Week 1 in the NFL is the first chance to see what the teams who have been dubbed “contenders” during the preseason actually look like in full-game action. Two of those potential playoff teams meet on the field to start the year, when the Houston Texans visit the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. CBS Sports lead play-by-play announcer, Jim Nantz, will have the call alongside broadcast partner Tony Romo and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. To get a preview of this battle of AFC contenders, we caught up with Nantz at NFL on CBS media day last week.
CBS Local Sports: You’re on the call for Patriots-Texans in Week 1, what storylines are you most interested in heading into the game?
Jim Nantz: There are a lot of question marks. We want to see what Deshaun Watson looks like, number one. How healthy is he going to be?
And what about J.J. [Watt]? I know he’s seen some action. Then you have Jadeveon [Clowney] on the other side. If we get all the stars aligned and on that field, it could be a rematch of a game that was one of the best regular-season games a year ago. It was a shootout up at Gillette. I know the Texans are anxious to do what Kansas City did last year in Week 1, and that’s win at New England. Houston has never won at that stadium. That is a hurdle they’d like to clear Week 1.
CBS Local Sports: You mention the Texans never having won at that stadium. They also haven’t beaten the Patriots under Bill O’Brien. How much do you think he wants to win this game?
Jim Nantz: His parents still live in the Massachusetts area. Let’s put it this way, Houston has a chance. And I know I’m getting way ahead of myself, but those are two of our six [AFC] playoff teams. We still have to play it out, but now you start thinking down the line and that game September 9th might have some say in home-field advantage come January. There’s a little something extra on the line there.
Now, I’m sure the coaches aren’t going to preach that before the game, but it’s a big match-up. It’s a wonderful first game.
CBS Local Sports: On the Patriots side, coming off a Super Bowl loss last year, what’s your biggest question with this team this season?
Jim Nantz: What are they going to look like offensively without Solder at left tackle? What are they going to do with the receiving corps? Edelman has to sit the first four games, and they already waived a bunch of guys who were name guys who just didn’t work out retired, in Eric Decker’s case. You know you’re going to see Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. But how is this offense going to work?
Is Burkhead going to be healthy? No Dion Lewis, but you have James White. You never know what they’re going to do at that position. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, Belichick starts somebody at running back who didn’t see a snap the week before, and the guy has a great statistical week.
CBS Local Sports: Like Jonas Gray.
Jim Nantz: That 200-yard game or whatever it was back in the day against Indianapolis, and then he was invisible! But, overall, I think [the question is] to see what this year’s edition of the Tom Brady express looks like. What are his weapons? How protected is he going to be on that left side now that the rookie (Isaiah Wynn) has been injured and Solder left in free agency. I’m fascinated to see.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, you’re back in the broadcast booth once more. Football is in the air. What are you most excited for this season?
Jim Nantz: The second season with Tony [Romo]. The first season was such a joyride, and I knew it would be. It did not come as any great surprise to me, because we had done a lot of practice games and rehearsal and I had known Tony for many years. It was not trying to get to know somebody. I knew him well, and that friendship really served us well. We had a connection on the air of two buddies watching a game and conversing. It was so much fun, and I’ve missed it! I’ve had a lot of exciting events to do in the meantime, but I’ve just missed that chance to, on a Sunday afternoon, be an eyewitness to a good game and watch it with a close friend.