A guide to the best and worst of the NFL slate (and to which fans are stuck with the most of worst). Maps via 506sports.com.
Welcome back to football everyone! As a friendly reminder that not all teams are created equal, on Thursday Peyton Manning nearly matched the Chiefs passing TD total from last year. The Chiefs are just one the many terrible teams that millions of Americans will be forced to watch this Sunday. Here are your schedules:
Kansas City at Jacksonville: These two teams went a combined 4-28 last year. Both snagged offensive linemen with their draft picks, so unless you like paying rapt attention to the intricacies of lineman play (and credit to you if you do) there could not be a less interesting game to kick off the first Sunday of NFL football.
Oakland at Indianapolis: This season, the Raiders are spending about $50 million in "dead money," i.e. the cap dollars owed to players no longer on the team. This will actually free them up in the long-term, but for now it means that they're spending only $68 million on actual players, which is $19 million less than the next lowest team (the Bills). The Raiders are the Astros of the NFL.
Miami at Cleveland: Is $117 million in offseason spending enough for Miami to finally take down the dreaded Browns? Stay tuned.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh: Jake Locker was sneakily one of the worst quarterbacks in football last year, with 11 picks against 10 touchdowns and an average of just 198 yards per game. The Titans were only able to put up 330 points last year, good for 23rd in the league and six behind the Steelers, 22nd in the league.
New England at Buffalo: The Bills are starting a rookie QB against a team that they've beat once in their last 19 tries. This rookie QB backed up Christian Ponder for half of college.
Cincinnati at Chicago: This is a piece-of-shit round that's full of terrible games.
Tampa Bay at NY Jets: Bleh.
Seattle at Carolina: Last year the Panthers were 1-7 in games decided by one touchdown or fewer, which is extraordinarily unlucky. If they'd pulled off just two more of those games, we'd be talking about how a talent-loaded Carolina, coming off a 9-7 season, is poised to make a run at the NFC South title. A bonus, we get to see if exciting young'un Russell Wilson (born in 1988) can stay on his hot streak against veteran disappointment Cam Newton (born in 1989).
Minnesota at Detroit: Of all the permutations of NFC North teams playing each other, this has to be the least interesting.
Atlanta at New Orleans: The last time Atlanta played their NFC South rivals at the Superdome, the Saints ended the Falcons undefeated season. In the last two games in New Orleans, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees have combined for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Arizona at St. Louis: The Cardinals jumped out to a cute 4-0 record to start last season, and they ended the year at a "terrible-but-they're-no-Jaguars" 5-11. Make no mistake, though: In their last 12 games, the Cardinals were maybe the worst team in football, averaging just 13 points per game.
Green Bay at San Francisco: Green Bay has been given a green light to hit the shit out of Colin Kaepernick even if he doesn't have the ball. This'll be fun.
This week's winner is Thomasville, Ga., which gets Kansas City at Jacksonville, Tampa Bay at NY Jets, and Green Bay at San Francisco. Chiefs-Jags is the worst game of the week–maybe of the year–but the real sting comes from the fact that Thomasville will be freezed out of Atlanta at New Orleans. According to Facebook mapping, the southwestern Georgia city is firmly in Falcons territory, not Bucs territory, probably because it's 60 miles closer to Atlanta than Tampa Bay. Plus, it's the hometown of the bruising William Andrews, who went to four Pro Bowls with the Falcons in the 1980s and gave HOFer Ronnie Lott the worst hit of his career.