After weeks of OTA’s, pre-season games, sweating in a hot sun, sleeping in college dorms, two-a-days, fighting teammates, the bugs and the heat… it’s finally time for football.

The National Football League got underway last Thursday evening in the Mile High City as the defending Super Bowl champions got their rings as they faced off against the team they beat for the Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara last January, the Carolina Panthers.

Peyton’s gone, in case you’ve forgotten. He’s ridden off into the sunset and there was some talk as to who would replace him. In the end, the football gods decided that it would be …

As for the team that Denver beat to get to Santa Clara? New England? They’ll be without the services of Tom Brady for four games for his role in Deflategate a few years ago. Brady will be back in week five, when they take on the Cleveland Browns, who will also be without the services of Josh Gordon (failed drug test). That contest in Foxboro is already being billed as the “Suspension Bowl.”

But enough about that.

One game’s already in the books as Denver escaped with a one-point win aginst Cam Newton and the Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. The Super Bowl 50 champions Denver Broncos have the top mark in the NFL. winning 23 of its past 25 home openers. It’s when things start to count.

Some clubs have excelled in openers. Here is a sampling of notable active NFL Kickoff streaks:

AFC East champion New England, who travels to Arizona on Sunday Night Football, have a 16-4 record on the road against NFC teams over the past 10 seasons. The Patriots have the fifth-most Kickoff Weekend wins among AFC teams (31).

AFC South champion Houston, who opens the season hosting Chicago, have won five of their past six home openers.

NFC West champion Arizona, who hosts New England on Kickoff Weekend, have the third-longest current winning streak among NFC teams in home openers (six).

NFC East champion Washington and the San Francsico 49ers start the season at home against Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, respectively, during a Monday Night Football doubleheader. Washington has 48 wins in home openers – the fifth-most amongst NFC teams – while San Francisco has won 14 of its past 20 home openers.

Green Bay, traveling to Jacksonville on Kickoff Weekend, hold the record for the most wins in road openers (54) and the second-best winning percentage in openers on the road (.581, 54-39-2).

Pittsburgh, who travels to Washington on Monday night of Kickoff Weekend, have the most wins (41) among AFC teams on Kickoff Weekend.

Atlanta, who will host Tampa Bay to open the 2016 campaign, has won eight consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks, who host Miami on Kickoff Weekend in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, have won seven
consecutive home openers, the second-longest streak in the league

The New York Jets host Cincinnati on Kickoff Weekend having won five consecutive home openers, the longest active streak among AFC teams

The Chicago Bears (65-27-4), who host Philadelphia in Week 2 on Monday Night Football, have a .707 winning percentage in home openers, the second-best mark in the NFL

The Dallas Cowboys, without Tony Romo (back) begin the year by hosting the New York Giants with a 38-17-1 (.691) record in openers at home, the fourth-best winning percentage in NFL history.

HEAD COACHES: New England’s Bill Belichick is 14-7 (.667) on Kickoff Weekend and his 14 wins are the most among active head coaches…Belichick and Los Angeles’ Jeff Fisher (12-8; .600) are the only active head coaches who have won at least 10 Kickoff Weekend games and own an opening weekend winning percentage above .500… Denver’s Gary Kubiak (6-3) and Buffalo’s Rex Ryan (6-1) have each won five consecutive games on Kickoff Weekend, the longest current streak among active head coaches New York Jets’ Todd Bowles (1-0) of the Jets, Cleveland’s Hue Jackson (1-0) and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn (1-0) are the only active head coaches with perfect records on Kickoff Weekend.

As for new men roaming the sideline, there will be five – Miami’s Adam Gase, Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter, the New York Giants’ Ben McAdoo, Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson and Tennessee’s Mike Mularkey – make their Kickoff Weekend debuts in 2016.

The 2016 regular-season schedule – spanning 17 weeks and 256 games – kicked off Thursday evening in Denver and conclude on Sunday, January 1 with 16 division games. The Denver-Carolina contest marked the first time that a Super Bowl rematch took place on Kickoff Weekend since 1970, when the Chiefs and Vikings met.

Week 1 is a FOX national weekend with the key doubleheader game on Sunday, September 11 at 4:25 p.m. featuring the New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys in a clash between NFC East rivals. Among the highlights in the 1 p.m. ET window on Kickoff Weekend is the New York Jets at home on September 11 hosting the Cincinnati Bengals on CBS.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets underway on September 11 when the Arizona Cardinals host the New England Patriots at 8:30 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium. Both clubs advanced to the Conference Championship Game last season.

Monday night fans? You haven’t been left out. There are going to be two MNF games in the first week.

Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 12 with an ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader. The Washington Redskins will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:10 p.m. in the first game followed by the return of the Los Angeles Rams, who visit the San Francisco 49ers in the nightcap at 10:20 p.m.

As for Monday night, ESPN will be the place to be for football and they will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 2-16. There will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 17) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs. ESPN will also broadcast the Pro Bowl on Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m. which will be played at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

A select number of games will be “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences. Some of those contests have already been announced, including the Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (12:30 p.m., CBS) on Thanksgiving Day and the Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m. CBS) in Week 11 (Sunday, November 20). Other “cross-flexed” games will be decided during the season.

Other highlights of the 2016 schedule include:

In Week 2, the Rams will return home to Los Angeles when they host the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon (4:05 p.m., FOX). That night in primetime (8:30 p.m., NBC), the Minnesota Vikings will open their new home – U.S. Bank Stadium – when they host the rival Green Bay Packers.

On Monday night, September 26, the New Orleans Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina when the Saints defeated the Falcons 23-3 on Monday night, September 25, 2006.

Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Thursday, November 24. The first game will send the Minnesota Vikings to Detroit to face the Lions at 12:30 p.m. on CBS. The late afternoon game will feature the Washington Redskins visiting the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. on FOX in an NFC East matchup and the holiday concludes with the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC at 8:30 p.m.

In Week 16, the majority of games will be played on Saturday, December 24 due to the Christmas holiday, highlighted by a primetime matchup on NFL Network between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans at 8:25 p.m. There will be two games played on Christmas – the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Baltimore Ravens on NFL Network at 4:30 p.m. followed by the Denver Broncos visiting the Kansas City Chiefs on NBC at 8:30 p.m.

Get that passport ready! The NFL will continue its International Series of regular-season games with three games being played in London and the league’s return to Mexico City. On Sunday, October 2, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at London’s Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. on CBS (Be sure to set the DVR in case you have an early church service!). In the first-ever NFL game at Twickenham Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams will host the New YorkGiants on Sunday, October 23 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. The following week, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Wembley at 9:30 a.m. on FOX and the ). The NFL will return to Mexico City on Monday, November 21 (8:30 p.m. ESPN) when the Oakland Raiders host the Houston Texans in the first-ever Monday Night Football game to be played outside the United States.

This season, the NFL will use a “Tri-Cast” distribution model of broadcast (CBS/NBC), cable (NFL Network) and digital  (Twitter) for 10 Thursday Night Football games. CBS and NBC will each broadcast five Thursday Night Football games which will be simulcast on NFL Network and streamed to a global audience across devices for free on Twitter. CBS will start in Week 2 Thursday, September 15) with the Buffalo Bills hosting the New York Jets at 8:30 p.m. and NBC’s package begins in Week 11 (Thursday, November 17) with the New Orleans Saints travel to the Tar Heel State for a meeting with the Carolina Panthers at  8:25 p.m. Additionally, NFL Network will also exclusively televise an eight-game schedule comprised of four Thursday Night Football games, two late-season Saturday contests, a Sunday morning London matchup and a Christmas Day game.

The NFL’s 32 teams will each play 16 games over 17 weeks. Byes will begin in Week 4 and end in Week 13.

“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 10-15 and 17. Additionally, in Weeks 5-9, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-15, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.

A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to January 1. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17 but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into prime time.

The playoffs will include four division winners and two wild cards from each conference. The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, January 7-8. The two division winners with the best records in each conference will earn first round byes.

Wild Card Weekend winners join the top two division champions in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 14-15. The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 22. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 5 in Super Bowl LI at Houston’s NRG Stadium (FOX).

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m. on ESPN at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. The NFL is the only sports league that presents all regular-season and postseason games on free, over-the-air television in local markets. All postseason games are televised nationally.

The regular season will conclude with Week 17 on Sunday, January 1. For the seventh consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for Week 17 are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications. Additionally, over the final three weeks there are 33 division games, tied for the most in NFL history.

What to look for as far as teams are concerned in 2016?

The New York Giants need three victories to become the third team in NFL history with 700 total victories. The Giants (697-591-33) would join Chicago (758-573-42) and Green Bay (752-568-37) as the only teams to accomplish the feat. Their stadium mates, the New York Jets, need one victory to reach 400 total victories. The Jets’ all-time record is 399-470-8. The Houston Texans need one victory to reach 100 total victories. Houston’s all-time record is 99-129.

As far as players go…

Drew Brees, QB-New Orleans, needs 459 passing yards to surpass Dan Marino (61,361) for the third-most all-time. In 15 seasons, Brees has 60,903 passing yards.

Brees can extend his NFL record streak of consecutive seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes. Brees has passed for at least 30 touchdowns in each of the past eight seasons.

Brees can become the first player to lead the league in passing yards seven times in his career. Sonny Jurgensen (5) and Dan Marino (5) are tied for the second-most such seasons in NFL history. Brees has led the NFL in passing yards six times.

Brees needs two 400-yard passing games to surpass Peyton Manning (14) for the most all-time. In 15 seasons, Brees has 13 400-yard passing games.

Brees can extend his NFL record of 300-yard passing games. In 15 seasons, Brees has 96 300-yard passing games. Brees has led the league in touchdown passes four times in his career and can become the only player to lead the league in touchdown passes five times.

Brees has led the league in completions four times and can join Dan Marino (6) and Sammy Baugh (5) as the only players to lead the league in completions at least five times.

Brees has led the league in pass attempts three times in his career and can join Dan Marino (5) Sammy Baugh (4), Johnny Unitas (4) and George Blanda (4) as the only players to lead the league in attempts at least four times.

TOM BRADY, QB-New England, needs seven wins to surpass Peyton Manning (200) and Brett Favre (199) for the most overall (regular season and postseason) wins by a quarterback in NFL history. In 16 seasons, Brady has 194 overall wins.

Brady needs 3,334 passing yards to surpass Dan Marino (61,361) for the third-most all-time. In 16 seasons, Brady has 58,028 passing yards. Brady has led the league in touchdown passes four times in his career and can become the only player to lead the league in touchdown passes five times.

ELI MANNING, QB-New York Giants, needs six touchdown passes to become the eighth player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes. In 12 seasons, Manning has 294 touchdown passes.

PHILIP RIVERS, QB-San Diego, has led the league in average yards per pass three times in his career and can join Steve Young (5) and Sid Luckman (7) as the only players in NFL history to do so in at least four seasons.

