NFL Week 1 Showdowns: Predicting the Winners
Gentlemen and ladies, we have 17 weeks of regular season bliss ahead of us.
Each week you will have the opportunity to lambast and lampoon me as I make my predictions on the outcomes of the week's games.
I know you're already preparing the commentary cannons and are loading the rhetoric rifles. Bring it on!
I'll be giving you a predicted score, some light reasoning and something to watch for with each game.
So let's start with week one and see how this goes.
New Orleans Vs. Minnesota
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Predicted Outcome: Saints win 24-13
Why: One of the two teams in this match-up has had a solid offseason and the other one has had a tumultuous, drama-riddled offseason. Can you guess which one?
The Saints are just as good as last year, while the Vikings are all mixed. This NFC Championship rematch bodes to be not particularly spectacular with a less dramatic ending.
What to Watch For: Is Drew Brees still Breesus? Can Brett Favre still bring the heat he brought last season?
Cleveland Vs. Tampa Bay
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Predicted Outcome: Browns win 28-24
Why: The Browns and Bucs may not be the most spectacular teams on the NFL docket, but their weak defenses at least mean exciting offensive play. In this case, the veteran arm of Jake Delhomme and ground-pounding of Jerome Harrison win out over the mixed Tampa offensive crew.
What to Watch For: This game will belong to the team who controls their turnovers and keeps their defense off the field.
Miami Vs. Buffalo
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Predicted Outcome: Dolphins win 21-10
Why: Sorry Buffalo fans, but you'll be waiting a couple more years for that winning season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have been putting together the pieces for a playoff run. They'll start this year by showing off the brand new Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall combo they've put together. Between that and their improved defense, it's going to be a rough day for Buffalo fans.
What to Watch For: Is Ronnie Brown still an effective rusher? Now that they have a decent quarterback in Henne, what happens to the Wildcat? Is C.J. Spiller deserving of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart?
Cincinnati Vs. New England
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Predicted Outcome: Bengals win 17-14
Why: The Bengals may have made some questionable personnel choices in the past, but the signing of Terrell Owens has looked like the right move. Between Owens and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals aerial attack may be disturbingly deadly.
Of course, both teams have solid defenses, but the uber-tandem of Leon Hall and Jonathon Joseph at cornerback takes the cake for the Bengals.
What to Watch For: Will Tom Brady play after the car accident? Are the Patriots still a powerhouse, or is their Achilles Heel starting to show?
Indianapolis Vs. Houston
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Predicted Outcome: Colts win 21-17
Why: This is a tough one to call and I'm sure jilted Texans fans will come after me for it, but Houston is just not in the same class as the Colts. Yes, they have improved, but is it enough to deal with the AFC powerhouse with Peyton Manning still being the best at what he does? Unlikely.
An upset here wouldn't be particularly shocking, but with the Colts healthy and primed to make a run back to the top, I'm not betting against Indy.
What to Watch For: Manning versus Matt Schaub should showcase two incredible quarterbacks. Are the Colts ready to forget their disappointing Super Bowl loss and move on to greater things? Is this the year that the Texans are best prepared to break out?
Denver Vs. Jacksonville
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Predicted Outcome: Broncos win 13-10
Why: Neither offense brings the complete package, so it will be up to the defenses to be the difference-makers. The Broncos tend to start the season strong, and this year will be no exception. If this matchup occurred after week 8, it may be a different call. But it's not and I think that the improved Kyle Orton will be the needed part of the Broncos puzzle for victory.
What to Watch For: What is up with the Maurice Jones-Drew situation? What role will Tim Tebow play, if any, in the regular season?
Atlanta Vs. Pittsburgh
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Predicted Outcome: Falcons win 17-10
Why: The Steelers defense is no doubt a strong one, but the Falcons offense looks to be building steam with Matt Ryan as quarterback and Michael Turner at full health. The Falcons defense, on the other hand, is not as formidable, but the Steelers are missing the offensive keyholder of Big Ben. That will be what changes the tide in the end, with Pittsburgh not being as effective in the air and dealing with an often questionable offensive line.
What to Watch For: How much has Matt Ryan improved? What happens now that Troy Polamalu is back in the Steelers lineup?
Oakland Vs. Tennessee
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Predicted Outcome: Titans win 24-17
Why: Vince Young is better. Chris Johnson is still strong. The Titans defense is looking to be back in better form. Yes, the Raiders have made excellent offseason moves, but the loss of Michael Bush and the need for regular season testing of the team means a slow start that could turn into a strong finish. For now, however, they'll have to deal with a loss.
What to Watch For: Just about everything with the Raiders. They've made the moves, now how do they pay off? Is Johnson still CJ2K?
