Week 1 of the NFL Season is here. The Bills already crushed Stafford and the Rams ruining my bold predictions. But the games must go on and we got some great Week 1 NFC North matchups. Maybe I will talk about the Saints/Falcons game too, but you need to read ahead to see if I do.
49ers at Bears 1 PM ET FOX
The Matt Eberflus era gets underway in a tough game against the San Francisco 49ers. 49ers were middle of the pack offense scoring 25.1 PPG last year and 10th in defensive PPG. Trey Lance takes over for now back-up Jimmy Garrapolo at QB. George Kittle is banged up and might not play which would hurt the 49ers offense. Their run game is always strong under Kyle Shanahan with any RB. Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, and rookie 3rd rounder Tyrion Davis Price are the guys. Deebo Samuel is still a best and Brandon Aiyuk can make some splash plays.
49ers defense will still be a tough test for Justin Fields and the Bears offense. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Fred Warner are beasts at DE, DT and MLB respectively. Javon Kinlaw (2020 1st rounder) keeps growing. Jimmie Ward (safety) and Jason Verrett (CB) are on IR though, so the 49ers have some holes in the secondary. Chavarius Ward (FA addition), Emmanuel Moseley, and 5th round rookie nickel Sam Womack III will need to step up. The 49ers should have a strong pass rush and run defense though which will help them make the Bears one dimensional to Fields shoulders.
Can Justin Fields come out and make a statement in game 1 test that he has grown as a QB. Can David Montgomery have success behind this shaky Bears offensive line. Can the Bears revamped 4-3 defense play strong against a young Trey Lance and Deebo.
I think the Bears hang around since the game is in Chicago. Ugly 17-16 49ers win with Robbie Gould (former Bear) kicking the game winner.
Eagles at Lions 1 PM ET FOX
Hard Knocks was fun, and the Lions made a ton of good changes in the offseason. However, the Eagles made even more impactful changes. The Eagles will still need Jalen Hurt to step up, but the table is set with top 5 offensive line, new weapon in AJ Brown and a revamped defense (added Kyzir White, Brandon Graham from achilles injury, Hassaon Reddick (back-to-back 11 sack seasons), James Bradberry (FA from Giants), Chauncy Gardner Johnson (fleecing of Saints trade).
Lions are also hit very hard with the injury bug as Vaitai is on IR and Frank Ragnow is questionable with a groin injury. If the Lions strength offensive line isn’t a strength, the Eagles will dominate on defense with Cox, Hargrave, Graham, Sweat/Barnett and rookie NT Jordan Davis. The Lions best shot is forcing 2-3 turnovers for short fields to help the Lions offense and Jalen Hurts making mistakes despite having time to throw. Unless the Lions defense has a miraculous turnaround with new attacking scheme, year 2 growth of players (McNeil, Barnes) and additions of Aidan Hutchinson, Jeff Okudah (injury), DeShon Elliot, Mike Hughes (nickel), rookie LB Malcom Rodriguez, it could be another rough day for the Lions.
Eagles won 44-6 last year. I think it will be closer but 34-20 sounds about right despite a raucous crowd early at Ford Field.
Packers at Vikings 425 ET
Biggest division game for the Packers and Vikings to start the season and the begging of the Kevin O’ Connell era. If the Packers win, they take clear control of the division right away. Packers struggled Week 1 in 2021 against the Saints and will surely remember that.
Aaron Rodgers (reigning MVP) is still Rodgers despite losing Davante Adams (Raiders/bromance with Derek Carr) and Allen Lazard (injury). Sammie Watkins, Randall Cobb (slot), rookie Christian Watson, rookie Romeo Doubs, slot Amari Rodgers is still enough firepower. The Packers offensive line will be especially if Bakhtiari/Jenkins play at tackle. The run game is deadly with Jones/Dillon combination.
The Green Bay Packers defense looks to be top 5 on paper with Jaire Alexander back, and additions of rookie Devonte Wyatt, rookie Quay Walker, DE Jarran Reed. Darnell Savage is banged up but could still play. If not Rasul Douglas could move to safety or backup rookie Tariq Carpenter/Dallin Leavitt steps up. Packer’s defense should make plenty of stops and the question will be plenty of turnovers to make this game a rout.
The Vikings have a strong offense and new offensive minded head coach. QB Kirk Cousins with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Irv Smith is enough to give the Packers fits in Minnesota. However, if the Packers dominate in the trenches, they can limit the Vikings offense enough for a convincing win. Second year players LT Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, rookie Ed Ingram, disappointing center Garret Bradbury will need to step up from prior performances and have a great game. RT Brian O Neil is always solid but could have his hands full with Rashan Gary/Preston Smith.
The Vikings defense is the wild card switching to the 3-4 scheme adding DE Harrison Phillips, OLB Zadarius Smith (former hero now heal), getting OLB Danielle Hunter healthy, nickel CB Chandon Sullivan, Cam Bynum/rookie 1st rounder Lewis Cine. Patrick Peterson and Cam Dantzler must play much better at CB than they did in 2021. I don’t know what to expect from this defense despite studs of Kendricks, Hunter, Harrison Smith and Dalvin Tomlinson still there. If they have a really good defense and really stop the Packers offense, I’ll be impressed quickly.
Packers still own you. Sorry PARDs. Packers 28 Vikings 21
Also, Saints big over Falcons. Deal with it.