By Danny Cox
The 2015 NFL regular season opens up this week, and there are already a number of games that will have serious implications in the AFC. Every single game counts, and what takes place this weekend is going to say a lot about how the season goes. That makes now a good time to talk to an expert about the importance of this weekend’s upcoming matchups.
Boomer Esiason, former NFL player and current studio analyst for CBS’ The NFL Today and Inside The NFL on Showtime, knows the ins and outs of the NFL like no other. His insight on three of the big opening weekend games sheds a lot of light on how things may progress from here on out.
Miami Dolphins vs. Washington Redskins, CBS 1pm ET
Is Robert Griffin III”s time in Washington over and done?
Boomer Esiason: “I actually don’t think RG3’s time is over at all yet. This could present a very unique opportunity for him. If Kirk Cousins goes out there and doesn’t play well, Robert Griffin III is going to be champing at the bit to get on the field. If that time comes, everyone is going to be hoping that Griffin can recapture the special rookie season he had, and that is especially true if the Redskins get off to a bad start.
His times is truly not up.”
Will Ndamukong Suh be able to breathe new life into the Dolphins’ defense and make them better as a whole unit?
BE: “As of this preseason, the Miami Dolphins are one of the five best teams in the NFL. A lot of it has to do with the improvement of Ryan Tannehill, and this could be the year he firmly establishes himself as one of the elite…a top 10 quarterback.
Defensively? The line is one of the top three in all of football, and all three are in the AFC East. Suh does nothing but strengthen it and will help push the Dolphins into the playoffs.”
Both teams have been down for years, which one has the best chance of actually having a successful season?
BE: “From everyone I’ve talked to, I don’t hear more than six wins for the Redskins this year…they’re a bottom third team. I don’t like this week’s matchup for Washington, either. Their offensive line is going to get all they can handle from the Dolphins defense. One team is going to the playoffs and the other has a lot more to fix.”
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets, CBS 1pm ET
How much of an impact will Geno Smith’s injury have on the Jets offense?
BE: “With Chan Gailey’s offense, the guys on that team were concerned, but I think they’re happy now. No, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a top 10 guy, but he is more than quality at the quarterback position on any given basis. Veteran players like Chris Ivory, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker…they are all happy with him as their leader and know he can keep them in every game; maybe even lead them to a nine or 10-win season.”
Will Johnny Manziel be able to break through and make a name for himself this season?
BE: “He has to make an impact. Manziel was having a really good preseason until he had some tendinitis that slowed him down. He’s a truly exciting player when he is out there and it’s all going to come down to how Luke McCown does this year. The Browns are not a good running team and still years away from being a really good team, but they’re getting better.
The main frustration in the fans comes from never knowing who will be the coach or the quarterback or the offense in Cleveland. Johnny Manziel has a chance to have a good future, but he has to prove it now.”
What can Cleveland do about their anemic running game after trading away Terrance West? Is Ray Rice an option?
BE: “Well, it’s going to be running back by committee, but I’m an advocate for Ray Rice. I think he deserves a second chance and the Browns would be a great spot for him to land. The running backs coach is still the same one he had in his early days in Baltimore.
The thing now is…would the Browns get Ray Rice during the early part of his career or the one that played in his final season before his suspension?”
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos, CBS 4:25pm ET
Baltimore is an early Super Bowl 50 favorite, do you believe they have all the pieces to make it there?
BE: “Baltimore and Denver are both playoff contenders from their respective divisions. The Ravens are honestly a nightmare matchup for a lot of teams in the NFL. They are big…strong…experienced and have a quarterback in Joe Flacco that can have a big-time game on any given Sunday. They have one of the best offensive lines in the game and everything needed to make it to the Super Bowl.”
Will the departure of Julius Thomas hurt the Broncos offense this season?
BE: “Yes, very much so. Eric Decker as well. You work for years with big wide receivers and big tight ends and then they leave for big money with other teams. No question, this hurts the Broncos.
I’ll tell you though…the Broncos are going to try and morph into more of a running team. They did the same thing near the end of John Elway’s career and won back-to-back Super Bowls. They can do the same now with Peyton Manning and have less time in the shotgun for him with running the clock more, getting that extra yard, and a having a great defense.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.