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#401711 - 09/08/18 02:06 AM NFL Week 1
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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

The new-look Cleveland Browns are filled with optimism heading into 2018 - a season they hope will end in at least a pair of wins. The Browns will try to get one victory out of the way early when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener on Sunday.

Cleveland is 1-31 over the last two seasons but brought in John Dorsey as the general manager in the offseason and turned over nearly 60 percent of the roster, including adding starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. "At the end of the day, I think that we are a better football team on both sides of the line of scrimmage," Dorsey told reporters. "I think that our skill groups have a lot of young and upcoming guys. That is all that you can ask for." The Steelers enter every season with high expectations and are looking to bring home the franchise's seventh Super Bowl trophy. "I am extremely excited," wide receiver Antonio Brown told reporters of the upcoming season. "You work all year and prepare all year for that moment to get here. Now that it's here, you are extremely excited and grateful. I am excited to be a part of something special and ready to roll. ... We have to find a way to bring the trophy here. Whatever that entails. Scoring points, whatever that entails, we have to find a way to win."

TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Steelers -4. O/U: 44.5

ABOUT THE STEELERS (2017: 13-3, FIRST IN AFC NORTH): Pittsburgh is still without running back Le'Veon Bell, who has yet to report to the team while holding out for a new contract. "Football's the ultimate team sport. One guy doesn't make or break you," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters in reference to Bell's holdout. "So, I'd like to say that the linemen are more important than any skill-position player, including myself, on this team. This offense is more than one guy." Whether or not Bell reports before Sunday, Pittsburgh is confident that backup running back James Conner is ready to step into a staring role within the offense after a strong preseason.

ABOUT THE BROWNS (2017: 0-16, FOURTH IN AFC NORTH): Cleveland brought in Taylor to be a bridge to Mayfield, but the veteran impressed his teammates enough to be voted captain and heads into the season as the unquestioned leader of the offense. "First, I am very excited to watch what he does this Sunday, but Tyrod is very consistent," Browns coach Hue Jackson told reporters. "I am sure there is a fire burning. It is the opening day for all of us, so I think he will be very excited. He has been very consistent on how he comes in the building, when he leaves the building and how he is with his teammates." Taylor's biggest weapon figures to be wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is not expected to start after reporting to camp late and dealing with a hamstring injury but is expected to play on Sunday.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Steelers LB T.J. Watt (hamstring) did not play in the preseason but is expected to be ready for Sunday.

2. Cleveland is not expected to announce a starting LT until Friday, with Joel Bitonio, Desmond Harrison and Austin Corbett in the mix.

3. Pittsburgh took the last six in the series, though the two wins in 2017 came by a total of seven points.

PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Browns 17
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#401712 - 09/08/18 02:07 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game last season and then cleaned house at quarterback to make room for Kirk Cousins. The Cousins era gets underway Sunday, when the Vikings host a rising San Francisco 49ers team that won its final five games last season behind newcomer Jimmy Garoppolo.

Playoff hero Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all are with new teams after Minnesota invested $84 million over three seasons on Cousins, who has topped 4,000 yards each of the last three years, to help it take the next step. The Vikings led the NFL in total defense (275.9 yards per game) last season, and their 13-3 record was the second-best mark in team history. Garoppolo was and immediate hit after being acquired from New England during the 2017 campaign, and the optimism has carried over to this season. San Francisco has gone four straight seasons without making the playoffs but looks to compete for a spot in Kyle Shanahan's second year as coach.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Vikings -6.5. O/U: 46

ABOUT THE 49ERS (2017: 6-10, 4TH IN NFC WEST): San Francisco added Richard Sherman during the offseason, and the cornerback with an NFL-leading 32 interceptions (while with Seattle) since 2011 is fully recovered from an Achilles injury. The running game is a question mark as newcomer Jerrick McKinnon, who spent his first four years with Minnesota, suffered a season-ending knee injury, so recent addition Alfred Morris and Matt Breida - who missed most of the preseason with a shoulder injury - will share the duties. Garoppolo passed for 1,542 yards in his five starts last year and completed at least 70 percent of his passes in three of the outings.

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (2017: 13-3, 1ST IN NFC NORTH): Running back Dalvin Cook was looking like a star when he rushed for 354 yards in parts of four games last season before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but he has recovered and is ready for the campaign. "I just want to go out there and play up to the potential that I know I have in me," Cook told reporters. "I just want to go out there and play up to my potential and help this team win football games." Minnesota's stingy defense is led by star defensive end Everson Griffin (career-best 13 sacks last season) and veteran safety Harrison Smith (career high-tying five interceptions).

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Vikings have won three of the last four meetings, including a 20-3 victory in 2015 in the most recent clash.

2. San Francisco WR Marquise Goodwin recorded 962 receiving yards last year after totaling 780 over his first four NFL seasons with Buffalo.

