longest streak since 1950. With Mac Jones opening in New England, Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville and Zach Wilson with the Jets, that makes it 14.
2. All four quarterbacks opening the season in the AFC East are under the age of 26. It’s the first time in 36 years all four quarterbacks in one division were under 26 when opening a season. And that division? The AFC East.
3. The AFC South is the only division not to send a team to the Super Bowl the past 11 years.
4. Two games this weekend feature rookie coaches vs. each other. One is the Jags’ Urban Meyer against Houston’s David Culley; the other, the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni vs Atlanta’s Arthur Smith
5. Seattle is 12-1 in its last 13 games in the Eastern Time Zone.
6. The Packers and Chiefs have the longest current winning streaks on Kickoff Weekends. Both won their last six.
7. At least two teams won their divisions the year after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 seasons.
8. In 16 of the past 18 seasons at least one team has gone from worst in its division one year to first the next.
9. San Francisco won 10 of its last 11 regular-season games vs. Detroit.
10. The winning team in the Green Bay-New Orleans series scored 34 or more points in eight of the last 10 contests.