Wednesday, September 09, 2009

NFL Week 1: My "expert" analysis

So, the preseason is behind us, and it's finally time to get down to the games that count. It's the most long-awaited Thursday night of the year tomorrow, when the NFL regular season kicks off. Not to be outdone by all of the "experts" at ESPN and NFL.com, etc. I've decided to put together a weekly preview of my picks. Here goes:

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30 p.m. Thursday
This one could be an interesting matchup. The team with the best regular-season record from last season (Tennessee) vs. the defending Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh). But some things have changed since last season. On the Titans' side, QB Kerry Collins gets a year older and the defense will certainly miss the presence of Albert Haynesworth plugging up the middle. Still, they're a running team, and Jeff Fisher is a smart coach who knows what works. For the Steelers, Fast Willie Parker and Big Ben Roethlisberger have both been a little nicked up this preseason, so we'll have to see how they respond. Defensively, I think they're still as sound as ever, and they return most of the pieces from the championship squad on both sides of the ball. In somewhat of a toss-up of two really quality teams, I'll give this one to the Steelers, playing at home with the emotion of hoisting the Lombardi trophy still fresh in their minds.

Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. Sunday
Miami was the feel-good story of the NFL last season, turning around a horrid program and clinching the AFC East title. Atlanta, also a playoff team a year ago, got the job done with a bunch of unproven players who really shined. QB Matt Ryan had an excellent rookie season, and with a year under his belt, and the addition of future hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, should be even better. Michael Turner, perhaps a little overworked in his first season as a feature back, still looks like a beast in the backfield. On the other side, Miami took a lot of people by surprise with its wildcat offense last season. I don't think it's going to happen again. Atlanta's had all preseason to gameplan against the Dolphins' tricks. I'm going with the home team again in this one.

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens 1 p.m. Sunday
Gone are the days when Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes were striking fear in the hearts of opposing defenses for Kansas City. With new management, new head coach Todd Haley and a new quarterback who last year started his first game since high school, the Chiefs are a mess. Conversely, Baltimore still gets the job done defensively, runs the ball well and second-year QB Joe Flacco takes care of the ball. The Raves should make this one look easy.

Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. Sunday
This is another tough one. Two playoff teams from last season that both bring back most of the key players. Carolina's running game features a great one-two punch of the electrifying Deangelo Williams and the bruising Jonathan Stewart (when healthy). The return of injured star receiver Steve Smith helps the Panthers' cause, but I'm going to roll the dice on Philadelphia in this one. I think as the careers of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, and an experienced defensive backfield, start to wind down, the Eagles are going to be motivated this season. In a close one, that could go either way, I'll pick Philly on the road.

Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m. Sunday
I kind of feel bad for all of the fans who are going to have to endure this one. The Broncos traded their quarterback, feuded with their No. 1 receiver and enter the season with a whole lot of question marks. The Bengals have been bad for a long time, but if Carson Palmer can stay healthy and Cedric Benson and Chad Ochocinco play up to their potential, they have a chance to not finish last in their division this season. Cincinnati takes this ugly, ugly contest.

Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns 1 p.m. Sunday
Things are bad enough in Cleveland that coach Eric Mangini has yet to decide which of his quarterbacks will make his team look less horrible. With about four days 'til game time, you might want to figure that out coach. In Minnesota, all of the drama has surrounded the return of the aging Brett Favre, but what's important for this team to be successful is that they have the best running back in the game and a very tough defense. I'll save my Favre tangent for another time. The Vikings are coming to Cleveland, and the Browns are ripe to be pillaged.

New York Jets at Houston Texans 1 p.m. Sunday
Houston has one of the best receivers in the game in Andre Johnson. They have an emerging star in running back Steve Slaton. Defensively, Mario Williams continues to legitimize his status as a No. 1 draft pick. But watch out for the Jets. They have one of the best ... um... well ... they've got ... Mark Sanchez sure has a nice smile. That said, the Texans improve every season. The Jets aren't improving. I'll take Houston to win this one handily.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. Sunday
I predicted back in May that Indianapolis wouldn't make the playoffs this season, and I'm going to stick to my guns on that one. Mostly because I'm kind of a Colts hater. But, as much as I would like to say that their downward slide starts in Week 1, I'm going to have to take Indy to win the opener. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense are still very explosive, if the o-line can do its job. Defensively, I think they have some problems, especially against the run. If Maurice Jones Drew was 100 percent healthy for Jacksonville, I might give this one a little more thought, but he's not. And without him, the Jags just don't have enough weapons to outscore the Colts.

