NFL Season Week 1
The NFL season opens with plenty of interesting matchups. The Rodgers Experiment gets its first test in New York, the Eagles run back depth is a question mark and Jordan Love makes his debut for the Washington Commanders.
The Bears and Vikings have some promising rookies that could make this a worthwhile watch, but it’s still early.
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The path to the Super Bowl is the same for all 32 teams, but the terrain looks different depending on your division. Two teams on the same road, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, face off in a game that could have big implications for both clubs.
A win for the Bengals would put them back in control of the AFC North and make it tougher for their in-state rival to catch up. A loss, on the other hand, would send the Browns into last place in the division with a losing record to start the season.
Despite the rain, Joe Burrow was unable to get much going for the Bengals in the first half. He went 6 of 14 for 36 yards through the first 30 minutes and recorded just one third-down conversion on the day, a 12-yard pass to Ja’Marr Chase.
Rookie punter Brad Robbins had a rough debut, and the Bengals were forced to punt seven times in the first half. This is the most times the team has punted in the first half of a game since at least 1991.
The defense will be tested by the Browns’ rushing attack led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb. The defense ranked eighth in rush defense DVOA in 2022 and should hold up well against the Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
The first week of the regular season always features plenty of hype, and this matchup between the Jaguars and Colts is no exception. Both teams have made a number of changes to their rosters, and the result will be an intriguing game with plenty of storylines to follow.
The Colts have a few polarizing pieces in place this year, but the big question is how they will gel on the field. The drafting of sixth overall pick Anthony Richardson has the potential to make Indy one of the league’s more potent offenses, but it may take some time for him to develop. Until then, third-year quarterback Gardner Minshew will hold down the fort.
On the other hand, the Jags’ revamped lineup could surprise in 2023. Second overall pick Bryce Young has the chance to lead a new generation of Jacksonville wideouts, and high-upside rookie running back Calvin Ridley will look to build off his strong finish to last year’s campaign.
On the defensive side, the team will be led by a solid group of veterans. Cornerback Jamar Taylor has the chance to be one of the top cover guys in the league, and a full season of Rashod Bateman and J.K. Dobbins should help to bolster the pass rush. Meanwhile, a healthy return for safety Bobby Okereke would be a major boost to the defense. The defending Super Bowl champions enter the week as early 9.5-point favorites, and that line could see some movement in the days leading up to kickoff. A number of former NFL players were present at the kickoff event, including Bart Starr, who entered the stadium on a Mardi Gras-style parade float.
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
The Jets and Bills share a rich history going back to their days as charter members of the AFL. In fact, they have played twice yearly against each other ever since the merger into the NFL in the early 1980s. That tradition of inter-conference rivalry will continue when the two teams meet Monday night in Buffalo.
The game will be a good litmus test for both teams as they look to improve on last season. The Buffalo offense ranked among the league’s worst in 2022, but Sean McDermott will hope to get more production from an already-deep unit that includes high-upside rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers. The defense, meanwhile, surrendered the fourth-fewest total yards in the league last year and should be even more formidable with the addition of tackling machine Chuck Clark.
New York’s quarterback situation remains unsettled, but whoever takes over will be backed by an impressive group of holdover skill-position players. Wideouts Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis are the top options, while running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and James Robinson add depth to a rushing corps that also includes capable veteran Latavius Murray.
The Bills’ defense, meanwhile, is likely to be overshadowed by the presence of Aaron Rodgers, who will make his debut for Gang Green in front of the home crowd. However, the unit ranked as one of the league’s best in terms of takeaways and passes deflected a year ago, and the addition of pass-rushing bookends J.K. Dobbins and Rashod Bateman should only add to its effectiveness. The team opened as slim 1.5-point road favorites in the first look at NFL Week 1 odds. That spread could see a major swing over the course of the next few months, though.
Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins
The NFL season opens with a game featuring two high-powered offenses. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will try to defend his Super Bowl title at home against the Detroit Lions, who boast a stacked offensive unit with running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Both teams are coming off a disappointing 2019 campaigns, but the model has the Lions finishing better this year and covering more often than not. The Broncos are also in rebuild mode, with a new coaching staff and a rookie starter at quarterback (Brock Purdy). The model expects them to cover less frequently than their last four seasons combined.
Tampa Bay is a team that can score, but the defense is one of the worst in the league at stopping opposing teams’ passing attacks. The Vikings’ Kirk Cousins-Justin Jefferson connection is among the best in the league, while defending the pass was the Buccaneers’ biggest weakness last season. The model projects Minnesota to win outright in well over 60% of simulations.
Green Bay’s first test of the Jordan Love era comes against an NFC North rival that it will battle in the standings all season long. The Packers’ offense should be a lot more dangerous than it was in 2018, with stud running back Aaron Rodgers and an array of talented skill-position assets. But Green Bay will enter this game as 3.5-point underdogs, and that number could see some movement if fifth overall pick Bryce Young shines during the preseason.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
With the opening weekend of the NFL season in the books, teams are poised for a long ride to the playoffs. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, for instance, began the campaign with a dominating win at home to the Detroit Lions and are heavy favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Cleveland Browns are another team that may surprise in 2023, especially if first-round pick Deshaun Watson can stay healthy. The young quarterback has a wealth of skill-position assets to work with, including Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku. Add in a formidable rushing corps led by second-year back Duke Johnson and rookie running back Kareem Hunt and the Browns could be a playoff contender.
As for the Los Angeles Rams, they lived up to their reputation as one of the league’s top defenses. Their stifling pressure on Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff was relentless and they recorded three sacks and an interception. Nevertheless, the loss of starting cornerback Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Johnathan Clark should be a concern, as it will limit their depth and talent on the second level.
The Green Bay Packers will also look to get off to a fast start after a sluggish opening-night defeat to the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Dak Prescott was excellent in his return to the field, while wide receivers Amari Cooper and Cee Dee Lamb provided plenty of firepower for the Cowboys’ offense. Meanwhile, the defense is anchored by pass-rushing bookends DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons alongside rookie linebacker Mazi Smith and rising star inside linebacker Osa Odighizuwa. It’s a group that will give the Packers’ inconsistent offense some serious thump come this week.