Football is finally back! And all that comes with it -- fantasy football drafts, lazy Sundays with nachos and beer, and week-by-week predictions. Last year I started off slow (I think 3-13 the first week) and it's possible that happens again this year because all we have to go on so far are preconceived notions of teams and preseason football, neither of which means much. With that being said here's how I could see things shaking out this week.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-5)
It'll be interesting to see how the Seahawks secondary will be impacted by the new flag football bump and run coverage rules. Before the Giants blew the opening night game against the Cowboys following their Super Bowl victory, the Super Bowl champs opening the season at home had a long run of success. I think the Seahawks win this game, but I would rarely feel comfortable laying five points against the spread with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback for the Packers.
Pick: Seahawks to win, but the Packers cover the spread
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
The Falcons are an interesting team this year. They have a lot of nice pieces, but something was missing last year where they struggled to a 4-12 record. The Saints meanwhile went 11-5 with the return of head coach Sean Payton off a year-long suspension. That's what makes this line so interesting. In general, when teams are considered evenly matched the home team gets a three-point advantage, but I don't think these teams are evenly matched and I don't see the Falcons pulling off an upset.
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (-4)
People are on Eli Manning's case and Giants fans are nervous about what the offense might look like, but one thing is for sure. Eli Manning and the Giants offense is better anything the Rams or Vikings have going on. This is one game no one should want to watch, Matt Cassel vs Shaun Hill. I'll take the one sure thing -- Adrian Peterson is good.
Pick: Vikings upset the Rams
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
I don't have a ton of faith in either offense right now so I think this could be a lower scoring game and six points is a lot to give up in a defensive struggle.
Pick: Steelers win, but the Brows cover the spread
Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-10.5)
The Eagles are 10.5-point favorites over the hapless Jaguars. The Jaguars will be trotting out Chad Henne to start at quarterback, a marginal player with an 18-32 career record as a starting quarterback, but the Eagles secondary is nothing to write home about. The Jaguars are also hoping to build a tough-minded defense with coach Gus Bradley. I don't think the Jaguars can go into Philadelphia and pull of the upset, but I think they should be able to keep within 10 points.
Pick: Eagles win, but Jaguars cover the spread
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets (-5)
This is a game I like quite a bit for the Jets. They are getting a rookie quarterback in his first start with a suspect offensive line against what could shake out very well as one of the best defensive lines in the game. I think Derek Carr will have his hands full with Ryan's creative blitz schemes and the overall above average defensive talent of the Jets.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-1.5)
I don't really know what to think of the Ravens this year, while I really like what the Bengals have to offer outside of Andy Dalton. If the Bengals want to take another step forward they have to win these divisional games on the road against the Ravens and Steelers, and let's see if it starts Week 1.
Pick: Bengals with the upset win
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (-7)
I think the Bills will have a good defense this year despite the losses of Jarius Byrd (Saints signed him in FA) and Kiko Alonso (season-ending injury), and the Bears have a ton of offensive weapons at their disposal. But the difference is the Bears defense might be competent, while the Bills offense could be dreadful. I think the Bears win this game, and it makes a lot of sense to consider the Bears as the survivor pick in your pool.
Washington Redskins at Houston Texans (-3)
Living in upstate New York, I've witnessed many times when current Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked brilliant, but followed that up with boneheaded plays that caused his team the game and that was with an average Buffalo defense. This Texans defense has potential to be good and they have some interesting offensive weapons with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. If Fitzpatrick can avoid turnovers the Texans should have a solid year.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City (-4)
I think Tennessee is going to be better than people think and the Chiefs are a very solid team as well so this should be a close game, I like the Chiefs at home.
New England Patriots (-5) at Miami Dolphins
Is Tom Brady in decline? There is some buzz of that, but that's probably over-hyped. He's still one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but the offensive talent surrounding Brady has really plummeted the past few years. The Dolphins, on the other hand, seem to be on the uptick. I like what they are building in terms of their roster talent, they made a concentrated effort to improve their offensive line and I think it'll help Ryan Tannehill out. The Dolphins also seem to be one of the teams that can give the Patriots some trouble.
Pick: Patriots win, but Dolphins cover the spread
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay (-2)
I think the Panthers are the better team even though the Buccaneers are favored.
Pick: Panthers with the upset
San Francisco 49ers (-5) at Dallas Cowboys
This is a game that reminds me of the fact that it's not always who you play, it's when you play them. The Cowboys get to play the 49ers with the holdouts, the suspensions, and the like while the Giants will likely catch the 49ers in their groove later in the year.
Pick: Cowboys cover the spread, but lose to the 49ers
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-7.5)
The Broncos were a historic offense last year, but the Colts are no slouches. I think the Broncos should be favored in this game, but I think the Colts have the talent to stay within 7.5 points of any team in the league.
Pick: Colts cover the spread, but Broncos win
New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-5.5)
This game makes me nervous as a Giants fan. The Giants secondary could neutralize the high-flying passing attack of the Lions, but the Lions terrific defensive line talent will likely give the Giants terrible fits. I don't think the Lions are that much better than the Giants, but I do think they are a bad matchup for the Giants.
Pick: Lions win by more than 5.5 points
San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (-3)
Philip Rivers had a great bounce-back year last year which hopefully Eli can emulate, but like the Cardinals I think they have all the pieces in place to have a good year, especially on offense as long as Carson Palmer can protect the football better. But in this game, I don't think the Chargers are the type of team who will force a lot of turnovers which is why I like the Cardinals.