NFL Week 1 Predictions: Teams on Upset Alert to Start Season
It's safe to say expectations can be distorted a bit over an NFL offseason, and that fact will come to the forefront when some less-talked-about teams come out winners in Week 1 of the 2013 season.
While a fair share of teams will secure victories against overmatched opponents, these favored squads won't be as lucky. They'll face teams that made solid additions in the offseason and that match up well against them.
Let's take a look at the teams on upset alert for Week 1.
*All odds courtesy of Bovada
Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) vs. Tennessee Titans
The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, a team that quietly spent a lot of money this offseason in free agency—something Pittsburgh hasn't done over the last decade or more.
The Titans picked up one of the best linemen on the market in Andy Levitre and drafted Chance Warmack at No. 10 overall in April, locking up their interior for the long term. Chris Johnson now has an offensive line he can work with after a few seasons of sparse run-blocking.
Additionally, picking up Shonn Greene was huge. CJ is far from an every-down back, as his skill set doesn't translate to success in some down-and-yardage situations. Greene will be able to make up for that.
The Steelers offense sputtered last year, which played a huge part in their 8-8 record. With injuries decimating the running back position—Le'Veon Bell will miss at least the Titans game (via Scott Brown of ESPN)—and Rashard Mendenhall having departed in the offseason, the Steelers run game won't be up to par in Week 1.
Ben Roethlisberger can ill afford to get down early in this game, and if he does, expect the Titans to throw a lot of carries at Johnson and Greene to extend their lead on the ground.
Tennessee's corners suddenly have experience on their side to go along with two ball-hawking safeties in Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard, who won't let Big Ben throw the Steelers back into the game.
Prediction: Titans 29, Steelers 20
Detroit Lions (-5.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson on turf is enough reason to validate this as an upset-worthy pick. He's in the running for 200 yards in any given game—even against a defensive line like Detroit's, which is ranked third in fewest rush yards given up in 2012.
For Christian Ponder, adding an established veteran like Jennings on the outside could do wonders. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes with the interchanging wide receiving corps Minnesota had a year ago.
If Jennings can be the chain-moving target and come up with 50-50 balls, he'll be able to open up rookie Cordarrelle Patterson to get more in the open field, where he's deadly.
If the pass offense can live up to what it has advertised this year and can complement the run game, Minnesota should make for a formidable upset candidate in Week 1.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 25
Chicago Bears (-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The oddsmakers were apparently weighing home-field advantage heavily, because the Cincinnati Bengals proved to be better than the Chicago Bears in 2012 and will do so again in Week 1.
Which of these upsets is the most likely?
Andy Dalton is attempting to make that crucial and difficult transition from early wonder to elite NFL quarterback, and he has a formidable group around him on offense. Enough can be said about AJ Green alone, but the run game will also be an improvement, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis will share carries with standout rookie Giovani Bernard.
The third-year quarterback is faced with the challenge of getting players not named Green involved in the passing game. But in a hostile environment Sunday, he should feel fine going to his dependable star early and often.
The Bears have a lot of questions to address on the field after falling apart late last season. It's hard to imagine them bringing in more momentum than a team building off recent success in making the postseason.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Bears 20
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