by Ryan Meehan
The lockout has ended and football is back. This offseason was one of the busiest ever when it comes to free agent signings and it’s going to take some time getting used to seeing everyone in different threads. But the point is, it’s back in full force.
Peter King from Sports Illustrated has the Falcons and the Chargers in the Super Bowl this year, a statement I would completely ignore if
he hadn’t nailed his picks last year when I thought he was crazy. So there’s an outside chance at least part of that could happen.
The big game in Indy in February will likely consist of two of the following teams: The Patriots, Jets, Packers, Falcons, or Eagles. Those also might really seem like chalk picks at the moment, but let me explain:
The downward spiral that is the American Football Conference has finally reached rock bottom. There’s nowhere else to go but up which won’t happend for quite some time. The Colts obviously have their hands full now with Peyton Manning’s health, and it’s slowly becoming apparent their secondary was never what everybody lied about it being in the first place. So they won’t be going… The only other real teams that could make a push would be Baltimore and Pittsburgh and I think the rest of the conference just has them figured out. Plus, they haven’t made the same offseason moves that New England and New York have made with regards to getting younger.
The NFC on the other hand is full of teams that could make it. Philly has made it very clear that no matter how much money it takes, I’m predicting them to win the Super Bowl at some point during Vick’s extension. Green Bay is still the defending champs, and the Falcons are still a great team. The Buccaneers, Giants, and Bears all won’t have records as impressive as what they put up last year, but all of those teams could give the contenders hell along the way. More importantly than the actual matchups themselves is the fact that a team who may not make the playoffs might be able to affect how a certain team is being seeded in those playoffs.
So who will have the iron this year? Let’s see…
Opening Night: New Orleans at Green Bay
The new setup of the NFL season usually features a great matchup between the Super Bowl champions and one of the teams that had also made the playoffs. The team who won it all gets to host, brings the trophy out, and usually wins the game. The Saints have packed a lot of extra meat on the bun this year. But I can’t fathom them losing to Green Bay, because they will be jacked AND have everyone healthy. I’m expecting kind of a second half shootout even though both of these teams have very impressive defenses.
Packers 31, Saints 23
Tennessee at Jacksonville
I don’t see any reason to believe that the Titans are going to do much on the offensive side of the football this year. So Chris Johnson got his money. As soon as they realize they can’t make him carry the ball forty times a game Tennessee’s going to go into panic mode really quick. The Jaguars are the Jaguars plus Blaine Gabbert’s mullet.
Jaguars 20, Titans 3
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Whenever I have this horrible feeling in my gut that the Steelers are going to win they usually do, especially against Baltimore. Like I stated earlier, these two teams haven’t made the arrangements to get younger. This shouldn’t be a problem in the regular season, but you’d better hope that you get a bye because if you don’t, then that age group is going to bite you in the ass Wild Card weekend.
Steelers 17, Ravens 13
Carolina at Arizona
And so begins Kevin Kolb at the helm of a franchise. (No pressure, kid…) The Cards are looking to bounce back from a subpar season without running back Tim Hightower, but Kolb will be the main focus of all of the media attention down there. Carolina has a new quarterback as well in Cam Newton, who never broke any NCAA regulations during his tenure at Auburn.
Cardinals 20, Panthers 14
Detroit at Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman showed a lot of heart last year, leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record. Matthew Stafford played well in a few games as well, the results weren’t nearly as good. Really the Buccaneers success in the long run this year depends a lot on how New Orleans finishes. If the Saints finish strong, it will be a near mathematic impossibility for New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa to all make the postseason.
Buccaneers 24, Lions 14
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Should I even do a “Battle of Ineptitudes” this year? The Bengals looked absolutely awful in their preseason opener against the Lions. They don’t have much of a roster this year with the exception of Cedric Benson, who is going to be a very busy guy and will likely need a few drinks by week three.
Browns 26, Bengals 17
Atlanta at Chicago
There was an article in SI a few weeks back about Jay Cutler that I actually really liked. He seems like a pretty down to earth type of a guy, but I still don’t know if he has what it takes to lead a team like the Bears who haven’t done a whole to protect him. It’s really confusing to me: Mike Martz runs a pass first offense, yet they let Olin Kreutz go and didn’t make any real determined moves when it comes to providing Cutler with more protection. And they also lost Greg Olsen, who was their leading receiver last year.
As for Atlanta, they are going to be really pissed. They had a very impressive season only to get housed by the Packers in their own dome in the divisional round and you could make the argument that on a could day last year they could have stomped any team in the NFL.
