Week 1 of the NFL season has come and gone and, after an offseason’s worth of debates, we finally have some clarity where questions loomed.
The debuts of four out of five rookie QBs went sour while Robert Griffin III’s first game as a starter was sweeter than even he could have expected. Peyton Manning returned in stellar form looking as if nothing ever happened to his neck. The Giants began their Super Bowl defense with an unimpressive loss at home to the Cowboys. Tim Tebow did effectively…well, nothing.
Unfortunately, my start to the year went something like the Bills defense’s in that it was somewhere between awful and embarrassing, probably leaning toward the latter.
Straight: 9-7 (56 percent)
Spread: 6-10 (38 percent)
Over/Under: 8-8 (50 percent)
Before laughing and clicking the back button, please note that this was my worst week in recorded history and only leaves room for improvement—lots and lots of improvement. I set some pretty lofty goals when the year started and I still intend to hit those marks. So keep reading, have faith, and let me make it up to you with some solid analysis.
Chicago Bears (+6) at Green Bay Packers (O/U = 51)
This week’s Thursday night game features the oldest of old school rivalries as the Bears travel North to Lambeau Field to meet the Pack. Green Bay finds themselves as the only winless team in the NFC North following a tough loss to San Francisco and will need to bounce back at home to stay within a game of first place in the division.
Despite a non-existent run attack against the Niners, they stayed close and fell by just eight in a game that we could see a rematch of come playoff time. It’s hard to drop them too far for losing to such a solid team.
The Bears are one of those three teams ahead of the Packers in the suddenly formidable North and would like nothing more than to put two games between themselves and the division favorites at this early stage in the year.
The addition of Brandon Marshall appears to have added another dimension to the Bears passing attack and with the balance provided by Forte in the backfield they will be able to keep defenses off balance all year.
I see this as a close game with a lot of points scored, but Rodgers pulling it out in the end after he failed to do so in the opening week at home.
Straight: Green Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7.5) at New York Giants (O/U = 43.5)
Contrary to recent history, the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants failed to win their Week 1 game and will need to come out strong against Tampa in order to appease the home fans. Their ground game failed to get much going behind Ahmad Bradshaw in the opener and a few dropped passes didn’t help the air attack, either. Look for them to be a bit more in sync after getting a wake-up call to start the year.
The Bucs pulled a semi-surprise victory out at home against Carolina in Week 1 with their defense giving up just ten rushing yards to match the ten points they allowed in the victory. If they are able to shut down the NYG rushing attack in the same way the Cowboys were, then they will place a lot of pressure on Eli to get the job done through the air.
This could be a surprisingly close game due to two strong defenses keeping the score low, but I look for NY to make the big plays that they failed to in the opener and take this one by a touchdown.
Straight: New York
Spread: Tampa Bay
Oakland Raiders (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins (O/U = 38)
Somehow HBO’s Hard Knocks always manages to make whichever team they are featuring in a given season look like they will come into the year and play like a strong, competitive football team. Games like Miami’s 30-10 Week 1 loss to Houston are the kind of games that bring us back to reality.
Highly anticipated rookie QB Ryan Tannehill only managed a 39.0 QB Rating for the Dolphins, throwing for three picks and no touchdowns. Aside from a Marcus Thigpen punt return for a TD they were only able to scrounge up one field goal which came in the first half. Some of that was a solid Houston D and a lot of it was just poor play from the MIA offense.
Oakland looked equally miserable in the late game on Monday Night where botched special teams plays basically gave the game to San Diego. A seriously underwhelming performance from Darren McFadden ruined any late hopes for his fantasy owners.
This game is probably the leader in the clubhouse for Dud of the Week, and I just hope I’m not forced to watch more than necessary on NFL Red Zone.
Houston Texans (-7.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 41.5)
Before Week 1, not many were looking at the Jaguars-Vikings game as remotely intriguing, but following a Week 1 thriller the Jags, and more specifically Blaine Gabbert, have shown they can compete to the end in close games.
With three receptions for 24 yards in his NFL debut, WR Justin Blackmon was neither a force nor farce, but contributed where he could. If Gabbert can remain at the level he played at against the Vikings then the duo could be primed for growth together as we progress into the season.
The Texans had high expectations going into Week 1 and based on their dominant performance they will remain high. They were superior to Miami in every aspect, and if they can consistently force anywhere near four turnovers they will be nearly impossible to beat.
The Texans look to me like they have come into this season ready to focus on wins, and Jacksonville just simply does not have what it takes to handle them at their best.
Cleveland Browns (+7) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 38.5)
This battle for Ohio bragging rights brings together two young teams looking to get their season off on the right track.
The rookie combo of Richardson and Weeden was extremely ineffective for Cleveland in a loss to Philadelphia as the rookie QB brought up the rear for all the first year passers throwing four picks and no scores.
