Few things are more unnerving to the sports gambler than a week with only one "everybody knows" consensus survivor-pool pick. That’s why we’re giving you three locks for Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
Home team in caps.
Eagles over BROWNS
The Eagles are deep and dominant and healthy to start the season. Cleveland is trotting out new QB Brandon Weeden, new RB Trent Richardson (maybe) and a lot more youth. (There are 15 rookies on the roster.) It’s a young team across the board, and they might be good somewhere down the road. Just not Sunday.
CHICAGO over Indianapolis:
Jay Cutler is healthy. Matt Forte is healthy. Brandon Marshall has been reunited with his favorite QB. The aging defense has another run in them, but perhaps only one. The disappointments of the last few months are still burning in the Bears' memories, and they have a statement to make with this game. That statement is going to be made at the expense of Andrew Luck and the Colts. The first step on Luck’s path to stardom is going to be a doozie.
HOUSTON over Miami
Like Chicago, Houston has a statement to make after 2011 ended with injury-plagued disappointment. Miami is a mess. While the Florida franchise has taken the first good steps toward being competitive again, that resurgent competitiveness will not show up until 2014, at best.
Which of these "Locks" is most likely to be wrong?
It is no coincidence that all of these games feature rookie QBs in their first start, and that two of those maiden flights come on the road. But there are other Week 1 rookies out there this year, in Seattle and Washington. The key to the three picks above is this:
Remember the ACL tear that ended Tom Brady’s 2008 season before he’d played a quarter*?
If you take Jay Cutler off Chicago, Michael Vick off Philadelphia or Matt Schaub off Houston, the Bears, Eagles and Texans can all still win with their backup quarterbacks in their respective games.
*I freely admit that as a Boston hater, this memory still makes me smile.