NFL Week 1 Picks: Sleeper Teams That Will Start 2013 with a Win
NFL squads who struggled during the 2012 season have a fresh start in 2013, and there are some sleeper teams who are locks to start their respective seasons with a win in Week 1.
The Detroit Lions had a stunningly disappointing season in 2012, going 4-12 following a 2011 season that saw them make the playoffs. But with some improvements on both sides of the ball, this season has some credible optimism for the team from the Motor City.
Andy Reid has taken the reins for the Kansas City Chiefs as the team's new head coach, and after a horrendous 2-14 record last year, there's nowhere to go but up for the Chiefs.
The Dallas Cowboys haven't been a playoff team in the past three seasons and, as a result, head coach Jason Garrett is on the hot seat in 2013 and needs a big showing from Tony Romo and company if he hopes to keep his job.
Let's take a look at each of these teams' Week 1 matchups and why they will start the 2013 campaign with a win.
The full Week 1 NFL schedule with game times and channels can be found on the NFL's official website.
NFL Week 1 Picks
|Baltimore at Denver||Denver|
|Tampa Bay at New York Jets||Tampa Bay|
|Arizona at St. Louis||St. Louis|
|New York Giants at Dallas||Dallas|
|New England at Buffalo||New England|
|Cincinnati at Chicago||Chicago|
|Miami at Cleveland||Miami|
|Atlanta at New Orleans||Atlanta|
|Tennessee at Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh|
|Minnesota at Detroit||Detroit|
|Oakland at Indianapolis||Indianapolis|
|Seattle at Carolina||Seattle|
|Kansas City at Jacksonville||Kansas City|
|Green Bay at San Francisco||San Francisco|
|Philadelphia at Washington||Washington|
|Houston at San Diego||Houston|
Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
While Matthew Stafford did have a rough season in 2012, the Lions quarterback led his team to the No. 2 passing attack in the league. The Lions rushing attack, on the other hand, didn't enjoy the same success, as it ranked No. 23 in the NFL.
That type of imbalance forced Detroit to heavily rely on its passing attack, and in turn Stafford made more mistakes through the air than normal. That same problem won't exist this season as Detroit brought Reggie Bush in during the offseason, who should be a threat both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
Bush compiled 986 yards on the ground (1,086 in 2011) to the tune of 4.3 yards per carry, and he also caught 35 passes for 292 yards as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Bush's versatility will no doubt help the Lions expand their options to attack the Vikings' excellent defense.
Who ya got?
Detroit's main focus will be stopping last year's Most Valuable Player, Adrian Peterson, but that proved to be nearly impossible for teams to do. However, the jury is still out on Minnesota's passing attack with Christian Ponder at the helm, so Detroit may be able to afford to load up the box in anticipation of the Vikings' run-first offense.
The most impressive part of the Lions defense is their defensive line, which features Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley up the middle, as well as 2013 first-round pick Ezekiel Ansah and Jason Jones on the edges, though Ansah's Week 1 status remains unclear, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com.
A line like that guarantees the Lions will be able to get some pressure on Ponder and force him to make some mistakes, while Peterson shouldn't have such an easy time breaking runs up the middle—or on the edge for that matter.
With a potent offense and a defense capable of shutting down Minnesota's one-dimensional offense, the Lions are set to start their 2013 season off with a win.
Prediction: Lions 20, Vikings 13
Kansas City Chiefs (at Jacksonville Jaguars)
For the worst team in the league from last season, the Chiefs couldn't have drawn a better Week 1 opponent than the Jaguars.
Jacksonville is in total disarray with relevant questions on just about every position on the depth chart. With not much talent added during the offseason, it figures to be another long year in Jacksonville.
The Chiefs should be a much-improved squad in 2013, but after a horrid season in 2012, that shouldn't be too hard anyway. After plenty of success in Philadelphia, Reid should help this team create a new identity for itself on both sides of the ball, and some key additions in the offseason will help that along.
Who ya got?
Quarterback Alex Smith will add some stability behind center for the Chiefs. Sure, Smith won't light the world on fire, but he is a responsible quarterback who knows how to take care of the ball when getting it out to his receivers.
No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will provide some much-needed protection for Smith with a solid offensive line overall, and offensive weapons like receivers Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and new addition Donnie Avery, as well as star running back Jamaal Charles, will leave Smith with no shortage of options to put points on the board.
Kansas City will come out with a ton of momentum in Week 1 with something to prove, and that should give them an even bigger advantage against the inept roster in Jacksonville.
Prediction: Chiefs 21, Jacksonville 6
Dallas Cowboys (vs. New York Giants)
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is on thin ice, so it's vital Dallas makes a playoff run this season if Garrett wants to return for 2014.
Dallas didn't make a ton of changes to its roster, or at least not many that will make a serious impact player-wise. Perhaps the biggest changes came to the coaching staff, as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was replaced by Monte Kiffin, who will usher in a new 4-3 defense that looked good during the preseason.
The best thing going for the Cowboys in this game is that their opponents, NFC East rival New York Giants, also aren't that improved. And it just so happens that the Cowboys have the goods to take full advantage of the Giants' biggest weakness.
Who ya got?
That weakness is New York's secondary, which recently lost safety Stevie Brown for the season with a torn ACL. Brown's injury is particularly significant because he will be subtracted from a secondary that already looked vulnerable.
If Romo's offensive line can just provide him enough time to get rid of the ball against New York's tough defensive line, the Cowboys signal-caller should be able to pick apart the Giants defensive backs and compile a ton of yards through the air.
That should help set up Dallas' rushing attack that will welcome back a healthy DeMarco Murray, who played in just 10 games last season.
Garrett's squad has more than enough talent on defense to keep Eli Manning and the Giants at bay, and this is a game that the Cowboys should win because the Giants will feed their biggest strength: throwing the football.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Giants 23
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