NFL Week 1 Picks: Top Teams on Upset Alert
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The NFL is back, which means games are set to be played. In order to get the season off on the right foot, the greatest thing about football needs to show up on Sunday. That, of course, is the truth that any team can win any given game.
Many things have changed this offseason. Coaches have been fired and hired, players have been hurt or are returning, quarterbacks have switched teams and some players have even been banned.
Every team will be looking to show off the positive changes they made over the summer and get the season off on the right foot. Of course, only one team can win each game though.
There are favorites, but who knows what will happen once the whistle blows? Here are our picks for upsets to keep an eye on.
1. Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rodgers evading a tackle
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This game is on upset alert only because both teams would be heavily favored were they to be facing virtually any other team in the league.
Green Bay returns its prolific offense, as well as its big-play defense. These two factors have led them to a Super Bowl victory two years ago, as well as 15 wins last season. This immense success puts the Packers right at the top of the favorites list, as well as favorites for their opener.
For San Francisco, this game is about showing the league exactly how good they are. Their defense is superb and the offense kept mistakes to a minimum last season en route to 13 wins and an NFC Championship Game berth. They then brought in players such as Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs and Randy Moss to elevate the team even further.
In order to shock Aaron Rodgers, the 49ers will have to avoid mistakes offensively. If Alex Smith can find his receivers, as well as Vernon Davis, in order to allow the running game to develop, then the 49ers defense will keep them in this game.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton escaping pressure
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The Carolina Panthers are going to be extremely fun to watch this season, and that is mainly due to the potential evolution of Cam Newton.
Newton had an amazing rookie season and will look to continue to improve into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. However, in order to do what he does best, he will need space and time. SB Nation is reporting Jonathan Stewart may not play on Sunday, so Deangelo Williams will have to return to his former glory in order to help Newton lead this offense to a win.
For the Buccaneers, the running game will be crucial to getting their first win. Unfortunately, Davin Joseph is out for the year, so the offensive line is already weakened. Doug Martin will need to find running room early and often if Josh Freeman is to keep his team in it.
3. New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III creating space
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Certain games are missing in storylines, but this isn't one of them.
For the New Orleans Saints, this game means giving a real indication of how much the Bounty Scandal has hurt them. Their defensive unit is depleted, Robert Meachem is gone and they don't even have their interim coach on the sideline. Drew Brees is the fantastic leader of an elite offense, but that's a lot to put behind you by Week 1.
As much as this game will be about looking back for the Saints, it will be about looking forward for the Washington Redskins. Sunday marks the first start of Robert Griffin III, and in case you haven't heard, there's quite a bit of hype surrounding him.
RG3 is incredibly talented and will try to use his running game to alternate with the passing offense and start his career off the right way.
4. Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Peyton Manning gearing up for a pass
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The last time these two teams met, the Broncos pulled off a playoff upset with Tim Tebow under center. Things have changed around Denver since then, but an upset is still very much within the realm of possibility.
Peyton Manning will make his big return and attempt to find Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas early to get the ball rolling. Manning is eager to get back to the highest level, so having a running back such as Willis McGahee behind him will allow for more liberty. The Broncos need to make some big plays on defense, but the Steelers offense is still all out of sorts.
The experienced Ben Roethlisberger will still be leading Pittsburgh, but the team's issues with Mike Wallace remain and the running game isn't a solid one. Troy Polamalu and the defensive unit remain elite, but they have their work cut out for them against one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
5. Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton sliding past Raven defenders
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This showdown is interesting because it pits two division rivals who feel destined for success against one another.
The Baltimore Ravens came painfully close to playing in the Super Bowl last season, and not much has changed since. Ray Rice is still an elite running back, the defense is still terrifying, Joe Flacco is still quarterback and John Harbaugh is still a genius coach. Seems like nothing could go wrong, right?
Well, Cincinnati may have something to say about that. Andy Dalton has had another offseason to gel with wide receiver extraordinaire A.J. Green and can rely on a solid defense. Baltimore is favored, but if Flacco makes some mistakes and Green can create separation, we could see a shift in the AFC North landscape.