Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
The Super Bowl Champs open the season at home against an old rival. I think the Cowboys will finish ahead of the Giants this season and it starts with the opener. The Giants pass rush is excellent, but their secondary is banged up and it sounds like the Cowboys’ receivers are healthy for now.
Indianapolis Colts @ Chicago Bears
The Andrew Luck Era officially begins on Sunday in Chicago. The bigger issue to me is the conversion of the Colts defense. They were bad last year in the 4-3, I can’t see them immediately improving in the 3-4 with similar personnel. Cutler will waste no time showing off his new toy Brandon Marshall.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Cleveland Browns
Last year was one to forget for all of Philadelphia. I think it was a humbling experience for a lot of them which should prove to be an asset this season. The Browns are missing some key pieces on defense and offensively Brandon Weeden is in for a long afternoon.
St. Louis Rams @ Detroit Lions
A battle of former #1 overall picks. No one can seem to cover Calvin Johnson when Matt Stafford is throwing the ball and the Rams secondary is particularly weak. Don’t sleep on the Rams though. Their offense will be much improved and the Lions secondary is still pretty suspect. I’m taking Detroit, but this one smells of a potential upset.
New England Patriots @ Tennessee Titans
I expect the Patriots to go 14-2 this season which means I also expect them to beat the Titans in QB Jake Locker’s first NFL start. Bottom line: the Titans can’t score like the Pats.
Atlanta Falcons @ Kansas City Chiefs
I expect the Falcons to win their division this season, but this is a tough opener. Kansas City is the toughest stadium to play in. The Chiefs play solid defense, should run the ball well and Cassel is good enough to make the necessary throws.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Minnesota Vikings
People who bought tickets for this one expected Mojo vs AP. Instead it’ll be more like Jennings vs Gerhart. The offenses are eerily similar: 2011 1st round QBs, All-Pro RB’s, A playmaking receiver (Harvin/Blackmon). That’s why I think it rests on the defense.
Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints defense is built for speed. RGIII goes into the Super Dome and will find out what life in the NFL is really like. It will be interesting to see if the Saints offense struggles without Sean Payton. There may be a few hiccups, but the Saints should get it done at home.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
The Jets offense looks atrocious. Sure, they’ve been saving the Tebow package for the regular season, but not scoring at all with Sanchez in is a big problem. The Bills defensive line will make their presence felt. Circle the wagons.
Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans
The Texans made it to the divisional playoff round with rookie QB TJ Yates. With Schaub back, they should win the division and contend for the Super Bowl. The Dolphins are atrocious on offense. Honestly Ryan Tannehill might be the best receiver on the team.
Pick: Texans (Survivor)
San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers
A great opening day tilt between two NFC heavyweights. The NFL’s best offense against the NFL’s best defense. The Packers defense will need to play well and stop the run. I realize it’s a team game, but I can’t pick Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers, even though the 49ers did.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
I think the difference in this one boils down to the locker room dynamic. Both teams had QB competitions. In Seattle, it seems like the whole team is excited about Russell Wilson, and part of that is due to the passion and collegiate enthusiasm that Pete Carroll coaches with. In Arizona, it seems like Ken Whisenhunt flipped a coin when presented with equally poor options. Momentum means a lot in football, both real and artificial.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman didn’t show me anything in preseason. I thought the Bucs would be in the hunt this year, but Freeman will have to show me something more if that’s going to be the case. Cam Newton and company should be fine on offense, it’s up to the Panthers D to improve.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos
The Broncos had an up and down preseason, but I expect Manning to be on point Sunday night. Manning closes this one out in style with a close win at home.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
The age of the Ravens defense will be a factor this year, but not until we reach the latter half of the season. These two teams should duke it out for the wild card spot. The ground game of the Ravens trumps that of the Bengals and Dalton isn’t on par with Flacco yet.
San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders
Carson Palmer had an awful preseason. The Chargers may be without Ryan Mathews. The running game of the Raiders should control the time of possession and Palmer will make a few deep throws off play action that are the difference. The Chargers always start slow.