Can you smellllllaaaa what is cookin'? Yes, it's that time, it's football season ladies and gentlemen. Time to make sure that there are alternative things for the kiddies to do on Sunday afternoon, Monday night, and Thursday night. In my best Bart Scott voice, 'Can't Wait!!!!'. Let's get to the games and follow along all year as we go against the ESPN professionals.
Atlanta @ Chicago - Good way to start the season off with the Dirty Birds coming to the Chi. The weather shouldn't be too bad but I expect the field is going to be in terrible shape. The Bears come into this game with improvement from Cutler in the off-season (his feet look a lot better, hopefully no more back foot throws) but the two problems that I'm not sure they have solved: Offensive line and a #1 receiver. Let's go on record now, Roy Williams IS NOT the answer. Your #1 can't drop that many balls, even in the pre-season. The Bears had problems protecting Cutler last year and they went out and got 1 offensive lineman in the draft and let Olin Kreuntz go to New Orleans. Not looking good. If the Bears can protect Cutler, they should win this game.
Atlanta comes in with a team that has to be hungry based on the way they got whupped last year against the Packers in the playoffs. Mostly everyone is back and they partly mortgaged their future by trading up to get Julio Jones. I think it's well worth it. Jones doesn't have to be Roddy White, but if he can play decently, Matt Ryan will have more than enough weapons. Not too worried about their defense and with Abraham going against this patch worked Bears line, I expect a good outing for them. Winner - Falcons.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland - At least we get this game out of the way early. This should definitely be an ugly game. The Bengals are starting Andy Dalton and I started thinking, if Carson Palmer (he was good before that Pittsburgh knee injury game) and Ochocino couldn't win, how in the he77 will Andy Dalton and whomever else win?
The Browns, well they aren't the Bengals. That's enough. Winner - Browns.
Buffalo @ Kansas City - Another not so good game. The Chiefs biggest concern is whether Cassel can breathe with those hurt ribs. It shouldn't be hard for him to hand the ball off to Charles and getting out of the way. Yes, he'll have to throw a little to Bowe, but the Chiefs really need to get their ship going. No bad starts. They need to put some pressure on the Chargers for the division early in the year. Losing Moeaki for the season will hurt, but there are enough playmakers on the offensive side of the ball to pick up the slack.
Buffalo will be starting Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB (from Haaarvard) and they have some pieces in CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson, Brad Smith and Roscoe Parrish, but I think it's more what they did last year. They'll be in some games, but they'll end up playing spoiler to some team later in the year. Winner - Chiefs.
Philadelphia @ St. Louis - And the Eagles start the 2011-12 season with a trip to St. Louis, let the Pink Slip be ready for the influx of customers (if you don't know, Google it). The Eagles are the Dream Team according to VY, so they better start their Dream Season with a win. We know everything on this team hinges on Vick, and more so the offensive line keeping his jersey clean (something they didn't do in the preseason). IF they can protect Vick, the Eagles have more than enough weapons to put up numbers. On the defensive side of the ball, I'm waiting to see a QB beat Asomugha, Samuel, and Rodgers-Cromartie. If the Eagles front 4 can put pressure on Bradford, I see the defense winning this game for the Eagles.
St. Louis is St. Louis. They are solid on both sides of the ball. Bradford has a good arm and he has a few different weapons to distribute the ball to. I think this game will be close, but in the end, the veteran team wins. Winner - Eagles.
Detroit @ Tampa Bay - This is the game I want to see. Two up and coming teams with good young players. Detroit is riding the arm of Matthew Stafford and the catching of Calvin Johnson. If Stafford can stay healthy, watch out. The thing I want to see is this defense. Suh and Fairley (out for this game) are going to terrorize offensive lines all year long. Suh could get some serious votes for defensive player of the year.
