Last-Minute Expert Consensus NFL Picks from Around the Web
After months of waiting, it's time.
After sitting through free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp and the preseason, the most wonderful time of year has finally arrived.
No, not Christmas. That will be here soon enough (I'm surprised the commercials haven't already started).
The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos have already gotten things underway, and on Sunday, there will be a full slate of thrilling NFL action.
As we gear up for the first week of the 2013 season, here's a look around the Internet at how the "experts" believe Week 1 will unfold.
Experts Roll Call
Before we get things rolling, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, as well as former players such as Cris Carter and Ron Jaworski.
CBS Sports: The CBS Sports picks feature eight writers, including senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco and NFL insider Jason La Canfora.
USA Today: We'll stay with the committee approach with the fine folks at USA Today. Seven of their writers toss their hats into the ring.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for the Bleacher Report picks team features each of the national lead writers, as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it. No fewer than 44 keen football minds (plus one computer), all with their eyes cast toward this week's action.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Final Verdict: So, about that blowout win for the Patriots.
Someone forgot to tell the Bills.
Yes, the experts (and the Patriots) got the "W" in this one, but it took a last-second field goal by Stephen Gostkowski for New England to escape with a 23-21 win.
Seriously. That's what happened.
ESPN: Patriots (13-0)
CBS Sports: Patriots (8-0)
Fox Sports: Patriots (5-0)
USA Today: Patriots (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Patriots (12-0)
Overall: Patriots (45-0)
I believe this is what's known as a landslide victory, and it may also be the final score of Sunday's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots.
As Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller put it in predicting a 45-6 drubbing by the Pats, "The Bills lack the talent to keep pace with the Patriots on either side of the ball. Tom Brady's new young weapons will explode."
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
Final Verdict: As expected, this was a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair in which Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green blew up to the tune of nine catches for 162 yards and two scores.
That performance was for naught, however, as the Bengals squandered an 11-point second-half lead. The experts swing and miss as the Bears win 24-21.
ESPN: Bengals (7-6)
CBS Sports: Bengals (6-2)
Fox Sports: Bears (3-2)
USA Today: Bengals (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Bengals (7-5)
Overall: Bengals (27-18)
That's more like it. All that agreement was unsettling.
One of the more interesting matchups of Week 1 takes place in Chicago, where a retooled Chicago Bears offensive line will face a stiff test from the formidable front four of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bears have their share of supporters. Chicago won the vote at Fox Sports and was only narrowly edged out at ESPN and here at Bleacher Report.
However, it's the Bengals who are the consensus pick with 60 percent of the vote. Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst feels it will be that front four that helps secure a win for Cincinnati.
"Cincinnati's defensive front will get the best of Chicago's O-line," Hangst writes, "allowing the Bengals to pick up a road win in their season opener."
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
Final Verdict: You'll notice below I mentioned that as a Browns fan the experts picking them to win made me nervous.
You see, I've grown accustomed to games like Sunday's.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden threw three first-half interceptions, Miami wideout Brian Hartline reeled in nine passes for 117 yards and a score, and the Dolphins were in control throughout.
23-10 Miami, in what looks like the beginning of another long year on the shores of Lake Erie.
ESPN: Browns (9-4)
CBS Sports: Browns (8-0)
Fox Sports: Browns (3-2)
USA Today: Browns (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Dolphins (7-5)
Overall: Browns (29-16)
The Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins were two of the most active teams in the NFL in free agency this year, and their tussle on the shores of Lake Erie features a battle of strong-armed second-year quarterbacks.
It's a battle the majority feels the home team will win. In fact, the Browns surprisingly swept the experts at CBS, garnering all eight votes.
The dissenting opinion in the case of Cleveland vs. Miami was submitted by the law firm of Bleacher and Report. B/R was the only site of the five that predicted a Miami victory, with AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz stating, "Ryan Tannehill, at present, is a better quarterback than Brandon Weeden and has more weapons at his disposal, giving the Dolphins the edge in this one."
As an aside, as a Browns fan, I find this much confidence in my beloved Brownies deeply troubling.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Final Verdict: When Adrian Peterson took his first carry of the game 78 yards for a touchdown, it looked like the Detroit defense might be in for a long day.
However, it was Lions running back Reggie Bush who was the star of Sunday's game, tallying nearly 200 total yards in a 10-point win for the home team.
