2010-2011 NFL Predictions: Picks and Predictions, Week 1

Daymon JohnsonCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2010

2010-2011 NFL Predictions: Picks and Predictions, Week 1

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    I pick 'em every week and have for years. This season, I’ll be doing my picks exclusively on Bleacher Report!  I hope that this first installment finds you as excited as I am!

    Last season was very good for me, as I finished just shy of a personal best of 80 percent.  This year, I'm looking to improve upon that, and think that I very much can!

    Upon us is the week that we’ve ALL been waiting for: you know, Week 1 of the 2010 NFL season!  The smell of fall and football are in the air, and I couldn’t be happier!

    Game 1 of the season is on Thursday night, when we get a rematch of last year's NFC Championship game.  The Gunslinger is back and Drew Brees is Drew Brees so it should be a great game in the dome!

    I've added a few little things to my picks.  I added a "Standout Players" section, for guys (one from each team) that I think have a chance of being a solid player for his team.  Call it a fantasy advice snippet if you will. I can't wait to see what you all think!

    As always, I’m not picking the spread here folks; I’m picking the straight-up winner.  I look forward to hearing from all of you!

     

    Record:

    Record going into Week (1):  0-0

    Now that the records are out of the way, let's get right to it!

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints: Thursday Night Football

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    It all comes down to who makes the least mistakes.  It seems that's ALWAYS what it comes down to, and clearly, last season's NFC Championship game proved the adage right.

    This game will be a good one, possibly even great!

    I think that Brees and company will rely heavily on the passing game and particularly the dump offs to the RBs.  Last season, Minny was quite susceptible to that in the championship game, and I think the Saints will do that again.

    Minnesota is going to try and and implement that AP Plan, a.k.a. run AP as often as possible.  But they have a formidable foe in the Saints D.

    Gregg Williams, the Saints' D-Coordinator, does an excellent job of masking his defense's weaknesses with complex and disguised blitz packages, and they'll do that in this game to try and stop Favre and Company.

    Brett Favre is going to be the focus of the D again, and they're going to try and force his hand by creating pressure and making him make bad decisions.  It'll be last year all over again in that regard.

    Minny's offense, outside of Favre, Peterson, and Shiancoe is a question mark.  Sidney Rice is gone, easily their best WR last season, and in is Bernard Berrian.  Can he fill the void left by Rice's absence?  I'm not counting on it.

    Bottom line, this game is going to be a fun one to watch!

    Standout Players:

    • RB Adrian Peterson - He's the Vikes' best player, and he'll be used heavily in this game.  125 rushing yards and one TD, 40 receiving yards.

     

    • QB Drew Brees - What can I tell you that you don't already know?  300 yards and three TDs.

     

    Verdict:  The Saints get a big win at home, and start the season off right.  Favre and Minny go back to the drawing board.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

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    This looks to be a pretty uneven matchup.  Miami has a greatly improved D with the addition of Karlos Dansby, and offensively, I think this team is a giant about to be awakened.

    Ronnie Brown is healthy after his Lis Franc surgery, and has looked very good this preseason.  Chad Henne is developing a strong rapport with the newly acquired Brandon Marshall, and his secondary WR’s look solid with Bess, Hartline, and TE Fasano.

    Buffalo on the other hand, well, let’s just say the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Buffalo is NOT going to be a very good team this season, regardless of what the preseason may have indicated.

    I just don’t believe that with Trent Edwards at the helm, this team is going to very good. Ever.  He’s too erratic, shows little confidence in his decision making, and his play leaves Buffalo fans reaching for more. 

    I just don’t think this guy is any more suited to be a starter at the NFL level than Alex Smith or Matt Leinart are, and his impression of Brady Quinn is spot on, as he checks down a staggering 64% of the time.

    The lone bright spot for Buffalo, aside from the young D, may be rookie RB C.J. Spiller, who looks every bit the Top 10 selection that Buffalo was hoping he’d be, showing speed and shiftiness aplenty this preseason.

    Not to mention, with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch both sidelined, Spiller is going to get a chance to perform, and I, for one, am excited to see that!

    That said, they’ll be playing from behind early in this game, and I think that’s ultimately what prevents them from winning, as the game will be on the shoulders of Captain Checkdown, Trent Edwards. Not good for Gailey and his staff.

