Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
With Dak Prescott back, the Dallas offense won’t be an issue but the defense could still find themselves giving games away which leads to a playoff battle within the division or even the wild card. The Eagles offense will likely still be operating under Jalen Hurts, but the rushing attack could be a problem for the Cowboys given the run defense was in the bottom-ten last season. They did add some help in the draft, but we will see before this game if it was enough help.
The Eagles secondary will have their hands full with a loaded Cowboys secondary. Darius Slay has often been one to shadow a top wide receiver, which is still Amari Cooper in Dallas, but Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are then left in plus matchups. Philadelphia will likely be in the bottom half of the league, yet these divisional battles are always closely contested.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
The Lions are projected to be so bad this year that they have odds on going without a win. Without Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones, the offense has taken a major step back and contending with teams is going to be tough. Green Bay should be heavy favorites, granted Aaron Rodgers is still under center. Detroit’s in a major transition year and the defense should remain in the bottom five. The Packers should have heavy control of this game, especially with their strong rotation of running backs.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This game could have a lot on the line given the Colts are projected to be a playoff team, yet they have a very tough schedule. The Jaguars loaded up with top-end talent from this past draft, and they could be a team that makes a quicker turnaround than expected. The Colts defense has been searching for another defensive back to take them to the next level and also pass-rush help. If they don’t take another step forward, this defense is beatable.
We will know by now if Carson Wentz found his groove again and the Colts offense needs to stay healthy. They may not have an alpha WR1 on the team, but they have a very good group of young pass-catchers that could spell trouble for the Jaguars secondary. While this is always a potential slip-up game for the Colts, they will be favorites and if healthy has a stronger team.
Washington Football Team @ New York Giants
Washington is a team I am very high on for the upcoming season and the defense is going to be a handful for the entire division. New York will be hoping that Daniel Jones takes a major step forward, otherwise this Giants offense could be sluggish again despite getting Saquon Barkley back and adding Kenny Golladay. Either way, Washington matches up well with one of the best pass-rushes in football and a secondary that was added upon in the offseason.
The Giants defense had its moments last year, mainly against the run. The pass defense struggled at times and looked better because the division was filled with incompetent quarterbacks for most of the year. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be an upgrade from last season and also adding Curtis Samuel into the mix with Dyami Brown, who they just drafted. Washington is far and above New York on both sides.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
The NFC North is going to be filled with storylines this year, and at this point, Justin Fields will be starting for the Bears, taking on Kirk Cousins. Minnesota’s defense has been at a high point for most of the last few years, but in 2020 things took a hit. The pass defense struggled for most of the year and the run defense fell off as well. The absence of Danielle Hunter was felt as the pass-rush struggled. Hunter will be back and the Vikings defense should take a step towards being league average.
Chicago’s defense is expected to fall off even further after shipping away a few key members in the offseason. They already struggled in 2020 against the pass and in this division, having a weak secondary can spell trouble.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina struggled greatly last year with subpar quarterback play and bottom-ten run defense. However, this team continues to build and add pieces each offseason that push them towards being a better team. The quarterback play will still be questioned with Sam Darnold, although by this point we will know if the Darnold move was a success. Running on the Buccaneers defense has been tough over the last few seasons and with a returning front seven that will be the case again. Even for McCaffrey, it has been tough sledding.
Tampa Bay may not even need to win this one and could be a rest week or at least a half for some players. I’d expect a win still as the Buccaneers are one of the most complete teams in the league and are heavy favorites for another Super Bowl win.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins