(Editor's note: Every week this season, gay teenage NFL fan Jeremy Brener will give his perspective and predictions for the upcoming week).
The day is finally here! For the first time in 220 days, a meaningful NFL game will take place Thursday. It feels like an eternity since Pete Carroll didn't run it with Marshawn at the 1, and Malcolm Butler intercepted the hopes and dreams of a Seahawks repeat. Since then, the Patriots have spent their offseason smothered in Deflategate, but I believe I speak for everyone that we are sick and tired of the horrors of Deflategate and ready for some football.
Even though I am only 17, and haven't been a football fan as long as most, I'd say that last season was one of the most entertaining week-by-week sagas I have ever experienced. This is why I love the NFL. It is unlike any other sport or any other league. Today is like Christmas morning for me. It is the start of the 22 most exciting weeks of the year.
The 2014 NFL season captivated me so much that it propelled me to write about it. Each week, I will spill out my thoughts and predictions on what will happen for the weekend - game-related, fantasy-related, hot guy-related. Comment below if you would like me to add anything for next week and the weeks to come.
Week 1 is the most exciting week of the year other than Week 17, because it's just so unpredictable. You never know what will happen week one. An undrafted rookie receiver could score two touchdowns in his first two catches (Allen Hurns, 2014), a running back can break multiple team records to go on to win a rushing title (Arian Foster, 2010), or a quarterback can throw a league-record seven touchdowns en route to his fifth MVP award (Peyton Manning, 2013).
Game of the Week
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
These Patriots may be the defending Super Bowl champs, but this team looks a lot different from the team we saw last year. Yes, Tom Brady will play, but the defense looks quite different as Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner found new teams this offseason. The team's starting running back LeGarrette Blount will also not be seen, as he is suspended for his arrest when police found marijuana in his car. Also in that car was his ex-teammate LeVeon Bell, who is also suspended for tonight's contest, and for the next two games. The Steelers will miss Bell, but will look to DeAngelo Williams to carry the load. I expect a tight first half, but New England will pull away in the second half and win 34-24.
Upset of the Week
Jacksonville Jaguars over Carolina Panthers
I like Jacksonville to surprise a few teams and get off on the right foot with a win over the Panthers. The Jaguars are a team that has been making strides in the right direction, and the Panthers have gone the other way. The Panthers have won their division the last two seasons, but they did not have a good offseason. They lost WR Kelvin Benjamin for the season to injury, and failed to improve their Swiss cheese of an offensive line. I expect Jacksonville to take advantage, make a statement and surprise a few people in Week 1 by putting a tally in the win column to begin the season.
Honorable Mention: Baltimore Ravens over Denver Broncos
Fantasy Start of the Week
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Washington Redskins
Washington is a hot mess. There is no way around that. The QB situation is iffy, and the QB sets the tone for the whole team. That is why the Redskins had a horrid 2014, and will have an even more horrid 2015. They need consistency at QB if they want to succeed on both sides of the ball. Their defense is also filled with questions. Brian Orakpo said goodbye to the nation's capital for the Music City, and Junior Galette is out for the season. The secondary is also weak, even with the addition of Chris Culliver and former 49er and Buccaneer Dashon Goldson. With Ryan Tannehill's new WR depth, he is going to have a holiday in D.C. on Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Eagles QB Sam Bradford vs. Atlanta Falcons
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Cowboys RB Joseph Randle vs. New York Giants
This one is tough for me because I drafted Joseph Randle early in one of my drafts hoping he would mirror even a small amount of the success that DeMarco Murray had last season with Dallas' incredible offensive line. And he could very well still have a great season and end up in the Top 10 RBs. But, Dallas is going to at least start out the season with a committee. Darren McFadden, and newly-acquired Christine Michael should get touches, limiting Randle's fantasy value this week. I'm hoping Randle becomes a no-brainer start in the coming weeks, but Week 1 is not the time to start him. Bench him and wait a few weeks until McFadden injures himself and Michael proves himself unreliable.
Honorable Mention: Jets WR Brandon Marshall vs. Cleveland Browns
Sure-Fire Win of the Week
Miami Dolphins over Washington Redskins
If you're in a survivor/eliminator pool, the Redskins are a smart choice for a loss, and the Dolphins a smart choice for a win. Miami has had a good camp with few injuries, while the Redskins have had quite the opposite, with a quarterback change, and a dysfunctional front office. The equation equals disaster for the Redskins, who begin their nightmare season with a loss.
Honorable Mention: Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread, so bet accordingly (generally for the other team).
Baltimore +4.5 at Denver. Pick: Denver.
Peyton Manning is 22-2 at home in the regular season as a starter and the Broncos have covered every one of his home openers. The Ravens will be a better team in December than September and are still figuring things out at several key positions. The Broncos kick off the Gary Kubiak era with a solid win. Broncos by 10.
Hot Player on the Field
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. San Francisco 49ers
AP hasn't seen the field in over a year, and his rest should help him against a new-look 49ers defense. Peterson should light up the bright lights of Monday Night Football in Santa Clara and lead his team to a win in Week 1 with more than 150 yards and a pair of scores.
Honorable Mention: Broncos WR Demariyus Thomas vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hot Player off the Field
Ravens CB Charles James II (above)
I understand he's a practice squad guy with the Baltimore Ravens, but while he is still experiencing his much-deserved 15 minutes of fame from being a star on HBO's "Hard Knocks," I'm going to make him my first hot player of the week. He's built like a mack truck, has a fly sock game, an infectious personality and he's such a class act. It sucks that my Houston Texans couldn't keep him; the NFL is truly a rough business. Best of luck to James in Baltimore, and I hope he sees some game action this year. With Baltimore's lack of depth at CB, it wouldn't surprise me if he does.
Honorable Mention: Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Jeremy Brener lives in Houston. He can be reached via email (email@example.com) or Twitter (@BrenerJeremy).