Here are my NFL Week 1 Picks
(169-86-1 in 2013) (170-85-1 in 2014)
Bye teams: none
Pit @ NE – Who’s ready for some football?! Tom Brady, that’s who. After the Deflategate fiasco, a suspension, and then the suspension’s overturn, Brady has got to have a chip on his shoulder the size of the NFL’s salary cap. I wouldn’t want to be Pittsburgh, or any team about to face the wrath of Tom Terrific. And that’s ignoring the fact that the Patriots are the Super Bowl champions, are playing at home, had the league’s highest net points last season, and will be looking to make a statement on Thursday night. The Steelers are no pushovers, should have a great season, could win their division. But they’ll be playing without lead RB Bell and with new DC Butler, which won’t have them pumping on all cylinders. If the Pats get ahead at any point, look for them to run up the score, not in the face of Pittsburgh, but rather Roger Goodell.
Ind @ Buf – I would love to pick an upset here, but I don’t think I can quite do it. Indy has their sights set on the Super Bowl, with Andrew Luck coming off an amazing season and pieces added all around him to help the team take the next step. Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, rookie Phillip Dorsett; these guys will step in immediately and help the Colts score even more points than last year. The only problem this week is that the Bills aren’t terrible. They’re actually quite tough, went 9-7 last season, and won’t back down from anyone. Their defense is incredibly stingy and they picked up a ton of Free Agents to help their offense: Charles Clay, Percy Harvin, LeSean McCoy, Jerome Felton. The only problem is that their starting QB is the inexperienced Tyrod Taylor, someone who might take a few weeks to find his feet. I’d love to pick the Bills here, and I think it’ll be a close game, but the Colts are more game-ready and should start strong.
GB @ Chi – Wow, a lot of the best teams in the league getting the chance to go 1-0 right out of the gates. And Green Bay’s odds might be the best of the bunch. Yes they’re away from Lambeau, where they were only 4-4 last season, as opposed to 8-0 at home. And yes, they’ll be without WR Jordy Nelson, their leading receiver. But I doubt Rodgers lets those little things slow him down. The Packers have an awesome offense which should be only better this season, while the Bears have a terrible defense that should be only worse. Chicago was terrible last season, with Cutler not scoring points (now with Brandon Marshall gone) and their once-great defense not stopping anything at all. I know this is a nice rivalry, but don’t expect the Pack vs Bears snow-bound glory matchup that we’ve become accustomed to. Not this early, not this year, and not here.
KC @ Hou – I’m not jumping on the Kansas City bandwagon like so many others, and perhaps that’s because I’m a Denver fan, but I think it’s because I’m just not all that impressed. The Chiefs have an excellent defense, that’s beyond doubt, and Alex Smith keeps their offense mistake-free, but it’s not 2001 anymore and that’s not enough. Actually, the Chiefs were a bad road team last season, going 3-5, and couldn’t score enough points to keep up with the big dogs. They picked up WR Maclin this year, he should help right way, but perhaps not enough to make the team elite. The Texans are a similar team; mostly defense with a mediocre QB (Hoyer). But they’re good at home and boast the league’s best defensive player in JJ Watt. If Clowney can come off the other edge as quickly as we saw in college, Houston could be a monster that opposing quarterbacks quickly learn to fear.
Car @ Jax – The Panthers may have won the NFC South last year, but they’re not a strong team. They had a losing record, negative net points, and failed to define themselves as a team. Cam Newton has a tight hold on his job, but has never really wowed consistently the way fans hoped he would. Kelvin Benjamin helped last year, but he’s out of for the season, so who’s going to step up? Devin Funchess? Ted Ginn Jr.? Jerricho Cotchery? I don’t like the odds there. Meanwhile, Jacksonville has its own problems, the first being that they’re one of the worst teams in the league. They were hoping that Orange Julius Thomas would help on offense while Dante Fowler Jr. helped on defense. Well, that didn’t work, as both players are injured. So it’s back to the drawing board. In this matchup, I’d go with the home team by default, but I think Carolina at least understands how to win and can make that happen enough to get by.
