After a turbulent offseason and a frantic free agency, the NFL enters the 2011 season with more hype than ever, as fans all across the country have high hopes for their favorite team. Week 1 has some fantastic games on tap, as some of the best teams in all of football will square off in hopes of a quick start.
In five days, America's most popular sport will begin ruling television once again, and here are my predictions for every game on the Week 1 slate.
The 2011 NFL season will kick off with one of the best games of the year as the last two Super Bowl champions will square off on NBC Thursday night.
The Packers are looking to repeat as champions again this year, and with Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley retuning from injury, Green Bay is once again a sexy pick to take home the Lombardi Trophy again this season.
The Saints are coming off a stunning loss to the 7-9 Seahawks last postseason, and Drew Brees and company will be looking to once again establish themselves as powerhouses in a tough NFC South. This game should be a highly entertaining and high-scoring affair, but New Orleans will eventually pull of an upset, with a terrific game from elite quarterback Drew Brees and Alabama product Mark Ingram.
Saints 27, Packers 24
Two of the NFC's powerhouses from last season will kick off a stacked Sunday slate.
The Falcons possess one of the most explosive offenses in football, led by star quarterback Matt Ryan, bruising running back Michael Turner and dynamic wide receiver Roddy White. Coming off a 12-4 regular season and a division title, Atlanta will face high expectations this year, with many predicting a Super Bowl run.
The Bears, fresh off a NFC Championship loss to the arch rival Green Bay Packers, will look to once again dominate a talented NFC North, while also putting the doubters to bed. The game should be a great one, but eventually, the Falcons' numerous offensive weapons will wear down Chicago's defense.
Falcons 24, Bears 14
Two of football's fiercest rivals will square off in a huge divisional game at Reliant Stadium on Sunday. The Texans, coming off another disappointing season, will look to finally break through and make the franchise's first postseason.
The Colts, one of the last decade's most dominant teams, will look to win yet another AFC South title after an injury-plagued season last year. This game should be an entertaining spectacle, but with Peyton Manning's health in question, the Texans' offensive stars should dominate Indianapolis's soft defense, and leave their rivals in the dust.
Colts 17, Texans 31
Two franchises on the opposite end of the NFL spectrum will meet in Week 1.
The Bills struggled again last season, and the once great franchise's fanbase continues to diminish.
The Chiefs shocked the NFL world last year as they exploded onto the scene and claimed the AFC West title. Kansas City's explosive running game should blow past the below-average Bills defense, and the Chiefs should be off to another quick start again this season.
Bills 13, Chiefs 27
Week 1 will feature more divisional rivals as the Jaguars and Titans will look to move out of the last position in the AFC South. Both franchises are coming off disappointing seasons and find themselves in similar situations. Tennessee and Jacksonville both feature elite running backs, as well as a diminished receiving corps and a veteran quarterback training a young rookie.
This game should be a hard-fought one, but the release of David Garrard will come back to haunt the Jaguars, as the Titans snatch the win.
Titans 20, Jaguars 17
A pair of struggling division rivals will meet on Sunday as the Bengals and the Browns both look to begin their seasons on a good note. Both franchises are led by young, developing quarterbacks, and a solid running game, but struggle mightily on the defensive end.
It should be a close and hard-fought contest between the AFC North's bottom rungs, but the Browns will simply show they are the better team.
Bengals 10, Browns 16
Philadelphia is one of the most hyped teams of the decade as they are coming off a storied offseason in which they claimed stars Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Rams missed out on the playoffs by a hair last season, but with a solid, young quarterback and a weak division, St. Louis is a sexy pick to win the NFC West this season. The Rams will hold serve for the first few minutes, but the "Dream Team's" loaded roster will eventually come to dominate.
Eagles 37, Rams 17
The NFL's fiercest rivalry will take center stage on Sunday as AFC North powerhouses the Ravens and the Steelers will meet in Baltimore. Both franchises are known for their stingy and hard-hitting defensive units, and the two teams usually play some of the most entertaining games of the season when they meet.
