NFL Picks Week 1: Game-by-Game Predictions & More
Finally, the 2012 NFL season has arrived. Gone are the long offseason days full of draft speculation, padless practices and positional battles. Now, it's time sit back, relax and watch the action unfold.
This season promises to be special because the NFL is bigger than ever. Quarterbacks look to continue their feast from 2011, defenses look to catch up and all eyes are on the extravagant class of rookies.
Every NFL fan knows that their favorite franchise has certain goals this season. Whether it's to become competitive, make the playoffs or contend for the Super Bowl, missing the mark will be considered a failure.
What we've been waiting months for all starts on Wednesday, September 5, when the Dallas Cowboys visit the New York Giants in an NFC East showdown.
Let's take a look at Week 1, game by game with predictions and more.
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
This matchup between the bitter divisional foes is the NFL Game of the Week.
And why is that?
Because it's the first game of the season; that's why. When kickoff takes place, a collective sigh will be heard worldwide as deprived NFL fans will get their much needed fix.
Plus, the Cowboys and the Giants are hated rivals who last met in Week 17 of the 2011 season with everything on the line. The Giants took the game, the division, a trip to the playoffs and eventually, the Super Bowl.
Don't think that the Cowboys have forgotten about it.
The saddest part of this game will be when the clock reads 0:00 in the fourth quarter because fans will have to wait until Sunday at 1 p.m. EST before the NFL action resumes.
Albeit Week 1, this is a must-win for the Cowboys.
Although tight end Jason Witten is listed as doubtful, the 'Boys will find a way to win. Dallas wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have to quiet the critics and they'll do just that with monster performances in Week 1.
Thanks to the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys secondary won't be their weak spot in 2012.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning carved up the Cowboys last year, averaging 373 passing yards per game against Dallas. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones went out and got the likes of Carr and Claiborne to stop Manning from embarrassing his team again this season.
The Cowboys are out to prove everyone wrong and spoil the Giants' party. Being that Dallas has to make a statement, they'll squeak out a win.
Final Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Giants 24
Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears
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The game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears is a must-watch for any NFL fan.
For starters, rookie quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, will make his first start in the NFL.
This kid looks remarkable, but the Bears won't be a gracious host to Luck and the Colts in Week 1.
Speaking of the Bears, their new-look offense has many talking about a trip to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII at season's end.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is from Santa Claus, Indiana, and he'll look like a kid on Christmas with all his new toys in Week 1.
Joining the Bears this offseason are wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery as well as running back Michael Bush. With these guys on offense, the Bears no longer have to rely on their always dangerous, but aging, defense.
The time is now for Cutler and the Bears, as the franchise quarterback will have his best game as a member of the Bears. In fact, fans should expect upwards of 400 yards from Cutler in Week 1.
In the end, the Bears will be too much for the Colts in Week 1, as Luck will experience his first loss in the league.
Final Score Prediction: Bears 38, Colts 14
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns
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The Week 1 game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns is a mismatch and will result in a lopsided score.
The Eagles are looking to rebound from a massively disappointing 2011 campaign, and the fact that they get to beat up on the Browns in Week 1 will help boost their confidence heading into Week 2.
The Browns' offseason started with promise as the organization chose to draft rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden to shape their future.
However, things haven't gone quite as well as the Browns planned because Richardson has already had minor surgery on his knee and Weeden has completed just 49 percent of his passes in three preseason games.
The Eagles have an above-average defense and the Browns will have problems moving the ball. Expect the Browns defense to be absolutely gassed by the fourth quarter, as the Eagles will dominate time of possession.
The Weeden-led Browns will be looking for a mulligan heading into Week 2.
Final Score Prediction: Eagles 35, Browns 10
St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions
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The St. Louis Rams start the Jeff Fisher era on the road against the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
While the Rams will undoubtedly be better under the guidance of Fisher, they'll struggle against the Lions.
