Opening Kickoff is tomorrow so I can't delay this any longer. Right now I'm about as excited as Nicky on a miniature horse! Below are the week one matchups and how I think the games will turn out. I have no idea what the over/unders are or who is favored so I will be curious to see how accurate this is.
New Orleans vs Green Bay: From an unbiased perspective, this is the most exciting game of the week. This will be a battle of two high powered offenses. The Packers get Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley back in the lineup, making their offense even more explosive. I give the edge to the Packers in this one because I believe their defense will be able to slow down the Saints' offense enough to pull out a victory. Packers win 24-17.
Atlanta vs Chicago: Another great matchup, but this one won't be as explosive as New Orleans and Green Bay. Atlanta's defense isn't as stout as Chicago, but they have a better offense. Sam Baker against Julius Peppers is going to be a great matchup to watch. I pick Atlanta in this low scoring game because I think their mix of weapons is enough to put up points on the board. I believe Baker will do pretty well against Peppers and give Matt Ryan enough time to make plays. I just don't think the Bears corners are capable of handling Atlanta's WRsand Tony Gonzalez unless they get Peppers to wreak havoc in the backfield. Falcons win 20-17.
Cincinatti vs Cleveland: I don't expect Cleveland to have a winning season, but I do believe they'll be more competitive this year and will surprise a few teams. Of course, a victory over the dysfunctional Bengals franchise won't surprise anyone. This is Andy Dalton's first game in the NFL and I am not expecting much from him or the Bengals offense. At least the Bengals have Leon Hall on defense, but unfortunately, I think that will be the one bright spot for Cincinatti for much of this season. Browns win 20-6.
Buffalo vs Kansas City:The Bills surprised a few teams last year with good play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson. Johnson will be Buffalo's #1 WR this year and I don't expect him to have as strong of a season as he did last year. If the Bills want to succeed, they have to utilize their most underrated player, RB Fred Jackson, more often. I think the loss of Lee Evans will hurt Buffalo more than many may think. I'm just not sold on their WR corps with Johnson as the #1 and Donald Jones their #2. Kansas City will do enough to run through a suspect Buffalo defense to prevent the Bills from having much of a chance. Chiefs win 24-16.
Philadelphia vs St. Louis: The Eagles may be the most high profile team because of all their offseason acquisitions. The Rams have done pretty well building their WR corps this offseasonand Sam Bradford enters his second year. I don't think Bradford and the Rams do enough to pull out a victory, but I think they keep this game much closer than some may think. At the end of this game, I think people will think the Rams are a better team than originally thought and the Eagles may not be as strong as some may have initially believed. Eagles win 20-17.
Detroit vs Tampa Bay: A few years ago, this would be a snooze fest. This has the potential to be a great game between two rising teams. Some may think the Bucs are overrated because of a soft schedule in 2010, but this team is still pretty darn good and Josh Freeman is better than many, especially Gang Green Nation, give him credit for. I believe Stafford and the Lions offense will come out of the gates this season and make some good plays. They may not be the Next Show on Turf, but with their offense, and the ability to wreak havoc on Freeman with an inside pass rush, gives the Lions the edge. Lions win 17-13.
Tennessee vs Jacksonville: They both feature great RBs, but I just don't see much happening in Jacksonville this year. I think they will have an average offense and an average defense. With Luke McCown now starting at QB and Mike Sims-Walker no longer in Jacksonville, defenses will key on Maurice Jones-Drew until McCown shows he and the passing attack are a threat. Wirth Cortland Finnegan manning a side of the field in this matchup, I don't think the statement is made this week. As for Tennessee, Chris Johnson is still a threat even without any preseason action. Matt Hasselbeck should do a pretty good job as well. I think Kenny Britt will love having Hasselbeck as a QB. Titans win 20-10.
Pittsburgh vs Baltimore: This is historically a great matchup. The Steelers return much of their starters from both units. The Ravens move on with some younger WRs and a new CB with Jimmy Smith. The Ravens will rely a lot on their rookies this year and will hope an out-of-shape Bryant McKinnie gets back into shape quickly. While the Ravens are still a very good team and I think their youngsters may hold up well, the Steelers are just too good. I think their rookies, especially Jimmy Smith, struggle in the opener. Steelers win 23-16.
Indianapolis vs Houston: If the Houston defense improves, this game could signify the changing of the guard as Houston may end up being the best team in the AFC South over the next few years. Without Peyton Manning at the helm for the Colts, Houston definitely has a chance to show off an improved defense. Of course, that could all just be an illusion setting Houston up for failure over the next few weeks. Peyton Manning not in the game instantly improves any defense. Without Manning, the Colts' offense has no chance to keep up with Matt Schaub and Houston's terrific offense. Texans win 27-14.
