The NFL season officially kicks off on Thursday evening when the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons. Here are all the matchups to keep an eye out for in week one.
The Houston Texans will be involved in one of the week’s more intriguing matchups when they take on the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday at noon. Last season, Deshaun Watson almost led the Texans by Tom Brady in a week three thriller. If Watson is healthy and ready to go, we should be in for another back-and-forth duel between two great offenses.
With the exception of the Jaguars and possibly the Steelers, no one in the AFC comes as close to the Patriots as the Texans do. Both teams will have championship aspirations throughout the season, and a week one win could mean something further down the line.
The Cowboys will also have a tough road matchup to start the season. Dallas will travel to Carolina to meet Cam Newton and the Panthers, who won 11 games and qualified for the postseason a year ago.
With Ezekiel Elliot in the starting lineup, Dallas will be a tough opponent. Still, Dak Prescott will essentially have nowhere to throw the ball to keep a defense honest. The Cowboys did not use Dez Bryant effectively with Prescott in charge, but at least it was someone the defense had to account for. With Allen Hurns as the number one option, the Cowboys will need to make sure they keep Elliot in one piece this season.
Defensively, the Cowboys will be relying heavily on some younger players to keep the unit afloat this season. The defense impressed at points during the regular season, but still appear to have question marks entering play on Sunday. Newton is always a dynamic player and will be very difficult for the Cowboys to slow down. On the flip side, Prescott will have a hard time keeping up against a strong Panther defense.
On Thursday, the season opens with the Eagles hosting the Falcons. Just like the 2017 postseason, quarterback Carson Wentz will not be active. Instead, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will get the nod as Wentz concludes his long recovery process and prepares for the rest of the season.
Atlanta is poised to be one of the more dangerous offensive units in the NFL once again with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman at their disposal. The Falcons lost receiver Taylor Gabriel to Chicago in the offseason, but filled his slot with first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley from Alabama.
The Eagles and Falcons are the last two NFC champions and will both be strong contenders in a loaded conference this season.
With all that is going on in Chicago, the week one matchup between the Bears and Green Bay Packers keeps getting more and more interesting. Khalil Mack will likely play in the opener, a factor Aaron Rodgers did not believe he would have to worry about until the weekend.
Rodgers was also extended this week and has to feel the pressure after missing the majority of 2017 with an injury.
Other week one matchups:
Bills vs. Ravens, Jaguars vs. Giants, Buccaneers vs. Saints, 49ers vs. Vikings, Titans vs. Dolphins, Bengals vs. Colts, Steelers vs. Browns, Chiefs vs. Chargers, Seahawks vs. Broncos, Dallas vs. Panthers, Washington vs. Cardinals, Jets vs. Lions, Rams vs. Raiders.