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NFL Week 1 Picks: Predicting the Winner of All 16 Matchups

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 2, 2014

Aug 28, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Travis Long (57) sacks New York Jets quarterback Tajh Boyd (3) during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 37-7. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Four long weeks of the preseason are over, and it's finally time for 32 NFL teams to put months of roster assembling and gridiron training to work for a run to Super Bowl XLIX.

Playoff hopes are ripe among every team heading into the season, as each of them has a chance to start the year off with an inspiring victory and inject hope into the fanbase. Although some of those hopes will soon be dashed, each team can write its own destiny from Week 1 on.

Here's a look at the schedule for Week 1 and picks.

NFL Week 1 Schedule and Predictions
AwayHomeTime (ET)Prediction
Green BaySeattle (-5)8:30 p.m. (Thur.)24-17 SEA
New Orleans (-2.5)Atlanta1 p.m.34-31 NO
CincinnatiBaltimore (Even)1 p.m.23-14 BAL
BuffaloChicago (-7)1 p.m.34-17 CHI
WashingtonHouston (-2.5)1 p.m.27-23 HOU
TennesseeKansas City (-4)1 p.m20-16 TEN
New England (-4.5)Miami1 p.m.35-20 NE
OaklandNY Jets (-5)1 p.m.16-10 NYJ
JacksonvillePhiladelphia (-11.5)1 p.m.28-20 PHI
ClevelandPittsburgh (-7)1 p.m.20-17 CLE
MinnesotaSt. Louis (-4)1 p.m.23-21 STL
San Francisco (-4.5)Dallas4:25 p.m.31-30 SF
CarolinaTampa Bay (Even)4:25 p.m.20-17 TB
IndianapolisDenver (-9)8:30 p.m.38-27 DEN
NY GiantsDetroit (-5)7:10 p.m. (Mon.)27-20 DET
San DiegoArizona (-3)10:20 p.m. (Mon.)27-21 ARI
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Packers vs. Seahawks

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 28:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before their game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on August 28, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Seahawks look to kick off their Super Bowl defense in style at home against the Green Bay Packers in a battle of NFC heavyweights to begin the NFL season on Thursday Night Football.

And to say the rest of the NFL—and the football viewing public—isn't on pins and needles with them waiting for the debut would be lying, as NFL on ESPN noted:

The Seahawks and Packers haven't faced off since the infamous Hail Mary game in 2012 decided by replacement referees. Since that game, Seattle has won 26 of its 34 appearances. 

It's no secret that an impenetrable defense, led by the secondary, is the key to the Seahawks' success. But Aaron Rodgers might have a receiving crew capable of causing problems, with a healthy Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson to throw to along with punishing running back Eddie Lacy.

Whether they cause fits for Richard Sherman and company or not, it will be a tall test for the Packers defense to stand up to Seattle's powerful offense. They finished in the bottom eight of the league against both the run and the pass.

Early success with Rodgers and the passing game will put Green Bay in front, but Seattle's strength up front will eventually propel the Seahawks to an opening victory.

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 17

49ers vs. Cowboys

J Pat Carter/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers have their sights set on a third straight trip to the NFC title game, but first, they will have to focus on a Week 1 visit to AT&T Stadium to face the Dallas Cowboys.

Jim Harbaugh and company enter 2014 with high hopes for the offense after locking down Colin Kaepernick long term over the offseason, but they will have to quickly erase memories of the preseason in order to do so. The first-team offense was held without a touchdown for the entire preseason.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Of course, they will be going up against a Cowboys defense that finished 30th in the league in passing and 27th against the run a year ago.

Tony Romo, on the other hand, will have his hands full with the 49ers defense—one of the NFL's best. But it isn't a unit without its fair share of turmoil, as Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine games, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, and NaVorro Bowman is still injured. 

With Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray making big plays against a depleted unit, the Cowboys will surprise by taking a late lead into the fourth quarter. But Kaepernick will come up big when the Niners need him most.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Cowboys 30

Colts vs. Broncos

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 23:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 23, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

NFL schedule-makers, you've done it again.

Peyton Manning will once again face his former team, this time to open the 2014 season and this time at home as the Denver Broncos will host the Indianapolis Colts.

Andrew Luck's crew enter a new season expected to take the next steps in becoming an AFC powerhouse. If Trent Richardson makes strides as the feature back, along with T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne as playmakers on the outside, they should have no problem making the playoffs for a third straight year.

Aug 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; aIndianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) under pressure during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Manning is no stranger to the playoffs, and he enters boasting even more weapons than he had a year ago along with an improved defense. Wes Welker hasn't yet been cleared for contact after returning to practice from his concussion, per ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, but the Broncos have a stacked cupboard of receivers whether or not he plays. 

The Colts are a perfect 1-0 against Manning in his post-Indianapolis playing days, but there will be no late magic for Luck and company this time around. He'll keep it closer than it should be, but Manning will get his Broncos to an opening win.

Prediction: Broncos 38, Colts 27

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