Cle @ NYJ – As an Ohioan, I “get” to see the Browns quite often. That usually results in me feeling bad for them and wishing they would change their uniforms. Well, they did make their face masks brown, but that’s about all that’s changed in Cleveland. They name Josh McCown their starting quarterback for some dumb reason, keep Johnny Manziel on the roster despite his stint in a rehab facility, and will probably be as underwhelming as they are year in & year out. The Jets on the other hand, though having a much worse season last year, should be at least headed in the right direction. New HC Todd Bowles takes over, hires a new staff, and gets Darrelle Revis to return home. Also, the offense gets Ryan Fitzpatrick (who is at the very least an upgrade over Geno Smith), Brandon Marshall, and rookie Devin Smith from OSU. The Jets are improving, though I doubt they challenge the Patriots for the division any time soon.
Sea @ STL – The Legion of Boom was, by far, the best defense in football in 2014. But there’s some concern that they may be trending in the wrong direction. They lose a CB to Philadelphia, a S to holdout, two DTs to Free Agency, and hire a new defensive coordinator. Now, I have them on my fantasy team, so I hope they can hold it together, but they could be slightly less powerful this season. Seattle’s offense, on the other hand, should be better. They make a blockbuster trade to acquire TE Jimmy Graham, nab Fred Jackson to back up Beast Mode, and could see more points than average under an improving Russell Wilson. The Rams are in even more of a flux, with a new OC, a new QB, an injured rookie RB; it might take time for them to gather themselves. Don’t look for a Week 1 upset here; St. Louis just isn’t quite there yet.
Mia @ Was – I really like the Dolphins this year. While Tom Brady’s suspension was still in effect, I chose them to win the AFC East. And while I’d like to amend that now that Tom is back, I still think Miami could start 6-0 and eventually make the playoffs. Tannehill is solid, he’s got a ton of new weapons to play with, and the Dolphin D got a huge boost with the signing of DT Suh. Some people like Buffalo to be the AFC sleeper team, but I like Miami. The Redskins, on the other hand, are on no one’s radar. They officially benched RG3, whose days as a starting quarterback should be about over. They’ll turn to Kirk Cousins, who isn’t really much of an improvement. Also, they lost some great defensive players in Free Agency and will need time for their rookies to step up & fill in the holes. Washington went 4-12 last season; they could be even worse this year.
NO @ Ari – The celebrated Saints offense could take a hit this season. Drew Brees & Marques Colston aren’t getting any younger, Jimmy Graham was shipped off to Seattle, and Kenny Stills moved on to Miami. Supposedly we’ll see more of a balanced running attack this year from Mark Ingram & C.J. Spiller, but the days of record-setting points & yardage might be over. That doesn’t mean New Orleans can’t win, especially if their defense improves from last season. But don’t look for them to win in Game 1. The Cardinals were killer at home last year, and that was without QB Carson Palmer for more than half the season. It’s their defense that wins games, and if their offense can stay healthy they’ll be a tough team to beat, in Arizona or away. Look for a solid WR corps to step up right away and take charge: Fitzgerald, Floyd, Brown. And look for a nice season from the Cards.
Det @ SD – This could be the most evenly matched game of the week. The Lions made the transition from an offensive powerhouse to a defensive juggernaut, only to see their best defensive player (DT Suh) take his talents to Miami. So they’ll look to get the Stafford-Megatron connection back on track and put up points; something that San Diego might have a hard time stopping. The Chargers are mediocre in every area, from their quarterback to their coaching staff, and can’t quite seem to gain enough momentum for deep playoff runs. Rivers is here to stay in San Diego after signing a large contract, but his success over the years doesn’t warrant a ton of confidence. He & his Charger mates always play hard, and rookie RB Melvin Gordon should be fun to watch, but don’t expect giant strides forward. However, playing at home in the heat should be a good way to start off the season, and they could win a very close one here.
