Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons 4:15 p.m.
Falcons ended Vikings' dream season with upset in NFC title game, but can Minnesota reclaim its '98 magic? None other than Randy Moss, not usually a team spokesman, said last week the Vikings don't have the same atmosphere that helped them go 15-1 last season. This game could reveal a lot about both teams. Worth watching: After missing much of training camp, how effective will Atlanta Pro Bowl running back Jamal Anderson be? How will Falcons try to contain Moss?
Last meeting: Falcons won 30-27 in OT in the NFC title game Jan. 17 in Minneapolis. Key stats: Atlanta (plus-20) and Minnesota (plus-14) led NFL in turnover differential last season. TV: Fox-54
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints 1 p.m.
George Seifert won two Super Bowls with the 49ers, but now he's starting over with the Panthers, who have just about fallen back to expansion level. Saints have problems, but Panthers have more. Worth watching: The Saints' one-man draft, Ricky Williams, makes his debut. Carolina is searching for a running game -- can Tshimanga Biakabutuka supply it? Last meeting: Panthers won 31-17 at Carolina on Nov. 1, 1998. Key stats: Panthers have won four of last six from the Saints.
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears 1 p.m.
It's the head-coaching debut for the Bears' Dick Jauron and the Chiefs' Gunther Cunningham. The Bears come in rested and healthy. The Chiefs will try to prove they're not a team in decline. Worth watching: No matter what happens at quarterback, Curtis Enis will be the most important Bear on the field. Chiefs QB Elvis Grbac, whom the Bears passed over as a free agent when they opted for Rick Mirer in 1997, tries to bounce back from a poor season. Last meeting: Chiefs won 14-10 in Kansas City on Nov. 17, 1996. Key stats: Bears have won 12 of last 15 home openers.
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m.
Eagles make their debut under Andy Reid, who goes with ex-Packer Doug Pederson until Chicagoan Donovan McNabb is ready. Cardinals have had injury and holdout problems throughout training camp -- Jake Plummer ripped the organization over wide receiver Rob Moore's holdout, which ended Thursday. Plummer says he'll play despite a sore thumb, so opener could be a problem. Worth watching: The Cardinals' question is: Can Plummer keep improving?
Last meeting: Cardinals won 20-17 at Philadelphia on Dec. 13, 1998. Key stats: Cardinals have won the last three from the Eagles.
Baltimore Ravens at St. Louis Rams 1 p.m.
Losing quarterback Trent Green for the season likely dooms Rams unless new tailback Marshall Faulk can control things. In any case, it will take Rams time to figure out how it will work. Worth watching: Rams going with ex-Arena League player Kurt Warner, who has one quarter of NFL regular-season experience. Ravens' new quarterback is Scott Mitchell, who couldn't get it done in Detroit with Barry Sanders. Last meeting: Ravens won 37-31 in OT at Baltimore on Oct. 27, 1996. Key stats: Both teams were too generous in '98: Ravens were minus-7 in turnover differential, Rams minus-10.
Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m.
Colts have six new starters on defense, most notably high-priced pass-rushing end Chad Bratzke. That's a lot of change in one season, though it was needed. Colts need time to build. Bills should be able to run -- Antowain Smith has averaged 102 yards in last four games vs. Colts. Worth watching: Colts QB Peyton Manning tries to build on his rookie season, when he set a bundle of rookie records, most notably 26 touchdown passes. Can Buffalo QB Doug Flutie repeat his big season, or is Rob Johnson destined to take over?
Last meeting: Bills have won seven of last eight from Colts. Key stats: Buffalo is 24-10 in September in the 1990s.
Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans 1 p.m.
Titans play first regular-season game in new Adelphia Coliseum, which should provide some home-field advantage. Bengals look like one of the NFL's worst teams -- again. Worth watching: Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair has been a middle-of-the-road performer. Can he do more? Bengals need big game -- and year -- from running back Corey Dillon. Last meeting: Titans (then Oilers) won 44-14 at Tennessee on Oct. 18, 1998. Key stats: Titans have won three of last four from the Bengals.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins 1 p.m.