Detroit is currently the forgotten stepchild of the NFC North because the Green Bay Packers are as good as ever and the Chicago Bears actually have some offensive talent these days.
The Lions will be looking to remind everybody in Week 1 that they have a 5,000-yard passer from a season ago in quarterback Matthew Stafford and some dude name Megatron.
There are a couple of weaknesses on both teams that cancel each other out in this matchup. The Rams couldn't stop the run in 2011, but the Lions had a mirage for a run game last season. The Lions secondary is currently maimed, but the Rams don't have proven wide receivers to exploit this weakness.
The Rams have a puncher's chance if running back Steven Jackson can carry the load and control the clock, but don't hold your breath.
Keep in mind that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 200-plus receiving yards in three of his last four games in 2011. This won't happen every week for Johnson, but he's so good that this could become a trend.
Final Score Prediction: Lions 31, Rams 13
Miami Dolphins vs. Houston Texans
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
The Houston Texans have to be smiling from ear to ear in preparation for the Miami Dolphins visiting in Week 1.
This game is a sure thing for the Texans, as they'll look like men amongst boys against the Dolphins.
Miami will start rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but he has nobody to catch his passes. One almost feels bad for 'Phins running back Reggie Bush, as he'll get fed to the wolves to begin the season.
Thanks to the HBO series Hard Knocks, there's reason to be optimistic in South Beach for the Dolphins' future, but this is not the future.
The Texans will be a top-five team in defense, offense and special teams in 2012, and will begin their quest to be the best by trouncing the Dolphins in Week 1.
This is the biggest lock of Week 1. Without a doubt, Texans roll.
Final Score Prediction: Texans 41, Dolphins 6
Atlanta Falcons vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
The duel between the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs is the most underrated game of the week.
Both teams are coming off disappointing 2011 seasons for different reasons.
The Falcons made the playoffs, but have yet to win a playoff game under franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. Without a playoff win this season, head coach Mike Smith is as good as gone.
The Chiefs season was marred by injuries and the team finished just 7-9. Now, with a healthy crew, the Chiefs have playoff aspirations.
Julio Jones of the Falcons and Jonathan Baldwin of the Chiefs are two guys to keep your eye on in Week 1 and beyond. Both men are set to have a breakout season. Not wanting to be shown up by the other, each second-year receiver will look to best his main adversary.
Both teams need this game badly because both of their respective divisions have gotten better. Not wanting to fall behind, this game will come down to the last team with the ball.
Falcons' kicker Matt Bryant will split the uprights from 47 yards with 0:06 left to give the Falcons the edge.
Final Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Chiefs 23
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Minnesota Vikings
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The Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Minnesota Vikings matchup may seem like the most meaningless game of the week, but there are plenty of reasons to watch.
First off, both teams will have their star running back returning to the locker room. Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars is back from a nasty holdout while Adrian Peterson of the Vikings returns from an unpleasant knee injury.
While it's still unclear on how many carries both of these men will receive, just having them in uniform is exciting.
Another storyline to watch is the progression of both teams' second-year quarterbacks. Remember, both of these kids were robbed of an offseason last year and the benefit of a true NFL training camp and preseason will show.
Both Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars and Christian Ponder of the Vikings will be much better than they were in their mediocre rookie seasons, but both will stumble out of the gate against one another in 2012. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the favorite target of each quarterback in Week 1.
Expect this one to be an ugly game throughout. One thing to look forward to, Jared Allen of the Vikes is always entertaining and he'll tally 2.5 sacks.
Final Score Prediction: Vikings 13, Jaguars 7
Washington Redskins vs. New Orleans Saints
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The Washington Redskins will take to the road against the New Orleans Saints in the highly anticipated NFL debut of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Both teams made plenty of noise this offseason on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Redskins proved they were "all-in" for RG3 by trading up to the No. 2 spot in the draft to take him.
