Ah yes picks and predictions. Everyone does them. But so few are right. I admit I’m not huge into gambling. I’ve never been to Vegas nor do I play spreads. My picks are straight up winners and losers. No in-betweens. And NO TIES! So with that being said, here are my picks for week 1 of the NFL season.
New Orleans at Green Bay. What a way to kick off the 2011 season. The last 2 Super Bowl Champions square off at historic Lambeau Field. Both teams have brilliant quarterbacks. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are two of the best in the game right now and they both can light a scoreboard up. The difference is the Packers defence is better and they are at home. Since the NFL has gone to the Thursday night opener, the defending Super Bowl Champion is 7-0 in this game. History repeats itself. Packers are the pick.
Detroit at Tampa Bay. Good early season match-up. Both teams are on the rise and are wanting to show the world they are for real. The Lions won this game last year and feel confident they can do it again. No Jahvid Best will hurt Detroit, but Matthew Stafford had an outstanding pre-season and is looking for a breakout year. The Bucs have QB Josh Freeman who is a rising star of his own and LeGarette Blount to lead the running game. The Lions have a slightly better defence and won at the Pirate Ship without Stafford last year. Detroit wins.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore. One of the best rivalries in the NFL resumes at M&T Bank Stadium. This clash of AFC North titans has all the makings of another defensive slugfest. The question is can the Ravens muster enough offence to finally beat the Steelers? Baltimore is 2-6 in their last 8 meetings against the Steelers and without Derrick Mason and Todd Heap to throw too, Joe Flacco must find other avenues to drive down. The Steelers are hungry after last year’s Super Bowl loss and they always look forward to a game in Baltimore. Steelers win.
Atlanta at Chicago. A tough one to call. Both teams surprised last year by winning their respective divisions. Both teams also lost at home to Green Bay in the playoffs. Both teams have something to prove this year. The similarities are striking. The differences are minute but I’ll take Matt Ryan over Jay Cutler. Even with the game at Soldier Field, Falcons win.
Buffalo at Kansas City. The Chiefs were a surprise division winner last year and they hope to continue that momentum. Quarterback Matt Cassell’s health is a question mark but the running game led by Jamaal Charles is strong. The Bills have lots of question marks across the board and going to Arrowhead is not an easy way to start the season. Chiefs win.
Indianapolis at Houston. THE story is Peyton Manning will not play due to a neck injury ending his consecutive game streak at 227. Kerry Collins will get the call behind centre and he will face a fired up Texans team. Houston is one of the sexy picks this season and they need to make a statement in this game. No Manning, Houston wins.
Cincinnati at Cleveland. The Battle of Ohio. Both teams have been mediocre at best only showing flashes of occasional good football. The Browns do have some upside though. QB Colt McCoy will get his chance at being the full-time starter after showing some promise late last season. RB Peyton Hillis will lead a solid running game. The Bengals are a flat-out mess. Who knows about the future of Carson Palmer and while AJ Green will be a star in this league, it may take him a little while to get there. Cleveland wins.
Tennessee at Jacksonville. The big story out of Jacksonville is that QB David Garrard was released and Luke McCown takes over as the starting QB. The move shocked many observers and added to speculation of friction within the Jaguars locker room. The Titans welcome Chris Johnson back into the fold and while missing all of training camp may make him a bit rusty, his game breaking speed still exists that will present problems for the Jags. Tennessee wins.
Philadelphia at St Louis. Possible game of the week here. The Eagles have all they hype surrounding them after a wild off-season. The big question in the City of Brotherly Love is can the Eagles mesh as a unit with so many individual stars on the roster. The Rams had an excellent pre-season and QB Sam Bradford looks like the real deal. Should be a beauty. I’ll take Philly in a close one.
Carolina at Arizona. The Panthers have nowhere to go but up as first overall pick Cam Newton will start in his first NFL game. He will have DeAngelo Williams to hand the ball off too and Steve Smith to throw too. But can Newton grasp the nuances of an NFL defence? The Cardinals meanwhile will have Kevin Kolb behind centre and while he doesn’t have much experience either, he does know how to perform under the bright lights under the big show. Having Larry Fitzgerald as your number one receiver doesn’t hurt either. Arizona wins.
New York Giants at Washington. I’ll call this the chaos bowl. Both teams are in chaotic states right now. The Giants through injuries and holdouts, the Redskins because of…well Daniel Snyder. The Giants lost 5 players for the season due to injuries and will be shorthanded on the defensive side of the football. Most notably MLB Jonathan Goff and CB Terrell Thomas are lost for the year leaving gaping holes for the G-Men. The Redskins will start QB Rex Grossman and that has not inspired confidence in DC. Grossman has to play well to win over skeptical fans and media. This game will be emotionally charged as they will commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on both New York City and Washington. I’m picking the Giants to win despite the injuries.
Seattle at San Francisco. An NFC West clash between two teams with not a lot expected from them. The Seahawks will have a new look to their offence. Tavaris Jackson is the new starting quarterback by way of Minnesota and he brought with him receiver Sidney Rice. The 49ers bring back Alex Smith,much to the fans chagrin and Frank Gore will suit up after a lengthy contract dispute. Not sure but I’ll take Seattle in a tight one.
Minnesota at San Diego. The Vikings welcome Donovan McNabb to the lineup as he makes his debut in Viking purple. He will have Adrian Peterson to run for him, but the question remains does McNabb have anything left after a horrible season in Washington last year? The Chargers are a sleeping giant and while the Patriots, Jets and Steelers are getting the hype, the Chargers are quietly going about their business but very confident that they will win the AFC. San Diego wins.
Dallas at New York Jets. A primetime matchup between two teams with Super Bowl dreams. The Cowboys will rely on Tony Romo to lead them to the promised land. Romo has all the talent in the world, but has failed to win the big game. He will face a ferocious defence that can shut down just about anybody. The Jets will come after Romo hard and it will be a challenge for a young offensive line to withstand the pressure. Mark Sanchez returns as Jets QB and if he continues his development, the Jets will be a factor. The Jets take this one for New York on 9/11 ten years later.
New England at Miami. The Patriots make their annual trip to South Florida with high expectations and a chip on their shoulder. The additions of Chad Ochocino and Albert Haynesworth are gambles for New England, but coach Bill Belichick has been known to push the right buttons in the past with so-called troublemakers. Tom Brady is still calling the signals so the Patriots should be fine. The Dolphins are going through a transitional phase and while Reggie Bush could be a game breaker, Miami doesn’t have the horses to ride with the Patriots. New England wins.
Oakland at Denver. Week 1 wraps up with this longstanding AFC West rivalry. The Raiders swept the division last year so optimism is high in Oakland. But a new coach in Hue Jackson and no more Nnamdi Asomguha at corner leaves the Raiders somewhat suspect. The Broncos have more questions than answers right now. Kyle Orton is the quarterback for now but with the hype surrounding Tim Tebow’s demotion, the Broncos are loaded with distractions that no team needs. Oakland wins.