Week 1 Storylines
Eagles at Panthers: This is a battle of two of the best teams from the NFC last year, and two teams with Super Bowl aspirations this season. The Eagles bring in the baggage of the Michael Vick signing (even though he won’t be there) and their host of offensive weapons. The Panthers are looking to overcome the embarrassment of their playoff loss at home to the Cardinals that ended their season prematurely. Philadelphia still has a potent offense, that should only get better with the rookie additions of RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles may be the favorite team in Vegas right now, but I wouldn’t count the Panthers out of this game just yet. They have a better rushing attack, and Steve Smith always finds a way to make plays no matter who is covering him. The Eagles offensive line could struggle against the Panthers defense led by DE Julius Peppers. If the Panthers can control the line of scrimmage and get an early lead, their running game should be good enough to win the day. Since this isn’t college football one loss isn’t going to kill the loser’s postseason hopes, but this game could comeback to haunt them at the end of the season. Panthers sqeak by at home 24-21.
Dolphins at Falcons: This is the only other match up of two 2008 playoff teams in the opening week, and the only one between the two conferences. Both of these teams shocked the NFL by their turnarounds from 2007 to 2008. Many people think the Dolphins are going to come crashing down to earth this season, and that they have no shot on the road in Atlanta. While its true they have a tough opening match up with the Falcons, I wouldn’t diminish their playoff hopes just yet. Miami’s defense got a lot stronger in the off season with a strong draft and some free agent signings. I would expect them to give Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons all they can handle. On offense the Dolphins have a great running back in Ronnie Brown and a strong offensive line. It might seem like their passing game is weak, but I think its very underrated. No you shouldn’t mistake QB Chad Pennington for Peyton Manning, but he does win football games. Now this is not to say I think Miami is going to runaway with this game. I think this could be the game of the week, because Atlanta is an extremely good football team. RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White and Ryan give the Falcons a dynamic trio of stars. Adding Tony Gonzalez to the mix only makes the Falcons offense that much better. The area of concern for Atlanta is their offensive line, and can they hold up against the Dolphins pass rushers. On defense the Falcons have an improving unit that has playoff talent. But they are counting on a number of young players including rookies, that might not be ready for a tough week one match up. In the end I think Miami steals one on the road in week one 24-21.
Redskins at Giants: The battle for the East begins in Week one with two sensational defense’s battling it out. The Redskins added some top talent to their defense this off season and they will get an early test with the Giants offense. DT Albert Haynesworth was brought in to stop the inside running game, and put more pressure on the quarterback, the two biggest weaknesses of the Skins 2008 unit. In a way he was brought in specifically to stop RB Brandon Jacobs running all over the Skins like he did last year. On offense Washington made some minor improvements to the offensive line, but are mainly hoping the unit improves with experience. They are counting on their second year receivers to start making an impact on offense, otherwise it will be the Moss-Cooley-Portis show that has been there in the past. QB Jason Campbell needs to make some plays if Washington has any hope on the road. The Giants feature a tenacious offensive line that opens up plenty of holes for the ground game, and keeps Eli Manning on his feet. The receivers are pretty raw, but have immense potential. Hakeem Nicks needs to be accounted for on every play. He has game breaking ability, even for a rookie. The Giants have one of the few defensive units that have the talent equal to or better than the Redskins defense. New York’s defensive line is talented and extremely deep. They will generate a lot of pressure on their own without additional blitzers. Their linebackers are their weakest component, but that’s only because they are just above-average and not great like the rest of the defense. I think the home field advantage and better quarterback play give the Giants the victory here, 23-17.