Week 1 Picks

Baltimore at DenverĀ 

Denver was one competent display from Rahim Moore and Tony Carter from making the AFC Championship game last season. Of course Baltimore benefited from that play to beat the Broncos in overtime, and eventually take home the Lombardi Trophy. Think the Broncos forgot about that? Add in the fact that Denver is at home where they were 7-1 last season, and, while Peyton doesn’t have the best playoff record, he has OWNED the regular season in his career. Oh and Baltimore lost Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe in the offseason. Certainly makes sense that Denver is the favorite going into this game…

Until you realize that 7-1 home record is more a product of a 13-3 regular season, and that homefield advantage didn’t help them in the playoffs last season. And while the Ravens lost plenty of players they also added Michael Huff, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, a healthy Ladarius Webb, and Elvis Dumervil. Yes, the same Dumervil that has terrorized quarterbacks for the Broncos the last few years. His partner in crime, Von Miller, is suspended for the first six games of the season. That’s 29.5 sacks that won’t be on the field for Denver.

This game should be close once again, but you can’t underrate what those two pass rushers meant to the Broncos defense last season. In the end the Ravens pull this one out.

Ravens win 32-27

New England at Buffalo

The EJ Manuel era has begun. The Bills have announced the rookie out of Florida State will be healthy and under center for them this Sunday. That one move makes the Bills one of the least predictable teams this season. They could go anywhere from cellar dwellers to surprise division winners. Manuel and CJ Spiller might form the most explosive backfield in the entire NFL.

For the Patriots they lose Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski. You know, their four leading receivers from last season. But Tom Brady has dealt with similar issues before. Back in 2005 he lost Deion Branch and David Givens and still lead the Patriots to a division title. Not to mention the Patriots have owned the Bills since 2000, going 23-3 in that stretch. At what point is it smart to underestimate Bill Belichick?

Pats win 35-21

Cincinnati at Chicago

These two teams are very similar. Both are led by strong defensive units highlighted by a stud on the defensive line (Geno Atkins for the Bengals, Julius Peppers for the Bears), have questions at quarterback despite having a starter who made the Pro Bowl, an elite receiver, and top tight end. Both could take the next step this season and become real Super Bowl contenders, or both could be duds that finish at the bottom of the division. So yeah, this is a tough one to pick.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and I’m gonna take the cop out and go for the team with homefield advantage. So…

Bears win 21-17

Miami at Cleveland

In a weird way this might be the game I’m most excited to see. It features two of the biggest winners of the offseason. Both teams have a chance of surprising quite a few people and make a playoff appearance.

While Miami added a lot of pieces, they lost Reggie Bush and Jake Long. As a result there are questions along the offensive line and with the running game. The Browns defense should be able to take advantage of that. If the Dolphins can’t establish a running game, Ray Horton and the Browns should be able to get plenty of pressure on Ryan Tannenhill and the Dolphins. Mike Wallace should be a nice addition for the Phins, but Joe Haden has proven to be one of the top corners in the league.

On the flip side the Browns have a strong offensive line. That’s going to help against a pretty good front seven for the Dolphins. Trent Richardson didn’t have the greatest rookie season, but he will get his sophomore campaign off to a good start. This guy is a future star, and he is going to break a few big ones for the Browns. Under the tutelage of Norv Turner, Brandon Weeden will do just enough to win this game.

Browns win 24-14

Atlanta at New Orleans

Possibly the greatest game of the day (yeah that includes the 49ers/Packers game). New Orleans had one of the messiest seasons last season…and still finished 7-9! Their defense was historically bad, and the offense was uncharacteristically turnover prone. That changes with the return of Sean Payton, and a change to Rob Ryan at defensive coordinator. This team is too talented to go 7-9 again.

The Falcons had an amazing season last year, and still lost to the Saints in New Orleans. Atlanta should be a Super Bowl contender once again, but they’re primed for regression. Winning in Louisiana isn’t happening this week.

Saints win 41-28

Tampa Bay at New York Jets

So Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory at running back. Rookie Geno Smith starting at quarterback. And the Bucs added Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to a team that already lead the league in run defense. Do I have to say anything else?

No I’m not a huge Schiano fan, and I like defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan even less. But in what world do the Jets offense get anything done? They have to be a bottom three unit. The Jets defense should be a challenge for the Bucs, but Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson will get a few big plays. The Bucs will pull this one out.

Bucs win 24-14

Tennessee at Pittsburgh

The Titans significantly improved their offensive line. They added Shonn Greene to an attack that already featured Chris Johnson. But this isn’t the week they get the running game going. The Steelers defense is going to once again be one of the better units in the NFL. Maybe not as dominant as they’ve been in the past, but with Jake Locker taking the snaps for Tennessee they don’t have to be.

On the other side, the Titans were one of the worst defenses in the league. They didn’t do much in the offseason to change that. Even with questions at running back and the loss of Mike Wallace, Big Ben should have enough to work with to win this game easily.

