Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Terez Paylor and Charles Robinson select their two games this opening weekend that can leave us buzzing heading into Monday.
Regardless, this one is going to be fun. Giants receiver Odell Beckham is rich, and out there, and one of the most recognizable names in football. From his signature one-handed catches, to his dyed-blond twists to his on-field tantrums, this dude brings tons of eyeballs to football. He’ll be matched up against Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will soon be really rich but is already (like Beckham) out there and one of the most recognizable names in football. He is also opinionated, to boot, as he made national news last month by publicly ripping half the NFL’s starting quarterbacks by name in a magazine profile. It was bold and it was risky — the definition of bulletin-board material — but it was also awesome, and more of what the NFL needs if it wants to start curtailing its image as a stuffy, tone-deaf league.
NFL aside, matchups like this will help, as this is a showdown between two of the best at their respective positions, in their primes. Remember when the 49ers’ Jerry Rice and Falcons’ Deion Sanders went toe-to-toe in the early ’90s? This is from that bloodline, a premium wideout vs. a premium corner, with no shortage of personality on either side. As Bart Scott would say, “Can’t wait.”
Houston Texans at New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Is there any question about this? Like every year in recent memory, NFL fans who look beyond their teams in Week 1 are typically checking out how New England started the season. Usually because they’re checking to see if this is finally the year the Patriots fall off or quarterback Tom Brady hits the wall.
This one? It’s bursting with intrigue for those reasons and one more: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson lit up New England on the road last year, in only the second start of his rookie season. For those with short memories, Watson passed for 301 yards and ran for 41 more, while also throwing two touchdowns.
In that moment, Watson looked every bit like the electrifying player who disassembled almost every college defense he faced. Patriots coach Bill Belichick walked away immensely impressed. Had it not been for a knee injury cutting his season short, Watson very well may have been the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year.
Now Watson is back off knee surgery and had some very sharp moments in the preseason, buoyed by a Houston defense that is healthy and more loaded than people realize. This is a monster game for Houston. A complete tone-setter for the season. And the Patriots, well, we’re always wondering when the slippage is going to arrive. Regardless, the quarterbacks alone make this a game everyone should be talking about next week. And many will be.
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