The start of the 2013-14 NFL season is upon us. As usual I will be making my picks for each of the games each week and posting them with some of my personal insight and thoughts. As always feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section. I have joked in the past that I was practicing this for my new career as a Vegas betting man, but I’m not so sure, based on my previous experience. If you by chance do use my picks and make some money, send a check. Let’s get to some football,……
Baltimore @ Denver – First game of the season and lots of question marks for both teams. Baltimore comes in as the reigning Super Bowl champs but they have been stripped down from retirements, defections, business decisions and injuries. Interestingly enough this team is all Joe Flacco’s now. No Ray Lewis (no matter what you think of his speeches) and no Ed Reed now give this team a more ‘offensive’ feel. Flacco has got to be consistently good this year although he’s going to be lacking in talent around him. Dumervil was a Bronco, but after a contract miscue, he became a Raven. I imagine that he should have a pretty good game against his old mates, but will it be enough.
The Broncos have been hit with numerous issues over the off-season from management issues to losing players, to both injury and suspension. The bright spot is that Manning is still under center and has some more weapons on the offensive side of the ball. They have even joked about running some run option stuff with Manning as the QB (every defensive end in the league salivated when they heard that). Manning and his offense will have to carry this team for a few weeks and he’s used to that, so it’ll come down to whether the defense can stop the Ravens. Tony Carter is going to have to step up at CB and help stop Torrey Smith (DRC might take him the entire game). But I also look for Shaun Phillips to show us whether he needs to hang it up or if he can be a solid fill in until Von Miller returns. Winner – Ravens.
Tampa Bay @ New York Jets – No Sanchez, so the rookie Geno Smith gets the start. Geno’s ankle should be fully healed and that should allow him to be at his best. What is his best might be the question. Every rookie QB needs a running game, but the Jets really don’t have a stud in the backfield. Don’t really have any receivers because I’m not expecting Holmes to play,…and it just doesn’t sound good for the rookie. To me his only hope is to keep them in this game for as long as he can and make some plays with his legs. They aren’t going up against a juggernaut, but this should be tough sledding for the Jets.
Tampa Bay is a few years removed from actually being that team on the upswing. Josh Freeman seems to have taken several steps backwards in his growth and it hurts my heart because the kid has talent. He’s also got some pieces on offense that can help him out, so it’s really about getting them the ball and making good decisions. Josh Freeman, I need for you to step it up this year, in a big way. Winner – Bucs.
New England @ Buffalo – Now this ought to be good. The Patriots have retooled on both sides of the ball, but they still have that dude under center that makes it that much easier to keep winning no matter what. Brady will have a slew of young receivers and will be without both of his start tight ends. The funny thing is that I’m not sure that even matters that much. Brady will be Brady and usually that’s enough to get the Patriots a win.
The Bills were contemplating starting me at QB for week 1, but I’ll be in church early that morning and wouldn’t be able to make it to the field on time. In my stead, EJ Manuel gets his first start (of many) for the Bills. EJ has looked good in pre-season and again, will rely on his two running backs Spiller and Jackson to make his first soirée into the NFL a good one. The Patriots on defense normally scheme well and try and take something away from you, so I expect them to concentrate on the run and make the rookie beat them with his arm. Should be fun to watch. Winner – Patriots.
Cincinatti @ Chicago – This is the year for the Bears. Seems like half the team are free agents after this year with the #1 priority on Jay Cutler. Cutler isn’t the best QB, but he’s better than what the Bears have had in years. He’s also in a good position; let’s call it the Flacco position, of being in the final year of his deal. The Bears have a decision to make, pay Cutler that approximately $20M per year or blow it up and start all over again. The Bears are cheap, but I doubt they blow it up and start all over. Look for a big year from not only Cutler, but Forte too.
The Bengals come into this game as the favorites and they should be a team to be reckoned with this year. They have a good defensive line, they are pretty solid everywhere else on their defense and they have an offense that can put up some numbers (Green) or pound you to death (BGE). Can the Bengals put it together this year, especially with the Steelers hurting?!!? Good place to start would be in Chicago. Winner – Bengals.
Miami @ Cleveland – Miami has some new duds and some new dudes, but will it matter at the end of the day? Tannehill at QB makes this team average at best and add to that, they really have no offensive talent, except for Wallace. I do like the right side of this Dolphins defensive line in Soliai and Wake, but we’ll see who else steps up. The addition of Ellerbee makes this defense solid. Can they score enough points to stay in a game?
The Browns are,…well the Browns. Weeden made strides last season but to me he’s limited as far as his ceiling is concerned, but he always looks better when he has Richardson running well. I do wonder who will step up as the Browns 3rd receiver, well actually their 2nd receiver too, but that’s another issue. Browns defense really has no holes and should be one of the better ones in the league this year. Winner – Browns.
Atlanta @ New Orleans – The Falcons were thisclose to making it to the Super Bowl and they should be on a mission again this year. They didn’t lose much and they actually picked up Seven Jackson who still has some tread on his tires. The bad of that is that Jackson looks like he’s become one with some of that southern cooking and looks to have put on some pounds. Matt Ryan has a full complement of receiving targets and he’s one of those guys that should have an easy road paved to at least an MVP, lots of weapons.
