The NFL season got off to a blistering start last night. The Packers and Saints combined for 76 points and the game wasn't decided until the final play. Hopefully, that carries over to the rest of the games this weekend. There are some very intriguing ones, including the renewal of the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry, the Cowboys taking on the Jets, and the Giants traveling to Washington to take on the Redskins for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For my new readers, I pick the games against the spread and straight up.
Week 1 - Sunday, September 11
Atlanta at Chicago, Atlanta favored by 3
I expect both of these teams to regress from their high statures last season. That being said, I don't expect to see the Falcons make the precipitous fall that the Bears will. I expect Jay Cutler to be sacked just as bad or worse than he was last year, and I didn't think the Bears were all that good last season to begin with. The Falcons were a good team last season that I believe overachieved a bit. They have a high powered offense but the defense is weak and not championship caliber. The Falcons are better than the Bears and will show it at Soldier Field.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Chicago 16
Cincinnati at Cleveland, Cleveland favored by 6 1/2
The winner of the most uninteresting game of the weekend goes to Cleveland/Cincinnati. The Browns could get off to a fast start due to an easy schedule while the Bungles could reach even lower depths than they have in the past, which is really saying something. This will be our first look at Andy Dalton, the pro, and also a look at what A.J. Green is capable of against NFL competition. Colt McCoy looked strong in the preseason for the Browns, and if he can carry that over to the regular season, people in Cleveland might have a reason not to be depressed anymore. At least until they remember they live in Cleveland.
Prediction: Cleveland 27, Cincinnati 13
Buffalo at Kansas City, Kansas City favored by 6
The Chiefs are another team I expect to see fall flat on their faces this season. Matt Cassel is already hurt, they lost one of their top receiving targets, TE Tony Moeaki for the season, and the schedule should be much harder this season. That being said, I am not down on them to the point that I would pick them to lose at home to the sad sack Bills.
Prediction: Kansas City 19, Buffalo 16
Philadelphia at St. Louis, Philadelphia favored by 5
The anticipated debut of the Dream Team. Some people have had the audacity to pick St. Louis in this game, but they are just haters. I expect a 2007 New England Patriots type debut for the 2011 Eagles. I don't think the Rams are bad or anything but I think the Eagles, my Super Bowl pick, will be very good.
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, St. Louis 14
Detroit at Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay favored by 2
Tampa Bay is looking for revenge after a heartbreaking home loss last season to the Lions that kept them out of the playoffs. Detroit is the sexy pick this season to be the surprise team that makes the playoffs. I certainly think they will be improved, but think 2012 is more likely to be the year they make the playoff leap. I am looking forward to watching the brick wall that will be Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. This game will come right down to the end, until the Bucs hit a game winning field goal in the final seconds.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Detroit 23
Tennessee at Jacksonville, Jacksonville favored by 3
Chris Johnson is the only thing worth watching in this game. I guess the other interesting thing is to see how awful Luke McCown is, in replacing David Gerrard. With Peyton Manning being out for most, if not all of the season, these putrid teams actually have hope in the stinky AFC South.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 17
Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Baltimore favored by 2 1/2
This is a good rivalry, but it has been a little one sided as of late. The Steelers always beat the Ravens in the playoffs and when it matters most. I'm not very high on the Ravens this year. I think the defense is aging and not what it used to be, and I have never been sold on Joe Unibrow Flacco. The Steelers bring back most of their Super Bowl team from last season and will have QB Ben Roethlisberger right from the start. It will be a close game as it always is, with a familiar result, the Steelers winning.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 14
Indianapolis at Houston, Houston favored by 8 1/2
Colts fans had their fears realized yesterday when it was announced that Peyton Manning had another neck surgery, and will miss at the least 2 months, and most likely the season. I didn't have high hopes for the Colts this year even with Manning, but I still felt they could win this division. Kerry Collins takes the reigns now, and I don't think its impossible to imagine the Colts still winning the division, even with him under center. People love the Texans for some odd reason. They are becoming what the Cardinals were for years before they finally broke through. So maybe this is the year for the Texans. At the very least, they will start off 1-0.
