The preseason is finally behind us and we can get ready for some real football where the records actually count! Although it is getting a late start this season, the NFL will be back and better than ever with all teams looking to stamp their ticket to the playoffs come December. A new campaign means a new slate for a lot of teams and what a welcome relief that is for some squads. Below is how I see the first weekend of action shaking out. As per the usual with Week 1 games, it is a crapshoot, but that is what makes things so interesting. Who will be good? Who’s gonna be mediocre? The time of discovery has begun!
Last Season: 161-101-1
Thursday, September 10th, 8:30 e.t.
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) @ New England Patriots (0-0)
About a week ago, this game would have been a tougher one for me to pick, however since Tom Brady’s suspension has been overturned, he will lead the Patriots out on to the field opening night as New England looks to defend its Super Bowl Championship. Meanwhile, the Steelers are going to be without Le’Veon Bell, a key member of this offense. The defense, although not pitiful, could find it tough standing up to the Pat’s offense. The only saving grace that Pittsburgh may have comes with the fact that the Patriots have a weak secondary. Ben Roethlisberger will exploit that if given enough time in the pocket. I do want to pick the Steelers to take the “W”, but New England (although the champions) will have something to prove on Thursday night, and you better believe they are going to give it their best effort. This should be a good game to kick off the 2015 season.
New England 31, Pittsburgh 25
Sunday, September 13th, 1:00 e.t.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) @ Houston Texans (0-0)
Coming off of a season where not a single wide receiver had a receiving touchdown, the Chiefs look to change their ways when they go on the road to visit the Texans. The Houston defensive line is so diesel that they eat nails in their cereal for breakfast… without the milk. A suspect Kansas City offensive line will have to hold their water somewhat. Luckily, Andy Reid’s offense is predicated on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly, and past the front seven, Houston has some problems. This could be the difference in the game. It also does not help that the Texans are going to be without Arian Foster for (what looks to be) at least the first month of the season.
Kansas City 24, Houston 14
Miami Dolphins (0-0) @ Washington Redskins (0-0)
Can Kirk Cousins lead the Redskins to an upset victory over the Miami Dolphins? Does drafting Ameer Abdullah #1 overall in your fantasy draft sound like a good idea (this actually happened). The Dolphins have one of the highest ceilings of all the teams in the AFC this season and they should come out and pounce all over the Redskins in the opening Week. Washington’s offensive line is atrocious and the Miami front four is pretty grizzly if you ask me. Cousins better hope there is a giant spatula waiting on the sidelines because he may have to be pried off the ground quite a few times in this one. And no, Ndamukong Suh does not superkick anybody in the face in this contest either.
Miami 37, Washington 10
Indianapolis Colts (0-0) @ Buffalo Bills (0-0)
In what is, perhaps, the most intriguing contests on the Week 1 docket, the Colts take their (what should be) elite offense on the road to face off against Buffalo’s solid defense. This will also be Rex Ryan’s coaching debut for the Billikens. Tyrod Taylor gets the nod at QB for Buffalo, and he squares up against Andrew Luck, the last quarterback he faced as a starter from all the way back in his college days. Of course Indianapolis seems to be the sexy pick here, but something about this one smells like a trap game. LeSean McCoy’s status is still up in the air (as of the writing of this article), but my money is on him getting a few looks in the game on Sunday. This, coupled with a strong defense could pose a problem to the Colts and their aspirations for a 1-0 start. By the season’s end, Indy will be the better team, but for Week 1, it will be the Bills standing tall.
Buffalo 21, Indianapolis 16
Seattle Seahawks (0-0) @ St. Louis Rams (0-0)
With Kam Chanceller playing the role of the blinking ghosts from Pacman, you may think that the Seahawks are going to struggle a bit in this game. However, I see them ramming the gates and laying the smackdown on the Rams. Jeff Fisher’s team almost always plays hard in division games, and this week will be no different, but the Seahawks’ offense will prove to be too much for the St. Louis defense to handle. Russell Wilson looked good in the preseason, and he has some new toys to play with on offense in Jimmy Graham and rookie Tyler Lockette (who shined in the preseason). Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson could prove to be one of the best combos in the backfield in the whole league as well. While the Rams think they have found their long-term quarterback in Nick Foles, I say that they may not have. Last year and during the preseason this year, Foles has been a bit careless with the ball and that does not bode well for him, especially against a unit that thrives when it comes to forcing the opponents into mental errors. I’m taking Seattle in this one.
