Sep 16, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2nd half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Previews and Predictions: Week 1

In an offseason dominated by Johnny Manziel and countless off the field issues, who’s ready for some football? Darrelle Revis is a New England Patriot. The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles swapped back-up quarterbacks.

We have all waited for this day since February 2nd. The NFL is officially back, folks. Week 1 has plenty of tasty match-ups to offer.

I’ll be here every week, breaking down each game from the National Football League. Let’s jump right into Week 1.

 

Green Bay at Seattle

Thursday night is when it all begins. The defending champions will host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Everyone is talking about how the Packers will be seeking revenge over Seattle, after receiving the short end of the stick by the NFL’s infamous replacement officials in 2012. Of course both teams want to open the season with a victory, but this game has big implications, which go beyond 2012.  Both squads have Super Bowl aspirations, which makes a win in Week 1 all the more important.

The game can be broken down easily. The Packers boast one of the best offenses in the league, while the Seahawks have a top-tier defense. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether the home team can put up points. We saw what they did defensively in the Super Bowl, against a high-powered offense. Opening the season in front of the 12th fan is always beneficial for Pete Carroll’s squad as well. Give me the champions on opening night.

Seahawks win 31-21

 

Jacksonville at Philadelphia

Listen up! The Jacksonville Jaguars are an up-and-coming team. Head coach Gus Bradley is building a team that will most likely contend in the AFC for the next five to ten years. He learned everything from the model that the Seahawks have predicated their franchise around, and look how well they’re doing. That being said, Chad Henne is still the starting quarterback. Until the Jaguars are certain that Blake Bortles has the protection and weapons around him to succeed, the third overall pick in this year’s draft won’t be starting.

Let’s not forget who Jacksonville is playing either. The Eagles are coming off of a remarkable 2013 season, and they can be even better in 2014. No, Nick Foles won’t throw 2 interceptions the entire season, but he’s the real deal under center. This is easily a top-5 offense in the league, led by the offensive genius that is Chip Kelly. As much as I like what the Jaguars are building down in Florida, they are not on the same level as the Eagles.

Eagles win 34-14

 

Oakland at New York Jets

It seems like the Jets are always making the news. Despite the dysfunction that we’ve become accustomed to when talking about New York, this team is a cornerback away from being a playoff team, but right now they can’t seem to catch a break. Three potential contributors to the secondary are either currently injured (Dee Milliner & Dexter McDougle) or no longer with the team (Dimitri Patterson). McDougle’s knee injury will likely make him unavailable for the year. Milliner is likely out for this game, but he will be huge for this team when he comes back. As for Dimitri Patterson, he’s no longer a New York Jet, after his disappearing act two weeks ago.

As for the Oakland Raiders, things could be looking up. There is a new Carr starting in the league, and his name is Derek. The brother of David and another Fresno State product, this Carr appears to be the real deal. He wasn’t exactly battling Peyton Manning in training camp, but Matt Schaub was a worthy opponent. The Raiders have added quality pieces around their rookie signal-caller as well, in running back Maurice Jones-Drew and receiver James Jones. The same goes for the defense, where another rookie, Khalil Mack, will man the middle of the field.

It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Oakland came into MetLife Stadium and defeated Rex Ryan’s team, but the trip across the country is always difficult. As good as Derek Carr has looked against second strings in the preseason, the Jets do have a top-notch defensive front-seven, which will put him under duress.

Jets win 28-21

 

New Orleans at Atlanta

The New Orleans Saints appear to be one of the teams to beat not only in the NFC, but the entire league. Drew Brees is still doing his thing at the quarterback position, and he has plenty of weapons around him. It seems like New Orleans are in the mix every year, and after a disappointing loss to Seattle in the 2013 postseason, the Saints will be looking to make another Super Bowl run.

For Atlanta, quarterback Matt Ryan will need his running game to step up in 2014. Ryan certainly wasn’t the problem in 2013, throwing for over 4,500 yards, despite the loss of target receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons defense will need to get some stops as well because when you’re in shootouts with Drew Brees and other high-level quarterbacks, it’s hard for someone even like Matt Ryan to keep up.

Saints win 42-35

 

Minnesota at St. Louis

Despite having a solid preseason, Teddy Bridgewater will be the number 2 quarterback in Minnesota, for the time being. Matt Cassel will be the one under center, but he needs to put up points. The Vikings were one of the worst teams in 2013, but with emerging receiving targets Kyle Rudolph and Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing game, Minnesota should be able to contend with teams. Don’t forget that they also have Adrian Peterson in the backfield.

