NFL Week 1 Picks: Smart Predictions for Teams Guranteed to Start with a Win
As difficult as it can be to predict the outcome of an NFL game, there are some games to which the old adage "Any given Sunday" just does not apply.
Whether it's a rebuilding team in disarray, a team missing a star player or a team too good to lose to lesser competition barring divine intervention, a few games each week are undoubtedly locks.
Week 1 features three such contests—rebuilding teams with inferior talent are simply overmatched by teams on the rise.
Here are smart predictions for teams guaranteed to win on opening weekend.
|Baltimore at Denver||8:30 PM||NBC||Sports Authority Field at Mile High||Denver|
|New England at Buffalo||1:00 PM||CBS||Ralph Wilson Stadium||New England|
|Cincinnati at Chicago||1:00||CBS||Soldier Field||Cincinnati|
|Miami at Cleveland||1:00 PM||CBS||FirstEnergy Stadium||Cleveland|
|Atlanta at New Orleans||1:00 PM||FOX||Mercedes-Benz Superdome||New Orleans|
|Tampa Bay at NY Jets||1:00 PM||FOX||MetLife Stadium||Tampa Bay|
|Tennessee at Pittsburgh||1:00 PM||CBS||Heinz Field||Tennessee|
|Minnesota at Detroit||1:00 PM||FOX||Ford Field||Minnesota|
|New York at Dallas||8:30 PM||NBC||Cowboys Stadium||New York|
|Oakland at Indianapolis||1:00 PM||CBS||Lucas Oil Stadium||Indianapolis|
|Seattle at Carolina||1:00 PM||FOX||Bank of America Stadium||Carolina|
|Kansas City at Jacksonville||1:00 PM||CBS||EverBank Field||Kansas City|
|Green Bay at San Francisco||4:25 PM||FOX||Candlestick Park||Green Bay|
|Arizona at St. Louis||4:25 PM||FOX||Edward Jones Dome||St. Louis|
|Philadelphia at Washington||7:00 PM||ESPN||FedEx Field||Washington|
|Houston at San Diego||10:15 PM||ESPN||Qualcomm Stadium||Houston|
Schedule courtesy of ESPN
What's not to like about the Indianapolis Colts at home against the Oakland Raiders? Andrew Luck and the Colts went 7-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium last season, and the Raiders were miserable away from home, losing seven times on the road.
Luck and the aerial assault that ranked No. 7 overall return with more experience after a trip to the playoffs last year.
Oakland, on the other hand, has turned its hopes to inexperienced quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Chronicle has learned Terrelle Pryor is starting at quarterback for #Raiders Sunday, per couple of league sources. Not a big surprise.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 3, 2013
Which team wins?
That's not a winning strategy, but it's the best Oakland can afford to field at this point in what is perhaps the NFL's most serious rebuild.
Indianapolis will be able to key on Oakland's running game with Darren McFadden. The Colts had their issues against the run last season, but the arrivals of tackle Aubrayo Franklin and safety LaRon Landry should go a long way.
Oakland poses no threat whatsoever through the air with a quarterback who has never attempted more than 30 passes and weaknesses littered throughout the defensive depth chart. Indianapolis will have no trouble controlling the trenches and putting up points in bunches.
Prediction: Colts 35, Raiders 23.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Andy Reid era in Kansas City is about to start with a serious bang courtesy of a tuneup game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Much of the focus is on what Reid brings to the offense, but the defense will be much improved as well. The unit has plenty of talent, as evidenced by six players making the Pro Bowl last year. Elite players like Eric Berry and Tamba Hali will shine all year long—but especially against Jacksonville.
Which team wins?
The offense deserves some attention as well, with Jamaal Charles toting the rock after a 1,500-yard campaign in 2012 and newcomer Alex Smith (70 percent completion percentage last year) thriving in dink-and-dunk fashion as the Jacksonville defense focuses on the running game.
Not every team will bow down before the newly cultured Chiefs in 2013, but Jacksonville will be the first of many. The Jaguars are in a serious rebuild, and the only semblance of hope rests on the shoulders of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is eight months removed from Lisfranc surgery.
Road contest or not, Jacksonville is simply not talented enough to compete with a team micromanaged by the efficiency-obsessed Andy Reid.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Jaguars 10.
Betting against the Houston Texans—a team coming off of back-to-back postseason appearances with playoff victories—is a mistake.
Which team wins?
Even on the road, Houston remains one of the most balanced and lethal teams the NFL has to offer. The Texans lost just twice on the road last year.
Whether it's J.J. Watt (21.5 sacks in 2012) leading the defense and its elite pass rush or the combo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate paving the way for the offense, Houston is an elite team in every sense.
Speaking of Foster, he'll be good to go against the Chargers, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Kubiak said Arian Foster won't be a "30-carry guy" against San Diego cause he didn't play in preseason.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 30, 2013
That means he'll stay fresh for the duration of the game, as will talented backup Tate.
For a San Diego defense that ranked sixth against the run last year but will be without Melvin Ingram and star rookie Manti Te'o, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the last thing San Diego needs is a healthy dose of carries from one of the NFL's most talented backfields.
LB Manti Te'o did not practice Wednesday due to foot injury. Chargers preparing Bront Bird to start Monday vs. Texans.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 5, 2013
Philip Rivers will once again play behind a patchwork offensive line that Watt and Co. will easily cut through on a regular basis. The trenches will be controlled by Houston in all regards, which will lead to a dominant showing for Houston.
Prediction: Texans 28, Chargers 14
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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