Put another one in in the win column for the experts after the Lions prevail 34-24.
ESPN: Lions (12-1)
CBS Sports: Lions (6-2)
Fox Sports: Lions (3-2)
USA Today: Lions (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Lions (10-2)
Overall: Lions (36-9)
In 2012, the Minnesota Vikings won 10 games and made the playoffs. The Detroit Lions won four and finished buried in the basement of the NFC North.
That apparently means very little to this panel. All five sites picked the Lions to win this Week 1 showdown, and at the sites with large panels, the vote wasn't close.
It would seem that the Vikings' issues at quarterback are perceived to be too much for the team to overcome. As Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse put it, "Which quarterback makes the game-changing mistake? I'll take Christian Ponder, who should be getting harassed by the Lions defensive line for most of the afternoon."
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
Final Verdict: The game was a lot closer than many expected, thanks in large part to over 300 total yards from Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
However, a late Pryor interception sealed the deal, and the Colts made the experts look good with a 21-17 victory.
Almost, Keyshawn. Almost.
ESPN: Colts (12-1)
CBS Sports: Colts (8-0)
Fox Sports: Colts (5-0)
USA Today: Colts (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Colts (12-0)
Overall: Colts (44-1)
There's no nice way to say this: The Oakland Raiders are a terrible football team.
The Raiders have the least talented roster in the NFL. The only thing that looked worse than Oakland's first-team offense in the preseason was it's first-team defense. And there are probably 20 college teams with better quarterback situations than Oakland. That's not an exaggeration.
So that makes it rather puzzling that ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson picked the Raiders to down a Colts squad this week that won 11 games and made the playoffs last year. With that said, if the Raiders do pull off the upset (on the road, no less), Johnson will look like a genius.
Of course, if a pair of wings sprouted from my backside I'd save a ton of money on airfare.
Alas, neither is likely to happen.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Final Verdict: In some respects, this game played out according to script.
However, there was quite a bit more defense played than many expected, and the 23-17 final score left folks who bet the "over" shredding their betting slips in disgust.
ESPN: Falcons (7-6)
CBS Sports: Saints (5-3)
Fox Sports: Falcons (3-2)
USA Today: Falcons (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Saints (9-3)
Overall: Saints (25-20)
The most entertaining matchup in Week 1 may well be the showdown between the last two champions of the NFC South in the Big Easy.
With head coach Sean Payton back in the fold, the Saints will try to send a message to their division rivals that the Falcons are in for a battle this year.
As one might expect, the vote was pretty close for the most part. More sites picked the Falcons, but more individual voters sided with the Saints.
The turning point in the overall vote came right here at Bleacher Report. NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman was among the nine scribes who took the Saints, writing, "Sean Payton makes that much of a difference. Payton and [Drew] Brees are too much for the Falcons."
The voters may be all over the place as to who will win this game, but there's one thing we can all agree on: If you want to see defense, watch a different game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
Final Verdict: Well, you see, what had happened was.
Not a single expert picked the New York Jets to win in Geno Smith's first career start.
A personal foul penalty by Tampa linebacker Lavonte David for hitting Smith out of bounds put the Jets in field goal range, Nick Folk punched it through, and the Jets downed the Buccaneers 18-17.
At least they were consistently wrong.
ESPN: Buccaneers (13-0)
CBS Sports: Buccaneers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Buccaneers (5-0)
USA Today: Buccaneers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Buccaneers (12-0)
Overall: Buccaneers (45-0)
As Rich Cimini of ESPN reports, rookie Geno Smith will be the starter under center Sunday when the New York Jets face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith told Cimini, "I'm ready."
The problem is, so is cornerback Darrelle Revis, and he plays for the Buccaneers now.
Granted, quarterback is hardly the only problem that the Jets have in 2013, so it's not really fair to single out Smith as the reason not a single expert picked Gang Green. Still, it's not exactly a coincidence that the two teams who will be starting rookie passers this week combined for a grand total of zero votes.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Final Verdict: OK, so maybe Mike Ditka was on to something.
Not only did the Tennessee Titans defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-9, but other than a 2-0 lead after a gaffe on the opening kickoff the Steelers never led in this game.
Yes, you read that right. The Pittsburgh Steelers were dominated at home by the Titans, in a game that wasn't as close as the score.
Score one for Ditka.
