We are back to football.
After months of waiting, wondering, wishing and debating, we are back to the sport we know and love and it couldn’t start better with the Baltimore Ravens visiting the Denver Broncos Thursday night in a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional Round matchup.
Now… full disclaimer… I have been very busy and am just finishing up my 2013 Season Outlook piece with team-by-team win-loss predictions. That will be up before Sunday’s games, but will not be up by the kickoff tonight. Also, I will be finishing these predictions in due time, but for now I will focus on just tonight’s Baltimore @ Denver game.
UPDATE: All the games have been now predicted and as you can see from my Denver/Baltimore pick from Thursday, that this is my year to pick all games correctly. I have the momentum and there is no reason why it can’t be done. You might as well just accept these Week 1 NFL Predictions as fact.
Thursday, 9/5 – 8:30 pm ET
Baltimore Ravens 0-0 @ Denver Broncos 0-0
Prediction: Denver Broncos
I think this will be a heck of a game, which was the NFL’s intention when they scheduled it, but Denver should pull off the win. I know Joe Flacco and the Ravens won in Denver this past January, but I think home-field will be the determining factor in this game. Oh… and a fresh Peyton Manning will be able to expose Baltimore’s defense with his new offensive weapons including wide receiver Wes Welker and the athletic Julius Thomas at tight end. I expect a shootout going into the 30s and I think Denver wins by 10.
Sunday, 9/8 – 1:00 pm ET
New England Patriots 0-0 @ Buffalo Bills 0-0
Prediction: New England Patriots
I like Buffalo to surprise people this season, but I don’t think they surprise the Patriots. The last time we saw New England take a game semi-seriously they were getting rocked by Detroit in the third preseason game. Pats quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick will come back and play well at Buffalo’s expense. Look for some promising play from Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, but rookie mistakes that ultimately doom the Bills.
Tennessee Titans 0-0 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
Tennessee certainly has a chance here with Pittsburgh hurting at running back and adjusting to life following some key offseason losses, but I like Pittsburgh at home. Their defense should limit Titans running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Jake Locker enough to let their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, get into a rhythm with receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Atlanta Falcons 0-0 @ New Orleans Saints 0-0
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans will be a contender this season with head coach Sean Payton retaking control of a team that still one of the best offenses in the NFL. The defense is a work in progress that I see Atlanta exploiting. This game will turn into a shootout, but I think the deciding factor will be the Saints playing at home in the Superdome. New Orleans wins a close one with the fans making a huge difference.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-0 @ New York Jets 0-0
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Who’s picking the Jets? Rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, will struggle against Tampa’s new-look secondary featuring a focused and determined Darrelle Revis. The Jets don’t have a run game that is worth mentioning either. I expect the Bucs offense to also play well, but with the questions surrounding the Jets, does it really matter?
Kansas City Chiefs 0-0 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 0-0
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City is more talented than the 2-14 record they posted last season and head coach Andy Reid should help them maximize that talent this season. In the meantime, they just need to play better than a Jaguars team that is a mess. They don’t have much of a secondary or an offense. I think Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, will look pretty good in this game.
Seattle Seahawks 0-0 @ Carolina Panthers 0-0
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
This game will be closer than you would think. Seattle is a tremendously talented and deep team, but they weren’t perfect a year ago and their struggles began with playing on the road, particularly in “early” 1pm ET kickoffs. Seattle won’t dominate this game and I think they may look “off”, but Carolina doesn’t have enough talent, particularly at wide receiver to win this game.
Cincinnati Bengals 0-0 @ Chicago Bears 0-0
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
This should be one of the better games this weekend as Cincinnati is a favorite to push into the playoffs and Chicago is featuring their new offensive guru head coach, Marc Trestman. There has been a lot of talk about both teams getting more out of their offenses this season, but the main factor here for me is the defenses. I expect Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton, to have enough weapons to score just enough points as the Bengals defense, led by monster defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, puts a damper on Trestman’s debut. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may struggle because of Atkins and the Bengals defensive line.