Seattle 31, St. Louis 17
Cleveland Browns (0-0) @ New York Jets (0-0)
This battle is certainly a far-cry from the Roethlisberger-Brady match-up that we will see opening night when it comes to quarterback battles (as we will see Josh McCown vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick), but there could be a lot of good defense on the field Sunday. Sheldon Richardson will not be participating for the Jets due to his suspension, but Gang Green still has a formidable defense and has turned a weakness (the secondary) into a real strength with the re-addition of Darrelle Revis. In a game where the “D” will rule the afternoon, it seems logical to side with the team that has the more solid unit, and that definitely seems to be the Jets. Todd Bowles picks up a win in his head-coaching debut for New York.
New York 20, Cleveland 9
Carolina Panthers (0-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)
In the cat-fight of Week 1, we get to see the Panthers tangle whiskers with the Jaguars. I’m having a tough time calling this one because I really don’t think that Carolina is well off without Kelvin Benjamin this year, but at the same time I’m not so high on Jacksonville either. Like many of the battles this weekend, this one is going to come down to defense. The Jags have a good unit on that side of the ball and could become a nightmare for Cam Newton if his offensive line decides they want to chill on this sweltering afternoon. At least the skies shouldn’t open up on this contest like they did back in Week 3 of 2011. They are still trying to get the water off the field in Charlotte from that one. Oh yeah, Jacksonville pulls the upset. Why? Because we want to see them start the season 1-0. Also because Cam Newton might be too busy picking grass out of his facemask to see the field well enough. I see the Jags dropping him at least four times here.
Jacksonville 16, Carolina 10
Green Bay Packers (0-0) @ Chicago Bears (0-0)
The Packers are looking to become the 95th team in franchise history to kick the Bear’s ass (words brought to you by Mike McCarthy). I don’t doubt it. The Bears defense has it’s work cut out for them on this afternoon against an offense that is fairly capable of dropping a forty burger on any given week. I’ve got a feeling they will be grilling one on Sunday as well. Chicago has, on paper, a nice looking offense, but words and theories can only get you so far in this league. Minus Jordy Nelson, this Green Bay offense still looks to be elite and that will always be the case as long as #12 is the quarterback. Not to mention (but I’ll mention anyways) the fact that Eddie Lacy is a healthy bowling ball who will promptly plow through the Bear’s defense like it were powder snow. Chicago just doesn’t have the horses to run with Green Bay’s offense right now and their defense does not stand a chance if Aaron Rodgers gets rolling.
Green Bay 44, Chicago 21
Sunday, September 13th, 4:05 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (0-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
The Cardinals enter the season as the favorites to lock down second place in the NFC West. The Saints are the favorites to confuse and befuddle NFL analysts everywhere this year. We don’t know what New Orleans is going to be, but I do think it is safe to say that if both teams play at their best, the the Saints are the better unit. This one is all about quarterback play and, to be frank, Carson Palmer (who hasn’t played a regular season game since Week 10 last year) cannot hold a candle to Drew Brees. Running the ball against the Arizona defense is not recommended, but throwing it could be. Last season, the Cards gave up a lot of yards, but were saved by the fact that they did not surrender a whole lot of points. If the Saints can punch it into the end zone a few times and hold their own on defense this week, they should leave town with a win.
New Orleans 23, Arizona 17
Detroit Lions (0-0) @ San Diego Chargers (0-0)
Traveling west, the Lions will tussle with the Chargers in a pretty interesting match-up. The Detroit defense still looks strong, even though they have lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley over the offseason. They did pick up Haloti Ngata from the Ravens to help bolster that unit, and continue to stymie the run game. That should pay off for them this year and in this game. Offensively, that Lions could be one of the better teams in football with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and a nice crop of runningbacks. I see Detroit losing some tough games this season, but not right out of the gates. Let’s face it, San Diego isn’t exactly a place that most teams fear visiting. There shouldn’t be much of a home-field advantage for the Bolts here, and because of that the Lions blast past them.
Detroit 27, San Diego 14
Sunday, September 13th, 4:25 e.t.
Baltimore Ravens (0-0) @ Denver Broncos (0-0)
The last time the Ravens went to Denver, Peyton Manning rained touchdowns on them like they were confetti. He tossed seven of those back in 2013 when these two teams last faced off in the regular season. I see this one playing out much differently. First of all, Manning will not be throwing anywhere near seven touchdowns. Secondly, he won’t have to as the Broncos have a decent running game to rely on. The Raves are going to do everything in their power to keep the ball in their possession and away from #18, but they will have a tough time scoring touchdowns, and that is what will kill them in this game. This contest could give us the best game of the opening weekend, and it is all going to end when Peyton Manning throws his second touchdown of the game with less than two minutes remaining. Joe Flacco turns the ball over on the following possession, solidifying the win for Denver. This is what my crystal ball is telling me.
