Aug 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) rushes during the first half of the game against thePhiladelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Week One Preview: Top Five Games to Watch

Prognosticating the initial week of any given NFL season is the most difficult task of any because none of the teams have a real track record to speak of, and that’s always by design.

By the way, if you do need help in drafting your Fantasy league, read my article on it: “2013 Fantasy Football Corner: Tips on How to Draft” – there’s a TON of good info, tips and strategy there to help get your season off to a great start.

This NFL preseason really seems like more of a chess match than ever, with teams running vanilla packages with second and third-string players. This past weekend has been the lull before the storm but with college ball getting launched and Fantasy leagues being drafted.

The Bill Belichicks of the NFL are trying to hide behind distractions regarding players they release like Tim Tebow rather than talk about what’s ahead. As the days dwindle, the passions will all come to a head when the REAL game plans are installed. However, the Patriots will still be the Patriots and the Jaguars will still be the Jaguars.

Sorting through the noise, I have my own list of top-five games to keep an eye on for this weekend: Rematches galore, too!

1) New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys:

This game with its recent history belongs at the top of the list for the Opening Week games. Lots of dynamics are going on here.

Aug 24, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after a catch against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter at AT

First of all, there’s the Cowboys’ opening of the stadium being ruined with a Giants victory, and with the Giants winning in 4 shootout-style games starting with that first-ever game at the new digs. That has to sting and stick in Jerry Jones’ craw – as with the Dallas Cowboys players and coaches.

In the NFC East matchup, the winner has a tiebreaker edge on the other as well.

Fantasy questions will begin getting answered here:

– Will Dez Bryant maximize his ability and Fantasy Football potential? Will Giants RB David Wilson? How will Romo look and does he turn the ball over? Can DeMarco Murray be The Guy in the Dallas backfield?

Historically, this game has been very entertaining and worth watching no matter who you root for. And it’s actually “AT&T Stadium” but most people don’t tow the corporate line. It’s football sacrilege and I won’t do it. It’s Cowboys Stadium.

At any rate, I think Romo takes advantage of a banged-up Giants defense and the Cowboys start off on the right foot, winning 27-23.

2) Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

– Questions all around this matchup too. How will Joe Flacco handle the Ravens offense and how will the team look overall with it being gutted this offseason? How will the absence of Denver’s pair of elite pass-rushers affect their game? Will Ray Rice be giving some carries to Bernard Pierce? Is Torrey Smith ready to be a #1 WR? What will Wes Welker’s role in Peyton Manning’s offensive juggernaut be, and what RB will see the carries?

In any case, you can bet Jacoby Jones isn’t going to be able to get deep in this game.

Baltimore uses the uncertainty to their advantage and sneak up a bit on Denver, 33-24.

3) Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers

– Two very similar teams face off in Charlotte here as the fashionable choice for the Super Bowl visits the underrated and under-respected Carolina Panthers. This game was like a long heavyweight bout last season and looks to be similar this season. The Panthers defense has looked fantastic so far in the preseason but have to make a statement that they’ve arrived. There’s no place like home to do it and no better team to throttle than the over-hyped Seattle Seahawks.

Aug 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) forces a fumble from Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce (30) in the second quarter at M

Everyone is just about handing at least an NFC Conference Championship Game appearance to these guys despite the fact that their big free agent, Percy Harvin, is injured and won’t be around until deep into the season. WR Sidney Rice is known to be fragile and all the burden will be on the shoulders of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. If either one falters, suddenly this team looks mortal.

Meanwhile, nobody gives the Panthers a chance to even make much noise within their own division while having a likely top-five front-seven and a budding superstar MLB in Luke Kuechly. I think the Carolina defense is going to be a lot more disruptive this season than last and winds up defeating the Seahawks almost by itself. Cam and company may not have lots of weapons but they have enough to move the chains along with a deep threat present with Ted Ginn, jr.

I think DeAngelo Williams is someone a lot of fantasy players need to keep an eye on and snatch up with a big week one…especially if it comes against a defense the caliber of Seattle’s.

Panthers win the turnover battle and the game, 21-17.

4) Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49’ers

– Another re-match of last season, only in San Franciso instead of at Lambeau. I had the Niners pegged to win that one when everyone was so high on those unstoppable Packers. The Niners had the better roster top to bottom both then and now. It helps to play at home against AR-12 and keep an eye on RB Eddie Lacy.

Aug 23, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Benson Mayowa (95) during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers simply have to find a running game to make enemy defenses at least pay it a little respect instead of teeing off on their studly QB.

49’ers win a game that may not live up to the hype, 34-20.

5) Arizona @ St. Louis

– This last top-5 game may raise some eyebrows, but it shouldn’t if you think about it.

This is an NFC West game that should say more about the “other” part of that division aside from the Seahawks and Niners. There’s not a poor defense in the bunch in this division and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if all four of them wound up in the top-ten in overall defense at the end of the year.

However, the Arizona Cardinals just lost their prize rookie guard, former UNC standout Jonathan Cooper, to an ACL/MCL deal and is gone for the season. Remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost their top guard of the draft last year? David DeCastro went down in the preseason as well, but is back for the 2013 campaign.

The Cardinals really were counting on his presence to bolster their horrid interior line, so this is going to take some wind out of their sails as they cannot replace a talent like Coop.

I think the Rams show a fluid and fast defense that will bother that ‘Zona O.

Rams take it at home, 23-13.

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Tags: 2013 NFL Opening Day Preview NFL Week One Preview

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