Jimmy Garoppolo couldn't have a tougher assignment in his first NFL start. While Tom Brady is suspended, the third-year quarterback leads the New England Patriots at the Arizona Cardinals, one of the Super Bowl favorites, a team owning a strong defense.
Both teams were one win away from the Super Bowl last season.
"Mentally, I'm straight with Arizona, but it is a phenomenal opportunity," Garoppolo said. "This is why you play the game. You play to be in the game and play; you don't want to be the backup."
His opportunity this Sunday has come thanks to the "Deflategate" saga that finally has played out. Brady is gone for four weeks, and Garoppolo is the guy.
He should have a full complement of targets to throw to. Wide receiver Danny Amendola, recovering from knee and ankle issues in the preseason, is expected to start alongside Julian Edelman. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was iced by the Patriots to save him for the regular season. On 66 touchdown catches, he needs three more to break the Patriots record.
Arizona won't take a backup quarterback lightly. Last year, it was beaten by Pittsburgh third-stringer Landry Jones.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer barely played in the preseason and has to shrug off the two interceptions he saw returned for touchdowns.
Star receiver Jordy Nelson can't wait to play for the Green Bay Packers again after tearing his right ACL in a preseason game last year and missing last season. Without him, the Packers ranked only 25th in passing, despite having Aaron Rodgers.
They are in Jacksonville, opening on the road for a fourth straight year, a first in Packers history.
The Jaguars return 10 of 11 starters on an offense that made huge strides in 2015, and if their rebuild is nearing completion, this is the kind of game they need to win. Or at the very least, be competitive.
With the New York Giants in town, Cowboys fans will find out if all that optimism coming out of Dallas about Dak Prescott stepping in for injured quarterback Tony Romo is valid.
Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are the first rookies to start the opener at quarterback-running back for the Cowboys since Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill in 1969.
It's also time to find out if all those defensive changes the Giants made " Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple " warrant any enthusiasm for them and new coach Ben McAdoo.
The Minnesota Vikings are another team without its starting quarterback; Teddy Bridgewater wrecked his left knee in practice and is gone for the season. The Vikings dealt for Sam Bradford this week, but how soon he will be ready is a huge unknown.
No such issue for their first opponents, the Tennessee Titans, with Marcus Mariota. How their running game with newcomers DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry performs against Minnesota's stout defense could be telling.
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in Washington without Le'Veon Bell in the backfield and Martavis Bryant at receiver (both suspended), and appear undermanned. They still have Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Antonio Brown, though, and veteran DeAngelo Williams was a terrific stand-in last year for Bell.
The Redskins added Josh Norman at cornerback to bolster a defense that ranked 25th against the pass. They also need to figure out their running game.
Also on Sunday, it's Miami at Seattle, San Diego at Kansas City, Oakland at New Orleans, Cincinnati at the New York Jets, Buffalo at Baltimore, Cleveland at Philadelphia, Chicago at Houston, Tampa Bay at Atlanta, and Detroit at Indianapolis.
In the other half of the Monday doubleheader, the Rams " yes, representing Los Angeles " are at San Francisco.
The season kicked off on Thursday with Denver's 21-20 victory over Carolina in a rematch of the Broncos' Super Bowl victory. Carolina's Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings