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NFL Week 1: What To Watch For

Paolo Uggetti |
September 3, 2014 | 8:17 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will try to survive Seattle's relentless defense. (@LTJ81/Twitter)
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will try to survive Seattle's relentless defense. (@LTJ81/Twitter)

September has arrived and you know what that means.

Football is back. 

Last week, pigskin-hungry American souls across the country had their palates teased by the long overdue return of college football, but the main course is being served tonight. 

The days of summer have finally expired and beginning Thursday night, we all turn to the altars that are our televisions and submit ourselves to six bittersweet months of the true American religion (well, mostly bitter if you’re a Browns fan).

So, let’s look ahead to Week 1 and see what the first slate of games has to offer. 

1. The Opener

In terms of an opening match, this one is an A-lister. Healthy Aaron Rodgers and that Greeb Bay offense of his against a Seahawks defense ready to pounce on anything and everything that even thinks of moving. 

Remember what they did to Peyton and the Broncos in the Super Bowl? 

Let us all pray for Aaron Rodgers. 

Green Bay’s defense may be the side to watch though, as they’ll look to improve upon their penultimate spot in team defense efficiency ratings last year. 

They’ll go up against Russell Wilson who can seemingly do no wrong nowadays. After winning the Super Bowl, improvement seems an impossibility, but for Wilson the sky is literally the limit as he will have more experience, practice and knowledge under his belt. Oh, and a healthy Percy Harvin! That is, until he limps to the sideline in the second quarter. 

No matter who wins on Thursday night, you can always count on the enjoyment of media overreaction Friday morning.

Are the Packers really as good as we thought?!

Are the Seahawks still experiencing a Super bowl hangover?!

Don’t believe me. Just watch. 

2. Key Divisional Matchups

On Sunday, strap yourself in and get ready for an overdose (no such thing) of twelve games. It’s only Week 1, but there are already more than a few important divisional matchups. 

New England at Miami is always fun if only to see what other record Tom Brady and the Pats can churn out against the lowly Dolphins. But don’t count out the Fins stealing an important division game. Ryan Tannehill can look like the good ghost of Chad Pennington from time to time and maybe the swampy conditions will be too much for Bill Belichick and Co.

New Orleans at Atlanta is an obvious must-watch if you like offense, and who doesn’t? These two division rivals have quarterbacks who love airing it out, and with plenty of receivers to throw to on both sides, this should be an enjoyable high-scoring affair.

Baltimore at Cincinnati gives us a first look at the incredibly wide-open AFC North. Everyone of these games will be important for whomever wins the division with that mediocre 9-7 record that just screams well-deserved playoff berth. The game’s importance though, is also underlined by its possible disappointment. On one side, you have AJ Green and Torrey Smith, incredibly talented, ball-catching freaks. On the other side, you have Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco, overpaid and subpar fantasy football team murderers, throwing to them.

Johnny Football isn't starting...yet. (Wikimedia Commons)
Johnny Football isn't starting...yet. (Wikimedia Commons)
3. Rookies!

What gesture will Manziel make next? How will he hold the clipboard? Will his Gatorade be spiked? I’m kidding, I’m kidding, we’re not on Johnny Watch 24/7 over here.

But seriously speaking, this rookie class could prove to be one of the best in recent years. 

Blake Bortles has already done everything right, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time—maybe even this week— until placeholder Chad Henne is usurped of the starting job by the UCF alum. 

Meanwhile Teddy Bridgewater and his tiny hands are already showing bright spots of the near future to come and even made Minnesota fans forget about Kevin Love! 

Too soon? Okay, my bad. 

Derek Carr has already been named the starter in Oakland, Jadeveon Clowney is striking fear into the hearts of quarterbacks everywhere, Sammy Watkins is doings crazy things like this, and Brandin Cooks seems to be almost everyone’s pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

Thank God for exciting rookies.

4. Manning vs. Luck

Ah, the always intriguing Manning-against-his-old-team matchup. Except now, due to Andrew Luck’s amazingness, it’s turned into a Manning vs. Luck storyline. And rightfully so. 

The two quarterbacks are the unparalleled and unquestioned stars of their respective teams. As they go, so do their teams, so seeing which of the two gets off on the right foot and carries their team to a win will be interesting.  

Manning will be missing Welker, but will have both Thomases—Julius and Demayrius—to work with. Add newcomer Emmanuel Sanders and Peyton's corps belittle the options Luck has under center. The Broncos as a team are a mismatch for the Colts, but we've all learned not to doubt Luck, even when he's down and seemingly out. 

Time will only tell if that pattern continues on to this season. 

5. The Dark Side 

The football offseason always seems to bring out the worst in everyone. There was Ray Rice and his whole disturbing assault fiasco. There was Jim Irsay’s drunk driving and drug-possessing disaster. There was Dan Snyder and his Washington football team that refuses to change its offensive nickname. 

Substance abuse suspensions were handed out like free samples at Costco to Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and fellow Bronco kicker Matt Prater. 

Pop a Molly? Suspended. (Twitter/@PaulPabst)
Pop a Molly? Suspended. (Twitter/@PaulPabst)
With all of the above suspended, this first slate of games will show us how each player is missed or isn’t and if their off-the-field distractions have had any effect on the team’s on-the-field performance. 

And don’t worry, if they do affect them, I’m sure they can get some advice from Coach Sarkisian and the Trojans on how to properly deal with those. 

6. Big Extensions, Even Bigger Expectations 

The offseason also was a contract-extension frenzy. Colin Kaepernick got an extension; Andy Dalton got an extension; heck, even Alex Smith got a big extension . 

What do all the above have in common? Not only are they all quarterbacks, but they’re also not fully-proven quarterbacks. 

They have the money, but now can they make it a good investment?

In the evolving, big-spending world of football it’s hard to make people think you’re worth every penny, but starting Week 1 these quarterbacks will begin to fight that unwinnable battle.

And, yes Joe Flacco, we’re still waiting for you to begin fighting it too. 

7. Real Football 

No more meaningless pre-season games, no more predictions, no more drug policy discussions, no more projections. Real football has returned. 

Welcome to the 2014-15 season. 

Reach Staff Writer Paolo Uggetti here or follow on him on Twitter



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