     

    Standout Players:

    • RB C.J. Spiller - He's easily the best looking RB in the rookie crop this season, and with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch out, he could have a stellar day, as Miami looks to be susceptible to the outside run. 90 yards and one TD is possible.
    • WR Brandon Marshall - He always goes big on opening day, and in a new setting, with a new team, I expect more of the same.  Look for somewhere around 130 yards and two TDs.

     

    Verdict:  Ronnie, Ricky, Brandon, and Chad go hog wild and score a plenty here.  Miami wins easily.

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears

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    I’m going to say something that a lot of you are going to laugh at, but, it’s entirely true.

    The emergence of Jay Cutler as an elite level QB in the NFL starts this weekend at Soldier Field.

    The knock on Jay Cutler has always been that he takes too many chances, he throws into unopen lanes, he throws into traffic and that he’s a jerk and so on, and all of that may be true.  But, paired with Mike Martz, who is renowned for making QBs stars (see Kurt Warner & Trent Green), he’s going to flourish this season.

    Many will point to his struggles this preseason as indicators that he’ll struggle, and at times he may, especially behind that porous line.  But, when he’s able to make plays, he’s going to surprise many, starting with Detroit’s D.

    Let me just say that I like the direction that Detroit is headed in, and I don’t think they’re more than two or three seasons away from being competitive in their division.  That said, I think the passing game of the Bears is going to be very difficult for Detroit to defend.

    Cutler has a bevy of targets to throw to, and the most lethal this season could be Devin Hester.  Not to mention, Chester Taylor coming out of the backfield is going to be an added weapon they didn’t have last season that Detroit could struggle with

    To me it’s obvious: Detroit’s D is improving, and the offense, which features Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, and newly added Tony Scheffler at TE seems light years away from that inept offensive unit they fielded just two seasons ago.

    That said though, Chicago is still the better team that will be at Soldier Field on Sunday.

    As much as I would like to see Stafford and company go off, I just cannot see it happening, especially in Chicago, where the fans are crazy.  This game should be close though.

     

    Standout Players:

    • QB Jay Cutler - He has the arm and raw ability to be elite.  I think he takes steps toward that status in this game, connecting with multiple targets for multiple scores.  285 yards and three TDs seems reasonable.
    • QB Matthew Stafford - He's in his second season in a system that he clearly can play in.  I like him and Megatron to connect regularly in this game! 300 yards at two TDs is possible here.

     

    Verdict:  Chicago wins in a close game, and both Cutler and Stafford look amazing!

Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans

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    The addition of Jason Campbell helps legitimize the Raiders, and he should help them stay in a lot of games that, with FatMarcus, they probably wouldn’t have. 

    In addition to that, the emergence of Michael Bush (who is injured) will help Oakland once he gets back, and the Raiders have a bona fide stud at the TE spot in Zach Miller.

    So, I like them this season.  A lot actually.  So much so, I think they end up second in their division.

    That said though, the simple fact here is that even though Oakland looks to have a stout, somewhat intimidating D, they’ll have no answer for Chris Johnson’s speed and Vince Young’s escapability.

    VY isn’t going to torch them through the air, but he’ll do enough to take some of the pressure off the running game, which is all Jeff Fisher is asking VY to do.

    Oakland could make this a game through the air, and could make this a close one, but, they’ll need the run, and with McFadden about to get all the carries until Bush is back, that doesn’t help Oakland at all.

     

    Standout Players:

    • TE Zach Miller – Campbell has thrown 170+ passes to the TE in the last two seasons, and with no running game and not much at WR, Miller could be heavily targeted. Ninety-five yards and one TD is possible.
    • RB Chris Johnson – He’s the second best back in the league right now, and will make an argument to move up to the undisputed No. 1 on my list going into next week. A buck-thirty yards and one TD is conservative.

     

    Verdict:  Tennessee pulls out a close one at home, and earns their first W this season.

Cincinnati Bengals @ New England Patriots

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    For my money, this is probably the game of the week.  Easily the best game of the week, bar none, and I cannot wait to see this!

    Cincinnati may be the most complete team in their division and may be the most underrated team coming into this season. 

    Last year, they very quietly won the AFC North, and also had a Top 10 defensive unit, and I expect more of that this year, as Carson Palmer is healthy.  Oh yeah, and he has some new toys.

