NFL Picks Week 1: What You Need to Know This Week
The NFL regular season starts tomorrow with a rematch between Minnesota and New Orleans, and it's time to start making your picks for Week 1 winners.
Some of these games are no-brainers (San Diego at Kansas City?) while others could go either way. A great season begins with a great first game, so who will start the year with a W?
And who will be playing catch-up all season?
Here are my picks for all 16 Week One games with each team's likelihood of winning (on a 1-10 scale), key players, and final score predictions.
Minnesota Vikings at The New Orleans Saints
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The winner of this game will have the opportunity to claim themselves the best team in the NFC, and the Vikings will be looking for revenge after losing their Super Bowl chances to the Saints in last season's NFC Championship.
The Saints are favored to win, but the Vikings could lean on Adrian Peterson for the win.
Upset Possibility (3): The Vikings sent players down to Mississippi to drag Brett Favre up north, and the veteran quarterback will play through his ankle pain for Minnesota. Even with Sidney Rice out for at least eight weeks, the Vikings have one of the best running backs in the league with Adrian Peterson.
Blowout in the Making (7): The Vikings need Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin's migraines will leave Favre with limited options at receiver. NFL games can't be won on the ground, so the Vikings will have to rely on their defense to stay in this game.
Drew Brees and company are healthy and ready to play at home, and it will only be a matter of time before their defense will be able to contain Adrian Peterson, leaving Favre with little option but to throw the ball.
Predicted Hero: Adrian Peterson will be the main factor in this game, and he has a shot at carrying the Vikings to a victory.
Predicted Zero: I'm not convinced that Brett Favre is in fighting shape. I have no doubt that he will continue to play no matter how much pain he may be experiencing, but I expect his ankle to visibly hurt his game.
Final Score: Vikings 10 Saints 24
Detroit Lions at The Chicago Bears
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This game will be a battle of the quarterbacks because neither team has much defense to speak of, and I'm anxious to see how Matthew Stafford will perform against the veteran Jay Cutler.
The Bears are favored to win this game, which isn't surprising. The Lions have been terrible for a while, but we may see the young squad step it up this season.
Upset Possibility (6): I think the Lions are perfectly capable of upsetting the Bears in their first game this season. Stafford has had a fantastic preseason with only one interception (he had 20 last season), and rookie Jahvid Best is looking really good.
Blowout in the Making (4): If the Bears can gain an early lead, Detroit will have trouble catching up. This is completely possible with an offense that favors it's quarterback and a weak Detroit secondary.
Predicted Hero: Ndamukong Suh is a hungry young defensive tackle, and the Bears' offensive line will need to contain him in order to give Cutler the chance to make plays.
Predicted Zero: Jay Cutler. Depending on which Cutler shows up for this game, the quarterback could be the downfall of the Bears. Cutler had 27 interceptions last season, and I'm expecting his weak offensive line to deprive him of the time he'll need to accurately throw the ball.
Final Score: Lions 31, Bears 24
Oakland Raiders at The Tennessee Titans
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The Raiders haven't been good for a while, and Tennessee has an amazing running back in Chris Johnson. The Titans are favored to win here, but I have faith in Oakland.
Upset Possibility (3): The Raiders have a lot to prove this season with Raider Nation hyping the improvement the team has made this year. But it's true that the Raiders are one of the most improved teams in the league.
They looked good in preseason games, defeating Dallas, Seattle, and Chicago, and I have a feeling about the Raiders.
Blowout in the Making (7): Tennessee is obviously the better team in this matchup, and the Raiders have struggled defending against the run. There is a definite possibility that the Titans will beat up on the Raiders.
Predicted Hero: Chris Johnson is the Titan's best weapon against the Raiders, and I expect him start the regular season with some serious yardage.
Predicted Zero: Jason Campbell needs to show up against for this game and prove that he is a much better option than JaMarcus Russell.
Final Score: Raiders 35, Titans 31
Fooled you, didn't I?
Indianapolis Colts at The Houston Texans
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I have a soft spot for the Texans, and I am very excited to see how they do this year. These are the two best offenses in football, and even if you're not a fan of either team, this is a must-watch game. The Colts are favored, but this could be the year for Houston.
Upset Possibility (8): I like the Texans in this one. Matt Schaub led the league in passing, and I think he is the perfect match for Peyton Manning. Houston is coming off of their first winning season since the team's creation, and this will be a great game for them to showcase their playoff potential.
Blowout in the Making (2): Either way, this will not be a blowout by any means. I expect this to be a high-scoring game for both teams. Whoever can get an early lead will win this ballgame.
Predicted Hero: Houston running back Arian Foster will be the determining factor for the Texans, and he will be expecting most of the carries over Steve Slaton. Foster will make or break this quarterback battle.
Predicted Zero: Mario Williams will need to step up the pass rush against Peyton Manning. The best way to contain Manning is to make sure he stays on the ground (not an easy feat).
Final Score: Colts 31, Texans 38
Miami Dolphins at The Buffalo Bills
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I feel sorry for the Bills. They are arguably the worst team in the NFL, and even a home game probably won't give them any real advantage over the Dolphins.
Upset Possibility (1): The only reason I didn't give this one a zero is to cover my behind just in case a miracle happens and the Bills actually pull this one off. It's not happening.
Blowout in the Making (9): The Dolphins may have to travel up north for this game, but it will still be warm enough upstate that Miami won't have to worry about playing in cold weather.
Chad Henne is a great quarterback despite a shaky preseason, and the Bills' best running back is C.J. Spiller.
Potential Hero: Brandon Marshall can give the Fins the edge in this game. Even though the Dolphins are a running team, Marshall makes an attractive target for Henne.
Potential Zero: C.J. Spiller is good, but he's too young to carry an offense. Period.
Final Score: Dolphins 24, Bills 17
Cincinnati Bengals at The New England Patriots
I will preface this one by saying that I am not a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. I also think that many people are too quick to write off the Patriots in this game. The Pats host the Bengals, and they are still one hell of a football team. New England is favored here.
Upset Possibility (4): As much as people are talking about the Bengals' new receiving corps, I'm not convinced. I give props to Carson Palmer for putting up with these clowns, but Chad Ochocinco is far from the "Ultimate Catch" when it comes to receivers.
Blowout in the Making (6): I like the Pats against both T.O. and Ochocinco. New England has been there, done that with Owens, and 85 has only 197 yards combined in the four games he has played against the Patriots.
Predicted Hero: Randy Moss is still fantastic no matter how much he needs to suck it up and quit complaining off the field. He and Tom Brady have excellent chemistry, and no VH1 show is going to change that.
Predicted Zero: T.O. is old news to the Pats, and even with a better team, New England will still be all over him.
Final Score: Bengals 21, Patriots 31
Carolina Panthers at The New York Giants
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Experience is favored here with the Giants over the Panthers, and that's hard to argue with.
Upset Possibility (2): The Giants are seasoned but not ancient, and no matter how much Carolina fans (all four of them) are talking about Matt Moore, Eli has his ring. Please.
Blowout in the Making (8): The Panthers will try to run the ball as much as possible, but the Giants' defensive line will have little trouble putting that to an end. Most of this game will be played on the ground (Carolina has a great secondary), so we can expect to take a nap during this one.
Predicted Hero: Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will see the most action for the Giants, and I expect these two to get it done on the ground.
Predicted Zero: Matt Moore has never started a game, and his debut will be less than pretty. With the Giants stopping the run, Moore will air it out for multiple interceptions.
Final Score: Panthers 10, Giants 24
Atlanta Falcons at The Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are near and dear to my heart, and my favoritism will not let up just because Big Ben is out for the first four games. The Falcons are favored to win, but that's not happening.
Upset Possibility (9): What can I say? I love the Steelers!
And unlike other teams in the NFL, Pittsburgh is far from a one-trick pony. Dennis Dixon has what it takes to lead the Steelers for four games. He is quick, and he has the ability to scramble for extra time even when his O-line fails.
Blowout in the Making (1): I'll pick the Steelers at home no matter what. Regardless of the question marks on offense, Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in football, and the Falcons simply won't be able to put up enough points to win.
Predicted Hero: I like Mike Wallace. Gone are the days of Santonio Holmes (I'll miss you), and Mike Wallace has stepped up in the preseason to create an excellent target for Dennis Dixon.
Predicted Zero: Roddy White looked alright in the preseason, but Pittsburgh's passing D looked better.
Final Score: Falcons 10, Steelers 20
Cleveland Browns at The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Does anyone really care about this game? Anybody? Just in case, the Bucs are the favorite.
Upset Possibility (6): Both of these teams are terrible, so your guess is as good as mine here. I'll give a slight edge to the Browns based solely on experience.
Blowout in the Making (4): I'm predicting a game full of fumbles, interceptions, and penalties (Can we say "Not Top 10"?), but Josh Freeman sat out most of the preseason. Again, the Browns have the edge.
Predicted Hero: No-brainer: Josh Cribbs. Cribbs is everything the for the Browns. They should even let him coach.
Predicted Zero: Josh Freeman. It's pretty sad when you're a zero in a game against the Browns, but Freeman's lack of experience will hold him back in this game.
Final Score: Browns 17, Buccaneers 3
Denver Broncos at The Jacksonville Jaguars
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I think we're all a little sick of hearing about Tim Tebow, so I'm picking the Jags here. Denver is favored in this game, but let's not be too quick to write off Jacksonville.
Upset Possibility (7): I like the Jags at home against Denver because I've been to Florida at this time of year. An early September afternoon in northern Florida is like a sauna to people from Colorado, and I'll be surprised if Denver's offensive line keeps from passing out.
Blowout in the Making (3): I don't see a blowout even if the Broncos do pull out a win. Tebow won't be starting, so people can shut up about him and watch Kyle Orton flail around the field.
Predicted Hero: Maurice Jones-Drew is nasty, and the Broncos will have difficulty containing him. I expect big numbers from this running back.
Predicted Zero: Kyle Orton just isn't that good. A team needs a leader at QB, and Orton isn't it.
Final Score: Broncos 10, Jaguars 17
San Francisco 49ers at The Seattle Seahawks
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The 49ers are favored in this game, and I won't argue with that. Regardless of who is coaching in Seattle, the Seahawks are the inferior team in this game.
Upset Possibility (3): A win for Seattle is unlikely in this one, especially since they are missing their starting left tackle. If the Seahawks can force Alex Smith to throw the ball, they could have a shot, but don't bet on it.
Blowout in the Making (7): Even on the road, San Francisco is the better all-around team. And if the 49ers get an early lead, it's all over for Seattle.
Predicted Hero: Running back Frank Gore will see a lot of action in this game, and he will have no trouble rushing against a weak Seahawks defense.
Predicted Zero: Alex Smith could hurt the 9ers more than he helps them. He needs to play smart and not act too quickly when passing. Alex, when in doubt, keep the ball on the ground.
Final Score: 49ers 10, Seahawks 7
Arizona Cardinals at The St. Louis Rams
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Arizona is favored in this game, and even though the Cardinals' quarterback situation has raised some big questions, the Rams aren't good enough to beat Arizona.
Upset Possibility (2): Sam Bradford hasn't played a real NFL game, and regardless of his potential, the Rams have to beef up his supporting cast to give the kid a chance at some wins.
Blowout in the Making (8): This game could be closer than expected due to quarterback issues in Arizona, but Derek Anderson has the experience and the receivers to pull of the win.
Potential Hero: I'm looking at Chris Wells to put up some big numbers in this game. With his former teammate, James Laurinaitis at linebacker for the Rams, Wells will be able to read the defense and find the holes.
Potential Zero: Matt Leinart...Woops.
Final Score: Cardinals 38, Rams 17
Green Bay Packers at The Philadelphia Eagles
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I'm excited for this one. Green Bay is looking great this year, and I'm curious about how Kevin Kolb will do at quarterback for Philly. Green Bay is favored in this game, but I think it will be very close.
Upset Possibility (4): Kolb has a good enough supporting cast to make any quarterback feel comfortable, so I expect the rookie to do pretty well against Green Bay.
Blowout in the Making (6): Aaron Rodgers looked great in the preseason, and he'll look great in this game. The Packers have the best overall offense in the NFL, and Philly will have trouble stopping Green Bay.
Predicted Hero: Aaron Rodgers will have a great game, and I expect him to take advantage of the Eagles' weak D.
Predicted Zero: Brandon Graham. It's hard to be a rookie against the best offense in the NFL.
Final Score: Packers 41, Eagles 35
Dallas Cowboys at The Washington Redskins
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I'm not a Cowboys fan, but I have to pick them in this one. The 'Boys are favored over the Redskins, and Dallas is looking to make a run for a Super Bowl.
Upset Possibility (3): I love Donovan McNabb, but I can't find any position where the Redskins are better than the Cowboys. If Washington can stop Romo early and prevent him from making any long drives, they might have a shot.
Blowout in the Making (7): Dallas is hoping that this is their year, and it just might be. Tony Romo has plenty of options, and the Cowboys should have no problem outplaying the Redskins.
Predicted Hero: I like Tony Romo in this game. He is one of those quarterbacks that is very close to becoming part of the elite, and he'll prove that in this game.
Predicted Zero: Albert Haynesworth...if Washington doesn't trade him by then.
Final Score: Cowboys 24, Redskins 17
Baltimore Ravens at The New York Jets
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The Jets are favored in this one, but I like the Ravens. It could be because I have an extreme dislike for Mark Sanchez, but that's another article.
Upset Possibility (6): I think this game will come down to defense, and the Ravens are always strong at D. Joe Flacco will have a great season, and he'll start with the Jets.
Blowout in the Making (4): In no way with this be a one-sided game. It will be low-scoring and pretty boring to watch. I will be surprised if either team actually scores a touchdown.
Predicted Hero: Anquan Boldin joins the cast of the Ravens, and I think this is a great fit. Flacco will have the weapons he needs to upset the Jets.
Predicted Zero: Mark Sanchez. He's overrated, and he gets confused easily.
Final Score: Ravens 10, Jets 6
San Diego Chargers at The Kansas City Chiefs
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This one is a no-brainer. The Chargers are favored, and they'll crush the Chiefs.
Upset Possibility (1): The Chiefs have no chance against the Bolts.
Blowout in the Making (9): This will be the biggest blowout of Week One, and the Chiefs will have no defensive answer to the Chargers' offense. They are horrible at pass rushing, and Phillip Rivers will have plenty of time to make the big plays.
Predicted Hero: I love Phillip Rivers. He's smart. He's accurate. And he'll dominate the Chiefs.
Predicted Zero: Kansas City
Final Score: Chargers 45, Chiefs 17