Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's that time again: NFL Week One Predictions

It's seems like we had to wait a little longer this year, but football season is finally here! On Thursday, the Steelers will begin their title defense in a showdown with the Titans, so, just like last season, it's time for me to weigh in with my weekly predictions! Each week this season, I will pick the winner of each game. I won't be taking the spread into account, I'll simply picking the winners, so don't bother using this for gambling purposes. Last season, my overall record was 163-93, a .637 winning percentage. Let's see if I can improve upon that this year.

Before I get into my choices for Week One, I will quickly run through my picks for the entire season, from division winners to the eventual Super Bowl Champion:

NFC Division winners: Eagles, Packers, Saints, Seahawks
NFC Wild Cards: Giants, Bears

You can call me a homer if you want but I firmly believe the Eagles are the best team in the NFC East. While the defense is a little worrisome, especially after how it looked in the preseason, I think the Eagles have so many weapons on offense that can overcome any shortcomings on the other side of the ball. And, no, I don't count Michael Vick as a weapon. Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are all crazy fast and will give opposing teams fits. In the NFC Central, I think the Packers and Bears will be fighting it out all season long for the division crown. The Bears will see what it's like to actually pair a competent quarterback with their always great defense while I like the Packers and Aaron Rodgers to continue to develop into a top team. I give the Saints the edge in the South because I'm not big on the Panthers and the Falcons have the look of a team that might take a step back before they take two steps forward. Finally, out West, I like the Seahawks to overtake the Cardinals. Don't forget how hurt the Seahawks were last year and how bad the Cardinals were at times during the regular season.

I'm picking the Packers to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It may be a bit of a reach but they seem to have the fewest question marks on both sides of the ball.

AFC Division winners: Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chargers
AFC Wild Cards: Ravens, Texans

I'm betting that the Patriots rebound big-time this year and just roll through the AFC East. They were a team that won 11 games with a mediocre quarterback at the helm; Tom Brady will likely push them back up to 13 wins. The AFC North is probably the best division in football, except for the Browns, so it's always tough to pick. I like the defending champs to eek out the division over the rugged Ravens. The Texans seem to be the sleeper pick every year but I think they will finally put it together this season and give the Colts a run for their money in the South. Look for the division to come down to the final week. In the AFC West, the Chargers seem like the only competent team. I can't in good conscience pick the Chiefs, Raiders or Broncos to win more than 5 games apiece.

I'm picking the Patriots to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I can't stand the Pats but their offense is always scary and they seemed to have fixed their defensive problems.

Super Bowl: Patriots over Packers. The Patriots bounce back and finally win that title they should have won two years ago.

While I'm sure I will look back and laugh, those are my predictions for the 2009 season. With those in mind, let's get to my picks for Week One of the NFL season:

Thursday Night Game:

Titans @ Steelers Don't the defending champions always win their first game the following year? I don't have the stats in front of me but it sure seems that way. I always have a hard time picking any team with Kerry Collins at the helm but it gets even easier when you remember that the anchor of the Titans defense, Albert Haynesworth, is gone. My pick: Pittsburgh isn't going to repeat as champs but they will win this low-scoring game.

Sunday Day Games:

Dolphins @ Falcons Both of these teams seem poised to take a step back this season. The Dolphins are the sure bet for a collapse, they were likely one of the worst 11 win teams ever. Matt Ryan took the league by storm last season but I think the league figures him this season; how well he adjusts will tell how good the Falcons are. My pick: Falcons

Broncos @ Bengals Do I have to pick a winner here? One team is a perennial trainwreck while the other is shaping up to be the 2009 trainwreck. I can't pick the Broncos until I see what their mess of an offense does on the field, so I reluctantly have to go with the home team. My pick: Bengals

Vikings @ Browns Poor Cleveland, being the ugly stepchild in the best division in football is going to make for a miserable season. While I can't stand the fact that he can never make up his mind about playing, Brett Favre could be a great fit in the Minnesota offense. If Brad Childress can reign in the gunslinger and force him to throw short routes in between a myriad of hand-offs to Adrian Peterson, this Minnesota team could make some noise. My pick: Vikings

Jaguars @ Colts The Colts aren't really "The Colts" anymore, but as long as Peyton Manning is at the helm they are a 10-win team. I don't know what to make of the Jaguars. A year ago they looked so promising but after 5 wins last season they don't look like much of anything. My pick: It might be closer than we all think, but I still have to pick the Colts

Lions @ Saints The Saints have become everyone's sleeper pick because no one thinks their defense can possibly be as bad as it was last year. I'm not fully convinced, but I don't see any way the Lions and their rookie QB can put up enough points to keep up with the Saints offensive attack, even though it may be missing Pierre Thomas. My pick: Saints

