The first week of the NFL Season is finally upon us. Last night we saw the Buffalo Bills clash with the Los Angeles Rams to open the season and now we get a full slate of 14 games that count on Sunday. Games begin at 1 p.m. Eastern and run through the night. But which games should you key in on? Well, that’s where this weekly column comes in. I give you five games from the Sunday slate each week that have me excited. So, without further ado, below are my five picks for Week 1 of the 2022 NFL Season.
Sunday Early Games:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
About: The Steelers have long been a force in the AFC North. In fact, Head Coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. But, in 2021, the reigns began to shift as the Bengals came out of nowhere behind second-year quarterback Joe Burrow to win the AFC North and go on to the Super Bowl. Entering this new season, the Bengals begin as the favorites. But division games matter, and this one should be a doozy on opening day. Ben Roethlisberger is retired so it’s Mitch Trubisky under center in Pittsburgh. Will it be enough? Can the Steelers quell this red-hot Bengals offense? That’s all on the line as these rivals clash in Ohio on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
About: Why is this game on the list? Revenge, and it will be a dish best served by Baker Mayfield on Sunday. He’s already noted his intentions and I fully expect the Panthers and Baker to come out swinging on Sunday. And they should. The Browns won a playoff game for the first time in forever with Baker at the helm but casually tossed him aside in favor of Deshaun Watson and his massive contract. Now Baker is at the helm in Carolina with D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey and Watson is suspended for 11 games. Jacoby Brissett better brace himself because the best QB on the field will be a fan favorite who now resides in North Carolina.
Sunday Late Games:
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
About: I mentioned how crucial division games can be, and this one is no exception. Both teams will be vying for a playoff spot in the NFC and a spot atop the NFC North. The Packers come in off of three straight 13-win seasons. But the Packers are missing their best receiver, Davante Adams, who is now in Las Vegas. This will be a test for Aaron Rodgers. On the flip side, years of inconsistency finally caught up with the Vikings and former Head Coach Mike Zimmer. He was fired following the 2021 campaign and now Kirk Cousins heads into this divisional battle with new Head Coach Kevin O’Connell, a member of the Rams’ staff in 2021. This one is in Minnesota, adding extra pressure for the upstart Vikings.
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
About: The Raiders ended the Chargers’ season in 2021. They made the playoffs, bowing out in the Wild Card round to the Bengals. It was the end of a tumultuous season. This off-season, the Raiders brought in Head Coach Josh McDaniels and receiver Davante Adams. But will it be enough in the jam-packed AFC West? The Chargers hope not. Justin Herbert and company are ready to make a move. This off-season the team loaded up, particularly on defense where they now boast former Raider Khalil Mack. Given the competition in the AFC West, every game matters and this one figures to be an opening day doozy.
Sunday Night Football:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
About: A repeat of the Opening Night game from 2021 where the Buccaneers pulled out the home win. Both these teams won their division and made it into the playoffs, and both suffered an unexpected early exit. Now, the teams are back. Both have suffered offensive line issues in the off-season, adding some questions for these top offenses. The Buccaneers still have Tom Brady, who’s hoping to make one last run. The Cowboys let Amari Cooper head to Cleveland this off-season, meaning it’s time to shine for CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. Can Dak Prescott and the boys get off to a hot start, or will it be another Brady victory? Either way, it’s a great way to cap the opening night of the season.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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