We have less than a week until NFL football is back, and since the preseason has officially wrapped up, it's time to focus on week 1. Like any week across the league, there are certain matchups that the majority of fans look forward to more than others, even if they do not pledge allegiance to either squad. Let's take a look at a few of the games I'm most excited to watch in the NFL's opening week.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
Part of the reason I can't wait to watch this game is because I love watching Josh Allen and I'm excited to see how he's adjusted his game going into his fourth season with a massive contract secured. I think this Buffalo team is for real and they should be a super fun team to watch week in and week out.
But I'm also curious to see how the Steelers start off the 2021 season after such a disastrous end to last season. I think this is a big game for Pittsburgh, as they'll be put to the test on both sides of the ball out of the gates. Will Big Ben and the offense be able to produce this year, or will the Steelers have to rely on their defense to win games again? If both teams perform to their capabilities, this week 1 game could have significant playoff implications by the end of the season.
2. Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
The star power in this game is what makes it so appealing to me. Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones going up against J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, and Budda Baker. Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and A.J. Green taking on Bud Dupree and Kevin Byard. There are a bunch of studs on both of these rosters, and I think the two teams are pretty evenly matched.
I think the winner of this game is somewhat of a tossup. It feels like there will be one or two big plays that will be the difference maker in the outcome, and I'm not sure which way it will go. But I'll be tuned in to see how it unfolds for sure.
3. New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
Normally, I wouldn't really care about watching either of these two teams. But the storyline for this one is Sam Darnold going up against the team who just traded him away so they could draft his replacement. And that will always be a storyline worth paying attention to.
The Panthers are the better team, and so it's likely that they'll defend their home field and hand the Jets an 0-1 start under Zach Wilson, but the reaction to this game will be crazy depending on the performance of the quarterbacks. If Darnold erupts for a big game and Carolina piles on the points, Jets fans will wonder why they traded him away to begin with. On the other hand, if Wilson has a fantastic debut and leads New York to an upset, the reaction will be that the Jets might have found their guy (and actually done something right, for once, in the process).
4. Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Well, Bill Belichick decided to release Cam Newton last week, indicating that the Patriots like what they see in rookie QB Mac Jones and will be giving him the reins for the season opener. What makes that decision even juicier is that he will be going up against his predecessor in college and former teammate, Tua Tagovailoa. Now, a lot of people are going to want to see Tua take a significant step forward in 2021 after a quite unimpressive 2020 season. So it would be a really bad look for him if he's not able to beat the rookie who backed him up at Alabama just two years ago.
I think Mac Jones looked really good in the preseason and he's definitely going to be set up for success in Bill Belichick's offense, so I think there's a good chance the Pats get the win here and take a much needed lead over Miami in the division race. If that happens, Dolphins fans may start to wonder if they have the right guy at quarterback for their team to have long term success.
5. Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Everyone should be thrilled to see what Aaron Rodgers will come out doing after the crazy offseason he had with Green Bay's front office. Everyone except Saints fans, that is. Rodgers has even more to prove this season than he did last season, and the defending league MVP may just be on his way to defend that crown. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the top two or three QBs in the league in my opinion, and he's about to show why that's the case in New Orleans.
Be that as it may, I wouldn't sleep on the Saints this year either. Jameis Winston looked really good in some of his preseason outings, and I think New Orleans has found a guy in Marquez Callaway to help fill the void Michael Thomas has created for the first half of the season. Jameis has always had a cannon and been able to put up yards and touchdowns with the best of them. And now, after receiving Lasik eye surgery in the offseason, he may just have an easier time telling the difference between his guys and the other team's.
I think this may be the most exciting game of the weekend featuring two of the better teams in the NFC. Like the Steelers and Bills game for the AFC, we could potentially see this game having playoff implications later in the year.
Let me know what games you're most excited to watch this upcoming weekend and stay tuned for my week 1 gambling picks later in the week.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.