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article imageOp-Ed: NFL Games of the Week — Week 1

By Mike Rossi     Sep 6, 2014 in Sports
Dallas - Ah, Week 1.
The first week of the regular season in the NFL.
It’s a special time of year for football fans when all teams stand on equal footing at the supremely neutral ranking of 0-0.
Hope for a successful season remains high, free from the crushing brutality of what comes at the conclusion of 16-game schedule for most of the league’s teams.
And, for the select, undetermined few, the playoffs loom somewhere unseen in the distance...
Oh, enough contemplative chit-chat already, let’s get down to it.
Thursday night’s thunderous beat-down of the Green Bay Packers at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks reminded America of two, very important things:
1) The Seattle Seahawks look completely capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions.
2) Football is BACK.
To help fans navigate the sometimes maddening waters of the NFL, we’re going to breakdown the most important games, week-by-week, with key insights and observations. In doing so, our goal is to not only help you set that fantasy lineup, but also know where to spend your valuable viewing hours come Sunday.
Though the first game of Week 1 is already in the books — see the Seattle beat-down mentioned above – here are the other important games to pay attention to during opening weekend.
San Francisco at Dallas
Last year, the 49ers finished second in the NFC behind their feathered foes from the Pacific Northwest and anyone who watched the 2013 NFC Championship game witnessed the unofficial Super Bowl – Seattle’s plundering of the Denver Broncos two weeks later confirmed that.
But the team that fought so valiantly against the eventual champions isn’t the team taking the field on Sunday against Dallas.
Not only will the 49ers be without All-Pro’s NaVarro Bowman (injury) and Aldon Smith (suspension), but they could also be missing starting defensive end Ray McDonald and starting right tackle Anthony Davis.
Can the 49ers set the right tone for 2014 without two, and very possibly four, starting players from last year’s team?
And let’s not forget the Dallas Cowboys.
“America’s Team” has been something of a joke since the late 1990’s.
For years the Cowboys have been able to points on the board behind quarterback Tony Romo, but how will the Dallas defense – arguably the worst in the NFL last year – look on Week 1?
A win against the 49ers would go a long way in terms of building confidence and credibility for a Cowboy team sorely lacking in both.
Indianapolis at Denver
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos didn’t take their embarrassing, 35-point Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks lightly.
This offseason, the team set about improving on last year’s mediocre defense by adding veteran All-Pro’s DeMarcus Ware (LB), Aquib Talib (CB) and TJ Ward (s).
If the Denver offense can come close to mirroring last year’s astounding production – and under the direction of Canton-bound Manning, that’s almost a given – the improved defense makes them a likely candidate to reach the Super Bowl yet again.
But to do so, Denver will need to go through a number of quality opponents in the AFC and no team may be as perfectly poised to usurp the AFC title as the Indianapolis Colts. Led by third-year quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts have plenty of weapons on offense, including running back Trent Richardson who looks to rekindle his rookie magic from 2012 after a let-down season in 2013.
If Richardson can turn his personal franchise around, his legs paired with Luck’s arm make the Colts a team to be reckoned with.
Come end of December, the winner of this week’s game will have an important leg-up heading into the playoffs.
New Orleans at Atlanta
2013 was a disaster for the Atlanta Falcons. There’s no other way to say it.
Coming off a banner 2012 in which they almost made it to the Super Bowl, the Falcons never recovered from a couple of early season injuries in 2013, particularly the loss of standout wide receiver Julio Jones.
Heading into Week 1 of 2014, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan looks to rectify the sins of last season by staring the year with a win, but he’ll need to beat heated NFC South rival Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to get it.
Speaking of the Saints, they’re looking like a favorite to win the NFC South title or, at the least, make it to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
This early NFC South battle will have big divisional implications in the months to follow.
New York at Detroit
If there ever was a season to forget as a player, it was 2013 for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The two-time Super Bowl winning signal-caller threw for 18 touchdowns against 27 – that’s right, 27 – interceptions, on the way to 7-9 record.
Though this isn’t to put the blame squarely on Eli’s shoulders. The Giants as a whole were a great bumbling mess last year on both sides of the ball, and have now missed the playoffs four out of the last five years, although – to their credit – they did win the Super Bowl in2011.
Joining New York in the ranks of the NFL’s sub .500 were the Detroit Lions who, in spite of their offensive and defensive on-paper talent, mirrored the Giants with a meager seven wins versus nine losses.
As a result, Detriot ousted head coach Jim Schwartz and hired former Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell, to lead Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and the rest of the Lions to the post-season.
Both New York and Detroit need a win to kickoff the 2014 season to forget about last year’s woes. The only problem is they’re playing each other, so only one team can walk away with that win.
Unless they were to tie…
…which would undoubtedly be worse.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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