Rivers needs seven 400-yard passing games to surpass Peyton Manning (14) for the most all-time. In 12 seasons, Rivers has eight 400-yard passing games (see Brees, Palmer and Roethlisberger note).

Rivers needs 19 touchdown passes to become the eighth player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes. In 12 seasons, Rivers has 281 touchdown passes.

CARSON PALMER, QB-Arizona, needs seven 400-yard passing games to surpass Peyton Manning (14) for the most all-time. In 13 seasons, Palmer has eight 400-yard passing games.

Palmer needs 41 touchdown passes to become the eighth player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes. In 13 seasons, Palmer has 259 touchdown passes.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QB-Pittsburgh, needs seven 400-yard passing games to surpass Peyton Manning (14) for the most all-time. In 12 seasons, Roethlisberger has eight 400-yard passing games

Roethlisberger needs 28 touchdown passes to become the eighth player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes. In 12 seasons, Roethlisberger has 272 touchdown passes.

AARON RODGERS, QB-Green Bay, needs 43 touchdown passes to become the eighth player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes. In 11 seasons, Rodgers has 257 touchdown passes.

ADRIAN PETERSON, RB-Minnesota, needs 10 rushing touchdowns to join LaDainian Tomlinson (9) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns in at least nine different seasons. Peterson is currently tied with Emmitt Smith (8).

Peterson has six 200-yard rushing games, tied with O.J. Simpson (6) for the most all-time. Peterson needs one 200-yard rushing game to move into sole possession of first place in NFL history.

Peterson needs three rushing touchdowns to become the ninth player in NFL history with 100 rushing touchdowns. In nine seasons, Peterson has 97 rushing touchdowns.

Peterson needs 2,010 rushing yards to surpass LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) for the fifth-most all-time. In nine seasons, Peterson has 11,675 rushing yards.

Peterson has led the league in rushing yards three times in his career and can become the sixth player to lead the league in rushing yards four times.

FRANK GORE, RB-Indianapolis, needs 1,000 rushing yards to join Curtis Martin (10), Barry Sanders (10), Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith (11) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in at least nine different seasons. In 11 seasons, Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards eight times.

LARRY FITZGERALD, WR-Arizona, needs 85 receptions to surpass Jason Witten (1,020), Isaac Bruce (1,024), Andre Johnson (1,053), Reggie Wayne (1,070), Terrell Owens (1,078), Tim Brown (1,094), Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for the third-most all-time. In 12 seasons, Fitzgerald has 1,018 receptions.

Fitzgerald needs two touchdown receptions to become the 10th player in NFL history with 100 touchdown catches. In 12 seasons, Fitzgerald has 98 touchdown receptions.

BRANDON MARSHALL, WR-New York Jets, can extend his NFL record of seasons with 100 receptions to seven. Andre Johnson and Wes Welker are the only other players with at least five 100-reception seasons.

ANTONIO GATES, TE-San Diego, needs eight touchdown receptions to surpass Tony Gonzalez (111) for the most career touchdown receptions by a tight end. In 13 seasons, Gates has 104 touchdown receptions.

ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE-New England, has three seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and can join Tony Gonzalez (4) and Jason Witten (4) as the only tight ends with at least four seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

Gronkowski can extend his NFL record of five seasons with at least 10 touchdown receptions by a tight end.

JASON WITTEN, TE-Dallas, needs 83 receptions to surpass Isaac Bruce (1,024), Andre Johnson (1,053), Reggie Wayne (1,070), Terrell Owens (1,078), Tim Brown (1,094), Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for the third-most all-time. In 13
seasons, Witten has 1,020 receptions.

JULIUS PEPPERS, LB-Green Bay, needs 14 sacks to become the fourth player with 150 sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982. In 14 seasons, Peppers has 136 sacks.

DE MARCUS WARE, LB-Denver, has led the league in sacks twice in his career and can become the first player to lead the league three times since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

Ware needs 7.5 sacks to surpass Jared Allen (136), Julius Peppers (136), Richard Dent (137.5), John Randle (137.5), Jason Taylor (139.5) and Michael Strahan (141.5) for the fifth-most sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982. In 11 seasons, Ware has 134.5 sacks.

J.J. WATT, LB-Houston, can increase his NFL record total of 20-sack seasons. In five seasons, Watt has two seasons with 20 sacks.

Watt has led the league in sacks twice in his career and can become the first player to lead the league three times since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

AQIB TALIB, CB-Denver, needs two interception-return touchdowns to become the fourth player with 10 all-time. In eight seasons, Talib has eight interception-return touchdowns.

ADAM VINATIERI, K-Indianapolis, needs 36 field goals to surpass Gary Anderson (538) for the second-most all-time. In 20 seasons, Vinatieri has 503 field goals.

Vinatieri needs 44 field goal attempts to surpass George Blanda (641) for the third-most attempted field goals all-time. In 20 seasons, Vinatieri has 598 field goal attempts.

Vinatieri needs 182 points to surpass Gary Anderson (2,434) for the second-most points scored all-time. In 20 seasons, Vinatieri has 2,253 points (742-pat, 503-fg, 1 2-pt).

STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI, K-New England, has led the league in scoring five times in his career and can surpass Don Hutson (5) and Gino Cappelletti (5) as the only player to lead the league in points scored at least six times.

Gostkowski has led the league in scoring for four consecutive seasons (2012-15) and can join Don Hutson (5) as the only players to lead the league in scoring for five consecutive seasons.

Gostkowski has led the league in field goals three times in his career and can join Lou Groza (5), Ward Cuff (4), Jack Manders (4) and Mark Moseley (4) as the only players to lead the league in field goals at least four times.

SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI, K-Oakland, has 52 50-yard field goals, tied with Jason Hanson (52) for the most all-time. Janikowski needs one 50-yard field goal to move into sole possession of first place in NFL history.

As for the coaches? There are some milestones that four current coaches will want to reach in 2016…

BILL BELICHICK, New England, needs four victories to join Don Shula (347), George Halas (324) and Tom Landry (270) as the only coaches to reach 250 career wins. In 21 seasons, Belichick has 246 career victories.

MIKE TOMLIN, Pittsburgh, needs two victories to reach 100 career victories. In nine seasons, Tomlin has 98 career victories.

SEAN PAYTON, New Orleans, needs seven victories to reach 100 career victories. In 10 seasons, Payton has 93 career victories.

JOHN HARBAUGH, Baltimore, needs 13 victories to reach 100 career victories. In eight seasons, Harbaugh has 87 career victories.

Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of an opening game:

Of the 554 teams which won openers…288 went to the playoffs (173 won division titles).
Of the 555 teams which lost openers…134 went to the playoffs (77 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999 to 2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.

In 2015, seven of the 12 playoff teams – Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Kansas City and New England – were victorious on Kickoff Weekend.

SCORING REACHED RECORD HIGHS IN 2015: A total of 11,680 points were scored in 2015, the second-highest total all-time (11,985 in 2013). And there were 1,318 total touchdowns scored, the second-most ever (1,338 in 2013).

2013 – 11,985
2015 – 11,680
2012 – 11,651
2014 – 11,565
2011 – 11,356
2010 – 12,283

2013 – 1,338
2015 – 1,318
2012 – 1,297
2014 – 1,293
2002 – 1,270
2010 – 1,270

Nine teams scored at least 400 points in 2015 – Carolina (500), Arizona (489), New England (465), Pittsburgh (423), Seattle (423), New York Giants (420), Cincinnati (419), New Orleans (408) and Kansas City (405) – tying the 2009, 2012 and 2014 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined for a .667 winning percentage and seven of those clubs qualified for the playoffs.

Led by the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers, who finished 15-1 and scored an NFL-high 500 points on their way to an appearance in Super Bowl 50, many of the NFL’s top-scoring offenses translated those points into wins.

“To see how explosive we are and the points we’ve scored is special,” says Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. “You don’t know if you are going to be a high-scoring team when you start but that had a lot to do with our success. When teams have been together a while, it allows them to have continuity to develop offenses and have it morph into fitting around each other’s skill sets, then good things happen.”

The teams that scored at least 400 points in 2015:

Carolina (500) 15-1, .938*
Arizona (489) 13-3, 813*
New England (485) 12-4, .750*
Pittsburgh (423) 10-6, .625*
Seattle (423) 10-6, .625*
New York Giants (420) 6-10, .375
Cincinnati (419) 12-4*
New Orleans (408); 7-9, .438
Kansas City (405); 11-5, .688*
*Playoff team


MOST YARDS RUSHING (YARDS on Carries; Longest, TD)
Arian Foster, Houston vs. Indianapolis, 9/12/10 (231 yards on 33 carries; longest – 42, 3 TDS)
Michael Turner, Atlanta vs. Detroit, 9/7/08 (220 yards on 22 carries; longest 66t, 2 TDS)
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia vs. Washington, 9/9/13 (184 yards on 31 carries; longest – 34t, TD)
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota vs. Cleveland, 9/13/09 (180 yards on 25 carries; longest – 64t, 3 TD)
Chris Brown, Tennessee vs. Jacksonville, 9/9/07 (175 yards on 19 carries; longest – 42)
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo vs. New York Jets, 9/9/12 (169 yards on 14 carries; longeest – 56t, TD)
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco vs. Minnesota, 9/14/15 (168 yards on 26; longest – 18, 2 TD)
Darren McFadden, Oakland vs. Denver, 9/12/11 (150 yards on 22 carries; longest – 47)
Mike Bell, New Orleans vs. Detroit, 9/13/09 (143 yards on 28 carries; longest – 22)
Matt Forté, Chicago vs. Green Bay, 9/13/15 (141 yards on 24 carries; longest – 23, TD)

MOST YARDS PASSING (Yards, Completions-Attempts, TDs, Interceptions)
Tom Brady, New England vs. Miami, 9/12/11 (517 yards, 32 of 48; 4 TDS, INT)
Peyton Manning, Denver vs. Baltimore, 9/5/13 (462 yards, 27 of 42, 7 TDS)
Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. Dallas, 9/8/13 (450 yards, 27 of 42, 4 TDS, 3 INT)
Matt Ryan, Atlanta vs. New Orleans, 9/7/14 (448 yards, 31 of 43, 3 TDS)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Houston, 9/12/10 (433 yards, 40 of 57, 3 TDS)
Cam Newton, Carolina vs. Arizona, 9/11/11 (422 yards, 24 of 37, 2 TDS, INT)
Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Green Bay, 9/8/11 (419 yards, 32 of 49, 3 TDS)
Chad Henne, Miami vs. New England, 9/12/11 (416 yards, 30 of 49, 2 TDS, INT)
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, 9/8/13 (412 yards, 27 of 39, 3 TDS)
Philip Rivers, San Diego vs. Detroit, 9/13/15 (403 yards, 34 of 41, 2 TDS, 2 INT)

Anquan Boldin, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, 9/8/13 (208 yards on 13 catches, longest – 43, TD)
Randy Moss, New England vs. New York Jets, 9/9/07 (183 yards on 9 catches, longest – 51t, TD)
Steve Smith, Carolina vs. Arizona, 9/11/11 (178 yards on 8 catches, longest – 77t, 2 TDS)
Keenan Allen, San Diego vs. Detroit, 9/13/15 (166 yards on 15 catches, longest – 21)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs. New York Giants, 9/8/14 (164 yards on 7 catches, longest – 67t, 2 TDS)
Austin Collie, Indianapolis vs. Houston, 9/12/10 (163 yards on 11 catches, longest – 73t, TD)
A.J. Green, Cincinnati vs. Chicago, 9/8/13 (162 yards on 9 catches, longest – 45t, 2 TDS)
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville, 9/13/09 (162 yards on 10 catches, longest – 39, TD)
Antwaan Randle El, Washington vs. Miami, 9/9/07 (162 yards on 5 catches, longest – 54)
Demaryius Thomas, Denver vs. Baltimore, 9/5/13 (161 yards on 5 catches, longest – 78t, 2 TDS)

Please return your trays to the upright position… there will be a lot of travel for all 32 teams in the 2016 campaign and the majority of that will be in the skies of the United States. With three trips to London and a trip to Mexico, NFL teams will be able to get some of those frequent flier miles in. Here’s a look at the total miles that all 32 teams will travel and the notes on travel for the 2016 season.