Carolina Vs. New York Giants
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Predicted Outcome: Giants win 17-13
Why: The Giants had what for them was a disappointing 8-8 season last year. However, they also found out that they have a surprisingly deep receiving corps. In addition, they made the right move in crowning Ahmad Bradshaw as their starting running back. The Panthers are certainly going to put up a fight with their double-edged running attack, but the Giants will be victors in their home town opener.
What to Watch For: It's Steve Smith versus Steve Smith in the aerial game, with both receivers being top dog on their team. Which defense gets it done better?
Detroit Lions Vs. Chicago Bears
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Predicted Outcome: Lions win 31-28
Why: The Lions defense may still lack a stellar secondary, but their revamped defensive line will provide some compensation. The Detroit offense will be the star of the game with Matthew Stafford and Megatron leading the charge. Oh yeah, and their standout rookies of Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best are primed for excellent first year campaigns.
The Bears may be bringing Mike Martz, but they're still rolling the dice with Jay Cutler behind the wheel and their receivers being behind the curve. That and defensive injuries are enough to bring the upset at home to a reality.
What to Watch For: Suh and Best. The Martz offense. Who is the standout receiver for the Bears? Could the Lions win at least six games this season?
Arizona Vs. St. Louis
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Predicted Outcome: Rams win 20-13
Why: Yes, it's another strange upset pick, but the Rams are one the rise while the Cardinals are headed downhill. The Rams offense wisely acquired receiver Mark Clayton from the Ravens and Sam Bradford is the anointed starter. Don't forget about powerhouse running back Steven Jackson either.
The Cardinals defense has lost some key players and it will show in week one. Quarterback Derek Anderson's play is likely to be less than thrilling, even with the benefit of Larry Fitzgerald at receiver.
What to Watch For: Is Tim Hightower one of the most unheralded NFL players? How good can Bradford be? Are we sure that Anderson is the answer?
Green Bay Vs. Philadelphia
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Predicted Outcome: Packers win 36-17
Why: The Green Bay Packers are pure offensive dynamite. They wield the arm of Aaron Rodgers combined with an ultra-physical lineup of receiving options. The Eagles have the still-in-the-testing-phases arm of Kevin Kolb and a group of sleek, speedy receivers. I'm betting on the Packers to run away with this battle.
What to Watch For: Can the Eagles defense be a turnover machine like last year? How good can Kevin Kolb be? Are the Packers prepped to win it all?
San Francisco Vs. Seattle
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Predicted Outcome: 49ers win 27-7
Why: The San Francisco running game looks scary with its beefed up offensive line. The Seahawks defense looks to be in a rebuilding stage, at best. Alex Smith has something to prove and Michael Crabtree possesses the skills to help him do just that along with tight end Vernon Davis. Seattle is just hoping to walk away with a break-even season.
What to Watch For: Can Smith live up to his draft status? How much has head coach Pete Carroll improved the 'Hawks?
Dallas Vs. Washington
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Predicted Outcome: Cowboys win 17-14
Why: Sorry 'Skins fans, but the 'Boys are the real deal. They've got an astonishing lineup both on offense and defense that begins with their breakout receiving star of Miles Austin and continues on through their stellar cornerback duo. Washington will look better than last year, but it will be hard to compete against a team that is on the short list to win the Lombardi Trophy this season.
What to Watch For: How much has Washington improved? Can Tony Romo continue his positive progression?
Baltimore Vs. New York Jets
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Predicted Outcome: Ravens win 24-16
Why: Have you seen the Ravens recently? They're good and I mean really good. The Jets are expected to be contenders and certainly have the home field advantage, but that can only go so far. Expect Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and company to be more than enough for the outstanding Jets defense. The New York crowd will have to suffer a season and stadium opening defeat, while Baltimore rejoices in the beginning of their run to the playoffs.
What to Watch For: How does T.J. Houshmandzadeh fit into the equation with the Ravens? Are the Jets prepared to live up to the hype? How is Mark Sanchez progressing as a quarterback?
San Diego Vs. Kansas City
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Predicted Outcome: Chargers win 42-10
Why: It doesn't matter who Philip Rivers is throwing to because he's going to do it well. The Chiefs are in for a bruising at home on Monday night to start this year. It will be an unfortunate loss, but will just be the first of many. The Chargers have rookie Ryan Mathews to lean on, who has been solid in the preseason. Despite some of the holdout drama, the Chargers have the pieces to again top the AFC West and do it through pure offensive power.
What to Watch For: What value does Patrick Crayton bring to the passing game? Is Mathews set to live up to the hype? Have the Chiefs improved enough to be competitive even a little?