Last year’s breakout rookie combo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were also stifled by a hungry Ravens defense and look to regain some of the magic that they flashed in 2011. Cleveland’s top CB Joe Haden will begin serving a four game suspension starting Week 2, so Green could find himself in a position to put up some big numbers in favorable matchups.
I look for the Bengals to bounce back after the tough divisional loss and win this one at home to turn things in the right direction.
Kansas City Chiefs (+3) at Buffalo Bills (O/U = 44.5)
Jamaal Charles’ return to the gridiron was a moderately successful one for the KC running back as he put up 87 yards on just 16 carries while looking uninhibited by the ACL tear he suffered in Week 2 of last year’s regular season.
The Bills defense was scorched by a Jets team that had looked utterly inept during the preseason, not exactly they outcome they were looking for after beefing up their defense in the offseason. They will surely be able to open it up a bit more against KC than they could against NY, so I think we could see a lot of points up on the board.
I can see this one going either way depending on which Bills team shows up, but after that defensive stinker in the opener I will have to see it to believe it with this year’s squad.
Straight: Kansas City
Spread: Kansas City
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U = 46)
The Ravens started off the year with a bang in Week 1, putting up 27 second half points against division rival Cincinnati in a convincing 44-13 victory. Quarterback Joe Flacco was impressive in the passing attack, connecting on multiple deep balls while RB Ray Rice found the end zone twice. The Raven defense looked as feisty as ever, tallying four sacks to go along with an Ed Reed pick-six.
The same level of execution was not achieved by the Eagles in a 17-16 head-scratching win against Cleveland. Michael Vick’s accuracy was spotty at best, and his four interceptions were almost too much for Philly to overcome. Luckily for them, the Cleveland offense was not able to make much happen with those gifts.
If Vick is anywhere near as careless with the ball against Baltimore as he was against the Browns, then Andy Reid's squad could be in for a thumping. I expect improvement from the offensive unit, but not enough to overcome this Ravens team who look as if they could make a legitimate shot at a title.
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers (O/U = 50.5)
The Saints got what should have been a shot of adrenaline just days before the season opener when it was announced that those players who had been suspended amidst bounty allegations were to have their suspensions rescinded.
Rather than transforming that positive momentum into a victory, the Saints D was run ragged by Robert Griffin III in his first professional game. I thought the Saints would win before the announcement was made and believed it was all but decided once they got the good news mid-week. RGIII obviously missed the memo, and the Saints missed an opportunity to begin the season out right.
The Panthers took a difficult loss as well in Week 1 after being shut down by the Bucs defense throughout four quarters. Running Back James Stewart was pronounced inactive just hours before game time, but rather than taking advantage of a potentially expanded role Deangelo Williams instead rushed for less yardage than you and I did with a big fat minus-one on six carries.
The Panthers appear to have a lot to figure out on the offensive side of the ball and this season could get off to a rocky start. Not being able to score doesn’t bode well for any team playing the Saints. The rough start looks poised to continue in this one.
Straight: New Orleans
Spread: New Orleans
Arizona Cardinals (+13.5) at New England Patriots (O/U = 48)
The Pats are the most highly favored team this week at home against Arizona, and for good reason. They took down the Titans convincingly in Week 1, highlighted by touchdown throws from Brady to his two young star tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski.
The Cardinals’ already confusing QB situation got no clearer after starter John Skelton left the game with an injury forcing recently the benched Kevin Kolb onto the field. Kolb stepped in nicely against the Seahawks and led the team to a victory, producing the Cards sole passing touchdown in the game.
While the Cards were able to eke out a close one against the ‘Hawks, it will take a lot more than one touchdown by their backup/starting/who-knows-anymore quarterback to take down Brady. I don’t see it happening.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Minnesota Vikings (-1) at Indianapolis Colts (O/U = 44.5)
The professional debut of this year’s number one draft pick didn’t go quite as well as it did for pick number two. Andrew Luck threw for just one score along with three interceptions as the Colts found themselves outmatched and overwhelmed by a more talented Bears team. A bright spot could be found, however, in the fact that Luck threw for 300-plus yards (even if it did take 45 throws to do it).
The Vikes pulled out a win in the nail-biter mentioned earlier against Jacksonville as Adrian Peterson’s return from last year’s knee injury went off without a hitch. The beastly back ran in two scores and showed almost no signs of being hampered by any lingering injury issues.
This one is almost a coin flip for me, and the spread follows that line of thinking as well. Last week I took Minnesota to win against the Jags and described my detailed strategy of picking the home team in coin-flip games between bad teams. Based on my fortunate outcome from that theory I am taking Indy here. That’s right I am picking Indy over Minnesota based on a Vikings win last week. Sometimes these things just don’t make sense.
