NFL Week 1 Picks: Rounding Up Top Experts' Predictions

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2014

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) speaks with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) after the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 17-13. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

The media's brightest minds have spent months poring over last year's results, this year's offseason and the preseason in an attempt to make their predictions for the 2014 season.

In a way, forecasting the opening week of the regular season is arguably the most difficult, as the evidence on which you're basing your opinions is purely speculative.

These experts, culled from Bleacher Report, and, have tried their best to predict how Week 1 will unfold.

Week 1 Expert Picks:
Dan HanzusGregg RosenthalKevin PatraMarc SesslerChris Wesseling
Saints at FalconsATLNONONONO
Titans at ChiefsKCTENKCTENKC
Patriots at DolphinsMIANENENENE
Panthers at BuccaneersTBTBCARCARCAR
49ers at CowboysDALSFSFSFSF
Chargers at CardinalsSDARISDARISD
Week 1 Expert Picks:
Adam SchefterChris MortensenSeth WickershamRon Jaworski
Saints at FalconsNONOATLNO
Browns at SteelersPITPITPITPIT
Jaguars at EaglesPHIPHIPHIPHI
Bengals at RavensBALBALBALCIN
Redskins at TexansHOUHOUHOUHOU
Titans at ChiefsTENKCKCKC
Patriots at DolphinsNENENENE
Panthers at BuccaneersTBTBTBTB
49ers at CowboysSFSFSFSF
Colts at BroncosDENDENDENDEN
Chargers at CardinalsSDSDSDARI
Week 1 Expert Picks: Bleacher Report
Matt BowenMike FreemanMichael SchotteyMike Tanier
Saints at FalconsNOATLNONO
Browns at SteelersPITCLEPITPIT
Jaguars at EaglesPHIPHIPHIPHI
Bengals at RavensBALCINBALCIN
Redskins at TexansHOUHOUWASWAS
Titans at ChiefsKCKCKCTEN
Patriots at DolphinsNENENENE
Panthers at BuccaneersTBCARCARTB
49ers at CowboysSFDALSFSF
Colts at BroncosDENDENDENDEN
Chargers at CardinalsSDSDSDSD
Bleacher Report



Mike Tanier's Committed to Excellence

Only one of the 13 experts listed took the Oakland Raiders to beat the New York Jets: B/R's Mike Tanier. It seems a bit odd that the Jets are carrying a near consensus. Sure, they're probably a better team than Oakland, but the gap between the two isn't so large that this game looks completely one-sided on paper.

The Raiders will start Derek Carr in Week 1. He is the better choice because he played very well in preseason and his top competition was Matt Schaub. Their respective completion percentages were 16 points apart, per ESPN Stats & Info:

B/R's Matt Miller believes that starting Carr now also makes sense because it will provide long-term benefits:

Oakland will be lucky to hit .500 this season in what is a very competitive AFC West. With that said, the Raiders aren't getting the respect they deserve heading into the season. Week 1 would be a good time to prove some of the doubters wrong.


Only a Crazy Man Would Trust Carson Palmer

Another team receiving surprisingly little respect is the Arizona Cardinals. In almost any other division, the Cardinals would be considered a playoff team. In the NFC West, they might win nine games.

Arizona's defense is hampered by the departure of Karlos Dansby, the suspension of Daryl Washington and the injury to Darnell Dockett. But the Cardinals still have one of the better secondaries in the league. Writing for Sports on Earth in June, Tanier ranked the unit third in the league.

He highlighted the fact that Patrick Peterson is one of the NFL's best corners and has more than enough support on the other side of the field:

The best complementary cornerback to a player of Peterson's skills is a ballhawk who can turn tons of targets into turnovers. New arrival Antonio Cromartie has made a career out of just that. Miscast as a top cover corner last year, Cromartie previously thrived when opponents had to throw the kitchen sink at their second-best receivers to avoid Darrelle Revis. As a No. 1 cornerback last year, Cromartie's errors overwhelmed his interceptions. Back in his natural role, Cromartie will be a headache for opponents, with (Jerraud) Powers sticking around as the nickel corner.

On the other side of the ball, Arizona is covered at every position except for one, which just so happens to be the most important position on the field. The Cardinals will go as far as Carson Palmer takes them, and given his mobility, or lack thereof, that's not very far.

Palmer is going to have weeks in which he goes off, though. With wide receivers Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown at his disposal, he can't be terrible all year.

Playing at home against what is a somewhat questionable San Diego Chargers secondary, the Cardinals could pull off the win.


So Much for the Atlanta Falcons' Home-Field Advantage

The Atlanta Falcons welcome the New Orleans Saints this week, but you wouldn't guess that by perusing the expert picks. According to Odds Shark, the Saints are 2.5-point favorites.

Major question marks still linger over the Atlanta defense. Losing Sean Weatherspoon for the entire season only exacerbates the problem. On the other side of the ball, the injury to Sam Baker leaves a massive hole on the offensive line. The Falcons must be wondering what they've done to incur the wrath of the football gods for another season.

Even if Kenny Stills is limited Sunday, Brandin Cooks should fill the void in the New Orleans passing game. Drew Brees doesn't need much help when it comes to lighting up opposing secondaries. The Falcons can't possibly keep up with the Saints offense in the event this turns into a shootout.

Matt Ryan thinks that getting all of his wide receivers back will help the Atlanta offense dictate the tempo of the game, per's Vaughn McClure:

"When you have veteran guys out there that have been in this game for a long time, I think it allows you to be more multiple than when you have young guys out there," Ryan said Wednesday. "So having those guys back on the field is big for us. It gives us our full complement of what we want to do offensively. It allows us to go as fast or as slow as we want to go."

The Saints look to be the class of the NFC South. Sunday would be a good time for Atlanta to upend the division hierarchy.


Note: This is only a smattering of the full predictions, which you can view at, and Bleacher Report.