Dallas Cowboys (0-0) At Carolina Panthers (0-0)
Written by: Joe Carlino
Preview: The Panthers begin their 2018 conquest this Sunday in America’s Game of the Week when they welcome “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys, to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Dallas is coming off a rough 2017 season that saw everything go wrong for them, and they finished 8-8. Now with the core back, they are poised to make a run in a stacked NFC. Carolina, meanwhile, is trying to right the ship that sank in New Orleans back in January, and brings in some new faces with the returning veterans. This will be the first game for the Panthers under new owner David Tepper, who bought the team earlier this year from Jerry Richardson.
Players to watch: Cam Newton is always a target to watch based on his tendency to be great one week and horrendous the next. New wideout DJ Moore gives Newton a deep threat to stretch the field, which should open up the run game. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is claimed as the best linebacker in the game, so he’s tested with stopping Dallas’s attacks over the middle of the field. For Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott is the team’s MVP — they go as he goes. The Cowboys have arguably the best offensive line in football, but it will be interesting to see how it works without the true anchor of the line, center Travis Frederick, who is sidelined with an autoimmune disorder.
Dallas keys to the game:
Establish a passing attack
Pressure Cam from the interior
Carolina keys to the game:
Keep Cam upright
Work the trenches for running game
Stack the box to stop Zeke
Xavier Woods, S, hamstring (OUT)
Kavon Frazier, S, shoulder (QUESTIONABLE)
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, back (QUESTIONABLE)
Datone Jones, DE, knee (OUT)
Travis Frederick, C, illness (OUT)
Chris Manhertz, TE, foot (QUESTIONABLE)
Amini Silatolu, OT, knee (QUESTIONABLE)
Daryl Williams, OT, knee (QUESTIONABLE)
Curtis Samuel, WR, illness (OUT)
Greg Olsen, TE, back, (QUESTIONABLE)
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (DAL)
Cole Beasley, WR (DAL)
Cam Newton, QB (CAR)
DJ Moore, WR (CAR)
Dak Prescott, QB (DAL)
Prediction: This game could easily be a pick-em game because to some extent, both teams are evenly matched. Cam’s inconsistencies could come back to haunt him, especially with a banged up offensive line. But the Cowboys have a banged up line as well, maybe even more so than the Panthers. I firmly believe the last team to have a meaningful offensive drive will win this contest. That team will be Dallas, and Carolina will have to put together some pieces before a critical NFC South showdown with Atlanta in Week Two.
Final Score: Cowboys, 26-24
Seattle Seahawks (0-0) At Denver Broncos (0-0)
Written by: George Haraktsis
Preview: The Broncos and Seahawks renew an old NFC West rivalry this Sunday at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Seattle is a team in transition after the dismantling of the team’s long-time defensive unit, the Legion of Boom. Seattle had a down season in 2017 according to their normal standards finishing with a 9-7 record on the year. Like the Seahawks, the Broncos are a defensive-focused squad who did not meet their own standards finishing with an abysmal 5-11 record in 2017. But Denver has a younger unit led by Von Miller and newly acquired Bradley Chubb. Unlike the Seahawks, the Broncos have new-look offense led by Keenum that should be an interesting matchup against Seattle’s defense in flux.
Players to watch: The matchup to watch is Seattle’s allegedly poor offensive line, made up of bookends Germaine Ifedi and Duane Brown who will have to hold their own against Denver’s Von Miller and Bradley Chubb who’s only jobs will be to slow down Wilson. Seattle’s only shot of winning this game rests on the shoulders of Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson. He will be on the move looking for the likes of Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett to move the sticks down after down. Denver’s newly signed Case Keenum will have to display some sort of chemistry with long-time receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas if they plan on scoring any points-look for Seattle’s Earl Thomas to make sure this doesn't happen. Keenum can’t do it all on his own though and will need help from rookie RB Royce Freeman on the ground. If Bobby Wagner and company can stop the run game, this should be an interesting game.
Seattle’s keys to the game:
Protect Russell Wilson
Minimize Miller and Chubb’s effectiveness
Establish the run game
Get after Keenum
Denver’s keys to the game:
Expose Seattle’s offensive line, make Wilson uncomfortable
Utilize Royce Freeman
Protect Case Keenum
D.J. Fluker, G, hamstring (OUT)
K.J. Wright, OLB, knee (OUT)
Dontae Johnson, CB, hip (QUESTIONABLE)
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Russell Wilson, QB (SEA)
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, (DEN)
Doug Baldwin, WR, (SEA)
Case Keenum, QB, (DEN)
Demaryius Thomas, WR (DEN)
Prediction: These two teams are defensive mavens, so it would make sense that a low scoring game was in order. This one comes down to the wire, but Denver pulls it out in the end. The Broncos pass rush will prove to be too much for Seattle’s porous offensive line and Russell Wilson will never really get going in this matchup. Keenum will be able to slowly pick apart Seattle's new secondary, while Freeman and Booker beat them on the ground. Denver will eventually come out on top of this one, but it will be close.
Final Score: Broncos, 23-17
Washington Redskins (0-0) At Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
Written by: Jason Feiner
Preview: Week 1 features Arizona’s young and talented roster that could surprise many by season’s end. With a fast and talented defense led by Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson, this team will need additional help from breakout candidate and 2017 first round linebacker Haason Reddick. A huge addition to Arizona will be the return of feature back David Johnson. They play a Washington team that underwent a massive transformation this offseason after trading for Alex Smith and letting franchise signal caller Kirk Cousins pack ship and head to Minnesota. The injury bug has already hit Washington, and Adrian Peterson was their backup call. With Alex Smith and an aging Adrian Peterson, this team’s upside is capped, but expect a few wins to come from the duo this season.
