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NFL Week 1: Previewing the Marquee Matchups

Cam previews some of the top matchups for Week 1 of the 2023 NFL Season.

COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 6: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers duding training camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex on August 6, 2023 in Costa Mesa, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

With another NFL season upon us, a whole new set of storylines and questions need to be answered. And as always, many of them surround the QB position, which is the singular most important position in any sport…sorry goalies.

Heading into Week 1, I want to dive right into the most interesting matchups.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

At this moment, we still don’t know Joe Burrow’s Week 1 status, but a team with Super Bowl aspirations can afford to rest their star QB and make sure he’s healthy for a long and grueling season. Although it is a divisional game against the Browns and they surely don’t want to start the season 0-1 versus a divisional opponent.

As important as this game is for the Bengals, it is far more important for the Browns. They have high hopes for Deshaun Watson at QB, expecting him to regain the skills he possessed with the Texans. They still have RB Nick Chubb and a decent receiving corps led by Amari Cooper. For them to have a solid year, look for David Njoku to have a big season right out of the gate. 

This is the best time for the Browns to face the Bengals. They are home and will be in front of a rabid fanbase with high expectations, against a wounded foe. If there was ever a must-win Week 1 game, this could be it for the Browns, as it could pave the way for the entire year.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens 

C.J. Stroud is one of three rookie QBs named as the Week 1 starters for their team (Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers and Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts). And it will be fun to see what he does in his maiden game, on the road against the Ravens.

But this game is all about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. They have legitimate Super Bowl hopes, with a healthy and happy Jackson leading them. He has a career 45-16 record and should put on a show in front of the home crowd. 

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

It’s a new era in Green Bay with Jordan Love at the helm to lead the team. Have they found lightning in a bottle again, picking the right guy in the draft and using the same formula that has worked so well for nearly three decades? 

Although one game will not determine a career, it is a game against one of their mortal rivals, in a place where his predecessor had much success. It would be a bad look for the Packers to head back to Green Bay 0-1 on the year.

But this is a fantastic spot for the Bears, similar to the Browns at home against the Bengals. Justin Fields is one of the quarterbacks this year with a ton of hype surrounding him, and he very well may take that next step. The team has a nice defense that should keep them in most games, in a mediocre division. With the athletic Fields behind center, he should be able to make enough plays for the team to be respectable, and I won’t be shocked to see them begin the season 1-0.

Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers

This is a matchup between two underachieving teams. The Dolphins need to rely on the health of their QB, while the Chargers need to rely on their inconsistent and uneven play.

There is something missing so far in Justin Herbert’s career. Although he may have the most ability of any QB not named Patrick Mahomes, the proof may have been exposed in last year’s playoff game against the Jaguars. This should be a victory for Herbert at home against a Miami team traveling across the country. 

The most compelling thing about this game will be to see how QB Tua Tagovaila performs and if he can stay upright. He’s supposedly taken jui jitsu lessons and bulked up. I fear he swapped athleticism and quickness for bulk and strength…hopefully he can stay healthy this year.

New England Patriots @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Patriots jettisoned backup QB Bailey Zappe only to bring him back to the practice squad. And within the last couple of days they picked up Carolina Panthers throwaway, Matt Corrall to back up Mac Jones. 

Last year was a disaster for the Patriots and with a home game against the defending the NFC champion Eagles…on Tom Brady Day, this could get ugly really fast in Foxboro, Ma. And the leash will keep getting shorter for Bill Belichick.

At the moment the Eagles do not have a punter, but against this Patriots team, they may not feel the need to use one. They have a HC in Nick Sirianni who loves to go for  it on fourth down. It would be the ultimate show of bravado to go into a game with no punter, but for this coach, it may be the type of motivation his team will respond to. I can’t see a situation where the Eagles don’t get back on the plane with a 1-0 record.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts

Rookie Anthony Richardson will be the Colts Week 1 starting QB. He was terribly inaccurate in college, and he’s been terribly inaccurate in the preseason. The Colts will be fodder for their opponents this season, especially their divisional opponents like the Jaguars. Maybe if you grabbed Richardson in a dynasty league, you’ll reap some rewards, but I can’t see a scenario where he does anything of substance this season. He is a long term project at best.

Coming off their very successful 2022 campaign, the Jaguars are entering year three with Trevor Lawrence at the helm. He is the trendy pick to win the MVP this year, and the Jaguars have some love to make a deep playoff run. In a separate article I have them as my pick to get to the Super Bowl. They may not, but one thing is pretty certain, they should walk out of Indianapolis with a W.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos

This matchup is interesting on so many levels. This is most likely Josh McDaniels‘ last shot as a head coach. He has a new QB who he is very familiar with, Jimmy Garoppolo. Similar to Lamar Jackson, when Garoppolo plays, he wins…he has a career 40-17 record. But if he and McDaniels don’t produce wins early and often, the coach will be good as gone.

With one coach potentially teetering right out of the gate, the other, the new HC in Denver, comes in with huge fanfare. Sean Payton is making his return to the league at home in Denver, and there hasn’t been as much excitement over a new head coach since Bill Parcells joined the New England Patriots.

It may be the most intriguing storyline of the week to see how Denver does, and if Payton can work his magic on Russell Wilson. Or, if it will be more of the same for the aging QB, continuing on his not so slow regression. My feeling is that Payton will get as much as he can out of Wilson which will improve the on-field product. One thing is certain, neither team wants to start the year 0-1 versus a divisional opponent, but the game means much more for the Broncos.

San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

It will be interesting to see how Brock Purdy performs coming off his injury as the starting QB, without Trey Lance breathing down his back. Is there much difference in expecting and hoping for “Mr. Irrelevant” to lead a team to the promised land as opposed to a sixth round pick at no.199? I’m not saying Purdy is Brady, but Brady coming out of the sixth round is as absurd as Purdy being the last pick of the draft.

Kenny Pickett is entering his second season and is now the clear starting QB for the Steelers, who have a tremendous offensive core. They have a workhorse RB in Najee Harris and solid TE Pat Freiermuth. And they have an amazing core of receivers in Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson and George Pickens who could have an absolutely monster year. In his rookie campaign, he caught 52 passes for over 800 yds. If he maintains his 15+ ypr he should become an 1,000 yard receiver this year, because his catch total will surely increase. I wouldn’t be shocked to see an 80 catch, 1200 yard year for the sophomore.

I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Pittburgh prevail in this game. Remember, in his entire coaching career with Pittsburgh, HC Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. One of the reasons is because he tends to win these types of games.