ESPN: Steelers (12-1)
CBS Sports: Steelers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Steelers (5-0)
USA Today: Steelers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Steelers (12-0)
Overall: Steelers (44-1)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a perennial contender in the AFC for most of the past decade. However, there's more than a little uncertainty surrounding them this season. A preseason injury to running back Le'Veon Bell has cast clouds of doubt over the Steelers run game. The departure of Mike Wallace in free agency did the same for the aerial attack.
However, while there may be concerns about Steelers' status as a playoff team this year, there apparently aren't many about their ability to handle the Tennessee Titans at home in Week 1.
In fact, of 45 experts, only ESPN's Mike Ditka picked the Titans.
Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland thinks this pick is essentially a gimme: "Jake Locker versus Dick LeBeau's defense (on the road) has to be the easiest pick of Week 1. Pittsburgh controls the game for all four quarters."
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Final Verdict: People watching this game may have thought they were watching tape of last year's game between these teams.
Once again the Seahawks and Panthers combined for a sloppy, low-scoring affair, but a 300-yard passing day from quarterback Russell Wilson was enough to net Seattle a 12-7 victory.
Just like the Seahawks, the experts won ugly here.
ESPN: Seahawks (12-1)
CBS Sports: Seahawks (5-3)
Fox Sports: Seahawks (5-0)
USA Today: Seahawks (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Seahawks (9-3)
Overall: Seahawks (37-8)
The Seattle Seahawks are a trendy pick to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. As their 8-0 mark at CenturyLink Field last year demonstrates, the Seahawks are hard to beat when playing at home.
However, Seattle was a moribund 3-5 away from the Emerald City last year, and the team begins its 2013 campaign at Bank of America stadium with a matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Still, the Seahawks downed Carolina in the same venue last year, and the overwhelming majority of experts expect a similar outcome this time around.
There are, though, a handful of dissenters, including Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey: "It's a long trip in Week 1 for the Seahawks," Schottey wrote, "and I think Cam Newton and an improved Panthers defense is going to be ready and waiting for the upset special."
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Final Verdict: There was some talk entering this game that maybe, just maybe, the Jacksonville Jaguars weren't the worst team in the NFL.
Well, apparently the Jaguars were on a mission to put all doubts to rest in that regard.
Kansas City dominated the game in every way imaginable, coasting to a 28-2 victory that handed the experts a gimme win.
ESPN: Chiefs (11-2)
CBS Sports: Chiefs (7-1)
Fox Sports: Chiefs (4-1)
USA Today: Chiefs (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Chiefs (10-2)
Overall: Chiefs (39-6)
The Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars were two of the NFL's worst teams last year, combining to post a record of 4-28.
Many pundits have predicted a quick turnaround in Kansas City with the arrival of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. That optimism doesn't extend to the Jaguars, who are projected by most to once again bring up the rear in the AFC South.
Those differing trajectories are reflected in the picks for this game, with over 85 percent of the experts polled calling for a victory by the visiting Chiefs.
In regards to this matchup, Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon wrote, "The Chiefs are way better than 2-14, especially after a strong offseason. The Jaguars remain a mess."
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
Final Verdict: Don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals have a quarterback.
Carson Palmer threw for over 300 yards, but it was St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford who had the last laugh, engineering a second-half comeback and game-winning drive.
The Rams prevail 27-24, and the experts are on a roll.
ESPN: Rams (11-2)
CBS Sports: Rams (8-0)
Fox Sports: Rams (4-1)
USA Today: Rams (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Rams (9-3)
Overall: Rams (38-7)
The Arizona Cardinals suffered through a 5-11 disaster of a season last year, mostly because of miserable quarterback play and the NFL's most porous offensive line.
The Redbirds attempted to address those issues in the offseason. The addition of veteran signal-caller Carson Palmer has to be viewed as a plus, but the loss of first-round pick Jonathan Cooper to a season-ending leg injury once again raises questions about the offensive front.
Going up against one of the NFL's best front fours in St. Louis, the vast majority of experts would seem to believe that line will falter. However, somewhat surprisingly, one of the dissenting voices was the robotic one, with the WhatIfSports.com simulation at Fox Sports ending in a Cardinals victory.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Final Verdict: Many times a game that gets the hype this one did doesn't live up to the billing.
This was not one of those times.
