Week 1 Appetizer
For those of you who have experienced serious pain and withdrawal these past six months like I have, our hardships end this weekend. With the real games set to start, it is officially now the best time of the year. So, to express my gratitude for this weekly phenomenon, I will be previewing and getting you ready for each week over the next several months. Typical things will be included such as players or games to watch, but anything is open game on a week-to-week basis. It will make more sense as we go. There of course will be predictions as well, many of which you will not agree with. So, here is to my inaugural appetizer for the opening week of the NFL season.
Must Watch Game of the Week
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 8:30 PM ET, NBC
The opening game last night between Pittsburgh and New England was a no-brainer choice, so I wanted to switch it up. Here we have fierce division rivals on in primetime, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Carrie Underwood, the whole nine yards. Dallas and New York have opened up the season against each other quite a bit as of late (specifically on Sunday Night Football), and the game never seems to disappoint. The Giants have proven to be successful down in Arlington since the opening of AT&T Stadium in 2009; New York is 4-2 in Jerry's House. That considered, Jason Garrett's team has swept the G-Men in two consecutive seasons. Something has got to give, but expect some points in this one. And if you need another reason to watch: Odell Beckham Jr.
Offensive Player of the Week
QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Maybe a name many of you didn't expect to see, but, coming off an impressive 2014 season and opening this one against a dysfunctional franchise in the Redskins, Tannehill is a safe bet. Tannehill is surrounded with new targets like Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker, but perhaps the most promising of them all is former LSU WR Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins will be a sneaky team this year, with a roster that should be balanced on both sides of the ball. The Redskins will be a sparring partner for Miami's offense come Sunday, so put down close to 350 yards and 3 TDs for number 17.
Defensive Player of the Week
DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
Last season was an off year for Robert Quinn, at least by his standards. While he managed 10.5 sacks in 2014, Quinn almost had double the amount the year prior. Admittedly, sacks are misleading a lot of the time because they do not tell the whole story when it comes to responsibilities and assignments, yet critics were still suggesting Quinn had a down season. This was far from the truth, as the defensive end was still given an overall grade of 16.5 by Pro Football Focus, which was good enough to be ranked the 9th best 4-3 defensive end in 2014 (via PFF). Seattle's offense did not look too sharp in the preseason thanks to porous offensive line play, and a defensive front of St. Louis' caliber will be sure to take advantage. It could be anybody's day on that defensive line, but let's bank on this pass rush artist to grab two or maybe even three sacks on Sunday. Russell Wilson will be on the move.
Rookie of the Week
WR Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
Many receivers coming into the NFL have to go through an adjustment period after effortlessly running by guys in college and putting up record-breaking numbers. Agholor will be no exception. However, depending on the situation, some rookies will be counted on more than others due to a lack of depth on the roster. With Jeremy Maclin off to Kansas City, Agholor will find himself forced to step in and play an important role for the Eagles.
Good news for Philly fans is the offense should not miss a beat, and the kid from USC is the perfect fit for Chip Kelly's spread offense. A system predicated on speed, Agholor personifies the word and will serve as a crucial piece, whether it be on bubble screens, slants, or as a decoy. It's a young receiving corps led by Jordan Matthews, but someone else will have to step up. Why not the rookie on Monday Night Football?
Better Game Sunday: Winston or Mariota?
Sometimes, one just has to admire the brilliance that is the NFL schedule and those who create it. Is there a better way to start off the careers of the two quarterbacks taken one and two in this year's draft than to pit them against each other in week one? Don't expect this game to be a pretty one by any means; there will be plenty of mistakes from the young gunslingers. That being said, Marcus Mariota looks like he is further along at this point, despite the fact he didn't have the advantage of playing a pro-style offense in college. Winston's play still seems erratic at times and that is a concern going forward.
I'm not sure either of the se guys will be franchise quarterbacks, but I feel Mariota is the better bet. Famous Jameis certainly has the superior weapons right now, but I think having Ken Whisenhunt by Mariota's side will prove to be huge. A low-scoring game is likely, and big numbers won't come from either guy, but give me at least a throwing and rushing touchdown from the reigning Heisman trophy winner.
Fantasy Letdown of the Week
QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
It's not like any of you are going to sit Andrew Luck anyway, and the truth is, you shouldn't. This is just a warning that many may look at their fantasy scoreboards come Sunday and scratch their heads when they don't see the typical Luck stat line. The Colts will be on the road in Buffalo in what is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. Add in the fact that Rex Ryan's defense is projected and anticipated to be perhaps the best in the league, and you have yourselves a recipe for a week one fantasy disaster.
Lock Pick of the Week
Green Bay Packers over the Chicago Bears
Most all games should be tight this weekend, making this a tough decision. Divisional rivalries are risky business, but my confidence in Green Bay here is high. No Jordy should be no problem for Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, and the whole gang. Plus Jay Cutler is on the other side, so that always help. And while the presences of John Fox and Vic Fangio in Chicago should help their defense improve, many have been saying that for the last couple of seasons, including myself. This game could get close, but I'll ride with the Pack.