The Bucs surprised many last year with the way their 10-6 record, but no playoffs. Josh Freeman was helped last year by the play of LeGarrette Blount and they will need both of them to play well this year. I imagine that Winslow and Mike Williams will continue with their great play from last year too. The Bucs are light on their pass rush, but the rest of the defense is solid. Can each team duplicate their promise from last year? Winner - Lions.
Tennessee @ Jacksonville - How are you going to cut Garrard 5 days before your opener? Just for that Jack Del Rio, you're probably on your way out (that's twice you've done this). The Jags are starting Luke McCown and the only thing good about that is that he's finally wanted in someone's fantasy football league. Thank goodness for Maurice Jones-Drew or this team might not even be worth seeing. McCown is warming the seat for Blaine Gabbert, so this is rebuild city.
The Titans get Matt Hasselbeck and a recently signed Chris Johnson. The goal is to not run Johnson into the ground early because he missed training camp (we all know he's going to get injured, just is what it is) and depend on the new defensive pieces (Barrett Rudd, Shaun Smith, and Jordan Babineaux). This should be an easy one. Winner - Titans.
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore - I just got a bruise thinking about this game. You get two of the best defenses in the game going at each other and as usual each team has a bit of an edge and disdain for each other. The Ravens are hoping that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron opens up the offense to allow Flacco more opportunities to throw the ball down field. Ray Rice is the bowling ball out of the backfield, but it's going to come down to the receiving corp and how they play. Are they good enough with the loss of Mason and the addition of Lee Evans.
Pittsburgh is pretty much returning the team that took them to the Super Bowl last year. They have Big Ben, Wallace, Mendenhall, and a host of others on offense. On defense they are bringing back the guy the Commissioner loves to hate, James Harrison, and a hopefully healthy Troy Polamalu. This is going to be a gem of a game with a lot of hard hits and I think the winner in the special teams battle will win this game. I don't expect a lot of scoring. Winner - Ravens.
Indianapolis @ Houston - Every year we talk about how the Texans are on the cusp of something great and then the season happens. This year, no Manning for the Colts and possibly no Foster for the Texans. The Texans do have Matt Schaub, whom I like and they have arguably the best receiver in the game in Andre Johnson. The Texans weak link has been their defense and the hope this year is that with a new defense they'll be able to keep teams under 30. Look for Mario Williams to have a good game against the Colts because Collins likes holding on to the ball a little too long.
The Colts start the season (I say this entire year) without Manning who is not only the starting QB, but the offensive coordinator and at times he also gets water and snacks for his teammates. Kerry Collins starts this game after being retired (sounds like Favre) and the Colts have to be shell shocked. The Colts still have weapons in Wayne, Addai, Brown, Garcon, and Clark, but can Collins get them the ball? This game will be close because this Colts team isn't going to come in and lay down, but in the end, no Peyton, no win. Winner - Texans.
New York Giants @ Washington - The Battle for the NFC East begins. Rex Grossman says this Redskins team can win the division, me thinks he is smoking something extremely good. The Redskins start Grossman due to a coin flip and everyone in Redskins Park is expecting a 10 win season. I looked at the roster and unless they pull a 'Tanya Harding' on Vick, Manning and a few other folks, I just don't see it.
The Giants start the season with Eli hoping to cut down on turnovers but with his receiving corp not looking so good, the Giants might be great on the ground this year. This should be an easy win for the Giants. Winner - Giants.
Seattle @ San Francisco - Tow relatively new coaches and two struggling teams. The 49ers have talent all over the field with the exception of their QB. I'm sorry, Alex Smith just isn't the answer, unless the question is 'Who's one guy that should step down and let another QB take the reigns?'. Unless Harbaugh can work some voodoo on this guy, this team is at best a .500 team.
Seattle decided to let Hasselbeck go and they brought in Tavaris Jackson to replace him (crickets, crickets). I'm not going to pile on TJ, but I think that he just needs someone to work with him and give him a chance and maybe that's Carroll? Sidney Rice may not play, and this team looks a lot better when they have one of their other non-starting QBs in the game. This has got to be a toss up. Winner - 49ers.
