As part of the weekly coverage that Tim was alluding to earlier, I'll be taking each week's slate of games and predicting wins and losses. I by no means consider myself an expert, but I do okay year to year with my predictions and I figure it would be a great way to start some conversation about teams that we normally don't talk about or focus on. If anyone would care to, show me up and make your own picks in the comments. I'll be sure to recognize the weekly winner in the next week's post. Here we go (winners in italics):
Tennessee @ Pittsburgh - I think the Steelers will have too much for the Titans tonight. Not because of the absence of Albert Haynesworth, who didn't even play in last year's contest in Nashville, but because defensive guru Dick Lebeau will find a way to slow done the RB tandem formerly known as Smash 'N Dash, and force Kerry Collins to beat them, which just won't happen. The defending Super Bowl Champions are also undefeated opening week sine the inception of the Thursday Night league opener game in 2005.
Miami @ Atlanta - In one of the closer games this weekend, I think Matt Ryan and company will find a way to win at home. The Georgia Dome is a hard place to play when the team is doing well, and while both teams surprised last year after abysmal 2007 seasons, I feel that the Falcons will have too much offensive firepower for Miami. While Atlanta's defense is certainly far from formidable, the wildcat was statistically less successful every game after the New England blowout last season, and the Falcons have had an extended time period to game plan against it.
Kansas City @ Baltimore - I think this one is going to get ugly. Baltimore has looked a lot better than I expected, especially Joe Flacco, and Kansas City is one of the three off-balanced teams who fired their offensive coordinator in the last week. Todd Haley is good offensive mind, but him calling the plays won't help because the Ravens' front seven is going to have a field day with the Chiefs' beleaguered offensive line. Good luck, Matt Cassell.
Philadelphia @ Carolina- In another close game, I believe that the Eagles will prove too much for the home team. The Panthers managed to harangue Jullius Peppers into returning to the team, but lost a lot of talent in the interior of their defensive line in the process. Add to that the lingering injury to All-Pro middle linebacker Jon Beason, and I think that Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy will have a lot of success with that typical Eagles RB screen. Also, I think that rookie defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will try and make Jake Delhomme beat them through the air following his terrible showing in the playoffs last year.
Denver @ Cincinnati - This should be a shootout, one that I think Cincinnati will barely win. Both teams have average to below-average defenses. Both have talented but cantankerous wide receivers. The Broncos' offensive line is certainly better than CIncinnati's, but the Bengals do have something that Denver does not--a quarterback. Between that and playing for Marvin Lewis' job this season, I give a slight edge to the Bengals.
Minnesota @ Cleveland - I would love to predict a win for the Browns here, but I just can't do it. Despite the shortcomings of Brett Favre (which I think we will see some this week), the Vikings' running attack and defense will be too much for
Derek Anderson Brady Quinn whoever is starting at quarterback for Cleveland. Why is it that all coaches who come from the Belichick coaching tree have to imagine themselves as Machiavelli reborn?
New York Jets @ Houston - I am much more nervous about this game than I was a few weeks ago, but I still have faith that the boys in Liberty White will come through this week. Leon Washington is going to run rampant, but I think that Frank Bush will dial up enough pressure on Mark Sanchez in his first start to keep the Jets at bay. I also expect Rex Ryan and friends to blitz Matt Schaub all day long. Hopefully the ankle is much better. More on the Texans game later in the week.
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis - That's right, I think the Jaguars will beat the Colts. Peyton Manning's knee wasn't the only reason while the Colts got off to a slow start last year; their defense was as well. That's the same defense that will be playing without safeties Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea this week. They'll be facing Maurice Jones-Drew, who has averaged over 100 all-purpose yards a game against the Colts in his career, despite splitting carries with Fred Taylor. Now that MoJo is running on his own, I think that he will have his way with this short-handed defense.
Detroit @ New Orleans - Usually people get worried about the seemingly one-sided affairs, but this one is as close to a lock as you can get. Matthew Stafford will have to deal with the New Orleans crowd and knows that he has to keep pace with Drew Brees and the juggernaut Saints offense. He is going to make Greg WIlliams and his defense look like superstars. New Orleans wins big and ugly.
Dallas @ Tampa Bay - I believe that the Cowboys will get their fist victory of the year this weekend after an uncharacteristically quiet offseason. Besides the infamous video board, America's Team has received little to no press this year after being an annual pick to make the playoffs/Super Bowl. I don't think they're one of the best two teams in their division, but they're certainly better than the rebuilding Buccaneers and first time offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Look for DeMarcus Ware to have a field day with the chronically slow Byron Leftwich.
San Francisco @ Arizona - The 49ers will surprise the defending NFC champions in Week One at home to the chagrin of all thier fans. Mike Singletary's defense is much better than people realize, and their offense will be centered around running the ball, but the true story of this game is the Cardinals. Just yesterday, Adrian Wilson called out the rest of his team for resting on the laurels of last year and being lethargic throughout the preseason. That seems to fit the M.O. of Super Bowl losers, who have a terrible track record of missing the playoffs the next year.
Washington @ New York Giants- This is the second of my bold (and probably stupid/wrong) upset predictions, but I think that the Redskins will surprise a lot of people this Sunday. Eli Manning and the Giants' offense was terrible last year after losing Plaxico Burress to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, which led to their eventual collapse. Washington's defense was good last year at holding teams to low scores, but was not dynamic because of a lack of pass rush and forced turnovers. This might be the part where you expect me to cite Albert Haynesworth as the answer, but I think it will be more of rookie Brian Orakpo, who was outstanding in the preseason. Whether the Redskins win or lose this game, I think it will be a lot closer than people expect.
St. Louis @ Seattle - Qwest Field is a very difficult place to play, which is just one reason I think that the Seahawks will spoil the debut of rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams' quarterback situation is a mess between the only quarterback who makes ours look durable, Marc Bulger, and failed former first roud pick Kyle Boller. The Seahawks are finally healthy after the terrible season last year, and they've added Aaron Curry, who is a prospect for defensive rookie of the year. I think that Seattle will win this game with relative ease.
Chicago @ Green Bay- This game will be fun to watch, especially if you're a Green Bay fan, in my opinion. People seem to think that Chicago still has the dominant defense from the 2006 season, but they've finished in the 20s in both of the last two years. They'll be facing one of the more dynamic ofenses in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Surprisingly, the Packers defense looked very good in the preseason, and while that is not proof of anything, it is still very encouraging after the switch the 3-4 over the offseason. I think all of these reasons, plus playing at Lambeau Field, will send the Bears home with a loss.
Buffalo @ New England - This is another game that may get ugly, as the Patriots expose just how bad the train wreck in Western New York really is. Brady has an axe to grind after last season, and Bill Belichick will let him prove to everyone that he is fine by throwing the ball all over creation Monday Night. The Bills have FIVE new starters on the offensive line this year, including a 7th round draft pick at left tackle who was second on the depth chart until a week ago. Bad news for Bills fans, who will be calling for Dick Jauron's head starting Tuesday morning.
San Diego @ Oakland - Can the Chargers really make it 12 straight victories over a division opponent? Yes, they can. Every time that I think the Raiders are getting better, which it looked like they were at the end of last season, Al Davis eats more crazy sandwiches and further drives the franchise into the hole where it has been living since 2003. Oakland cannot stop the run, which is why they made a terrible trade for Richard Seymour, who will likely not play on Monday considering he is still in Massachusetts. I feel bad for Raiders fans.