For the regular season and playoffs, updated after every game.
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Tennessee impressively topped the Jags twice last season on its way to a division record. As noted above, I think the AFC South will come down to the wire, so a win here for the Titans will very likely prove this prediction wrong.
This prediction, which mirrors the results for Indianapolis, is solely rooted in the uncertainty around Andrew Luck. This should be the first time since Jan. If Luck is not ready by Week 1 as he should be, further doubt should be cast on this season. No team—not the Packers or the Patriots or the Saints—has a better quarterback situation than Philadelphia.
The Eagles will be coming off their Week 9 bye, so a strong performance against a rival is needed to kick off the second half of the season.
Yes, Dak Prescott took a small step back in his sophomore campaign, but he still put together four game-winning drives last season. Ezekiel Elliott should play the whole slate rather than sitting out six games when the Cowboys went without him. And Leighton Vander Esch will fit perfectly with the Cowboys. Dallas will be coming off that huge Week 10 tilt with the Eagles and heading to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that crushed them by 20 points last year while Elliott was out.
The winner of this head-to-head will greatly improve its odds of getting a wild card. Like the Cowboys, the Giants have one glaring hole.
The only way to beat Drew Brees is to hit him consistently. Obviously that should be a challenge for this Giants defense. This also kicks off a four-game stretch for the Giants against playoff teams. And finally, we get treated to Beckham vs. Kirk Cousins pulled off a miracle last year that is rarely discussed. His banged-up offensive line got him sacked 41 times. His best pass-catcher missed most of the season with a hamstring injury.
The defense was 27th in scoring was the worst in the league against the run. And somehow Cousins led Washington to a record. Washington needs more than that. The Vikings are about as well-built as any team in the league. Their top-ranked defense from a year ago got even better in the offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson and rookie corner Mike Hughes. Following a career year from Case Keenum, the offense got a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who could get them over the hump, and Minnesota returns running back Dalvin Cook from an early-season ACL tear after he dazzled in his debut.
The interior of the offensive line may be the only question in Minnesota, which is looking for its third NFC North crown in four years. This is the sort of early game that eventually decides a division. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will reach the playoffs. The Packers finally have a legitimate No. Adding Mo Wilkerson to the defensive line and strengthening the defensive backfield in the draft gets the Pack back in postseason play.
Brady and Rodgers have met on the field just once before, and a week for the quarterbacks and their head coaches to scheme against one another could be a multipart docuseries on HBO. This could be the best game of the regular season. Matt Stafford has played a high level the past two seasons, the receiving group has gotten better and the 27th-ranked defense from a year ago should improve immediately under the former Pats defensive coordinator.
But the Lions are clearly the third-best team in this tough division. The schedule makers pitted the Lions against the Vikings in Weeks 7 and 9, so Detroit has to show mental toughness against a Seahawks team that may be down this year.
The outcome of this game will show how focused the Lions are. The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush. It may take one more year for this group to gel. After a difficult home game against the Pats, the Bears have a soft middle-season schedule during which they host the Jets, travel to Buffalo and host the Lions in consecutive weeks.
The rich got richer this offseason, and the Rams look to be completely unfair. Ndamukong Suh is now on a defensive line beside Aaron Donald. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are in the same secondary. Brandin Cooks adds speed to the offense. The Rams are building a monster, and their youthful wild-card exit last year will only fuel this campaign. No game on paper is as exciting as this one. Both squads have surrounded their third-year quarterbacks with veterans acquired through various trades and deft free-agency moves.
No team that missed the playoffs last year should feel as good about its odds in as the 49ers. They went with Jimmy G, with three wins against playoff-bound teams.
Talk about a statement game to open the season. The Seahawks as we knew them are no more, and we should all mourn that. Once built with smart draft picks, the Seahawks had to go out in free agency this offseason to get parts such as Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall and Maurice Alexander.
The Legion of Boom is gone, taking the identity of this team and its juice with it. Plenty of storylines in this one. Jon Gruden gets to go against a quarterback he gushed about for years on Monday Night Football. Marshawn Lynch faces his former squad. All this and more in a West Coast tilt between teams looking for their footing. The Cardinals are going to have to find themselves in the desert this year.
I believe first-year head coach Steve Wilks will soon have success in Arizona, but not this season. The quarterback situation with veteran Sam Bradford and future-of-the-franchise Josh Rosen will be a difficult one to navigate for the defensive-minded first-time head coach. There was a great deal of roster turnover this offseason for a team looking for a new identity. The chances seem low of seeing new Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback Nathan Peterman and an offensive line that struggled this preseason all click immediately in a road opener.
Ravens 20, Bills Since , Baltimore is when opening the season at home, with an average margin of victory of To make matters worse for the Bills, the Ravens return every starter on defense, and their pass rush has been dominant this preseason.