Washington Redskins (-3) at St. Louis Rams (O/U = 45.5)
As mentioned already a couple times throughout this piece RGIII played pretty well in his first game at the helm for the ‘Skins. By pretty well of course I mean transcendently spectacular in a way that even his biggest fans couldn’t have seen coming against New Orleans. After months and months of hype, it appears that Robert Griffin has arrived at this season's launch ready to prove it was all well deserved. I, for one, am convinced.
While playing the Rams in St. Louis is a far cry from the Saints at the Superdome, this St. Louis squad was able to put a bit of a scare into Detroit in their opener and Washington will need to prepare accordingly. The Rams continue on their quest back to relevance this year, and a win against the spotlighted Redskins could prove valuable in popular opinion.
I am taking the Redskins, but I think this one could go either way and be closer than many might think.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Seattle Seahawks (O/U = 42)
The Cowboys kicked off the NFL season with an important divisional victory in a redemption game against the Giants. After missing out on the playoffs at the hands of NY last year, Dallas was able to pull out the win in a bit of a stinker to start the year and they look to build on that momentum against Seattle and their famous 12th man.
The ‘Hawks just missed a victory in Russell Wilson’s first pro contest and the rookie's performance was a far cry from his preseason production in the loss. If he is able to put a respectable game together at home against the Cowboys, then he could solidify his spot on the depth chart, but a blowout could easily lead to a Matt Flynn appearance on Sunday. Don’t be surprised to see it.
New York Jets (+6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 41.5)
In maybe the strangest turn of events from Week 1, the Jets, who showed little more than incompetence offensively in the preseason, exploded for 48 against the Bills in a twenty point victory. Mark Sanchez looked spectacular with three TDs and just one INT while Tim Tebow failed to complete a single pass. It appears that, at least for now, the Jets intend to do as they have said with the QB duo.
Things may, however, get interesting against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is just a tad more intimidating than Buffalo. Sure Peyton picked apart Pitt’s defense in Week 1, but that’s still Peyton Manning. I anticipate the Steelers will come out ready to prove that they are still capable of shutting down a mid-level offense such as the Jets in Week 2.
Plus I already picked Tebow to be starting by year’s end and that can’t very well happen if Sanchez is putting together monster games. I think the Jets will be held low in this one and lose in a fairly close game thanks to a primarily defensive effort.
Spread: New York
Tennessee Titans (+6) at San Diego Chargers (O/U = 43)
San Diego pulled out the late game Monday Night with a lot of help from the dysfunctional Oakland performance, and will look to keep it rolling at home. Without costly errors from the Raiders, the Chargers could have easily lost that game. They were outplayed in many aspects by the silver and black.
The Titans fell to NE and watched QB Jake Locker walk off the field with an apparent shoulder injury last week, but the young signal caller claims he will be playing come Sunday. After just four yards on 11 carries for RB Chris Johnson against the Pats, he will need to show a lot here to win back the good graces of fantasy owners who took him in the first round.
This is an interesting matchup that’s tough to predict, but I will take the Chargers by a field goal or so on home turf.
Straight: San Diego
Detroit Lions (+6.5) at San Francisco 49ers (O/U = 47)
In probably the second biggest game of the weekend, we have a Sunday night contest between the Lions and 49ers. Detroit had to sneak out a close one against the Rams in Week 1 and better wake up quickly if they plan to compete with a San Fran squad who shuts down the run better than any team in the league.
Star wideout Calvin Johnson was able to make an impact with 111 yards, but the reigning league-leading receiver will look to get his first score this week. It will likely take at least one, if not more, for the Lions to have a real shot at winning this one.
San Francisco shut down an explosive Green bay offense Week 1 and don’t look to have lost a step since last season’s dominating run. These guys had the look of a team that was angry about the way they finished last year, and are hungry to make it even further this season. It will take a strong performance on both sides of the ball to run away with this one and I think it’s more likely they squeak a win out at the end.
Straight: San Francisco
Denver Broncos (+6) at Atlanta Falcons (O/U = 51)
Peyton Manning came into the preseason with nothing but question marks, but following a strong performance in those exhibitions and a convincing win to match in Week 1 this all-time great has provided nothing but answers.
Most of the answers are “yes." “Yes” as in yes he can still do everything that we thought he might not be able to anymore and yes John Elway is about to get paid off big time for this gamble.
Atlanta, however, may have something to say about all that. The Falcons are known for their prominence at home, and something tells me that they may decide to prepare for Peyton as if he was still same old Peyton.
ATL looked phenomenal in a blowout win against the Chiefs Week 1 and it’s hard not to pick them to keep rolling at home despite a rejuvenated sheriff in town.