You smell that, Kiddies?! Fresh cut grass. Leaves beginning to change color. It’s football season, baby! Forget about baseball until October (when Detroit wins the World Series). Forget about the hockey season looming. It’s time for the great, hard-hitting true American tradition. Every week I will be breaking down the matchups and providing insight for the NFL season. You may not agree with every pick, but you should. I know my football.
Note: Teams in BOLD are picked as winner.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are going to be one of the main teams to beat this year in the AFC. They’ll start by smacking around the current Superbowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Baltimore lost future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and I felt like their run last year was already a fluke. Having major holes on their defense to start this season won’t help their chances to repeat. Denver, without defensive captain Von Miller for the first handful of games won’t help, but it won’t slow down their high-powered offense. With the addition of Wes Welker, look for Peyton to make some serious noise.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Alright, so every fantasy league has drafted Adrian Peterson number one overall, but he can’t play both sides of the ball for Minnesota (even though they should probably try.) The Vikings passing attack has been more than questionable with Christian Ponder now on the chopping block. This season may be his last chance to step up before packing his bags or permanently holding a clipboard. Detroit made additions on both sides of the ball. One’s that will greatly improve the run-game (Reggie Bush), add to the passing attack (Reggie, again), and reek havoc on any offensive squad (D-Line). Stafford has to step up and become more accurate. With another target in Bush, look for Matthew to keep his numbers high…but unfortunately his interceptions too. Minnesota doesn’t have the secondary or speed to keep up with Detroit. And good luck manning up against Megatron.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
The Pats lost Wes Welker to Denver, Gronkowski to nightclubs, and Hernandez to prison. Don’t let these losses fool you, Tom Brady could throw touchdowns to a paraplegic. Buffalo doesn’t stand a chance, especially not with an undrafted free agent rookie quarterback who’s collegiate record was 4-22. Better hope CJ Spiller is the second-coming of Christ to have any chance. Regardless, if I’m any defense, I’m stacking the box to make sure he doesn’t ever break free. Tommy Salami will test-run his rookie wideouts in Dobson and Thompkins as the Patriots break the scoreboard in this matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
After spending the preseason and training camp on HBO’s Hard Knocks, Cincy is looking to make bigger splashes in the football world. AJ Green is their big asset on the offensive side of the ball. He and Dalton have a little Stafford/Megatron bromance going on. If Andy doesn’t learn to distribute the ball around the field, defenses will catch on. Thankfully he’s got new targets in Gio Bernard out of the backfield and rookie sensation Tyler Eifert at tight end. Defensive side of the ball, look for them to compete heavily and stuff high-powered offenses. Cutler is a half-way decent QB, but he’s got to learn to distribute as well. With the addition of Martellus Bennett, it can’t hurt. Losing future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher will be the major absence on this squad. This will be a close matchup, but I expect the Bengals to skate by.
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
Two words: Trent Richardson. Miami added Dion Jordan in this year’s draft, but that doesn’t mean they’ve filled EVERY serious need. Making large investments in Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, and company, they better hope it pans out. Lamar Miller has his shot at the starting RB position, but he needs to stay healthy in order for them to have a balanced offense. Cleveland doesn’t have as much of a well-rounded team, but I feel that they have enough to upset the Dolphins this week as Miami is going to need time to figure out their offense. “Ground ‘N Pound” with Trent all-day, Dawg Pound! I know Manny likes this pick.
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
Coming off a stellar rookie season, Andrew Luck proved why he was the first overall pick in last year’s draft. The team has added more targets for him to use and kept the ones that mattered most. The most notable addition to the team is Ahmad Bradshaw. If the running back can stay healthy for a full season, look for Indy to sneak up and surprise some teams. Oakland is still trying to figure out what the hell their going to do, as they do every season. Starting Terrelle Pryor seems like the appropriate decision, right?!