That spells a long day for Peterman. Ravens 20, Bills 6. Baltimore is the FPI's biggest favorite of the week, partially because the Bills are starting Peterman, who finished last season with a Starting Peterman not a surprise, despite '17 disaster Jackson 'absolutely' ready to play.
Kansas City's defense looked fundamentally bad in a lot of ways during preseason. The Chiefs will need to score into the 30s to beat the Chargers, and that's a lot to ask of Patrick Mahomes in his first full season as a starter against a good defensive opponent.
Chargers 34, Chiefs The Chargers have lost eight straight to the Chiefs, but they finally will put an end to that losing streak Sunday. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will figure out a way to pressure Mahomes, and a Philip Rivers -led offense should have its way with a Kansas City defense that likely will be missing its best player in safety Eric Berry heel. Chargers 31, Chiefs Mahomes is greeted by an improved Chargers defense to start the season. Could be worse, but not by much.
Be careful expecting too much from Mahomes against the Chargers' top cover corner, Casey Hayward , and their elite pass-rushers. For Year 2 in L. Changes to secondary threaten Chiefs' success against Rivers. DEN -3 Matchup quality: The Broncos are in their past 18 home openers, but there's more than history working against the Seahawks in this one. Dion Jordan might not be ready to help a pass rush that is already a major question mark, and it's not certain whether All-Pro Earl Thomas will play after returning from his holdout this week.
Broncos 21, Seahawks The Broncos hope to unveil their improvements on offense -- featuring new starting QB Case Keenum -- and hope their rookie class, with 10 on the current roster, fuels a rebound from 's finish.
Broncos 23, Seahawks Was Keenum's -- when he finished second among qualifying starters in Total QBR -- an aberration? We'll get our first hint come Sunday One trend Matthew Berry is buying from the preseason? That Broncos running back Royce Freeman is a future star. Thomas ends holdout; Seahawks turn down second-round pick Keenum to get first real taste of new job in Broncos' opener Shaquem Griffin to start in Week 1.
ARI -1 Matchup quality: The Redskins are in openers under Jay Gruden, with 10 giveaways to only five takeaways. Quarterback Alex Smith , who is in the past five seasons in Week 1, with 12 touchdowns to four picks. Washington's offense is far from a finished product, and has a new starting back in Adrian Peterson.
Redskins 21, Cardinals Arizona will be unveiling new looks in Year 1 under coach Steve Wilks. The defense might be mostly stable, but the offense will be a large unknown aside from David Johnson being its centerpiece. It'll take the Cardinals at least a game to get used to everything new -- Wilks, his coaching staff, the offense with Sam Bradford , the defense and the 24 new players.
Washington 24, Cardinals These are two teams with new quarterback situations, and the FPI actually predicts Smith and Bradford to be remarkably similar in quality on a per-play basis going forward. Here's a fact to know from Matthew Berry's 10 lists of In the past three seasons, no quarterback has targeted tight ends more than Smith.
Smith, Davis look to recapture 'great connection' with Redskins Peterson, Norman share same 'Mr. AD ready for big workload. Bengals with Andrew Luck making his first start since CAR -3 Matchup quality: Offensively, the Cowboys have questions at wide receiver and tight end and will not have Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick for the first time. They will be breaking in a new kicker in Brett Maher as well.
The biggest question on defense is at safety, but their strength is the defensive line. The Panthers' weakness is an offensive line that is banged up and could struggle to protect Cam Newton.
The Cowboys' defense must carry the day. Cowboys 23, Panthers Because it will be nearly impossible for the Cowboys to successfully rush against one of the best front sevens in the NFL with their injury situation, the Panthers get the edge. Panthers 27, Cowboys Most believe Dak Prescott suffered a major sophomore slump, but Total QBR still had him as the fourth-most-efficient quarterback last season. FPI is optimistic about Prescott in and beyond. Looking for a streaming option in Week 1?
Rookie Cowboys wideout Michael Gallup should be an option. Elliott ready to prove he's NFL's 'best back' Newton begins next chapter of career after 'pretty amazing' first Jason Garrett 'embracing the youth' in critical year. The Bears' defense, led by new pass-rusher Khalil Mack , will no doubt keep the game interesting.
But for all the offseason gains made by the Bears on both sides of the ball, the NFL is still a quarterback-driven league, and it's difficult to give the nod to Mitchell Trubisky over Aaron Rodgers. Packers 24, Bears The Packers have dominated this series of late, going in their past 20 regular-season meetings when Rodgers has started. This opener has special meaning for Rodgers -- it's his first home game since he broke his collarbone at Minnesota in Week 6 last season.
Expect it to be a memorable one. Packers 30, Bears Given the price the Bears paid for Mack, surely they're hoping for better than that. Anthony Miller faces a largely untested, inexperienced secondary, making him an interesting Week 1 flier. No stopping Rodgers at age 34, 40 or perhaps beyond After playing for both, usually one sticks.