TOTAL MILES TRAVELED & NOTES ON 2016 TRAVEL (2016 regular season)

1. Los Angeles – 35,952
2. Oakland – 31,622
3. Seattle – 27,766
4. San Francisco – 25,668
5. Miami – 25,548
6. Jacksonville – 23,676
7. San Diego – 23,410
8. Arizona – 21,288
9. Carolina – 19,476
10. New England – 19,336
11. Tampa Bay – 19,288
12. Indianapolis – 18,960
13. Dallas – 18,406
14. Buffalo – 18,370
15. Atlanta – 18,352
16. Denver – 16,874
17. Cincinnati – 16,868
18. New Orleans – 16,460
19. Washington – 16,382
20. New York Jets – 16,158
21. Houston – 15,318
22. New York Giants – 15,196
23. Kansas City – 13,440
24. Minnesota – 11,652
25. Philadelphia – 11,202
26. Tennessee – 10,614
27. Detroit – 9,518
28. Green Bay – 9,050
29. Chicago – 8,766
30. Baltimore – 7,084
31. Cleveland – 6,074
32. Pittsburgh – 5,142

•The total distance traveled by all teams during the regular season will be 552,916 miles.
•The teams of the NFC West (100,674) have the highest combined mileage total of all divisions.
•The remaining division totals ranking from highest to lowest are the AFC West (85,346), AFC East (79,412), NFC South (73,576), AFC South (68,568), NFC East (61,186), NFC North (38,986) and AFC North (35,168).
•Five teams – Los Angeles (35,952), Oakland (31,622), Seattle (27,766), San Francisco (25,668) and Miami (25,548) – will “travel around the world” at least once. A trip around the globe is 25,000 miles.

Eight teams (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Los Angeles, Washington, Cincinnati, Oakland and Houston) will play contests outside of the United States this year. Get those passports ready.

NFL RATCHETS UP THE EXCITEMENT…HOPE IS ALIVE: The 2015 season was full of excitement but that should be no surprise. Unpredictability is the norm in today’s NFL.

Many close games and great comeback victories…new teams making the playoffs and winning divisions…records falling…and so much more.

“What people love about the NFL,” New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees told the Times-Picayune and the Mobile Register, “is that every game, every week, no matter who is playing, anything
can happen. So many games come down to that last possession.”

The NFL is never short on surprises and the 2015 season was no different.

The 2015 season featured many exciting games with close finishes, as nearly 55 percent were decided by one score – 140 of 256 games were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season since the NFL adopted the two-point conversion in 1994.

Comeback victories were also a trend. In 2015, there were 67 games in which the winning team trailed at some point in the fourth quarter, tied for the third-most such games in a single season in NFL history.

The 2016 season promises more of the same. Every team enters the new year with hope.

Four teams that missed the postseason in 2014 – Kansas City (11-5), Minnesota (10-5), Houston (9-7) and Washington (9-7) – advanced to the 2015 playoffs. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

The Redskins rebounded to win the NFC East division title after finishing in last place in 2014, which marked the 12th time in the past 13 seasons that one or more teams went from last or tied for last place to a division championship the following year.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (Atlanta, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)


Getting off to a strong start is important. Over the past 10 years, nine teams have a winning percentage of at least .600 through the season’s first month. Those nine clubs have combined for 58 playoff berths and 12 Super Bowl appearances – including four Super Bowl championships – during that span.

The nine teams with a .600+ winning percentage in the opening month over the past 10 seasons (2006-15):

TEAM (Record, Pct.)
New England (24-9-0, .727)
Denver (23-11-0. .676)
Dallas (22-11-0. .667)
Baltimore (22-12-0, .647)
Green Bay (22-12-0, .647)
Arizona (21-13-0, .618)
Cincinnati (20-13-0, .606)
Indianapolis (20-13-0, .606)
Seattle (20-13-0, .606)

DIVISION TITLES? UP FOR GRABS: Unpredictable NFL? It sure seems that way! In the 14 seasons since realignment in 2002, 28 different teams have won division titles.

“It’s great to win the division,” said Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who helped lead the Texans to the AFC South title last season. He told the Housotn Chronicle, KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV, “It’s great for our team, great for our fans, it’s great for our city. This is what we expect. We expect to win the division, we expect to be in the playoffs.”

Last year, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer guided the Vikings to their first division title since 2009.

“I’m proud of this football team,” Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We started out two years ago trying to build something special. I told them it’s not a surprise that we are where we’re at and now we’ve made the playoffs.”

The teams that have won their divisions in the 14 seasons since realignment in 2002:

New England – 12/12
Indianapolis – 9/12
Green Bay – 8/11
Seattle – 7/10
Pittsburgh – 6/9
Denver – 6/8
Philadelphia – 6/8
Carolina – 5/6
San Diego – 5/6
Baltimore – 4/8
Cincinnati – 4/7
Atlanta – 3/6
New York Giants – 3/6
New Orleans – 3/5
Dallas – 3/5
Minnesota – 3/5
Arizona – 3/4
San Francisco – 3/4
Chicago – 3/3
Houston – 3/3
Tampa Bay – 3/3
Kansas City – 2/3
Tennessee – 2/4
Washington – 2/4
New York Jets – 1/5
Los Angeles – 1/2
Miami – 1/1
Oakland – 1/1


Team (Opponents’ 2015 Pct. & Record; Games vs. teams .500 or better-Games vs. 2015 playoff teams)
Atlanta (.555; 142-114; 7-7)
San Francisco (.555; 142-114; 9-6)
Los Angeles (.551; 141-115; 9-6)
New Orleans (.547; 140-116; 8-6)
Seattle (.543; 139-117; 8-5)
Tampa Bay (.543; 139-117; 8-6)
Arizona (.531; 136-120; 9-6)
New York Jets (.531; 136-120; 10-7)
New England (.523; 134-122; 10-6)
Buffalo (.520; 133-123; 8-6)
Miami (.516; 132-124; 10-6)
Carolina (.512; 131-125; 8-6)
San Diego (.508; 130-126; 8-6)
Denver (.504; 129-127; 8-6)
Oakland (.500; 128-128; 9-6)
Kansas City (.496; 127-129; 8-5)
Washington (.492; 126-130; 6-6)
Minnesota (.488; 125-131; 7-6)
Baltimore (.484; 124-132; 8-6)
Houston (.484; 124-132; 8-6)
Cleveland (.480; 123-133; 8-6)
Indianapolis (.477; 122-134; 8-7)
Jacksonville (.473; 121-135; 9-6)
Pittsburgh (.473; 121-135; 8-5)
Tennessee (.473; 121-135; 8-6)
Philadelphia (.469; 120-136; 8-7)
Cincinnati (.465; 119-137; 8-6)
Dallas (.465: 119-137; 6-6)
Detroit (.465; 119-137; 7-6)
Chicago (.461; 118-138; 7-6)
New York Giants (.461; 118-138; 6-6)
Green Bay (.457; 117-139; 7-5)

WINNING IS A HABIT: Thirty-nine of the 50 Super Bowl champions (78 percent) finished the preseason with a winning percentage of at least .500. Last year, the Denver Broncos finished the preseason 3-1 en route to winning Super Bowl 50.

Since 2000, the 16 Super Bowl champions have combined for a 41-23 (.641) preseason record during their championship seasons.

FROM WORST TO FIRST: Competitive balance, one of the hallmarks of the NFL, gives fans hope entering each season. So yes, there is hope if your team faltered last year.

For the 12th time in the past 13 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. In fact, of the 43 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 20 of them have done so in the past 13 years (2003-15), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.

After finishing in last place in the division in 2014, the Washington Redskins won their final four games to close the 2015 campaign and claim the NFC East crown. After starting the season 2-4, the Redskins qualified for postseason play for the first time since 2012.

“I’m very satisfied to see how the tables turned,” Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins told WUSA TV and USA Today about the team’s turnaround last season. “Now we look forward and say: ‘Where can we go from here?’ and ‘How high can we take it?’”

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3, 8-8)*
2004 – Atlanta (11-5, 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4, 4-12)*
2005 – Chicago (11-5, 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5, 6-10)*
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5, 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3, 6-10)*
2006 – New Orleans (10-6, 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6, 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7, 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5, 5-11)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8)**
2010 – Kansas City (10-6, 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8, 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6, 6-10)*
2012 – Washington (10-6, 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4, 7-9)*
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6, 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7, 4-12)
* Tied for last place
** Won Super Bowl


Todd Bowles, New York Jets (1-0, 1.000)
Jack Del Rio, Oakland (5-5, .500)
Hue Jackson, Cleveland (1-0, 1.000)
John Fox, Chicago (7-7, .500)
Dan Quinn, Atlanta (1-0, 1.000)
Bill O’Brien, Houston (1-1, .500)
Rex Ryan, Buffalo (6-1 .857)
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota (1-1, .500)
Bruce Arians, Arizona (2-1, .667)
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati (6-7, .462)
Bill Belichick, New England (14-7, .667)
Jim Caldwell, Detroit (2-3, .400)
Chip Kelly, San Francisco (2-1, .667)
Ron Rivera, Carolina (2-3, .400)
Gary Kubiak, Denver (6-3, .667)
Mike McCoy, San Diego (1-2, .333)
John Harbaugh, Baltimore (5-3, .625)
Mike Mularkey, Tennessee (1-2, .333)
Pete Carroll, Seattle (6-4, .600)
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis (1-3, .250)
Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles (12-8, .600)
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville (0-3, .000)
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay (6-4, .600)
Jay Gruden, Washington (0-2, .000)
Jason Garrett, Dallas (3-2, .600)
Adam Gase, Miami (0-0, .000)
Sean Payton, New Orleans (5-4, .556)
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay (0-0, .000)
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (5-4, .556)
Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (0-0, .000)
Andy Reid, Kansas City, (9-8, .529)
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia (0-0, .000)


Nothing exhibits the unpredictability of the NFL more than close games:

Games continued to be this close. If you like your football close, then 2015 was the season for you. In 2015, 131 of 256 games (51.2 percent) were decided by seven points or fewer, the most of any season in NFL history.

