[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ffensively, the Jets aren’t ready for this game. QB Josh McCown played only three series in the preseason and his two most accomplished receivers, Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley, arrived only this week.
The offensive line, which also didn’t get a lot of quality reps, will struggle against Buffalo’s front four.
The Jets will struggle to score, and their defense will wear down in the fourth quarter after being on the field so long. Bills 24, Jets 13 — Rich Cimini
There isn’t much statistical track record that is relevant in making this projection because the Bills have a first-year coach (Sean McDermott), a new offensive coordinator (Rick Dennison) and a new defensive scheme and secondary.
But I was impressed by the Bills’ first-team defense this preseason, which allowed a total of nine points on 16 opponent possessions.
As long as they continue that trend against McCown and the Jets’ uninspiring offense, this should be a win for Buffalo. Bills 17, Jets 10 — Mike Rodak
The Falcons, looking to avoid a Super Bowl hangover, are healthy once again on offense and better on defense.
Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones guide an offense that went 12-1 (including playoffs) when it scored 30-plus points last season.
Although the Falcons have a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian, the offense shouldn’t miss a beat.
Defensively, the return of Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant from a season-ending pectoral injury should provide a big boost.
So should rookies Takk McKinley and Duke Riley, who bring more physicality to a group that gave up too many yards and surrendered 25.4 points per game last season. Falcons 24, Bears 17 — Vaughn McClure
The Falcons averaged 33.8 points last year. The Bears’ offense scored 17.4 points per game in 2016. Super Bowl hangover or not, Atlanta still looks dangerous with Ryan, Jones and Devonta Freeman.
Chicago, while slightly improved on defense, has too many question marks at quarterback and wide receiver to keep up on Sunday. Falcons 30, Bears 13 — Jeff Dickerson
Joe Flacco has struggled more in Cincinnati (one touchdown and six interceptions in his past four visits) than anywhere in his career.
Now, he is dealing with a back injury and only a week’s worth of practices to prepare for the opener.
That’s a troublesome combination. Bengals 17, Ravens 13 — Jamison Hensley
Opening with a division opponent is tough, particularly with two starters (Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones) suspended. But the Bengals have a chance to capitalize on the Ravens’ long list of injuries.
The two teams seem evenly matched, but Flacco’s lack of practice time, along with the opener finally being at home, might give the Bengals an edge here. Bengals 27, Ravens 17 — Katherine Terrell
Ben Roethlisberger is 20-2 against the Browns, including 10 wins at Cleveland. Two of the Browns’ best defensive players are not available — Myles Garrett because of injury, Joe Haden on the opposing team’s roster.
Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown have combined for 905 yards in their past three games against Cleveland.
There are many ways to say Pittsburgh is not a good matchup for Cleveland. Steelers 27, Browns 10 — Jeremy Fowler
It would be nice to think the Browns can start with an energizing upset led by a rookie quarterback. But it doesn’t seem likely.
DeShone Kizer faces the challenges all rookies face, and he faces a big challenge against the Steelers’ complex zone-blitz scheme.
Defensively, the secondary will have to deal with Brown and Roethlisberger and the return of Bell. The Steelers have too much firepower in this game. Steelers 30, Browns 9 — Pat McManamon
There are plenty of question marks for the Cardinals on Sunday. How well will they play in the Eastern time zone, a major issue last season when they lost all four games?
How well can they protect Carson Palmer, who was sacked 40 times last season? Can this team put last year’s 7-8-1 record behind it?
For now, all signs point to the Cardinals overcoming last year’s obstacles. They insist last year’s losses in the Eastern time zone had nothing to do with travel, rather than mistakes that plagued them all year.
Arizona also made changes to its offensive line — moving Jared Veldheer to right tackle and inserting Evan Boehm at right guard — and built more depth by signing Alex Boone. Cardinals 31, Lions 21 — Josh Weinfuss
Can the Lions get to Palmer? That’s the question Detroit has to answer with Ezekiel Ansah coming off a knee injury that sidelined him all preseason.
The pass-rush issues could lead to ball-control drives on offense and relying more on the multipronged running game Detroit used to open the 2016 season with success.