Falcons 33, Bears 16
Philadelphia at St. Louis
With all of the hype surrounding the Eagles this year it’s hard not to hate them AND jump on the bandwagon, so I’m going to go ahead and do both. The Eagles should be a killing machine this year no matter where they are playing. There’s a lot of egos on that team sure enough, and they will blow up on each other a couple times, but it’s not going to stop them from finishing 13-3. On the flipside, there hasn’t been hardly any press about the Rams, what with Kevin Kolb going to Arizona and Alex Smith getting another shot.
Eagles 36, Rams 17
Buffalo at Kansas City
The Chiefs won’t be as good as they were last year, and Buffalo will still be a very poor team overall. Wherever you are, don’t get tricked into watching this game.
Chiefs 9, Bills 7
Indianapolis at Houston
Will this be the year the Texans finally do it? Who knows. Kerry Collins will have to start for Peyton Manning, and as a lot of analysts seem to be saying, the Colts are a very average team without him. He may be out three to four games, but it’s not 2006 anymore, so they might not be able to climb out of that hole the way they used to back in the day.
Texans 24, Colts 22
New York Giants at Washington
The Rex Grossman era begins in Washington. Not a big story, and I can’t imagine that there are a whole lot of people who are rooting for that whole situation to suck up airtime (NBC isn’t, I’ll tell you that much…) The Giants on the other hand would get a flat tire if they bought a tank. Everyone and their brother is either on IR or appears on their roster next to all of these disturbing words such as “inactive”, “disabled”, or “Linebacker”. What may happen is this might end up being the beginning of “The bottom of the NFC East” era and it might not have anything to do with Rex Grossman at all.
Redskins 21, Giants 20
Seattle at San Francisco
Seattle is coming off of a bit of an undeserved playoff victory against the Saints last year. It’s not that they didn’t earn it, it’s just that I had really hoped they would fix the whole division winners vs. 2nd place team with a better record thing. I’ll give them a free pass this year because of the lockout but next year they’d better have that one taken care of. The 49ers are still going let Alex Smith borrow the car on Sunday afternoons, it’s just a matter of time before he wrecks it again.
Seahawks 28, 49ers 23
Minnesota at San Diego
What the fuck kind of interconference bullshit game is this to show up on the Week One schedule? Where’s the story line here? Aging quarterback goes to end his disappointing career in a stadium that’s falling apart, but before he makes his home debut he heads out West to visit a team in an atrocious division that doesn’t even start playing until Mid-October? No thanks.
Chargers 21, Vikings 19
Dallas at New York Jets
This is the Sunday night game, more undeserved national airtime for the Cowboys. I think the Jets might have finally worked the kinks out so it will be easy to see how these things play out. The AFC East is by far the best race in the league. I don’t make absolutely anything out of the whole Rex/Rob Ryan mess. They are both fat and at least one of them really likes feet. Anything less than the Jets absolutely beating the shit out of the Cowboys on national television will not be acceptable here.
New York Jets 31, Dallas Cowboys 17
New England at Miami
The Dolphins are without a doubt the goofiest team in the league. They signed Reggie Bush, a flashy hire for a notoriously dumb sports city. Chad Henne is supposed to be their quarterback of the future, although it’s unsure just much of a future he has. It’s a really predictable pick to take the Patriots here, but they are going to fuck Miami up. No apologies. The Dolphins will score but all of those points will come late.
Patriots 42, Dolphins 24
Oakland at Denver
Usually I couldn’t care less about a game like this but I’m actually psyched to see how Oakland responds to the Broncos’ makeshift high school offense and their paper thin defensive front, and I mean those two things in the most insulting ways possible. I’m sort of interested when it comes to which version of the Raiders is going to show up: The gung-ho, self-disciplined Raiders that can be turnover prone and still win the game by 20, or the sloppy no-disciplined Raiders that can turn the ball over three times, have their starting linebacker ejected for a horsecollar and still win. I don’t wonder which Broncos will show up because I already know.
Raiders 32, Broncos 14
Since it’s early, one of the things you may notice about this piece is that there isn’t a lot of statistical information. I was listening to Trent Dilfer on talk radio on the way here and he made a very interesting point: Because of the lockout situation, the fans and analysts should take even less stock in what occured (or didn’t occur) in the preseason this year. The preseason was essentially an extended OTA. So most of this is just speculation but we’ll get more in depth as the season progresses.
One more thing: I hate to bring up Sports Illustrated again, but Tim Layden did an excellent article in the NFL preview issue on page 56 about the disappearance of tackling as an art. Anyone who has been a fan for at least a decade will love it. There’s also an interesting subscript about stripping the ball that might be a good idea to read as well.
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