The beginning of the 2012 NFL season is upon us and the Giants will lead off the season with their title defense.
Dallas seems obsessed with all the attention the Giants are receiving this year, but do they have enough to take down the champs?
Who else will rise to the occasion in Week 1?
Dallas at New York Giants
It may not be a Thursday night game this year, but the defending champions have won eight consecutive season openers. The Giants are also 7-2 against the Cowboys since January 2008. They also ended Dallas’ season in Week 17 last year.
They’re division rivals and both are starting at 0-0 but it’s tough to say the Giants don’t have the edge heading into the new season.
New York wins.
Indianapolis at Chicago
The Bears locked up Matt Forte to a four-year deal, traded for Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and signed running back Michael Bush (977 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011). They also drafted wide receiver Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina, a tall prospect with very good hands that has played well in the pre-season.
The Bears may not have immediately improved their offensive line, but it should be enough against a rebuilding Colts team. Andrew Luck will have a tough task in his NFL regular season debut with Julius Peppers chasing him down.
Philadelphia at Cleveland
The Eagles weren’t the “Dream Team” Vince Young proclaimed them to be, failing to make the playoffs, but they should build off a strong second-half for a better 2012 season.
The Eagles won their final four games last season, and did so by an average of just under 20 points per game.
Their biggest weakness last season was their defense, specifically their tackling. Adding veteran DeMeco Ryans and rookies Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry should definitely help the team’s cause.
Cleveland has a rookie quarterback (Brandon Weeden), a rookie running back (Trent Richardson) who had minor knee surgery just two weeks ago and no real playmakers at the wide receiver position.
New England at Tennessee
This is an intriguing game to open the season.
The Patriots are always one of the best teams in the league and they really strengthened their defense through the draft. But after roster cuts they are pretty thin at the wide receiver position.
The Titans start 2011 first round draft pick Jake Locker at quarterback and he’s got some fans excited. They will be without star wide receiver Kenny Britt due to a one-game suspension.
New England wins.
Atlanta at Kansas City
A lot of people picked the Falcons last year as a Super Bowl contender and they fell well short of those expectations. But 2012 is a new year. Members of the media are raving about how Julio Jones has looked in camp.
Kansas City gets Jamaal Charles back from an ACL injury and teaming him with new signing Peyton Hillis could make a pretty stout running attack.
But is Matt Cassel better than Matt Ryan? And can that Kansas City defensive line ever perform to the lofty expectations that was thrust upon the draft status of the player of the group suggests?
Jacksonville at Minnesota
The Jaguars biggest threat, Maurice Jones-Drew, held out all of camp. Even if he is in shape, he hasn’t been hit yet and he hasn’t created much chemistry with the lineup.
The Vikings have an issue with their starting running back as well. Adrian Peterson is still recovering from an ACL injury and is a game-time decision right now. But Toby Gerhart isn’t a bad running-back by any means. Christian Ponder also showed some potential last season and could benefit from the experience a preseason as the starter can give him.
Washington at New Orleans
The RG3 era begins in Washington and he’ll go up against none other than Drew Brees, one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
While the Saints were the league’s top passing team did you know they also had a really good running attack? The Saints were number six in the league in rushing yards per game. They did so with a pretty balanced combination attack of Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory.
Washington meanwhile is without last season’s leading receiver Jabar Gaffney, who is no longer with the team. They do have Pierre Garcon now, who would’ve tied Gaffney for first on the team in receiving yards last season. He also had one more touchdown reception.
New Orleans had a rough off-season and will be under its, technically, third head coach this season. Still, they do have a more experienced team with more weapons than the Redskins have.
New Orleans wins.
Buffalo at New York Jets
Yes, the Jets struggled to score a touchdown in the preseason, not doing so until the final game of the preseason, also the same game the starters did not play in. And yes, they don’t have a surplus of talent at wide receiver.
See the Bills lost eight of their last nine games last season, including twice to the Jets. In four of those games they failed to score two touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for under two hundred yards four times in the final nine games and only twice in that span did a running back have 100 or more rushing yards.
The Bills more than struggled down the stretch and with the Jets at home, New York could finally get that win they’ve been waiting for since Week 14 last season.
New York Jets win.
St. Louis at Detroit
Lions players had more than their share of run ins with the law this off-season but that doesn’t take away from the talent on the field.
The Rams will start their first season with Jeff Fisher as the head coach and he would benefit greatly from a healthy Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson.
But the Rams just haven’t shown the offensive punch that can match Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Miami at Houston
HBO's Hard Knocks illustrated that the Dolphins may have some good practices, but they have yet to put anything together in a full game yet. And unlike the Jets, Miami has a much tougher opening weekend opponent.
The Texans are a sleeper pick to reach the Super Bowl. Miami will have to fight to reach .500 this season.
San Francisco at Green Bay
It’s a potential preview of the NFC Championship Game.
Both teams were strong last year. San Francisco has a dominant defense while the Packers may have overtaken the Saints for the most exciting offense.
It will be a battle for sure but at home and with the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers the Packers may have the edge here.
Green Bay wins.
Seattle at Arizona
Let the fun of the NFC West match-ups begin!
People claim the NFL is a quarterback’s league and the Seahawks seem to be the team more settled in that position.
Russell Wilson is a rookie quarterback drafted in the middle of the draft but he has shown enough to the coaching staff in the preseason that he leapfrogged free-agent signing Matt Flynn to take over as the starting quarterback.
Meanwhile in Arizona, John Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb for the starter’s job. How much faith do you have in him?
Carolina at Tampa Bay
Cam Newton put up some electrifying stats last season, but he still has a lot to learn at the quarterback position.
That being said, Tampa Bay lost its final 10 games of the season last year and gave up 30 or more points in seven of those losses. New coach Greg Schiano did well at his previous job at Rutgers, but it’ll take some time before Tampa Bay rises in the standings.
Pittsburgh at Denver
The Steelers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos in the playoffs last season. Things get even more interesting now with Peyton Manning in town.
Usually the Steelers are known for their pounding running game, but the position is thin this year with Rashard Mendenhall suffering from injuries and the other backs not having much experience. Mike Wallace also missed a large portion of the preseason due to his contract situation. With a new offensive system in place he has a lot of catching up to do.
Meanwhile Peyton Manning’s arrival should improve the quarterback position in Denver. The receivers are excited to work with him and Eric Decker has played well in the preseason.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
The Bengals have built a nice foundation. Andrew Dalton and AJ Green had great rookie seasons, Mo Sanu looks like a nice addition on the opposite side of Green and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a very dependable runner who should benefit from more touches as a Bengal compared to his old role with the Patriots.
Baltimore says once again that they plan on throwing the ball more, but it’s one of those things that we’ve been hearing for years now. They do still have Ray Rice who may be the most complete running back in the NFL today. What we need to see is how much (or little) that defense will miss Terrell Suggs.
Baltimore is a very good team, but there’s something about the Bengals in this game that is screaming upset.
San Diego at Oakland
The Chargers were another huge disappointment last year while the Raiders lost four of their final five games.
But while the Chargers should play better, they no longer have Vincent Jackson and Ryan Matthews continues to be injured.
The Raiders will benefit from a full season from Carson Palmer, who didn’t look too bad at all last year, and the return of Darren McFadden from injury, who is obsessed with being one of the best running backs in the league.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens