The long, arduous off-season is finally over, and we the fans can once again begin looking forward to Sundays (and Thursdays and Mondays). But, now that the season has started again, so has the task of predicting who will win each game, each week.
The 2010 season kicks off this Thursday with an NFC Championship re-match between the Super Bowl winning Saints and the not-yet-Favre-less Vikings. This should be a game to watch, especially considering there is nothing else on on Thursday night.
As we look at Week One’s schedule, we also see the Bengals and Patriots. This would normally be laughable, but considering Cincinnati’s 2009 season, this one could be a pretty good game.
We also have a who-is-the-worst-in-the-league game between Cleveland and Tampa Bay and maybe the best Monday Night Football match-up of the season in the Ravens-Jets game at the new Meadowlands.
Thursday, September 9, 2010, 8:30 PM
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
This is probably going to be the best game of the week, other than the Monday nighter. The Saints had few if any personnel issues this off-season, meaning that the team that won the Super Bowl is almost entirely intact. Drew Brees is ready and Marques Colston is tough enough to say he’s ready to play with a bruised kidney.
As much as I love Brett Favre, his absence during the off-season will probably mean a few bumps here in the beginning of the season. He’s missing his #1 2009 target in Sidney Rice, which will almost certainly slow things down for a few weeks while the offense learns to gel with different personnel.
Winner: New Orleans
Sunday, September 12, 2010, 1:00 PM
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Denver looked so good at the beginning of last season, but fell apart just when they should have been gearing up. Let’s see how long it takes before they put Tim Tebow in as the quarterback.
The Jaguars were pretty bad last year, but they always seem to bounce back-and-forth between the pits and playoff contender. That can only mean that this year is a rebound from 7-9 to, say, 9-7.
As always, in close situations like this, go with the home team.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans
The Raiders were awful in 2009. Does everyone remember that clip where the two wide receivers ran into each other on their routes? But, at least JaMarcus Russell—maybe the biggest draft bust ever—is gone.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
This could be a much more interesting game than the playbill lets on. Tom Brady has a whole season of starts between him and his knee injury. Now all he has to do is regain the confidence to play on it, something he lacked last season.
Cincinnati shocked the football world by being better than mediocre last year. Their defense was good, their run-game was amazing, and Carson Palmer didn’t blow out a knee. However, I don’t think Marvin Lewis can handle the strain of two prima donna wide receivers and Adam “Pac-Man” Jones.
Winner: New England
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Even though they lost the big game this past February, the Colts are still a force to be reckoned with. Indianapolis is a perennial Super Bowl contender, mainly because of Peyton Manning, but also because of their under-the-radar defense and a vast array of offensive weapons.
The Houston Texans, in the same division, are narrowing the gap. What was once a laughable expansion team is now the team that gives Indy the most problems. Their pass defense, however, is still questionable, and that is unacceptable when you’re playing Peyton.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Only the Lions could end a season with just two wins and look at it as a sign of hope. They will probably do even better this year; maybe even go 8-8. But there’s no worse secondary in the league, which means they will have problems.
The only team Jay Cutler doesn’t have to worry about throwing an interception to is the Lions, and, guess what, he plays them twice a year. What is inherently a fifth pre-season game might be a chance for Cutler to get his career record up to dead even.
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Atlanta Falcons might not have had the magical season that they hoped for after their appearance in the 2008 playoffs, but they had to contend with the 13-3 Saints. Now that Michael Turner is back in action, they just might have a chance at a wild card slot.
Pittsburgh will, of course, be without their “reformed” quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, which is probably the excuse they’ll use when they lose this game. Granted, Troy Polamalu is healthy and back in action, but he doesn’t play on offense, and Santonio Holmes is nowhere to be found.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Miami needs to get away from the Wild Cat and actually cultivate a passing game. Thank Bill Parcells for the acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Otherwise, there would be no one to pass to at all. Also, I’m pretty sure I saw Chad Pennington out there during a pre-season game. Why isn’t he the starter again?
Fortunately for the Fins, they’re playing the Bills, who crashed last year because of T.O. Now they’ll be even worse for getting rid of him, the only receiver they had. Buffalo might have C.J. Spiller, but I seem to remember the Dolphins stopping the Jets’ supposedly amazing run game every time last season.
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
I’m still not sure why every pre-season poll ranks the Panthers so high, especially this year. They don’t have Jake Delhomme (I know, that sounds great, but it’s not) or Julius Peppers so…why are they good again?
The Giants have, hopefully, fixed all their defensive problems. If not, Steve Smith is going to cause problems, but there’s no one to pass to him, so maybe not. But wait, the Giants have a Steve Smith too…and a Manning to go with him.
Winner: New York Giants
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I assume this game was scheduled because people need something to laugh at during this bad economy. Cleveland, you might be worse than the Detroit Lions this year, and do you know why? Because you still haven’t fired Eric Mangini and your only good player is a punt returner.
The Buccaneers need some sort of boost to get them back into 2007 form before competing against the Falcons and Saints this year. You know what might work…playing the Browns.
Winner: Tampa Bay
Sunday, September 12, 2010, 4:15 PM
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay has, by far, the best defense in the NFC. Now that they beefed up their offensive line, they might have the best passing game too. Scary thought.
I feel sorry for Kevin Kolb. Because management caved-in to fan threats, he now has to replace—and immediately outshine—one of the best quarterbacks in Eagles history. He’s good, but he’s not that good.
Winner: Green Bay
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
Arizona is without Kurt Warner, one of the best quarterbacks in history. This doesn’t mean it’s the end of the Cardinals, however. It does mean they’ll need to bring up a rookie to take the place of greatness. That sounds hard, but look who he’ll get to play first.
The Rams are in need of serious help. They might have Sam Bradford, but he doesn’t have anyone to throw to, or enough time to throw it. And I know Kurt Warner is gone, but anyone can beat a defense that porous.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
For the first time in what seems like forever, the San Francisco 49ers have a chance to win their division. They have one of the best defenses in the league (they ought to, with their coach), and some of the most talented running backs and wide receivers.
Seattle, what were you thinking trading T.J. Houshmandzadeh? He was your most productive receiver last year. Your offensive line needs some work too, not to mention your quarterback is fragile and your coach had all his college titles stripped from him.
Winner: San Francisco
Sunday, September 12, 2010, 8:20 PM
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
The Cowboys might be the most over-hyped team of this coming season. However, Dez Bryant’s pro debut will be something to watch and may provide Tony Romo with that explosive target he’s been missing since T.O. left.
The Redskins are in a sorry state. They might have picked up one of the best current quarterbacks in Donovan McNabb, but Albert Haynesworth has been a $100 million distraction since he showed up (or didn’t show up).
Monday, September 13, 2010, 7:00 PM
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Ravens when this and smack the all-talk Jets in the mouth, but I haven’t seen enough offensive fireworks to justify the “Super Bowl or bust” hype just yet. Not to mention, the secondary is worse and more depleted than I’ve ever seen it.
Thank God and the pitiful begging of Rex Ryan for the return of Darrelle Revis. At this point he may be the only real star on the team. Fortunately for the Jets, their kicker is pretty good and their run-game is stellar.
With the iffy-at-best play of Mark Sanchez and the Ravens new-found propensity for blitzing, this game could easily turn in favor of Baltimore. It’s their misfortune then, that they have one of the worst Monday Night records of any team in the NFL and are playing in…the new Meadowlands.
Winner: New York Jets
Monday, September 13, 2010, 10:15 PM
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t want to hear another word about Philip Rivers. Please, he plays the same way as Brett Favre and Jay Cutler; throw it up in a high-arc rainbow shot and pray that your receiver comes down with it. Until now, he’s had Vincent Jackson to rely on. Now he has…Legedu Naanee. Fortunately for the Chargers, they’re playing the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles. That’s about it. They have probably done the least, out of every team in the league, to boost their roster during the off-season. It sure is nice to open the season in a Monday Night game at home, but is it as nice when you lose…to a division rival?
Winner: San Diego
So, there you have it, the first picks of the new season. Let’s hope it’s as exciting and tumultuous as ever, and that the opener between Brett Favre and Drew Brees is as amazing as their last meeting was.
I leave you now with my Super Bowl prediction. I know it’s a little early, but why not start guessing? Sports Illustrated told me the Steelers and Packers would go and that the Steelers would win. Not so sure about all of that, the Pack has what it takes, but the AFC representative will most likely have its quarterback for all 16 games.
Super Bowl XLV Pick: Green Bay Packers OVER New England Patriots