NFL Week 1: Predicting Every Opening Week Game
The NFL season opens up tomorrow night with an NFC Championship game rematch of the Minnesota Vikings visiting defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
That is just one of many good games this weekend, ending with the San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. There are also a few good divisional matchups to watch for throughout the day on Sunday.
Minnesota Vs New Orleans
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The rematch that the Vikings have been waiting for since Garrett Hartley hit the famous 40-yard field goal in overtime to send the Saints to the Super Bowl.
The last time these two teams saw each other, the Saints defense beat and battered 39-year-old Brett Favre, but did not even record a sack. You can bet Favre is still torn about that interception he threw to basically hand the Saints the win.
This team is a little beat up at the moment, they are without top receiving threat, Sidney Rice, for roughly half the season, and Percy Harvin is still struggling with a migraine problem that he dealt with last year. Adrian Peterson needs to fix his fumbling problem because Favre and the Vikings will be counting on him early and often this season.
In the case of the Saints, they are looking to start their season the way it ended, with a win, and let us remember that they did start last season undefeated until losing to the Dallas Cowboys.
With Brees under center, there is a legitimate chance at going undefeated. It seems you can put anyone out wide in this offense and they will put up some ridiculous numbers. The stable of wideouts Brees has at his disposal is very deep, with Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush form a good one-two punch with some power and finesse.
In this one, the Saints come out on top again because of a lack of firepower on the Vikings' side.
Final: Saints 34—Vikings 17
Carolina Vs NY Giants
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The Panthers are a hard team to figure out. They were world beaters two years ago going 13-3, but played like a totally different team last year.
Delhomme was let go to allow young quarterbacks Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen to grow. For now, Moore is the starter, but that could change if he doesn't perform well.
They have arguably the best one-two running backs in the league with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both going over 1,000 yards last year. They still have Steve Smith, who many have forgotten because of the other Steve Smith, from who else but the Giants.
The defense lost its best player in franchise history in Julius Peppers, and will be without Thomas Davis after he suffered another injury.
The Giants, on the other hand, are looking to start off the season like they did last year, when they went 6-0. They proceeded to go 2-8 down the stretch and lose out on becoming NFC East Champions and making the playoffs.
Eli Manning had a great season last year and will look to get off to a fast start, and he has many weapons like young wideouts Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and even tight end, Kevin Boss. Ahmad Bradshaw has been named the starter, which didn't sit well with former starter, Brandon Jacobs, but this looks to be the best move because Bradshaw is quicker and more elusive than the bruiser Jacobs.
The Giants defense added first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul and free agent Antrel Rolle to fill some glaring needs.
This one might not be so pretty, but the Giants will come out on top here.
Final: Giants 27—Panthers 13
Atlanta Vs Pittsburgh
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The Atlanta Falcons look to get back to the playoffs after missing out last season.
Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan looks to bounce back after somewhat of a sophomore slump.
Ryan was without No. 1 back Michael Turner for a few games last season, but he is back and healthy. Look for the Steelers to get a heavy dose of Turner early and late. Roddy White returns after a great season that saw him catch a career-high 11 touchdowns and over 1,100-plus yards.
The defense added Dunta Robinson from the Houston Texans which will help out a defense that was very suspect to giving up big plays.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, this marks the start of a four-game stretch in which they will be without their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. That leaves the team in the hands of the young Dennis Dixon. Will he be able to lead them?
They get back the missing piece in their defense last year in Troy Polamalu and still will be hard to run on. They traded away troubled wideout Santonio Holmes to the Jets and will look to Mike Wallace to fill his role.
The Falcons hold on in this one that comes down to the wire.
Final: Falcons 17—Steelers 14
Cleveland Vs Tampa Bay
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With a team full of unproven players, the Buccaneers take the field against the Cleveland Browns.
