There are two games left in Week 1 of the NFL.
In a season already unlike any other, the first noticeable change of tonight’s games will happen before kickoff.
When the Monday Night Football theme plays this year, you won’t be hearing Hank Williams Jr.
For the second time in a decade, ESPN will not play Willams’ “All My Rowdy Friends,” because it “will not resonate” with fans watching football games played in mostly empty stadiums.
ESPN first cut ties with Williams in 2011 when he compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler on Fox And Friends. But Williams was back at the worldwide leader in 2017 — the first year of Colin Kaepernick’s exile from the NFL. At the time, “Black Lives Matter” was not a phase approved by most pro leagues or their corporate overlords.
The song you’ll hear instead of “All My Rowdy Friends” is Little Richard’s “Rip it Up.”
On the field you’ll see changes, too. The Giants have a new coach, Big Ben can actually play, Von Miller cannot, and Jadeveon Clowney will help strengthen the Titan defense.
Here’s what to expect on the only Monday night doubleheader of 2020.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants
What To Watch For
Giants: You may not want to watch this game if you’re a Giants fan, but you probably will anyway. A couple things to watch for are the new coaching additions to the team. How will Joe Judge fair in his first game as head coach? Will offensive coordinator Jason Garrett do more on the sidelines than smile and clap? Also notice the Giants talented young receiving corps. Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard have the ability to be playmakers on offense if, and this is a big if, Daniel Jones can get them the ball.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger will make his first start since Week 2 of last season. Who knows how Roethlisberger, 38, will fare after missing a full year of ball? Former Giants QB and future hall of famer Eli Manning (get over it, haters), officially retired in January at 39. Could this be the beginning of the end for Big Ben?
In August, RB Saquon Barkley and WR Sterling Shepard did not rule out a Week 1 strike. But that won’t happen.
No matter how old Big Ben is, few teams in the league will be able to stop the Pittsburgh defense, projected to be one of the best in the NFL. Vegas predicts a one score game with a 6-point spread favoring the visiting Steelers. The disgruntled Giants fan in me thinks Big Blue will lose by much more. The Giants will likely be the third team in the NFC East to lose their opener. But I hope i’m wrong.
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos
What To Watch For
Broncos: Kyler Murray shocked the 49ers in a game that should’ve been postponed or, at least, relocated due to California wildfires. In his second year, can Denver QB Drew Lock be another sophomore star in the league? Lock played in 5 games last year and won 4, achieving a better winning percentage than other rookies in the 2019 draft class. Lock and the Broncos face a tough test tonight with the Titans.
Titans: In January, the Titans were a game away from the Super Bowl. Can they get back to an AFC championship? Derrick Henry can make any QB’s job easy. But what about former Tennessee backup Ryan Tannehill? Will he continue to find open receivers and win games by doing the bare minimum with his arm? He may get by, by giving the ball to Henry tonight — but how long will it take for NFL defenses to stop #22?
The MNF nightcap will likely be a better game than the first. The line in this one hovers around -2 in favor of the visiting Titans. With Von Miller out with a season ending ankle injury, will Henry run all over the Broncos? To me, Denver is one of those teams who could dramatically improve this season. We’ll get our first look in a few hours.