Drew Brees and the Saints are back yet again. We know that as long as they keep Brees upright and protected he can put up some points. The receiving corp is a little beat up but hopefully some of the young guns (Toon, Tanner and Stills) and the return of Meachem can solve that problem. *Homer Alert* I am wishing my cousin (Nick Toon) a fruitful and successful year in NO and may he catch at least 50 balls this year from that Drew Brees guy. Winner – Falcons.
Tennessee @ Pittsburgh – A few years ago this would have been a good matchup but right now both of these teams are struggling and going in the opposite direction. The Titans come in with a young Jake Locker under center and a few pieces on offense that he can really count on. Britt doesn’t start the year off suspended and Chris Johnson may be all the way back and ready for a 2000 yard rushing season, just maybe. Defense should be solid, but this year the Titans ride or die on Locker. If he can make teams pay for putting extra in the box to stop Johnson, this team should scare some people.
The Steelers are looking like they are going downhill. They are getting older and if pre-season is any foreshadowing of the future, Big Ben won’t be around much this year. That offensive line has played horribly and all I can see in my mind is Ben taking some big hits. Even if the line gets it together, the Steelers running game, normally a staple, just isn’t there. When you pick up Felix Jones late in the pre-season and he could possibly start for you, that pretty much says it all. Steelers need Heath Miller healthy soon and maybe this can all turn around quickly. Winner – Steelers.
Minnesota @ Detroit – I will leave all of the city of Detroit slander out of this. The Lions have retooled and have spry looking Reggie Bush who has said that this team could win it all. I guess he’s not lying because I could hit the lottery, but what are the odds. Stafford needs to stay healthy and some WR besides Calvin Johnson needs to have more than 50 receptions this year. The defense will be a threat as long as they have those two big boys upfront in Fairley and Suh, and I do like the pickup of former Bears DE Idonije. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to be an offense facing this defense in too many 2nd or 3rd and long situations.
The Vikings are, Adrian Peterson. As good as he is and as well as he has played since being in the league, it’s really not up to him as it relates to this team winning games. That falls squarely on on Christian Ponder. If the Vikings can get some quality starts out of the kid, then APs 1950 yard season (see what I did there) won’t go to waste. We are going to see if Greg Jennings to help Ponder and be that possession receiver he needs. On the defensive side of the ball the Vikings are solid and Jared Allen is saying he’s pain free, so we’ll see if he can get back in that sack race this year. Winner – Lions.
Oakland @ Indianapolis – This has been a long time coming, but for some the Terrelle Pryor Era starts in Oakland this Sunday. Hey, I hoping the kid plays well, but he’s got a long way to go to be a regular NFL starter. He’s got legs which will keep him alive behind that offensive offensive line (see what I did there?), but he’s going to have to use his arm. He has a rather young receiving corp, but I think he has some talent to work with. Unfortunately the Raiders defensive side of the ball doesn’t look that much better. I like the additions of Roach and Woodson (how old is Woodson again?), but they need some help or some people to really step up.
The Colts are one of the feel good teams from last year and they seem to be ready to take another step ahead. I think last year it came down to consistency and I think another year under center will be a better one for Luck. He’ll have his favorite blanket in Reggie Wayne, but he also has other options in Heyward-Bey and watch out for that T.Y. Hilton kid. This offense could be explosive this year. On defense Robert Mathis is still in the trenches and the defense may not wow many, but they are a solid crew. Winner – Colts.
Seattle @ Carolina – This one sounds like it’ll be a good game. The Seahawks, led by their 2nd year QB Russell Wilson will fly cross country to meet the Panthers. Seattle brings a multi-faceted offense that has enough wrinkles in it to scare just about any defensive coordinator and a defense that can provide just as many problems. I hope (for fantasy reasons) that Wilson finds Sidney Rice a little more this year. Rice can be a mismatch in short yardage or near goal line situations because of his height and leaping ability, so let’s try and leverage those skills, please. (Funny Note: One of my boys made a bet with a group of us that within 3 years the Seahawks will be looking for a new QB because Wilson isn’t the long term answer. Just waiting to collect on this one)
The Panthers are in a good spot with young Cameron at QB. With that said, he’s got to be more consistent and he’s going to have to lead this team. Cam probably played as well as he could last year for the first few games, but then something went wrong, and no I don’t believe that the defenses ‘figured’ him out. The addition of Tedd Ginn may provide Cam with another target that can make some things happen for this team. On defense the Panthers will have one of the better defensive lines in football. Yes, one of the better ones. If the offense can get clicking, this should be a very interesting game. Winner – Seahawks.
Kansas City @ Jacksonville – The Andy Reid Era starts in KC (that will mean a lot of pass plays on 3rd and short, I’m just saying). The good, well Jamal Charles will probably be a fantasy beast and some people actually think that Smith will be good this season, so the Chiefs, along with a good defense should be pretty good this year. The bad, well, Alex Smith is their QB. I don’t trust him, never have and never will. (A joke I saw on twitter comes to mind: I trust (insert QB name) about as much as I trust a stripper with paw print tattoos on her bottom. This is sage advice here). The offense should be fun to watch if Smith can make some things happen. If he doesn’t there’s always Chase Daniel.
