WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ NEW YORK GIANTS
The Redskins head into 2009 with a second-year coach hoping his system is now fully understood by his young quarterback. Jason Campbell started off 2008 in stellar fashion until his offensive line and running backs began to crumble around him from injuries.
The defense was good last year, and returns virtually the same with a few upgrades. Albert Haynesworth is a high priced defensive tackle Washington signed to help them improve the run defense.
Brian Orakpo is the Redskins first round draft choice this year. He played defensive end in college, but Washington is having him help out their dreadfully thin outside linebacker unit. He will be exposed if he has to cover anyone, but Washington is hoping they can use him as an edge rusher.
The Giants are all about their trenches. The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, and the defensive line may be the best in the NFC East. This is what makes the team go. Though quarterback Eli Manning gets the press from a media driven to love the quarterback, he is about the sixth most important member of the offense.
The one problem for the Giants this game might be their injured cornerbacks. New York will be forced to start a third stringer, and have a rookie play nickel back. This could bode well for the Redskins, a team trying to find out what wide receivers they can rely on. If New York goes to a zone to protect the corners, All-Pro tight end Chris Cooley could have a field day.
WASHINGTON 31 NY GIANTS 28
Now for the rest of the NFL :
MIAMI DOLPHINS @ ATLANTA FALCONS
Miami and Atlanta meeting in the first week of 2009 actually is a moment to pause and reflect on 2008. Both teams came out of nowhere, and exceeded the expectations of everyone. Including themselves probably.
This year, they both expect to exceed last years results. While Miami stuck to their guns by drafting to build a team, Atlanta brought in veteran tight end Tony Gonzales to upgrade the team.
Miami and Atlanta both rely on the run to set up the pass, though Falcons QB Matt Ryan has a stronger arm over veteran Dolphin QB Chad Pennington. This helps make the Falcons more explosive, while Miami relies on a methodical attack.
Miami has the edge on defense and special teams in this meeting. If Miami can control Falcons All-Pro running back Mike Turner, they will help themselves to a better chance for victory. Miami has upgraded their defensive secondary, so Atlanta might have more difficulty without the effectiveness of the run.
This game will come down to the trenches, and Miami's offensive line may be better than the Atlanta defensive line. It should be a low scoring affair, where the winner won't take it by much. Either way, this game will be a good gauge on which of these teams will be at least as good as last year.
MIAMI 23 ATLANTA 17
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS
Kansas City is not going to have a easy schedule until their bye. Four of their first seven games are against teams that made the playoffs last year. Being winless into the bye is a real possibility.
Their quarterback, Matt Cassell, is not at full health. Their offensive line is in flux, and they appear years away from being a consistent threat.
Baltimore, on the other hand, expects to go further. They were one win away from a Super Bowl appearance last year, and are looking much improved coming into this year.
Basically, expect the Ravens to beat up the Chiefs for 60 minutes.
BALTIMORE 24 KANSAS CITY 3
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ CAROLINA PANTHERS
My pick for Game Of The Week.
Both teams expect to be in the playoffs this year, and both teams offenses strengths are the others weaknesses. This will be a fun game to watch.
Philadelphia offense is basically Donovan McNabb. Their running game scares no one, and their offensive line is already banged up. Though the Panthers run defense is not a top rated unit, there are questions about their ability to defend the pass over the middle with their safeties.
Expect to see the Eagles to use multiple receiver sets and throw the ball over 40 times. If Julius Peppers and his gang can get to McNabb fast and often, it could spell a blowout for the Panthers.
Carolina relies on the rushing attack. Their passing game is basically Steve Smith, but the Eagles have an excellent cornerback on Asante Samuel to shadow him all game. Expect to see the Panthers run the ball mostly, as they try to exploit the Eagles suspect run defense.
It will be a case of explosive versus deliberate. Will the Eagles outscore Carolina or will the Panthers beat down Philadelphia? Stay tuned to this game for the answer.
PHILADELPHIA 34 PANTHERS 24
DENVER BRONCOS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS
This game features an improved Bengals hosting a rebuilding Broncos. Though some may not think much of this encounter, it could be fun.