2015 – 131
2002 – 126
2011 – 125
2003 – 124
2013 – 123

Last season, 140 of 256 games (54.7 percent) were decided by eight points or fewer, the most since the NFL adopted the two-point conversion in 1994.


8 or Fewer – 140 of 256 (54.7 pct.)
7 or Fewer – 131 of 255 (51.2 pct.)
3 or Fewer – 59 of 256 (23 pct.)

Sixty-eight percent of games (174 of 256) in 2015 were within one score in the fourth quarter. The 174 such games are tied for the third-most of any season in NFL history.

2002 – 177
2004 – 175
2015 – 174
2013 – 174
2007 – 173

BEST NFL RECORDS, PAST 10 YEARS: Over the past 10 years, four NFL teams – New England (124-36, .775), Green Bay (104-55-1, .653), Indianapolis (104-56, .650) and Pittsburgh (100-60, .625) – have posted a winning percentage of .600 or better. Those four clubs have combined for 31 playoff berths, eight Super Bowl appearances and four Super Bowl championships during that span.

The New England Patriots, under the guidance of head coach Bill Belichick, have the best regular-season record over the past 10 years, qualifying for the postseason nine times and winning Super Bowl XLIX.

“At the end of the day, they find ways to win,” says Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan about the Patriots. “That’s what championship teams do.”

The teams with the best regular-season records over the past 10 seasons (2006-15):

New England: 124-36 (.775; 9 Playoff Berths, 3 Super Bowl Berths, 1 Super Bowl win)
Green Bay: 104-55-1 (.653; 8 Playoff Berths, 1 Super Bowl Berth, 1 Super Bowl win)
Indianapolis: 104-56 (.650; 8 Playoff Berths, 2 Super Bowl Berths, 1 Super Bowl win)
Pittsburgh: 100-60 (.625; 6 Playoff Berths, 2 Super Bowl Berths, 1 Super Bowl win)

NEW NFL RULES FOR 2016: Player safety will be the order of the day in 2016. Rule changes are made each season to improve the game and make it safer. Recent rules changes and points of emphasis focused on player safety have resulted in defenders adjusting their target zone and using the proper tackling technique.

In 2015, there were 10 players fined for hits on defenseless players, compared to 40 for the same offense in 2012.


2012 – 40
2013 – 25
2014 – 11
2015 – 10

With player health and safety remaining a priority, here are the 2016 rules changes and points of emphasis:

CHOP BLOCK: All chop blocks are now illegal. A chop block is a two-man high-low block in which a defensive player is engaged above the waist by one offensive player and blocked at the thigh or below by a second offensive player. A chop block is a foul whether it occurs on a running play, a pass play or a kicking play.

If it is clear that the defensive player is initiating the contact above the waist, or that the offensive player is trying to slip or escape, then the block is legal.

UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT FOULS: A player that is penalized twice in the same game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls will be automatically disqualified.

These types of fouls include:
1. Throwing a punch or kick without making contact
2. Use of abusive or threatening language toward an opponent
3. Any act that constitutes taunting

HORSE COLLAR: The horse collar rule has been expanded for this season. Prior to this change, it was illegal to grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pad or jersey and pull the runner toward the ground. Now it will also be illegal to grab the back or side of the jersey at the name plate or above and pull the runner toward the ground. The runner does not have to be pulled all the way to the ground. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul.

This rule does not apply to the quarterback in the pocket or a runner in the tackle box but once the runner leaves the tackle box or the quarterback leaves the pocket the rule is back in effect.

TOUCHBACKS: For the 2016 season, after a touchback resulting from a kickoff or safety kick, the ball will be placed at the receiving team’s 25-yard line.

There will also be points of emphasis on several existing rules this season (although the rules themselves have not changed):

2015 saw an increase in both fouls and fines for low hits on passers. The quarterback in the pocket in a passing posture is protected from forcible contact to the knee area or below. Low hits on passers will result in a  15-yard penalty for roughing the passer as well as potential discipline. Once the quarterback tucks the ball and takes a running posture or moves outside the pocket and throws on the run, he no longer receives protection from hits to the knee area or below.

Rules regarding sliding runners will be emphasized in 2016. A runner gains maximum protection when he slides feet first and before defensive contact is imminent. A runner that slides in this manner is treated like a player on the ground and may not be unnecessarily contacted to any part of his body. If a runner begins his slide after defensive contact is imminent then he loses protection from hits to the body, but the defender must still avoid forcible contact to the head or neck area. If a runner slides sideways or dives head first, he receives no special protection and may be hit anywhere until he is on the ground.

The rule regarding crown of the helmet hits on runners has been clarified for 2016. A defender may not lower his head and make forcible contact with the crown of his helmet to any part of a runner’s body. This rule applies outside the tackle box and a foul will be called regardless of the path the defender takes toward the runner.

Pre-snap movement on the offensive line will be a point of emphasis for the upcoming season as game officials will pay particular attention to movement of the football prior to the snap. Adjusting the football as the center gets into his stance is legal, but once the line is set, any abrupt or significant movement of the ball will result in a five-yard penalty for a false start. In addition, any quick or abrupt movement that is not part of the snap will also result in a false start. However, if the movement is smooth and deliberate, it will be deemed legal. Game officials will work with centers and long snappers during training camp and before each game to establish acceptable standards.

The last point of emphasis will involve blindside blocks on kickoff and punt returns. Any time a blocker is moving in the direction of his own end line, he cannot block his opponent in the head or neck area. These blocks are dangerous and will lead to a 15-yard penalty and potential discipline.

A brief overview of NFL rule changes focused on protecting player health and safety since 1982:

1982 – Hip pads must be covered by the outer uniform.

It is illegal for any player to use the crown or top of his helmet against a passer, a receiver in the act of catching a pass or a runner who is in the grasp of a tackler.

1983 – All mandatory player equipment must be designed and made by a professional manufacturer and cannot be altered, except by direction of the team physician.

A player who uses a helmet he is not wearing as a weapon shall be ejected.

The chop block rule applies to blocks at “thigh or lower.”

1985 – During the last two minutes of a half, the play ends when a quarterback kneels or simulates kneeling on the ground.

The ball is dead when any runner slides to the ground feet first, thereby declaring himself down.

1986 – Blocking below the waist on punts is prohibited during the entire down. The “lure” technique is prohibited. When a tackle shows pass set, a teammate lined up outside him cannot chop a defender who is lined up over the tackle, even if the tackle and defender are not engaged (a “lure”).

1987 – An offensive lineman may not clip a defender who, at the snap, is aligned on the line of scrimmage opposite another offensive lineman who is more than one position away, when the defender is responding to the flow of the ball away from the blocker. Example: A tackle cannot clip the nose tackle on a sweep to the opposite side.

It is illegal for the kicking team to block below the waist after a free kick or punt has been made. (Low blocks by the receiving team became illegal in 1979).

Both teams are prohibited from blocking below the waist after a change of possession.

1989 – A defender (approaching from any direction) who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback is prohibited from flagrantly hitting him in the area of the knee(s).

1990 – A player who butts, spears or rams an opponent may be disqualified if the action is flagrant or vicious.

1991 – Officials will whistle the play dead whenever a defensive lineman clearly penetrates beyond the neutral zone before the ball is snapped and continues unabated toward the quarterback.

1992 – For the first time, the chop block is illegal on some running plays: It is illegal on a running play for an offensive player who is lined up in the backfield at the snap to deliberately block a defensive player in the thigh or lower (chop) if the defensive player is engaged by an offensive player who was on the line of scrimmage at the snap. This action is prohibited whether on or behind the line of scrimmage in an area that extends laterally to the position originally occupied by the tight end on either side.

When a defensive player runs forward and leaps in an attempt to block an extra point or field goal, it is a foul only if the leaping player lands on other players.

1993 – It is not intentional grounding when a passer, while out of the pocket and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a pass that lands beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player has a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or end line).

1994 – Defensive players are prohibited from blocking low during a punt, field goal or extra point attempt (kick), except those defensive players at the snap that are lined up on or inside the normal tight end position. Previously, all players on the defensive team could block low during the field goal or extra point attempt.

1995 – Protection for defenseless players is clarified and expanded. Since 1982, a defensive player was prohibited from using the crown or top of his helmet against a passer, a receiver in the act of catching a pass, or a runner who is in the grasp of a tackler.

The clarification provided that:

Defenseless players included a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air and a player on the ground at the end of a play.

Defensive players are prohibited from lowering their heads to make forcible contact with the facemask or with the “hairline” or forehead part of the helmet, against an opponent, instead of only with the top/crown.

Defensive players are prohibited from forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head, neck or face with the helmet or facemask.

Defensive players are prohibited from launching into a defenseless player in a way that causes the defensive player’s helmet or facemask to forcibly strike the defenseless player’s head, neck or face, even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is lower than the defenseless player’s neck.

When tackling a passer during or just after throwing a pass, a defensive player is prohibited from unnecessarily and violently throwing him down and landing on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.

1996 – On running plays, a chop block is prohibited by an offensive player who is aligned more than one position away from the engaged defender when the block occurs away from the flow of the play.

A defender cannot be chopped even after he has disengaged from an offensive opponent, if he is still confronting the offensive player.

Prohibition of the “lure” technique is applicable all along the offensive line, instead of only to a player outside a tackle.

1998 – All face shields must be transparent.

1999 – Blocking from behind, at or below the knees in the clipping zone is prohibited.

After a blocking attempt in close line play, a blocker is prohibited from rolling up on the back of a defender’s legs (Unnecessary Roughness).

2002 – The chop block technique is illegal on all kicking plays.

It is illegal to hit a quarterback helmet-to-helmet any time after a change of possession.

2005  – It is illegal to grab the inside collar of the shoulder pads to tackle a runner (“horse-collar tackle”).

Unnecessarily running, diving into or throwing the body against a player who should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent is unnecessary roughness. Previously, the rule only protected a player who is out of the play.

A kicker/punter must not be unnecessarily contacted by the receiving team through the end of the play or until he assumes a distinctly defensive position. An opponent may not unnecessarily initiate helmet-to-helmet contact to the kicker/punter during the kick or during the return.

An offensive player who is aligned in the tackle box at the snap and moves to a position outside the box is prohibited from initiating contact on the side or below the waist of an opponent if the blocker is moving toward his own end line and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side (“peel back block”). The near shoulder of the blocker must be in front of his opponent’s body.

2006 – Low hits on the quarterback are prohibited when a rushing defender has an opportunity to avoid such contact.