NY Giants vs Washington: I expect the Redskins to come to life running the ball in Shanahan's system. I like the backfield of Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, and Ryan Torain. The Redskins also have a nice pair of tackles and TEs. Sanatana Moss is still a pretty good WR and I like Anthony Armstrong. I'm not big on Rex Grossman and Jabar Gaffney though. I'm also not impressed with their interior offensive line unit. The Redskins still could be a pretty good team this year, though I would not expect them to have a winning record. They have some nice talent at LB as well. London Fletcher is still a very good player and I really like Rocky McIntosh. Brian Orakpo is a very good OLB as well. The Redskins have some big names with DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, and OJ Atogwe in the secondary, but I'm not very high on all of them. They can all make plays, but Hall gets beat too much. The Giants on the other hand come off a disappointing offseason in which they lost many key players along the OL and WR Steve Smith signed with the Eagles. I don't think we'll see the Giants drop off too much though with the OL. I think David Baas as a replacement for Shaun O'Hara. Chris Snee is a very good RG and I think Diehl may end up doing very good in his switch to LG. Kareem McKenzie is a quality starter, but he his play is not as high as it was a few years ago. The biggest question will be how Will Beaty protects Eli Manning's blindside. The Giants still feature a very good set of RBs and Hakeem Nicks is a future star. Mario Manningham is good complimentary #2 WR. I expect the Giants to keep the Redskins' offense off the field with their ground game. Much has been said about the injury woes in NY's secondary as well, but they still have a lot of talent back there with Corey Webster, Atrel Rolle, and Kenny Phillips. Nicks matches up well against Hall and he should make enough plays in the passing attack too. While I believe this game will be very close, I just don't think the Redskins will have enough offense to pull out the victory. Giants win 23-20.
Seattle vs San Francisco: I like the talent the Seahawks have at WR, but unfortunately, I think they are thin almost everywhere else on offense. Alex Smith won't light the world on fire, but the 49ers have enough weapons on offense with Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards, and Vernon Davis. I don't think the Seahawks defense will be able to stop all of them and their offense won't be able to keep up. I actually think Alex Smith will have a pretty good day this weekend. I don't think it'll last long, but he will be able to manage the 49er offense good enough. 49ers win 23-13.
Minnesota vs San Diego: Count me as one of the people not sold on Donovan McNabb doing much in Minnesota. In fact, if I am in the Vikings front office, I'd probably prefer to stick with Tarvaris Jackson over McNabb. The Vikings will still run well with Adrian Peterson, but they made a mistake letting Sidney Rice leave via free agency. Percy Harvin is a great slot WR, but I have concerns with him being a #1 WR. He'll be going up against some pretty good CBs on the outside and I just don't see him being the #1 WR Minnesota needs. San Diego normally starts their season slow, but last year was the first time their slow start cost them a spot in the postseason. They'll be putting extra emphasis on starting out the season fast and they will handle Minnesota with ease. Chargers win 27-13.
Carolina vs Arizona: I don't think Cam Newton will become a star in the NFL, but I like the weapons he has available in Carolina. Carolina also has Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah, one of the best pairs of OTs in the NFL. Newton's rookie season will probably have some entertaining moments, but I think we'll see him flee the pocket prematurely as he adjusts to the NFL. Kevin Kolb may not be worth the money Arizona gave him, but he'll be much better than what they had last year. I expect Kolb will have an average, but not a great, season in Arizona. Average is all Arizona needs this Sunday. Cardinals win 23-10.
Dallas vs NY Jets: Tony Romo returns to Dallas and I actually like where the offense is heading. The Cowboys have a young line that may struggle at first, but I think they will end up being much better than their 2010 offensive line. The Cowboys will go without Terrence Newman, leaving them a bit thin at CB. The Jets go with new WRs with Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress. I don't expect them to be as great as some may think, but they should still be at least an average WR corps. The Jets also have a very good TE with Dustin Keller, who I expect to see more passes thrown his way. The biggest question mark for the Jets is Mark Sanchez, who will be the one holding the Jets back if he doesn't improve. I don't expect this to be a high scoring matchup, but I do expect the Jets to do enough to beat an underachieving Dallas defense. Jets win 17-14.
Oakland vs Denver: The Raiders were a pretty darn good team last year when Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden were in the lineup. The Broncos defense will be better with Elvis Dumervil returning to the lineup and I think Von Miller will do very well in Denver. Miller may end up being the best rookie on the defensive side this year. Still, Denver doesn't have enough to overcome Oakland. Raiders win 24-21.
New England vs Miami: This game has the most mystery this week because the Patriots have been very quiet about their new defensive schemes and Miami promises to roll out a new offensive scheme that should be more exciting than Dan Henning's stone age gameplans. We already talk about Miami's personnel enough so I am not going to rehash this. The Patriots brought in Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, but both have been unimpressive in the preseason. Haynesworth played about 18 snaps in week 4 of the preseason and appeared out of shape. Ochocinco was limited to 2 receptions during the preseason. If the Patriots are going to succeed, they're going to need Haynesworth to help Wilfork generate an inside pass rush and Ochocinco to be a good compliment to Wes Welker. If he doesn't improve, offenses will focus on Welker. The Pats also have Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield, but they are specialist RBs. Their presence offense tips the hand for a run/pass for New England. Shane Vereen was drafted for this purpose as he is a three-down back, but he's been injured during the preseason. I believe he is the future RB for New England, but it will take several weeks before he starts to steal enough playing time in the crowded backfield. Dolphins win 24-20.