I find myself forced to Tivo the Thursday Night Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans due to work, but don't think I'm missing a second of it when I get home.
The return of the NFL makes me look like Cuba Gooding Jr. after winning an Oscar for Jerry Maguire. Enough about my Brett Favre like enthusiasm for the game of football, here's a quick rundown of each of the Week One matchups:
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
The AFC Championship game last year between Pittsburgh and Baltimore excited a lot of football enthusiasts and with the physical style of both teams, it was sometimes referred to as "man football", on paper this matchup arguably deserves that same title. Gone is DT Albert Haynesworth, an unstoppable force in the Titans' defensive line, but to be fair the Titans did beat the Steelers in Week 16 last season 31-14 without Haynesworth.
That game was in Tennessee, but this meeting will take place in Pittsburgh, and I do not expect a repeat. I expect the Steelers to come out with a lot of energy in their regular season opener as the champs and make a statement.
I also believe with an aging Jevon Kearse and an injury prone Kyle Vanden Bosch on the defensive line, that the Titans' defense has the potential to be just average this year after being one of the top units last year. They should be able to put a decent amount of pressure on a shaky offensive line, but in the end, I expect the Super Bowl Champions to start the year off the right way.
The Steelers win 23-13.
Miami at Atlanta
Miami has trouble pressuring the QB and with the weapons Matt Ryan has along with Michael Turner carrying the ball, I expect the Atlanta Falcons to score early and often. The Dolphins will be forced to play catch up and this is where a pass rusher like John Abraham (16.5 sacks last season) is at his most dangerous.
Matt Ryan's sophomore campaign should start as well as anyone could hope for.
The Falcons win 35-17.
Philadelphia at Carolina
To say that the Philadelphia Eagles have speed on offense is insulting to them. They are going to be very fun to watch this year.
Westbrook did not play at all during preseason due to an ankle injury so that is concerning, but the Carolina Panthers' defense leaves a lot to be desired. Plus Jake Delhomme is good for about 15 INT's against that secondary...OK, maybe not, but I do think that Philly will be able to pull it out against a team that was nearly unbeatable at times last season.
The Eagles win 28-24.
Denver at Cincinnati
While people were calling for the head of Cincinnati Bengals' head coach Marvin Lewis, the once defensive guru for the Baltimore Ravens quietly built up the 12th ranked defense in the league last year.
Carson Palmer is back under center and Chad Johnson's (not Ochocinco's) ankle is 100 percent. I don't think the Denver Broncos are quite as bad as people think, but I do not think this game will be that close.
The Bengals win 27-10.
Minnesota at Cleveland
If Minnesota was looking to start hot like the New York Jets did with Brett Favre, they landed the right opponent in Week One. I think the Cleveland Browns are the worst team in the AFC with a dreadful defense, aging RB, and an expected decline in the passing game with Kellen Winslow Jr. traded and Donte Stallworth suspended for the season.
Favre still has not been with the Vikings for that long, so I'm betting on a six TD game a la the Arizona Cardinals game last year. However, I am expecting more than enough to beat the...hold your nose...Cleveland Browns.
The Vikings win 30-10.
New York Jets at Houston Texans
The one thing that I don't believe Brett Favre got enough credit for during his brief stay in New York was the resurgence of Thomas Jones. In comparing his stats from 2007, Thomas Jones rushed for nearly 200 more yards, 13 more total TD's, and nearly an entire more yard per carry with 20 fewer carries. Jones is now 31 years old and now has a rookie at QB.
Are we more likely to see the 2007 Thomas Jones or the 2008 Thomas Jones?
I am definitely going with the 2007 Jones, and if the Leon Washington or Shonn Greene are not ready to step up as a full-time back, the Jets may have the worst offense in the league.
The popular sleeper pick in the Houston Texans' victory, 24-9.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis Colts
A very underrated matchup as the Jacksonville Jaguars even in a bad season continued to play the Indianapolis Colts very tough.
Regardless, the reigning MVP Peyton Manning will continue to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, like he often did last season, and start the Colts' season off the right way.
The Colts win 27-24.
Detroit at New Orleans
Speaking of holding your nose...what about the Detroit Lions?
Some people will try to look smart and attempt to correctly predict the Lions' first win. I'm sure not going to pick it here, on the road, against the incredibly explosive New Orleans Saints.
The Saints win 45-17.
Kansas City at Baltimore
The Kansas City Chiefs appear to be heading in the right direction with the change in management, but they will not reap the benefits on the field this season. The defense still needs a lot of work and they may be without starting QB Matt Cassell. The Ravens' defense is getting older, but regardless I expect them to beat up the Chiefs in the season opener.
The Ravens win 24-13.
Dallas at Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is in a rebuilding mode on both offense and defense. The Dallas Cowboys' passing game might be less explosive without Terrell Owens, but with three strong RB's they don't need much in Week One.
The Cowboys win 34-10.
San Francisco at Arizona
Mike Singletary seems to have the makings of a great coach, but it will only go so far with what appears to be not a ton of talent on either side of the ball. Kurt Warner is 38 years old, but it's hard to imagine him all of a sudden failing in that offense.
The Cardinals win 31-20.
St. Louis at Seattle
Seattle still has no running game, but expect the offense, as a whole, to look a lot better with the addition of TJ Houshmandzadeh, not to mention, they are healthy now.
Even with a healthy Steven Jackson, the St. Louis Rams have one of the thinnest rosters in the league.
Seahawks win 27-17.
Washington at New York Giants
More "man football?" You have got it here with two of the best defenses in the league and offenses led by physical running backs in Brandon Jacobs and Clinton Portis.
I am going on the record saying Portis will break down more severely than he appeared to at the end of last year, but for Week One, he should be fine. The Giants are my SB pick in the NFC, but in this early matchup I think Washington lands the last punch due to their edge in the receiving game with Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, and Chris Cooley.
The Redskins win 16-13.
Chicago at Green Bay
The city of Chicago is like a kid in a candy store at the sight of a gunslinger like Jay Cutler. However, he does not have the playmakers on offense to go toe-to-toe with what I feel is one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
The Packers win 34-24.
Buffalo at New England
Tom Brady's long awaited return is finally here and he has more even more toys to play with in the likes of Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor at RB.
Aaron Schobel is back which should mean an improvement from the Bills' below average pass rush, Marshawn Lynch is out though, which means added pressure on the Buffalo Bills' passing game to match the Patriots.
Does anyone think that's going to happen? Anyone? Bueller?
The Patriots win 38-24.
San Diego at Oakland
Shawne Merriman is back and Jay Cutler cried his way to Chicago, is there any way the San Diego Chargers could possibly blow becoming division champion?
In a word, no. The Oakland Raiders will be able run the ball on them, but there is just too much talent on the Chargers' roster.
The Chargers win 27-20.
I am excited for another great football season, and I am looking forward to going 512-0 on my picks again. Yes, I went 256-0 last season. Yes, I called the Eagles-Bengals tie. Don't believe me? You can't prove I didn't, so shove off.
Enjoy the week!