Saturday, September 10, 2011

NFL Week 1 Picks

It's finally that time of year. The time where all my posts aren't specifically wrestling related! Time for my weekly column dedicated to picking the slate of games on this week's schedule. I already correctly picked Green Bay over New Orleans Sunday night. That was one hell of a game. I don't think anything else can match that this week, but there should be a handful of good games. On to the picks!

Atlanta Falcons vs Chicago Bears
A rematch of the top two seeds from the NFC Playoffs last year. Neither team really did too much this off-season, but I think the Bears will regress a bit this season. A handful of their key defenders are over the age of 30. The Falcons added Julio Jones in the Draft and that should make their offense even better than they were last year. Both teams defenses are about even, but the Falcons offense is in better hands with Matt Ryan at QB. Ryan threw a lot this pre-season to be ready for the year. I'm taking the Falcons here.

Atlanta 24  Chicago 20

Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns
It's the Battle of Ohio! The Bengals and Browns are both extremely young teams on offense. They both have veteran RBs, but their QBs are young. Andy Dalton starts his first game on the road, while Colt McCoy starts his first year as the QB of the future in Cleveland. McCoy showed flashes of being a quality NFL QB last year, and he looks to build on that  here. The Browns have a strong young secondary that should be able to contain rookie WR A.J. Green. The Browns will look to build off last season's late success and they should be able to do that here in a high scoring game.

Cleveland  30  Cincinnati 21

Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs
These two teams played last year and the game went to the final seconds of overtime with the Chiefs winning on a last second field goal. The Chiefs torched the Bills with the running game last year running for over 300 yards. The Bills front 7 is improved with the addition of rookie DE Marcell Dareus, and veteran LBs Shawne Merrieman and Nick Barnett. If the Bills can contain the run, it forces Matt Cassel to beat you, and I would like the Bills chances there. The Chiefs front 7 should also be able to contain the Bills run game, and they may put a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. I expect another close one here, but I like the Bills to pull off an upset here. Homer pick!

Buffalo 17  Kansas City 13

Philadelphia Eagles vs St. Louis Rams
The debut of the dream team in Philadelphia. These two teams are almost complete opposites of each other. The Eagles are a veteran team poised to make it to the Super Bowl. The Rams are an up-and-coming team that look to win a weak NFC West. Mike Vick should be able to make some plays against the young Rams defense. Sam Bradford may look to test the Eagles All-Star secondary a few times, but expect him to look primarily for short routes from his WRs and TEs, as the Eagles linebacking core is a tad bit suspect. I think the Rams keep it close for a while before the Eagles pull away in the end.

Philadelphia 28  St. Louis 20

Detroit Lions vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
These are two teams looking to make a statement here in their opening game. Both are young, hungry, and expect to compete for a playoff spot this year. The Bucs finished 10-6 last year and bring back all of their young core on offense. They addressed their defensive line concerns in the draft. The Lions look to remain healthy this year. If QB Matthew Stafford can go a full 16 games, then there's no reason the Lions can't compete for a playoff spot. Their defense should be tough with Ndamakong Suh leading the charge. Both teams offenses will put up points, but the Lions defense is better and improved, and they will be able to make more stops. Give me the Lions here.

Detroit 35  Tampa Bay 27

Tennessee Titans vs Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars shocking released QB David Garrard this week. They said it wasn't to save money, but it did save them $8 million. They'll start Luke McCown at QB. At this point, I would just start rookie Blaine Gabbert. The Jags aren't making the playoffs with McCown at QB. They're going to finish last in the AFC South, why not let Gabbert play the whole season? He has Maurice Jones-Drew to lean on. The Titans will start Matt Hasselbeck at QB, but I would expect Jake Locker there at the end of the year. Chris Johnson plays his first game after a long holdout. I think he will probably struggle early. This one was a coin flip at the beginning of the week. Now? I'm not picking a team starting Luke McCown at QB.

Tennessee 23  Jacksonville 12

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens
It's weird seeing these two teams play each other this early in the season, and not at night. I think this could be one of those games where the loser looks back at the end of the year and says "We should have won that one, then we would have one the division." The Steelers remained pretty much exactly the same team they were last season. No need to change a team that went to the Super Bowl. The Ravens gave QB Joe Flacco an extra weapon on offense, trading for WR Lee Evans. While RB Willis McGahee left, the team added FB Vonta Leach, one of the best run blockers in the game. That should open more holes for Ray Rice. Expect a low scoring, nasty affair like always between these two. The Ravens still remember their playoff collapse against Pittsburgh last year, and they should feed off that here.

Baltimore 17  Pittsburgh 14

Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans
And the Kerry Collins Era begins in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning is out for the first two to three months of the year. Lots of people are completely writing off the Colts already. Now of course they are going to lose a step without Manning, but I wouldn't write them off completely. They still have an array of weapons on offense, and Kerry Collins is a respectable QB. And even though the Colts defense is mediocre, they still have Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at the ends of the defensive line. The Texans, meanwhile, can't be too over hyped for this one. Their offense is still dangerous. Even if RB Arian Foster is out, the passing game should be fine, and either Ben Tate or Derrick Ward can step in and the offense won't miss a beat. The defense will be better under Wade Phillips, but they could struggle a bit transitioning to the 3-4 scheme. I think too many people are writing off the Colts, but I think they keep it close. But the Texans win in the end.