3. Minnesota WR Adam Thielen (ankle) is expected to play as he is looking to build on last season's career-best totals of 91 receptions and 1,276 yards.

PREDICTION: Vikings 26, 49ers 21
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#401713 - 09/08/18 02:07 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback Andrew Luck will play in his first regular-season game in almost two years on Sunday when he leads the Indianapolis Colts into their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. "I hesitate in saying the comeback has come full circle," said Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury. "I just want to go out and play football. I feel really good and I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in great shape, feel like I can make all the throws I need."

The 28-year-old Luck was unable to even throw a regulation football until June but worked his way through the preseason with few hiccups, completing 20-of-32 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in 11 series. The contest also marks the head coaching debut of Frank Reich, who helped guide the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl title before taking over in Indianapolis for the fired Chuck Pagano. As Reich settles into his new role, Marvin Lewis begins his 16th year at the helm for the Bengals, who missed the playoffs for the second straight time in 2017. The teams will be meeting for the second time in 11 days after the Colts won the preseason finale 27-26 on Aug. 30 with reserves getting the bulk of the action.

TV: 1 p.m. CBS. LINE: Colts -3. O/U: 48.5

ABOUT THE BENGALS (2017: 7-9, 3RD IN AFC NORTH): One of the few notable spots up for grab in the preseason finale was the backup quarterback job, but Matt Barkley was taken out of the mix when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. That leaves Jeff Driskel to play behind Andy Dalton, who is coming off a down year but still has talent around him in star wide receiver A.J. Green, emerging talent Joe Mixon at running back and -- potentially -- a healthy Tyler Eifert at tight end. Cincinnati expects big things from a defensive line anchored by six-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins.

ABOUT THE COLTS (2017: 4-12, TIED FOR 3RD IN AFC SOUTH): Indianapolis obviously wants to keep Luck upright as much as possible and it hopes to have veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) active to help provide protection, although Reich has yet to make a decision. "He's been working hard," Reich told the media of Castonzo, who practiced Wednesday for the first time in several weeks. "It's not like physically he hasn't been working hard and getting some field work out there. We are just on a day-to-day basis." The Colts need improvement on the other side of the ball after giving up 25.3 points per game last year, the third-highest total in the league.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Luck threw for 376 yards and a touchdown to lead the Colts to a 26-10 win over the Bengals in the last meeting in Indianapolis, which came in the wild-card round of the 2014 playoffs.

2. Dalton needs 1,616 passing yards to move ahead of Boomer Esiason and into second place on the franchise list.

3. Cincinnati defeated the Colts 24-23 last year at home despite career highs of 12 catches and 121 yards for Indianapolis TE Jack Doyle.

PREDICTION: Colts 26, Bengals 21
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#401714 - 09/08/18 02:08 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens lost out on a playoff spot in the final minute of the 2017 season, opening a door for the Buffalo Bills to sneak in and end a long postseason drought. Although the stakes are not as high, the Ravens can exact a measure of revenge on Sunday when the teams begin their seasons with a clash in Baltimore.

The Ravens allowed a 49-yard touchdown pass in the final minute in a stunning season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in December and the Bills - who were watching the drama unfold after winning in Miami - claimed the last spot in the AFC playoffs by virtue of the result. Buffalo fizzled in the playoffs and opens 2018 with question marks in the backfield as Nathan Peterman - who struggled as a backup last year - starts at quarterback over rookie Josh Allen and star running back LeSean McCoy is mired in an ongoing investigation into a home invasion involving his ex-girlfriend. The Ravens begin their 11th straight season with coach John Harbaugh patrolling the sidelines and Joe Flacco running the offense, which ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game (189.4) last year. Baltimore has won four straight over Buffalo at home, including a 13-7 triumph in the most recent encounter in 2016.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Ravens -7.5. O/U: 40.5

ABOUT THE BILLS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN AFC EAST): The NFL announced Tuesday that McCoy would be eligible to play to begin the season and his teammates voted him as a captain this week as the franchise moves forward while the legal situation plays out. "I'll take care of that stuff, but right now, what I've got to worry about is the Baltimore Ravens," he told reporters. "This is a big week for me, week one. I didn't have a lot of playing time in the preseason, so I'm really locked in and trying to focus everything on football right now. We'll take care of that." The six-time Pro Bowler averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per carry last year and had just four rushes for 11 yards in the preseason.

ABOUT THE RAVENS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN AFC NORTH): Flacco has missed just six games - all in 2015 - in his 11-year career but the team may carry two backups into the year for the first time since 2009, although Harbaugh has not indicated whether rookie Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III will serve in that role on Sunday. "It wouldn't be any more than three. It won't be any less than two. We'll see," Harbaugh told reporters on the number of active quarterbacks for Week 1. "I really don't know. Hey, it's day-to-day." Flacco has new targets at wide receiver in veterans Michael Crabtree and John Brown.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Bills ranked 29th in run defense last year while allowing a league-high 22 TDs on the ground.

