Football fans have been counting down the days since the Super Bowl ended. Now, the NFL season is finally here again. Thirty-two teams begin the chase for the Lombardi Trophy with this weekend’s opening games, and hope springs eternal for each franchise.
Of course, you’re going to be watching your favorite team’s game (and also keeping an eye on your fantasy players in action), but besides where you have a rooting interest, what other games are worth paying attention to in Week 1? We’ve ranked each matchup from worst to best so you can plan your weekend accordingly. (Teams’ 2013 win-loss records are in parentheses.)
16. Washington Redskins (3-13) at Houston Texans (2-14), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
The two worst teams in the NFL from a year ago face off on Sunday afternoon, and the good news is at least one of them will get to begin the season 1-0. But that’s about the extent of the good news.
If you want to find out whether Washington has the 2012 version of Robert Griffin III (great!) or the 2013 version (uh-oh!), tune in. If you want to see No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in his first regular season NFL game, check this one out. Otherwise, let’s move along, shall we?
15. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) at St. Louis Rams (7-9), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
These two teams will go as far as their quarterbacks take them in 2014. With the Rams’ Sam Bradford out for the year and the Vikings’ Matt Cassel just presumably holding down the fort until rookie Teddy Bridgewater is ready, that may not be very far. Expect a low-scoring game.
In a division that boasted three 10-win teams a year ago (none of them named the Rams), St. Louis needs to get off to a good start with a winnable home opener.
14. Oakland Raiders (4-12) at New York Jets (8-8), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Rex Ryan is always worth watching. Other possible reasons to pay attention to this game: How long will Geno Smith’s leash be with Michael Vick waiting in the wings? How will the Raiders fare with rookie Derek Carr under center? Most importantly, who will replace Fireman Ed and lead the ‘J-E-T-S’ cheer?
13. Buffalo Bills (6-10) at Chicago Bears (8-8), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Sammy Watkins makes his debut for Buffalo: Is the first-year wide receiver from Clemson worth the price that the Bills paid to trade up and snag him? For a team that finished in last place in its division a season ago, general manager Doug Whaley had better be hoping the answer is yes.
On the other side of the equation, can a healthy Jay Cutler and Chicago challenge for a playoff berth? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — winnable games at home are crucial. This one is Exhibit A for the Bears.