The NFL scheduling Gods have blessed us with a pair of intriguing games as the tradition of having a doubleheader for the first week of the season on Monday Night Football continues. It’ll start with number three overall pick in this years draft, Sam Darnold, making his NFL regular season debut as he has Jets fans excited about what the future could hold. Those Jets will be going against a Lions team that not a lot of people know where to place within the NFC North, but they’re a team that’s been very competitive during the Matthew Stafford era, and their new coach, Matt Patricia, will be making his head coaching debut for the Lions.
Game number two has last years breakout team, and team that added a ton of big names in the offseason, the Rams, traveling to Oakland as the Raiders open up the Jon Gruden era 2.0.
Both of these games have a lot of intrigue and could be a nice cap to the first NFL weekend.
Jets vs Lions, 7:10 PM ET, ESPN
The main thing I’m excited to watch in this game is of course the NFL regular season debut of Sam Darnold. The Lions are being coached by a defensive coach in Matt Patricia, and they have some good players on that defense. I think this will be a tough test for Sam Darnold to begin his career.
The Jets were a better team last season than many people, myself included, thought they would be before the season and with a good amount of the starters being pretty similar to a year ago, plus adding a top draft pick quarterback, there’s reason for optimism.
The Lions also have a lot of the same names, but I think having a guy like Matt Patricia take over as their head coach will benefit them in the form of better discipline than they’ve had in past seasons and that should also lead to them making less dumb mistakes that they’ve made that have cost them games in the past.
I think this will be a close game for most of it, but I think with it being Sam Darnold’s first career start and with it being on the road, the Lions will end up pulling it out, but they might have to do it with the running game, because the Jets did add Trumaine Johnson to their secondary this offseason.
Rams vs Raiders, 10:20 PM ET, ESPN
It’s been noted the guys that the Rams added this offseason (Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, etc…) but the Raiders also made a splash when they decided to give Jon Gruden a monstrous contract to get him to come out of the ESPN booth and come back to the sidlines in Oakland, where he previously coached from 1998-2001, going 38-26 during that time.
Gruden has already made some headlines, with some of the comments that he’s made about the changes in football since he was a coach last, but even more notably, being the one that worked the trade of Khalil Mack. I get not wanting to commit that much money to Mack, but he’s a dominant player and the Raiders already weren’t good on defense last year so I’m not sure how trading their best player is going to pan out.
I think the Rams will take longer than people think to reach what their best football could be, but I think in this game they will simply have too much for Oakland. This Rams defense is really good and while I think Derek Carr could move the ball a little bit on them, I ultimately see the Raiders settling for a lot of field goals because the Rams defensive line will be too much for them.
Even more so though, I think the Rams offense will move the ball almost at will against the Raiders defense. Like I said, they were spotty at best last season and they’ve now traded the guy who was by far their best player on that side of the ball and really the guy who was the best football player on their roster. Between that offensive line, those receivers, a very good young quarterback in Jared Goff, the dynamite play-calling of Sean McVay and oh year, last season’s Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley. That is just simply too much for a questionable defense.
Regardless of result though, it will be interesting to see how the Raiders look in Jon Gruden’s return to the sidelines.