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Snap Judgments

Key matchups, storylines and predictions for Week 1

Posted: Friday September 7, 2007 1:02PM; Updated: Friday September 7, 2007 1:03PM
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Brian Urlacher and the Bears face the enormous challenge of slowing down the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson.
Brian Urlacher and the Bears face the enormous challenge of slowing down the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson.
Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

My Week 1 thoughts as the NFL prepares to fully open its 88th season ...

• Hyping one-on-one matchups in football doesn't always make sense, because there are so many variables that affect the outcome of such individual battles. But if you can't get jacked to watch Chicago middle linebacker Brian Urlacher try and contain San Diego super-back LaDainian Tomlinson this week, you're just not capable of enjoying the moment.

Urlacher and Tomlinson are as good as it gets on their respective sides of the ball, and putting them on the same field for three hours Sunday should make for at least two or three memorable highlight-reel encounters. Tomlinson is the reigning league MVP, and while Urlacher didn't win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006 (Miami's Jason Taylor did), he's a perennial candidate for that honor.

• I'm projecting the seven new NFL head coaches to go 4-3 this week in their debuts. The winners? Oakland's Lane Kiffin gets a victory against Detroit at home, the Cowboys' Wade Phillips starts off right against the Giants at home, San Diego's Norv Turner is a winner against the defending NFC champion Bears at home, and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin era opens successfully at Cleveland.

On the losing side in Week 1, Miami's Cam Cameron won't come away from Washington -- where he once worked on Turner's staff -- with a victory, Atlanta's Bobby Petrino will fall to 0-1 after a trip to Minnesota, and Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt will be in the same boat after his Cardinals lose at San Francisco on Monday night.

• My best guess at the story we're going to be talking about starting Monday will be how quickly the Browns might turn to rookie Brady Quinn at quarterback? If Cleveland starter Charlie Frye struggles at home against the Steelers, the Quinn-Now crowd will start the chant by early in the third quarter on Sunday.

Jason Campbell didn't have much of the preseason spotlight focused on him nationally, but I have a feeling that could change quickly once the Washington quarterback has, what I expect to be, a surprisingly strong season debut against Miami. The Dolphins defense is tough, and points may be at a premium. But Campbell isn't going to make a lot of mistakes that beat himself, and I think he's poised to play better than many anticipate.

• Folks almost demand a sleeper playoff pick that wows them every year, but the best I can do in 2007 is keep pushing the idea that the St. Louis Rams will win the NFC West for the first time since 2003 and announce their arrival as one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. That move to the fore will begin this week at home against Carolina, a puzzling team I have seemingly lost all feel for.

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