Many things in life operate cyclically. There is almost always the ebb of flow of when something functions at a significantly high level before dropping into a lull… just to find a way home.
I recently found my way home, so to speak. I was meandering about for years pretending to function highly only because my outward demeanor afforded me the ability to appear that way but underneath, I was operating barely over 60% capacity both intellectually and psychologically. Then in a single flash like a ray of sun burnt across your vision cuz you stared too long, it all changed and so much overwhelmingly positive, constructive, creative energy shot through me and reinstated what had been dormant. It’s only natural that I find a way to harness the energy I’ve been infused with and channel it into the things I do best and aim to do better.
Like my life and many other lives, the NFL is also standing on the cusp of a new day, a new ebb in its rich history. We had a peculiar offseason, not one as mired with anxious uncertainty as a year ago when the very season itself was in jeopardy with the lockout but instead one with just as much drama with the Bountygate scandal. Of course, you have your standard run-of-the-mill variety of offseason drama; the quarterback controversies, the aging stars looking for rebirth in new cities, the guys beating their mothers, exciting new rookies… you know, the regular stuff.
I’ve struggled in the past couple of years with my picks (and I’ve already started this season off 0-1… freakin’ Cowboys!!) but I don’t intend on that being the trend. Sooooo……..
Let’s DIG IT.
Cowboys @ Giants
If you want to start a football season, you gotta start it with a rivalry and there just aren’t as many rivalries that get it done better than this.
I was surprised at how many “experts” were going with the Giants in this one. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m picking the Giants lol but this is still a pretty evenly matched game. While the Giants are the defending champions, nobody can deny that like their previous Super Bowl run, they were mediocre regular season performers and there’s nothing that leads me to believe they’ll be any different this year. The Cowboys on the other hand are usually pretty good during the regular season and… well, not so good in the postseason.
Let’s break this down quick because we gotta go haha The Boys have the better running game with the emergence of DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo has all sorts of targets to throw to even with Witten’s injury. Their defense has some talent and are expected to be a better unit as they are much healthier than they were last year. The Giants are going to struggle stopping Murray as it isn’t their strong suit. They’ll get after Romo with one of the most formidable front lines. But expect the Giants offense to get the job done against the Cowboy defense and therein lies the difference in this game; Eli’s deep ball will torment this Cowboys secondary. That’s where we will see Eli shine under the lights where he is most focused and effective. And they’re at home.
This will be a fairly high scoring affair, higher even than the line; 31-24
Falcons @ Chiefs
I’ve often suggested that the Falcons have been overrated and with Turner having so many touches over the past few years (more than just about anyone in the NFL, by the way), it’s only a matter of time before the team becomes one dimensional when his YPC trends downward. Against a tough Chiefs defense, that might spell doom… except they’re still not at full strength with Hali, Johnson, Flowers and more out. That’ll be difficult to keep up with Matty Ice and his endless array of targets. Turner will eventually give up more touches to Jacquizz Rodgers who is capable of doing big things. The X factor story here is that Tony Gonzalez is coming back to KC for the first time and probably the last time. Arrowhead will be rocking and the Chiefs are going to put up one hell of a fight but I think the Falcons beat the spread and win.
Eagles @ Browns
The Eagles were so bad at underachieving last year that most will have written them off for this season… unless of course you were paying attention at the end of last season when the defense locked in and shut everybody down to finish with four straight wins. Expect that defense to continue to be extremely tough especially with the addition of Demeco Ryans. The big question for the Eagles will continue to be Michael Vick’s health. Now that DeSean Jackson is fully compensated for his skill level, it is likely that he will have a career season (typically, players perform better in a contract year and then slouch once they’re paid but Jackson has, thus far, done the complete opposite and I’m banking on him rewarding the Eagles). Suffice to say, none of that really matters this week as the Eagles offense is too overpowering for Cleveland’s talented but overused defense. Shady McCoy will run shod over the D and Cleveland’s offense is so screwy, it isn’t likely they’ll stay on the field long enough to keep their D fresh. Eagles should roll on the road and beat the spread handily.