The offense struggled to produce points last season and I do not think things will change. They could be starting two rookie wideouts in Mike Williams (Syracuse) and Arrelious Benn (Illinois), which will not help young signal-caller Josh Freeman mature. The presence of tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. will give him somewhat of a security blanket.
The running back situation is very weak after Cadillac Williams with backups Kareem Huggins and Kregg Lumpkin.
This team went very defense-heavy in the early rounds scooping up Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Brian Price (UCLA) in the first and second rounds. They return Pro Bowl corner Ronde Barber, but will be without his wingman Aqib Talib for a few games.
The Cleveland Browns are looking to former Carolina Panthers great Jake Delhomme to provide them with a steady quarterback. They signed Seneca Wallace and drafted Colt McCoy in the third round to fill the backup roles.
The running back battle in Cleveland looked to be a strong one between Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty, until Hardesty suffered what appears to be a season-ending injury.
On the other side of the ball, the defense could be a lot stronger then last year with first-round pick Joe Haden (Florida) taking a starting spot at cornerback. Shaun Rodgers has been in some trouble with the law lately, but looks to have gotten that worked out. He is a house in the middle and a great run defender.
This game could be a game where the team that gets a lucky break or call wins.
Final: Cleveland 21—Tampa Bay 13
Denver Vs Jacksonville
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Will he play or won't he play?
That is the question many NFL fans will be asking themselves about Denver Broncos rookie Tim Tebow. My guess is yes, if they find themselves in a goal line situation. You can almost bet that Head Coach Josh McDaniels has more than a few plays drawn up for 'Ol Timmy Boy.
This game though will be tougher then many think because the Broncos don't really have a No. 1 wide receiver. Yeah, Eddie Royal is there but he isn't fit to be a No. 1 and rookie Demaryius Thomas is still raw.
The running game took a small blow losing LenDale White because he provided them with a strong goal line back. They still have Knowshon Moreno and though he might not be fully 100 percent, he should still have a solid game.
For the Broncos to win, they need their defense to play like the first six weeks of last year. Teams weren't really scoring much against them, then all of a sudden, they imploded and looked like the Lions.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are another interesting team because they, like the Falcons, were a good team but fell off. Everyone remembers that playoff game against the Steelers where Garrard scrambled for that long first-down to seal the win. Mike Sims-Walker now provides a depth threat that will stretch the field for Garrard and Co.
This team has something the Broncos should be very scared of, and that is Maurice Jones-Drew. He will look to pick up right where he left off last season by torching defenses and maybe laying out your occasional linebacker (sorry, Shawne Merriman).
The defense will be without the staple of their line for the past nine years, John Henderson, who is gone and in Oakland now. The team spent a first-round pick on Tyson Alualu, which many people think was a mistake or a reach.
Going with the upset in this game.
Final: Jacksonville 28—Denver 24
Indianapolis Vs Houston
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This game features the Super Bowl runner-ups, the Colts. They could be in that same place this year.
It is obvious that the offense will score points. Whenever you have Peyton Manning as your leader, you have a shot to do great things. With the emergence of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, the return of Anthony Gonzalez, and Pro Bowlers Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Peyton could be on his way to yet another MVP award.
The running game should be vastly improved with Donald Brown getting another year under his belt. Starter Joseph Addai should return to old form and have a breakout year.
The Colts defense could be a strong spot this year getting Bob Sanders back, and they still have that one guy rushing the quarterback...Dwight Freeney.
Houston comes into this game looking to break through and get into the playoffs, somewhere they have never been. The last few seasons they have come close, only to fall short.
Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards and should repeat with the best wide receiver in the league, Andre Johnson. The team also gets back Owen Daniels, who returns from a knee injury that forced him to miss half the season.
On the other side of the ball, the defense lost top cornerback Dunta Robinson to the Falcons, but the team drafted Kareem Jackson out of Alabama in the first round. Mario Williams should get back to that double-digit sack total he produced two seasons before.
Texans keep it close, but can't pull through in the opener.