    The addition of T.O. and Jermaine Gresham give Palmer some serious weaponry to stymie the opposition with, and frankly, I don’t know of too many teams that have a threat at each and every skill position as the Bengals do.

    New England has a terrific D, and should be solid this season, but I worry about how effectively they’ll pressure opposing QBs.  If Carson Palmer has time in this game, he could absolutely carve the Patriots D to pieces.

    New England is going to have to play balanced in this game, because of Cincy’s multi-dimensional offensive attack.  If they focus on stopping the run, Palmer will carve away.  If they stop the pass, Benson could have a field day.

    Offensively, the Patriots are a little thin.  Welker could be back and ready to go, but an ACL is an ACL, and the running game is lacking big time.  That said, they do have the Moss-to-Brady connection firmly established and it should be strong in this game, but I’m not sure that’s enough.

    In the end, the preseason doesn’t worry me, and I think the Pats are going to struggle to keep up offensively with the Bengals, because Cincy’s D is the real deal.

    Standout Players:

    • TE Rob Gronkowski – This rookie has absolutely lit it up this preseason, and has established a solid connection with Brady.  I think 75 yards and one TD could be realistic.
    • QB Carson Palmer – Carson Palmer is as solid as they come, and being healthy, I expect big things from him.  The environment will be rowdy, but he’s a cool customer so I don’t think that affects him much.  He'll get 290 yards and two TDs easy.

     

    Verdict:  The Bengals eke out a win, and show the weaponry they have to the rest of the league.

Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants

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    The Panthers are one of the off-the-radar teams in the NFL this season.  People seem to think that without a veteran QB, they’ll struggle, but I disagree.

    John Stewart and D'Angelo Williams are coming in healthy, and the team looked better with Moore than it did Delhomme.  Stewart could have played in Week 3 of the preseason, but Fox elected to keep his second starter healthy for Week 1.

    The Giants, to me, are a team that isn’t bad, but isn’t great either.  Defensively, I have some questions, and I think most fans do too.  They’re probably good enough to win this game, but not by much.

    Look for the Panthers to try and force Eli to beat them through the air and impose their will on the Giants via the running game.

    I think that mentality could be a mistake, though.  Eli, even with a scarred dome, is a solid passer and has two targets he feels very good about in Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, and with the running game playing a complimentary role in this game, Eli could go big.

    I think J-Stew and D-Will both have solid days, but it won’t be enough to get by the G-Men.

     

    Standout Players:

    • QB Eli Manning – I think Carolina is going to try and stop the run, which opens Eli’s game up, and he rises to the occasion.  Three hundred yards and 2 TDs is my guess.
    • RB D’Angelo Williams – He’s going to have to carry the run, and do it all game long.  Somewhere around 110 yards and one TD seems likely.

     

    Verdict: The G-Men get the win at home in relatively convincing fashion, while Manning rocks a "Superstar Billy Graham" type head band. Well, maybe that's stretching it, but the G-Men still win.

Atlanta Falcons @ Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh’s D is as solid as they come, no doubt about it, but, their offense is downright scary to me:   Dixon as the starter, lack of WR depth, and a RB in Mendenhall who’s going to have to carry a team for at least four weeks, if not longer.

    I like Mendenhall, and I think he’s a very good back, but, I think the fact that he has to carry the load, almost solely, scares me a bit.

    The reason he was so effective last season was that Ben was there and took pressure off.  Teams are going to force Pittsburgh to beat them through the air, and I don’t think Dixon is capable of doing that.

    Atlanta, meanwhile, comes in with a completely healthy, ready-to-once-again-dominate Michael Turner, and Matt Ryan and Roddy White look like as solid a QB/WR connection as I’ve seen in recent years.

    I think this game sets up for Atlanta nicely, especially considering that Pittsburgh just named their starter and have less than a week to prepare with him in that capacity.

    Not to mention, Atlanta’s D looks to be improving and doing it rapidly.  If they can contain the run and force Dixon to beat them, Atlanta will win this game.

