“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” – Jimmy Buffett, me and every other red blooded American.
As an east coaster, I’ve been saying for years that the NFL is missing out on a major audience. Happy hour! The earliest weekday games start at 8:30 pm. Would it kill the league to have a Monday Night game start early now and then? The first Monday of the year comes the closest as the night’s doubleheader starts at 7 pm. Close enough as, nowadays, thanks to bar marketing, happy hour stretches in to the 7 o’clock hour.
Not sure about you but I love the idea of a happy hour timed NFL game more often. This year’s happy hour game is in Atlanta with the Falcons hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s an interesting matchup with a lot of new bodies on both teams. Philly’s additions have been widely publicized this offseason and the Falcons boast a new head coach, Dan Quinn. Quinn comes to Atlanta by way of Seattle where he served as their defensive coordinator when the Seahawks shut down Chip Kelly’s offense last year at Lincoln Financial Field. Personnel-wise, the Iggles’ offense is a shell of that team, replacing one wide receiver, two running backs, both guards and the quarterback so most of that tape can be thrown out with the baby’s bath water. However, Quinn has familiarity with Kelly’s system and tempo and that is key.
The Eagles will play Monday with a staggering amount of personnel changeover on both sides of the ball and while the starters looked nothing short of fantastic in the preseason, we all need to see this in the regular season. We all need to see it when an opposing team runs more than a base defense and actually prepares for Kelly’s tempo. We all need to see the communication between inside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks. We all need to see how the new defensive backfield can handle an accurate quarterback and an elite wide receiver.
As for Atlanta, Matt Ryan is one of those quarterbacks that, while always pretty good, is exceptional at home. Julio Jones is going to be moved all over the field to get the right matchup. Look for him in the slot against Nolan Carroll. The Falcons didn’t vastly improve the talent on the defense but they have a top notch coach calling the shots now in Quinn.
The Pick: As recent as ten days ago, I pegged the Falcons as a double digit victor. But I’m getting swept up in Iggles Fever. As objective as I like to be, the heart wants what the heart wants. Plus, after a conversation with CBS Sports’ John Kincade in Atlanta who sees the Falcons up close every day and additional Falcons defense research, I can’t in good conscience pick an Atlanta rout. I am still picking the Falcons in a squeaker, 34 -33. Expect a highly entertaining game!
Here are a few more items of interest as the NFL train pulls in to the station in YOUR Week 1 What 2 Watch 4:
Indianapolis at Buffalo. The new look Bills will feature quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Lesean McCoy for the first time and head coach Rex Ryan promises a bullying defense in 2015. It’s a nice test for them as they host Andrew Luck, Frank Gore and the Indianapolis Colts. The big question for Indianapolis this season will be if they can run the ball effectively.
Seattle at St. Louis. These two teams feature deep defenses and in 2014, they split the series with the home team winning each time. Sunday marks Jimmy Graham’s debut with Seattle and St. Louis will unveil their new quarterback, Nick Foles. Look for Seattle to win the early game in this series as the Rams won’t have their running game for another month.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay. This one is obvious. Jameis Winston hosts Marcus Mariota as the top two picks in the past draft square off.
Baltimore at Denver. Heavyweight matchup of the week as we get our first look at Gary Kubiak’s Broncos. Denver also marks the first stop on Steve Smith, Sr.’s farewell tour.
New York Giants at Dallas. The Sunday night game is a pivotal NFC matchup and an important one for Dallas. By the end of week 9, the Cowboys will have played both division games against the GMen and both against Philadelphia.
Check back here on Tuesday at voodoobrown.com for my Week 1 NFL Notes & Musings, catching you up on what you may have missed over the weekend!
Follow me on Twitter: @darrendegaetano