Pittsburgh has had the edge over Baltimore for the last few years, and this is likely to continue in Week 1 as the Ravens lost a lot of offensive talent this offseason.
Steelers 21, Ravens 17
Two teams on the upswing will play one of the most entertaining games of Week 1 this Sunday.
The Lions have one of the best defensive lines in football to go along with a stud quarterback and a phenomenal wide receiver.
The Buccaneers also possess an elite, young quarterback in Josh Freeman, a superb receiver in Mike Williams and a hard-nosed running back in LeGarrette Blount. This contest will be close all game, but the Lions will eventually come out on top, thanks to a terrific game from Matthew Stafford.
Lions 24, Buccaneers 17
Minnesota added veteran Donovan McNabb to lead the offense this season and take Christian Ponder under his wing. The Vikings possess the best running back in football in Adrian Peterson, and a speedy wideout in Percy Harvin. Minnesota is certain to shock some people this year.
The Chargers are a sexy pick again this season, and with an elite quarterback leading a potent offense that includes Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd, Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert, they could do a lot of damage.
Expect the Vikings to put up a valiant fight, but eventually, the offensive talent of San Diego will dismantle the Vikings's defense.
Vikings 17, Chargers 34
New York possesses a terrific defense and a talented offense, while Washington has major questions at quarterback, running back and basically every other position. The Giants will dismantle the Redskins on game day and set up another horrific year in the nation's capital.
Giants 30, Redskins 13
A pair of last-place division finishers last year will look for better results this season.
The Cardinals finally brought in a solid quarterback in Kevin Kolb. He and Larry Fitzgerald should form a terrifying duo for any defense. Arizona has major questions on the defensive side of the ball, though.
The Panthers, fresh off a 2-14 season, invested their future in Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Carolina made splashes in free agency, but the franchise's fate rests in the hands of the Auburn product.
The Panthers should keep it close, but the Cardinals will eventually come out on top, thanks to a nice game from Beanie Wells.
Panthers 17, Cardinals 27
The Seahawks and the 49ers will play for bragging rights in the NFC West to kick off their seasons.
Seattle is coming off an unlikely NFC divisional playoff appearance, but with major questions at quarterback, the team's future looks dim.
The 49ers disappointed their fans last season, but with a solid defense, led by star Patrick Willis, and a great rushing attack, led by Frank Gore, the 49ers are major contenders in a weak NFC West. The Seahawks will be unable to do anything on offense, and San Francisco should cruise to a 1-0 start.
Seahawks 6, 49ers 20
The Jets boast one of the best wide receiver corps in football, led by Santonio Holmes and new addition Plaxico Burress, as well as an outstanding offensive line. Gang Green also possesses one of the game's most feared defenses, led by Revis Island.
The Cowboys have phenomenal talent with the likes of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten on the offensive side of the ball, as well as dynamic pass rusher DeMarcus Ware on defense.
The first Sunday Night Football game should be a classic, but the extra motivation of 9/11 should lead the Jets past Big D.
Cowboys 20, Jets 24
Miami boasts a terrific defensive unit, but major questions on offense hold them back. The Patriots enter 2011 as Super Bowl contenders once again as they possess outstanding talent in all phases of the game.
The Dolphins should give it their best, but the Patriots will be too much for Miami to handle.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 13
The Raiders are coming off a 6-0 2010 divisional record, and they are sleepers to pull out the division this season. Oakland possess one of the best ground attacks in football, led by Darren McFadden, but the loss of elite cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha could really hurt the defense.
The Broncos are coming off a terrible year, and after much speculation that Tim Tebow would start, the franchise chose Kyle Orton instead. Denver has talent on offense in Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Lloyd, but a constantly struggling defense keeps them from being contenders within the division.
Oakland and Denver will play an exhilarating game, but eventually, Kyle Orton will lead the Broncos to a Week 1 upset over the Raiders.
Raiders 17, Broncos 20