One of the best weeks of the year is finally here: the opening one of the NFL season. The NFL does a great job of opening the season on Thursday and celebrating the entire week. By having a Thursday night game, a Sunday night game and two Monday night games, the NFL brings eight of their teams to the national market.
This year the NFL will take on even more national significance, as football will be one of the ways that this country remembers the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, which falls on a Sunday.
Here are my picks for Week 1 of the NFL season. Each week I will pick the three best games of the week, followed by the other games. I will also keep a running tally of my won-lost record. Last year I was 154-102.
New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)
This is a dream matchup to open the season, as it features the past two Super Bowl champions. This game pits two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against one another. The Saints feature QB Drew Brees, who has averaged 4,583 yards passing and 31 passing touchdowns per season since taking over as the Saints starting QB in 2006.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been almost as impressive, averaging 4,131 yards passing and 28.7 touchdown passes per season since 2008. He also poses a running threat rushing, averaging 293 yards rushing and 4.3 rushing touchdowns per season.
Both teams also feature solid defenses. The Packers were second in points allowed (240), second in sacks (47) and second in interceptions (24). The Saints allowed a league-low 13 touchdown passes last year and were seventh in points allowed (307).
I expect this to be a high-scoring game, as both defenses will struggle to stop the other team's explosive passing attack. Seeing the Packers have the better defense and are playing at home, I look for them to emerge as the victorious team. Winner: Packers
Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)
This is a very good early-season game between the NFC North champion and NFC South champion from a year ago. Both teams lost in the playoffs to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, and both teams hope they have the pieces to reach the Super Bowl this year.
The Falcons added WR Julio Jones in the draft to help improve their passing game. The Bears' offensive line was horrific last year and they are hoping that T Gabe Carimi can help improve it. The Bears lost C Olin Kreutz in free agency and they need their young players to step up.
I like the Falcons to win this game on the road. While I have questions about the Falcons defense, I do not think the Bears have the offensive line to expose the Falcons secondary. Expect Cutler to be hit early and often as the Bears struggle to work out their offensive line issues. Winner: Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
This is arguably the best rivalry in the NFL right now, featuring two of the most physically imposing defenses in the NFL.
The Steelers led the league in points allowed (232) and sacks (48), while the Ravens were third in points allowed (270), but only had 27 sacks. They were not able to generate as much pressure as in years past, in large part due to the numerous injuries they had in their secondary. That should change this year, as the Ravens defense is healthy and ready to dominate opposing offenses.
This is a very big game for the Ravens for two reasons. First, the game is at home and they do not want to rely on having to win in Pittsburgh to prevent the Steelers from having the tiebreaker. Second, the Ravens' 2008 and 2010 seasons ended in Pittsburgh with playoff losses. They need to prove that they can beat the Steelers and the perfect place to do that is at home.
I like the Ravens in this game. I think QB Joe Flacco is ready to remove the Steelers monkey from his back and is sick of having to listen to the questions about why he cannot beat Pittsburgh. The Steelers added WR Lee Evans and rookie WR Torrey Smith to help Flacco be more productive against the Steelers. It will be a low-scoring game, but I think the Ravens are ready to beat the Steelers in Baltimore. Winner: Baltimore
Texans over Colts
Jets over Cowboys
Browns over Bengals
Chiefs over Bills
Eagles over Rams
Lions over Buccaneers
Jaguars over Titans
Giants over Redskins
Chargers over Vikings
49ers over Seahawks
Cardinals over Panthers
Patriots over Dolphins
Raiders over Broncos
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