Up until the third preseason game, it appeared that St. Louis had their team figured out. They were going to contend in the NFC West. That was of course predicated on having their starting quarterback. Sam Bradford is out though, and his career as a Ram could very well be over. Journeyman Shaun Hill will be under center on Sunday, and although he isn’t a scrub, he has never been anything to write home about. St. Louis still has one of the best defenses in the NFL, and will be able to keep them in some games, like this one.

Vikings win 21-17

 

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

Well, Johnny Manziel won’t be starting. That’s basically all that I have to say about Cleveland. Just kidding. It’s going to be difficult for this team to get anything going offensively, unless Brian Hoyer can get help from his receivers. Andrew Hawkins and an injury-prone Miles Austin aren’t really top-notch targets. Fortunately for the Browns, they do have tight end Jordan Cameron, as well as a solid run game, led by Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West. Cleveland also boast a very talented defense, which will need to be on top of its game in order to keep this team in the NFC North mix.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of several AFC teams that just missed the playoffs in 2013. Ben Roethlisberger needs some help this year. He lost Emmanuel Sanders this offseason to Denver, so Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton will have to make some plays. The offense also includes second-year back Le’Veon Bell, who proved to be very effective in his rookie year. In one of the most competitive divisions in football, Pittsburgh will be the team that is around in December.

Steelers win 28-10

 

Cincinnati at Baltimore

Andy Dalton got his money, and he hasn’t won a playoff game yet. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Dalton’s, but the guy can play. Having A.J. Green on the outside is always helpful too. The Bengals are essentially the same team as last season. Their biggest killer will be themselves. Cincinnati have to grow in all phases of the game, in order to make a playoff run. There is no doubt in my mind that they will make the postseason, it’s a question of how far they can go.

After winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago, the Ravens missed out on the playoffs in 2013. Joe Flacco is poised for a break out season, despite missing Ray Rice for the first two games. Baltimore added Carolina receiver Steve Smith, and with Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta, this passing attack has serious potential. Like the rest of the teams in the division, the Ravens have a fierce defense, but I don’t think they’ll stop the Bengals in the opening game.

Bengals win 28-21

 

Buffalo at Chicago

The Buffalo Bills, like the Jets, were hoping to see something from their second-year quarterback in the preseason. EJ Manuel didn’t impress anyone. Sure, it was preseason, but Buffalo looks to be in a world of trouble, having just drafted their “quarterback of the future” last year. Head coach Doug Marrone passed over his own guy from Syracuse, Ryan Nassib, to get Manuel. This year’s first round pick Sammy Watkins is battling injury, which is unfortunate for the Bills, who don’t have many other options in the receiver department.

That being said, Chicago will have no troubles with their offense. Jay Cutler needs to build off of his fantastic preseason, and it shouldn’t be difficult with the talents at his disposal. Defense will be the main area of concern for this team. The days of Brian Urlacher are gone. Chicago does have an above average secondary, but they don’t have many players up front who scare you. They replaced Julius Pepper with Minnesota’s Jared Allen, but at this stage of his career, it isn’t a huge upgrade. The Bears will be just fine for Week 1 though, as they roll over Buffalo.

Bears win 35-21

 

Washington at Houston

Joe Theismann recently came out and said that RG3 (Robert Griffin III) shouldn’t be starting. No disrespect to the Hall of Fame quarterback, but it’s not his decision. Griffin will start against Houston, and I believe that he’ll be effective. Houston has a ferocious defensive line, but they can easily be exposed in the passing game. The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge, so look for Washington to air it out against Houston.

Houston drafted a quarterback (Tom Savage), acquired one this offseason (Ryan Fitzpatrick), and recently traded for one (Ryan Mallett). Wow, that makes things interesting, right? Fitzpatrick is the starter, currently at least. Houston doesn’t look like a team that will be winning many games in 2014 (although I do think they’ll win more than 2), unless they get something out of one of these quarterbacks. Their defensive backfield is a bismal, so it will essential that JJ Watt and first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

Redskins win 28-14

 

Tennessee at Kansas City

The Tennessee Titans need quarterback Jake Locker to stay healthy. If he continues his trend of injury in 2014, it won’t be long before Zach Mettenberger is the man under center. Tennessee aren’t on many people’s radars, but they have the potential to make some noise in a relatively weak AFC South. Ultimately, I think they have too many questions offensively to get the job done.

The Kansas City Chiefs had a phenomenal 2013 regular season, and they are back to expand on their success. Alex Smith got an extension this offseason, so he needs to take the next step from game-manager. In fairness to him, he doesn’t have a lot to work with. Tight end Travis Kelce will be Smith’s best friend this season. That will be the biggest regret for this franchise, after missing out on many talented receivers in the year’s draft. That being said, the Chiefs sill boast an excellent defense, which will keep them in many games.