     

    Standout Players:

    • RB Michael Turner – This game sets up nicely, and, even in the face of Pittsburgh’s D, I think he performs nicely.  Pittsburgh’s D could be gassed late, and that’s when Turner shines.  Ninety-five yards and two short TDs are possible.
    • WR Mike Wallace – I think Robinson will lock up Hines Ward, and that could leave Wallace open.  He should have a good day.  I'm thinking 100 yards is possible.

     

    Verdict:  Atlanta goes into Heinz Field, dominates them on the ground, and gets a win.

Cleveland Browns @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    This one doesn’t need much evaluation.

    The reality is that Tampa Bay is the worst team in the NFL right now. Yes, even more so than St. Louis.  No passing game, no running game, a bad O-Line, mediocre defense, and a head coach that was given the reins with no experience makes for a bad season in the works.

    Really, Tampa Bay is already pretty much slated as the No. 1 team in the draft.

    Cleveland, on the other hand, is an improved team, and has shown that through the preseason.  The addition of the wily old veteran Jake Delhomme provides leadership, and the emergence of Jerome Harrison late last season should be the catalyst for continued success this season.

     

    Standout Players:

    • RB Jerome Harrison – This guy was easily the best RB in the NFL coming down the final four games of the season, and I look for that to continue in this game.  Look for 130 yards and one TD.
    • WR Mike Williams – Tampa has no one else to catch the ball, and I think that he will get some passes from Freeman.  But, he’ll be matched up against Eric Wright, who is Cleveland’s emerging No. 1 CB.

     

    Verdict:  Cleveland goes into sunny Tampa Bay and gets a solid win, while Delhomme and Harrison both have good days.

Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars

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    I think Denver is the better team in this matchup, but J-Ville has been known to come up with sneaky wins here and there.

    That said, they also tend to lay eggs now and again too. Remember last year in the final week of the season when they needed a win against Cleveland and couldn’t pull it out?

    I think this game is going to be along those lines, and ultimately dominated by 2 guys: MJD and Kyle Orton.  Yes, that Kyle Orton.

    The reality is that he’s become quite accomplished in the same system that made Matt Cassel look like the second coming of Tom Brady a couple of years ago, and with players that know the system around him, the sky’s the limit.

    I think J-Ville will do enough to make this game interesting, and may even pressure for the win, but I think containing Kyle Orton is going to be tough for them, even with the added defensive help.

    Now, if J-Ville can create pressure with odd blitz packages, and create pocket instability, then they’ll have a chance here, as Denver's line can sometimes be beaten that way.

     

    Standout Players:

    • RB Maurice Jones-Drew – This guy is a stud.  If he goes, he’ll get his yards.  Ninety yards rushing and 60 yards receiving with two TDs is possible.
    • QB Kyle Orton – Underrated and getting ready to notch a 4,000 yard, 25+ TD season, it all starts in J-Ville this week. Three hundred-plus yards and two or more TDs is likely.

     

    Verdict:  Denver gets the win in J-Ville and does it on the shoulders of Orton.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Let me just start by saying that I like BOTH of these teams. 

    I like both QBs, I like both No. 1 RBs and WRs, and I like both teams' coaching.

    Where the Colts pull ahead, however, is their depth.

    Pierre Garcon is a legit NFL WR, and defensively, they’re much better than Houston.

    I think with the QB who could arguably be considered the best QB to play the game, the Colts have an edge in every game they play.

    Texans fan, I can hear you now. Yeah, I knew that Schaub threw for almost 5,000 last season. And yeah, I knew that Andre Johnson is the No. 1 WR in the league.

    But, did you know that the Texans D has never ranked higher than 14th in any overall category?  Or that Peyton Manning is 15-1 against the Texans in his career, with over 4,400 yards passing and 37 TDs to nine INTs?

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think Kubiak’s troops can keep Manning from doing what he’s done 15 times before.

     

    Standout Players:

    • QB Peyton Manning – He’s 15-1 against the Texans, and with no real defensive threat covering Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, or Pierre Garcon, he goes off again.  He goes for 300+ and three TDs.
    • WR Andre Johnson – He gets his, no matter who he’s playing, and Schaub will be looking his way a LOT in this one, as they’ll be playing from behind.  He's looking at 130 yards and one TD.

     

    Verdict:  The Colts make it 16-1 against Houston when Peyton’s calling the shots.  Easy win here.

Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams

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    St.Louis appears to have done something right with the drafting of Sam Bradford, who had a spectacular rookie preseason, earning praise from coaches and fellow players alike.

