This weekly preview article is typically going to be written by Matt DeFalco, however, Mother Nature remains undefeated as Hurricane Dorian put a damper on Matt being able to compose his NFL-related thoughts this week.
So like any good teammate, I’m stepping up and getting the job done so that you know exactly what you need to be looking for as the NFL season begins. I’m also making Matt waive my cover charge and pick up my bar tab once he finally invites me down to South Beach to frequent his club.
Thanks in advance, Matt. Now let’s take a look at the top games for you to make sure you catch for the first week of the 2019 NFL season.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Thursday, September 5 @ 7:20pm CST
The first game of the NFL season has to be on your must-watch list, right?
Not only is this our first chance of watching regular-season football, but it’s a heavyweight matchup between two of the teams we anticipate being in contention to win not only the NFC North, but also the conference in general.
One thing to keep an eye on early is the communication and overall relationship between Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur. We know things got rocky at the end between Rodgers and then head coach Mike McCarthy, and this offseason hasn’t been the smoothest between Rodgers and his new head coach – likely media driven more than anything – but it’s worth paying attention to as Rodgers’ performance and effectiveness is clearly what drives the Packers.
The Bears, led last season by their defense, are looking to repeat as NFC North champs while also improving their consistency on the offensive side of the ball in year two under head coach Matt Nagy.
Chicago’s defense will be tested early in this matchup as Rodgers remains one of the game’s best QB’s, while he’s also expected to get a nice boost from the run game this season led by Aaron Jones.
This one may just come down to how efficient Mitchell Trubisky is against the Packers’ defense that looks to be improved after adding a pair of edge rushers (Preston Smith & Za’Darius Smith) in free agency and addressing the safety position in the draft (Darnell Savage).
Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, September 8 @ 12pm CST
Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes is going to get an early test to begin the 2019 season as he faces one of the league’s best defenses in Jacksonville.
Early reports have Jags’ Jalen Ramsey expected to shadow Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, which will be one of the top WR/CB matchups to keep an eye on for week one.
I anticipate Ramsey getting the best of this matchup for the majority of snaps, but it only takes Hill one time to utilize his speed and get behind the entire defense to connect on a deep ball from Mahomes and change the entire game.
Another highly anticipated aspect of this game is the debut of Nick Foles as the Jaguars’ quarterback. Are we going to see the Super Bowl MVP version of Foles, the inconsistent version of Foles that we saw before his time in Philly, or a combination of the two? Either way, Jaguars fans are relieved to see a new face behind center after years of watching Blake Bortles handicap the team’s offensive output.
This is a classic strength vs. strength game as the Chiefs’ offense has a great chance of being the best in the league while the same can be said about the Jaguars’ defense. Typically defenses are ahead of offenses to begin the season, but Mahomes and the Chiefs may just be an outlier in this situation.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
Sunday, September 8 @ 7:20pm CST
The defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots against the Antonio Brown-less Pittsburgh Steelers is the perfect Sunday Night Football game to begin the season.
We grew used to seeing the Three B’s in Pittsburgh, and while they were always surrounded by loads of hype that led to plenty of regular-season wins, division titles and AFC Championship appearances, the trio ultimately dissolved and may go down as a bit of a failure considering that each Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Brown are on the path to be NFL Hall of Famers and they never won or competed in a Super Bowl together.
On the other hand, New England will also look a little different this season as one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Rob Gronkowski called it a career after winning last year’s Super Bowl.
While the loss of Gronk likely won’t be as noticeable as the Steelers’ loss of Bell and Brown, it’s still certain to raise some questions as Tom Brady no longer has his security blanket who also excelled in blocking for the run game while also possessing the ability to make catches in traffic and dominate work in the redzone.
New England is still the favorite to win the AFC East while Pittsburgh finally has some new competition for the AFC North in the form of the Cleveland Browns. Even though it’s week one and there is an entire season of football ahead of us, this head-to-head matchup could prove to be very important when it comes to playoff seeding if both teams live up to expectations.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we discuss our predictions for the 2019 NFL season. Division winners, Super Bowl predictions, MVP and Offensive & Defensive Rookie of the Year predictions and much more!