Miami Dolphins 0-0 @ Cleveland Browns 0-0
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is one of those teams I expect to surprise teams this season. Cleveland has some solid coaching, particularly with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and their defense will be tough to play against, particularly at home. Miami’s downfall, in my opinion, will be their inability to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the passing game.
Minnesota Vikings 0-0 @ Detroit Lions 0-0
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
Let’s get one thing clear… Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, and Lions wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, are pretty much unstoppable. They are not-human. I think Minnesota will use Peterson, who should be fresh after doing very little this preseason, to control the clock and set up quarterback Christian Ponder for easy throws to receiving threats Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Should be close, but Minnesota pulls it out.
Oakland Raiders 0-0 @ Indianapolis Colts 0-0
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
One of these weeks I will pick the Oakland Raiders for the upset, but until that day… well… I won’t. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck should have a field-day and Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have a shaky start. I don’t even know what else to say about this. I don’t think this will be that close of a game.
Sunday, 9/8 – 4:25 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 0-0 @ San Francisco 49ers 0-0
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
The key here is San Francisco playing at home. This should be close and I think it could honestly go either way, but the 49ers defense, a powerful run game and playing at home on the west coast makes San Francisco the better team, at least this week. The Packers offense should perform well, because even the 49ers defense will give up yards to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and company. One thing to watch is San Francisco’s success with the read-option. I think Green Bay will take a page out of Baltimore’s Super Bowl playbook and limit 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s running effectiveness. Running back Frank Gore could have a huge game because of it though.
Arizona Cardinals 0-0 @ St. Louis Rams 0-0
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
People don’t necessarily think of how good these two teams are because of Seattle and San Francisco, but St. Louis and Arizona are good teams this year. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer should have a solid game. I expect him to play well as the season progresses, but the Rams secondary is very good, so Sunday could be tough. On the other side of the ball, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford now has weapons and will need them against the Cardinals defense. Especially in Week 1, home-field advantage will play a huge role in games, so I like the Rams. Look for Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson to make a big play though. Just a gut feeling.
Sunday, 9/8 – 8:30 pm ET
New York Giants 0-0 @ Dallas Cowboys 0-0
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
I just wrote, in my Rams vs. Cardinals prediction, that home-field can be a huge factor in Week 1, but for Dallas it seems to have the opposite effect. In “Jerry Jones’ House”, the Cowboys have lost way too often. They sit around .500 at home, which is awful for a team as talented as Dallas. In fact, the Giants have never lost a game in Dallas’ new stadium. That’s a 4-game win streak at their rivals home. I really like Dallas this season and I think they will finally make the playoffs and win the NFC East. That starts here with a monster game from Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant and a solid game from quarterback Tony Romo. Look for Dallas’ defense to force a turnover or two in their first regular season action with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin calling the shots.
Monday, 9/9 – 7:10 pm ET
Philadelphia Eagles 0-0 @ Washington Redskins 0-0
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Not everything goes as you think it will Week 1 and here is one of the games I may be going against general consensus on. This should be a shootout. I expect both offenses to play very well, taking advantage of two defenses that can be exploited. The key here for me is Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles offense during the preseason looked pretty efficient with Michael Vick at quarterback, but reports are that Kelly hasn’t really shown what he plans on doing offensively. If it is anything like what he did at Oregon it should tire Washington’s defense and put up points. The problem for Washington is that they have yet to see Kelly’s NFL offense, so I personally think they will be reacting throughout the game. If the Eagles defense can just get a couple stops, it may be enough to win the shootout.
Monday, 9/9 – 10:20 pm ET
Houston Texans 0-0 @ San Diego Chargers 0-0
Prediction: Houston Texans
Houston should put their offense on display with rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and star receiver Andre Johnson pacing a potentially explosive passing attack. Even with running back Arian Foster being potentially out or limited, the Texans will be able to run the ball with their strong offensive line and backup Ben Tate. San Diego may struggle to protect quarterback Phillip Rivers and run against a talented Houston defense.