NFL Week 1: Games, players, teams to watch

There’s a lot to look forward to in the first week of the NFL season. First of all, there are three very good games (we’ll get to that in a moment), but there are also some very good storylines from players making their first appearances on new rosters, quarterbacks returning from injury and one running back setting a new market for years to come.

Cam Newton is making his return to the Panthers’ lineup this year after offseason shoulder surgery and said he is feeling “like a rookie again.”

Le’Veon Bell is making his first appearance with the Jets and says he doesn’t want his coach to “hold back.” Antonio Brown is already bickering with the Raiders, but he has found a helmet.

Ezekiel Elliott was made the NFL’s highest-paid running back and truly believes he is the best back in the NFL.

As of right now, this is all talk. We’ll see how the season plays out over 17 weeks and how well these men will play. But as it stands, it looks like we could be in for yet another exciting season.

Here is your NFL countdown to Week 1:

3 must-see NFL Week 1 games

Packers at Bears, 8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday (NBC): This game isn’t only a great rivalry but it matches one of the best quarterbacks in the game (Aaron Rodgers) against possibly the best defense (Bears). It is also the first look we’ll get at Rodgers’ play in new coach Matt LaFleur’s system. There are plenty of storylines going into this one.

Chiefs at Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET, Sunday (CBS): Patrick Mahomes ran roughshod over the NFL last year passing for more than 5,000 yards and totaling 50 touchdown passes. He became the youngest player to win the MVP (23) since Dan Marino in 1983, according to OptaJerry. But in Kansas City’s 30-14 win over Jacksonville last year, he threw no touchdowns and two interceptions and the Jaguars didn’t have Leonard Fournette. Jacksonville still has one of the best defenses in the game and they added a good quarterback in Nick Foles. This is the 1 p.m. ET game to watch Sunday.

Steelers at Patriots, 8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday (NBC): It’s Patriots vs. Steelers. That’s enough reason to watch this one. But now we get to see a Pittsburgh offense without Antonio Brown and a defense that has added a good young linebacker (Devin Bush) who can hopefully fill the shoes of Ryan Shazier, who suffered a tragic neck injury two years ago.

2 players to watch in NFL Week 1

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens: Baltimore takes on the Dolphins this week and no one should be happier than Jackson. Forget the fact the Dolphins gave up the fourth-most yards in the NFL last season and the sixth-most points per game, Miami gave up 2,325 yards on the ground in 2018 and lost one of the team’s best linebackers in Kiko Alonso who was traded to the Saints before the start of the year. Jackson is probably the best running quarterback in the game and the Ravens also had the second-best rush offense in the NFL in 2018. This could get ugly defensively for the Dolphins.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: A bit along the same lines as Rodgers, this will be the first look at Elliott we’ll get this season after signing a reported six-year, $90 million extension with the Cowboys. He didn’t play a single down during the preseason and may be eased into the game. But the Giants don’t have a great run defense, they traded away their best run-stuffer in “Snacks” Harrison last year and Elliott still may be the best running back in the NFL. Will Elliott’s fresh legs be an advantage, or will he have some rust to knock off? The Cowboys might decide to push him against a less-than-stellar defense numbers-wise and we’ll see if that is a positive thing or a negative one.

1 bold NFL Week 1 prediction

The Colts will beat the Chargers: Losing Andrew Luck has everyone writing off the Colts this season. And honestly, it’s not a terrible take.

When a team loses an all-time talented player, that organization will obviously take a hit. Here’s the thing though — Jacoby Brissett is solid. Did you know that while he went 4-11 as a starter in 2017 with the Colts, he had an Indianapolis team that was poorly built by Ryan Grigson with a lead in nine of his 15 starts in the fourth quarter? He also led Indy to a lead or tie at the half in 10 of his 15 starts.

The difference this time around is the Colts’ defense is much better and Brissett has had a full year to learn Frank Reich’s system rather than one week like he did in 2017. All of that makes this Colts’ team more dangerous than many people think and the Chargers have zero home-field advantage right now at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Los Angeles is also without star running back Melvin Gordon. Don’t be surprised if Indianapolis comes away with a win in this game.