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
New Orleans loses players every year but still competes with the help of Drew Brees. Not their best season last year without head coach Sean Payton, but best believe their squad will bounce back with a vengeance. Their defense has many holes, but Rob Ryan knows they’re a work in progress. If Breesy can put up points like always, it won’t matter how many they give up. As long as the Saints have 1 more point at the end of the game, that’s all that matters. Atlanta is one of the most high-powered, consistently solid offenses in the league. Their studs stay healthy and they’ve gained a star running back in Stephen Jackson. I expect them to do the usual: have a good year, then shit the bed in the first week of the playoffs/wildcard. New Orleans back on fire in Week 1 with party animal Payton returning.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
I’ll be honest, if the Jets had their QB situation figured out, wide receivers to pass to, and a healthy Darrelle Revis, I’d probably take them in this matchup. I picked the Bills to finish last in the division behind the Jets, so I see them sneaking up a snagging a couple of wins, just not this week. Their QB situation is and always will be questionable with their current roster. I like Geno Smith’s skill-set, but it’s all about being healthy and getting in sync with your receivers (which are dwindling and battling injuries—Santonio with his Lisfranc injury is the biggest threat). Freeman has a ways to go with the Bucs, but I like their additions in Revis Island, Hillis, drafting of Johnathan Banks, and the beast in the backfield, Doug Martin. Look for them to take advantage of a sad Jets team.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Their RB situation remains to be a huge question mark. With Le’Veon Bell battling a Lisfranc injury, the Steelers must rely on the veteran play of Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephen-Howlings, and the newly acquired Felix Jones. Recently cutting highly touted young running back, Johnathan Dwyer due to him “not taking his job seriously” could backfire, but they should be able to hang in the first few weeks before Bell comes back. With a healthy Big Ben and Antonio Brown, they should take to the air more often than their typical ground ‘n pound game. Expect sleeper Emmanuel Sanders to have a great year as Roethlisberger loves hitting speedy slot receivers (Note: Antonio Brown’s past couple of seasons.) Tennessee just doesn’t have the tools to keep up with the Steeler squad. With QB Jake Locker in a “succeed or die” season, he’ll attempt to do more than he should. The Titans need to lean more heavily on the legs of their speedy running back, Chris Johnson. One man won’t be enough. Steelers by a bundle.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Everyone seems to be on the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon. I love their defense–easily in the top 3 in the league. But I feel that their offense had a cake-walk, fortunate season last year. After acquiring Percy Harvin, the team was destined for great things. Now they probably won’t have him until after Thanksgiving. Just hope Marshawn Lynch stays healthy or it could be a turn for the worst. Russell Wilson has a great skill-set, but in my opinion, his rookie season was a fluke. Look for him to force more balls and try to do too much. I like Carolina this year, especially Cam Newton, but he’s not gonna be enough to dethrone the current NFC Champions. Cam will do great things this year with both his arm and legs. Especially with new secret weapon in the slot, Ted Ginn. He loves his small, speedy receivers. This game will be close, but the Panthers just don’t have enough to keep up with the Seahawks offense or compete with their defense. In those terms, its an easy matchup for the reigning NFC Champs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Face it, Jacksonville is the worst team in the league—by a landslide. Even if Mojo Drew can stay healthy, they don’t have the team to compete with anyone. Gabbert is one of the sketchiest and inconsistent quarterbacks in the league. I’d honestly take my chances with Henne, and I think they will make the change by Week 4….if Gabbert can stay healthy that long. Drafting Tackle Luke Joeckel will help buy their QB a little bit of time, but not much. Look for them to snag Clowney with the first pick in next year’s draft. Kansas City is looking to turn their franchise around. With the additions of Head Coach Andy Reid, Quarterback Alex Smith, Donnie Avery, #1 Draft pick Eric Fisher (“Fire Up Chips!”), and TE Anthony Fasano, they’ve given the offense more than enough options. Keep Jamaal Charles healthy and good things will come. Let Alex Smith have his second chance at leading a team in KC with the guidance of Reid and their offense could make a serious splash. Not only that, but their secondary of Berry, Flowers, Smith, and Robinson should clean up. Especially against Jacksonville in Week 1.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