Cincinnati has a running attack no one knows what to expect from it. Denver has a rush defense many expect to be as poor as last year. The Bengals want to throw the ball better than last year, while the Broncos pass defense is very good.
Denver heads into 2009 with a star receiver, Brandon Marshall, who wants to play elsewhere. They also have a new quarterback in Kyle Orton who is more ball control oriented than last years starter Jay Cutler. Orton is hoping rookie running back Knowshon Moreno is at full health after a preseason injury, because many think Moreno will be a star in the league.
The Bengals have a good defense. They will have a chance on showing it versus a team with a new coach, system, and players. This should be a fun game to watch, and it could come down to special teams.
CINCINNATI 35 DENVER 24
MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS
Already I am sickened by the headlines that are attached to this game. It will be a sickening quarterback love-fest, mainly directed at Brett Favre.
The Vikings win in the trenches, while the Browns are praying theirs are majorly upgraded from last seasons poor showing. Expect a heavy dose of the Vikings rushing attack, led by Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Though the Vikings will try to exploit a decent Browns secondary, rookie Percy Harvin might get a few screens to test the OLB's.
Brady Quinn heads in as the starter for the Cleveland 2009 season. It is doubtful he will be able to rely on their running game against Minnesota's tough defense, so he will have to pass often. The hope is that Quinn can stay strong, and not get happy feet, against the Vikings pass rush. The offense will be on his shoulders most likely in this game.
In the end, the Vikings expect to wear down the Browns. That could change if All-Pro return specialist Joshua Cribbs runs wild.
MINNESOTA 30 CLEVELAND 13
NEW YORK JETS @ HOUSTON TEXANS
The Texans are many peoples pick as a dark horse team this year. They have an explosive passing attack, and an up and coming defense. The only question to the Texans is their running attack. Steve Slaton was excellent in his rookie season last year, but some question whether or not he is the guy who can carry the load.
The Jets come in expecting to blitz, blitz, blitz on defense. They feel they can afford to gamble because they have an excellent secondary. The offense should be run oriented, because they will be relying on rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw the ball.
This game will come down to the passing game. Houston's success versus the Jets secondary measured against the Texans defensive line attacking the Jets offensive scheme.
HOUSTON 24 NY JETS 10
JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS
It wasn't long ago this would have been called the game of the week. After the Jaguars poor 2008 season, some are expecting the Colts to roll.
The Colts still is about Peyton Manning and his ability to control a game. They are hoping the running attack is improved with the addition of rookie Don Brown, but they go as far as Manning goes.
The Jaguars are rebuilding, but they still have many players to make for a successful 2009 campaign. Dave Garrard is the quarterback, and is reportedly in the best shape of his career. Maurice Jones-Drew is now going to be the main running back, and he is recovering from a minor injury.
Jacksonville will need to pass the ball to win this one, while the Colts appear to have the more balanced attack in this matchup. It could remind many of their past battles, which were wire jobbers.
INDIANAPOLIS 28 JACKSONVILLE 24
DETROIT LIONS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
This clash features a team expecting playoffs against a team just wanting a win. Detroit drafted well this year, but they may be too young of a team to do much against a Saints team on a mission.
Though the Lions will win a few games this year, the opening game of their season isn't going to be one of them.
NEW ORLEANS 38 DETROIT 21
DALLAS COWBOYS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay is hoping a few veteran players brought in this year can carry the team to a division title while they wait on the youngsters to develop. Josh Freeman might be the future quarterback of the team, but Bryan Leftwich will start this year. Derrick Ward is a running back who many think will add a much needed wrinkle to the teams attack.
Dallas is a team that has not lived up to the media hype the last several years. They have many good players, but have fallen short thus far. Now that the team is coming into this year expecting less drama in their locker room, the theory is that they will get over the hump finally.
Though the Cowboys are not a lot better than the Buccaneers, their defense might make the difference in this game. Many expect it to be much improved, especially versus the run. Tampa Bay's only chance of winning this one is having their young and excellent offensive line control the clock running the ball.