Minnesota @ San Diego - Redemption. It worked for Favre for at least a year so I'm expecting that it'll work for McNabb too. McNabb will have AP behind him and Percy Harvin and a pretty good defense, but it'll all be on his shoulders. I think that part of his legacy is in question and he'll have to prove to people that Washington was nothing more than just a bad time with the Shannahans.
The Chargers. Every year we gush about how good they are and how talented they are and then they go out and lay an egg the first 8 weeks of the season only to finish the season in a flurry and scare everyone in the AFC. This year, I expect something different and it'll start here. Winner - Chargers.
Carolina @ Arizona - The start of the Cam Newton era in Carolina. I hope this goes well. The Panthers are going to have to rely on their running game to give this young QB a chance to prove to us that he can play. Cam is also going to have to use his legs to move around and make some things happen. Look for a lot of two tight end sets to provide receiving and pass protection. On defense they will continue to rely on Beason (he's probably out for game 1) and the rest of this defense to keep the scores down. It's going to be rocky this year, but there is a lot of opportunity for growth and learning. Years from now, we'll look back on this game and say this was 'the beginning'.
The Cardinals come in broke. They paid for Kolb, and they re-upped Fitz so their money is gone for now. The only thing left is to figure out how to make all of this work on the field. The Cards will look to Beanie Wells to handle things on the ground and I actually am looking forward to seeing Heap play for someone besides the Ravens. He may have a big year. Winner - Cardinals.
Dallas @ New York Jets - For once no one is really talking about the Cowboys. They are coming off a season where Romo got hurt and things just never materialized for them. I'm going to say this now, this may be the year of the Boys. They get their defense back that played pretty well down the stretch, but right now their DBs are hurting. They get a dynamic offense with Dez Bryant hopefully maturing in the off season to go with Choice, Austin, Jones, and Witten. Romo may be able to operate a little better without the spotlight on him too.
The Jets come in talking, as they usually do. They have all their pieces and a new piece in Plaxico Burress that may pay dividends. From an offensive standpoint, the Jets are dependent upon whether Sanchez has gotten better. Sanchez will have Holmes, Keller, Burress, and Mason to throw to, so the receiving corp is much better than average. On defense the Jets still have Revis and Cromartie to man the corners and they are solid everywhere else. Romo will probably get blitzed coming off the bus. Winner - Jets.
New England @ Miami - If Chad Henne is still the starter in Miami, there's not much else to say. Don't get me wrong, he's decent, but that won't get you much. Miami will play hard because of their coach and they'll be prepared, but they won't wow you even with the addition of Mr. Wow, Reggie Bush.
The Pats brought in Haynesworth and Ochocinco and some thought this was a bad play for them. I think they struck gold on both of these guys because they both need some sort of vindication and redemption. I think that Haynesworth goes back to his Tennessee form and that defense becomes that much better. With Brady at the helm, the only real question is whether this team would entertain bringing Randy Moss back. Winner - Patriots.
Oakland @ Denver - The final game of the week and two teams with a bad history. Oakland comes in with a good running game with McFadden and Bush, a decent QB in Campbell, and a host of receivers. If they can protect Campbell, maybe, just maybe they catch fire. The Raiders on defense are actually pretty good upfront (Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, and John Henderson) and they have some decent LBs, but they will have some problems in the secondary. If they can stop the run and get some pressure on Orton, they could surprise in this game.
Denver has Kyle Orton. Yes, I said it, Kyle Orton. He's not sexy but he gets the job done. They have Moreno and McGahee in the backfield and they have Lloyd at the WR spot, so they have some weapons. The question is can they be consistent and can they run the ball? Orton put up some very good numbers last year throwing the ball, so we'll expect much of the same this year. Should be fun. Winner - Raiders.
Well those are my picks. Check back after the games to see how well I did. If you disagree, let me know who you got?!?!?!?!?