2. Flacco threw for 3,141 yards and 18 TDs in 2017, his lowest totals in a full season since he was a rookie in 2008.

3. Ravens TE Hayden Hurst, a first-round pick this spring, has a stress fracture and is likely out until Week 3.

PREDICTION: Ravens 23, Bills 16
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#401715 - 09/08/18 02:09 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Giants

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. insisted he had matured last month after signing a five-year, $95 million contract extension, and his decision against engaging in a war of words with Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a step in that direction. Beckham and Ramsey will do their talking on the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium when the Giants open their 2018 NFL season against the Jaguars.

"I think I learned my lesson," Beckham said, referencing his public spat with Josh Norman during the 2015 season. "(Ramsey) is, if not the best, one of the best corners in the league. There is no way around it." Ramsey praised Beckham last month in a GQ interview as a means of throwing shade at two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning, who will face a Jaguars defense that ranked second in the NFL in both points allowed (16.8 per game) and total defense (286.1 yards per game). Jacksonville married that aggressive defense with a conservative offense, with the latter relying heavily on then-rookie Leonard Fournette (1,040 rushing yards, nine touchdowns) to secure the team's first AFC South title since 1999 and two playoff wins before falling to New England in the AFC Championship Game. The Giants, who saw their campaign careen off the rails after Beckham sustained a season-ending broken ankle, look to get back on track with head coach Pat Shurmur making his debut on the sideline.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Jaguars -3. O/U: 43.5

ABOUT THE JAGUARS (2017: 10-6, 1ST IN AFC SOUTH): Blake Bortles turned a deaf ear to public criticism last season and led upstart Jacksonville to within one quarter of an unlikely Super Bowl appearance. The 26-year-old connected on 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns with a career-low 13 interceptions before signing a three-year, $54 million contract extension in February. His wide receiver corps is in flux, however, as Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departed in free agency and Marqise Lee is lost for 2018 after being on the receiving end of a low hit during a preseason contest against Atlanta. Promising youngsters Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook will join Donte Moncrief in carrying the load this season.

ABOUT THE GIANTS (2017: 3-13, 4TH IN NFC EAST): Rookie Saquon Barkley embraced the bright lights of the New York media market seemingly mere moments after being selected with the second overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. The 6-foot, 233-pound running back hasn't been shy in his exposure, appearing on numerous talk shows and publications before seeing his availability limited after tweaking his hamstring during practice last month. "I definitely think I'm ready for a full (workload) the way I've been preparing and practicing," said Barkley, who rushed for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns in 38 career games with Penn State. Mammoth tackle Nate Solder, who signed four-year, $62 million contract, joins 2018 second-round pick Will Hernandez as part of a revamped offensive line that was priority No. 1 for new general manager Dave Gettleman.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Jacksonville DE Calais Campbell posted a franchise record with 14.5 sacks last season.

2. New York's Evan Engram, who was removed from concussion protocol on Wednesday, ranked first among rookie tight ends in catches (64) and receiving yards (722) last season.

3. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is uncertain of the availability of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is nursing a core muscle injury.

PREDICTION: Jaguars 20, Giants 17
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#401716 - 09/08/18 02:09 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to improve upon their last-place finish in the NFC South, but they open the season with a tall task as they take to the road to face the defending division champion New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Making matters worse, the Buccaneers will be without quarterback Jameis Winston, who is serving a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.


Tampa Bay did have the benefit of knowing Winston would be suspended since June, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick time to prepare to begin the year as the starter. The Saints, of course, will have the same quarterback who has guided one of the league's most potent offenses for the past 12 seasons in veteran Drew Brees. "He's one of the best to ever play the game," Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter told reporters. "You know that he's going to be dialed in to everything you're doing. ... Everybody's tried to come up with a way to beat Drew Brees for the last however many years, and it's just easier said than done." New Orleans will be without running back Mark Ingram, who is suspended for the first four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -9.5. O/U: 49.5


ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (2017: 5-11, 4TH IN NFC SOUTH): Tampa Bay capped a disappointing 2017 season with a win over New Orleans to avoid ending with six straight losses. Winston had a solid campaign, but the team's ground game was deficient, so it will look to Peyton Barber and rookie Ronald Jones to try to establish the run. The team's biggest weakness a year ago was the league's worst pass defense, but the secondary and defensive line have been revamped with the hope they can slow down opposing passers.

ABOUT THE SAINTS (2017: 11-5, 1ST IN NFC SOUTH): New Orleans again boasted one of the league's best offenses last season, but it was more balanced than in years past with Ingram and Alvin Kamara powering a strong rushing attack. With Ingram suspended to start the year, Brees might be called upon to throw more often in the early going, and he has his favorite target back in Michael Thomas, who had a franchise-record 104 receptions in 2017. The defense was opportunistic last year, forcing 25 turnovers - including five interceptions by rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore.