DALLAS 24 TAMPA BAY 17
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers @ ARIZONA CARDINALS
Arizona is going to throw the ball. They have seven wide receivers on their roster, so they may as well gun it often. The Cardinals are also hoping rookie Beanie Wells teams with Tim Hightower to give them much needed balance, especially in short yardage situations.
The 49ers, on the other hand, love to run the football. They are hoping for a better passing attack, even with first round draft choice Michael Crabtree not in uniform. One way to improve the offense is to line up tight end Vernon Davis off the line in the slot, much like Antonio Gates is in San Diego. Davis is bigger, stronger, and faster than Gates, so this is hopefully the year the Niners use Davis to the best of his abilities.
Both teams have good defenses, so it will come down to who executes best on offense.
ARIZONA 31 SAN FRANCISCO 17
SAINT LOUIS RAMS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
This is a inter-divisional battle of two teams in the rebuilding mode, though the Seahawks won't be as busy as the Rams are for another year or two. Saint Louis was recently dealt a serious blow when defensive tackle Adam Carriker was lost for the season due to injury.
Seattle's offensive strength is passing the ball, while the Rams best attack is giving the ball to running back Steven Jackson often.
This won't be a barn burner, but these teams still have a chance to win one of the weakest divisions in football.
SEATTLE 21 SAINT LOUIS 17
CHICAGO BEARS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are building a team that could be special in the future, though they hope that future is now. Aaron Rodgers proved the team made the right decision by installing him at quarterback last year, and appears to be on the verge of a breakout season after a sharp preseason showing. Ryan Grant is the teams best running back, but the team is at its best when they go to the air with their fine assortment of diverse receivers.
The defense was also excellent in preseason at creating turnovers, but it remains to be seen if they truly have made the transition to the newly installed 3-4 defense. It is a good possibility, because the defense is full of veterans.
The Bears are a team that traditionally has won running the ball and playing great defense. Matt Forte in the running back who carries on that tradition, though the veteran Bears defense was showing a few cracks of aging late last season.
Chicago seemingly hasn't had a good quarterback since Hall Of Famer Sid Luckman retired in 1950. They traded their future to the Denver Broncos away in hopes that Jay Cutler could provide them brighter roads ahead. Cutler has an excellent arm, but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to tossing the pigskin in the Windy City instead on the mile high air of Colorado.
This won't be the classic Black and Blue warfare of years past, but it has a chance to spin it's own yarn. The ball with be in the air this game, while two experienced defenses battle to keep the end zone clean.
GREEN BAY 28 CHICAGO 24
BUFFALO BILLS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
This is the first game of a double header on Monday night. It also will be hyped to mark the return of quarterback Tom Brady to the gridiron.
New England is a deep veteran team many pundits expect to make a serious run for a championship. The one major weakness that easily could be exposed is that Brady's lone backup is rookie Bobby Hoyer. An injury to Brady could very well end all hopes for the team.
Buffalo is hoping their newly installed no huddle offense wreaks havoc on the league. The questions on their offensive line might be an issue exposed by the Patriots. Though Buffalo has a decent defense, they may end up tired by mid-season if the no huddle is a failure.
NEW ENGLAND 45 BUFFALO 21
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS
"Just Win Baby!" That is the motto of Raiders owner Al Davis. It is also a motto the Chargers should be chanting this year. Davis may not mind, considering he once worked for the Chargers in their AFL days.
Oakland has the makings of a young and exciting offense, led by a deep unit of excellent running backs. They have a chance to be unpredictable and explosive. Their big problem is that their defense cannot seem to stop the opponents from rushing the ball down their throats. Richard Seymour is a defensive end who was just acquired from the New England Patriots for a first round draft pick, so Oakland hopes the veteran can show his teammates how to win.
The Chargers are a team that appears to be without weakness. They are stacked with talent at virtually every position. They can beat you on offense, defense, or special teams. They also realize their window if opportunity is closing, and this could be their last real shot at a championship for awhile after a few key players become free agents at seasons end.
Neither team, nor their fans, like each other much. It will be a battle, but the Chargers may have too much talent for the Raiders to stop.
SAN DIEGO 37 OAKLAND 20