The National Football League will complete their opening week action tonight with a pair of Monday Night Football matchups. The first game, featuring the New Orleans Saints against the Houston Texans at the New Orleans Superdome, will start at 4:10 p.m. Pacific Time. The nightcap, has the Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders and is scheduled for a 7:20 p.m. kickoff.
It has been an eventful offseason leading up to their openers for these four teams, although it is business as usual for the Saints while more soap opera for the rest. The Saints are one of the favorites to represent the National Football Conference in Super Bowl LIV next February, while the Houston Texans are one of those teams with promise and possibilities that has never been fully realized.
Led by Drew Brees, New Orleans looks to grind out another sterling season from a quarterback who in his career has defied the odds. By NFL quarterback standards, Brees is too short, 6’, and he had to overcome a serious injury early in his career that was a catalyst of him being traded by the San Diego Chargers to the Saints. Now, at 40-years of age, he looks to stay ahead of father time.
Brees holds all-time passing records for yards, completions, completion percentage, consecutive games with a touchdown toss and a slew of other categories the statisticians at Elias Sports Bureau uncover.
What Brees would like this season, is a second Super Bowl win.
That quest begins tonight when his team hosts the Houston Texans, who two weeks ago parted ways with the man they made the first pick in the draft five years ago, Jadeveon Clowney. When the Texans added him to their defensive line, it was thought that the Texans, who already had J.J. Watt, would have a front stop unit to rival the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s. Instead, they got a player that missed most of his rookie season with injuries and never developed into the athlete his college career promised.
In recent years, the Texans have been a team that also had great promise that was supplanted by crippling injuries. Now, in his sixth season as the Texans head coach, Bill O’Brien is at a make or break season. In his career with Houston, he has won 43 and lost 41 games. That record was built in a time span that coincides with the seasons Clowny was on his Texans roster.
Tonight, Houston opens a campaign where they are counting on their offense to carry the load as much as their talented defense. But, in the preseason, they lost their top rusher when Lamar Miller went down with a season ending injury. At quarterback, Houston features one of the seemingly bright stars of the game, Deshaun Watson.
He completed his college career after a junior season that included a National Championship for the Clemson Tigers. In his first two seasons with the Texans, Watson has thrown 45 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Tonight, he will duel the veteran of the Saints on Brees’ home field, and the Texans appear poised to be able to trade points with New Orleans.
The question is, will the hometown crowd in a season opener move the Saints to not only a win, but have that victory come by a touchdown or more to clear the 6½ point spread? My leanings would be for the visitors with the points tonight, but betting into a Brees home opener is not where I want to put my money.
As for the later contest, involving the Denver Broncos in a game to open the Oakland Raiders last season in the Bay Area, there are more moving parts in this game than you can find under the hood of new car.
The Broncos have a new quarterback to open their season, what’s new? John Elway continues his search to find a capable signal caller since Peyton Manning completed his career in Denver four years ago. His high draft choices, Brock Osweiler, 2nd round, and Paxton Lynch, 1st round, both failed. A seventh round pick in 2015, Trevor Siemian, had some success but also fizzled soon enough and is now a backup with the New York Jets. Another late pick, Chad Kelly, had his career end before it started.
This year, the Broncos turn to one-time Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco, and if he rises in the Mile High City the Broncos stand a chance to be very good. They still have the core defensive unit that was largely responsible for their Super Bowl win four years ago.
Across from them tonight are the Raiders, who begin their last season in Oakland, they are scheduled to move to Las Vegas next season, with turmoil in the front office and the loss of the player they built their offense around. Looking to improve upon last year’s four win campaign, the Raiders made headlines with the acquisition of wide receiver Antonio Brown. One might have wondered why the Steelers were willing to allow Brown to change uniforms for a third and fifth round draft selection? Wonder no more, the man brings more baggage than a bellman following the Kardashians and caused more disruption in the Raiders organization than a bee at a picnic.
Take your pick for elements that caused Brown to focus on things other than contributing to his team’s success. Bad feet, wrong helmet, missed practices, missed meetings, illegal phone call releases or just the overall attitude that he is more important than his team. The Steelers rid themselves of those problems and were willing to surrender his talent for the opportunity. Now Brown is with the New England Patriots, who signed him on Saturday after he requested and was granted his release from the Raiders.
On a personal note, I hope his disruptive nature messes with the Patriots, and their organization suffers from what now looks like another coup where they get Brown, while the Raiders lose two draft choices and the Steelers had to part ways with one of the most talented players in game.
But, more importantly, what does that mean for tonight?
I don’t want the Raiders in their current state, and I’m not willing to give points on the road with a still suspect Denver squad. I don’t want to bet against Brees tonight, and I’m not inclined to bet against Watson putting up enough points to nip the spread.
Too many moving parts with tonight’s NFL combatants to land on an opening Monday pick with any of them.