Players to Watch: Josh Norman will have the daunting task of covering one of the league's best receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has accrued three consecutive 100 reception and 1,000 yard seasons. Returning from injury and behind a porous offensive line, David Johnson will be tasked with carrying the load in Arizona’s offense. Defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and rookie Da’ron Payne will play critical roles in stopping him. Sam Bradford has been excellent when healthy, and could put the game away early if he continues to be.
Washington’s Key to the Game:
Protect the ball
Control the clock
Stop the run
Arizona’s Key to the game:
Establish the run/ Take the rust off DJ
Pressure Alex Smith
Spread the ball around
Maurice Harris, WR, concussion (OUT)
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Achilles (QUESTIONABLE)
T.J. Logan, RB, ankle (QUESTIONABLE)
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, foot (QUESTIONABLE)
Olsen Pierre, DT, toe (QUESTIONABLE)
Markus Golden, DE, knee (OUT)
Top 5 Fantasy Plays:
David Johnson, RB (ARI)
Larry Fitzgerald, WR (ARI)
Adrian Peterson, RB (WAS)
Alex Smith, QB (WAS)
Jordan Reed, TE (WAS)
Prediction: In the last 10 matchups between these teams Washington has taken 8 wins, including last year’s December showing that saw the Redskins prevail 20-15. This game will be extremely close and could quite possibly come down to the final minutes. Although I have more faith in Arizona’s season long endeavors, they are riding on a new coaching staff with a shaky offensive line. They won’t do enough to secure a victory this early in the year.
Final Score: Redskins, 23-16
Chicago Bears (0-0) At Green Bay Packers (0-0)
Written by: James Davis
Preview: Here we get a Sunday night special with one of the game’s oldest rivalries. The Chicago Bears travel to Lambeau field to face the Green Bay Packers in prime time. This should be a fun matchup as both teams have a lot going for them. The Bears recently acquired All Pro Khalil Mack and sport a new offense with new head coach Matt Nagy. After missing nine games due to a collarbone injury, Packers fans are excited to see their star QB Aaron Rodgers back on the field.
Players to watch: Aaron Rodgers is the best player on the field and is always worth watching. Biggest threat to Aaron Rodgers production is newly acquired defensive end Khalil Mack, who if left one-on-one will be must see football. 2nd year Bears QB Mitch Trubisky will try to keep up with the veteran Rodgers, and the team hopes he sees progress from last season. Jimmy Graham is Green Bay’s prized new addition, and he could make a big difference in the red zone, especially given the team’s loss of Jordy Nelson. Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith is in danger of missing the game, but the team hopes that he can finally be the replacement for Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Chicago keys to the game:
Bend but don't break defensively
Keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands
Trubisky- don’t try to do too much
Green Bay Packers keys to the game:
Take what the defense gives
Make Trubisky beat you
Let Rodgers be Rodgers
Key Injury list:
DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS, forearm & back (OUT)
Daniel Brown, TE, shoulder (DOUBTFUL)
Oren Burks, LB, shoulder (QUESTIONABLE)
Josh Jones, SS, ankle (OUT)
James Crawford, LB, ankle (QUESTIONABLE)
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Aaron Rodgers, QB (GB)
Jordan Howard, RB (CHI)
Jimmy Graham, TE (GB)
Davante Adams, WR (GB)
Trey Burton, TE (CHI)
Prediction: The Bears will step on to Lambeau field looking to deliver an upset. Matt Nagy, making his first start as head coach, would have the entire city of Chicago crowning him if he comes in and knocks off the Packers in prime time. However, the Packers get that baaaaaad man Aaron Rodgers back and stopping him will not be an easy task, as the Packers are 8-1 vs the Bears in their last 9 meetings. While, the Bears defense will come out punching as the underdog, the Packers and Rodgers will be too much for them and escape with a victory.
Final Score: Packers 24-17
Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) Vs. Los Angeles Chargers (0-0)
Written by : Ashton Moore
Preview: Throughout the offseason, these two teams were the main candidates to represent the AFC West in the 2018 playoffs. So what better way to begin the season than to have them both face each other right off the bat? The Chargers have one of the league’s most well-rounded roster be in the playoff contention throughout the year. It is up to them and their own durability to determine how far they can make it. The Chiefs are potentially the biggest boom-or-bust team in the league, led by Patrick Mahomes II. Head coach Andy Reid has his hands full in doing what he can to control the ambitious and reckless style of Mahomes, where every play is treated as an opportunity to go deep regardless of the coverage. The games outcome could very well hinge directly on how comfortable Mahomes is throughout the game.
Players to watch: Melvin Gordon will be important in controlling the line of scrimmage and time of possession, especially against a weak KC run defense. With KC’s weak secondary, be ready to see a lot of Keenan Allen, along with Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams. On KC’s side, it will likely be the Patrick Mahomes show. Look for Andy Reid to establish the running game with last years leading rusher in Kareem Hunt, but overall the game plan should be about stretching the field. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins will be the beneficiaries.
Eric Berry, S, heel (DOUBTFUL)
Joey Bosa, DE, foot (OUT)
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Kareem Hunt, RB (KC)
Melvin Gordon, RB (LAC)
Travis Kelce, TE (KC)
Keenan Allen, WR (LAC)
Patrick Mahomes ll, QB (KC)
Prediction: The losses of both Eric Berry and Joey Bosa will be felt throughout the game. The Chargers will take advantage of KC’s weak secondary to convert 3rd downs and keep the game under their control throughout. The lack of pass rush garnered from Bosa will prove to be a thorn in the side for LAC throughout, as Mahomes will escape pressure numerous times and make a surprising amount of impact plays. The game does indeed end up being an overall shootout, but Andy Reid and the Chiefs continue to maintain dominance over Anthony Lynn and the Chargers.
Final Score: Chiefs, 34-31