Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL Week 1 Picks: Denver Broncos to Bump Off Defending Champions

After months of draft boards, free agency, salary caps and roster cuts its finally time for NFL teams to take the field to play in games that count.

The Baltimore Ravens start the season at the top of the mountain, but will they be at MetLife Stadium to defend their title?

Who will start the season off on the right foot?

Baltimore at Denver

The defending champions have won eight nine consecutive season openers. There may not be a better time for that streak to end, however. Usually, the defending champion gets to open the season at home and unfurl a nice championship banner. Due to an Orioles game the same night, though, the Ravens are being forced to open at Mile High Stadium in Denver.

The Broncos will be hurt by the suspension of Von Miller and departure of Elvis Dumerville, but the Ravens have undergone many more changes: Ray Lewis and Matt Birk retired, Ed Reed went to Houston, Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco and Dennis Pitta is injured. The defense has many new pieces attempting to come together and the team is thin on pass catchers.

The Super Bowl champion is vulnerable, especially away from home.

Denver wins.

New England at Buffalo

The Patriots have their own issues with pass catchers this season. Four of the top five in receiving yards last year are no longer with the team and the fifth (Rob Gronkowski) is injured.

From 2004 to this season the Patriots have lost to the Bills only once, however. The Bills have a rookie head coach. They have a rookie starting quarterback who has missed the past couple of week because of a knee injury. If he isn’t ready to go come game-time his back-up is an undrafted rookie.

Tom Brady finds a way to get it done, at least in Week 1.

New England wins.

Cincinnati at Chicago

The Bears ran hot and cold last season. They won seven of their first eight games and looked like legitimate championship contenders then spiraled out of control losing five of their last eight games and missed the playoffs. With a rookie head coach coming over from the CFL, the question of what exactly will we get from the Bears remains.

The Bengals have looked fairly well in the preseason. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green continue to make a good combination but the defense is rather impressive. The defensive line, with Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, is one of the best in the league. The addition of James Harrison to the linebackers makes that group rather formidable as well.

Cincinnati wins.

Miami at Cleveland

The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. Ownership made moves this season to attempt to make sure that streak ended this year.

Many argue that Mike Wallace was overpaid in his new $60 million free-agent contract. That much money is always a gamble, and Wallace was 34th in the league in receiving yards in 2012 (836). But Miami needed help at the position; they had only 13 receiving touchdowns all season and fewer from wide receivers. They needed a deep threat and a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. Wallace was the best free agent wide receiver available.

The Dolphins made other additions and while it remains to be seen if they are good enough to overthrow the Patriots – a huge task – they are improved.

Miami wins.

Atlanta at New Orleans

The Falcons are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Matt Ryan had a career year last season and is still getting better, Julio Jones and Roddy White are possibly the best wide receiver tandem in the league, Tony Gonzalez was convinced to come back for one more season and Steven Jackson is an improvement at running back.

It’s not unreasonable to think that last year’s Saints 7-9 season was an aberration, a fluke, though. Bountygate and the suspension of head coach Sean Payton seemed to weigh on this team. Now Payton is back.

The Falcons may be the better team at the end, but the Saints will be opening the season at the Superdome, the fans will be loud and the team should feel a renewed sense of confidence with Payton returning.

New Orleans wins.

Tampa Bay at New York Jets

The Jets finished a poor 6-10 last season and they needed better play from the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez completed only 53 percent of his passes, threw only 13 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions, and fumbled nine times, including the infamous “butt fumble”. It wasn’t just the turnovers either, it was that many of them came at times when the Jets were driving and could score or even win the game. So they drafted Geno Smith in the second round.

He went on to throw three interceptions in preseason and seemingly won the starting role because Mark Sanchez is injured. That’s not to say Jets ownership wasn’t hoping he’d win the job all along, or that Smith won’t be successful eventually, but Week 1 is no sure thing.

They have to go up against former Jet Darrelle Revis.

Tampa Bay wins.

Tennessee at Pittsburgh

The Ravens won last year’s Super Bowl. The Bengals were on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The Steelers are entering the season under the radar, for a change of pace. They lost Mike Wallace at wide receiver and are unproven at running back, but Ben Roethlisberger is still the quarterback and Mike Tomlin is still the head coach.

The Titans are even more unproven. Jake Locker was inconsistent and the defense finished 27th in yards allowed. They didn’t make many noteworthy changes so until they prove this is a different squad than last year it’s tough to go with them.

Pittsburgh wins.

Minnesota at Detroit

The Vikings had the second-best rushing attack but the second-worst passing game. They lost leading receiver Percy Harvin in the offseason. It’s hard to believe that Adrian Peterson will have a season as good as last year.

The Lions added an interesting aspect to their offense, bringing in Reggie Bush. He’s played well for the Dolphins the past two seasons and you have to imagine with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions will really utilize Bush in the passing game.