Final: Indianapolis 38—Houston 31
Miami Vs Buffalo
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The Miami Dolphins travel up north to the visit the Buffalo Bills in a early divisional game.
The Dolphins will be looking to their newest addition, Brandon Marshall, to make an early splash. Miami hasn't had a receiver like this in a long time and they look like a team that will be tough to beat.
With running back Ronnie Brown set to return from yet another injury, they could have a potent offense. Mix in the ageless Ricky Williams and they make up another top one-two punch.
Their defense could be a top unit this year with a mix of young guys and veterans, as they added linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency, a leader for the middle of that D.
In Buffalo, they are still looking for a quarterback who can take them to the next level. Trent Edwards isn't a horrible quarterback, but he hasn't proven that. It would help if Lee Evans wasn't the only really big receiving threat.
Rookie CJ Spiller has been named the starter at running back over Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
On the defensive side of the ball, they will struggle at times this year, and will most certainly give up their share of big plays.
The Dolphins open the season with a convincing win in Buffalo.
Final: Miami 31—Buffalo 10
Detroit Vs Chicago
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In yet another game of divisional opponents, the new-look Chicago Bears look to jump on the Detroit Lions.
The Bears were big players in the offseason, snagging former Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers and taking running back Chester Taylor from division rival Minnesota. They also went and got Mike Martz to be their new offensive coordinator, which means Jay Cutler could have a great year. Looking at what Martz has done in his first years as coordinator, each team has improved their passing considerably.
The defense should be a lot better than last year with Peppers rushing the edge now.
The Lions need a little more help on both sides of the ball.
The offense should be improved with running back Jahvid Best and they still have Calvin Johnson on the outside. Another year should allow quarterback Matthew Stafford to mature and grow into his own.
The defense went and took Ndamkong Suh with the third overall pick in the Draft, and he has shown signs of being a great pick, but might have to work a little on that temper after getting fined for his hit on Jake Delhomme.
The Bears led by Martz and Cutler take lead early and never look back.
Final: Chicago 34—Detroit 20
Oakland Vs Tennessee
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The 2009 Titans looked to get back to where they were the year before—13-3 and a first-round bye in the playoffs—but fell short with an 8-8 record.
The team started the season 0-6 under quarterback Kerry Collins, but after a change back to Vince Young, finished strong with an 8-2 record.
Oh yeah, and last I checked, they have the guy who ran for over 2,000 yards in Chris Johnson. Wide receiver Kenny Britt showed flashes of brilliance last year and even caught a memorable game-winning touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.
The defense let go of its senior leader, Keith Bullock, who is now with the Giants, but they have been rumored to be in the hunt to bring back Albert Haynesworth, who would immediately improve their defense. They still have Courtland Finnegan leading the secondary, which never hurts.
As for the Oakland Raiders, they look to start over after cutting what most people think was the biggest bust in NFL draft history, JaMarcus Russell, and trading for Jason Campbell from the Redskins. He is an immediate upgrade and will allow the Raiders to open up the playbook.
Raiders fans are still waiting for Darren McFadden to break out and show why he was worthy of being a top draft pick. Last year's first-rounder, Darius Hayward-Bey, should have a better year now that Campbell is throwing the ball.
The defense is very strong, as they have one of the top five cornerbacks in the league in Nnamdi Asomugha. Look for the defense to once again be around the tops in the league.
Chris Johnson will start the season with a 200-plus yard game.
Final: Tennessee 27—Oakland 17
Cincinnati Vs New England
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Batman and Robin start their season by traveling to New England to take on Tom Brady and Co.
For the Bengals, the season's question is when will these two turn on each other? My guess is around Week 5 or 6 because Carson Palmer threw 10 passes to T.O. and only eight to Ochocinco.
Cedric Benson looks to continue the resurrection of his career and go for his second straight 1,000-yard season. New additions Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley should allow the Bengals to spread the field and make a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.
On the defensive side, the Bengals will look for the No. 1 cornerback tandem of Leon Hall and Johnathon Joseph to shut down team's top wideouts. They are also very young and athletic at the linebacker position with Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga.
For the Patriots, it all starts and ends with Wes Welker.
How will his knee hold up and will he be able to last the whole season? He has looked nothing like a guy who had surgery on that knee just a few months ago, making the cuts and showing burst so far.
Their defense will be without Leigh Bodden, so will turn to Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty. They have one of the top young linebackers in Jerrod Mayo, look for him to have a great season and possibly lead the league in tackles.
The Batman and Robin show start the season off with a loss.
Final: New England 21—Cincinnati 13
Arizona Vs St Louis
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Well, this is it, the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Sam Bradford makes his regular season debut against division rival Cardinals. Bradford looked great in the preseason, throwing for over 300-plus yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions.
The hard part for the Rams was losing wide receiver Donnie Avery for the season, so they will look to Danny Amendola and Laurent Robinson. Plus, they still have one of the top running backs in the league in Steven Jackson.
Their defense has gotten slowly better, but will need more from former first-rounder Chris Long and OJ Atowge, who re-signed long-term.
The Arizona Cardinals are starting life without Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin. They turn to Derek Anderson and Steve Breaston to fill those spots.
Beanie Wells takes over as starting running back, but look for the Cardinals to use Tim Hightower at the goal line more.
This team looks to also fill spots on their defense, as Karlos Dansby left for Miami, and have filled that spot with rookie Daryl Washington. The secondary could be very strong with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, and Kerry Rhodes.
Post-Kurt Warner season starts with a solid, but ugly win over the Rams.
Final: Arizona 20—St. Louis 16
San Francisco Vs Seattle
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My pick for the NFC West Champions are the 49ers, and they are taking on their division foe Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers could be even better if Alex Smith lives up to being the first overall pick. Michael Crabtree will now be playing for the full season and should crack 1,000 yards.
Frank Gore will be once again a top back and has Brian Westbrook backing him up. Vernon Davis blew up last year, finally lived up to the hype he had coming out of college. He should once again have a Pro Bowl season.
Patrick Willis is the best middle linebacker in the NFL and the 49ers defense could be one of the best this year. They have a top defensive line and solid secondary.
Pete Carroll is back in the NFL this time, serving as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
He has mixed youth with veterans and has even brought back former bust Mike Williams, who is showing signs of maturity. He hasn't played in a game in almost three years but looks in the best shape of his life.
Matt Hasselbeck will be back under center and Justin Forsett could prove to be a very good back. The defense is still a ways from become a top-tier unit.
San Fran makes this one look easy with a great mix of rushing and passing, along with a strong defense.
Final: San Francisco 34—Seattle 14
Green Bay Vs Philadelphia
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The Green Bay Packers open the season at Philadelphia and Aaron Rodgers looks to start his MVP race. Rodgers will look for a big year from wide receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and tight end Jermichael Finley. Ryan Grant will look to post another 1,000-yard season and make life a little easier on Rodgers.
The defensive unit is possible the best in the league, they led the league in interceptions by a wide margin and the front seven is also strong.
The Eagles, like Arizona, start life after their best quarterback, Donovan McNabb, was shipped to division rivals, Washington. Kevin Kolb is in.
Another Eagle fan favorite, Brian Westbrook, was also let go and the new starter is LeSean McCoy.
At wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin could be the fastest duo in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the defense hands the starting safety spot to unproven rookie, Nate Allen, out of USF. The Eagles went out and drafted Brandon Graham and Ricky Sapp, also trading for Daryl Tapp from Seattle. They have put more of an emphasis on pressuring the quarterback.
Rodgers and the Packers take the lead early and keep it that way.
Final: Green Bay 38—Philadelphia 21
Dallas Vs Washington
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The first Sunday night game of the season pits the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins.
