N.F.L. Week 1 Top Story Lines
• It has been a while since the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears meant much — Aaron Rodgers is 15-4 against the Bears and his predecessor, Brett Favre, was 23-13 — but it may have gotten some new life with the trade that sent Khalil Mack, the 2016 N.F.L. defensive player of the year, from the Oakland Raiders to the Bears in exchange for draft picks. Mack is the type of defensive player that seems to alter every play of the game and he may be the key to preventing Rodgers from engaging in his typical late-game heroics. That being said, asking Mitchell Trubisky to win a prime time road game against Rodgers may be too big of an ask for a second-year starter at quarterback.
• Jimmy Garoppolo only has seven career starts and Kirk Cousins has just a 26-30-1 career record over six seasons, but both were tapped as franchise quarterbacks and given contracts commensurate with that title. In Week 1, Garoppolo’s San Francisco 49ers and Cousins’ Minnesota Vikings will square off in a battle of which team’s fanbase can maintain their extraordinary enthusiasm.
• The Indianapolis Colts have a lot riding on the return of Andrew Luck, their franchise quarterback who will start against the Cincinnati Bengals after missing all of last season with extensive rehabilitation from shoulder surgery. Added to the drama of the situation is Luck admitting in an interview with NFL Network that after he initially tore his labrum on the field during the 2015 season, he further damaged the shoulder in a snowboarding accident after the season. A bigger concern for the Colts is the fact that the team is 10-12 in his starts going back to the start of 2015 after they had gone 33-15 over his first three years.
• Several prominent players engaged in lengthy contract holdouts this off-season, but with Earl Thomas having returned to the Seahawks and Aaron Donald suiting up for the Rams, that leaves Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the lone player whose holdout will stretch into the regular season. The dynamic running back is the fulcrum of the Steelers’ offense and without him Pittsburgh will start James Conner, a 2017 third-round pick out of Pitt, against the Cleveland Browns. Bell’s teammates are not pleased and gamblers have started flocking to the Browns in anticipation of that team potentially ending its 17-game losing streak.
• Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, who was emerging as perhaps the league’s most exciting rookie last season, will be back on the field for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in a practice last November. Even with Watson at full strength, Houston has history against them in a matchup with the Patriots, as the franchise has never won a game in six trips to New England.
• There are few matchups between a cornerback and wide receiver that can rival the excitement of Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars covering Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants. Their hotly-anticipated showdown — exacerbated by Ramsey having trashed Eli Manning (and most of the N.F.L.’s other quarterbacks) in an interview with GQ — looked like it might not come to fruition when Ramsey was put on his team’s injury report earlier this week, but his ankle issue appears to have been resolved and he was removed from the report.
• In other injury news, Joey Bosa, the dominant defensive end of the Los Angeles Chargers, is out with a foot injury and Eric Berry, the standout safety of the Kansas City Chiefs, is doubtful with a sore heel. Other key players who may not take the field include Olivier Vernon, a defensive end for the Giants, and Andrus Peat, a starting guard for the New Orleans Saints.
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