    However, it seems luck isn't on their side this season.  Projected No. 1 WR Donnie Avery is gone for the season on a freak ACL tear, and the team had to trade for Michael Clayton (Baltimore) to fill his shoes, and that doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents, nor does it give Laurent Robinson much confidence that they think he can be the man.

    The lone bright spots on this team offensively will be rookie QB Sam Bradford and stud RB Steven Jackson, who I believe would be the No. 1 RB in the NFL if he played somewhere, anywhere else.

    Defensively, this team looks to be pretty dismal, and probably won't afford them too many opportunities to pull games out.

    Arizona is a team in transition too, though, so there are going to be some growing pains with future HOF QB Kurt Warner gone and Matt Leinart released.  Left to pick up the reins is former Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson, who has proven before (2007), that he can be special if he's into it.

    Beanie Wells had a disappointing sophomore training camp and Tim Hightower just looked as solid as could be.  My thoughts here are the running game will be running back by committee with Wells receiving slightly more carries than Hightower.

    In this game though, I think the methodology that will be employed by Whisenhunt will be to run, run, run and run some more.  I don't believe he's going to expand the passing game here because he doesn't need to.

    The Rams couldn't stop the run last season, and this year, it'll be more of the same. So, being an opportunistic guy, he'll rely on the legs of his horses to get this win, with Derek Anderson only doing enough to keep the Rams from stacking the box.

    Standout Players:

    • RB Tim Hightower - Wells should get slightly more carries, but, Hightower will make the most of his short yardage attempts and get in at least twice.  Eighty yards and two TDs is possible against this porous D.
    • RB Steven Jackson - The guy runs hard every play.  He won't have a banner day, but should be productive.  I think 100 yards and possibly one TD make sense here.

     

    Verdict:  The Cards win a pretty easy game, and set their sights to next week.

Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Another great game for Week 1!  Second best of the week in my mind.

    This game is going to be a tough game.  Philly just hits, and hits, and hits some more, and Green Bay does the same, and I think there will probably be some bellringers and slobber knockers in this game.

    Good ol' fashioned hard nosed football: gotta love it!

    Looking at matchups like this, I like to look at the skill positions, the guys who make your team go.  The RBs, QBs, WRs and TEs, and Defenses.

    Starting with the RBs, I think this one is a wash.  McCoy has all the tools to be a dynamic player, but he's got to put it all together this year as the undisputed starter.  Last season, he was impressive in relief of the oft injured Brian Westbrook, finishing with 600+ rushing and 300+ receiving with four TDs.

    Ryan Grant was good last season, too. Finishing with career highs in every category, and I think Packer management still wants more out of him this season. Ultimately though, I feel McCoy and Grant are pretty close in the whole scheme, so edge to no one here.

    Looking at the QBs, it's a different story.  Aaron Rodgers is easily a Top 2-3 QB right now.  I don't know that I believe that he's No. 1, but he's damn close. 

    Kolb, on the other hand, is a young QB who has shown flashes in relief of the jettisoned Donovan McNabb. But, my biggest question is this: Can he do it all season long?  I'm not sure about that, so, the Packers get the edge in this matchup.

    Moving to the TEs, this one is pretty close too.  Brent Celek is a stud.  No doubt about it, no way to dispute it: 970 yards and eight scores last season is pretty impressive.

    Jermichael Finley is an absolute freak at the TE spot.  He runs routes like a WR and has the shiftiness of a RB.  He's a rare talent.  Finley had 676 yards and five TDs last season, and those are respectable numbers that he should improve upon greatly this year. With his QB, I believe he will be the better TE this season and give GB the edge here. 

    Looking at the WRs, I like the trio of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones more so than Philly's combo of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant for one reason: Aaron Rodgers's ability to spread the ball around.  Edge to GB in the WR group.

    So, finally, we look at the Ds.  Last season, no team in the NFL forced more turnovers than the Packers, and their front seven, which will be hell bent on stopping McCoy, is solid if not spectacular.  The loss of Johnny Jolly hurts, but, they have enough in Raji, Pickett, and Jenkins to be tough again.

    Philly lost key performer Sheldon Brown in a trade with Cleveland, and I really think that might hurt them a bit, because there's really no one to fill his spot opposite Asante Samuel

    Edge: GB.

