Commentary

Week 1 Scouts Takes

Scouts Inc. breaks down every game from Week 1, from keys to the game to position analysis to predictions.

Updated: September 4, 2008, 4:00 PM ET
By Scouts Inc.

From breaking down the schemes to who has position advantage to keys for each team to a final prediction, Scouts Inc. covers every game in Week 1.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

Every football fan in the nation will be glued to this contest. The Giants now have a bull's-eye on their back but they also have the better football team and fewer questions surround them as we enter a new season. They will control the flow of the game offensively and once they get the lead, will wreak havoc on the Redskins' new passing game.
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Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens' situation at wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback and most importantly quarterback does not inspire a lot of confidence. However, the emotion of opening day at home with a new head coach and ultracompetitive veteran leadership gives the Ravens the edge over a franchise that is littered with questions of its own and is in dire need of better leadership and overall character. On the field, Baltimore will get enough out of its running game and will eliminate Cincinnati's ability to move the ball on the ground. This will be a close game and a big play could make all the difference. Don't be surprised if that play comes from the Ravens' special teams.
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New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

Both clubs are evenly matched in several areas and both quarterbacks are trying to learn new systems in a short amount of time. Plus, the Jets and Dolphins have improved their offensive and defensive lines, but Miami should be able to move the ball better on the ground and establish a physical presence in the trenches. The Dolphins have a different mindset under Tony Sparano.
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Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

New England owns nearly every advantage in this game. The only potential sticking points for the Patriots are the health of Tom Brady and the timing of the offensive linemen. With home-field advantage and a chip on their shoulders after the Super Bowl loss -- not to mention some of the finest personnel and coaching talent in the game -- expect the Pats to hit the ground running this season.
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Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

This game should be more competitive than many expect. The Steelers are exceptionally tough at home and a step or two ahead of the Texans in their development as a team. But there still could be some surprises. Houston has some excellent young defensive players and Pittsburgh's defense ranked among the league's best in 2007, but both sides have the offensive weapons to set off a firestorm of scoring. Both of these offenses could rate among football's best by season's end.
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Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

This should be an excellent game that will not be for the faint of heart. This is one of those games that might be a little ugly at times, but it is not as much about ineffective offenses as it is about hard-hitting defenses. Both teams are looking to establish their run game first and stop their opponent's run game. However, both should be fairly effective on the ground, which means the team that goes to the air effectively gets the edge.
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Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons

By all rights, the passing attack should be enough for Detroit to secure a win in the opener. The Lions want to establish the run, but they can't afford to ignore such an overwhelming matchup advantage. Both Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson have excellent size and field-stretching speed, and both are effective against man or zone coverage. It's a tough duo for any NFL secondary to defend, let alone the Falcons' rebuilding bunch. With Atlanta's defensive backfield lacking stability in general and proven perimeter playmakers specifically, Detroit should be able to take advantage.
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Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills

The Bills will have to compensate for the absence of Jason Peters against a defense that has demonstrated a willingness to sell out in order to apply pressure on quarterbacks. Expect Seattle to control the clock and the field with efficient short and intermediate passing and at least some semblance of a ground game. Buffalo's outstanding special teams will keep the score close, but in the end Hasselbeck's experience and accuracy could make the difference.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, while the Buccaneers finished ranked second in the NFL in total defense last season. Jon Gruden's complex West Coast offense will look to exploit a questionable Saints secondary based on individual matchups and ways for Joey Galloway to continue to put up big numbers against the Saints.
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St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles

The Rams have a new offensive scheme that should eventually provide a nice foundation, but it will require time to set up. Moreover, Steven Jackson missed virtually the entire preseason in a contract holdout and the Rams' offensive line still has plenty to prove. Philadelphia will miss Kevin Curtis, but the team has enough talent to overcome his absence.
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Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns

This should be a high-scoring affair between two explosive offensive units. However, look for both offenses to start out slow. Field position and the kicking game become key factors in the first half due to the lack of extended playing time during the preseason by both teams' starters. The Cowboys' defense will stack the line of scrimmage, while forcing Derek Anderson to make plays through the air. Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will look to pound the rock with Marion Barber to set up the vertical passing game against a questionable Browns secondary.
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Carolina Panthers at San Diego Chargers

The Panthers have to travel cross-country to play one of the most talented clubs in the league. It appears that the Chargers may be without OT Marcus McNeill, but they still have enough talent to be potent offensively with their ground attack and passing game. QB Philip Rivers appears to have recovered from his offseason surgery and has too many weapons for Carolina's defense to handle. The Panthers are an improved team on both sides of the ball, but without their most explosive playmaker, Steve Smith, they will have a tough time scoring enough points to get a road victory.
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Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers

Arizona has to win on the road eventually, right? The Cardinals are favored here for several reasons. They returned this year with more pieces in place from last year on both sides of the ball. Kurt Warner has a huge advantage over J.T. O'Sullivan in experience and he has better receivers to throw to. Plus, the constant changes on offense for San Francisco make it tough to develop any continuity and the offensive line has been reshuffled, yet again.
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Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are explosive in any environment, but they're especially combustible at home with the crowd behind them (maybe even more so during the grand opening of the team's new digs). If the home fans are as disruptive as usual and the Colts' front four shoots gaps and pressures the quarterback, the Bears could be on the ropes in a hurry. Kyle Orton has some experience, but he has few weapons and limited protection for mounting any kind of a passing attack. If Chicago's defense returns to its 2006 form and its customarily stellar special-teams units are up to snuff, the score could be close.
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Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

These are two good football teams with high expectations and stability in almost every area, except quarterback. The success of these franchises in 2008 rests on the arms of Aaron Rodgers and Tarvaris Jackson, which is not a real comforting thought. The Vikings have a chance to control the flow of this game with their rushing attack behind Adrian Peterson, but the Packers can counter with their controlled passing game.
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Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

This will be a physical game as each team tries to enforce its will early. However, there are a lot of questions entering this game. We really don't know the identity of either offense and we don't know how they will perform now that the games count. Both of these defenses were awful versus the run a year ago, which is a concern considering both offenses want to run first and pass second. The only known commodity is Denver QB Jay Cutler, but he will be without his best receiver.
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Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.