|The Ultimate World Cup of Hockey Preview||LeBron James: A Performance for the Ages||RIP Muhammad Ali: The GOAT||Steph and the Warriors came out to play|
The lockout is over, and it’s finally time to play some (meaningful) football. Week 1 features a litany of great matchups and none bigger than the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. Let’s get right into the picks (picks are in bold).
New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers 31-27
This is NFL’s version of must-see TV. If you’re a fan of passing and scoring, this is the game for you. This is a matchup between the last two Super Bowl Champions. The NFL season kicks off with a bang on Thursday night. The difference in the game will be Mark Ingram. Expect a big day from the rookie. The Saints control the ball enough to win a close game.
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears 24-20
Don’t expect a defensive slugfest, Atlanta can put up points and the Bears showed last year that they’re capable of scoring in bunches (the game vs. the Jets). Expect Julio Jones to make a few big plays and be the difference in a closely contested game.
Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams 34-24
The Eagles simply have too much firepower for the Rams to handle. It’ll be a good early test for Sam Bradford going up against Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. Any week Mike Vick is 100% the Eagles should be favored to win.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24
Step 1 to making the playoffs for either team is to win this game. This is a big game for two bubble playoff contenders this year. If the Lions can limit Blount, that goes a long way in helping Detroit win this game.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans 31-13
The Colts are in big trouble: Peyton Manning is out Sunday. The Texans need to win this game if they want to win the division this year. No word yet on whether Arian Foster is playing, but I expect to gut it out because of the importance of the game. The pressure is on Texans to win and I expect them to roll again the Colts.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns 20-17
You have a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) starting his first game for a team that went 4-12 last year against what I believe is an up and coming Browns team. The defense is good enough to keep Cincy in the game, but expect Colt McCoy to close the game out late.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs 31-21
The Bills can do some nice things on offense, but this is just a mismatch. Kansas City is one of the toughest places to play on the road. The Chiefs roll.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins 27-20
A key mistake or two from Rex Grossman will basically hand the Giants a victory. It’s really a battle of two mistake prone quarterbacks. The Giants have more weapons and can do better things on offense and that is the difference in the game.
Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers 38-24
This game could get ugly quickly. The Chargers should be out to send a message to the Chiefs and the rest of the league that last season’s debacle was a fluke. Expect everyone, especially Philip Rivers, to come out angry.
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals 27-14
Kolb to Fitzgerald gets off to a good start, and Beanie Wells shows why he was regarded as one of the best running backs going into college. The ground game of the Panthers will keep them in it early, but the Cards pull away in the end.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers 24-23
This game is an honest toss-up but because it’s Week 1 and Frank Gore is still healthy, the Niners should have enough to beat last year’s NFC West Champs. Without a question, a healthy Frank Gore makes a huge difference for the Niners.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins 31-20
Too much Tom Brady, too often, the Dolphins don’t have enough offense to stay with the Patriots. You need to be able to throw the ball to stay with them, and the Dolphins cannot do that.
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos 34-17
If you have Darren McFadden on your fantasy team, you should be salivating with this matchup. Expect the Raiders to pound the ball down the Broncos’ throats early and often.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars 24-17
Chris Johnson vs. Maurice Jones-Drew is always fun, as the two always put on a show when they face off. This should be no different. Expect a few long runs from both players. The Jaguars recently cut David Garrard and will be starting Luke McCown. There’s just too much uncertainty and desperation in Jacksonville right now, so the Titans should win comfortably.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets 20-16
Picking against the Jets at home on a NY Sports blog? Yes. Here’s why: the offense did not inspire any confidence in the pre-season. They’re facing a Cowboys team that is capable of winning (and losing) every Sunday. I think the time off for Romo will have him amped up for this game. I just feel there’s an upset brewing in the Meadowlands.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens 17-14
For my money, this is the best rivalry in the NFL right now. This matchup is always extremely physical, including a ton of hits and some car wreck-like collisions. The team that runs the ball the best is going to win this game. My money’s on Rashard Mendenhall as the better physical runner than Ray Rice.