Prediction: Houston 30, Indianapolis 24
Carolina at Arizona, Arizona favored by 7
The quarterbacks take center stage, as Cam Newton makes his NFL debut, and Kevin Kolb makes his Cardinals debut. The Cardinals will be the least worst team in the NFC West and that should be enough to earn them the division. I don't think Kolb is worth the money he received, but he is a huge upgrade over what Arizona had last season. Newton will have to take his lumps this year.
Prediction: Arizona 31, Carolina 17
Minnesota at San Diego, San Diego favored by 8 1/2
Vegas always loves the Chargers at home, as does the general public. No one seems to be giving the Vikings a chance in this game. I don't think Donovan McNabb is as terrible as he looked in Washington, and the Vikings still have the best running back in the game, Adrian Peterson. I think this could turn into a bit of a shootout, and will be closer than the experts think.
Prediction: San Diego 34, Minnesota 27
Seattle at San Francisco, San Francisco favored by 5 1/2
The Jim Harbaugh era takes on the Tavaris Jackson era. I expect the Harbaugh era to last much longer. Last season the Niners opened at Seattle and were embarrassed, so its time for some payback. I don't expect much from San Francisco this year. They went back to Alex Smith, who receives his 9,000th chance. It was painful watching the Green Bay Packers America's Game and seeing how badly Aaron Rodgers wanted to be a 49er. Hell, the Niners even had Mike McCarthy as their offensive coordinator at the time. The Niners revamped most of their defense, which had actually been a decent unit. The Seahawks are worse though, anytime you willingly turn to Jackson as your starting quarterback you probably need your head examined.
Prediction: San Francisco 17, Seattle 14
New York Giants at Washington, New York Giants favored by 3
Let the fun with Rex Grossman begin! The question is, how long will he last until the fans yearn for John Beck? Fans yearning for John Beck? That is how sad the quarterback situation has gotten in Washington. The Giants have made the Redskins their bitch for the last five years. But if they ever was a time for the Skins to finally beat them, it would be Sunday's game. The Giants have been decimated by injuries on their defense. They have lost countless cornerbacks, and now it appears Justin Tuck might miss this game. Still, I just can't pick the Skins to beat the Giants until they actually do it. I think Eli will have his typical game where he makes some mistakes but also has some wow plays. Brandon Jacobs has always tore apart the Skins, so I expect him and Bradshaw to have good games. I expect Washington to do their usual role of keeping the game close but then making some costly turnover when it counts.
Prediction: New York Giants 24, Washington 22
Dallas at New York Jets, New York Jets favored by 4 1/2
I think the Cowboys will have a four win swing this season and be back in the playoffs. They still have a ton of talent on offense, the question is how their defense responds to Rob Ryan. The Jets don't have a high powered offense, so if they are able to dictate the game, it could be a sign of another long season in Dallas. The atmosphere should be electric with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in New York. This will be a good game, but I don't expect a high scoring affair. It will be interesting to see how Plaxico Burress does in his first real game back.
Prediction: New York Jets 17, Dallas 14
Monday, September 12
New England at Miami, New England favored by 7
New England has mostly dominated the Dolphins in Miami for the last few years, after struggling in Miami for most of the early 2000s. No one seems sure what to expect out of the Dolphins. They have a talented defense, but the offense, and specifically QB Chad Henne are big question marks. Chad Ochocinco makes his Patriots debut, as does Albert Haynesworth. If Haynesworth ends up having a big year in New England, Skins fans hate will grow even more for him. Another interesting thing to watch is if Reggie Bush really does become the every down back as has been hinted. I think the Dolphins keep this one interesting but I think there is little doubt the Patriots win.
Prediction: New England 27, Miami 21
Oakland at Denver, Denver favored by 3
I guess Vegas forgot about what the Raiders did to Denver at Denver last season. The Raiders not only owned the Broncos but the entire NFC West last year. I'm not sure why ESPN continually has dud matchups for the second games of their doubleheaders to open the season. I guess it isn't really their fault that most of the teams on the west coast suck. Denver won't cover, in fact they will lose, but it won't be embarrassing like last season.
Prediction: Oakland 18, Denver 15