NFL Week 1 Picks: Squads That Are Locks to Start Season in Win Column
There are only a few sure things when it comes to Week 1 of the NFL season. With every new season’s start, there are unknown variables that surface that make predicting each game a difficult endeavor.
But beyond that existing uncertainty, there are a couple of games on the schedule that just scream “gimme” when making picks for the league’s first slate of contests.
Sure, betting lines complicate things. However, when examining head-to-head matchups, these are the group of games that appear to already be decided before the teams even take the field.
*Predicted winners are upper-cased.
Oakland at INDIANAPOLIS
There isn’t a team in the league that underwent as many changes as the Oakland Raiders have since last season. Their first test couldn’t be greater, either, as they face off against an Indianapolis Colts team that went to the postseason last year and has only gotten better during the offseason.
Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck has reunited with college offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. The results have been impressive to this point. Luck has been nearly flawless this postseason, completing 65.9 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns with just one interception.
The Raiders still don't know who will be taking snaps behind center. According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, however, there's an emerging favorite:
Most of the reporters who talked to Allen, Pryor and Flynn tonight think the starter against Indy is going to be Pryor. We’ll see …— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 30, 2013
Just having to decide between Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback this week is, without a doubt, the most troubling part of this equation. Neither choice gives the Raiders much of a chance to compete, although Pryor’s ability to improvise could be a dynamic to monitor.
With such a large turnover of talent, uncertainty at quarterback and not many offensive weapons, the Raiders will struggle to compete against the polished and talented Colts.
HOUSTON at San Diego
What happens when an attacking pass rush meets an offensive line that has struggled to protect its quarterback? J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing will be feasting on Philip Rivers in the backfield if those struggles continue this season.
In the running game, Houston has an established advantage with either Arian Foster or Ben Tate toting the rock. Stopping that vaunted attack will be problematic for the Chargers due to Houston’s upgrade at wide receiver. Matt Schaub won’t have to rely on Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels exclusively in the passing game after the team added DeAndre Hopkins to help them in the draft.
While Houston’s secondary has been suspect during the preseason, it’s hard to imagine Rivers taking advantage due to the lack of time he’ll likely have to get rid of the ball and due to his depleted receiver corps. Danario Alexander is out for the season, and Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd have been banged up during the preseason—both are questionable to start the year, according to CBS Sports.
San Diego has its hands full on the prime-time stage Monday night.
NEW ENGLAND at Buffalo
Call it faith, if you will, but it’s hard to imagine Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dropping a season opener to the Buffalo Bills.
Are all three of these teams Week 1 locks?
Even with E.J. Manuel returning to practice on Sunday, according to John Murphy of BuffaloBills.com, the Bills don’t have much hope to contend with New England’s top-flight offense. Belichick hasn’t dropped a season opener since 2003 when the team was shocked by the Drew Bledsoe-led Bills.
Both teams have gone through sweeping changes this offseason, but the model of consistency and success is still in place for the Pats with Belichick and Brady as centerpieces.
Buffalo has its question marks in its secondary, too, especially with Stephon Gilmore expected to miss significant time to begin the season. That should only make things easier for the Pats’ new offense to get off on the right foot in 2013.
Don’t expect a blowout, but another Pats win over Buffalo seems like a sure thing.
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