The opening week of the 2014 NFL season is finally here! No more waiting for quality NFL football goodness because week 1 has arrived at last. The 2013 NFL season was a fantastic one, a season filled with great games, amazing individual achievements and a team from the Pacific-Northwest that won its first Super Bowl title. The 2013 NFL season saw the Kansas City Chiefs rebound in a big way from a dreadful 2012 season and make the playoffs. It also saw the defending Super Bowl Champions, The Baltimore Ravens, not make the playoffs, along with their AFC North foes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2013 season also saw the Houston Texas match their worst season in franchise history by finishing the year with a 2 – 14 record. The highlight of the season was the meeting of two of the NFL powerhouses in the Super Bowl. The Broncos and Seahawks both dominated opponents in 2013 and it was only fitting that they met in the Meadowlands for Super XLVIII. The game was rather one-sided as the Seattle Seahawks stunned everyone and thumped the Broncos 43-8 as they took home their first Super Bowl Championship.
The 2014 season should make for a great action packed year of football. Every team has something to prove, some more than others, so it will make for great action. In the case of the NFL, usually every game is worth watching, however, this week I will preview what I feel are the top five games of the week.
To kick off the 2014 NFL season, here are the top five games to look out for in week 1 of the season.
Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Green Bay Packers are coming off a fairly average 2013 season, which saw them finish with an 8-7-1 record, but it was enough to earn them a playoff spot. The Packers played a chunk of the year without their star QB Aaron Rodgers behind centre, as he had suffered a fractured collarbone in a week 9 tilt with the Chicago Bears. The Packers defense did not play to their full capabilities as they were hit with a serious injury bug. The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their greatest season in franchise history which was capped off with a massive Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The Seattle defense was the most feared in the league and with QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch spearheading the offence, Seattle was destined for a great finish. This is the first time these two teams have played each other since their infamous week 3 game in 2012, which was littered with referee controversy, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this will play out. Seattle is the favourite to win this game, however, with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and a solid core of WR’s RB’s the Packers are set to play spoiler and take out the defending champs to open the season. Look for the Seattle defense to get tested early and often in this game because the outcome could rely heavily on how well they play.
Game details: Kickoff on Thursday, September 4th at 8:30pm from Centruylink Field in Seattle, Washington.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off an impressive season in 2013, which saw them finish the year with an 11-5 record and home field advantage in their first playoff game. The Bengals failed to advance in the playoffs because they were upset, at home, by the San Diego Chargers. QB Andy Dalton had, statistically, a great regular season for the Bengals, however, he failed to shine when they needed him most, the playoffs. During the offseason, the Bengals chose to re-sign Dalton to a massive and rather lucrative contract in hope of providing him with the motivation to player at a higher level. In 2013 rookie RB Giovanni Bernard showed the league he can run and that has now earned himself the starting role for the Bengals in 2014. The Baltimore Ravens started the season as reigning Super Bowl Champions, but after their week 1 loss to the Broncos; they didn’t look much like champions. The Ravens finished the year with an 8-8 record and missed out on the playoffs. The Ravens had paid QB Joe Flacco big money to sign with Baltimore at the start of the 2013 season; however, throughout the season he looked like he was not worth the investment. This AFC North division rivalry always makes for a great game. If Joe Flacco and Ray Rice-less Ravens offense can move the ball, with success, against a very stout Cincinnati defense, they do have a great chance at winning this game. However, look for the Bengals defense to try to smother anything Joe Flacco and the Ravens try to conjure up.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 7th at 1:00pm from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a rather lacklustre 2013 season which saw them finish with an 8-8 record and no spot in the playoffs. The Steelers were decimated by injuries in 2013, which showed that their age was really starting to get the best of them. The Steelers did well at this year’s draft and addressed positions that needed filling, so it will be fun to see how it works out for them in 2014. The Cleveland Browns are coming off of yet another poor season where they finished with a 4-12 record and of course, missed out on the playoffs. Though their record does reflect it, the Browns didn’t play awful football in 2013; they just couldn’t finish a game strong. Another issue they had was a mixture of injuries and too much youth. The Browns have beefed up their defense and their offence in preparation for the 2014 season and have done well at the draft as well. The major topic in Cleveland right now is who will start for the Browns in their week 1 opener against the Steelers, will it be the rookie hot-shot QB Johnny Manzielor the more matured Brian Hoyer? Both players bring great things to the table; however, it’s up to coach Mike Pettine to make the tough decision. This AFC North rivalry always makes for solid, hard nose football and if the Browns can figure it out on offense and take it to the Steelers defense early, they have a good chance at winning this game. Look for this game to be a classic display of AFC North gritty football.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 7th at 1:00pm from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
San Francisco 49ers. vs. Dallas Cowboys
The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of a great 2013, which saw them finish the regular season with a 12-4 record, which earned them a playoff spot. The 49ers were a mere one game away from going to the Super Bowl for a second straight year, however, they ran into their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in the NFC Championship and fell to them in what was a very intense game. The 49ers have had quite the media circus around them revolving around two of their prime defensive players, Aldon Smithand Ray McDonald, whom have gotten themselves into some criminal trouble. The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of an up and down 2013 season that saw them miss out on the playoffs, yet again. They finished last year with an 8-8 record and were left with several question marks surrounding the team. The Cowboys have a lot to prove this season because they were criticised for not making the best of their draft picks at this year’s draft and not going after certain free agents that would have helped benefit their team in 2014. If the Cowboys can contain 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and that solid offense then they have a chance at winning this game. Look for the 49ers to come out strong on defense and limit the amount the Cowboys can do on offence. If the 49ers offences clicks and clicks early, it could be a long game for the Cowboys.
Game details: Kick off on Sunday, September 7th at 4:25pm from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
The Indianapolis Colts are coming off yet another great season, where they finished 11-5 as they went on to finish their season with a Divisional Playoff game loss to the New England Patriots. With QB Andrew Luck leading the team, the Colts have looked fantastic. They have made the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and have dominated the AFC South. The Colts didn’t draft exceptionally well in 2014, however, they have a lot of the same players returning from last year and they hope to have the same success in 2014 as they did in the previous two seasons. The Denver Broncos are coming off of a wonderful 2013 season, which saw them finish off with a 13-3 record. The Broncos, led by none other than the great Peyton Manning, had a solid playoff run and made it to the Super Bowl where they lost to the high flying Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos suffered some serious defensive injuries in 2013, but were able to battle through. During the offseason they beefed up their defense and will have several healthy players return from injury, which should give them a massive boost. When these two teams met last season in Indy, the Colts were able to beat the Broncos and hand them their first loss of the season. This game could go either way, so it will come down to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Game details: Kick off on Sunday, September 7th at 8:30pm from Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado.
Author: Matthew Kassabian