Houston 27  Indianapolis 21

New York Giants vs Washington Redskins
The Giants defense is banged up. They have multiple injuries in the secondary, and Osi Umenyoira is not likely to play. The offense is going to have to produce here if the Giants want to win this one. That means Elie Manning can't struggle or have one of his off games that he hands a tendency to have. The Redskins will role out Rex Grossman at QB, and just like Manning, you never know what Grossman you will get. Both teams will rely on their running games to give them the edge. Tim Hightower looked good in the pre-season for the Redskins, and he might be able to find holes against the injury-riddled Giants defense. The Redskins home field advantage gives them the edge here, especially playing on 9/11.

Washington 24  NY Giants 20

Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks won the NFC West at 7-9 last year, but that probably won't happen again. They upset the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs but then were demolished by the Bears. Tavaris Jackson is the new QB in Seattle, but that may be a downgrade compared to Matt Hasselbeck. Expect the Hawks to rely on RB Marshawn Lynch, but expect Lynch and Jackson to see a lot of LB Patrick Willis. New 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh will look to make a statement in his first game. But that will be tough with Alex Smith at QB. This may be the last chance Smith gets as starter. Rookie Colin Kapernick may be under center by years end. I like the 49ers here to get their new coach off to a winning start.

San Francisco 19  Seattle 10

Minnesota Vikings vs San Diego Chargers
This is a rough place to start for new Vikings QB Donovan McNabb: on the road against the #1 overall defense from last year. Expect a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson, who is apparently signing a new 7 year, 100 million contract with $36 million guaranteed. That should make Peterson one happy man. But the Chargers offense is just too good, especially at home. The Chargers missed the playoffs last year and you can bet they aren't happy about it. They'll have WR Vincent Jackson the whole year, and RB Ryan Matthews looks to rebound from a disappointing rookie season. I'll take the Chargers.

San Diego 34  Minnesota 24

Carolina Panthers vs Arizona Cardinals
Two teams. Two new QBs. The Panthers trot out rookie Cam Newton. This should be a good game for him to start his NFL career. The Cardinals defense isn't great and Newton should be able to make some plays against them. The Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb in the off-season, and with WR Larry Fitzgerald on his side you have to like Kolb's chances for success this year. The Cardinals expect to win the NFC West this year, and there is no reason they can't win the division this year. Newton will go through growing pains this season, and I don't expect him to win his first start here. 

Arizona 28  Carolina 16

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Jets
I said in my AFC Preview that I'm still not completely sold on the Jets. Mark Sanchez still hasn't impressed me as an NFL QB, and until he puts together a complete, solid season I still don't think the Jets can win a Super Bowl. Sanchez needs to take advantage of a weak Cowboys secondary here. Shonn Greene and LT will struggle to find room to run. For the Cowboys, they played much better under new coach Jason Garrett last year. It's a tough task, going on the road to New York on 9/11. Tony Romo will struggle to find openings in the defense. I would expect a heavy amount of Felix Jones, especially in the passing game. I'm picking the Cowboys in a road upset here.

Dallas 19  NY Jets 17

New England Patriots vs Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins practiced this week by pumping in crowd noise. Yes, it is a home game for Miami. That's sad. I don't expect big things from the Dolphins this year. Chad Henne will not be a reliable NFL starter. They dumped Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and replaced them with Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas. Thomas struggled in the pre-season, and Bush never stayed healthy in his NFL career. The Patriots, meanwhile, should continue to be the same Pats as always. Tom Brady has an added weapon in WR Chad Ochocinco to go with his array of weapons he already had. The Dolphins usually always play the Pats tight, but I don't think that's the case this year. Pats win easily.

New England 35  Miami 17

Oakland Raiders vs Denver Broncos
The Raiders surprised a lot of people last year by being competitive early on. They also completely demolished the Broncos in Denver last year. New coach Hue Jackson will look towards RB Darren McFadden to shoulder the load for his offense. New Broncos coach John Fox will rely on Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee for his offense. But I would also expect the Broncos to throw a bit more, especially with the Raiders not having star CB Nnmandi Asomaugha. The Broncos will have revenge on their mind after last year's horrible performance against Oakland. I'm taking them here.

Denver 31  Oakland 23

My Vegas $$$ Picks
Kids, I don't encourage gambling. But if you are so inclined to go put some $$$ on these games, here are my recommendations.

Indianapolis +8.5 at Houston
Huge over reaction by Vegas here. Colts still have a lot of weapons, and Kerry Collins is no slouch.

Buffalo +5.5 at Kansas City
Game went to overtime last year, and the Bills defense is slightly improved. Will be close.

Pittsburgh/Baltimore UNDER 36
Almost always low scoring between these two. Can't see any changes.

New England -7 at Miami
Miami just doesn't have the talent this year to hang with the Patriots.

That's all from me this week. RAW Review Monday, NFL Week 1 Review Tuesday.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow Me on Twitter @JCWonka

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