Are you ready for some football? The NFL sure is with the regular season kicking off tonight
So there’s a bit of a chill in the night air and the kids have returned to school.
But you really only know its fall again when the NFL season is upon us.
The Dallas Cowboys and defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to play at 8:20 tonight.
Why such an odd time? Oh yeah, NBC must “know” that 15 minutes isn’t enough for a pregame show, but a full half-hour would bore too many people as they look for something else to watch before opening kickoff.
So here we are with another NFL season, but after this lengthy coronavirus pandemic, I hope you’re not taking any pro football season lightly anymore.
The league came within one outbreak of its season falling apart last November. They built just enough safeguards into the schedule to be able to absorb the postponements they had.
Any more outbreaks and I was contemplating whether they’d drop a week from the season or simply extend the regular season another week, which would’ve also extended the playoffs, including the Super Bowl into mid-February.
But enough of this “Debbie Downer” stuff! Let’s look at our two favorite teams — the Packers and the Lions — and that should get us all in a good mood.
Oh wait, maybe not.
Starting with the Green Bay Packers, are you fans wondering what you’ll get out of a seemingly lame-duck MVP in Aaron Rodgers?
I actually think he might have as good a year as is possible for a 37-going-on-38-year-old pro football player, 44-year-old Tom Brady not withstanding.
Packers team president Mark Murphy might’ve been on to something if media reports can be trusted that he wanted to tweak Rodgers to get the best out of him. Even if the whole plan went awry.
I’ll just say one thing about this media-induced spat between team and player — if Rodgers was that mad about the Packers letting quality players (and his good friends) go elsewhere, what does he think every other NFL franchise does?
I think it’s a fair characterization to say that every other one of the league’s 31 teams also jettisons players when their abilities and/or performances either don’t match their salaries or don’t match what the next up-and-comer can do. It’s a cruel and harsh business if you want to stay competitive.
Speaking of competitive, here’s the Detroit Lions. I see them as a championship team — the championship of winning the overall No. 1 draft choice in 2022.
I do like what I’ve seen from new head coach Dan Campbell — bitten kneecaps and all — and I think he’ll get the most out of his talent.
But I remember from my fourth-grade math class that zero times any number of millions still equals zero.
I think this Detroit team will break the hearts of their — excuse me, us — fans over and over as it comes oh-so-close to wins without actually getting them.
But beware of employing a prevent defense against the Lions — and those opportunities should abound — as they try to push it to the very end of these games. Detroit might just steal a win or two that way.
Alas, I worry that now that the 2017 Cleveland Browns have elbowed in on the 2008 Lions’ record of 16 losses, this Detroit squad might see a unique 17-loss season as attainable.
Enough of this talk, let me make a mockery of my picks too:
Today, 8:20 p.m.
Dallas at Tampa Bay — In what phase of the game are the Cowboys on equal footing with Tampa? Trust me, I’m still looking. Tick, tick, tick … ding! Nowhere. Buccaneers, 38-16.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia at Atlanta — Even with Jalen Hurts returning at QB, Philly doesn’t have a lot surrounding him, especially not compared with the unrealized talent that is still talent in Atlanta, and with a new head coach in Arthur Smith. Falcons, 29-19.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo — Wouldn’t this game be more fun in December when two “frozen tundra” — my apologies Packers fans — teams would meet? Alas, I see Buffalo trying to show last season wasn’t a fluke, just like Pittsburgh wants to show it’s late-season collapse actually was a fluke. Bills, 34-27.
New York Jets at Carolina — If the Lions really go as bad as I fear, the Jets are ready-made to be the team to root for with Northern Michigan University graduate Robert Saleh taking over the coaching reins.
Young QBs can be a breath of fresh air like this New York squad has with Zach Wilson, but you gotta expect at least one game of growing pains. Panthers, 22-13.
Minnesota at Cincinnati — With the downtime Bengals QB Joe Burrow had to endure thanks to last year’s season-ending injury, he’s almost a rookie signal caller again. As much as I like to make fun of Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, an early-season game is a time for him to shine. Vikings, 30-23.
San Francisco at Detroit — Everybody torched the Lions defense last season. So isn’t this the team you’d want to try out your new two-QB system on, says 49ers head man Kyle Shanahan.
These guys are serious — unfortunately I’m talking about San Fran and its quest for the Super Bowl. 49ers, 37-20.
Jacksonville at Houston — Basically, I had these two teams penciled in for L’s to start the season, at least until I saw they were playing each other. Assuming it doesn’t end in a 4-4 tie — two safeties apiece! — I like the Texans with Tyrod Taylor at QB over a new-to-the-NFL coach (Urban Meyer) and new-to-the-NFL QB (Trevor Lawrence). Texans, 24-15.
Seattle at Indianapolis — Carson Wentz has a new team and I don’t see how he’s been able to practice with his Indy offense while recovering from an injury. Maybe he’ll improve markedly as the season gets going, but Week 1 is problematic. Seahawks, 28-19.
Arizona at Tennessee — Tennessee was serious about improving its offense, and though the Cardinals also added on some parts, I like the home team in Week 1 here. Titans, 24-20.
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington — LA QB Justin Hebert might just be able to do a number on the vaunted Washington defense, at least enough to eke out a win. Chargers, 21-17.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Cleveland at Kansas City — With Patrick Mahomes looking like his old self — though “old” wouldn’t be used to describe him — this is the season of redemption for KC after their Super Bowl debacle against Tampa Bay. Chiefs, 40-31.
Miami at New England — As much as I like Bill Belichick and the way he toys with rookie QBs, now he’s the one with a rookie behind center. Mac Jones may improve quite quickly, but that doesn’t make him a world beater in Week 1. Dolphins, 26-24.
Green Bay vs. New Orleans — In this game to be played in Jacksonville due to damage in N’ahlins from Hurricane Ida, I see no reason the Green’n’Gold shouldn’t get off to a fast start. Packers, 33-26.
Denver at New York Giants — Will Giants QB Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley be their old selves right out of the gate? My internet browsing shows a lot more “experts” picking New York, and I’m only hoping it’s not just so they can keep New York-area fans coming back to their websites.
Then I remembered something about the Broncos — since they have the biggest “natural” (mile-high) home field advantage in the league, they have to have the biggest dropoff when going on the road. So with that, Giants, 27-24.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams — The Red Rifle vs. Stat Patford, I guess. The first name is for Bears QB Andy Dalton, the second is columnist Rob Parker’s slur on Matthew Stafford. Since I generally believe the opposite of anything Parker says and I already believe the Rams greatly improved (and Lions got weaker) in the Stafford-Jared Goff trade, let me take the Rams, 28-20.
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Baltimore at Las Vegas — Thirty years ago when these franchises were located elsewhere, this game would be Cleveland at Oakland, but alas, here we are now. I’m not sure Lamar Jackson will be able to stay upright all season as Baltimore’s run-run-run QB, but all I worry about now is Week 1. He looks good, and probably will look better vs. the Raiders’ often suspect defense. Ravens, 34-23.
Regular season record in 2020 — 160-95, 63 percent. Playoff record — 7-6, 54 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.