Jacksonville is….just a city in Florida and someone needed a tax write off. Of course there is MJD, but I’m not sure which QB is better between Gabbert (Yo Gabba Gabba) and Henne. The question I have is will this be Justin Blackmon’s breakout year or will we be waiting for this to happen next year? Can anyone name 4 starters on defense for the Jaguars without googling the info? You can get two easily, but the others,….well,….we’ll see how they play. Winner – Chiefs.
Arizona @ St. Louis – Teams are doing a good job reclaiming old QBs and bringing them in for their final few years. So the Cardinals brought in Carson Palmer who I think still has some tread on his tires and now he has a #1 guy to throw to in Fitzgerald. If this team can protect Palmer and find some semblance of a running game, they could be decent. On defense the Cardinals are going to be rather solid because of Dansby, Acho, Peterson, and Docket.
The Rams are a new look team. They have a stingy defense but now add Tavon Austin to the mix to help Bradford make this passing game more exciting. If Bradford can stay healthy, watch out for this team. They could be one of the sleepers in the NFC. Winner – Cardinals.
Green Bay @ San Francisco – I would love to see this game late in the season with the playoffs on the line. Instead we get this game 1 and it still should be a good one. The 49ers come off of a close loss to the Ravens in the Superbowl, but they come back fully loaded and no concern about who will be the starting QB. Kaepernick will have a target on his back from not only his off-season wardrobe choices, but he’ll also be trying to prove that this whole new breed of QB is here to stay. He gained a weapon from that Ravens team in Boldin, but they were already loaded. Did I mention that the 49ers offensive line is still bigger than most, if not all, in the NFL. Defense is going to be outrageous.
Green Bay is lucky enough to have one of the QB gawds in Rodgers under center, so they’ll probably be ok as long as this crippled offensive line keeps his jersey clean. I also dare to say that the Packers have a threat in Eddie Lacy, although a rookie, at the RB spot. They haven’t had a complete back like that in a while. Scary to think that their entire year could largely depend on his production and ability to pick up blitzes. Packers defense is best when they play from ahead, so let’s hope that the offense can keep scoring points. Winner – 49ers.
New York Giants @ Dallas – I always start the year, well at least for the last few, where I point out just how good the Giants front 4 (or 7) really is. Then they go out and make me look bad by not performing. Because I’m a glutton for punishment I am going to go out on a limb again this year and tell you that the Giants have one of the top 3 defensive lines in the NFL. With Cullen Jenkins able to get pressure from the interior, that makes Tuck, Herzlich and Kiwanuka that much tougher to block. On offense they have the steady Eli manning the ship and that’s enough for 9 wins, at least.
The Romo led Cowboys start the year again with so many expectations and actually they have a pretty scary team. As usual, it’s all on Romo. He’s a good player for the majority of a game, but then when you need him, he makes those one or two mistakes that make you want to hunt him down and hurt him. They may not even be ‘his’ mistakes, but they sure do look bad when they do happen. He’s got Austin, Murray, Witten and Bryant, so he’s got people around him that can pick up the slack and make plays for him. Limit the bad decisions and he just may be the MVP of the league. Winner – Giants.
Houston @ San Diego – This is the other Monday Night Game,….ho hum. The Texans are the team that some are saying are headed to the Super Bowl this year for the AFC. I’m not sold on that just yet. Their offense is Johnson and Foster and the health of Matt Schaub. Seemed like last year the Texans just had too many injuries to really to make a move late in the season and for some reason, I just think that they will go through the same thing again. I am not wishing it on them, but that’s what I see for them.
The Chargers are somewhat starting over, but it’s nice to ‘start over’ with Mathews and Rivers as options. The offense has not really been the problem in the past for the Chargers, but Rivers uncanny ability to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat with some turnovers just leaves this team in tough situations from time to time. Can they fix this and stay consistent? I’m just not sure and I’m not betting with Rivers. Winner – Texans.
Philadelphia @ Washington – This is the game everyone is waiting for. The new look Eagles against the hopefully healthy Washington team (I’m all for not mentioning that name until they change it). The Eagles are on the last ride for Vick and not just his contract but his legacy. If he falters, he’ll get cut by the beginning of next year, but if he shows out, it puts the Eagles in a tougher spot as it relates to backups. Chip Kelly’s offense will get a tough test but if they can keep Vick clean and he uses that blessed arm he has, this could be a magical ride for the Eagles.
The team from Washington gets a healthy RGIII back and I think they pick up where they started off last year. Decent running game, which includes RGIII, but a good passing game and some health is what they really need. The defense is getting older, but Kerrigan and Arakbo will be able to make plays this year if Cofield and Bowen can get pressure up front. The team from Washington will be more than solid and should look for playoff berth. Winner – Eagles.
Who ya with?!?!?!?!?