Chiefs win 21-10

 

New England at Miami

The Patriots are back for another season of AFC East dominance. Their defense shouldn’t skip a beat, replacing Aqib Talib with Darrelle Revis at the cornerback position, as well as the addition of Brandon Browner. The former Seahawk will be suspended the first six games, but his presence will be felt when he returns. New England’s offense, led by Tom Brady, will be close to the top for another season, making it very tough for opposing teams to hang with them.

Miami went out and essentially replaced their entire offensive line. That doesn’t bode well for a team that struggled keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright in 2013. The Dolphins need Mike Wallace to make plays this season. For the money they are paying him, he certainly didn’t live up to expectations last year. Tannehill is another quarterback playing for his future in 2014, and will need his running backs to make some plays. The running game was a serious question last season, but if the offensive line struggles again, the rushing attack will as well.

Patriots win 34-21

 

Carolina at Tampa Bay

For the Carolina Panthers, they are a team that truly resemble that of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both of these teams have superb defenses, but lack the offensive firepower. Cam Newton is coming off of an ankle injury, and his receiving corps is seriously depleted. He’ll rely on tight end Greg Olson and rookie Kelvin Benjamin heavily in 2014.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were given a serious make-over this offseason. They have a new coach in Lovie Smith, as well as a new quarterback in 35 year old Josh McCown. Tampa has a promising offense, with Doug Martin in the backfield, and Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans at the receiving spots. Lovie Smith has made a name for himself with his defenses, and he this team has a good one. Look for the Bucs to shock some people this season. They get a big win early in the year.

Buccaneers win 28-17

 

San Francisco at Dallas

Historically, this would be one of the best match-ups of the season.  Both teams are struggling mightily though heading into this season. The 49ers are in a world of trouble, losing two (Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith), possibly three (Ray McDonald) premier defensive starters. In addition their defensive troubles, the offense hasn’t looked good either. I expect this team to figure things out because of head coach Jim Harbaugh, especially against Dallas, who have arguably the worst defense in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys must be banking on Tony Romo and the offense to win games because they didn’t do anything to help their defense this offseason. DeMarcus Ware is gone and Shawn Lee suffered yet another injury in the spring. All I can say is good luck Cowboys fans. This looks like the year that Dallas will finally break their streak of .500, finishing below their typical 8-8 record.

49ers win 31-24

 

Indianapolis at Denver

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the league’s up and comers with Andrew Luck at the helm. Luck is the real deal. He doesn’t have elite receivers, but he makes everyone around him better. The defense will be the biggest question, especially with the absence of Robert Mathis for the first four games. I expect the Colts to be around in January, but opening the season in Denver is a tough task.

The Broncos are out to avenge their Super Bowl embarrassment to the Seattle Seahawks. They look like a team that are poised to make another run to the NFL’s championship game. Peyton Manning looked better than ever in 2013, and nothing he’s shown this offseason leads me to believe that he’ll fall off. They improved their defense with DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib coming in, and replacing Eric Decker with Emmanuel Sanders on offense. Denver are my pick to return to the Super Bowl from the AFC. They’ll win their opener.

Broncos win 42-28

 

New York Giants at Detroit

The Giants have had a very interesting offseason to say the least. They made big changes on the defensive side of the ball, adding players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jon Beason. Meanwhile, the Giants offense is currently struggling, while trying to figure out the new West-Coast offense. Eli Manning can’t stay upright, and when he does, he looks lost throwing the ball. The good news for Big Blue is that they have had success in the preseason running the ball with Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams.

Detroit is a team that needs to win now. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards in 2013, yet his team finished 7-9. The Lions must have a bounce-back year defensively in order to contend in the difficult NFC North. They will be able to put up points for sure, with Calvin Johnson and former Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. The Lions also have Reggie Bush and Joique Bell coming out of the backfield. Their weapons offensively will be too much for New York in Week 1.

 

Lions win 31-21

 

San Diego at Arizona

The Chargers were one of three AFC West teams to qualify for the postseason in 2013, and I fully expect them to get back there this year. Phillip Rivers looked like an elite quarterback last season, and the team around him is much better. San Diego have a very underrated defense to go along with their high-octane offense.

For the Cardinals, they will need Carson Palmer to have a big year. He has the weapons around him, but it’s up to Palmer to make big plays. His performance will be key, especially with the defense decimated by injuries. Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington will likely miss the entire season. Both men will be missed greatly, on a defense that was considered one of the best in 2013.

Chargers win 24-21

 

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