Detroit wins.

Oakland at Indianapolis

The Raiders will be starting their fourth different quarterback on opening day in the past five years. Darren McFadden hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season and fans now just assume he will eventually get hurt. Their starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer, has a partially torn triceps and will be out for at least the first nine weeks. That’s not the consistency you want from your offense.

The Colts got a great season from Andrew Luck last year, even making the playoffs a year after the first overall draft pick. They’re looking to make even more progress this season and they seem to be hoping that Ahmad Bradshaw can give the offense another look.

Indianapolis wins.

Seattle at Carolina

The Seahawks are a trendy pick to make the Super Bowl. A tough defensive headlined by an aggressive secondary to go along with the charismatic Russell Wilson at quarterback and the thunderous Marshawn Lynch at running back.

Cam Newton cut down on his interceptions last season but he also had a lower completion percentage than in his rookie season. He is a gifted passer and rusher but in Week 1 it’s tough to imagine how he will do against such a strong defensive unit.

Seattle wins.

Kansas City at Jacksonville

With five Pro Bowlers already on the roster on both sides of the ball and special teams, the Chiefs added even more talent this offseason.

Kansas City drafted a top offensive lineman in Eric Fischer, extended Dwayne Bowe’s contract, signed veterans Dunta Robinson, Anthony Fasano and Sean Smith and, most importantly, traded for Alex Smith.
Smith may not have the flashiest arm, but he is a smart and efficient quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over. Had Smith not gotten hurt or had Colin Kaepernick not played so well, Smith might still be in San Francisco. For a team to climb from worst to first, cutting down turnovers and solidifying the quarterback position are very essential.

Kansas City wins.

Arizona at St. Louis

The Cardinals struggled terribly at the quarterback position. It was so bad it basically neutralized the talents of Larry Fitzgerald. After an impressive 4-0 start the team lost 11 of its finals 12 games. Some changes in Arizona should help reverse that.

The team brought in new head coach Bruce Arians, an offensive minded coach who has great success stepping in as the Colts interim coach last season. They brought in Carson Palmer to play quarterback; like him or not, he still threw for 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns with Oakland's lack of depth at wide receiver. They also brought in running back Rashard Mendenhall, who had an injury plagued 2012 but who the Cardinals' staff thinks still has plenty of football left in him.

Arizona wins.

Green Bay at San Francisco

This could be an NFC Championship game preview. Last year, the 49ers opened up the season at Lambeau with a victory.

What can Colin Kaepernick do for an encore? He might have caught some teams by surprise last year but his opposition has had a whole year to focus on him. And what will he do without his favorite target, Michael Crabtree, who is out with an injury? The team added Anquan Boldin and still has Vernon Davis, but Crabtree got most of Kaepernick's attention last season.

As for the Packers, can rookie Eddie Lacey give them a running presence that the team hasn't really had in Aaron Rodgers' time as starter?

San Francisco wins.
New York Giants at Dallas

These rivals open the season against each other again for the second straight year.

The Giants seem to struggle early in the season under Tom Coughlin and the team hasn't looked all too strong on offense this season and the defense has some question marks. The pass rush was once their strength, but Jason Pierre-Paul is banged up and didn't participate much in preseason, Justin Tuck was not as productive as in the past last season, and Osi Umenyiora and Chris Canty are elsewhere in the league.

The Cowboys are an extremely talented roster and it's time this team put it all together. An improved offensive line will be key in letting Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and company make plays.

Dallas wins.
Philadelphia at Washington

How will the Eagles take to Chip Kelly and his new offensive system? It would've been nice to see Jeremy Maclin running routes but he's injured. Still, despite a rough couple two years in 2011 and 2012, they still have playmakers on offense. Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LaSean McCoy can still move and this offense should cater to them.

The Redskins success will largely depend on the health of Robert Griffin III. He's ready to go for the opener, but will he continue to play at the same level. Will the injury affect his burst? Will he play more tentatively to try and not get hit? If he gets hit will it affect him? Or will he come back even better, like Adrian Peterson did last year?

Philadelphia wins.
Houston at San Diego

The Texans have finally gotten over the first hump. They’ve beaten the Indianapolis Colts. They’ve made the playoffs. They’ve won the division. Now they need to clear the next hurdle: get past the Divisional Round.
They are 2-2 the past two seasons in the playoffs, beating the Bengals in the Wild Card round, but can’t get any further. They still have Arian Foster at running back and the defense is very talented.

The Chargers got subpar performance from Philip Rivers and Ryan Matthews cannot stay healthy.
The team has a whole new coaching staff and maybe something other than Norv Turner will do them some good, but they are definitely opening the season below the radar and without many expectations.

Houston wins.

Last Season: 165-90

No comments:

Post a Comment