Denver 28, Baltimore 22
Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) @ Oakland Raiders (0-0)
Some people actually believe that redheads have no souls. Other fans in the NFL think that Raiders fans have no souls either. So the long of the short of it is that we will have a lot mysterious things packed into the O.Co Colosseum on Sunday. Oakland’s defense looks to be much improved over a year ago, and their offense is probably about 1000x better as well. The Bengals, to me, are moving in the opposite direction. They have excellent players at the skill positions on offense, but something about Andy Dalton playing well this week doesn’t seem to sit well with me. I could be proven dead wrong with this one, but I see the Raiders defense stealing the show and smothering the Bengals’ offense in this one. It’s idiot or genius time here, no playing it safe with this prediction.
Oakland 13, Cincinnati 10
Tennessee Titans (0-0) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
This is probably the best game in a long to feature two horrible teams from a year ago in Week one of the following season. We get to see the #1 overall pick Jameis Winston take on the #2 overall pick in Marcus Mariota. In college the last time these two faced off (in the Rose Bowl) it was Mariota and his ducks getting the jump on the ‘Noles. That probably does not happen this time around. All and all, the Buccaneers have the much more solid team and Winston has much better targets to throw the ball to than Mariota does. Also, the defense looks like it is much stronger for the home team as well. Tampa Bay is much better than they were a year ago and they will prove it by clipping the Titans here.
Tampa Bay 23, Tennessee 13
Sunday, September 13th, 8:30 e.t
New York Giants (0-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
The NFC East could be one of the most jumbled divisions in all of football this season, and this game could go a long way into determining positioning within it. The Cowboys are coming off of their finest season in quite some time, but they have lost one of their best offensive players in DeMarco Murray. The Giants are gaining strength with their offense. For the first time since Week 6 last year, Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. will be together on the field and that could spell trouble for the Dallas “D”. That said, the ‘Boys still have the best offensive line in football and the Giants defense is completely ravaged with injuries. Who in the New York secondary is going to be able to cover Dez Bryant? If they can’t find a way to guard #88, it is going to be tough sledding for Big Blue. I see the Giants putting up a nice fight, but in the end it should be Dallas winning. They are the better overall team, and it doesn’t hurt that they just picked up Christine Michael from Seattle. He could be the guy down in Big D by the time all is said and done.
Dallas 31, New York 24
Monday, September 14th, 7:10 e.t.
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
The Eagles starters looked so impressive in the preseason, as did Atlanta’s (for the most part). Sam Bradford is yet to complete a drive without yielding a touchdown for Philly, and Matt Ryan cashed in for touchdowns on many of his drives in the preseason as well. Down in the dome where Ryan plays his best, we can expect to see a track meet on Monday night. The Eagles have the more talented team though, and unless the Falcons can find a way to run the ball successfully and/or force a few turnovers, I don’t think there is much of a chance that they will be able to keep up with Chip Kelly’s offense.
Philadelphia 34, Atlanta 24
Monday, September 14th, 10:20 e.t.
Minnesota Vikings (0-0) @ San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
In the final game of Week 1, the 49ers will play host to the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson will be toting the rock for the first time in over a year and you can bet that he is going to be running angry. The Niners have many question marks surrounding their team heading into this season, one of them is concerning Colin Kaepernick. If Kap can’t produce reasonable numbers this year, it my be time for the team to start thinking about looking for another quarterback. We are a bit away from that being an issue, however. On the flip side, Teddy Bridgewater looks like he belongs in the NFL. Having to do nothing much else besides spinning around and handing the ball to #28, I’d say he has it made in this Minnesota offense. Unless the 49ers defense is able to stuff the running game of the Vikings, I expect them to drop this one at home to a team looking to make a return to the playoffs this season.
Minnesota 27, San Francisco 20
Week 1 Bonus Predictions
Upset of the Week: Oakland over Cincinnati
Sure Bet of the Week: Green Bay over Chicago
Rookie of the Week: Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
Offensive Player of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Defensive Player of the Week: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Bills
Best Overall Offense: Green Bay Packers
Best Overall Defense: New York Jets
Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!