After seven long months of waiting and building fantasy leagues, the 2009 NFL season is finally upon us. Which teams will start off this season on a high note? Who will show that they have a lot of work to do? McMullen’s Musings dusts off the crystal ball to give their predictions for Week One of the NFL season.
Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Thursday)
This is a very good game between two of the best teams that the NFL had to offer last season. It’s a shame someone has to lose this great Week One battle. Nonetheless, the Steelers have the smothering defense needed to neutralize the Titans’ running attack, which should be enough to stop them.
Prediction: Steelers 28, Titans 20
New York Jets vs. Houston Texans
Another good game, only this time between two of the most promising teams in the NFL. This will be an early test for rookie Mark Sanchez, and I do think he’ll live up to the challenge, at least this week. He leads the Jets on his first fourth-quarter comeback and narrowly escapes Houston with a win.
Prediction: Jets 23, Texans 20
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns
In an earlier entry, I said that this game was one to avoid, but that was before Brett Favre decided to come back. Don’t get me wrong; this is still going to be a pretty bad game. However, with Favre at the helm, the Browns have absolutely no chance of winning this one.
Prediction: Vikings 38, Browns 3
Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals
This is another game that you definitely should skip, unless you are a die-hard Broncos or Bengals fan. I give the edge to the Bengals, only because they have less of a problem at their core positions. I bet the Denver ownership is kicking themselves right now for giving Mike Shanahan the boot.
Prediction: Bengals 3, Broncos 0 in overtime
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers
Philadelphia fans will be waiting with baited breath to see the debut of Michael Vick, whether in a backup or starter position. Either way, they will be treated to a very good game between two of the marquee teams in the NFC.
There have been rumors that Andy Reid will split starting time between the two of them, but if he does, it could blow up in his face.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Panthers 17
Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are still rebuilding, but if they gel soon enough, they should be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC South. However, it will take a little time, since they just fired their offensive coordinator. The Cowboys are more stable with their roster and should have an easy time with Tampa Bay this week.
Prediction: Cowboys 28, Buccaneers 10
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens
This should be a pretty good matchup, as the Chiefs improved vastly during the offseason. It will depend on if Matt Cassel has recovered from his MCL injury, but that doesn’t look likely. The Chiefs will have to rely on Brodie Croyle for this game, and that might not be the best idea against an aging, but still very potent, Baltimore defense.
Prediction: Ravens 16, Chiefs 7
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
The Lions have looked pretty good in the preseason, and they actually look like they could snap their 17-game losing streak. They have a tough test in the Saints, who bring a powerful offense to the table.
This should actually be a very good game with the Lions walking away with their first regular season victory in two years.
Prediction: Lions 23, Saints 20 in overtime
Miami Dolphins vs. Atlanta Falcons
This will be a game featuring two teams that are on their way up. The Falcons offense is great, but their defense is still a little shaky, and that will be the dealbreaker if they cannot figure out how to control the Wildcat offense.
The Dolphins are pretty good on both sides of the ball, and that should be enough to slow down Matt Ryan, the rising star of the Falcons (at least for one week).
Prediction: Dolphins 30, Falcons 17
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
This game and Thursday’s game should establish who has early control of the AFC South. Of course, you can’t discount Peyton Manning’s presence in the game, but the Jaguars have slowly been building up their defense.
It will all come down to the running game, and with Maurice Jones-Drew slightly edging out Joseph Addai, that will be the difference.
Prediction: Jaguars 20, Colts 10
St. Louis Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks vastly improved their receiving corps, picking up T.J. Houshmandzadeh from the Bengals. However, the Rams did a great job building up their defense, picking up middle linebacker James Laurinaitis from Ohio State. This will be a pretty even matchup, coming right down to the wire.
Prediction:Rams 24, Seahawks 21 in overtime
Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants
This game will be one of the best of the first week, because both teams improved significantly over the offseason. The deciding factor will be the running game, and I think the double threat of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will be just a little too much for the Redskins’ potent defense.
This should be a dogfight right down to the wire in the Meadowlands.
Prediction: Giants 16, Redskins 10 in overtime
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
The 49ers could be one of the big surprises out of the NFC West, and they face a stiff test in last year’s surprise in the NFC champion Cardinals.
The Cardinals shored up their running game when they drafted Beanie Wells. However, I do like the San Francisco defense this year, as they picked up Dre’ Bly from Denver. He should make a significant impact off the bench for the 49ers, but they still need a little more to make it to the next level.
Prediction: Cardinals 20, 49ers 7
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have great backs and receivers, but for them to be effective, you need a solid offensive line, which the Bears have. The acquisition of Orlando Pace in the offseason should give new quarterback Jay Cutler enough time to make a big splash in the NFC.
It’ll all boil down to defense, and I think the Bears have enough to keep the Packers out of the end zone when it counts.
Prediction: Bears 23, Packers 10
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots (Monday)
This is, by far, the most interesting game of the week, as Terrell Owens makes his AFC debut against one of the most stifling defenses in the NFL. Having said that, it is still Week One, so I do expect Owens to make a big splash in his debut, but not enough to neutralize the weapons of the Patriots.
Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense shouldn’t exactly run over the Bills defense, but at least have a good day against them.
Prediction: Patriots 28, Bills 17
San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders (Monday)
The possible loss of Shawne Merriman hurts the Chargers, while getting Richard Seymour from the Patriots helps the Raiders. However, for both teams, one player does not make a team.
The Chargers are better on both sides of the ball, even without Merriman. This is one game that you’d expect to be on a Sunday afternoon instead of a Monday night, and it’ll certainly show when these two teams meet.
Prediction: Chargers 40, Raiders 0
So there it is: the first week of the NFL season. Even though it’s the first week, it’s the first step on the road to the Super Bowl in Miami in February. Who will emerge as Super Bowl champions? Will your team become a contender or a pretender?
You’ll just have to watch to find out!