Washington finished strong last season, winning four of its last five. Coach Norv Turner is high on the first-to-be-fired list, having failed to get the Redskins to the playoffs in his five seasons. This game will be an indication of how long Turner may last. Worth watching: Washington has placed its future in the hands of quarterback Brad Johnson, who was acquired via trade from Minnesota. Can Emmitt Smith repeat his 13-TD season of '98? Last meeting: Cowboys won 23-7 at Dallas on Dec. 27, 1998. Key stats: Cowboys have beaten Redskins three straight. TV: Fox-54
New England Patriots at New York Jets 1 p.m.
Bill Parcells has the Jets thinking Super Bowl; the Patriots, his old team, are thinking fourth place. Worth watching: Jets' Curtis Martin loves playing against his old team -- he rushed for 100 yards in both games against the Pats last year. Patriots' running game a mess. Will veteran Terry Allen help? Last meeting: Jets won 31-10 at New York on Dec. 27, 1998. Key stats: Jets have won three straight from Pats and five of last seven against them at home. TV: CBS-Channel 12
Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers 1 p.m.
Packers' debut under new coach Ray Rhodes is one of those must-wins if Green Bay is to beat out Minnesota in the NFC Central. Packers QB Brett Favre will find Antonio Freeman (league-high 26 TD passes over last two seasons) often enough. Worth watching: Favre is trimmer and fitter as he tries to avoid repeating a 23-interception season. Raiders have changed quarterbacks again, this time going with ex-Chief Rich Gannon. Last meeting: Packers won 28-0 at Green Bay on Dec. 26, 1993. Key stats: Green Bay has won 30 of its last 31 home games.
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks 4:15 p.m.
Outlook: New Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has the good fortune of taking over a decent team. Lions have scrambled to change their offense since Barry Sanders' retirement, which is asking a lot of second-year quarterback Charlie Batch. Worth watching: Holmgren couldn't bring Brett Favre with him, so for now he goes with Jon Kitna. With Sanders gone from the Lions, so for now they go with Ron Rivers at running back. Last meeting: Lions won 17-16 at Detroit on Nov. 17, 1996. Key stats: Holmgren had 48-16 regular-season record with Packers the last four years, best in the NFL.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4:15 p.m.
Giants won their final four games of '98, but recapturing that momentum at Tampa without injured running back Gary Brown will be difficult. Rookie Sean Bennett from Northwestern and LeShon Johnson from NIU expected to share time replacing him. Worth watching: Giants are led by end Mike Strahan, whose 29 sacks in the last two seasons leads the NFL. Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer will be under pressure, both literally and figuratively. Last meeting: Bucs won 20-3 in Tampa on Oct. 4, 1998. Key stats: Tampa Bay has won the last two from the Giants.
San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars 4:15 p.m.
Jacksonville starts the season with Super Bowl aspirations. Only the defense may hold the Jaguars back. How they do against Steve Young -- coming off a 36-TD pass season -- will reveal quite a bit. Worth watching: How much will prodigal running back Lawrence Phillips help the 49ers? He may be their best hope for a running game. Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor scored 17 TDs (14 rushing, three receiving) a year ago, tied with Randy Moss for most among rookies. Last meeting: This is their first meeting. Key stats: Jaguars have won 21 of last 24 at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns 8:20 p.m.
A crowd of 72,000 will give the new Browns a big home-field advantage. It may be enough to help them be competitive, but Steelers can win this one by staying conservative. Will the Browns let No. 1 pick Tim Couch off the bench? Worth watching: Cleveland rookie receiver Kevin Johnson, a second-round pick, has shown promise. Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart tries to begin a bounce-back season. Last meeting: This is the first meeting of these franchises. Key stats: Cleveland becomes the NFL's 11th modern-era (since 1960) expansion franchise. Only Minnesota won its first game. The Vikings, playing at home, beat the Bears 37-13 on Sept. 17, 1961. TV: ESPN.
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos 9 p.m.
Broncos will try to make things easy for QB Brian Griese by relying on Terrell Davis, coming off your basic 2,008-yard season. Miami's Dan Marino will have to produce several big plays to pull off the upset. Worth watching Griese makes his first pro start as predecessor John Elway prepares to have his No. 7 retired at halftime. But will Marino overshadow them all? Last meeting: Dolphins won 31-21 at Miami on Dec. 21, 1998. Key stats: Denver coach Mike Shanahan is 6-0 in openers. TV: ABC-Channel 6.
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us