With last night’s game between the Broncos and Ravens in the books, the NFL regular season is officially underway. Week 1 is often the most difficult to predict since the preseason can be so misleading, so bear with us if we’re a little off base, but here is our preview, as well as our picks, for the rest of the week 1 schedule:
Atlanta at New Orleans – Expect some points to be scored in this game, as the Falcons have arguably the best wide receiver tandem in football going against a defense that’s going through a lot of changes. Of course, Drew Brees knows how to put points on the board as well, and having Sean Payton back on the sidelines will only help. Pick: New Orleans; the Saints get the edge at home, and get an emotional lift from having Payton back on the sidelines.
New England at Buffalo – E.J. Manuel appears ready to play, although rookies like him need all the experience they can get, and he missed the final two pre-season games, so his readiness could be a question mark. Expect to see a lot of C.J. Spiller, who may be able to carry the Bills and give them a chance if Manuel is able to avoid critical mistakes. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s secondary could be in trouble, even though the Patriots are still searching for playmakers in the passing game. Pick: New England; Tom Brady picks apart Buffalo’s secondary, as Manuel and Spiller play well but can’t quite keep up.
Cincinnati at Chicago – Both teams are hoping to explode offensively, as the Bengals retain everyone from last year and added a couple new pieces, while the Bears hope that Marc Trestman can bring out the best in Jay Cutler. Keep an eye on A.J. Green for Cincinnati and Brandon Marshall for Chicago, two of the best wide receivers in the league, who will probably try to one-up each other during the game. Pick: Chicago; in a close game, the home team gets the edge, and the Bears will also run the ball better with Matt Forte, giving them a close win.
Miami at Cleveland – This is a matchup of the two forgotten members of last year’s rookie quarterback class. The Browns aren’t quite secure in the secondary, so look for the Dolphins to throw deep to Mike Wallace frequently unless Cleveland’s pass rush can put pressure on Ryan Tannehill. The Browns will do the opposite on offense, riding Trent Richardson and hoping to win a close game. Pick: Miami; Tannehill will be one of the standout performers in week 1 and look quite impressive against Cleveland’s defense.
Minnesota at Detroit – The time is now for Christian Ponder and Matthew Stafford to show what they can do, and getting off to a good start this season is important for both of them. Detroit’s front-7 will get tested trying to stop Adrian Peterson, while Calvin Johnson will challenge Minnesota’s secondary. Pick: Detroit; the Lions have a stout defensive line to slow down Peterson, while the addition of Reggie Bush makes Detroit’s offense too much for the Vikings to handle.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh – Both teams really need a fast start to the season. Jake Locker needs to prove that he’s the right guy to lead the Titans, while the Steelers need to prove that last season was an aberration and that they’re still serious contenders in the AFC. Pittsburgh is still uncertain about their running game, so look for them to put a lot on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger, which in turn forces the Titans to lean on Locker. Pick: Pittsburgh; the Steelers are healthy on defense entering the season and Locker isn’t ready to face such a tough unit.
Oakland at Indianapolis – This game has mismatch written all over it. We’ll get to see what Terrelle Pryor brings to the table as Oakland’s starter and whether or not he’s able to move the ball with his arm, but more than likely this game will look like an extra preseason game for the new-look Colts defense; and speaking of Luck, expect Andrew to look real sharp to open up his sophomore campaign. Pick: Indianapolis; they’re better, and they’ll win by a lot.
Kansas City at Jacksonville – This game matches up last season’s worst team with one of the leading contenders to be this season’s worst team. The Chiefs return a tough defense, which will make life difficult for Blaine Gabbert, especially without Justin Blackmon on the field. Alex Smith won’t need to do much to ensure a win, but look for him to take some deep shots against a suspect Jacksonville secondary. Pick: Kansas City; a veteran quarterback, a veteran coach, and a talented defense are no match for what Jacksonville brings to the table.
Tampa Bay at New York Jets – We’ve been so busy laughing at the circus the Jets have created at the quarterback position that we’ve forgotten to dub this “The Revis Bowl”. Revis and the rest of Tampa’s secondary is one of the most talented defensive backfields in the NFL, and they’ll be looking to eat Geno Smith alive. New York’s only hope may be to hope their defense can be just as disruptive to Josh Freeman. Pick: Tampa Bay; the Jets will be lucky to score 10 points, and surely Freeman and one of the top wide receiver duos in the league can top that.
Seattle at Carolina – If Cam Newton doesn’t play well this season he risks being overshadowed by guys like Russell Wilson. However, Newton should be more worried about Seattle’s defense than he is with keeping up with Wilson in this game. Seattle’s defense was in midseason form during the preseason, and they’ll be hoping to make Newton look foolish compared to their young quarterback. Pick: Seattle; the Seahawks have high hopes for this season and they’ll come out of the gate fast while Newton’s lack of leadership leaves the Panthers lacking the urgency they need at the start of the season.
Green Bay at San Francisco – This is truly a matchup of NFC titans. The Packers still remember last season’s playoff game when they were utterly dominated by Colin Kaepernick, and they’ll be looking for redemption. Green Bay will need their running game to show up, or else there’ll be too much pressure on Aaron Rodgers to pick apart a talented San Francisco defense. Pick: San Francisco; the Packers can’t handle San Francisco’s power running game or attacking defense.
Arizona at St. Louis – These are clearly the two forgotten teams in the NFC West, but both are ready to put points on the board and put on an exciting show for the fans, moving up and down the field at a break-neck pace. Pick: St. Louis; the Rams get back to being the greatest show on turf and their defense does just enough to secure a 10-point win.
New York Giants at Dallas – This is the first of two intriguing matchups that the NFC East is giving us in week 1. Both teams have high hopes but plenty of question marks coming off mediocre seasons a year ago, making this game a tone setter for the rest of the season for each team, as well as the entire division. Both offenses have the quarterback and playmakers to put a lot of points on the board, which means this game could come down to which defense can get a stop in a key spot. Pick: Giants; the Cowboys will find a way to fold under the pressure, showcasing the dysfunction their franchise has.
Philadelphia at Washington – This may be the most anticipated game of week 1, and we have to wait all the way until Monday night to see it. We’ll finally get to see Robert Griffin III play for the first time since he fell to the ground during last year’s playoffs with a serious knee injury. Meanwhile, we’ll see the preseason training wheels come off Chip Kelly’s offense with Michael Vick at the helm. Pick: Philadelphia; the Eagles pull off the upset with Vick outplaying RG3, whose play makes it obvious that he’s far from 100% healthy.
Houston at San Diego – The week 1 finale is a bit up a letdown. The Chargers will need to keep the game low scoring if they’re going to have a chance to win, as their offense is short on playmakers, especially compared to what the Texans have on offense. Pick: Houston; the Texans have a much more balanced roster than the Chargers, and ultimately San Diego doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Houston.