Dallas has been many people's pick to take their third division title in four years. They have no shortage of firepower on offense with Tony Romo coming off a career year and his first season with single-digit interceptions. He will be throwing to Pro Bowl wideout Miles Austin, rookie Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, and one of the top three tight ends in the NFL, Jason Witten.
The Cowboys are the deepest team in the NFL at running back with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. They have some concerns with the line, but it could be hard for teams to blitz when they have so many playmakers to worry about.
The defense could be the best in the league, they have a young, tough front seven and a solid secondary. With DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer coming from the outside, they could have the best pass rush combo in the league. Mike Jenkins and Terrence Newman make up a top five tandem, the question marks lie with starting safety, Alan Ball.
Washington will break in new quarterback Donovan McNabb against a familiar foe, and everyone is wondering if Albert Haynesworth will be suiting up for the Skins or someone else. The running back position is getting rather long in the tooth with Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson, and there is concern at the wideout spot, where after Santana Moss, there really isn't a proven player. Chris Cooley will be a great target for McNabb to dump down to.
On defense, this unit is strong in some spots and weak in others. Brian Orakpo looks like the next top outside linebacker and the secondary could be a strong point.
The Cowboys ruined McNabb's last game in Philly and will ruin his first game in Washington.
Final: Dallas 31—Washington 14
Baltimore Vs NY Jets
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In the first Monday night game of the season, the Baltimore Ravens take on the New York Jets.
Baltimore made it a point to upgrade this season and make a strong push for the Super Bowl. They have become my favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. They went out and traded for Anquan Boldin, picked up Donte Stallworth, and recently signed TJ Houshmandzadeh to bolster their receiving core.
Flacco has so many weapons to work with this season and I didn't even mention Ray Rice yet. Rice showed just how versatile he is last year, and is a threat not just running but catching the ball.
The Ravens are always known for one thing, and that's defense. As long as Ray Lewis is leading that defense, they will continue to be one of the best. The secondary might be a little shaky to start, but once Ed Reed comes back, they should shine.
The Jets come into this game also as a favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
For me, it all is in the hands of Mark Sanchez, and to be honest, I don't think he will succeed.
The Jets cut loose Thomas Jones, who for the last three seasons was a top back, and turn that role over to Shonn Greene, another guy who I don't think will show up.
The wideouts are up and down, and their best one might be Jericho Cotchery. Braylon Edwards has been nothing short of a disappointment since coming over from Cleveland.
The Jets defense should again be one of the best, but they will be without Calvin Pace for a few games. Revis finally returned, but his counterpart, Antonio Cromartie, might turn out to be a wash, as he is one of the worst tacklers I have ever seen. You could see Kyle Wilson, the rookie from Boise State, starting by season's end.
I'm going with the Ravens in this defensive game.
Final: Baltimore 20—NY Jets 14
San Diego Vs Kansas City
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In Week 1's final game, the Chargers take on the Chiefs.
The Chargers are without LaDainian Tomlinson for the first time in a very long time. The team looks like it will be without its top wideout in Vincent Jackson as well; he has been in the midst of a long holdout and could be dealt soon. The Chargers went out and traded for Patrick Crayton from the Cowboys to get some depth at that position, also drafting Ryan Matthews out of Fresno State in the first round to take over for LT.
For the Chargers to succeed, the defense must step it up. Shawne Merriman is back this year and the rest of the D is young.
Kansas City starts their season out with some pretty high hopes, and have a legitimate shot to contend in the AFC West this year. Adding Thomas Jones to Jamal Charles in the backfield and a full season of Chris Chambers with Dwayne Bowe make for a great offense. Of course, the offensive line needs to hold up and give Matt Cassell time to make those throws.
The defense could be very improved from last year, everyone got a year of experience, and they could make some plays.
The Chargers should run away with the AFC West, but watch out for the Chiefs in this early game.
Final: San Diego 27—Kansas City 17