On the other hand, the Saints were handed down stiff penalties by the NFL for their wrongdoings in the "Bountygate" scandal.
In any event, the Saints go marching on and this Week 1 game is a can't miss.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees will look to show RG3 how it's truly done, as he will school the rookie. Even with all the negativity surrounding the Saints this offseason, they're still a stellar football team.
RG3 will have his ups-and-downs in his first NFL game, as the Saints will be looking to avoid being upset.
The Saints will simply be too much for the Redskins to handle as their growing pains will be evident.
Final Score Prediction: Saints 34, Redskins 17
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets
Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
The Buffalo Bills vs. the New York Jets will be the most publicized game of the week for all the wrong reasons.
Still, neither quarterback produced a touchdown in the preseason.
Their Week 1 opponent, the Buffalo Bills, have high hopes of making the playoffs this season.
With a bolstered defense thanks to the additions of defensive end Mario Williams and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Bills have made the necessary improvements.
The Bills also have continuity on offense with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
The Jets look like a train wreck that has already derailed.
So, this one belongs to the Bills, right?
The Jets will steal this one in this week's upset special.
"Tebow Time" is about to hit the bright lights of New York, so you better put your shades on.
Final Score Prediction: Jets 24, Bills 21
New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans
Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
The Jake Locker era gets underway when the New England Patriots visit the Tennessee Titans on September 9.
Unfortunately for Locker, the Patriots are still perturbed over their Super Bowl XLVI loss and will look to unleash some frustration on the Titans.
While the Titans will be competitive in 2012, they will be throttled in Week 1.
Having Kenny Britt suspended hinders the Titans passing game. Although running back Chris Johnson appears to be back to his old self, the Pats will focus on the stopping the rushing attack of the Titans.
As for the Patriots offense, expect the usual Brady onslaught. The Pats will be throwing early and often, and with the departure of Cortland Finnegan, the Titans secondary will be picked apart.
Locker and the Titans have plenty to look forward to, but their first game of 2012 isn't one of them.
Final Score Prediction: Patriots 42, Titans 24
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
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Remember Week 1 of 2011 when rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers demolished the Arizona Cardinals to the tune of 422 passing yards?
The Panthers may have lost that game, but Newton got the attention of everyone that has ever heard of the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson gets the honors of facing the Cardinals in Week 1 this season, and he won't disappoint.
Wilson looks like he's ready to take the league hostage, and the Cardinals will be his first victim. His professionalism and natural athleticism has him looking like a wily veteran.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals offseason has been nothing short of a disaster. After finally settling on John Skelton as their starting quarterback, the organization seems doomed.
Now, everyone doubts the Cardinals as they desperately seek to hit the reset button.
Expect big things from Wilson in Week 1. Another Seahawks rookie to watch is running back Robert Turbin, who may get to start if starting running back Marshawn Lynch can't go. Once you see Turbin in action, you won't forget him.
This one already will be over before it begins. Seattle wins in a landslide.
Final Score Prediction: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 7
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
The heavyweight bout of the week takes place at Lambeau Field when the San Francisco 49ers look to knockout the Green Bay Packers.
What more could an NFL fan ask for in Week 1?
Two of the best teams in the NFC square off in what could very well end up being a Round 1 playoff matchup come January.
The Niners have a revamped offense this season that is as deep as any team in the league. The Packers look to redeem themselves after they mowed down the competition in the regular season last year, yet failed to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Both teams have one goal in 2012 and they both stand in the way of one another.
This matchup will be a hard-nosed, old school NFL football fight, as the game won't be decided until the fourth quarter when Randy Moss catches his first touchdown in the NFL since 2010 with 3:51 to go.
Do what you have to do to see this game in its entirety because you can't afford to miss it.
Final Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Packers 17
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The NFC South showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a true battle of the underdogs.
Both sides have tall expectations this season and want to get a leg up on their divisional opponent in Week 1.
