The 2013 season set a high-water mark for NFL scoring. Teams found the end zone a record 1,338 times and the per-game scoring average of 46.8 was the highest in league history. Given the natural evolution of the game and increasingly offense-friendly rules (the crackdown on defensive interference, for example), scoring is likely to keep climbing in 2014.
With that in mind, we take a look at the three Week 1 games most likely to pile up the points.
Atlanta's offense is itching to prove last season was an aberration, and what better opportunity than at home against a division rival? Even during a four-win season Matt Ryan threw for 26 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards, and now he has a healthy Julio Jones and Steven Jackson by his side. Injury issues on the offensive line aside, the Falcons look ready to return to their 2012 form. They'll have to stay in the game against a Saints team that broke the 30-point barrier six times and was second in passing touchdowns in 2013. Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston lead one of the best air attacks in the NFL, but it's the running game that could push the Saints' offense to the next level in 2014. Reports throughout the offseason suggested Mark Ingram is finally ready to take over as the No. 1 running back, and he'll have talented youngster Khiry Robinson and always-reliable veteran Pierre Thomas to help carry the load. Both of the 2013 Saints-Falcons matchups were defensive struggles, but don't expect a low-scoring affair this time around.
The legend faces off against the successor in a rematch of last year's Week 7 shootout. Andrew Luck got the better of Peyton Manning in a 39-33 barn burner that saw a combined eight touchdowns and 763 yards of total offense. Luck, who threw for three touchdowns in that game, gets a healthy Reggie Wayne back and has a pair of new receiving targets in Hakeem Nicks and third-round pick Donte Moncrief. The Broncos are down a couple of weapons after the free agent losses of Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker but shouldn't have a problem plugging the holes. Former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders will take over for Decker, second-round pick Cody Latimer will make an early impact and Montee Ball is ready to become a feature rusher. The Denver offense was historically productive last season, and the Broncos should pick up where they left off in this Sunday night showdown.
We know the Bears' offense can produce. They were second only to the Broncos in points per game last season and return one of the most explosive rosters in the league. Jay Cutler's strong arm is a perfect match for big-bodied downfield threats Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and versatile running back Matt Forte can contribute through the air almost as well as he can on the ground. The question is, can the Bills hang with them? On paper, it certainly looks possible. The offensive line has been bolstered, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller provide a dynamic running back duo and star rookie Sammy Watkins gives quarterback EJ Manuel a vertical threat to replace Steve Johnson. The fact that Chicago's defense ranked second to last in points allowed last season doesn't hurt either.