Blocks in the back above the waist by the kicking team while the ball is in flight during a scrimmage kick are illegal.

The definition of a “horse collar tackle” is expanded to include grabbing theinside collar of the jersey.

During a field-goal attempt or a try, a defensive player who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap must have his helmet outside the snapper’s shoulder pad.

Personal or unsportsmanlike conduct fouls that occur during halftime or during intermission between the fourth period and an overtime period will be penalized on the ensuing kickoff.

During a free kick, at least four kicking team players must be on each side of the kicker when the ball is kicked.

2007 – A block below the waist against an eligible receiver while the quarterback is in the pocket is a 15-yard penalty instead of a 5-yard penalty (an illegal cut block).

2009 – Teams are not permitted to intentionally form a wedge of more than two players on a kickoff return in an attempt to block for the runner.

The “bunch” formation on kickoffs is eliminated. The kickoff team must have at least three players outside each hash mark, one of whom must be outside the yard-line number.

It is an illegal “blindside” block if the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side and the initial force of the contact by the blocker’s helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of an opponent.

It is an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver if the initial force of the contact by the defender’s helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of the receiver.

The rule regarding low hits on passers is clarified:

A defender cannot initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer in theknee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.

It is not a foul if the defender swipes, wraps or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him.

2010 – During a field-goal attempt, punt, or try-kick, a defensive team player, who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads.

After a half has expired, dead ball personal fouls by either team will be enforced on the succeeding kickoff.

A player who has just completed a catch is protected from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches.

All “defenseless players” are protected from blows to the head delivered by an opponent’s helmet, forearm or shoulder.

Kickers and punters during the kick and return and quarterbacks after a change of possession, are protected from blows to the head delivered by an opponent’s helmet, forearm or shoulder, instead of just helmet-to-helmet contact.

The ball is declared dead at the spot if a runner’s helmet comes completely off.

2011 – The restraining line for the kicking team is moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line in an effort to increase touchbacks.

All kicking team players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind their restraining line, eliminating the 15-20 yard running “head start” that had become customary for many players.

The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include a kicker/punter during the kick or during the return, a quarterback at any time after a change of possession, and a player who receives a “blindside” block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side. Previously, these players were protected against blows to the head but not against blows delivered by an opponent with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against other parts of the body.

A receiver who has completed a catch is a “defenseless player” until he has had time to protect himself or has clearly become a runner. A receiver/runner is no longer defenseless if he is able to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent. Previously, the receiver who had completed a catch was protected against an opponent who launched and delivered a blow to the receiver’s head.

2012 – The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include defensive players on crackback blocks, making it illegal to hit them in the head or neck area.

2013 – Players are required to wear protective knee and thigh pads.

It is illegal for a runner or tackler to initiate forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top or crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box.

“Peel back” blocks below the waist are illegal inside the tackle box.

The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include long snappers on field goals and PATs.

The “bunch” formation is eliminated on field goals and PATs. No more than six defenders may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap for these plays.

2014 – Clipping and unnecessary roughness penalties are expanded to prohibit blockers from rolling up on the side of a defender’s leg.

2015 – Rules prohibiting illegal “peel back” blocks are extended to cover all offensive players.

Offensive backs are prohibited from chopping a defensive player engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the tackle box.

Defenseless player protections are expanded to cover the intended receiver of a pass in the immediate continuing action following an interception.

When a team presents a punt, field-goal or try kick formation, defenders are prohibited from pushing teammates on the line of scrimmage.

2016 – All chop blocks are prohibited.

The horse collar tackle rule is expanded to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.

In an effort to increase touchbacks, the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a kickoff is moved from the 20- to the 25-yard line.

So the 2016 season got underway last Thursday night with Carolina and Denver getting underway as the last two teams to take the field in the 2015 campaign squared off. It’s a long season and you can’t win the Super Bowl on the first day. 31 other teams are trying to get a Lombardi Trophy of their own, Denver’s trying to keep theirs.

It’s alsk 9/11 weekend as the NFL honors those that died that Tuesday morning in New York City, Washington and the farm field in Pennsylvania.

The National Football League and its clubs will commemorate the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001 during its games on Sunday. The NFL will feature special tributes to honor those who lost their lives and share an inspirational message of hope, unity and community service and engagement.

Prior to each game this Sunday, fans across the country will see video messages from President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush. Each club will have special guests on field for pregame activities and the playing of the National Anthem.

Among the special guests that clubs are hosting are first responders, community volunteers, hometown heroes and members of the military. In Philadelphia for the 1 p.m. Browns-Eagles game, Vice President Joe Biden will join 120 first responders in holding the American flag during the anthem. President Bush will be in Dallas for the Giants-Cowboys 4:25 p.m. game and will toss the coin accompanied on the field by First Lady Laura Bush and two NYPD officers who responded to the attacks at Ground Zero 15 years ago.

All team coaching staffs will be supplied with 9/11 lapel pins and a special 9/11 decal will be placed on players’ helmets.

The NFL will synch the pregame salutes during the Sunday afternoon CBS and FOX telecasts, followed by the Sunday night game on NBC. The pregame events that will be televised nationally also will be shown on the videoboards in each of the stadiums hosting games that day.

All games in each of the broadcast windows (1 p.m., 4:05/4:25 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., all times are Eastern) will feature the special presidential video message after the coin toss and prior to the playing of the National Anthem.
•1 p.m.: video message featuring President Barack Obama
•4:05 p.m.: video message featuring President Barack Obama
•4:25 p.m.: video message featuring President George W. Bush
•8:30 p.m.: video message featuring both Presidents Obama and Bush

NFL Films taped the presidential messages last month with President Obama at the White House and President Bush at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

NFL Network previously announced special programming from NFL Films that will aired Friday night on the events of September 11, 2001.

The one-hour show, narrated by actress Mary McDonald-Lewis, tells the story of how the events impacted the entire NFL and specifically the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, from the decision to cancel the games the following week to personal stories of those directly impacted by the day’s events.

Among the areas covered in September 11th:
•The NFL’s decision to cancel games following the attacks
•Former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi’s connection to the New York City Fire Department
•The story of Giants’ fan Tony Sichenzio who attended the Giants’ game in Denver on September 10 and was not at his office on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

As for last season, we were 167-89.

The preseason is over. It all starts for real. They’re playing for keeps. Each team will play 16 games and have a bye week to rest up. Who will step up? Who will be the king of the NFL mountain? As ESPN’s Chris Berman says, “that’s why they play the games.”

Having said that, here are the picks for Sunday and Monday’s games in week one.

Tampa Bay (6-10) at ATLANTA (8-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. A pair of southern rivals open the 2016 campaign in the Big Peach as Tampa Bay makes the 457-mile, seven-hour drive up I-75 to face off against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Dirk Koetter begins as he makes his debut as Tampa Bay head coach, taking over for Lovie Smith. Bucs QB Jameis Winston passed for 4,042 yards in 2015 and was 3rd rookie in NFL history with 4,000+ pass yards. Winston 1 of 3 rookies in NFL history with 3,500+ pass yards (4,042), 20+ pass TDs (22) & 5+ rush TDs (6), meanwhile RB Doug Martin ranked 2nd in NFL with 1,402 rush yards & was 4th in NFL with 1,673 scrimmage yards and has 455 scrimmage yards (91 per game) & 4 TDs in 5 career games vs. the Falcons.

Atlanta started the 2015 campaign strong but struggled toward the end and missed the post-season for the second straight season. Matt Ryan had 4,591 passing yards last season, his 5th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Ryan passed for 21 TDs in 2015, his 7th consecutive 20+ TD season, while becoming the franchise leader in career pass yards (32,757), completions (2,915), TD passes (202), rating (90.9) & 300-yard pass games (35). Also on offense, RB Devonta Freemanled NFL RBs with 14 TDs (11 rush, 3 receieving) last season, ranking him 5th in NFL with 1,634 scrimmage yards (1,056 rush, 578 rec.) in 2015… Ryan’s favorite target WR Julio Jones, was tied for NFL lead with 136 catches last year, which tied him for 2nd most in season in NFL history. Jones became 3rd player in NFL history with 125+ receptions (136) and 1,700+ rec. yards (1,871) in season (Marvin Harrison, 2002 & Antonio Brown 2015)… The Falcons did make some improvemnents on defense as DE Dwight Freeney will make his Atlanta debut after playing for Arizona last year. Freeney lead the Cardinals with eight sacks, ranking him 4th in the NFL since 2002 with 119.5 sacks.

Tampa Bay leads the series 23-22, have outscored the Falcons 952-902 and swept the series with the Falcons in the 2015 campaign. (Atlanta’s last win over Tampa Bay came in the 2014 season, when they swept the series with the Bucs, taking wins in the Big Peach and the Sunshine State.)

First meeting… week eight in the Big Peach. Tampa Bay led 13-3 at the half against the Falcons, only to see the host team rally to tie things up in the second half before Connor Barth connected on a 31-yard field goal in overtime to take a 23-20 win in the Georgia Dome. Atlanta managed to outpace Tampa Bay 17-7 in the final 30 minutes of regulation before the Bucs scored first i the overtime, holding off the Falcons in their attempt in the extra period to either tie things up or win it at home. Tampa Bay outrushed at Atlanta 117-101 but Ryan (2 TDs) outpassed Winston (TD, 2 sacks) 397-177. Turnovers were a problem for Atlanta in the first meeting, as they would turn the pigskin over four times (three fumbles and a Ryan interception).

Both teams did reasonably well on third down tries (Atlanta was 6 of 12, while Tampa Bay was 6 of 13) and the home team did okay on fourth down tries, going 2 of 3, while Tampa Bay had only one fourth down try without success. Time was on the side of the Falcons, who held the ball for 39:05 to Tampa Bay’s 30:11.

Meeting number two took place in the Sunshine State in week 13 and again the Bucs stopped Atlanta, taking a 23-19 win. Atlanta led 9-7 at the intermission at Raymond James Stadium before they were outscored in the second half 16-10. Atlanta was held to 64 yards rushing and Ryan was sacked three times, while throwing for 269 yards and a TD (Winston threw for 277 in the contest). As was the case in the first meeting in the Peach State, both teams were somewhat successful on third down conversions (Atlanta was 8 of 16, Tampa Bay 6 of 11) but neither club had a fourth down try in the rematch. Tampa Bay won the battle of the clock, keeping the ball for 31:15, while the Falcons kept the pigskin for 28:45. Atlanta’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 47 1/2. Both numbers make sense. Tampa Bay would like to make it three wins in a row against Atlanta, while the Falcons would like to have some revenge in their nest. Bucs make it closer than the 3 but Atlanta “RISES UP” to the occasion and takes the win at home.

Buffalo (8-8) at Baltimore (5-11), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV705. It’s wings vs. crabcakes as Rex Ryan and the Bills travel to Charm City to face off against the Ravens.

