The wait is over. It’s been eight months since quarterback Tom Bradyand the New England Patriots lifted the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl LI. The Patriots, who will open their season Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs, have been installed as heavy favorites to reach — and win — yet another championship. But the beauty of a fresh NFL season is that 31 other teams get to have their say in the matter. What will Week 1 tell us about who can truly challenge the Patriots for league supremacy?
Game of the Week: Seahawks at Packers. The Seahawks believe they have the talent to match that of its back-to-back Super Bowl teams from the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Packers were a couple of big plays away from playing for a championship last season. Might this be a preview of the NFC title game?
Jets at Bills. The Jets are playing for the future. There has been a chorus of believers in an 0-16 season for New York. But veteran running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte have too much pride to lay down. The Bills have questions of their own, including at quarterback, where the pressure is on Tyrod Taylor after a rocky 2016.
Steelers at Browns. Welcome to the NFL, DeShone Kizer. The Browns’ rookie QB, who won the starting job over now Broncos backup Brock Osweiler, has a stiff early test against a Steelers defense with big aspirations.
Raiders at Titans. A battle of two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL — Oakland’s Derek Carr and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota — make this an intriguing opening-week matchup. Both are coming off serious leg injuries they suffered toward the end of last season. Protecting them will be key for both offensive lines.
Eagles at Redskins. After a strong rookie season in which he completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz enters his second season with big expectations for the Eagles. This is a big NFC East division game for two teams with justified playoff goals.
Jaguars at Texans. Blake Bortles is running out of chances as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback, so the Jaguars will depend on rookie RB Leonard Fournette to carry much of the offensive load. The former LSU star will have a tough early test against J.J. Watt and a Texans defense that is still among the league’s best.
Cardinals at Lions. After signing the richest contract extension in NFL history, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford knows he is being tasked with finally getting the Lions over the hump and into championship contention. Arizona’s hopes of bouncing back from a disappointing season rest heavily on the arm of veteran QB Carson Palmer.
Falcons at Bears. Atlanta has waited a long time to rid the taste of a bitter Super Bowl LI collapse. Chicago could be looking at a long season, particularly if their free-agent acquisition at quarterback, Mike Glennon, doesn’t perform better than he did in the preseason. But it’s the Bears’ rebuilt defense that will be under the microscope against a motivated Matt Ryan.
Ravens at Bengals. Cincinnati should be dangerous on the ground this season after drafting Joe Mixon to add to a running back group that includes Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. But can the Bengals’ defense bounce back after a rough 2016? The offensive line surrounding Baltimore QB Joe Flacco looked shaky in the preseason.
Colts at Rams. The Colts will be without their former No. 1 pick in QB Andrew Luck (2012), whose return from a shoulder injury remains uncertain. The Rams are hopeful their No. 1 pick, Jared Goff (2016), can prove early this season that he is indeed the team’s quarterback of the future.
Panthers at 49ers.Former Valor Christian star Christian McCaffrey averaged 7 yards per touch during the preseason. Approaching those numbers in the regular season would make him a surefire rookie-of-the-year candidate. Carolina is returning to Levi’s Stadium for the first time since losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Giants at Cowboys. These same two teams opened against each other last season. Dallas lost a 20-19 thriller, only to win its next 11 games on the way to a 13-3 regular season. Still, with both of these teams likely vying for the NFC East crown this season, this game carries plenty of weight.
Saints at Vikings, Monday. The reunion didn’t have to wait long. After playing his first 10 seasons with the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson will travel back to Minnesota to play his first game with the Saints. “Of course I want to stick it to them,” Peterson said last week. Buckle up.
Buccaneers at Dolphins, ppd. to Nov. 19: Hurricane Irma has wiped out this meeting and pushed it to Week 11, meaning both teams will have to play 16 straight games this season.