As the July 4th holiday arrived, just before I overloaded my plate with two burgers, two hot dogs, potato salad, and BBQ chips, I saw a tweet and was reminded that we are just 10 Sundays away from the first week of the 2021 regular season in the NFL. This, of course, got me excited for the new season and all the action it will bring.
You know how when you make reservations for a place you look the menu up to know exactly what you’re going to order before you get there? That’s what I felt the desire to do thinking about the first few weeks of the 20221 regular season. So I decided to write about my favorite player/coach/position group matchups I’m looking forward to in the first four weeks of the upcoming season.
Chargers Offensive Line vs. Washington’s Defensive Line
This first one carries a lot of magnitude if you ask me.
The Washington Football Team has quietly—maybe not so quietly—been building one of the best defensive lines in football. Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen bring the beef in the middle, while Montez Sweat and Chase Young bring the speed and power on the edges. Behind them, Cole Holcomb has grown into a reliable linebacker, and rookie Jamin Davis will bring a ton of speed to that second level. That group is poised to be one of the best fronts in the league.
On the flip side, there were many conversations going into the offseason centered around what the Chargers must do on the offensive line to improve and protect their young franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. They went out and signed Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler while drafting Rashawn Slater in the first round.
These two units will carry each of their teams.
Chiefs Offensive Line vs. Browns Defensive Line
In the same light, the Chiefs and Browns have a titanic trench matchup on their hands for Week 1. The Browns have a stacked defensive line with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Andrew Billings, Jordan Elliott, and Malik Jackson. This could be one of the top disrupting defensive lines in the NFL if they all stay healthy.
For the Chiefs, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl last year only to find out their offensive line wasn’t good enough. Injuries went into that equation, but still, they put a ton of resources into improving their offensive line this offseason, most notably by adding Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown. That new unit will get a good test of talent in Week 1.
Bills vs. Dolphins
To me, this game is the most interesting because it represents the new wave in the AFC East. As long as Bill Belichick is coaching the Patriots, they’ll be no pushovers. But the Bills clearly showed last year that they were a cut above the rest of the division, and the Dolphins could easily put themselves in playoff contention this year after getting so close the previous season. A lot hangs on the shoulders of Tua Tagovailoa. He has a good test early in the year to see how ready he is for the next step.
Bill Belichick vs. Sean Payton (No Tom Brady, No Drew Brees)
For the past two decades, these head coaches and these two teams have been in the spotlight. And a big reason for that is because of the two quarterbacks who are no longer there.
In order to find a Patriots-Saints game that didn’t involve both Brady and Brees, you’d have to go all the way back to November 20, 2005. With plenty of uncertainty surrounding both teams’ quarterback positions, I’m interested to see how these two future Hall of Fame coaches try to one-up the other.
NFC Championship Preview: Buccaneers vs. Rams
I have a feeling these will be the two teams with the most money and most bets on who will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for the upcoming season. We get a preview of what might be the NFC Championship Game in Week 3 when the Buccaneers travel to Los Angeles. Tampa played the Rams last season at home and lost, so not only is this a potential preview but also a revenge game for the reigning Super Bowl champions—we all know how Brady likes revenge.
Seahawks vs. 49ers
This one is a classic. Who knows, we might even have a Russell Wilson vs. Trey Lance matchup here in Week 4! That would come with its own fireworks, but the teams will certainly bring it against one another either way. The NFC West is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions to earn a playoff spot from. The 49ers should be poised for a big bounce-back season.
Battle of Second-Best in AFC West: Raiders vs. Chargers
Though anything can happen, it would be tough to predict the Chiefs not finishing first in the AFC West. However, there are three teams in the Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders who are all gunning for that second spot, which could come with a wild-card berth. The Chargers and Raiders could very well be battling for a playoff bid in that division as early as Week 4. (I’m not overlooking the Broncos, Denver fans, I’m just excited about this matchup).
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