EXTRA POINTS

1. Brees ranks third all-time with 70,445 passing yards, trailing only Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

2. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans is one of three players (Randy Moss and A.J. Green) in NFL history with four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin his career.

3. Kamara recorded 826 yards receiving and 728 rushing last season, joining Charley Taylor (1964) as the only rookies in history with at least 700 yards both rushing and receiving.


PREDICTION: Saints 27, Buccaneers 17
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#401717 - 09/08/18 02:10 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

One quarterback is coming back from a rare defeat on the NFL's grandest stage while another is returning from an injury that derailed a promising rookie campaign. Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Tom Brady enters his 19th season when the New England Patriots host Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans in a season-opening matchup on Sunday afternoon.

Brady turned 41 last month and came out on the short end of a 41-33 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, but he led the league in passing yards in 2017 en route to winning his third MVP trophy. "I think the last eight years of my career have been better than my first 10, so I should just prolong it, and that's what I'm trying to do," Brady said on the final [censored] of his Facebook Watch documentary series "Tom Vs. Time." While New England has undergone myriad changes in the offseason, the Texans welcome back to two of their best players from injury -- Watson and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who missed the final 11 games a year ago due to a broken leg. Houston head coach Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel were both on the staff of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but the Texans have lost seven in a row (playoffs included) to New England, including a last-minute 36-33 setback at Gillette Stadium in September 2017.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -6.5. O/U: 50.5

ABOUT THE TEXANS (2017: 4-12, 4TH IN AFC SOUTH): Hopes are high in Houston after Watson showed what could have been during an abbreviated rookie season, including an electrifying stretch in which the Texans amassed 162 points in a four-game span. Watson threw for 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games (six starts) and his favorite target was DeAndre Hopkins, who piled up 1,378 yards and led the league with 13 touchdowns on 96 receptions. Running back Lamar Miller dipped to 888 yards rushing in 2017 after eclipsing 1,000 the previous season, but the other big reason for optimism is a defense that welcomes back a healthy Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus to go along with former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Watt registered 74.5 sacks in his first five seasons before injuries limited him to a combined eight games over the past two years.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-3, 1ST IN AFC EAST): The one constant for New England remains Brady, who threw for 32 touchdown passes and a league-leading 4,577 yards last season but will guide an offense that lost its leading rusher and its two top wide receivers. Brady still has behemoth tight end Rob Gronkowski, who posted team highs with 69 receptions, 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while Chris Hogan supplants Brandin Cooks as the No. 1 wideout. Rex Burkhead and James White are the holdovers in the backfield along with free agent signee Jeremy Hill and rookie Sony Michel, the second of the team's first-round draft picks. New England's defense, which ranked 29th in yards allowed per game (366.0) but minimized the damage to an average of 18.4 points, will be boosted by the return of linebacker Dont'a Hightower after he played in only five games last season.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Brady has 13 TD passes and one pick in his last four games versus Houston, including five scoring passes last season.

2. Clowney set a career high with 9.5 sacks and was second in the league with 21 tackles for loss last season.

3. New England had won eight straight home openers until losing to Kansas City in 2017.

PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Texans 23
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#401718 - 09/08/18 02:10 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins

The Tennessee Titans kick off the Mike Vrabel Era in earnest on Sunday as they open the 2018 NFL season against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Vrabel became the franchise's 19th head coach after replacing Mike Mularkey, who guided the Titans to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and saw the club rally past Kansas City in the wild-card clash.

Marcus Mariota, who sat out Tennessee's 16-10 loss to Miami last season with a left hamstring injury, was [censored] in the victory over the Chiefs after throwing two touchdowns -- including one to himself. The former Heisman Trophy winner, however, tossed more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (13) last season and is learning a new playbook under former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. While Mariota had an up-and-down campaign 2017, Miami's Ryan Tannehill will play in a regular-season game for the first time since December 2016 as he returns from a torn ACL that he re-injured last summer. The Dolphins answered a 10-6 campaign with a 6-10 performance last season, with Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales each taking turns under center.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Titans -1.5. O/U: 45

ABOUT THE TITANS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN AFC SOUTH): Derrick Henry takes over lead-back responsibilities for the now-retired DeMarco Murray and looks to punish opponents with a 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame that he used to churn out 390 rushing yards in the fourth quarter last season. Offseason acquisition Dion Lewis, who is listed at 5-8 and 195 pounds, posted career highs in scrimmage yards (1,110), rushing yards (896) and rushing touchdowns (six) with New England in 2017. Mariota's most trusted target is Delanie Walker, who has joined Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) as the lone tight ends to record 3,000-plus receiving yards and 20-plus touchdown catches since 2014. Former Dolphin Rishard Matthews has 118 receptions for 1,740 yards and 13 touchdown catches in two seasons with Tennessee while former first-round selection Corey Davis is looking to rebound following an injury-riddled rookie campaign.

ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (2017: 6-10, 3RD IN AFC EAST): Kenyan Drake enjoyed success following the midseason departure of fellow running back Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia, recording 594 scrimmage yards over his final five games of 2017. Drake, however, will be involved in a bit of a timeshare in the backfield with the ageless Frank Gore, who ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 career rush yards. Miami likely will be without wide receiver DeVante Parker for the season opener as he nurses a broken finger, but the club added Danny Amendola (Patriots) and Albert Wilson (Chiefs) to go along with Kenny Stills as it deals with the offseason departure of three-time Pro Bowl selection Jarvis Landry (career-best 112 receptions) to Cleveland.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Miami DEs Cameron Wake and offseason acquisition Robert Quinn combined for 19 sacks in 2017.

2. Tennessee S Kevin Byard recorded an NFL high-tying eight interceptions last season en route to earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

3. Miami's Reshad Jones, who scored on a 38-yard fumble return versus the Titans last season, led all safeties with 122 tackles in 2017.

PREDICTION: Titans 19, Dolphins 16
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#401719 - 09/08/18 02:11 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs begin their quest for a third consecutive AFC West title with a road game against one of their most likely challengers in the division. The Chiefs on Sunday will try for their ninth consecutive win against the Los Angeles Chargers, who last season pushed Kansas City until the final week.


One constant during Kansas City's recent dominance over the Chargers has been under center, where second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes takes the reins after veteran Alex Smith was traded to Washington in the offseason. Mahomes made his first start in Week 17 last year and passed for 284 yards in what ultimately was a meaningless game, but the stakes will be higher this time. "I haven't seen anything that would tell you he's nervous," Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters. "He is a pretty confident kid in his ability, and I think he just wants to get going and play the game." Los Angeles still has Philip Rivers at the helm of an offense that led the league in passing a year ago but posted two of its five lowest-yardage outputs in its two meetings with the Chiefs.

TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Chargers -3.5. O/U: 48


ABOUT THE CHIEFS (2017: 10-6, 1ST IN AFC WEST): Mahomes takes over an offense that includes Kareem Hunt, the NFL's leading rusher last season with 1,327 yards. He also has a reliable target in Travis Kelce, who led all tight ends with 83 receptions for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017, and a couple of dangerous receivers in speedster Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. The defense was one of the most porous in the league last year but also forced 26 turnovers as the Chiefs ranked second in the league with a plus-15 margin.

ABOUT THE CHARGERS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN AFC WEST): After throwing a career-high 21 interceptions in 2016, Rivers was picked only 10 times last season while passing for 4,515 yards and 28 touchdowns. His favorite target returns in Keenan Allen, who hauled in 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns last year, as does running back Melvin Gordon, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season. The defense ranked third in the league in points allowed last season and is led by two dynamic pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who combined for 23 sacks in 2017.


EXTRA POINTS

1. Chiefs LB Justin Houston has registered six sacks in his last five games against San Diego.

2. Ingram has notched four sacks in his last two meetings with Kansas City.

3. Kansas City S Eric Berry has not practiced since Aug. 11 due to a heel injury and is listed as questionable.


PREDICTION: Chargers 27, Chiefs 23
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#401720 - 09/08/18 02:11 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos

The Seattle Seahawks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2011, and they begin their quest to return to postseason play when they visit the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Denver understands that misery as it has missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons and recorded just five wins last year.

Broncos general manager John Elway wasn't happy with the play at quarterback last season as the trio of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch combined for 22 interceptions, so he signed Case Keenum (3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns) to a two-year, $36 million contract after his breakthrough campaign with Minnesota. "Come on. He's played in big games. He got to within one win of the Super Bowl last year," Denver coach Vance Joseph said after a reporter asked if Keenum was up to the challenge. "I think he's going to be even better than we've seen." Seattle has its own fine quarterback in Russell Wilson, who led the NFL and tied the franchise mark in 2017 with 34 touchdown passes while throwing for 3,983 yards and rushing for a team-best 586. "The biggest thing is, I think Russell's better," Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin told reporters. "This is the best I've seen Russ since he's been here. I'm really excited and happy for his progress, because obviously that makes us a lot better. It makes it easier on us."

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Broncos -3. O/U: 43

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN NFC WEST): Establishing the run was tough for Seattle last season, but hopes are high that the ground game will be vastly improved with Chris Carson (208 yards in four games) recovered from a broken leg and first-round pick Rashaad Penny offering support. Star middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (133 tackles last season) leads the defense, while rookie Shaquem Griffin will start in place of weak-side linebacker K.J. Wright (knee). Safety Earl Thomas ended his holdout on Wednesday, leaving his status for the season opener up in the air, but the secondary is in revamping mode after the departures of cornerback Richard Sherman (San Francisco) and safety Kam Chancellor (career-ending neck injury).

