INSIDE THE AFC
Challenging debut. The Broncos were allowed to draft linebacker/defensive end Bradley Chubb fifth overall in April when Cleveland opted for cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth pick. First up for Ward is Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown, he of five consecutive 1,200-yard seasons. Brown has 86 catches in 12 games vs. Cleveland. “Definitely embracing that challenge and look forward to going against him,” Ward said. The Browns’ No. 1 overall choice, quarterback Baker Mayfield, will back up Tyrod Taylor.
Brown nears milestone. If the Steelers don’t have running back Le’Veon Bell, they can always feed the football to Brown. He has 9,910 yards receiving in his career. If he can reach 10,000, he will tie for the second-fewest games (116) to reach that milestone. Calvin Johnson needed 115 games and Torry Holt 116.
Watt returns. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt returns Sunday at New England after missing most of last year with a torn ACL. It’s a tough ask for Watt to return to his dominant self. Since 2011, despite missing 24 games, Watt still leads the league in tackles for lost yardage (136), quarterback hits (219), fumble recoveries (13) and multi-sack games (21).
Ramsey vs. Beckham. The best individual matchup of Week 1 is Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey against Giants receiver Odell Beckham. Because they had Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars generally did not have Ramsey shadow elite receivers around the field last year. Even if that remains the case, Ramsey will run into Beckham at some point. “A lot of people are trying to make it me and him specifically; that’s not what it’s about,” Ramsey said. “It’s going to be 11 guys out there for us and 11 guys out there for them.”
Jets going young. Kudos to the Jets for not wasting time. They’re starting rookie Sam Darnold at quarterback at Detroit on Monday. Josh McCown is the backup and they traded Teddy Bridgewater to New Orleans. At 21 years, 97 days old, Darnold will become the youngest quarterback to start a Week 1 game in the Super Bowl Era. The previous youngest was New England’s Drew Bledsoe (21 years, 203 days) in 1993.