NFL Week 1 Picks: Bold Predictions for Opening Weekend's Biggest Matchups
With the 2013 NFL regular season kicking off on Thursday night, the predictable and expected hardly ever come true on the gridiron as there is no shortage of surprises and epic moments each weekend.
A handful of upsets are surely in the making, as some favorites come in with their own issues and underdogs look to either move past a disappointing 2012 or build off their successes.
Here's a look at some bold predictions for Week 1.
Note: All odds courtesy of Bovada
|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||Miami|
|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|
|NY Giants at Dallas||8:30 PM||NBC||Cowboys Stadium||NY Giants|
|Oakland at Indianapolis||1:00 PM||CBS||Lucas Oil Stadium||Indianapolis|
|Seattle at Carolina||1:00 PM||FOX||Bank of America Stadium||Seattle|
|Kansas City at Jacksonville||1:00 PM||CBS||EverBank Field||Kansas City|
|Green Bay at San Francisco||4:25 PM||FOX||Candlestick Park||San Francisco|
|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 information via ESPN
Pittsburgh (-7) Will Get Run Over By Titans in Opener
A solid running game can take you a long way, and that will become a reality for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday when they fall victim to one of the biggest upsets of Week 1.
The Tennessee Titans' 2012 rushing stats (105.1 yards per game) leave a lot to be desired, but a plethora of offseason moves have put them in the position to have one of the most potent rushing attacks in the league.
Chris Johnson quietly had a bounce-back season by upping his yards-per-carry average a half-yard to 4.5, despite a one-dimensional backfield. His efficiency will skyrocket this season with the addition of Shonn Greene, the Jets' feature back last season, who will swallow up many of the tough yards and allow Johnson more room to do what he does best—hit the outside.
Adding one of the league's best guards in Andy Levitre via free agency and a bulldozer in rookie Chance Warmack will allow Greene and the Titans to do something they couldn't last year—run between the tackles.
For contrast, the Steelers will start Isaac Redman, who had an unproductive 2012, and LaRod Stephens-Howling will back him up with rookie Le'Veon Bell aiming for a Week 2 return (via Scott Brown of ESPN).
The Titans will get Jake Locker an early lead on the ground and force Ben Roethlisberger to force some throws against an improving Tennessee secondary.
Cincinnati's Growing Offense Will Expose Chicago (-3)
Picking a team who made the playoffs last season over a team who didn't doesn't seem like a bold prediction, but picking against the Bears is always tough.
However, with Andy Dalton's progression last season—62.3 completion percentage, over 3,500 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions—along with A.J. Green as one of the league's best receivers, makes the Bengals even tougher to pick against.
Throw in BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield and standout rookie Giovani Bernard splitting reps, and you have yourself a pretty potent offense.
The Bears have their moments on offense, but the pass game is way too reliant on Brandon Marshall. His 2012 stat line of 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 scores is other-worldly, but 375 yards from the second-leading receiver (Earl Bennett) only proves much of Marshall's success was due to the lack of help around him.
And with Marshall missing a lot of time before the season per ESPN's Michael C. Wright, that should only amplify worries for Jay Cutler.
New Orleans Will Gut Out Victory Over Atlanta (-3) in Sean Payton's Return
2012 was a season to forget for the New Orleans Saints, but the return of head coach Sean Payton alone is enough to believe this year could be much different in the Big Easy.
Drew Brees' stats may not have suffered in Payton's absence—5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns—but many of his 19 picks came in the worst possible situations and he was uncharacteristically rattled at times throughout the year.
The Super Bowl XLIV MVP will undoubtedly improve with the return of Payton—the coach who gave Brees a chance in New Orleans and helped turn him into a star after he fell out of favor in San Diego. The naturally risky Brees needs Payton on the sideline to keep him calm and call the right things to help him succeed.
The schedule-makers didn't do the Saints any favors with a Week 1 showdown against Atlanta, but the Falcons finished 23rd in pass defense a season ago (via ESPN). They also lost to the Payton-less Saints last season in the Superdome, where they'll face off again Sunday.
The hapless Saints' D tends to up their game at home, at least enough to allow Brees the ability to hold onto a lead. If that's the case Sunday along with Brees staying composed, it'll be the difference.
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