ABOUT THE BRONCOS (2017: 5-11, 4TH IN AFC WEST): Third-round draft pick Royce Freeman had a strong preseason, beating out Devontae Booker for the starting job at running back. "He can carry the load from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint," Joseph told reporters. "He was really good in pass (protection). That's your biggest worry about having a young halfback playing with a veteran quarterback - the pass (protection) issues." Star linebacker Von Miller (NFL-best 83.5 sacks since 2011) has reached double digits in sacks in six of his first seven seasons, while linebacker Brandon Marshall has topped 100 tackles in three straight campaigns.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Broncos routed the Seahawks 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII following the 2013 season.

2. Denver WR Demaryius Thomas ranks second in franchise history with 8,653 receiving yards and 57 touchdown catches, and third with 629 receptions.

3. Baldwin has 29 touchdown receptions since the start of the 2015 season, the second-most in the NFL during that span.

PREDICTION: Seahawks 23, Broncos 20
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#401721 - 09/08/18 02:12 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

The Dallas Cowboys are without some of the bigger names from recent seasons going into 2018, but that isn't dampening the team's enthusiasm. The Cowboys will try to show off what Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and company can accomplish when they open the season by visiting the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Dallas watched tight end Jason Witten move to the broadcast booth and cut receiver Dez Bryant in the offseason, leaving Prescott without a pair of veteran weapons and signaling the embrace of a youth movement. "You don't just want to be a young team. You want to be a young, good team," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters. "And we have some guys who are young and haven't been tested quite as much, but we feel like they have the stuff. We're excited about seeing them play and seeing this group come together." The Panthers have a more veteran roster and are ready to win now after a trip to the Super Bowl in 2015 and anther playoff berth last season. "I'm excited. I think everybody is excited about this opportunity," quarterback Cam Newton told reporters. "There's a lot of energy, great energy, around the city that I've been feeling."

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -3. O/U: 42.5.

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (2017: 9-7, SECOND IN NFC EAST): Dallas went 13-3 in 2016 behind rookies Elliott and Prescott, but a six-game suspension that Elliott spent the better part of 2017 fighting overshadowed last season. "I'm definitely going into this year with a chip on my shoulder," Elliott told reporters. "I think I have a lot to prove. I would say with my preparation this offseason, I was more focused and just ready to go out there and prove what I can do on the field." Elliott, who led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards as a rookie, managed 983 yards despite sitting out six games in 2017.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2017: 11-5, SECOND IN NFC SOUTH): Carolina went to work improving the skill position players around Newton and brought in wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright to compliment veteran tight end Greg Olsen. The Panthers also made a change at offensive coordinator with the departure of Mike Shula and hired veteran Norv Turner to guide Newton and company. "Nothing has changed as far as winning football games," Newton told reporters. "That's the most important stat in all of sports - winning. Anything I can do to help this team win, that's what I'm all about."

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Cowboys cut veteran PK Dan Bailey and will [censored] go with Brett Maher.

2. Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (heart issues) will sit out Week 1.

3. Carolina took the most recent meeting, 33-14 at Dallas in 2015, to end a five-game losing streak in the series.

PREDICTION: Panthers 31, Cowboys 24
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#401722 - 09/08/18 02:12 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Washington Redskins vs. Arizona Cardinals

Two teams pinning their hopes on new quarterbacks will do battle on Sunday as the Washington Redskins visit the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener for both clubs. Washington finally realized Kirk Cousins was not the answer, allowing him to flee to Minnesota as a free agent after acquiring Alex Smith in a trade with Kansas City.

Smith subsequently was signed to a massive four-year, $94 million contract after guiding the Chiefs to double-digit victory totals and playoff appearances in four of his five seasons with the team. The three-time Pro Bowler has attempted at least 450 passes and thrown fewer than 10 interceptions in each of his last five campaigns, the longest such streak in NFL history. Arizona transitions from one injury-plagued quarterback to another as Sam Bradford takes over for the retired Carson Palmer. The 30-year-old Bradford, who signed a two-year contract in March, gets a chance with his fourth team after appearing in only two games with Minnesota last season due to a knee injury.

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Cardinals -1. O/U: 43.5

ABOUT THE REDSKINS (2017: 7-9, 3RD IN NFC EAST): Smith is hoping fellow newcomer Adrian Peterson will help make the offense successful as the seven-time Pro Bowler and former league MVP needs 37 rushing yards to pass Marshall Faulk (12,279) and Jim Brown (12,312) and climb into the top 10 in NFL history. With 97 yards on Sunday against the team with which he finished last season, Peterson will join Brown, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Edgerrin James as the only players rush for 1,000 in season openers. Washington, which is beginning a season on the road for the first time since 2014, is seeking its first win in Arizona since posting a 17-13 victory in 2005 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

ABOUT THE CARDINALS (2017: 8-8, 3RD IN NFC WEST): David Johnson, who is seeking a new contract, is hoping to prove his doubters wrong after having his 2017 campaign ended by the dislocated wrist he suffered in the season opener. "I think everyone has a question mark on me," Johnson, who rushed for 1,239 yards and recorded another 879 on 80 receptions in 2016, told reporters on Wednesday. "They don't know how good I'm going to be. I don't know, a lot of people probably overlook what I did in 2016." Larry Fitzgerald looks to add another milestone to his resume as he needs eight receiving yards to join Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Don Maynard as the only players with at least 1,000 and eight touchdown catches in season-opening games.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Peterson's next rushing touchdown will be the 100th of his career, making him the seven player in league history to reach the century mark while also gaining at least 12,000 yards on the ground.

