Friday, September 7, 2012

The Hail Mary - Week 1

There is no better way to recover from a bachelor party than by sitting in front of the TV for 10 hours watching football. Fiancee willing, that is what I will be doing Sunday as the NFL season fully kicks off. My favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, are in the game of the day when they take on the Green Bay Packers. We will also see the debuts of highly touted rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck, and Bob Griffin III against the Bears and Saints.

Sunday, September 9

Indianapolis at Chicago, Chicago favored by 9 1/2

A lot of people are very high on the Bears, with some even talking Super Bowl. I find that talk preposterous and don't even expect the Bears to make the playoffs. They will be better in the passing game with  Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but the offensive line is still a major issue and the defense is getting older. I think that Luck can make the Colts at least competitive right away, which would be a major step up from last season. I expect this game to go right down to the wire.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Indianapolis 20

Philadelphia at Cleveland, Philadelphia favored by 8

Things are going to get very ugly in Cleveland this season, which considering their history is really saying something. For the Eagles, this is a lot like last season where they get to open up against a bad team. The course of the Eagles season won't really be determined from this game, but the tougher games over the next couple of weeks. It is possible that the Browns best player, CB Joe Haden will be able to play as he appeals a four game suspension. Even if he does, the Eagles have way too many weapons for the Browns to match up against.

Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Cleveland 14

St. Louis at Detroit, Detroit favored by 8 1/2

Isn't it strange to see the Lions favored by 8 1/2? Makes sense though as they are coming off a playoff season, while the Rams won just two games. The Rams are hoping that Jeff Fisher and a slew of draft picks that they have acquired will lead to future success. For the time being they will have to take their lumps. I don't expect them to have many wins this year but I am expect them to be in a lot more games than they were last season. The Detroit offense should pick up right where it left off, with the lethal combo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Prediction: Detroit 26, St. Louis 18

New England at Tennessee, New England favored by 6

I like the Titans chances of surprising most people and taking the AFC South this season. Jake Locker looked good in relief of Matt Hasselbeck last season, and I feel he has the mobility and the arm to succeed in the NFL. Going with my theme of being high on the Titans, I am picking them to upset the Patriots in this game. I think the Patriots line is still coming together with some new parts and that the Titans can exploit that. Even with the additions on defense, I am still not sold on that unit being significantly better this season. Don't get wrong, I still think the Patriots will make the Super Bowl, but they have a history of starting slow, and I think that will play out on Sunday.

Prediction: Tennessee 26, New England 24

Atlanta at Kansas City, Atlanta favored by 2 1/2

Another team getting some hype that I can't understand is the Falcons. Sure, they have been good in the regular season consistently in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era, but in their two playoff games they were blown out. I think the running game may fall off a cliff with Michael Turner starting to wear down. They do have Jacquizz Rodgers as his backup but Rodgers is tiny and I am not sure how durable he will be either. Ryan certainly has the weapons to throw to, but I felt like Roddy White was inconsistent last year, and Julio Jones was up and down as well. As for the Chiefs, considering all the turmoil and injuries they went through last year, they actually had an alright season. They have remained healthy through the preseason, so now it is up to Matt Cassel to try to prove his worth. This should be an exciting game, and I think the Chiefs win it with a late touchdown.

Prediction: Kansas City 21, Atlanta 20

Jacksonville at Minnesota, Minnesota favored by 4

It appears that Adrian Peterson will start this game, which is pretty miraculous following the major knee injury he suffered at the end of last season. It will be interesting to see how much the injury affects his speed bursts that have led to him being a dominant rusher. The Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew finally reported to camp, and while not expected to start, should receive a good amount of carries. These teams will need their running backs to carry them because they can't count on second year quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert. This will be a defensive battle, with the homefield advantage propelling Minnesota to victory.

Prediction: Minnesota 20, Jacksonville 13

Washington at New Orleans, New Orleans favored by 9

RGIII couldn't ask for a tougher place to start his career than the craziness that is the Superdome. The Saints were unbeatable at home last year, with every defense they faced being unable to slow their high powered offense. No one knows what to expect from Griffin, but I think he will have a good game, mostly because I don't think the Saints are very good on defense. Plus, I think no matter who runs the ball between Roy Helu, Evan Royster, or Alfred Morris will have success. Drew Brees should have a field day picking apart the Redskins secondary, especially their safeties. They lost Tenard Jackson for the year to a drug suspension and will also be without Brandon Merriweather. They were already pretty weak at that position, and now they are downright terrible.  Maybe in Washington, the Skins could pull off the upset, but playing a team that will have a crowd already jazzed up because of the Bountygate debacle will prove to be impossible to overcome.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Washington 23

Buffalo at New York Jets, New York Jets favored by 3

What I believe will be a long, awful season, begins at home Sunday for the New York Jets. How much Tim Tebow will we see? Will it be as quarterback, running back, wide receiver, special teams? The Bills debut their revamped defensive line, with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. I think they will make an immediate impact, including stuffing the Jets questionable running game. Expect to hear boos for Mark Sanchez by the third quarter at the latest.

