Week 1 of the NFL season ends on Monday with a Monday Night Football double-header, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the New York Giants in New Jersey, before the Denver Broncos host the Tennessee Titans.
The first MNF of the season marks the beginning a new era for ESPN’s flagship football show, with a new trio of commentators in the hot seat. Steve Levy will serve as MNF’s play-by-play analyst this season, with Brian Griese and Louis Riddick as analysts. While the trio will call the Broncos’ game against the Titans, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s leading college football commentators, will make their NFL debut when they call the first half of MNF’s double-header.
A new era begins in New Jersey on Monday, with Joe Judge taking charge of his first game as New York Giants head coach. The former New England Patriots special teams coordinator and wide receiver coach has earned plaudits during the offseason for implementing the kind of disciplinarian approach the Giants have lacked over the last couple of season, but knows he will be judged by performances on the field. The Giants have won a miserly 12 games in the last three seasons combined and are onto their fourth head coach in as many campaigns.
Along with Judge, the Giants have a new defensive coordinator in Pat Graham and a new offensive coordinator in Jason Garrett, who was fired at the end of last season after nine years as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. Garrett hasn’t run an offense since he was the Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2010 and will rely on Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to improve an offense that ranked 23rd in yards per game and 19th in points per game last season. Jones struggled with protecting the ball in his rookie season but set a franchise record with 24 touchdowns—a league-best figure among rookie quarterbacks—while Barkley will be hoping to be fully fit after hamstring injuries last season forced him to miss three games. Despite being sidelined for three games, the second overall pick of the 2018 Draft rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season and ranks third in the NFL in terms of yards from scrimmage accumulated since 2018.
The Steelers, meanwhile, begin the season as a potential dark horse for the AFC despite missing the playoffs over the last two seasons. The reason for such optimism is the return of Ben Roethlisberger and a rock-solid defines, which could carry Pittsburgh far in the postseason. The Steelers lost their veteran quarterback in Week 2 of last season and finished 8-8 despite having to rely on back-up quarterbacks Mason Rudolph—who was himself ruled out with an injury—and Devlin Hodges, thanks to a defense that led the NFL in sacks and takeaways. If Roethlisberger can stay fit this time out, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers not reaching the postseason.
Pittsburgh and Big Ben have plenty to be optimistic ahead of Week 1 as Roethlisberger has thrown at least two touchdown passes and finished with a rating of 110 or higher in three of his last four Monday Night Football appearances.
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