With a healthy Ameer Abdullah, expect the Lions to make running the football a major part of the game plan. Lions 27, Cardinals 20 — Mike Rothstein
Quarterback Blake Bortles is 0-6 against the Texans and has completed just 53.4 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions in those games.
He also has been sacked 24 times in those six games.
This offensive line is arguably the worst one he has played behind and it includes a rookie left tackle (Cam Robinson) dealing with J.J. Watt (14.5 sacks in 10 games against the Jaguars), Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. Texans 21, Jaguars 10 — Mike DiRocco
The Texans’ offense under new starting quarterback Tom Savage hopes to be much improved in 2017 after the passing game’s struggles last season.
Savage will be without receivers Will Fuller (broken collarbone) and Jaelen Strong (suspension) and will have to rely on DeAndre Hopkins, Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller going against a tough secondary, including cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
But the Texans’ defense is still king, and the trio of Watt, Clowney and Mercilus will make it a long day for Bortles and the Jaguars’ offense. Texans 16, Jaguars 10 — Sarah Barshop
The Raiders are 2-0 in Nashville over the past two years … by a field goal and touchdown, respectively. “They’ve been really tight games,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said.
“Obviously, their defense is really good.” With so many questions surrounding Oakland’s defense, you cannot say the same. The Raiders routinely gave up huge chunk plays in the preseason, especially to tight ends.
They also have a lot of inexperience on defense. Fifth-round draft pick Marquel Lee and second-year Tyrell Adams, both middle linebackers, have yet to take a defensive snap in the NFL while first-round pick Gareon Conley never got into a preseason game after a shin injury kept him sidelined from June until last week.
Yes, this game has the feel of a high-scoring affair, with Tennessee upending the Raiders. Titans 35, Raiders 31 — Paul Gutierrez
The Titans, particularly on defense, are treating Sunday as a “respect game.” Many have high expectations for the 2017 Titans, even after a shaky preseason.
But Sunday will be the first true test of whether this team can beat AFC contenders. Tennessee’s bevy of playmakers should feast on the Raiders’ beat-up secondary.
The Titans have to hope their secondary doesn’t get destroyed, too. Both defenses have been vulnerable to big plays this preseason, so buckle up for a good one with a lot of points. Titans 31, Raiders 27 — Cameron Wolfe
The Eagles haven’t beaten the Redskins since September 2014 — five consecutive losses to their division rival, including three in a row at FedEx Field.
Quarterback Carson Wentz is armed with some pretty good weapons for this trip, though, with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.
With Lane Johnson back at right tackle (he missed both Washington games because of suspension last year), the O-line will give Wentz enough time to execute. Eagles 27, Redskins 24 — Tim McManus
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 12 touchdowns to three interceptions against the Eagles; they love feasting on Philly’s man coverage.
But the Redskins are still adjusting to life without Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. They have talented wideouts in place, but at what point will they click with Cousins?
Also, the Redskins’ defense will be challenged by the Eagles’ additions, notably Jeffery. They’re 0-3 in openers under coach Jay Gruden and haven’t looked good in those losses.
They’ll get better, but they’ll start slow. Eagles 24, Redskins 23 — John Keim
This seemed like a winnable game when the schedule was released in April, but that changed when quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder), center Ryan Kelly (foot) and cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) were ruled out.
Now the Colts will be counting on a quarterback (Scott Tolzien) who is winless in his career, an undrafted rookie starting at center (Deyshawn Bond) and two rookies (Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston) as two of their top three cornerbacks.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano loses the season opener for the fourth consecutive year. Rams 20, Colts 10 — Mike Wells
The Rams will be without Aaron Donald, but they’ll also be at home. And the Colts will be missing a whole lot more, including Luck, Kelly and Davis.
The Rams’ defense is good enough to sustain Donald’s loss for at least one week, especially against this offense.
And under Sean McVay, the Rams’ offense will be unrecognizable in a good way. Rams 24, Colts 13 — Alden Gonzalez
It’s a new season and a new team, but it was only nine months ago the Packers beat the Seahawks 38-10 for Seattle’s most lopsided loss since 2011.
Aaron Rodgers presents problems for even the best defenses, especially at Lambeau Field, where Seattle hasn’t won since 1999.
The Seahawks look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but this matchup favors the Packers. Green Bay 27, Seattle 24 — Brady Henderson
Here’s what seems to matter most in the Aaron Rodgers-Russell Wilson matchup: The home team has won each of the past five times.
The Packers have won the past two and they’ve been Seattle’s worst two losses since 2012 (by 28 last season and by 10 in 2015). The game is at Lambeau again, so
Green Bay 23, Seattle 20 — Rob Demovsky
The Panthers don’t know exactly what the 49ers and new head coach Kyle Shanahan will do offensively other than to go on what Shanahan did as the offensive coordinator at Atlanta.
The 49ers don’t know what to expect from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (shoulder) and his new toys, namely Christian McCaffrey.
What is known is the Panthers have a more talented roster and a defense that should return to top-10 form. Panthers 28, 49ers 13 — David Newton
The 49ers have won six consecutive regular-season openers and Shanahan knows the Panthers well from his time as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator.
The Panthers dominated San Francisco in a 46-27 win last year in Week 2, which illustrates how big of a gap the 49ers had to close in less than a year.
Newton’s health will go a long way in determining the outcome, but the Panthers’ continuity is enough to help them eke out a win against a 49ers team still adapting to all of its changes. Panthers 23, Niners 20 — Nick Wagoner
The Giants won last year’s opener 20-19 and swept the season series. The matchup is ideal for the Giants:
The Cowboys don’t have the personnel on defense to expose the Giants’ weakness at offensive tackle and the Giants do have the defensive front to slow the Cowboys’ running game.
Their second-ranked run defense held Ezekiel Elliott to 158 yards on 44 carries (3.6 YPC) in the two meetings last year, well below his season average.
The past two years these teams also met in the season opener at AT&T Stadium and the margin of victory was one point. What changes this year? Nothing. Giants 24, Cowboys 23 — Jordan Raanan
In the eight previous meetings at AT&T Stadium, only one has been decided by more than a touchdown. The past two games have been decided by a point.
The Cowboys get a boost from knowing Elliott will be on the field. For the Giants, even if Odell Beckham Jr. plays, he will not be at full strength.
The Cowboys feel like they owe the Giants one after getting swept by them a year ago.
The emotions of having Elliott will carry them for one game, but who knows what happens if Elliott misses the next six games? Cowboys 30, Giants 27 — Todd Archer
I could definitely make an argument for Adrian Peterson making a triumphant return with his new team.
This would probably be a coin-flip matchup at a neutral site — the Saints have a much more dynamic offense, and there is hope they finally have improved their defense after a dominant preseason.
But there are no questions about the Vikings’ defense, which produced five Pro Bowl selections last year.
They should be able to help neutralize the likes of Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram and, yes, Peterson in a raucous Monday night environment. Vikings 23, Saints 20 — Mike Triplett
The Vikings’ defense looks primed for a big outing despite its secondary facing an immediate test from Brees and the Saints’ prolific passing offense.
Minnesota hopes a full offseason in offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s system will pay off, but don’t expect Sam Bradford to suddenly start launching a ton of deep balls.
The Vikings will keep things conservative while debuting an offensive line with new starters at each position.
Rookie Dalvin Cook is starting in the backfield and could be just as effective, if not more, in the short passing game.
Minnesota sends Vikings legend Adrian Peterson back to New Orleans with a 0-1 record to start the season. Vikings 24, Saints 21 — Courtney Cronin
The Chargers have not won in Denver since 2013, but that streak comes to an end here. Philip Rivers will use a balanced attack on offense to keep the Broncos’ talented defense off-balance.
Defensively, Chargers coordinator Gus Bradley will force quarterback Trevor Siemian to beat his defense by taking away the run and forcing the Broncos to take deep shots.
Siemian has averaged 44 passing attempts and just 5.8 yards per completion in two games against the Chargers, completing 56 percent of his passes with a touchdown and an interception in those games. Chargers 28, Broncos 24 — Eric Williams
The Broncos are 43-13-1 in home openers, including 16-1 in the past 17. Oh, and the team’s defense is still one of the league’s best with Von Miller poised for a monster year.
The Chargers have not won in Denver since a Thursday night during the 2013 season. Broncos 27, Chargers 17 — Jeff Legwold
By ESPN.com – Original post: http://es.pn/2vSwq8x