Itching to watch an underdog try to overcome the odds or triumph against adversity? Simply looking to pass the time reading another NFL.com article while stuck in your cube? Nick Shook offers a bead on five us-against-the-world scenarios to track entering Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. The order below is determined by confidence rankings, from No. 1 (most confident) to No. 5 (least confident).
The lines below provided by DraftKings are current as of 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 7 unless otherwise noted below.
The Chargers have been an offseason darling, thanks to some splashy roster moves. Khalil Mack is now in powder blue, as is cornerback J.C. Jackson, filling out a roster that looks damn good on paper. In theory, they should be better than the team that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year -- even with Jackson expected to miss Week 1 as he recovers from recent ankle surgery.
But we're forgetting about the team that singlehandedly slammed the postseason door on the Bolts in 2021. The Raiders are back for more, and arguably stronger than they were last season, thanks to the acquisition of Derek Carr's former Fresno State pal, Davante Adams. Out went Yannick Ngakoue, and in stepped Chandler Jones. For each big catch reeled in by the Chargers, the Raiders seemed to have their equivalent. I like their chances of making it two straight over the Chargers.
Might this be the second underdog upset at SoFi Stadium to kick off the 2022 season? Read on to find out ...
- WHERE: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
- WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | NBC
- SPREAD: Rams +2
It's only Week 1, but it's a big one. Buffalo enters 2022 with high hopes (again), and apparently, those hopes are enough to make the defending Super Bowl champions the underdog ... at home.
Disrespectful? Yes. Unbelievable? Not quite. It's fair to expect a bit of a letdown from a champion due for coronation. The Bills can certainly produce enough firepower to sink the Rams. And it's reasonable to wonder about the elbow tendinitis Matthew Stafford dealt with in camp, even if the QB claims to have "no limitations" heading into the season. But we're overlooking a key element here: Most of the Rams' integral pieces return. They've added a key contributor in receiver Allen Robinson. They're primed to pick up right where they left off, and with a home-field advantage, it's easy to see them coming out on top.
By the time the clock hits triple zeroes, perhaps we'll come to realize this is the Von Miller Bowl. After serving as a postseason powerhouse for Los Angeles, the pass rusher jumped to Buffalo in the offseason, and the Rams used the extra cap space to add linebacker Bobby Wagner, filling their biggest defensive need. Bragging rights are on the line for both Miller and his former teammates.
Most importantly, it's a fantastic way to start the season. And it's easy fodder for the Rams' bulletin board. I trust the champs to get the job done.
- WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
- WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | NBC/Universo
- SPREAD: Cowboys +2.5
We're running back last season's kickoff game, but with a change of venue. Will it produce a new result?
I'm saying yes, but not for the reasons you might expect. Both Dallas and Tampa Bay are dealing with their fair share of injury-related absences. The latter squad will likely feel a much bigger impact. Football starts in the trenches, and the Buccaneers have been decimated by losses along the interior before the season even starts. They're entering 2022 with a new(ish) head coach and a patchwork offensive line that will be tasked with protecting Tom Brady against a defense that had a penchant for forcing turnovers in 2021. Talk about a hurdle.
Dallas, meanwhile, lacks the same pass-catching weapons it had in 2021. The Cowboys are also expected to start a rookie at left tackle in place of the injured Tyron Smith. Luckily for the Cowboys, they have a quarterback who can scoot and enough backfield options to win in the short game.
Perhaps we shouldn't expect these two teams to combine for 60 points a second straight time. This might be a low-scoring affair, and since I'm choosing between the two, I'll take the team that led the league in turnover differential last season. Regardless, I expect this one to be a nail-biter.
- WHERE: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
- WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Cardinals +6
For 13 weeks of the 2021 season, Arizona looked like the best team in the NFL -- and then the wheels fell off. The good news for the 2022 Cardinals is, it's only Week 1. Even better: They're at home.
The bad news: DeAndre Hopkins is out, due to a six-game suspension. Marquise Brown will have to replace him as quarterback Kyler Murray's top receiver target, placing significant expectations on a player who is presumably still getting his feet underneath him in the desert after being traded there from Baltimore in a draft-night deal. Can Brown and Murray lean on their history working together as college teammates at Oklahoma?
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the big, bad bullies of the AFC. Having been knocked down a peg by the eventual conference champion Cincinnati Bengals last postseason, they have every reason to come storming out of the gate in 2022. But like the Packers (see below), they are also entering unfamiliar territory in their first game without Tyreek Hill. A revamped receiving corps will need to step up in this one, especially if the Cardinals' offense enjoys an early takeoff. Kansas City's defense looms as a potential game-changing force, but I don't think it'll be quite enough to tip the scales in Week 1.
Give me the underdog Cardinals, who have their own point to prove after another disappointing finish and a tumultuous offseason.
- WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
- WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Vikings +1.5
Ah, yes, as the old saying goes: Toss out the records when it comes to rivalries. These two have been known to produce some exciting early-season contests in recent years, and a new challenge might level the playing field. Aaron Rodgers embarks on his first season without Davante Adams since 2013, instantly creating a steeper climb for the reigning back-to-back MVP. His new receiving corps lacks a headliner, but not depth. Will it be enough to take down the Vikings?
I see Minnesota as a team that is overlooked but lurking. The Vikings have a rookie coach with a fresh perspective, the weapons to keep pace with whatever the new-look Packers produce, and a defense that includes a former Packer (Za'Darius Smith) who might be out for a little revenge. Minnesota has existed as Green Bay's little brother for a while now, and if ever there were a time for the smaller sibling to land a haymaker, it's Week 1.
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