By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The 2022 NFL season kicks off this week. Let’s take a look at the Week 1 NFC South matchups.
New Orleans @ Atlanta: This is a classic rivalry that has been played since both teams started playing in 1966 and 1967, respectively.
The expectations for these two teams are extremely different. The Falcons traded veteran quarterback Matt Ryan in the offseason and they are in complete rebuild mode.
Marcus Mariota has taken over and he had one of the best college careers in recent memory. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and led his team to the national championship game. He was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, selected by Tennessee. Injuries and inconsistent play derailed his career. Now he’s trying to reach that potential in Atlanta.
The best pass catcher on the roster is second year tight end Kyle Pitts. The Falcons drafted wide receiver Drake London (USC) 8th overall but he got hurt in the first preseason game. They also have running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who is coming off of a great 2021 season.
The Saints are replacing head coach Sean Payton who retired in the offseason. He was there since 2006 so there might be some growing pains. He was replaced with Dennis Allen, who was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2015 to 2021.
New Orleans is expected to be a playoff team if they can stay healthy. Quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft is returning from an MCL sprain that ended his season in October.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas missed the entire 2021 season with a foot injury and he is also coming back.
“With Marcus Mariota, now we’ve got to go back and watch some Vegas film, maybe watch some Tennessee film,” Cameron Jordan said. “We’ve got to break down who he is because he’s not a traditional pocket passer like Matt was. This is going to change up their game a lot.”
I think the Saints win this game easily.
Carolina vs Cleveland: This is interesting because Baker Mayfield was traded from the Browns to Carolina in July. He was the Cleveland starting QB the past four seasons, until they signed Deshaun Watson in the offseason. We know he’s going to want to get revenge against his former team.
Running back Christian McCaffrey has been injured the past two seasons so he’s missed a ton of games. If he can stay healthy, he’s one of the best players in the league.
Watson is suspended the first eleven games of the season so backup Jacoby Brissett will play.
Cleveland has an elite back with Nick Chubb but I expect them to struggle on offense. I’m picking the Panthers to win.
Tampa Bay @ Dallas: This is a good Sunday night game of teams that made the playoffs last season. They also played the season opener in 2021 in Tampa.
Tom Brady is now 45 years old but his play hasn’t slowed down. The Buccaneers have had injuries to the interior of their offensive line that could cause some problems.
Receiver Chris Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 last season. He’s making a good recovery and will possibly be ready to play Week 1. If he does the question is how will he look coming off the injury? It typically takes one year for the knee to fully recover.
I think the Bucs will win a close game against the Cowboys.