Another NFL season is finally upon us. Seven months of NFL fasting ends this Wednesday when the Cowboys take on the Giants. It's been an eventful offseason for Colts fans. Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday, Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian are all gone (to name a few). Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Donnie Avery, Vick Ballard, Samson Satele, Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson (any one have any name tags?) have joined the rebuilding effort. Other than that, it's been pretty boring, huh?
Oh yeah... and the Colts have completely changed their defensive scheme and no CB except Jerraud Powers was welcomed back.
Fear not, Colts fans... Football is back. Heck, if the preseason can be believed, competitive Colts football may be back. There are some interesting story lines in Week 1 but none more intriguing than Peyton Manning's return to football on Sunday Night Football.
On to the picks...
These two teams each know how losing your starting quarterback can change your season. Colts fans don't need to be reminded of the 2011 season without Peyton Manning. The Bears suffered a similar fate last season when Jay Cutler broke his thumb. The Bears were 7-3 and had hopes of a deep playoff run before losing 5 straight after Cutler went down. Chicago should be even more explosive with the addition of Cutler's teammate in Denver, Brandon Marshall. The good news for Colts fans is that Brian Urlacher will be hampered by a knee issue. The Colts want to get the Andrew Luck era off to a good start but got a tough draw in this Week 1 match-up.
BEARS WIN 27-17
Super Bowl champs are 8-0 in Season Kickoff games over the last eight seasons... and I don't expect that to change. The Cowboys start every season with a ton of talent and a lot of hope but can never seem to bring it all together. I expect the game to be close - the Cowboys will probably even lead late - but the Giants pull this one out.
GIANTS WIN 27-24
The Eagles ended the last season finally living up to the hype that was created with last season's free agent class. Chemistry takes time to develop and the Eagles are a trendy pick going into this season. The Browns don't seem to have much going for them. They have a 28 year old rookie starting at quarterback, a banged up rookie running back and their best defensive player is in some trouble. Not looking good for Cleveland's home opener.
EAGLES WIN 24-13
The Lions were one of the more entertaining teams to watch last season - mainly because of WR Calvin Johnson. Johnson is probably the most dominant playmaker we've seen at the receiver position since Randy Moss was in his prime. I expect a lot of fireworks from the Lions as the Rams begin yet another rebuilding season. Bradford doesn't have enough weapons to compete this year.
LIONS WIN 31-17
I'm not convinced the Patriots will walk over the Titans. The Titans play tough, hard-nosed football as well as anyone in the league and should give Tom Brady all that he can handle. Jake Locker has been a pleasant surprise so far this preseason and Chris Johnson is eager to prove that 2011 was an aberration. With that said, I think New England has too many weapons to lose this game but it'll be closer than people think.
PATRIOTS WIN 21-17
The Falcons passing game has looked strong this preseason. Julio Jones should have a strong sophomore season for Atlanta as he continues to get comfortable with Matt Ryan. Arrow Head Stadium is one of the hardest places to play in the league and Kansas City won't be the pushover they were last season. Jamaal Charles is back from a knee injury and the team added Peyton Hillis to complete a strong 1-2 punch. Dwayne Bowe has shown flashes of brilliance and may put it all together this season. Chiefs win a close one.
CHIEFS WIN 24-20
Both of these teams have little hope for a playoff run in 2012. Both are starting second year quarterbacks that haven't shown that they can be 'the guy' yet. Adrian Peterson's status for the game is unknown as he recovers from a knee injury suffered last Christmas Eve. On the other sideline, Maurice Jones-Drew's status is unknown as he recovers from a lengthy holdout. A game like this is completely up for grabs - I say go with the home team.
VIKINGS WIN 20-17
Two of the most covered stories during the NFL offseason collide in New Orleans. Bounty Gate faces off against Robert Griffin III. The truth is, we don't know what to expect out of either. Will the Saints be able to maintain their swagger with their backup-backup head coach? Is RGIII as good as advertised? Something tells me that the Saints will be just fine with the players they have on the field. RGIII and the Redksins may take awhile to figure it all out - but they should be fine.
SAINTS WIN 34-17
Last season the Bills got off to a 4-1 start to shock the NFL. They ended up fading to a 6-10 record but they got some believers in the locker room. The Jets seem primed for failure. Neither Mark Sanchez nor Tim Tebow led a touchdown drive this preseason and team leadership is a major concern. My prediction is that the Jets lose the home opener and start the whispers for Tebow early in New York.
BILLS WIN 24-17
The Dolphins have become America's favorite train wreck on this season's edition of 'Hard Knocks'. Viewers of the show have been able to see how NOT to run a team, from the top on down. The Texans meanwhile are a trendy Super Bowl pick of national sportswriters - and with good reason. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster are among the best at their positions and the AFC South isn't exactly the toughest division in football this season. No brainer here - in fact, it's my lock of the week.
TEXANS WIN 31-14
This is the 'I can't believe it's not on Prime Time' game of the week. The 49ers had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season and added some offensive weapons this year. Randy Moss always seemed to love playing against Green Bay. The Packers offense seemed unstoppable at times last season. The playoff loss from a year ago has made this team angry and eager to prove they aren't soft defensively. I like the Packers at home.
PACKERS WIN 27-23
The Seahawks enter the season with Russell Wilson at quarterback and riding a pretty successful preseason. Time will tell if the success will last but I have a feeling that Seattle may be the team to watch in the NFL early this season. I expect some early success with Wilson and riding the hot streak a bit longer. The Cardinals, like the Dolphins, seem to be doing everything wrong. Take Larry Fitzgerald off the team and there isn't much to be hope to be had - and neither John Skelton or Kevin Kolb are going to change that.
SEAHAWKS WIN 24-14
Cam Newton was the big story from last season and should be better in his second season. The Panthers seem to be a team that a lot of expert believe will surprise people this season. I'm not sure that I agree with the seasonal outlook but I think they win in Tampa. The Buccs don't seem to be the same team that two seasons ago appeared on the brink. Josh Freeman doesn't have the confidence and they haven't added the necessary weapons. Carolina wins this one.
PANTHERS WIN 24-20
This is the game that I am most intrigued by going into Week 1. Peyton Manning will be making his return to the game after missing all of last season with a career-threatening neck injury. The Steelers are know for their defense and were always difficult for Manning to beat during his tenure in Indianapolis. I think that it may take a few more weeks before Manning is Manning again and for the team to develop some chemistry. I think the Steelers get the best of Manning in his return - and Manning throws at least two interceptions.
STEELERS WIN 21-17
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green made the Bengals a pleasant surprise last season. Both will try to avoid the sophomore slump this year and get the Bengals back to the playoffs. The Ravens were VERY close to representing the AFC in the Super Bowl last year and surely want to get Ray Lewis another ring. I like the Ravens at home to start the season off right.
RAVENS WIN 31-17
The Chargers have teased everyone in the NFL for the last decade. Everyone has been waiting for them to take the final step and they've faltered. There is no reason for me to believe that they will get it together this year. The good news is that they are playing the Raiders. Carson Palmer looked like a quarterback near the end of his career this preseason and I wouldn't be shocked to see Terrelle Pryor by the end of the year. Chargers win an ugly one.
Agree? Disagree? As always, comments are welcome! I will track my picks during the season and brag when I'm right (and pretend I was right if I'm wrong). Pick against me if you dare - Remember, I'm a Predictificationist.
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