Week 1 is slowly approaching and the final roster cuts are being made. Based on the chatter leading up to this week's start of the season, the following are the predictions for the Week 1 winners and losers:
Winner: New York Giants
This game is being played in the home of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Giants, so New York has an advantage. It appears that the Cowboys will have Miles Austin and Dez Bryant back for the season opener, but Jason Witten will likely sit this one out. Hakeem Nicks appears to be ready for the Giants in Week 1, but Eli Manning can always utilize Victor Cruz.
Winner: Chicago Bears
The Colts will rebound this season from the disaster that was 2011. The Bears defense will be a bit much to expect a win in Week 1. Andrew Luck will need a couple of regular season games under his belt to hone his skills. The Bears' offense is looking pretty good this season, with one of the best running games in the league and the reunion of the Jay Cutler/BrandonMarshall tandem.
Who will win between the Colts and Bears?
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
I have been touting Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense this year and I see no reason why it won't start in Week 1. Look for Matty Ice to connect with Julio Jones for at least one touchdown in this matchup. The Chiefs are recovering from injuries to key offensive players in 2011 (Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles) but are expected to put up great numbers this season so the game will be close.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
This one is a no-brainer. The Browns start 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden at QB and Greg Little is his best receiving option. Trent Richardson is still questionable as a Week 1 starting running back, so it's not looking promising for the Browns against the Eagles defense. Expect Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to all put up scores.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
RGIII will look good in this game, but the Saints have a lot to prove going into the 2012 season. Be ready for Brees to enter the gaming throwing like a top fantasy QB in Week 1.
Winner: Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford gave everyone a scare during the preseason, appearing to have injured his non-throwing hand. Luckily it was not major, which allows him to target Megatron in Week 1 to his heart's content. Johnson is expected to have a lot of coverage on him, so expect solid numbers from Brandon Pettigrew and Titus Young. The Rams are dependent on Sam Bradford this season. He'll either fall under the pressure or find himself injured again. Expect the Lions defense to be an issue for Steven Jackson.
Winner: New England Patriots
Will will win between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings?
We finally get to see the newly unstoppable Patriots offense take the field together. Tom Brady can choose any of the following to throw to: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski. The Titans are without star WR Kenny Britt for at least Week 1, and are also utilizing Jake Locker at QB to start the season. That, and the fact that Chris Johnson has looked subpar so far in preseason means a long day for the Titans.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Neither of these teams are looking impressive going into 2012. Both are missing their star running back (for different reasons), but Adrian Peterson appears closer to starting than MJD. Peterson won't be a big factor in Week 1 as it is expected his workload will be limited to start. Expect Toby Gerhart to get several carries. Somehow Blaine Gabbert has looked sharp in the preseason, leading the Jaguars to a preseason record of 3-1 without Jones-Drew.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
The Jets are a mess. They are a disaster at quarterback, with two guys that would be backups on any other teams. Not to mention that their best receiver is Santonio Holmes, who didn't even top 700 receiving yards in 2011. The Bills have made some acquisitions at defense and look good. Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to perform after the contract he received in 2011.
Winner: Houston Texans
The Dolphins look terrible going into 2012. They have a quarterback situation so bad that rookie Ryan Tannehill will be starting. Tannehill didn't start in college until his junior year. His best receiver is Davone Bess and he has injury-prone Reggie Bush at running back. The Texans will have Matt Schaub back, and have lethal scoring options in Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and even Ben Tate. Houston's defense isn't too shabby, either.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
When John Skelton is your starting quarterback, it's not news that anyone is excited about (outside of Skelton's family). Having a bad quarterback at the helm means Larry Fitzgerald's stats will suffer. A breeze could gently blow inside the stadium and Beanie Wells will break or tear something on his body. Seattle, however, is heading in the opposite direction. Rookie Russell Wilson is lighting up the preseason and beat out Matt Flynn for the starting QB role. Marshawn Lynch appears to be ready as well for the opener.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
These two teams are put together well both offensively and defensively, but the game's got to go to Aaron Rodgers' team. If Cedric Benson can just match the subpar production from James Starks and Ryan Grant in 2011, the Packers are an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Alex Smith will need to have a career game in this matchup to start the season with a win.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even with Jonathan Stewart and Steve Smith expected to be ready for Week 1, I have to give the Bucs the win. Freeman is on the rebound from an off 2011 season and now has new targets in Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Dallas Clark. Cam Newton will put up good offensive stats, but no one should expect him to come close to the way he started his rookie campaign last year.
Who will win the Panthers-Buccaneers matchup?
Winner: Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning looked like he was returning to the Manning we once knew as a Colt. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are setup to have monster seasons in 2012. Peyton to start 2012 off right. The Steelers' running game is looking pretty banged up at the moment and Mike Wallace just rejoined the Steelers, so a lot will be on Antonio Brown's shoulders during this matchup. A little too much.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco's Week 3 preseason performance leads me to give the upper hand to the Ravens in this matchup. Oh, and then they have Ray Rice. At home. This Week 1 matchup will be a big test for Andy Dalton's sophomore season, so look for A.J. Green to get a lot of looks.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Chargers have a few key offensive starters missing on the field due to injury (Ryan Mathews and Vincent Brown), leaving Philip Rivers with Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd as targets. I'm giving Carson Palmer the win here, especially with a healthy Darren McFadden in the backfield at home.