The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers traded punches all afternoon, but the end a 400-yard passing effort from Colin Kaepernick and 200-yard receiving day from Anquan Boldin set the stage for a 34-28 win by the 49ers.
ESPN: 49ers (13-0)
CBS Sports: 49ers (5-3)
Fox Sports: 49ers (3-2)
USA Today: 49ers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: 49ers (9-3)
Overall: 49ers (37-8)
Sunday's marquee matchup features the Green Bay Packers travelling west to face the San Francisco 49ers. It's a rematch of a Divisional Round playoff game last year, as well as the season opener in 2012.
Both of those matchups were won by the 49ers, including a 45-31 postseason victory that included a record-setting rushing performance by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Whether due to the 49ers' stifling defense or the perils of defending San Francisco's read-option attack, the majority of the experts feel that the 49ers will make it three in a row Sunday afternoon. In fact, the pundits at ESPN and USA Today were unanimous in that belief.
In the words of Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse, "I'm not convinced the Packers are good enough on D to handle an offense as talented, powerful and versatile as the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers helps keep it close, but San Francisco is still the class of the NFC."
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Final Verdict: Despite the fact the Cowboys played a sometimes sloppy game against the Giants Sunday night, their losing streak at home against the G-Men is no more.
The reason is simple. The Giants were four times as sloppy.
When you commit six turnovers in the NFL, you aren't winning many games.
Tom Coughlin's post-game speech should be, um, colorful.
ESPN: Cowboys (10-3)
CBS Sports: Cowboys (6-2)
Fox Sports: Cowboys (3-2)
USA Today: Cowboys (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Cowboys (8-4)
Overall: Cowboys (33-12)
For the second straight season, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants open the season against one another, with the Cowboys receiving a chance to end a rather ignominious streak.
Since AT&T Stadium opened in 2009, the Giants and Cowboys have played there four times. Big Blue has won every game. It's a streak that over 70 percent of the experts listed here believe will end on Sunday night.
However, there are more than a few members of the opposition, among them Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman. Freeman forecasts a 27-20 win for the visiting Giants, writing, "The Giants are comfortable in Jerry's house, and we will see David Wilson become a star."
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
Final Verdict: There was plenty of discussion in the offseason regarding how new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense would fare in the NFL.
Well, so far so good.
The Eagles ran over 50 plays in the first half alone, a turnover-filled first half put Washington in a 26-7 hole, and while Robert Griffin tried to lead a late comeback it came up short.
33-27 Eagles, and a loss for the experts.
ESPN: Redskins (10-3)
CBS Sports: Redskins (7-1)
Fox Sports: Redskins (3-2)
USA Today: Redskins (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Redskins (9-3)
Overall: Redskins (35-10)
As has been the case the past several years, Week 1 of the 2013 season features a Monday night doubleheader.
The first game of that twin bill, between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, features a number of big subplots.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin is set to return to the field after tearing his ACL in the playoffs last year. Griffin will square off with Michael Vick, who will be running the up-tempo offense of new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
The majority opinion is that frenetic offense won't be enough to get the Eagles a win. Or, more appropriately, that offense won't be enough to overcome Philadelphia's defensive deficiencies. As Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen wrote, "Chip Kelly's offense is going to score points, but can they stop RGIII and the Redskins? I don't see it."
Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers
Final Verdict: The Houston Texans did everything they could to lose this game. They turned it over on their first play. They spotted the San Diego Chargers a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.
However, no lead is safe on Monday night when the Chargers are involved.
Just like in last year's debacle against Denver, the Chargers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, surrendering 24 unanswered points en route to a 31-28 Houston victory.
ESPN: Texans (12-1)
CBS Sports: Texans (8-0)
Fox Sports: Texans (5-0)
USA Today: Texans (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Texans (12-0)
Overall: Texans (44-1)
For much of the 2012 season, the Houston Texans were the class of the AFC. A late-season swoon and blowout loss to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round brought a bitter end to an otherwise solid season.
Meanwhile, after several seasons as a contender in the AFC, the San Diego Chargers have faded of late, a trend the team took steps to reverse by hiring new head coach Mike McCoy.
Every expert except ESPN's Merrill Hoge expects the McCoy era to begin with a loss. Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey expects the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year to have something to do with that.
"J.J. Watt is going to tattoo himself to Philip Rivers' midsection by halftime," Schottey said, "in a game that should get out of hand late."