Doing picks again. And yes, most of them will be wrong so laugh at them later. I was wrong about the Thursday night game, but since I don’t know when to quit, I will keep making predictions on NFL games. Remember, this is an exhibition, not a competition. Please. No wagering.
Indianapolis at Chicago
Andrew Luck makes his regular season debut at Soldier Field. Not an easy place for a premiere but that’s what he’s stuck with. Luck may not like his welcoming party. The Bears are hungry for a Super Bowl berth and could very well feast on the rookie quarterback. Brian Urlacher should play despite a wonky knee that kept him out of the preseason. Luck has a bright future, but the Bears have a better present. Bears win.
Philadelphia at Cleveland
The Eagles are no longer saddled with the “Dream Team” tag. Which could be very helpful. What would be more helpful to the Eagles is keeping Michael Vick healthy. Vick was knocked down and shaken up on a couple of occasions in the preseason. Philadelphia needs to keep Vick upright and healthy if they want to stay in the NFC race. The Brown are well, still the Browns. Philadelphia wins.
St. Louis at Detroit
Yes I’m a Lions fan. Yes I’m excited about the 2012 season. Yes I’m concerned about the legal troubles many Lion players had in the offseason. So this could be a trying season for my Lions. The good news. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson stayed out of trouble and look like they could have career years for the Lions. The Rams are young and Sam Bradford has a bright future. But the future is still yet to come. Lions win.
Miami at Houston
The Texans are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Those words would never have been uttered in 2005 but this is 2012 and Houston has an excellent team. The triplets on offence, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are a formidable threesome as there is in the NFL. Houston also has an outstanding defence that is difficult to penetrate. The Dolphins will start rookie Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, which is a sign the Dolphins are looking to the future. In other words, Houston wins.
Atlanta at Kansas City
Two teams with promise. The Falcons have been a good regular season team the last couple of years, but haven’t translated that into playoff success. The Chiefs are looking to make a move in the AFC West. Matt Ryan and Matt Cassel are both quality quarterbacks and both teams have questions on defence. This might be the best game of week one. Call it a hunch. Atlanta wins.
Jacksonville at Minnesota
The big question in the Twin Cities is, will Adrian Peterson be ready for the Vikings? The star running back is recovering from offseason knee injury, and has practiced all week. Peterson did not play at all in the preseason so rust is a concern. The Jaguars are starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, in hopes he can take over the job for many years to come. Watch for rookie receiver Justin Blackmon to make an impact on this one. Jacksonville wins.
Washington at New Orleans
The Saints will be relieved to take the field, after all the bountygate talk that has plagued the franchise all offseason. Drew Brees is still a deadly passer and the offence can pile up points. That will put pressure on Robert Griffin III, who is making his regular season debut. I like RG3, and he will be a good one down the road. But like I said earlier, this is the present. New Orleans wins.
Buffalo at New York Jets
No team received more press coverage in the offseason than the New York Jets. Gang green was everywhere in the media, thanks to the omnipresent Tim Tebow. Wherever Tebow goes, ESPN cameras followed him and they ate it all up. But is that distracting to the rest of the team? The Jets now have a huge target on their backs and they may not be good enough to handle that. The Bills quietly upgraded their squad, and the addition of Mario Williams could be a bigger deal than Tebow. Call it a mild upset. Buffalo wins.
New England at Tennessee
The Patriots will be looking to get back to the Super Bowl this year. Tom Brady has said this offence has the chance to be better than the record-breaking 2007 offence. That’s a scary thought. The Titans will have Jake Locker behind centre, as he is the future of the Titans. Chris Johnson will need a big game on the ground, if the Titans are to have a chance. That is possible as New England’s defence is questionable. But the Titans don’t have the horses to pull this one out. New England wins.
Seattle at Arizona
The Seahawks opened some eyes in the preseason, thanks to the play of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The Wisconsin grad, had a terrific exhibition campaign, in which he supplanted Matt Flynn as Seattle’s starting quarterback. Wilson has plenty of potential, and could be the steal of the draft. The Cardinals will start John Skelton behind centre, but Kevin Kolb will be waiting in the wings. The Cardinals really don’t have the answer at quarterback, and are hoping Patrick Peterson can work his magic on the return game. That won’t be good enough. Seattle wins.
San Francisco at Green Bay
A possible NFC Championship preview. The 49ers have a great defence, led by linebacker Patrick Willis. The Packers have an explosive offence, led by Aaron Rodgers. This will be a battle of opposites at a legendary stadium. The Packers defence has some questions, but are ready to take on Alex Smith and the 49ers offence who also have some questions to answer. Very tough call. Lambeau magic, despite the tundra won’t be close to frozen. Green Bay wins.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
Many experts feel that the Panthers are a team on the rise. Second year quarterback Cam Newton, makes the Panthers a dangerous team, with his athleticism and playmaking ability. With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart as a double threat in the backfield, the Panthers will be difficult to deal with for a young Buccaneers team, who are coming off a disappointing 2011 season. Josh Freeman is hoping for a bounce back season. But a young unproven defence will be the Bucs undoing. Carolina wins.
Pittsburgh at Denver
After a year away from football, Peyton Manning returns to the spotlight on primetime TV. Manning will make his Bronco debut against the number one ranked defence in the NFL last season. This is also a rematch of last year’s terrific wildcard game, in which the Broncos won in an overtime thriller. The Steelers desperately want revenge. But they are a year older, and I feel that Pittsburgh may be on a downward slide. Denver wins.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
An early vital clash in the AFC North. The Bengals are led by the passing combo of Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. The Ravens still have that stifling defence to rely on, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Even without Terrell Suggs, the Ravens will come after Dalton with evil intentions. But can the Ravens put points on the board? Joe Flacco and the offence will have to step up their game, for the Ravens to be Super Bowl contenders. Should be a good one. Baltimore wins.
San Diego at Oakland
Always fun when these AFC West rivals meet, especially on a Monday night in the Black Hole. The Chargers have been a team with failed dreams. This will be a make or break year for San Diego. Phillip Rivers is talented, but throws too many interceptions for a supposed elite quarterback. Rivers will need to cut down on the picks if San Diego is to be expected. The same can be said for Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. The difference is, Palmer can hand the ball off to Darren McFadden, who is healthy and ready to go. The Chargers have injuries in the backfield which will leave Rivers vulnerable. Mild upset. Oakland wins.
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