Several NFL teams set to open season while balancing optimism with realism
Good football teams have balance, and on the first Sunday of the NFL’s regular season clubs from coast to coast are walking that fine line between unbridled optimism and prudent realism.
There are the haves and have-nots — and in many cases they’re under the same roof.
A look at the reasons for excitement and trepidation among 11 teams heading into Week 1:
Chargers (versus Kansas City)
Haves: Favored by many to win the AFC West, in which the other three teams have been thoroughly overhauled, the Chargers have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers and a prime opportunity to snap their eight-game losing streak to the Chiefs.
Have-nots: Joey Bosa is out with a foot injury. He’s one of six NFL players with double-digit sacks in each of the last two seasons. He and Melvin Ingram have combined for 41 ½ sacks during that span, the best of any duo in the league.
Rams (at Oakland on Monday night)
Haves: The Rams added some impressive upgrades to the team that won the NFC West last season, bolstering their defense with the sun-blotting Ndamukong Suh and playmaking cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
Have-nots: As the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and other teams have found, rosters that on paper look like dream teams are frequently considerably less dreamy in reality.
Cleveland (vs. Pittsburgh)
Haves: After going 1-31 the last two seasons, the Browns have reason for hope. They have receiver Jarvis Landry, pass rusher Myles Garrett, a stopgap quarterback who can get some wins in Tyrod Taylor, and a charismatic and talented rookie leader in Baker Mayfield.
Have-nots: Since 1995, the Browns are 1-19 in season openers and currently have lost 13 in a row, an NFL record.
Indianapolis (vs. Cincinnati)
Haves: Andrew Luck has returned after sitting out last season because of a shoulder injury.
Have- nots: For several years, the Colts have not done a good job of building a capable team around him.
Texans (at New England)
Haves: Even though there’s precious little buzz around them, the Texans have a loaded roster that includes early comeback-player-of-the-year candidates Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. They also play in a very winnable division.
Have nots: The Texans have never won at New England and are 1-9 overall against the Patriots. Houston narrowly lost 36-33 at Gillette Stadium last year, but before that the Texans were road kill there and got blown out by scores of 40-7, 42-14, 41-26, 27-0, and 34-16.
Pittsburgh (at Cleveland)
Haves: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 22-2 against the Browns for his career, and 11-2 against them on the road. That means he has more wins in Cleveland than any Browns quarterback since that franchise relaunched in 1999.
Have-nots: All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell has yet to report to the Steelers and is officially out for the game. As millions of fantasy players are asking: Who knows for whom the Bell totes?
New York Jets (at Detroit on Monday)
Haves: There’s lots of excitement around former USC star Sam Darnold, the only rookie quarterback in this class to begin his NFL career as the starter.
Have-nots: In the last decade, there were lots of Week 1 losses involving rookie quarterbacks making their career debuts. Guys who started 0-1 include Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott.
Dallas (at Carolina)
Haves: The Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott, the 2016 NFL rushing champion, ready to go for the start of the season, as opposed to a year ago when he was suspended for six games.
Have-nots: Lots of opponents are going to load up to stop Elliott and make Prescott beat them with his arm, and there’s no more Dez Bryant or Jason Witten for the Cowboys.
Seattle (at Denver)
Haves: Wilson was in the MVP conversation last year, accounting for all but 14% of the Seahawks’ yards.
Have-nots: The Legion of Boom secondary is closer to the Legion of Whom, as everyone is gone but safety Earl Thomas, and who knows how long he’ll be around?
Jacksonville (at New York Giants)
Haves: The Jaguars have a young, dynamic defense, and an explosive running game led by Leonard Fournette.
Have-nots: Blake Bortles is still their quarterback and is coming off wrist surgery. He had his moments last season, but he doesn’t scare anyone.
Oakland (vs. Rams on Monday night)
Haves: Jon Gruden is back!
Have-nots: Khalil Mack isn’t!
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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