Redskins @ Saints
I’m really excited about the Skins; really, really. It’s not just the RGIII phenomenon because even though Griffin is going to be great and might even have a Cam Newton type of rookie year (in the sense that he can easily accumulate double digit passing AND rushing TDs), it’s the fact that the defense has always been fairly stout and their running game effective with its Shanahanigans that’ll make the difference. However, like all good teams, it takes a while to ramp up and getting a week 1 date with an explosive Saints team coming off one of the worst offseasons in the history of pro sports is just not a good fit for this young, budding Skins team. The Saints will be extremely tough at home, the dome will be rocking and Brees will be so far out of his mind, he might as well wear a cape. Consider this thing in the bag. I am likin’ me some skins right now but the Saints will march on here…
Patriots @ Titans
Possibly the scariest team entering this season, the Patriots are so stacked they (omg brace yoself) cut Deion Branch (who Belichick would typically rather start at kicker or long snapper or something rather than cut). The Patriots have brought on a deep threat that actually works (Ochocinco/Johnson/He Who Cannot be Named didn’t do jack) in Brandon Lloyd, are going to run out 4 TE sets and have juiced up a bit on D. They are going to be the toughest team in the AFC. The Titans have a bright future and I do think Locker is going to be better than most expect but this just isn’t the right match up to start the season with although playing at home might make the pain sting a little less. Chris Johnson will have to have one of his CJ2k type games in order for there to be much of a chance in this one. Patriots should easily beat the spread on this puppy.
Dolphins @ Texans
The Texans are in a precarious position. On one hand, they’ve been one of the more steadily rising teams over the past couple of years but after a season that saw them lose their top wideout (and one of the best in the game) Andre Johnson for a majority of it as well as their trusted TE Owen Daniels as well, they remain a team on the cusp of a playoff run but not quite ever prepared or locked in for one. At least they return this season at full strength offensively. Defensively, they lose their cornerstones Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans but still boast a solid defense that, when on point, can certainly be a top 10 unit. They should easily take the South (although a surprising Titans team should not be overlooked)… but their expectations have to be set well beyond that as they need to get into the AFC championship game at least in order to justify their rise. Conversely, the Dolphins are a mess. They sported a QB controversy that was decided at the last possible moment between three strangely mediocre to below mediocre QBs and there’s no real relief in sight. The Phins are going to struggle and struggle bad. They won’t even cover this weekend’s 12 ½ point spread.
Bills @ Jets
The (secondary) power in the AFC East has shifted from the Jets who were promising for a couple years under Rex Ryan to the Bills who have steadily improved on both sides of the ball. The Bills now sport Mario Williams on a defense that was rather weak in the pass rush and as a result porous in the secondary. Offensively they can put up points and have talent at every major position even if Fitzpatrick is the best QB you hardly hear about. The Jets have two QBs everybody’s heard about and for all the wrong reasons. I dislike overly dramatic sports teams and the Jets are at the very top of that heap. It ought to be offensive to any sports fanatic that Eli gets less press and less attention than either of the tools manning (rofl pun) the Jets offense. That said, the Jets should still be tough enough on defense to make this game interesting but the high powered Bills are still likely to beat them by two scores and easily beat the spread in this battle of New York State.
Jaguars @ Vikings
I don’t mean to be a hater but YAWN. Two of the league’s doormats are going to tangle in what will be a rushing, low scoring snorefest. The Vikings have the edge in this only because they’re at home and have the less fail option at QB. Both Adrian Peterson and MJD are question marks in this game but the edge here goes to the Jags only because MJD’s limited appearance isn’t due to injury and his backup Rashad Jennings is going to have an easier time getting it done than Gerhart will. This will be close and low but I’m calling the Vikes at home just because they’re at home?? Lol
Colts @ Bears
This rematch of Super Bowl whatever Roman numeral it was is going to be nothing like that game was. It won’t be close, it won’t be low scoring and the Colts are not going to win. The Bears might be the most balanced team in the NFL (yes, I did say that) and are one of my favorites to win the NFC and return to the big game (Oi! Yeah, I said that too!). They can run the ball with two very effective backs, Cutler has all sorts of weapons including his boy Brandon Marshall who, when on, is one of the best in the game, and a solid strong defense (as usual). I’m excited to see what Andrew Luck will do with his career and if Donald Brown can take advantage of the new system and new vision in Indy. But not this week.
Rams @ Lions
I’m honestly one of those (few) who are expecting something out of the Rams this year. Not much, granted, because their division has toughened a lot in the last couple years but they can easily finish ahead of the Cards who I think don’t have as much upside as the Rams who still have a once highly touted QB in Sam Bradford and some talent around him on both sides of the ball. BUT… this week is going to be something of a slaughter. The Lions have been improving steadily for a couple years now and last year was indicative that they’re very close to being a real contender. Stafford to Megatron will destroy the St. Louis secondary enough times to stay ahead by a couple of scores and make their Opening Day a fe(a)stive one in Detroit. Rams won’t even cover. Two scores.