Steelers win 31-10

Minnesota at Detroit

The Vikings swept this series last season. That won’t happen again. The biggest advantage the Vikings have is their defensive line over the Lions offensive line. But even adding Reggie Bush as a wide receiver should make things difficult for Minnesota. With the amount of focus they’ll have to spend on Calvin Johnson, Bush should be able to get plenty of open looks.

The Lions defensive line should be a dominant unit this season. No chance Adrian Peterson can win this game by himself. Christian Ponder is going to see plenty of pressure up the middle, and there is no way he is going to lead this offense to enough points to top the Lions.

Lions win 27-17

Oakland at Indianapolis

Indianapolis wins 31-10

Seattle at Carolina

Carolina is a popular sleeper pick this season. They played well down the stretch, and Cam Newton is the perfect quarterback to take advantage of the emergence of the read-option. But the Seahawks have a guy that can run that offense as well…and a defense that has plenty of experience stopping it. The Panthers don’t have many receiving options that scare you. Without a big threat in the passing game Cam Newton is going to have to wait a week to put up big numbers.

The Seahawks running game against the Panthers front seven will be the most exciting battle of this game. If the Seahawks win that this game will be a laugher. But even if they struggle there, if Russell Wilson can continue his strong play, the Seahawks should be able to take advantage of a pretty weak secondary for Carolina.

Seahawks win 31-21

Kansas City at Jacksonville

The Jaguars have the looks of a good offensive line, a strong running game, and some solid receivers…when Justin Blackman comes back from suspension. But they have Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, and they’ll have to put that dreadful defense on the field.

Kansas City wins 38-10

Arizona at St. Louis

Two teams that would be great sleeper picks…if they didn’t play in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer drastically improves the Cardinals quarterback situation. But first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is out for the season. There should still be questions on that offensive line and with the running game. The defense shouldn’t even be as good as it was last season. The safeties have been replaced, and they lost coordinator Ray Horton.

The Rams lost Steven Jackson, and that will hurt the running game. They added offensive talent in Tavon Austin and Jared Cook. That’s not as much as everyone makes it seem, but Bradford should have a better season. Oh, and they added Pro Bowler Jake Long to the offensive line. More importantly their defense should continue to improve.

Rams win 20-13

Green Bay at San Francisco

The 49ers owned the Packers last season. This season shouldn’t yield the same results. For as good as the 49ers defense is, the Packers have been able to score on it. With the addition of Eddie Lacy they might actually have a threat of a running game. Defensively they had all offseason to prepare for the read-option, and the 49ers are missing Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and Ted Ginn Jr., the top four receivers from last season.

But the 49ers have gotten good production from their receivers in the preseason, and added Anquan Boldin. More importantly the Packers don’t have a strong offensive line and the 49ers will be able to get pressure on Rodgers. The Packers will probably have to find another week to get the running game as well. And for all the scheme adjustments that Packers were able to make, they didn’t improve the personnel that much. The game will be close than in the playoffs, and, if these teams meet again, the Packers might get the W, but not this week.

49ers win 31-28

New York Giants at Dallas

The two division rivals face off to start the season for the second straight year. Both are hurting along the offensive line, but the Cowboys also have a few injuries to their defensive line. They also have to adjust to a new 4-3 defense. The Giants should be able to get plenty of pressure on Romo and that will help contain Dez Bryant more than the corners will. And if Prince Amukamara wants to prove he can be the top corner for the Giants he better help on Dez too.

Both teams should struggle to run the football, but David Wilson is the bigger threat to take it to the house. With Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff sidelined, as long as the makeshif offensive line for the Giants isn’t in shambles Eli should have time to throw. If he has time he has the weapons to make the Cowboys pay.

Giants win 28-24

Philadelphia at Washington

RG3 is back. Cleared to start the season opener despite the ACL tear in the playoffs last season, RG3 instantly makes the Redskins a threat to compete as NFC East champs. Even with all the changes the Eagles made, they’re still not a playoff team.

The Eagles are adjusting to a 3-4, and Trent Cole has not looked good in space. The Redskins should be able to run on this defense. The most exciting matchup will be the Redskins pass rushers against an Eagles offensive line that could be one of the best in the league. If the Redskins can get the pressure they want, this game will be over quickly.

The wildcard is Chip Kelly’s offense. Despite having tape of his time in Oregon, no one is certain what his offense will look like in the NFL. But if it’s anything similar the tempo should be quick, and the offense should run tons of plays. The Redskins aren’t the deepest defense in the league, and if Chip Kelly can tire them out the Eagles have a chance. But at the end of the day I like RG3 to win it even if it’s close.

Redskins win 27-20

Houston at San Diego

San Diego doesn’t have a great defense, and they don’t have a great offensive line. The receivers aren’t too intimidating either.

The Texans get Brian Cushing back, and still have DPOY JJ Watt.

Texans win 28-14

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