Week 1 provides the toughest assignment each year for NFL picks gurus. Teams haven't really grown into themselves yet, and judging by the first half of Wednesday night's season kickoff, we can anticipate some teams just not being all there yet.
We're going to make picks anyway. As always, follow these at thy own risk.
Dallas at NY Giants--I picked Dallas initially...ahem...Cowboys 24, Giants 17
New England at Tennessee--I expect the long-awaited breakout of Brandon Lloyd (a very underrated player who's never played with a good QB when that QB was good) in this, and barring seasons in which Patriots QB Tom Brady doesn't tear his ACL, he's a monster in Week 1. Patriots 31, Titans 13.
Buffalo at NY Jets--Intriguing matchup, both teams have glaring question marks offensively. Buffalo's lethal combo of Williams' up front could suspend Jets QB Mark Sanchez from consciousness, but the Jets will sneak away with this one. Jets 13, Bills 9
Jacksonville at Minnesota--Minnesota's offense will be a bit better than people think it will be. Maybe that bold prediction will be fully realized when Jerome Simpson returns, but they'll submit the early lead for the first overall pick to the Jaguars. Vikings 19, Jaguars 13
Indianapolis at Chicago--Bears are a much better team when Jay Cutler is under center. And they went out and got him his BFF/weapon Brandon Marshall. It'll be a long afternoon for the coverage-starved Colts.Bears 34, Colts 20.
St. Louis at Detroit--I think the Lions will fall off their recent rapid growth pace this season. It just won't be in Week 1, even if St. Louis has...well, hasn't really moved the needle from last year. Lions 29, Rams 10
Miami at Houston--Suicide League Pick, rookie Ryan Tannehill vs. a Wade Phillips defense on the road. Houston's run-based offense will make the score a lot less close than the game will have been played.Texans 24, Miami 13.
Atlanta at Kansas City--The Falcons have become the preseason darlings due to rumors of an offense that is about ready to explode. That means the Chiefs will play them close. Atlanta will win, though. Falcons 20, Chiefs 16.
Philadelphia at Cleveland--This is supposed to be the year Philadelphia puts it together. They don't need a really deep secondary to contend with Cleveland's passing "attack," and rookie RB Trent Richardson won't be fully ready yet. Much of the same; decent Browns defense, no offense. Eagles 17, Browns 3.
Washington at New Orleans--If you're Washington, aren't you eagerly waiting to creep your new toy, Robert Griffin III, to the starting line, rev the engine a bit and let 'er fly against a porous Saints coverage unit? I think the Saints win out, but the Redskins are going to put up points. Saints 38, Redskins 31
Seattle at Arizona--Seattle's defense announces its intention to join the league's elite with a borderline cruel performance against a sagging Cardinals offense. Seahawks 20, Cardinals 6.
San Francisco at Green Bay--Got to be the best game of the week. I was the only person in SB Nation's editorial staff to label the 49ers as the No. 1 team in our initial power poll, and I'm not going to leave them now. Niners 27, Packers 24
Carolina at Tampa Bay--Hard to gauge either of these teams, except to say Cam Newton is hard to stop - assuming, of course, the Panthers didn't decide to protect their franchise player and eliminate everything that makes him a good player but could get him hurt. Panthers 28, Bucs 24.
Pittsburgh at Denver--Call me a homer, Pittsburgh's offense will be ready, there's no concern about James Harrison, at best, playing half the defensive snaps, and I'm not at all worried about the massive advantage the Broncos have in the kicking game. Steelers 20, Broncos 16
Cincinnati at Baltimore--It's likely the Ravens employed consultants this offseason to instructs their coaching staff on how to work around the Bengals' defense. Hope that Gatorade is nice and cold. Ravens 31, Bengals 17
San Diego at Oakland--Wouldn't bet a dime on this game if I had the money to do so. Really hard to tell where these teams will be in Week 1, Week 9 and Week 17. For now, QB Phillip Rivers is primed for a comeback year and will drag the Chargers kicking and screaming to a win in this game. Chargers 24, Raiders 21.
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