The wait is over. Football has awakened from its summer slumber and will roar back to life this weekend with a full slate of NFL football on tap for fans of every team across the country.
Week 1 is one of the most important weeks of the NFL season since every team desperately wants to start the season off on the right foot and avoid getting their year started with a dreaded tally in the ‘L’ column.
Besides being one of the most important and exciting weeks of the NFL year, Week 1 can also be one of the most confusing and difficult to decipher.
Boomer Esiason, who played quarterback in the NFL for 14 years and can now be seen on CBS’ The NFL Today, is one of the best in the business at breaking down all of the matchups and providing unparalleled insight into the NFL.
We caught up with Boomer to discuss three of the biggest games on the NFL schedule this weekend and to help us take a look at next week’s marquee Thursday Night Football game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills on CBS.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets – 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: With a shortened training camp and rough preseason, what are your expectations for Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Bengals in Week 1?
Boomer Esiason: “My expectations for him are that he will probably be down a little bit from where he was last year. The Jets are going to be playing some of the best defenses in the NFL, especially early on in the season and the Bengals will have one of those defenses.
The good thing here for the Jets is that Vontaze Burfict is not playing due to suspension and they have lost a couple of guys early on in training camp in terms of early round draft picks. But, they still have one of the best defensive lines in football, so I think the right side of the Jets’ defensive line is going to be in for a heck of a game against Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap on the left side of the defense for the Cincinnati Bengals.
But the Jets are one of the best rosters in football even though their main guys are over 30 years of age — including Brandon Marshall and of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick. I think this is a potential playoff matchup in the future assuming both of these teams remain healthy and this should be a great way to start the NFL season.”
CBS Local Sports: On the other side of the ball, how do you expect the Bengals’ offense to look different under new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and without Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu at wide out?
Boomer: “It’s actually kind of interesting because when you think of Marvin Lewis, he is right there with Bill Belichick in terms of staying with one team and having that consistency. The problem for poor Marvin is that everyone keeps stealing his offensive and defensive coordinators. Mike Zimmer, obviously a coach, Jay Gruden now a head coach, of course Hue Jackson now, too.
Zampese has been there for the last few years and understands who Andy Dalton is and understands the offense. I would think they will be a little bit more aggressive with Zampese calling the offense. There is also one guy I have got to believe is one of the most motivated in all of the NFL and that’s Jeremy Hill.
He had the key fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers when the Bengals blew up in the playoff game last postseason and ultimately lost at home, and I know Jeremy has been carrying that guilt all offseason. So I think he is going to be a guy to be reckoned with all season. I think he will have over 1,300 yards assuming he can stay healthy and give these Bengals something they really, really need, and that is a legitimate, strong running game.”
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens – 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: The Ravens have a bunch of star players coming off of major injuries, do you think this team is past its prime? Or do they have one more great run left in them?
Boomer: “Obviously the most significant of those injuries you mentioned is Joe Flacco with his knee. Even if he says he is 100 percent, he still has got to go through a full game and he’s got to go through a full first quarter of the season to get comfortable and get back in the pocket. This is the big question for any team that comes off of the amount of injuries that the Ravens have had. What are they bringing to the table this year?
Nobody truly knows and that’s especially going against a Buffalo Bills team that loves to blitz. When you play Rex Ryan, you better make sure both of your chin straps are buttoned. This is a huge game for the former defensive coordinator for the Ravens. The Bills bring a lot of pressure and activity on defense and they will test Joe Flacco’s knee early and often as they get after him, because that’s always the most important aspect of Rex Ryan’s defense: hitting the quarterback with multiple blitzes.”
CBS Local Sports: Rex’s defense was pretty abysmal by most metrics last year, what do you expect to see from Rex and especially from Rex and Rob Ryan as a tandem this year?
Boomer: “Well, I can see a lot of arguing between brothers just because they’re so heated and emotional. They are going to be calling defenses and they will probably be getting in each other’s faces and it will probably be very entertaining for those of us who cover the league and watch the league. But, for me, Rex knows that this is his year. He has got to make something happen in Buffalo and he’s got to get them to the playoffs.
I think they believe in their quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The question is, will they be as undisciplined on defense this year as they were last year? If I were a Buffalo Bills fan I would hope that they would not be, but when you go against guys like Rex and Rob, you know there will be opportunities aplenty if you just have poise and handle the blitz. That will really be the million-dollar question for the Bills: Can their defense hold up this year?
Miami Dolphins @ Seattle Seahawks – 4:05 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: Do you think that this is Ryan Tannehill’s last chance to prove he’s the guy in Miami?
Boomer: “As a former quarterback, I kind of feel for Ryan Tannehill because he has been under a lot of different systems and there has been a lot of upheaval down there with their coaches. But now he has a guy that everybody believes is the quarterback whisperer in Adam Gase as a head coach.
Now, there have been some growing pains already and you can see some of the confusion and some of the struggles that they have had in the preseason.
I would say this is probably one of the most difficult opening games for one of the new coaches in the NFL. I mean, traveling all the way across the country, playing a great Seattle team that still has the speed and the great players that have taken them to the playoffs the last few years under Pete Carroll. This is going to be a difficult, difficult spot for Miami and Ryan Tannehill.
The question is, can Miami’s defense keep the game somewhat close so the pressure is not all going to be on Ryan Tannehill to make plays against a formidable defense in the toughest stadium in all of the NFL to play?”
Look Ahead: Thursday Night Football on CBS
Jets @ Bills, Sept. 15 – 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS
CBS Local Sports: Thursday Night Football on CBS next week, we’ve got the Jets and the Bills meeting for the third time since Rex Ryan was fired as the head coach of the Jets. Which team do you think has the edge this time around and why?
Boomer: “Well, Rex seems to have the edge against the Jets, especially with the way that they played last year. He knows how to really frustrate Ryan Fitzpatrick. I did the Thursday Night Football game for Westwood One — that was the color rush game down at the Meadowlands — and Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense just looked like they were completely confused as to what was happening on the field of play.
Now certainly, you learn from your mistakes and you learn from your experiences, but I know this is a game that the Jets have circled on their calendar in order to exact some revenge.
It will be a physical, nasty game, that’s for sure. And since it is a week removed from Week 1, I can only say that assuming everybody is healthy on both teams, I would give the edge to the Jets slightly.”