2. Fitzgerald also needs one reception to extend his streak to 212 consecutive games, which would move him past Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest run in NFL history, and one TD catch to tie the former tight end for seventh on the all-time list with 111.

3. Washington placed RB Byron Marshall (knee) on injured reserve Wednesday and signed LB Josh Keyes, who was released by Houston four days earlier.

PREDICTION: Redskins 33, Cardinals 14
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#401723 - 09/08/18 02:13 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

The NFL's oldest rivalry, one that featured such legendary names of Halas and Lombardi, has taken on a Moneyball slant entering the 2018 season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the highest-paid player in NFL history last month and will guide the Green Bay Packers into a Week 1 matchup against the visiting Chicago Bears and new meal ticket Khalil Mack on Sunday night.

Rodgers signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension but his true value was evident last season when he missed nine games due to a broken collarbone and the Packers spiraled to a 7-9 record. "Obviously, my financial commitment is such that I feel good about my place on the team in the next few years," Rodgers said. "I want to go out and prove that I'm still an elite payer in this league, and if I do that then I'll feel good (that) I've got the opportunity to finish my career in Green Bay." Ready to make Rodgers earn every dime is Mack, who was acquired by Chicago in a blockbuster trade with Oakland and rewarded with the richest contract given to a defensive player -- a whopping six-year, $141 million extension. The Bears, who have finished last in the NFC North four years running, also will feature a different look on the other side of the ball as they begin a new era under first-year head coach Matt Nagy.

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Packers -7. O/U: 47.5

ABOUT THE BEARS (5-11, 4TH IN NFC NORTH): Chicago traded a pair of first-round draft picks as part of the package to bring in Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has registered double-digit sacks in each of the past three seasons. The Bears also used a first-round draft pick (No. 8 overall) to select linebacker Roquan Smith out of Georgia to further bolster a defense that ranked No. 7 against the pass with an average of 211.0 yards in 2017. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw for only 2,193 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games as a rookie last season, but he has plenty of new weapons in wide receivers Allen Robinson (Jacksonville) and Taylor Gabriel (Atlanta) along with tight end Trey Burton (Philadelphia). Jordan Howard has rushed for at least 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons while Tarik Cohen provides a dynamic pass-catching threat in the backfield.

ABOUT THE PACKERS (7-9, 3RD IN NFC NORTH): Rodgers' impact on Green Bay's offense cannot be overstated -- the two-time NFL MVP started all 16 games from 2014-16 and amassed 109 touchdown passes against only 20 interceptions. Longtime favorite target Jordie Nelson was let go in the offseason, but Rodgers still has plenty of options with returning wideouts Davante Adams and Randall Cobb (140 combined catches in 2017) and the arrival of tight end Jimmy Graham, who had 10 TD receptions with Seattle last season. Jamaal Williams rushed for a team-high 556 yards last season and will share the load with Ty Montgomery while Aaron Jones serves a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Packers were 26th in points allowed (24.0) and 22nd in total defense, leading to the dismissal of defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the hiring of Mike Pettine.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Rodgers had 14 touchdown passes and one interception in his last four home starts versus Chicago.

2. Mack, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has 36.5 sacks over the last three seasons.

3. Green Bay has won four straight against the Bears and leads the all-time series 95-93-6.

PREDICTION: Packers 26, Bears 20
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#401724 - 09/08/18 02:14 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions

From the minute the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, it merely was a matter of when, not if, the team handed him the keys to their offense. Darnold impressed New York's brass enough to win the starting job in the preseason and will lead the Jets into Monday's season opener against the host Detroit Lions.