Bal @ Den – The Ravens, along with the rest of the AFC North, are becoming more offensive that is traditional for the division. But Baltimore boasts the best D of the group; a recipe for success, right? Well, they’re successful every season, but don’t have the leadership or the road mentality to win those terribly tough games when it matters most. They don’t win often enough playing within their division, or even within their conference, and pulled a hard ticket out of the hat to open the 2015 season. The Broncos are at the tail end of their Super Bowl window. Manning is an old man, the Coaching League Of Ex-Broncos has gathered together in Denver, and the team will give it their all one last time before that window closes completely. Manning & the Gang have talent to spare, could see improvements on the defensive side under Son-of-a-Bum Phillips, and will definitely make an appearance in the the playoffs; question is, how long will it last?
Cin @ Oak – I have a few rules when it comes to Survival League Football, and I’ll share a couple of them with you now. 1: Never pick a road team. 2: Never pick the Bengals to win. 3: Never pick the Raiders to lose. Well, that makes this choice an easy one. I think the Bengals are a good team, I see a lot of them here in Ohio, and they could even win their division, though most likely they’ll nab a Wild Card slot. But I would be very anxious if I were them entering Week 1. Dalton is a shaky QB and doesn’t have the “it” to win when the going gets tough. Carr, though not as polished, has that x factor, and should be showing it to all of us very soon. Opening day in Oakland, the Black Hole screaming, Amari Cooper catching anything anywhere near him, a brand-new excited coaching staff; I smell an upset.
Ten @ TB – Well, well, funny how the schedule works out. The two worst teams from last year, both who went all in on franchise quarterbacks, will play each other right out of the gates. Marcus Mariota will start for the Titans, Jameis Winston for the Bucs, and may the best man win. Both teams did their best to add pieces in Free Agency, both will be working out a of lot of bugs, both have inexperienced QBs who will makes mistakes, and both will most likely have poor seasons. But, looking at it from a story perspective, Tampa Bay could make waves with a win here. They lost every single home game last season; an embarrassing feat. If they could win here, albeit against Tennessee, the fans would go wild and everyone would proclaim Famous Jameis the King of the Bay. That’s a big ‘if’, and the Titans will have something to say about it, I’m sure, but it could just happen.
NYG @ Dal – I’ll open with this; I think the Giants win the NFC East. I think Eli takes strides in his second year under his new OC, I think his receivers do great things, and the G-men make the playoffs. But I also think they lose this game. New York is bad on the road, what with their semi-shaky QB and their general lack of discipline. Last season they did just as bad at home, and that’s what I think changes this year. The Cowboys, reversely, won every away game in 2014, failing to do the same in Dallas. And I also think they’ll miss Murray, or any running back who can stay healthy, creating a dip in points scored. But that’s the season, this game is another matter. Home opener, Dez Bryant, blitzing little Eli; I think the result with be a victory in Big D, but I wouldn’t put any money on it whatsoever.
Phi @ Atl – No club had a wilder offseason than the Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly lost his mind, and apparently so did the GM, as roster spots were tossed around like confetti and the entire team changed. Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Bradley Fletcher, Trent Cole, Evan Mathis, Jeremy Maclin, Casey Matthews, Cary Williams; all gone. In there places, Kiko Alonso, Ryan Matthews, DeMarco Murray, Sam Bradford, Byron Maxwell; a ton of new faces. That kind of transition takes time to iron out, and you can’t expect immediate success. Just ask the Eagles’ “dream team” of a few years back. The Falcons might not be very scary, but Matty Ice knows his craft, Julio is a mad man, they’ve got young blood RBs, and rookie Vic Beasley is a beast.
Min @ SF – Boy are the Vikings glad to have Adrian Peterson back. The team was fine last season, with an improving Teddy Bridgewater at the helm and an alright defense. This year, they’ll look to crack the playoffs. Mike Wallace at WR, Peterson running, great rookie defenders; this is a team that a lot of people will pick as a sleeper to keep an eye on. And it could help that the team they face Week 1 is the Niners, a group that’s in as much upheaval as the Eagles, but in a much more negative way. Harbaugh leaving for Michigan, an entirely new coaching staff, four key players retiring, and Colin Kaepernick digressing faster that we can say ‘Kaep’. It’s not a pretty picture in San Francisco, and they could finish at the bottom of the barrel. It’s hard to win on the road on someone else’s home opening night, but I think the Vikings just might do it.