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ID'ing the best, most important games of NFL Week 1

Another installment of the Aaron Rodgers/Russell Wilson rivalry is on tap for Sunday. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What are the five must-watch games this week? ESPN's matchup quality metric, which utilizes ESPN's Football Power Index to rank games on a 1-100 scale based on the quality of teams and projected closeness of the final score, tells us the top games of Week 1.


1. Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)

Matchup quality: 78 out of 100
FPI win projection: Packers, 62 percent

Right off the bat we're spoiled with FPI's top two teams in the NFC squaring off in a season opener. Even though it's only Week 1, this game could play a big role in whether either team finishes the regular season as the top seed in the conference. With a victory Sunday, the Seahawks and Packers would have a 36.3 percent and 24 percent chance, respectively, to hold the No. 1 seed.

Be sure to pay extra attention when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense (FPI of +4.9) goes against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks' defense (+1.8).


2. Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (8:30 p.m. ET Thursday, NBC)

Matchup quality: 73 out of 100
FPI win projection: Patriots, 74 percent

Although this matchup features the best and third-best teams in the AFC, per FPI, the gap between them is vast -- 5.4 points on a neutral field.

Here's how good the Patriots are: Although FPI thinks they will win this game by 9.4 points, it also thinks this is their second-toughest game at Gillette Stadium this season. Only the Falcons' visit in Week 7 projects as a bigger challenge.

And, of course, it's hard to forget FPI's lofty general expectations for New England this season. The Patriots have a 50.7 percent chance to play in the Super Bowl and a 33.2 percent chance to win said Super Bowl. All without having played a game.

If there's one place the Chiefs have an edge, it's on special teams, where Tyreek Hill is always a threat.


3. New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (8:30 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC)

Matchup quality: 65 out of 100
FPI win projection: Cowboys, 67 percent

Matchup quality does not factor in Odell Beckham Jr.'s availability, but if it did, the injured ankle threatening the electric wideout's Week 1 status could alter the rating. Beckham has been known to deliver particularly impressive highlights against the Cowboys, after all.

Beckham and the Giants-Cowboys rivalry aside, there's good reason for this matchup to be rated as highly as it is. Dallas (+3.8) and New York (+1.9) are the two best teams in the NFC East. And despite all the success the Cowboys had last season, they went 0-2 against Big Blue. That was in large part due to the Giants' defense, which FPI believes is currently the best in the NFL.


4. Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS)

Matchup quality: 63 out of 100
FPI win projection: Titans, 53 percent

Don't be surprised to see Tennessee favored in this game: FPI believes the Titans are real playoff contenders. Granted, the model believes that Oakland is the superior team, but the Raiders will be traveling to Nashville for this one, and home field matters.

Sure, this is a long shot, but we could be looking at a potential rematch of this contest in January. If they make the playoffs, FPI believes the Titans are most likely (16.6 percent) to be the No. 4 seed. And if the Raiders make the playoffs, they are most likely (11.6 percent) to be the No. 5 seed.

As for this Sunday, this game has some shootout potential, with these two offenses combining for an FPI of +4.1, with the defenses at -0.2.


5. New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (7:10 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN)

Matchup quality: 55 out of 100
FPI win projection: Vikings, 64 percent

It would be difficult to find two teams that are more opposite.

It's simple: The Saints have a strong offense (+2.4) and a porous defense (-2.3). The Vikings have an ugly, Sam Bradford-led offense (-1.1) but a feisty defense (+2.2). We'll be in for some excellent football when Drew Brees is trying to sling it against Xavier Rhodes & Co., and, well ... something when New Orleans' young secondary tries to stop Sam Bradford from dinking and dunking his way down the field.

Keep in mind: Although the Vikings are clearly second-fiddle to the Packers in the NFC North, FPI believes they have a good shot (47.6 percent) to make the postseason in some capacity.


High-leverage game of the week: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS)

Matchup quality: 50 out of 100
FPI win projection: Bengals, 58 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Ravens, 23 percent; Bengals, 21 percent

This AFC North division battle could go a long way to helping the Ravens in their quest for a playoff spot, and this game features the second-largest potential playoff chances swing of any Week 1 game.

Should Baltimore pull off the mild upset, its odds of making the postseason would rise from 41 percent to 54 percent. Should the Ravens falter, however, their odds would drop to 31 percent, a 23 percentage point swing.

The game also carries a 20-plus percentage point swing for Cincinnati, which would see its playoff odds fall from current 39 percent to 27 percent with a loss or move up to 48 percent with a win.

For more from ESPN Analytics, visit the ESPN Analytics Index.