Darnold, who beat out Josh McCown and the since-traded Teddy Bridgewater for the job during the preseason, will make history in his NFL debut, becoming the youngest Week 1 starting quarterback at 21 years, 97 days. "We are trying to help the team win and we feel like he gives us a good chance to win," Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters. "We're not starting him because he's a rookie and he's not ready, we're starting him because he gives us a chance to win the game." While Darnold represents a changing of the guard in New York, the Lions will be playing their initial game under first-year coach Matt Patricia, who spent the past six seasons as the defensive coordinator for New England. Patricia inherits a team that has posted back-to-back nine-win seasons and features an experienced quarterback in Matt Stafford, but also one that hasn't won a playoff game since 1991.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Lions -6.5. O/U: 45

ABOUT THE JETS (2017: 5-11, 4TH IN AFC EAST): Darnold, the second quarterback taken in the draft, finished the preseason by completing 29-of-45 passes for 244 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He will look to a wide receiving corps led by Robby Anderson, who paced the team with 941 yards and seven touchdowns last season, Jermaine Kearse (team-high 65 catches), Quincy Enunwa (58 catches in 2016) and quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor. New York augmented the running game by bringing in a power back in Isaiah Crowell, who appeared in all 16 games in each of his four seasons in Cleveland, while Bilal Powell will provide a breather and serve as the third-down back. Leonard Williams anchors the defensive line and New York has a solid secondary, but it must improve on a pass rush that ranked 28th a year ago with 28 sacks.

ABOUT THE LIONS (2017: 9-7, 2ND IN NFC NORTH): Stafford has thrown for at least 4,000 yards for seven consecutive years to carry what has been a one-dimensional offense that ranked last in rushing in two of the past three seasons. To that end, Detroit drafted rookie running back Kerryon Johnson from Auburn in the second round and signed LeGarrette Blount, who is one year removed from leading the league with 18 rushing touchdowns. Marvin Jones led the Lions with 1,101 yards and nine touchdowns on 61 catches last season while fellow wideout Golden Tate also surpassed 1,000 yards on 92 receptions. Detroit has a pair of standouts on the other side of the ball in defensive end Ziggy Ansah (12 sacks) and cornerback Darius Slay (eight interceptions) but needs to find another pass rusher for a unit that ranked 27th in 2017.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Stafford has recorded four scoring passes and zero interceptions in two career meetings with New York.

2. Crowell is one of six active running backs with at least 600 yards rushing in each of the last four seasons.

3. Lions RB Theo Riddick has registered 186 catches and 10 TD receptions over the last three seasons.

PREDICTION: Lions 23, Jets 20
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#401725 - 09/08/18 02:14 AM Re: NFL Week 1 [Re: FREAK]
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Los Angeles Rams vs. Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden's second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders was supposed to begin with a matchup between two of the NFL's best defensive players. Oakland squashed that showdown by trading superstar Khalil Mack last weekend and will need to receive phenomenal efforts from his replacements when it hosts the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

Gruden, who was given a 10-year, $100 million contract to return to the sideline for the first time since 2008 with Tampa Bay, never even got to meet Mack, a three-time Pro Bowler and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 who was a holdout during preseason before being dealt to Chicago - and signed to a six-year, $141 million deal - last Saturday. Oakland's defense was suspect at best with Mack and figures to be considerably weaker when the team meets the Rams, who were able to come to terms with their defensive stud a day before the Raiders parted with theirs. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a four-time Pro Bowler who was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014 and Player of the Year in 2017, inked a six-year, $135 million contract last Friday. Los Angeles is looking to build off a season in which it captured its first division title since 2003 with a first-year coach in Sean McVay and an inexperienced quarterback in the 23-year-old Jared Goff.

TV: 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Rams -4. O/U: 48.5

ABOUT THE RAMS (2017: 11-5, FIRST IN NFC WEST): McVay stated on Thursday that Donald is ready to face Oakland despite missing the entire preseason due to his holdout. The 27-year-old Donald, who leads all NFL defensive tackles with 39 sacks since 2014, has proven to be a fast starter as he recorded two sacks in the 2015 season opener and one in his 2017 debut. Goff, who led Los Angeles to a league-best average of 29.9 points per game last year, was kept out of all of the team's preseason games and may rely heavily on Todd Gurley, who led the NFL in 2017 with 29 rushing touchdowns en route to being named the Offensive Player of the Year.

ABOUT THE RAIDERS (2017: 6-10, THIRD IN AFC WEST): Derek Carr passed for 3,496 yards and 22 touchdowns last year to join Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards and 20 scores in each of their first four seasons. Carr lost one of his favorite targets in Michael Crabtree but gained a new one in Jordy Nelson, who was signed to a two-year contract in March after being released by Green Bay - the team with which he recorded at least 1,250 receiving yards in four of nine seasons. Bruce Irvin has been moved from linebacker to defensive end in an effort to compensate for the departure of Mack, while the team also hopes to receive contributions from newcomer Tank Carradine and rookies Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall and Arden Key.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Rams LB Mark Barron (ankle) did not practice Thursday and is questionable for the season opener.

2. Oakland may need to rely on Doug Martin, a two-time 1,400-yard rusher with Tampa Bay, as fellow RB Marshawn Lynch (groin) was limited during Thursday's practice and is questionable for Monday's contest.

3. Los Angeles backup C Austin Blythe is expected to fill in for G Jamon Brown, who will miss the season's first two games due to a suspension.

PREDICTION: Rams 44, Raiders 24
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