Around the AFC
Drop-fest at Arrowhead. The Chiefs had questions about their young receiving corps and assuredly did not like the early answers Thursday night in a 21-20 home loss to Detroit. Kadarius Toney dropped everything thrown his way. One tipped ball went for a pick-six. The Kansas City defense played well overall but couldn’t get a stop when it needed one most against Dan Campbell’s Lions. So, the defending Super Bowl champs are 0-1. What’s it mean? Only time will tell, but Sean Payton would do well to send a bottle of the expensive stuff to Campbell, his old tight ends coach.
Burrow time. Joe Burrow had a scare early in training camp when he strained his calf, but the star Cincinnati quarterback appears to be ready to roll for Week 1. Not only that, but he’ll take the field an extremely wealthy man. Burrow reportedly agreed Thursday to a five-year, $275 million extension that comes with $219 million guaranteed and represents the largest contract ever authored in the NFL. Hello. That’s quite a way for the Bengals kick off their efforts to bring home a third straight AFC North title.
Intrigue at SoFi. Miami visiting the Los Angeles Chargers provides an early look at two teams that consider themselves playoff contenders. Tua Tagovailoa and that dynamic Dolphins offense have a chance at a fast start, while much of the offseason for Justin Herbert — another of the quarterbacks who saw a massive payday this offseason — and the Chargers was learning under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. If Moore unleashes Herbert’s full potential, look out.
Around the NFC
Bosa’s big deal. San Francisco is loaded again and primed to be a Super Bowl contender. Quarterback Brock Purdy is healthy — who’d have thought a year ago that’d be a major key for the Niners? — and he’s got weapons galore on offense. The biggest question into Week 1 was Nick Bosa’s status. That got a record-breaking answer this week when he signed an extension reported to be worth up to $170 million ($122.5 million guaranteed). The 49ers — and Bosa — get richer.
Young debut. It feels like a long time ago already when the Panthers backed up the Brinks truck in order to secure the No. 1 pick from Chicago and select quarterback Bryce Young. Now Young’s set to start the Panthers’ opener. There are almost always rough spots for rookies. ESPN’s Ed Werder pointed out this week that No. 1 overall picks are 0-13-1 in debuts over the past 20 years. The last winner? David Carr in 2002. Can Young buck the trend at Atlanta?
Early test. An early prime-time measuring stick game in the NFC East pits the New York Giants and Dallas right out of the gate. The Giants surprised in 2022 behind Daniel Jones and first-year head coach Brian Daboll. Now they’ve got expectations. The Cowboys and Mike McCarthy need a fast start because, well, it’s Dallas. What does 2023 have in store for quarterback Dak Prescott?
Game of the Week
Buffalo at New York Jets
Josh Allen against Aaron Rodgers. Monday Night Football. Yeah, the Jets garnered so, so much offseason hype and took up so much airspace. But they’re undeniably interesting. Can they hit the ground running with Rodgers at the helm and a really talented defense? On the other side, Allen and the Bills ran from Nov. 13 through the wild-card round without a loss last season but bowed out in the divisional round, then had a more drama-filled offseason than they wanted. Is all well with Sean McDermott, Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo brass? The season should reveal those answers. The bet here is the Bills (-2.5) get off on the right foot.
Bills 27, Jets 24
Lock of the Week
Houston at Baltimore
The Texans have a highly regarded first-year head coach in DeMeco Ryans — he could have been in Denver in a slightly altered reality — and a pair of top draft picks in quarterback C.J. Stroud and edge Will Anderson. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is a young coach to know in the NFL. But this is a Week 1 mismatch. Lamar Jackson got paid in Baltimore and the Ravens (-9.5) once again have a solid group under coach John Harbaugh. Not the kind of game his teams typically let down for.
Ravens 28, Texans 13
Upset of the Week
Green Bay at Chicago
A fascinating installment of this storied rivalry to kick off 2023. The Jordan Love era is on in Green Bay. Justin Fields’ time is now in Chicago, but can he turn himself into a complete quarterback? And who the heck is the favorite in the NFC North? Probably the Lions, but anybody who gets on a hot streak will have a chance to win the division. For the Packers, they need a defense stuffed full of first-round picks to play like it this year. Their young skill core is exciting, but are they ready right now? This week, it’s enough to cover a one-point spread.
Packers 27, Bears 24
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