    In this game, I think the defense of the Packers will dictate what's going to happen, and since they'll be forcing Kevin Kolb to beat them through the air, I think the run could struggle in this one for Philly. 

    Forcing Philly to the air could be dangerous for them, too, with Nick Collins and Charles Woodson back there, just waiting for the young QB to make a mistake.

    Couple that with the fact that Aaron Rodgers is facing a young D, who are lacking some key pieces, and this is a recipe for a GB win.

     

    Standout Players:

    • TE Jermichael Finley - The guy is a freak, and since he creates matchup problems all over the field, I expect him to have a great game in this one.  Look for 90 yards and one TD.
    • QB Kevin Kolb - I think he'll struggle, and probably throw at least one INT in this game, but they'll be playing from behind, so the passing game will be used a lot here.  I'm thinking 250 yards and two TDs.

     

    Verdict: Green Bay picks Philly at least once, and dominates in the trenches while scoring heavily.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

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    San Francisco is a team on the rise under Mike Singletary, who I believe may be one of the best coaches in the league right now.

    Frank Gore is coming in healthy for the first time in a long time, and they now have a legit backup for him in former Mississippi State Bulldog Anthony Dixon, who is a punishing runner.  Having Dixon there should allow Gore to stay fresher and more productive all season long.

    I LOVE Patrick Willis on San Fran's D, and while the secondary doesn't have a star a la Nnamdi Asomugha, Darrelle Revis, or Champ Bailey, they are as solid as they come, led by former Buckeye standout Nate Clements.

    The defensive line is solid too.  Justin Smith is a player that can win the one-on-one matchup easily most times, and NT Aubrayo Franklin is drawing double teams regularly because he's that good.  If you don't know him now, you will by season's end.

    Seattle, on the other hand, I believe, is a team that's kind of hovering in mediocrity.

    Matt Hasselbeck is a season older, and while he appears to be healthy, I just don't know how he'll lead this team back to the promise land.

    Recently released WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh has already latched on elsewhere, and Seattle is left with a cast of WRs that lacks a playmaker.  That said, Mike Williams has looked spectacular this preseason, and obviously, playing under Pete Carroll has helped him refocus.  He could be a breakout candidate in 2010.

    Defensively though, the lack of a steady pass rush and a passing D is what really killed them last year.

    The addition of S Earl Thomas will help that, but not enough to make a significant dent.  Lofa Tatupu is healthy and Aaron Curry is solid, especially since he's moving back to his natural position of the Will, but the deficiencies are present.

    I see San Fran implementing the run early and often, hoping to suck the D in, and then they'll go up top to TE Vernon Davis or excellent second-year man WR Michael Crabtree.

    The defense should hold Seattle to average numbers, get a couple of sacks, maybe a turnover and ultimately, allow the offense to win this game.

    Standout Players:

    • RB Frank Gore - He's a stud RB, he's healthy, and should flourish against this porous D. I think he'll get 140 yards and one TD.
    • WR Mike Williams - He's emerging before our eyes, and I think since Seattle will be playing from behind in this one, he'll be used  a lot.  He'll go for 75 yards and possibly one TD.

     

    Verdict:  San Fran gets an early lead, plays well defensively, and allows the tandem of Gore and Dixon to run aplenty late.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Dallas Cowboys, my NFC pick to go to the Super Bowl, should be fine in this game.

    Washington doesn't really scare me at all.  Donovan McNabb is a nice addition to the Skins, and I think he makes them better, but the age of the line, the RBs, and the D concerns me.

    Dallas is a very solid team, from top to bottom.  Miles Austin is among the league's elite now, and rookie Dez Bryant should be as impactful a rookie as we'll see this season.

    Dallas' D is solid, and you may not find a more talented all-around lineup anywhere.  Quickness, tenacity, and fight sum this unit up.  Jay Ratliff may be the best NT in the NFC, Demarcus Ware is a complete stud, and Anthony Spencer is coming off a breakout season, and could be the No. 1 pass threat on most teams.

    The DBs are solid with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, Gerald Sensabaugh is a solid S, and the LBs are stacked with Bradie James and Keith Brooking in place.