Prediction: Buffalo 24, New York Jets 14

Miami at Houston, Houston favored by 11

I was probably a bit too optimistic when I pegged the Dolphins to get six wins this season. You can't take too much out of preseason but the Dolphins were terrible in just about every possible phase. Ryan Tannehill will have his work cut out for him on the road against one of the best defenses in the league last season. Houston fans will finally get to see what it is like to watch a healthy football team after not getting that for most of last year. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are back, throw in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and the Texans should have no problem pouring it on the Miami defense.

Prediction: Houston 31, Miami 14

San Francisco at Green Bay, Green Bay favored by 5 1/2

Everyone is ready to write off the 49ers 2011 season as a fluke. No way Alex Smith can be that good again they say, or no way that defense can be that good again. Nevermind the fact that the 49ers beast defense returns every starter from last year. Let's forget that the Niners still play in the crappy NFC West and can wreck shop within the division. I don't think the Niners will win 13 games again, but they can certainly win at least 11 are definitely Super Bowl contenders. With the defense they have, they don't need Smith to be Superman, just competent. As for Green Bay, their is no questioning their offensive prowess, but their defense was atrocious last year. It came back to bite them in the playoffs when the offense couldn't stop turning the ball over. They didn't have a defense that could overcome the offense struggling. They tried to address that in the draft and also moved the aging Charles Woodson to safety. They need a better season out of BJ Raji, who disappeared way too often at times last season. Lambeau is always an intimidating place to play, and the game will come down to how much the Niners defense can slow the Packers offense. I don't think they will be able to do quite enough, and the Niners will suffer a heartbreaking defeat.

Prediction: Green Bay 27, San Francisco 23

Seattle at Arizona, Seattle favored by 2 1/2

Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson makes his debut in Arizona. These teams both feature overpaid backup quarterbacks, the Seahawks with Matt Flynn and the Cardinals with Kevin Kolb. John Skelton may have beaten out Kolb for the job but it wasn't like he was overly impressive in doing so. It will be fun to watch the debuts of RB Ryan Williams and WR Michael Floyd for the Cardinals. Arizona, no matter how good or bad, is always tough to beat at home, so I think they squeak this one out.

Prediction: Arizona 25, Seattle 23

Carolina at Tampa Bay, Carolina favored by 2 1/2

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton begins his second act. He will need to have a hell of a season to live up to his rookie year. I think he can and that is the reason I think this will be a playoff season for Carolina. Tampa Bay made a lot of flashy signings, but I still doubt Josh Freeman, and I don't think they did enough to improve a horrifically bad defense.

Prediction: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 24

Pittsburgh at Denver, Denver favored by 1

Peyton Manning makes his official debut as a Bronco under the Sunday night lights. This game will be all about how well he plays, and also everyone watching how he recovers from that first big hit he gets from Pittsburgh. For the Steelers, this is the debut of a new offensive system under Todd Haley. How effective will Mike Wallace be at wide receiver after holding out for most of training camp. I think both teams offenses will have some kinks to work out, so this will be a low scoring game.

Prediction: Denver 17, Pittsburgh 15

Monday, September 10

Cincinnati at Baltimore, Baltimore favored by 6

The Bengals made the playoffs in Andy Dalton's rookie year last season, but couldn't beat either the Ravens or Steelers. They are hoping to get 2012 off to a different start when they travel to Baltimore on Monday night. The Ravens are looking to show that even without Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, they can still be a dominant defense. Can Joe Flacco show real improvement in his fifth season? He may think he is elite but not many others agree with that assessment. I expect a close, mostly ugly game, with Ray Rice proving to be the difference maker.

Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 21

San Diego at Oakland, San Diego favored by 1

Carson Palmer will be under center for a full season for the Raiders who once again have a new head coach. You would think at some point they would realize that changing coaches every year isn't really conducive to winning. But hey, at least it is Week 1 so that means that Darren McFadden is healthy for the time being. Norv Turner continues to have naked pictures of his bosses or something, as he somehow holds jobs while doing a shitty job longer than anyone in the history of coaching. Maybe it's because saps like me keep picking the Chargers to make the playoffs. Philip "guh huh" Rivers needs to play more like 2010 guh huh and less like 2011 guh huh for that to happen for San Diego. That will largely depend on how effective the passing game can be without Vincent Jackson, and if Antonio Gates can stay healthy. As for this game, I think the Raiders suck, and Palmer is good for at least two turnovers, giving the Chargers the win.

Prediction: San Diego 29, Oakland 21

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