For Buffalo, it’ll be Tyrod Taylor under center. Taylor, in a twist of irony, was drafted by Baltimore in 6th round (No. 180 overall) of 2011 Draft. He spent 1st 4 years of his careeer (2011-15) with Ravens (14 games, 0 starts) and was 1
of 3 QBs in NFL last season with 3,000+ pass (3,035) & 500+ rush (568) yards. Buffalo led NFL in rushing (152.0 yards per game) in 2015 and RB Le Sean MCCoy is the only NFL player with 7,000+ rush (7,050) & 2,000+ rec. (2,266) yards since
2010. Has 209 rushes for 10+ yards since 2010, most in NFL. RB-PR Reggie Bush is only active NFL player with 5,000+ rush (5,493), 3,000+ receptions (3,508) and 500+ PR (781) yards…WR SAMMY WATKINS had career-high 1,047 rec. yards & 9 TDs in 2015.
Averaged 17.5 yards per catch last year, 2nd best mark in NFL by WR with 1,000+ yards…

Meanwhile, current Ravens QB Joe Flacco has guided Baltimore to playoffs in 6 of 8 seasons as starter, while RB Justin Forsett has 2,323 scrimmage yards (1,907 rush, 416 recieving) over past 2 seasons (1,161.5 yards per season) Flacco’s favorite target in the air, WR Steve Smith, Sr. has 13,932 career recieving yards and needs 73 to pass Hall of Famer James Lofton for 10th in NFL history. Smith and Hall of Famer Tim Brown are only 2 in NFL history with 900+ catches and TD via run, catch, punt return and kick return.

Once again, defense was the word of the day for the Ravens as LB Terell Suggs is franchise leader with 106.5 career sacks, LB Elvis Dumveril has 32.5 sacks in 3 seasons with Baltimore and LB C.J. Mosley has recorded 100+ tackles in each of 1st 2 career seasons. S Eric Weddle makes his Ravens debut this Sunday. Weddel was selected to 3 Pro Bowls with San Diego.

While the series is even at 3-3, the Ravens have outscored the Bills 120-102. Baltimore’s last win in the series came in Charm City in 2010 in overtime by a final of 37-34, while the Bills won in 2013 along the shores of Lake Ontario by a final of 23-20. Baltimore’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 44 1/2. The 44 1/2? Makes sense. The 3? Sounds a little on the high side, considering that both offenses can do damage when they’re on task. Ravens cover the 3 at home in Charm City and takes the win.

Chicago (6-10) at Houston (9-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. Cutler vs. Watt. A pair of marquee stars meet in the Lone Star State as Chicago looks to improve their position in the NFC North agianst the Houston Texans.

Chicago’s Jay Cutler had 3,659 pass yards with 21 TDs andcareer-high 92.3 passer rating last year. Cutler was the team’s franchise leader in rating (85.5), completions (1,939), completion percentage (61.9) and pass yards (22,384).

The Texans Won the AFC South last year, their 3rd division title in team history and QB Brock Osweiler makes his Houston.
debut. He started 7 games with Denver in 2015, replacing Peyton Manning and made 1st career start at Chicago (11/22/15), completing 20 of 27 (74.1 pct.) for 250 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs for 127.1 rating in 17-15 win. Meanwhile, Texans fans got some really good news as DE J.J. Watt (disc surgery) will take the field Sunday in the Lone Star State. Watt was named NFL Defensive Player of Year in 2015, winning the award in 3 of past 4 seasons (2012, 2014, 2015). Since entering the NFL in 2011, Watt has 74.5 sacks, most in NFL and is the only player in NFL history with 2 seasons with 20+ sacks (2012, 2014).

Houston and Da Bears have met three times in regular season action and have won all three meetings, while outscoring Chicago 68-35, with the Texans coming away 13-6 winners in the Windy City in 2012. Houston’s favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 44. Da Bears have been known to struggle on offense at times and the Texans hope to take advantage. While it’ll be closer than the 6 1/2, Houston wins at home.

Green Bay (10-6) at Jacksonville (6-10), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. A pair of teams with opposite records from 2015 meet on Florida’s east coast as the Packers make their way to the Sunshine State for a date with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mike McCarthy has led team to playoffs in 8 of his 10 seasons as head coach, while QB Aaron Rodgers has 104.1 career rating, highest in NFL history. In 2015, passed for 3,821 yards & 31 TDs, his 4th time in 5 seasons with 3,000+ yards & 30+ TDs… Rodgers will have WR Jordy Nelson back to throw to in the 2016 campaign. Nelson had career-high 98 catches and 1,519 recieving yards in 2014. Nelson also had 13 recieving TDs that season… LB Clay Matthews was 2nd on club with 6.5 sacks in 2015.

A much-improved Jaguars club will have Blake Bortles as their starting QB. Bortles passed for franchise-record 4,428 yards & 35 TDs in 2015, making him the youngest QB in NFL history with 4,400+ pass yards, 35+ pass TDs & 300+ rush yards (310) in season and had 39 completions of 25+ yards last year, tied for most in NFL with Rodgers.

Green Bay holds a 3-2 lead in the series and have outscored Jacksonville 117-98 in those meetings. Green Bay’s last win in the series came at Lambeau in 2012 with the Packers coming away 24-15 winners, while Jacksonville’s last win in the series came in the Sunshine State by a final of 20-16 in 2008. The Packers may be on the road but the oddsmakers in Vegas like them as 5 1/2 point favorites with a 48 over/under. Jacksonville’ll put up a fight but the Packers cover the 5 1/2 in the Sunshine State, taking the win.

San Diego (4-12) at Kansas City (11-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. A pair of AFC West rivals open up their 2016 campaigns n the Show-Me State as the Chargers, who struggled throughout the 2015 season, meet the Andy Reid-led Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers ranked 2nd in NFL in 2015 with 4,792 pass yards and since 2008, has 34,759 pass yards, 2nd most in NFL. Has 5,157 career pass yards vs. KC, his most vs. any opponent. Rivers’ favorite target, TE Antonio Gates, ranks 2nd in NFL history among TEs with 104 recieving TDs and is 3rd among NFL TEs with 844 catches and 10,644 recieving yards. Gates also
21 games with 2+ recieving TDs, most by TE in NFL history. Rivers and Gates have  combined for 77 TDs, most by QB-TE duo in NFL history On defense, LB Manti Te’O led club with career-high 82 tackles last year…

After struggling to start the 2015 campaign, the Chiefs have won 10 consecutive regular-season games, with QB Alex Smith passing for career-high 3,486 yards last year & had 20 pass TDs with 95.4 rating.

Including contests that were played when the Chiefs were in Dallas and known as the Texans and the Chargers played their home games in Los Angeles, Kansas City leads the series 56-54-1, have outscored the Bolts 2,396-2,229 and won the last four meetings, including sweeps in 2014 and 2015. (San Diego’s last win over the Chiefs came in 2013, when they swept the series in that season, taking a 27-24 overtime win at Qualcomm that season.)

Meeting number one… Qualcomm in week 11. Kansas City led 9-3 at the half and never looked back, taking a 33-3 win on the Left Coast. The Chiefs went on to shutout San Diego in the second half 24-0, holding San Diego to 52 yards on the ground and sacking Rivers three times, picking him off once (The Chiefs rushed for 153 yards in the blowout win, Alex Smith threw for 253 yards). While the game was somewhat of a dud, third down tries in the first meeting were nothing to write home about (Kansas City was 5 of 12, San Diego was 4 of 13) but the Chiefs did find success on fourth down, making their only try in the game, while the Chargers were 0 of 1. Time was on the side of the Chiefs in the first contest, as they kept the ball for 33:28, while San Diego held on to the pigskin for 26:32.

Contest number two… Arrowhead in week 14. The Chiefs were looking to claim a playoff spot that week, while the Chargers were trying to keep them out of the post-season party. After a scoreless first quarter, Kansas City took a 10-0 lead with them to the intermission, then held on for dear life to come away 10-3 winners. Once again, the Bolts were outrushed by the Chiefs, this time by a 150-44 margin and Rivers found himself being sacked five times, even though he did outpace Alex Smith in passing yards 263-191.

Kansas City did a little better on third down conversions in the second meeting, going 6 of 11, while the Chargers were 6 of 18 (3 of 3 on fourth down). This time, San Diego won the battle of the clock, keeping the ball for 31:08 to Kansas City’s 28:52.

Kansas City’s favored by 7 with a 44 1/2 over/under. Given the histories between these two clubs, the 44 1/2 makes sense but the 7 in this case is on the high side. Chiefs stay up to date in Kansas City in the opener and wins at home, even though the Chargers will make it closer than the 7.

Oakland (7-9) at New Orleans (6-10), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. The Silver and Black make their way eastward to the Big Easy for a meeting in the great indoors, taking on Drew Brees and the Saints.

QB Derek Carr passed for career-highs in yards (3,987), TDs (32) and  rating (91.1) last season for the Silver and Black, making him the only QB in franchise history with 3,500+ pass yards and 30+ pass TDs in season and had 6 300-yard games in 2015… WR Amari Cooper led all rookies in 2015 with 72 catches & 1,070 rec. yards, both franchise rookie records, tallying five 100-yard games, most by NFL rookie last season. Had 6 rec. TDs, tying him for most by rookie. Meanwhile, WR Michael Crabtree led the Raiders last year with 85 catches (922 yards) and 9 recieving TDs, both tied for his career high. The Raider defense was a little better last year, as DE Khalil Mack was ranked 2nd in NFL last season with career-high 15 sacks & 23 tackles for loss. Mack will get some help this year LB Bruce Irvin joins Oakland after four seasons with Seattle.

For the Saints, Brees had league-leading 4,870 pass yards last year, his NFL-record 10th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Brees has 60,903 career pass yards & became 4th player in NFL history with 60,000+ yards and needs 459 pass yards to surpass Hall of Famer Dan Marino (61,361) for 3rd most all-time. RB Mark Ingram has 2 consecutive season with 1,100+ scrimmage yards, scoring 5+ rush TDs in 4 of past 5 seasons.

The Saints lead the series 6-5-1, have outscored the Silver and Black 283-251 and have won the last three contests, including a 38-17 win in Oakland in 2012, while Oakland’s last win in the series came in 2000 in the Big Easy by a final of 31-22. New Orleans’ favored by a single point and the over/under is 51. Saints cover the 1 and win in the Big Easy.

Cincinnati (12-4) at New York Jets (10-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. A team that made the playoffs last season travels to the Meadowlands as the Bengals take on a J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! team that almost made the post-season party last year.

For the Bengals, it’s always the bridesmaid but not quite the bride. They did win the AFC North in 2015 and have made playoffs in 5 consecutive seasons and tied a team record with 12 wins last year. That’s the good news. The bad news? They’ve been bounced out of the first round of the playoffs the last four years, something Cincy fans will hope their team will correct. QB Andy Dalton has 50-26-1 (.656) record, highest win pecentange by Bengals QB (minimum of 20 starts).