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints 1 p.m. Sunday
Lions coach Jim Schwartz named rookie No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford as the team's starting QB earlier this week, which I think was a good move. He appears to have all of the skills to be a successful pro quarterback. Still, there's bound to be a learning curve, and I don't think this is the week where Detroit breaks its losing streak. New Orleans is a tough place to play, and Drew Brees was the league's best passer last season. Their defense isn't great, but it should be good enough to force Stafford into some bad decisions. Begrudgingly, I'll take the Saints in this one.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. Sunday
Most analysts are saying that the Cowboys are better with Terrell Owens, but I fail to see how that's true. Sure, the locker room's probably a little quieter and the quarterback's probably a little happier. But we'll see how long that lasts when he realizes he doesn't have his playmaker downfield. Still, the Cowboys are better than the Bucs. Byron Leftwich is the quarterback by default, their running game is led by a guy who's missed most of the past two seasons and a couple of guys who are career backups, and they released the heart and soul of their defense in Derrick Brooks. I think the Cowboys win this one prettily easily.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals 4:15 p.m. Sunday
San Francisco always seems like it's just a couple of pieces short of being competitive. They're so close, that they likely will pull off some wins this season that many people won't expect. But I still don't think they're quite there yet. Arizona ended its Cinderella trip through the postseason last year with a narrow loss in the Super Bowl. And, although a little older, I think this team may have gotten even better during the offseason. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the best receiver tandem in the league and the addition of rookie Beanie Wells and the emergence of Tim Hightower should improve a non-existent running game from last season. The big question mark is whether the Cards can get it done on the road this season. But that's a question that can wait for another week. They should win this one at home.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants 4:15 p.m. Sunday
The Redskins have kind of been the forgotten members of the NFC East over the past few seasons, and I'm not sure that's going to change this year. They may take a step forward as I think the Cowboys and Giants have gotten a little worse, but I don't think they're ready to really contend for a division title. Clinton Portis will continue to put up consistent numbers without really being a superstar, but the rest of this offense kind of lacks win potential. The Giants, as I mentioned, have some work to do as well. Brandon Jacobs is a tough enough runner to make it a little easier on the offense, but Eli Manning will be expected to win games without a lot of help at the receiver spot this season. I think because of this, the Giants go from being a top-tier team to a mediocre team with playoff potential. That still should be good enough to win this week at home.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks 4:15 p.m. Sunday
The Rams were one of the worst teams in football last season. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure their rebuilding efforts have started to show any results yet. The Seahawks had an off year last year mainly due to an injured Matt Hasselbeck. He's healthy now, and Seattle added veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to the mix. This one will get ugly early for St. Louis, and Seattle should come away an easy winner.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers 8:20 p.m. Sunday
Most people are conceding the NFC North to the Vikings this season, but I think both Green Bay and Chicago will be in the picture when it's all said and done. These are two quality teams, which makes this a hard game to pick. The Bears upgraded in the offseason with the addition of Jay Cutler at QB. Matt Forte burst onto the scene as a solid running back in his rookie year, and everyone knows how solid the defense is. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is no slouch at quarterback for the Pack. With the nice receiving tandem of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, he should have another great year. Ryan Grant has the potential to be a game-changing back, but he hasn't really shown it yet. So the questions are the Bears' receivers and the Packers' running game and defense. I think the score will be close in this one. The Bears should dominate the time of possession and be in a position to win the game from start to finish. The Packers will stay in it with big plays, but I'll pick Chicago to win on the road.

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots 7 p.m. Monday
Terrell Owens brought the circus to town in Buffalo this offseason which should help the Bills passing game. The trouble is that Trent Edwards will likely be running for his life behind a porous offensive line. Marshawn Lynch is suspended for the first three games of this season, which doesn't help. For the Pats, Tom Brady looks to be back from his season-ending knee injury of last season and should connect with Randy Moss for big plays numerous times this season. Brady's comeback party should start Monday with a convincing win against the Bills.

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders 10:15 p.m. Monday
The Raiders should still be one of the bottom dwelling teams of the league this year with a subpar quarterback, running game, receivers and defense. Meanwhile, LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles will combine to make a fearsome backfield. And QB Phillip Rivers and pass catchers Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates will round out a scary offensive attack. I don't really think the Raiders stand a chance in this one.

And that's my take. Let me know if you agree or disagree. I'll keep a running tally to see if I need to polish my crystal ball a little bit more before next week.

2 comments:

Not So Glamorous Housewife said...

omg....I think many men are going to have men crushes on you soon with all of that football talk.

Joe Cooper said...

I think you put up some good pics. In my opinion there are so many teams with potential this year that its hard for me to tell what will happen. Thats why this season is going to entertain.