After the most unusual offseason in the history of its 101-year existence, the NFL is about to begin a new regular season. The show gets underway with the Houston Texans-Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night showdown.
After that, we’ll get our first full Sunday of action this weekend. Leaving the Thursday game aside for now, let’s take a look at the biggest matchups we’ll see this weekend:
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Odds: Vikings -3
The Green Bay Packers were a surprise teams last season but some feel they could regress. They were 8-1 in games decided by one score (eight points or fewer) and that kind of close-game record is hard to carry over from one year to the other.
These teams are viewed as the top two in the NFC North but the Packers swept the Viking in their two meetings last season.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Odds: Chargers -3
This will be the NFL debut for Joe Burrow, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Remember that Burrow has not had any preseason games to use as a warmup for the big show and the regular season. That could hurt him against a solid Chargers defense.
The Chargers are also breaking in a new quarterback – Tyrod Taylor – after moving on from Philip Rivers in the offseason.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
Odds: 49ers -7
The Cardinals played the 49ers close last season in both games, losing one game by three and the other by 10. The game in which the 49ers won by 10 – 36 to 26 – involved a go-ahead Niner touchdown with 31 seconds left, followed by a defensive touchdown just seconds later.
The 10-point game was actually more in doubt than the 28-25 game played weeks earlier in the 2019 season. The Cardinals are viewed as an improved team relative to last year, but everyone will wonder if their roster can quickly come together or if this improvement process will need more time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Odds: Saints -3.5
The Bucs and the Saints have been bad for most of their histories. The Saints have been very good in the 21st century, but they were horrible for most of their first 30 years. The Buccaneers have struggled over the past decade and are looking for a fresh start. Enter Tom Brady, who will try to instantly transform a hard-luck franchise and turn it into a Super Bowl contender.
Week 1 offers a tough challenge for the Bucs, going against New Orleans inside the climate-controlled environment of the Superdome where Drew Brees is so comfortable. The Saints are mad after getting upset in round one of the playoffs last year. This is New Orleans’ game to lose.
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams
Odds: Cowboys -3
Despite having a brand-new stadium – SoFi Stadium – the Los Angeles Rams can’t lean on a home crowd this season due to the pandemic. That makes them a lot more vulnerable in Week 1. They were planning on having a huge crowd giving them a boost in their new digs.
Mike McCarthy makes his debut as Cowboys coach against a Rams team which failed to make the playoffs last year after reaching the Super Bowl the season before. Rams coach Sean McVay needs to get the most out of quarterback Jared Goff, who sharply regressed in 2019.