Football is back. Week 1 of the season is upon us and the NFC North has some exciting matchups to kick-off the season with three of the four teams in prime time.
49ers at Vikings 1 PM on FOX
The Kirk Cousins era begins in Minnesota against Jimmy Garropolo and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won their final five games last year with Garropolo and everyone is crowning them already. The Vikings are the defending NFC North champs and made it to the NFC Championship game in 2017.
Vikings Offense Versus 49ers Defense
The 49ers are a pretty unknown team with some talent on defense with young 1st round picks Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead up front. Reuben Foster is suspended the first 2 games of the season which helps the Vikings (and Lions Week 2). Rookie Fred Warner will start in his place and Malcolm Smith will be at weak side LB to try and stop Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray running the ball. Kyle Rudolph is coming off his best season at TE and needs to get on the same page with Cousins early.
The Vikings should have the advantage over the 49ers coverage but Richard Sherman could shut down Thielen if Sherman is recovered from his Achilles injury. 3rd round 2017 pick Akello Witherspoon and nickel K’Waun Williams will have their hands full with Diggs, Treadwell and Stacy Cole. Cousins has a lot of pressure to perform early at home after that big contract. Cousins has the talent but must avoid costly turnover mistakes that have cost him in the past with Washington.
Vikings Defense versus 49ers Offense
The Vikings are defensive team and they return everybody but Brian Robison (cut). Hunter, Griffen, Linval Jospeh and new Viking Sheldon Richardson is a menacing front four. Joe Staley and rookie first round pick Mike McGlinchey have talent but will have their hands full. Weston Richburg is a good center and somehow Laken Tomlinson looks solid at LG for the 49ers. That may be exposed againt Richardson and Joseph though with a blitzing Kendricks. Mike Person is a weak RG to target too.
Jimmy G worked magic late last year but faces an incredibly tough defense on the road. Former Viking, Jerrick McKinnon is on IR already and Matt Breida was banged up this pre-season. Alfred Morris and Breida will have very tough sledding against the Vikings run defense to help Garropolo.
Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Harrison Smith and George Illoka/Andrew Sendejo is a good secondary. Pierre Garcon, rookie 2nd rounder Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor is a very average weapon group with Brent Celek/George Kittle at tight end. The Vikings have a big advantage here especially if they get pressure. Watch out for Goodwin deep though and Garcon could make a few plays.
Vikings win this one easily 27-14.
Bears at Packers Sunday Night Football 8:30 PM ET
The Packers and Bears continue their storied rivalry. Aaron Rodgers returns after an injury year cost the Packers in 2017. The Bears added a bunch of weapons on offense and added a stud LB on defense last minute in Khalil Mack. The Bears defense gets a great test in Week 1 against Aaron Rodgers.
Pack Offense versus Bears Defense
This will be the key to the game. Can the Bears sport a stud defense early in the year to stop the great Aaron Rodgers? Rodgers has Davante Adams, Jimmy Graham and Randall Cobb at his disposal. Aaron Jones is suspended but Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery will be the run game against a tough Bears front 7 with Floyd, Smith, Trevathan and Mack at LB.
David Bakhtiari is a good LT to stop one pass rushing OLB but Bryan Bulaga returns from injury and will face Mack right away. That is a tough task. Lane Taylor, Linsley, McCray will have to handle blitzed from Smith and Trevathan and a good Akiem Hicks at DE. Eddie Goldman is solid but Jonathan Bullard shoudn’t pose a threat. If the Packers offensive line protects enough, Rodgers will do his thing and have a big game per usual against the Bears. If the Bears front 7 takes over, it could be a long night for number 12.
Bears Offense versus Packers Defense
Mitch Trubisky better step up in year 2 in a big way. He has the running game with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and the weapons are much better with Allen Robinson, Kevin White (health), Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller (Round 2) and Trey Burton all added. The Packers secondary was burnt toast in 2017 but they are hoping a healthy Kevin King, rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson and an old friend in Tramon Williams change their fortunes. Can Trubisky beat this new look Packers secondary? We shall see.
Protection as always is key on this side too. Sitton is gone and Eric Kush, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long will have to deal with Super Stud Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Mohammed Wilkerson. Clay Matthews is healthy for now and Nick Perry can rush the passer facing Leno and Bobbie Massie. The Packers front 7 should have the advantage and harass Trubsiky at Lambeau.
Aaron Rodgers is too much in his triumphant return to Lambeau and the Packers defense does enough with three (3) big turnovers forced. Packers win 31-17.
Jets at Lions Monday Night Football 7:10 ET
The Matt Patricia era begins in Detroit on Monday Night. Detroit faces a rookie 1st round pick in Sam Darnold. Detroit’s defense will be relying on Patricia’s scheme but have the talent and turnover forcing ability (32 in 2017) to make Darnold pay.
Lions Defense versus Jets Offense
Sam Darnold is an unknown rookie with talent but his weapons are questionable. Robbie Anderson is solid WR along with Jermain Kearse in the slot. Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor are average at best though but Pryor had one good year. The Jets don’t have a good tight end which is good news for Detroit as they struggle to cover tight ends in 2016/2017.
All Pro Darius Slay, Glover Quin, Quandre Diggs, Nevin Lawson and Tavon Wilson is a good secondary that can force turnovers. Lawson is the weak link but has been better in the past. We shall see if Teez Tabor gets any time as well.
If the Lions get a decent pass rush led by Ansah, Hyder, blitzing new LB Devon Kennard and AShawn Robinson, Detroit’s defense can have success against a rookie. Detroit will show several new looks compared to the old 4-3 look all the time. Can’t wait to see how Patricia schemes this game.
The Lions run game will need to be on point. Isiah Crowell and Bilal Powell are solid at best but the Lions need to be strong in the run game to force 3rd and longs for Darnold on the road.
Lions Offense Versus Jets Defense
Stafford and Cooter have worked magic since their time together mid 2015 and beyond. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and Theo Riddick is a plethora of weapons for Detroit. Detroit should finally have their stud offensive line healthy depending on TJ Lang being ready at RG.
Decker, Ragnow, Glasgow, Lang and Wagner should protect Stafford. Watch out for Leonard Williams though for the Jets at DE. McClendon and rookie 3rd round Nathan Shephard are not much threat. Jordan Jenkins is a decent OLB but the Jets lack a pass rush from OLB. Todd Bowles likes to blitz so the Lions need to pick those up well.
The new look Lions run game will need to be in full force. LeGarrett Blount, Kerryon Johnson and the healthy offensive line need to make life easier for Stafford by getting into good 2nd and 3rd down looks. A 100 yard rusher for a change would be nice in Detroit.
Lions win this game but the Jets offense has some success with Darnold. Lions 35 Jets 27 with the Lions pulling away late and getting a late Darnold pick.
Enjoy the games.