Stop pinching yourself—you aren’t dreaming. Week 1 of the NFL regular season is just days away. Because of that, it’s close enough to pick the outcome of all the matchups. Here are predictions for every single contest that kicks off the 2012 campaign.
New York is the team to beat until someone knocks it off. Considering that Eli Manning and company scored a total of 68 points on the Cowboys last season, Dallas is unlikely to be the team to do so.
Prediction: Giants by six
Feel free to buy into every little bit of the Andrew Luck hype. However, don’t be such a homer you believe he’ll single-handedly take out a stacked Bears squad that boasts three Pro Bowl-caliber offensive weapons this season.
Prediction: Bears by 10
Five key playmakers on the Browns offense are first- or second-year players—Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin. That isn’t a recipe for success against a talented, veteran Eagles team.
Prediction: Eagles by 17
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Don’t expect Jeff Fisher’s tenure with the Rams to start off so hot. While St. Louis should be much improved from last season (it couldn’t get much worse), the Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson connection will have its way with the Rams secondary (Andrew Luck would bet money on that).
Prediction: Lions by 14
Matt Barkley, here they come. If the loaded Texans don’t absolutely embarrass the Dolphins—whose passing game likely won’t show up—it’d be a shocker.
Prediction: Texans by 21
Atlanta is an extremely talented football team and could challenge for an NFC title. However, at Arrowhead Stadium against a Chiefs club that’ll be one of the most improved teams in the league, Kansas City will upset the Falcons.
Prediction: Chiefs by three
Maurice Jones-Drew is back. Combine that with Blaine Gabbert’s flashes of being a respectable starting QB this preseason, and the Jags actually may not be a complete joke this year.
Prediction: Jaguars by three
Robert Griffin III won’t fare much better than Luck in his regular-season debut. New Orleans may be shaken up after Bountygate, but not enough to stop Drew Brees from shredding the Skins.
Prediction: Saints by 10
Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow has looked like garbage this preseason. Throw in the fact that the Bills always explode out of the starting blocks, and you should expect panic in New Jersey.
Prediction: Bills by seven
Without Kenny Britt—who’s arguably the Titans' most important offensive performer unless Chris Johnson returns to CJ2K form—Tennessee has no shot. Jake Locker could’ve been dealt a friendlier matchup in his first NFL start.
Prediction: Patriots by 13
Leading the Cards to a 6-2 record when he actually played, John Skelton is the most underrated winner in the league. Against rookie third-round pick Russell Wilson, Zona should roll.
Prediction: Cardinals by seven
This contest could easily turn out to be the NFC championship game. Green Bay is at home and dominated the vast majority of the 2011 season, so it’d be surprising if the Packers began the year 0-1.
Prediction: Packers by three
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cam Newton recorded jaw-dropping numbers last season. Now that he actually has a year of experience and an entire summer of training under his belt, he’ll be too special for the Bucs to stop.
Prediction: Panthers by seven
Does Peyton Manning possess the same magic as Tim Tebow? After a year off and multiple neck surgeries against a defense hungry for revenge, that’s a serious question.
Prediction: Steelers by seven
Until the Bengals piece together a respectable rushing attack, Cincinnati won’t be a legitimate contender—unless Andy Dalton and A.J. Green take over the league, of course. And the young duo won’t do so as sophomores—not against a relentless Ravens defense.
Prediction: Ravens by 10
With Ryan Mathews unlikely to suit up, Philip Rivers coming off a down year and no No. 1-caliber wide receiver in sight, there aren’t many reasons to be optimistic about the Chargers offense in Week 1. Oakland is at home, and Darren McFadden is actually healthy, so it’s the Raiders’ game to lose.
Prediction: Raiders by 13
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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