GangGreen eventually did get their QB situation taken care of and Ryan Fitzpatrick will be under center for now. Fitzpatrick set franchise record with 31 pass TDs last season. Had career-high 3,905 pass yards, 2nd most by NYJ QB in season (Hall of Famer Joe Namath) and RB Matt Forte will make his Jets debut in the Meadowlands. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Forte has 12,718 scrimmage yards (8,602 rush, 4,116 recieving), most in NFL…Last year, WR Brandon Marshall set franchise records in catches (109) and recieving yards (1,502) and tied team mark in rec. TD (14). Is only player in NFL history with 6 100-catch seasons. WR Eric Decker had 80 catches for 1,027 yards and 12 TDs in 2015. In 2 career meetings, has 13 catches for 212 yards (106 per game) and 4 TDs (2 in each game). Marshall and Decker each had recieving TD in same game 9 times in 2015, most ever by teammates in season… On the defensive side of the ball, DE Muhammad Wilkerson had career-high 12 sacks last year and had 6 sacks in past 4 contests at home, while tallying a sack and interception INT in last game against the Bengals. CB Darrelle Revis was only player in NFL last season with 5+ interceptions (5) and 4+ fumble recoveries (4).

While GangGreen leads the series 15-8 and have outscored the Bengals 569-507, Cincy did win the last meeting in the Queen City by a final of 49-9 in 2013. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! last win? 2010 in the Meadowlands by a 26-10 score. Cincy’s favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 41 1/2. This could be closer than 2 1/2 but Cincy prevails on the Jersey Shore Sunday.

Cleveland (3-13) at Philadelphia (7-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. It’s new signal callers and coaches in the City of Brotherly Love as Cleveland travels to Philadelphia for an afternoon contest with the Eagles.

As far as the men calling the plays… Hue Jackson will lead the Browns, while Doug Pederson, who took over for Chip Kelly late last season, will be the man to lead Philly.

Both clubs will have new signal callers as well. For the Browns, it’s Robert Griffin III, taking over for Johnny Manziel. Griffin will make his Cleveland debut and has five starts against the Eagles, while with Washington, coming into the contest with a 98.3 passer rating. In the November 18th meeting while with the Redskins, he completed 14 of 15 (93.3 pct.) for 200 yards with 4 TDs without an interception for 158.3 rating and also rushed for 84 yards…

As far as the Eagles are concerned… Sam Bradford? Out. Shipped off to Minnesota. In? QB Carson Wentz. who lead North Dakota State to consecutive NCAA Divison 1 FCS national titles in 2014 and 2015.

Cleveland leads the series 31-16-1 and they may have outscored the Eagles 1,201-901 but… Philly has taken away wins in the last four contests, including a 17-16 win along the shores of Lake Erie in 2012. Cleveland’s last win in the series came all the way back in 1994, when they left old Veterans Stadium with a 26-7 win. The Eagles (or egguhls as they say in Philly) are favored by 4 and the over/under’s 41. Both teams have new coaches, both teams have new quarterbacks and that makes this one interesting but not “Drill Worthy.” Eagles cover the 4 and soar to the win at home in the Keystone State.

Minnesota (11-5) at Tennessee (3-13), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. The defending NFC North champs travel to the Music City to take on Tenneseee in the Volunteer State.

The Vikings won NFC North last season, 1st division title since 2009 with Teddy Bridgewater under center. This time, it’s Shawn Hill taking over for Bridgewater (knee) with Sam Bradford coming from Philadelphia as a backup. Bradford passed for a career-high 3,725 yards with 19 TDs last year with the Eagles and set single-season Eagles records for completions (346) & completion pct. (65.03) RB Adrian Peterson was back to his old form, leading the NFL in rushing (1,485 yards) and tied for NFL lead with 11 rush TDs last year. Peterson is 1 of 3 in NFL history (Hall of Famers Marion Motley and Curtis Martin) to lead NFL in rushing at 30+ years old.

The Titans can now take the interim title off Mike Mularkey’s name. Tennesee named him the 18th head coach in team history in January. QB Marcus Mariota had 4 games with 3+ TD passes in 2015, tying Peyton Manning for most by rookie and became only rookie in NFL history to have 2 games with 4+ pass TDs and no interceptions. RB De Marco Murray left Philadelphia and makes his Titans debut. Since 2013, when he was with Dallas, Murray leads all active players with 28 rush TDs and is 2nd with 3,668 rush yards. Murry will get some help in the backfield as the Titans picked up RB Derrick Henry from Alabama. Henry was selected as the 45th overall pick in the April draft after winning the Heisman Trophy with the Crimson Tide.

Mariota will have another target to throw to in the form of WR Andre Johnson, who joins Tenneseee and is the active leader in catches (1,053) and reciveing yards (14,100), averaging 76.2 reciveing yards per game, 4th best mark in NFL history (minimum of 100 games). On the defensive side of the pigskin, LB Brian Orakpo has 47 career sacks and needs 3 to reach 50.

Including contests that took place when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers, the Purple Gang leads the series 8-4 and have outscored the Titans 320-188. Minnesota’s last win in the series came in 2012 in the Twin Cities in the great indoors of the Metrodome by a final of 30-7, while Tennessee took a 30-17 win over the Vikings in the Music City in 2008.  Minneosta’s favored by 2 with a 41 over/under. The Vikings look to repeat as NFC North champs, the Titans look to stay out of the AFC South cellar. Vikings cover the 2 and win in the Music City.

Miami (6-10) at Seattle (10-6), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. A pair of opposites meet in the Pacific Northwest as Miami travels to Seattle for a late afternoon (Eastern time) affair with the Seahawks.

For Miami, it will be their first game with Adam Gase as head coach and QB Ryan Tannehill aims for 3rd straight 4,000-yard pass season. Tannehill and Hall of Famer Dan Marino are only QBs in franchise history with 4,000-yard pass season. After departing Houston, RB Arian Foster makes his Miami debut and is Is only NFL player since 2010 with 6,000+ rush yards (6,215), 50+ rush TDs (51) & 2,000+ recieving yards (2,175).

For the fourth season in a row, the Seahawks have made it to the playoffs and have won 10+ games in each of past 4 seasons. QB Russell Wilson led NFL with 110.1 rating last season. In 2015, became 1st QB in NFL history with 4,000+ pass yards (4,024), 30+ pass TDs (34) & 500+ rush yards (553) in season. Wilson will not have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield but will have RB Thomas Rawls in his place. Rawls led team with 830 rush yards & 4 TDs last season. Rawls has also rushed for 756 yards (108 per game) & 4 TDs in 7 career starts. Seahawks are 6-1 when Rawls starts.

Miami leads the series 8-3, has outscored Seattle 237-187 but Miami took wins in the last two meetings, including a 24-21 win in the Sunshine State in 2012. Seattle’s last win in the series came in 2004 in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, coming away 24-17 winners at the Kingdome. For the Seahawks, they are favored by a whopping 10 1/2 points, the largest spread this season to date and the over/under is 44. The ‘fins make this one somewhat interesting and if you’re a fan of either team, by all means, watch this one; otherwise, you’re better off watching that “Law And Order:SVU” marathon on USA Network Sunday (Benson slapping the cuffs on someone is downright sexy!). Seattle may not cover the 10 1/2 but they take the win in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks.

New York Giants (6-10) at Dallas (4-12), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715. It’s another NFC East rivalry as the Giants and Cowboys meet in JerryWorld (AT&T Stadium). While Eli will be there, the Cowboys will be without Tony Romo (back).

Ben McAdoo takes over for Tom Coughlin, making his debut as Giants head coach and QB Eli Manning is becoming the NFL’s answer to Cal Ripken, making his 183 consecutive start, longest active streak in NFL. In 2015, Manning passed for 4,000+ (4,432) yards for franchise-record 5th time. Threw 35 TDs last season, 2nd most in season in franchise history (Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle, who had 36 in 1963). Manning has 100+ rating in 3 of past 6 games vs. Dallas. WR Odell Beckham, Jr. had 96 receptions last year, 2nd most in season in franchise history. Beckham 2,755 career recieveing yards (1,305 in 2014 & 1,450 in 2015), most by player in 1st 2 seasons in NFL history

For Dallas, it’s QB Dak Prescott, not Romo, that will be under center for a while. Prescott was selected in 4th Round (Number 135 overall) by Dallas in 2016 NFL Draft and is all-time leading passer in Mississippi State history with 9,376 yards & 70 TDs. He’ll have two major targets to throw the pigskin to this season. Since 2012, WR Dez Bryant ranks 2nd with 44 recieving TD and Bryant has 1,200+ rec. yards in 3 of past 4 seasons. TE Jason Witten (1,020) is 1 of 2 TEs in NFL history with 1,000+ catches. Ranks 2nd in NFL history among TEs with 11,215 recieving yards and LB Sean Lee led team with 128 tackles last season and has 12 interceptions since entering NFL in 2010, the most by LB, while K Dand Bailey has highest FG pct. (90.6) in franchise history (minimum of 100 FG made).

The series? Dallas leads it 62-43-2 and the Cowboys have outscored the G-Men 2,423-2,089. The two teams split last year’s meetings, with each taking wins in front of the home crowds.

Game one… JerryWorld (aka AT&T Stadium) in week one. The Giants let a 26-20 lead get away from them as Tony Romo and TE Jason Witten connect on an 11-yard TD pass with seven seconds left to take a 27-26 win in Arlington. Dallas trailed 13-6 at the break before rallying in the final 30 minutes of action. Neither club managed to break the 100-yard barrier but New York did manage to outrush Dallas 99-80, while Romo outpaced Eli Manning in passing yardage 356-189. While Romo did throw a pair of interceptions, he did manage to toss three TD passes, including the game-winner to Witten, who had 60 yards on eight catches.

Third down tries in the first meeting? Dallas went 6 of 11, while the Giants were 6 of 14 and the Cowboys ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 37:10, while the Giants held on the pigskin for 22:50.

That was the first meeting.

Meeting nubmer two… the Meadowlands in week seven. Another close game but with a much different outcome. This time, it was Dallas letting a 13-10 halftime lead get away from them as New York outscored Dallas in the final half for a 27-20 win at Met Life Stadium. New York managed to outscore Dallas in the second half 17-7 to take the win over the NFC East rivals. The rushing game came to life in the second meeting, as Dallas did manage to outrush the Giants 233-132 (Darren McFadden led all rushers with 152 yards and a TD) but this time, it was Matt Cassel, not Romo under center (broken collarbone). Cassel was no Romo, throwing for 227 yards and was picked off three times, while Manning threw for 170 in the rematch. Third down tries in game two… Dallas? 6 for 11 (0 of 1 on fourth down). New York? 3 for 11. Dallas did manage to rule the clock in the second meeting, holding the ball for 38:04 to New York’s 21:56. The Giants are favored by 1 and the over/under comes in at 46. As bad as both teams were last year, both numbers make a lot of sense. Dallas will have to live without Romo for a while but they’ll cover the 1 and win at home in JerryWorld.