    All in all, this team has no glaring weakness defensively, and I believe that is the reason they'll be so formidable this season.

     

    Standout Players:

    • WR Miles Austin - Guy is a stud. 1,300+ yards and 11 TDs in only 14 starts is amazing, and with the rapport he's developed with QB Tony Romo, I expect that trend to continue starting this week: 120 yards and one TD.
    • QB Donovan McNabb - He'll be carrying a heavy load all season, especially in this game.  He'll be Washington's best player on Sunday, but that's not saying much, because everyone else should be shut down.  He throws for 220 yards and one TD.

     

    Verdict:  Dallas is going to impose their will on the defensive side of the ball, get an early lead in this one, and run up the score.  Not a close game at all. 

Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets: Monday Night Football, Game 1

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    This should be an excellent game, a battle of defenses, with some personal feelings embedded in the play.

    Rex Ryan is a loudmouth, and personally, I think he's a bit of a jackass.  But, he's incredibly motivating for his team, and his defensive scheming is unreal.  He makes them better than they actually are.

    Back in the fold is Darrelle Revis, and while that's good news for the Jets, it's somewhat of a double-edged sword.  Revis is NOT going to be in game shape after missing the entire preseason and only having a week to get ready.

    So, do the Jets let him go, or do they ease him into things?  If it's me, I take my time, no need rushing him in and causing an injury.  So, go for it with Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson until Revis is ready.

    If they do that, B-More could have a chance in this one.  Why?  Because when Revis is playing and ready, he's able to shut down opposing teams WRs and that allows the safties to creep down into the box, which can create confusion and blitz-pickup headaches for opposing offenses.

    With Revis potentially out, the safties cannot do that as Wilson nor Cromartie are true shutdown corners, a la Darrelle Revis.

    New York's offense could be solid again with Mark Sanchez in his second season, but, the WR situation is an average one for now, until former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes gets back from suspension.

    Baltimore's offense however, is going to be among the best in the NFL in 2010.  With the addition of arguably the best possession WR in the NFL in Anquan Boldin, and now the addition of the outside playmaker, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, it immediately makes teams respect the pass more than they've had to before.

    Ray Rice should become a superstar this season, and Flacco, for as much as I hate his unibrow, should be a solid QB in year three.

    Defensively, the thought after last season was that they needed to improve the secondary, which they did NOT address, and that's a bit concerning.  Fabian Washington and Ladarius Webb are both coming off serious knee injuries.

    However, the immovable wall inside of NT Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody will keep the running game at bay and create pressure and double teams, thus freeing up outside blitzers.

    And one of those outside blitzers will be Sergio Kindle, who should see some quality time this year, alongside Suggs.

    In this game, it's all about defense, and which one does the most to disrupt the other team's offense.  This is a tough one to call, but I just have a sneaking feeling that Ray Lewis and the B-More D will do enough to hold the Jets at bay, thus allowing the offense to do what it does.

     

    Standout Players:

    • RB Ray Rice - He's the Ravens best player, and he will be called upon early and often in this game.  He goes for 170 total yards and one TD, possibly two.
    • RB Shonn Greene - He's the new horse in Jets country, and I think he's going to have a decent game.  This won't be a blow out, so he and Tomlinson will get substantial carries. I think 100 yards and one TD is possible.

     

    Verdict: The Ravens get a hard-fought, well-deserved win in the Jets' new house.

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs: Monday Night Football, Game 2

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Not much commentary needed here.

    San Diego is the best team in the AFC West, Kansas City will be the worst.  Yes, even worse than the Raiders and Broncos.

    I expect Philip Rivers to throw all over this D.  He'll find Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, and newly crowned No. 1 WR Malcolm Floyd all day long.

    Kansas City doesn't really pose much of a threat offensively outside of Jamaal Charles, and San Diego will focus on shutting him down and forcing QB Matt Cassel to beat them deep.

    It seems every year the Chargers lose more than they acquire and still manage to be the best in their division, and I don't see that changing this season.

     

    Standout Players:

    • QB Philip Rivers - Look for big things from him in this game, 300+ yards and two, possibly three TDs forthcoming.
    • RB Jamaal Charles - He's their best threat, and should be used as much as they can in this one: 100 yards.

     

    Verdict:  San Diego takes a one-game lead on the Chiefs in the AFC West.