I like the addition of Quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona, but can he revitalize his career or is it too late? The former Heisman Trophy winner has had a bumpy road since Cincy, but he’s got targets in Fitzgerald, Floyd, and Roberts to do some damage. Last time Palmer had such great targets, Chad Johnson was going through an identity crisis (Note: Chad Ochocinco.) The addition of Mendenhall in the backfield will give the Cardinals more options, especially when he’s healthy. Patrick Peterson and the Honey Badger to man the air in the secondary and do some serious damage in the return game. The Rams are a sleeper team this year that I am amped to watch. I really feel like their team is capable of making a playoff run—Wildcard at the very least. The loss of Stephen Jackson doesn’t even leave a hole in their offense with the beast, Daryl Richardson and company at halfback. The second-year stud is quicker, faster, and has better hands than the previous dread-wearing RB. I’m sure Sam Bradford is excited to air out the ball to draft pick and speed demon Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, and Brian Quick. With the availability to now dump the ball and perform halfback screens (with Richardson, Pead, and Stacy), their offense has been revamped and is stronger than it has been since the days of the “Greatest Show on Turf”. Thankfully, Bradford now has his blindside covered by the stud LT out of Michigan, Jake Long. Bradford can now extend his health and put up some serious numbers. Rams to make a splash in the NFC this year.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Face it, San Francisco easily has one of the best all-around teams in all of football. Colin Kaepernick will now have his chance to start a full season and show what he can do in the air and with his feet. Think he wow’ed people last year, just wait for him to do work this year. I expect him to have a better season than his division rival, Russell Wilson. Losing Michael Crabtree early on in training camp hurt them, but they’ve been so active in trades and free agency that they can still compete offensively until he returns. Anquan Boldin was brought in for a steal. I’m sure that was Jim Harbaugh’s consolation prize for losing the Superbowl to his brother John. On top of Boldin, Baldwin and Patton provide new speed and size. Not to mention, Vernon Davis has been spending the majority of training camp lining up at Wide Receiver on the outside—could bring some serious mismatches with his size and ferocity. He and Kaep didn’t get in-sync until later in the postseason last year–look for that to change early on. Green Bay always has a solid, gritty team, especially while being led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Aaron Rodgers. Eddie Lacy provides them with a great running back for a change, one with the ability to run the ball with great power and size mixed with some shifty footwork. If Cobb, Nelson, and Jones can stay healthy, Rodgers and the Green Bay offense will have a great season…just not gonna happen this week against the Niners. Linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis will make sure Rodgers doesn’t get out of reach.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
These are two teams that have great talent, but usually don’t take it very far. Sure, the Giants have been plagued with injuries to their Wide Receivers, but that isn’t the whole issue. Both teams have decent QB’s that can air out the ball. Both have stellar receivers when healthy. Both have running backs who have been promoted to bigger roles (Wilson now the starter for the NYG, Murray solo in the backfield for Dallas). I honestly hate the Giants defense. They have one of the sketchiest, underachieving secondaries in all of football. Tony Romo should have a huge day in the air against this shabby defense as he picks them apart. Look for Dez and Jason Witten to be in the end zone in a hurry. Hate it or love it, I’ve got the Giants finishing last in the NFC East. Time to rebuild, New York.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
This will be one of the most exciting matchups this week. I love the fact that Chip Kelly has handed over the keys to Michael Vick to run his fast-pace, cardio-filled offense. Defenses better be ready to keep up, and I’m not so sure Washington has the speed on “D” (minus my boy DeAngelo Hall) to do so. RGIII needs more protection and needs to learn how to use the sideline to his advantage to extend his durability. Mike Shanahan will preserve his legs for more use inside of the redzone this year. This will be a close matchup with the speed of Chip Kelly’s offense and RGIII and Alfred Morris on the ‘Skins. Scoreboard might implode. Washington skates by.
Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers
Two words for this week and all season long: Arian Foster. This dude has all of the intangibles for greatness—size, speed, durability, quickness, and great hands. On the other side of the ball, they can rely on veteran leadership from LB Brian Cushing, DE J.J. Watt, and the newly acquired Safety Ed Reed. I’m still not a fan of Matt Schaub, but he’ll be keeping his job for now. Adding WR DeAndre Hopkins in this year’s draft with the oversized WR Andre Johnson opposite to him leaves Schaub with some huge targets—and always his safety blanket, TE Owen Daniels. Their offense is clearly lead by Foster, but Schaub should have some serious success with the depth while under center. San Diego has been in a funk for awhile now. Philip Rivers is one of the most successful late-season Quarterbacks, but he’s going to have to get things going with some unfamiliar targets. Losing WR Alexander early on in training camp and Malcolm Floyd banged up, he’s going to have to take advantage of the newly acquired RB Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. Remember, LT and Darren Sproles had the majority of their success in San Diego with Rivers under center. When he has a speedy Running Back to dump the ball to, he can let them do the work. Look for Woodhead to be a great sleeper this year. Sproles caliber success. Houston’s defense proves to be too much for Rivers and Company. Watt will most likely leave Rivers crying for the ref to blow the whistle.