The Panthers, led by quarterback Cam Newton, showed explosiveness last season but finished with just a 6-10 record.
With new head coach Greg Schiano steering the ship, the Bucs have quickly changed their fate this offseason. It's safe to say that after a 10-win 2010 season, the Bucs four wins in 2011 landed them as the most disappointing team in the league.
Now, there's reason to believe again in Tampa, thanks to the attitude instilled by Schiano, but the Panthers will look to show the Bucs who the real up-and-comer in the division is.
This game will come down to Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. If he can shake off a forgettable 2011 season and go without throwing an interception, the Bucs will win.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, this won't occur, as two interceptions from Freeman in the second half will lead to their demise.
Final Score Prediction: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 20
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Peyton Manning's long awaited return will take place on September 9 as his new team, the Denver Broncos, host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game will be full of vengeance for multiple reasons.
The Steelers are looking to avenge a playoff loss to the Broncos last year dealt to them by ex-Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow. Regardless of what quarterback now leads the Broncos, the Steelers are out to make a statement that they are still as fierce as ever.
Manning will make his first start in the NFL since January 8, 2011, and it will show.
He went 30-for-42 in the preseason, but the speed and intensity of the regular season will catch up to Manning in Week 1.
Still, Manning is an uber competitor and will be out to prove the his doubters that he is as good as he's ever been.
This is not to say that he'll be a dud for the rest of his career, but Week 1 will be rough for Manning. Given that the bar is set extremely high, his first game back will be a letdown.
The chemistry between Manning and his new teammates will be lacking. Such things take time and the Broncos haven't had enough yet.
The Steelers will refuse to lose to the Broncos in back-to-back games and will escape with a victory.
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Broncos 14
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
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NFL fans get a treat when Monday Night Football kicks off the 2012 season with a bang.
The AFC North produced three playoff teams in 2011, but there will only be room for two this year.
The Cincinnati Bengals vs. the Baltimore Ravens will be telling of the season to come for both sides.
The Bengals look to show the football world that their 2011 season wasn't a fluke, and the Ravens have intentions of winning the Super Bowl.
Something has got to give, and it will be the Bengals in Week 1.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will finally hush the critics this season in regards to his potential in 2012.
Face it, this guy is a winner.
He's 44-20 in regular season starts in his four-year career and has taken his team to the playoffs in every single season.
The Ravens have a dynamo in running back Ray Rice, and second-year receiver Torrey Smith will become Flacco's favorite target this year.
This will show in against the Bengals on September 10, as the Bengals unsteady running game will lead to the Ravens dominating the ball.
The Bengals have multiple injuries along their offensive line, which doesn't bode well when facing the feisty Ravens defense. This means the Ravens win with ease.
Final Score Prediction: Ravens 31, Bengals 17
San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The Monday Night Football nightcap is a matchup between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.
This is the first season for Dennis Allen as the Raiders head coach, and may actually be the last for Chargers head coach Norv Turner.
The Chargers have been the definition of a hot and cold team during Turner's tenure as head coach. Without a playoff win, Turner shouldn't plan on returning to San Diego in 2013.
The Raiders may not seem like they're going to amount to much in 2012, but don't be mistaken; they have a young and dangerous corps of wide receivers that will take the league by storm this year.
The need for improvement comes on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders, so it's a good thing that Allen is defensive minded.
Luckily for the Raiders, a huge question mark looms over the Chargers offense.
While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has a cannon for an arm, a true No. 1 receiver remains to be seen. The team has suffered injuries to running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Vincent Brown this preseason, so their depth on offense is minimal at the moment.
The Raiders will come out strong and will gain the momentum behind their home crowd late in the game.
The Raiders will win in a nail-biter thanks to a 32-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver Rod Streater on a slant route with 2:12 left in the game.
It won't take long for the hot seat to warm under Turner and the Chargers.
Final Score Prediction: Raiders 17, Chargers 13