Cowboys @ Bucs Cue the SNL skit: The Bucs really won 9 games last year? Really? Unfortunately for them, a rookie coach plus an aging quarterback plus a tough schedule equals a long season in Tampa. As an Eagles fan, it always pains me to pick the Cowboys to win any games, but I don't think even Tony Romo could screw this one up. My pick: Cowboys

Eagles @ Panthers The Eagles defense will get an early test as it will face an elite running back/receiver combination in Deangelo Williams and Steve Smith right away. Fortunately, the Panthers also have the incredibly shaky Jake Delhomme who is coming off that atrocious playoff performance. I know what Jim Johnson would do against Delhomme: blitz him from all angles and confuse the hell out of him. We will have to see how closely Sean McDermott follows his mentor. Offensively, I don't think the Eagles will have any problems putting up points on Carolina. It will be up to Donovan McNabb to set the offensive rhythm early in the season before Michael Vick has a chance to disrupt things. My pick: Eagles

Chiefs @ Ravens New coach, new quarterback, same old Chiefs. I can't see the Kansas City offense putting more than 10 points on the board against the Ravens D, so unless the Chiefs score some special teams touchdowns, this one shouldn't be close. The Ravens offense isn't pretty either but the defense will give them good field position all day long. My pick: Ravens

Jets @ Texans For better or for worse, I'm buying into the Texans. When Matt Schaub is healthy, they should be a playoff-caliber team. Of course, there is no telling how many weeks he will play. With Rex Ryan running things I expect the Jets defense to be much improved but their offense can only be described as a work-in-progress. My pick: Texans

Redskins @ Giants This early NFC East showdown should be intriguing. I like the Redskins to be an improved team this year and possibly push the Cowboys into the cellar. The Giants also look poised to have another solid regular season; who knows if they can get it together in the playoffs again. My pick: I like the Giants in a typical low-scoring NFC East battle. The Giants are simply a little better than the Redskins in every aspect of the game.

Niners @ Cardinals If the Niners had just a little bit more going for them on offense I would like them as a sleeper pick. As it is, I think they can improve on last season and win 8 or 9 games. The Cardinals are going to come back to earth after their magical run through the NFC playoffs but I still like them to beat the Niners here. That offense is just too scary. My pick: Cardinals

Rams @ Seahawks I like how the entire NFC West is playing each other in the first week, it gives us a clear picture of where the teams stand right away. I'm not buying the Football Outsiders pick of the Rams as a sleeper team but I do like the Seahawks to make some noise in the West. They only won 4 games last year but they have a good core of players that can only be healthier this season. My pick: Seahawks by two touchdowns.

Sunday Night Game:

Bears @ Packers This is the game of the week, two heavyweight contenders battling in an old-school NFC North contest at Lambeau Field. Since I picked the Packers to win the division, I have to go with them here to get an early lead over Chicago. With Jay Cutler taking over for the Bears and Aaron Rodgers putting up big numbers in Green Bay, I expect this game to be a little more high-scoring than the Packers/Bears tilts of the past. My pick: Packers

Monday Night Games:

Bills @ Patriots The Patriots dominance in the AFC East begins right away in this one. The T.O. meltdown won't happen in this week but I would bet some of the seeds of a tantrum are planted when he barely makes an impact in this one. My pick: Patriots

Chargers @ Raiders What to say about the Raiders? I really thought that Jeff Garcia was going to be the starting QB for this team by Week 5 so I was shocked when they let him go. Is it a sign that JaMarcus Russell is finally ready or that the Raiders are completely incompetent? I'll go with the latter because I just can't believe the former. My pick: The Chargers always dominate the Raiders, don't they?

So those are my picks for Week One of the NFL Season. Check back every week for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!


JFein said...

I think you might be overlooking the Vikings a bit. They have almost everyone back on defense, Adrian Peterson, and an upgrade at QB, a position that hindered them greatly last year. Granted Brett Favre is 1,000 years old, but I would take Favre in his older age over Tavaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels any day of the week.

Packers will likely compete for a wildcard and call me crazy, but I am not buying into the Bears as a playoff contender this year. Then again, I've never felt that Jay Cutler has the potential to be an elite NFL QB, so that could be a big reason why I feel that way.

allthingsphilly said...

I hear ya on the Vikings, they are going to make the NFC North on tough division. You're absolutely right that Favre is going to make a difference if he plays under control and doesn't fling the ball all over the field. You could see three teams come out of the North if the East teams all beat up on each other.