Detroit (7-9) at Indianapolis (8-8), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. A couple of teams that play their games in the great indoors and barely missed the postseason party meet in the Hoosier State in a late Sunday afternoon contest with two teams with automotive histories.

For the Lions, it’s going to be life without Megatron (Calvin Johnson). Meanwhile, QB Matthew Stafford passed for 4,262 yards in 2015, his 5th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Stafford has 23,174 pass yards since 2011, 3rd most in NFL. Since 2011, he averages 289.7 pass yards per game, 2nd among NFC QBs (Drew Brees). WR Anquan Boldin will pick up where Johnson left off with 1,009 career catches, 1 of 13 in NFL history with 1,000+ catches and WR Golden Tate has 189 catches in past 2
seasons, 5th most in NFL. Has 4 TDs in past 4 games…DT Haloti Ngata had interception last meeting vs. Indianpolis, when he was part of the Baltimore Ravens on October 5th of 2014.

Meanwhile… Colts QB Andrew Luck passed for 391 yards & 4 TDs – including game0-winning TD with no time remaining – in only start vs. Detroit. Luck, in taking over for Peyton Manning, has 14,838 career pass yards and needs 162 to reach 15,000. Can reach mark in 56th career game and would be tied for 2nd fastest in NFL history. RB Frank Gore leads active players with 12,040 rush yards. Gore has a rushing TD in all 5 career games vs. Detroit and in 5 career meetings, has 590 rush yards (118 per game) Since 2014, WR T.Y. Hilton is averaging 16.4 yards per catch, best mark in NFL (minimum 100 catches). Has recorded 1,000+ recieving yards & 5+ TDs in 3 consecutive seasons. Hilton had 6 catches for 100 yards in only meeting… K Adam Vinatieri ranks 3rd in NFL history in FGs (503) and points (2,253).

The Colts lead the series 21-18-2 (which includes contests that took place in Baltimore, Tiger Stadium and the Silverdome), have outscored the Lions 895-811 and won the last four meetings, including a 35-33 win in the Motor City in 2012. Detorit’s last win over Indy came in 1997 in Detroit at the old Silverdome by a final of 32-10. Indy’s favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 50 1/2. Two teams hoping to get back to the post-season party in 2016 after decent but not great records last year. Again, this one’s interesting but not in the “DRILL WORTHY” mode. However, Indy races to take the win in the Hoosier State.

New England (12-4) at Arizona (13-3), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s the “Bradyless Bowl” as Bill Bellichick and the New England Patriots travel westward to face off against the Arizona Cardinals in the first Sunday night contest of the 2016 campaign.

New England is the only team in NFL history to win 12 division titles in 13 seasons and the Pats have won 12+ games in 6 consecutive seasons, 2nd team to accomplish feat (Indianapolis from 2003-09). In case you’ve been given a concussion, Brady is out, serving a four-game suspension for his part in “Deflategate” and QB Jimmy Garoppolo will be under center, making his first NFC start. He will have some of Brady’s weapons to use in RB Le Garrette Blount, who rushed for 120 yards and a pair of TDs in his lone game against Arizona, when he did it on October 31st of 2010 as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meanwhile, Brady’s favorite target, TE Rob Gronkowski led team with 11 TD catches in 2015 and is only TE in NFL history with 5 career 10+ TD seasons and since entering NFL in 2010, has 65 recieving TDs, most in NFL.

The Desert Angry Birds in setting a franchise record with 13 wins, won NFC West and advanced to NFC Champ Game last season before losing to Carolina in Charlotte. Arizona scored team-record 489 points (30.6 avg.) and led NFL in total offense (408.3 yards per game) in 2015. QB Carson Palmer set franchise record with 35 pass TDs, 4,671 pass yards & 104.6 rating in 2015. Palmer is only QB in team history with 2 4,000-yard seasons. Had 100+ passer rating in 11 games last year, most in NFL, while WR Larry Fitzgerald had team-record 109 catches in 2015, his 3rd 100-catch season. The All-Pro reciever had 1,215 recieving yards, his club-record 7th 1,000-yard season and  S Tyrann Mathieu tied for team lead with 5 INTs in 2015.

The Desert Angry Birds lead the series 7-6, which includes contests that took place when the Cardinals were in St. Louis and the Pats played their home games at Fenway Park. However…. the Patriots have outscored Arizona 256-242 in the 13 meetings. Arizona came away 20-18 winners in Foxboro in their last meeting in 2012, while the Pats’s last win in the series came in Foxboro in 2008 by a 47-7 final.

Since these two teams almost made it to the promised land last year and there’s no Brady, this one being the first Sunday night game is “DRILL WORTHY.” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 58 last June and dates a 43-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

As for the oddsmakers in Vegas, they see the Desert Angry Birds as 6 point favorites and the over/under’s 47. Even without Brady, New England will play enspired football. It’ll be closer than the 6 but the Pats come away with the win.

Pittsburgh (10-6) at Washington (9-7), 7:10 p.m. on ESPN. It’s the first of two Monday night contests as Pittsburgh and Ben Rothelisberger take the show from the Steel City to the nation’s capital, taking on the defending NFC East champs in Landover.

The Steelers have 41 wins on Kickoff Weekend, most by AFC team, with Roethlisberger leading the NFL with 328.2 pass yards per game in 2015 (3,938 yards in 12 games), 3rd-highest single-season avg. in NFL history. Has won 9 of past 11 starts on MNF. Is 3-0 in career as starter vs. Washinhton. Last year, WR Antonio Brown had career-best 136 catches, tied for 2nd most in season in NFL history. Brown was 2nd in NFL with franchise-record 1,834 recieving yards and had 265 catches in past 2 seasons, most ever in any 2-year span and 110+ catches in 3 consecutive seasons. Since 2013, he leads NFL with 375 catches and 5,031 recieving yards On defense, LB James Harrison had 1.5 sacks in last game at Washington…

In all the craziness of the NFC East, Washington won NFC East in 2015 and the Redskins have 48 wins in home openers, 5th most in NFC. QB Kirk Cousins made Washington fans forget about RGII, setting a club record last year with 4,166 pass yards. Was 1st QB in team history to pass for 4,000+ yards and 25+ TDs (29) in season, while tallying a career-high 101.6 rating in 2015.

Washington leads the series 42-32-3 and have outscored the Steelers 1,431-1,221, including games that were played when the Redskins were in Boston and the Steelers merged with the Eagles during the Second World War. As far as MNF games are concerned, the Steelers are 43-24 and won their only Monday night meeting last year, while the Redskins are 28-38 with a loss to Dallas under their belts in 2015.

Pittsburgh’s favored by 3 with a 50 over/under in the first Monday night contest. Two years ago, Washington fans were saying “Hell, it’s the Redskins!” This week, they’ll be saying “Hail to the Redskins!” Washington may not cover the 3 but they take the win at home in Landover.

Los Angeles (7-9) at San Francisco (5-11), 10:20 p.m. on ESPN. The second of two Monday night games take place in Napa wine country as a pair of NFC West foes take their place in the spotlight in Santa Clara. For the 49ers, it’s a chance to find their way back to the post-season, while for the Rams, it’s a return to the West Coast for the first time since the 1990s.

I Love LA! For the first time since the Clinton adminstration, there is football in Los Angeles as the franchise returns to Tinseltown for 1st time since 1994. Rams QB Case Keenum has won three of his past four starts under center and RB Todd Gurley took home 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of Year honors. Gurley led NFL rookies with 1,106 rush yards and 10 rush TDs, joining Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1983) as only Rams rookies with 1,000+ rush yards & 10+ rush TDs. Gurley was also the first Rams rookie RB with 1,000+ rush yards since Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis did it in 1993. In addition to Gurley, K Greg Zuerlein has 2 career 60+ yard FGs & is 1 of 2 players in NFL history (Sebastian Janikowski) with multiple career 60+ yard FGs.

Chip Kelly is back on the West Coast, after his stint in the City of Brotherly Love, making his debut as San Francisco head coach. Complied 26-21 record as head coach of Eagles (2013-15) and led Philadelphia to 2013 NFC East Division title. It’ll be Blaine Gabbert, not Colin Kaepernick under center for the 49ers. Gabbert has a has 85+ passer rating in 5 of past 7 and passed for 354 yards and TD for 86.7 passer rating in last start vs. the Rams.

The 49ers lead the series 65-64-3 (which includes contests that took place in Cleveland when the Rams played along the shores of Lake Erie and the 49ers played their home games at Keezar Stadium and Candlestick Park) and have outscored Los Angeles 2,923-2,816. They met twice last year and spilt both contests, with each team taking wins at home.

First meeting… week eight and it was “Meet Me In St. Louis” as the Rams held San Francisco to a pair of Pat Dawson field goals in the first half, taking a 27-6 victory over the 49ers. Taking a 20-6 lead with them to the intermission, the Rams outscored San Francisco 7-0 in the second half (the two clubs went scoreless in the third quarter). San Francisco found themselves held to 38 yards rushing in the first meeting and Kaepernick was sacked three times, while rookie RB Gurley running amok, rushing for 133 yards and a TD. Third down tries in the first contest were not anything to talk about in the first meeting, with the Rams going 1 of 12. The 49ers weren’t that much better, going 3 of 17 (1 of 2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 28:02, while the victorious Rams held on to the pigskin for 31:58.

Round two… the season finale for both teams in Santa Clara. St. Louis let a 16-10 halftime lead at Levis Stadium get away from them as the 49ers would go on to outpace St. Louis, scoring their last nine points in the contest to take a 19-16 overtime win. Gabbert and Anquian Bolden connected for the contest’s first TD early in the second quarter to give the 49ers a short-lived 7-3 lead. The Rams would answer with a 4-yard TD romp from RB Tre Mason and a 44-yard field goal by  Zuerlein with four seconds left before halftime.

San Francisco would then respond with a pair of Dawson field goals to tie things up and then it was Dawson that would send the home crowd assembled at Levis’ Stadium happy with a 23-yard field goal for the win. Both teams managed to rush for over 100 yards in the second meeting and St. Louis outrushed San Francisco 133-108 and Gabbert threw for 354 yards, outpacing Rams signal caller Case Keenum, who threw for 231. There was a great deal of improvement on third down tries in the second contest but neither team reached the 50 percent threshold, San Francisco going 8 of 18 and the Rams going 3 of 13 (both teams were 0 of 1 on fourth down). Despite the overtime loss, the Rams did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:30 to San Francsico’s 33:03.

As far as Monday nights are concerned… the Rams are 26-31 and this will be their first MNF contest since 2014, where they were 0-1. San Francisco? 47-25 under the lights and won their only Monday night meeting last year. San Francisco’s favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 43. It’s California dreaming for one team. The Rams will make this one closer than the 2 1/2 but San Francisco wins this one in Wine Country to close out the week.