Niners @ Packers
The Packers are fairly favored in this matchup with a 4 ½ line in Vegas. Although that isn’t drastic (merely more than a FG but less than a TD), it’s the fact that pundits across the webosphere are flooding the picks with the Pack. I respectfully (or not) disagree. I’m not suggesting that the Pack are overrated or that they are not capable of being the same dominant team that has crushed most of their opponents for the past couple of seasons behind the electric play of possibly the best QB in the game but… well, that’s just it; they’ve done it largely because of Aaron Rodgers. His receiver corps is obviously talented with the likes of Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and the emergence of Jordy Nelson but their running game, even with the addition of Cedric Benson, leaves a lot to be desired as far as playing what could very well be a grind game with a team built to grind. Speaking of which, the Niners sport a very good running game with stud top back Frank Gore backed by a handful of talented backs like Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs. They’ll keep the chains moving with fresh legs for 60 minutes allowing Smith to take advantage of his legs and a lot of good targets like Vernon Davis, Crabtree and a rejuvenated and always dangerous Randy Moss. Most will make this to be a battle between Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers over the draft fiasco that found the underwhelming Smith going first overall and the studly Rodgers going 24th. However, the real discerning factor here is both teams’ defensive units and this is where the advantage is completely in San Francisco’s favor. The Niners might have trouble scoring buckets of points on an improved Packer defense but Green Bay’s secondary can be passed on once the run is established against their front seven; can’t say the same about the Packers against the best defense in football. Rodgers will always find a way to move the ball and score but they will be more limited by the Niners than they will be by just about anyone else on their schedule. And special teams? With Tedd Ginn back there (and not Kyle Williams lol lol), advantage Niners. These two teams will undoubtedly take it down to the wire so expect one of the best games of the weekend here. I know I’ll be watching. I’m going to go on a limb here and call this an upset for the visiting Forty Niners.
Panthers @ Buccaneers
Another great matchup this weekend, this time between NFC South rivals. The Bucs took a nasty step backwards last season that ultimately got Coach Raheem Norris fired and some underachieving key players jettisoned. What’s left in Tampa is a strong armed, smart young QB in Josh Freeman, an explosive young receiver in Mike Williams and an elite veteran newcomer opposite him in Vincent Jackson. Drafting rookie Doug Martin was a brilliant move by the Bucs who are now pairing him with Lagarette Blount for what ought to be a very strong offensive unit. Their defense is a bit soft and it’ll be their problem all year but they should definitely bounce back this season. This week, they go up against a team that is rising with one of the most exciting QBs in the league, Cam Newton, who has a lot to live up to in his sophomore year if he’s to exceed his EXCELLENT rookie campaign. They’re a bit banged up in the backfield but once John Stewart is back and healthy, the two headed monster of Stewart and De’Angelo Williams will rampage. There are receiver issues in Carolina ranging from age to injury to lack of talent but it really does seem like Cam can do anything. More importantly for this matchup at least is that the Carolina defense is FINALLY healthy after missing key talented contributors at the linebacker position. All last year, the Panthers would jump out to quick 14-21 point leads just to see them whither behind porous, inconsistent defensive play. I expect that to change after one full season under defensive minded HC Ron Rivera and the return of their studs. This game should be a good one but I’m giving the edge to the Panthers easily beating a 1 point spread.
Seahawks @ Cardinals
I’m a sucker for division rivalries and we have a handful of good ones this week but this isn’t one of them. As tough as the Cards will play Seattle, this Seattle team seems on the verge of being strong and have been mentioned as some folks’ dark horse, sleeper team. This year’s Niners, even. They have a tough defense (maybe top 5?), a beastie running back, a rookie QB who came out of nowhere and stole the job from a high priced acquisition, and a once pro bowl receiver rejuvenated and focused. Don’t look now but this team might push for a wild card. If Skelton can execute, they’ll have a shot. Otherwise this is going to be two scores.
Steelers @ Broncos
I distinctly remember when Joe Montana suited up for the Chiefs. I was already a Raider fan so a QB going from one team I disliked very much to a team I disliked even more was upsetting but not tragically so. When Peyton signed with the Broncos, I think part of me died. I don’t presume to be a doctor or anything but I’m not settled on 16 games out of Peyton Manning this year not doing more damage than good. Like all good veteran superstars, he’ll do just enough to score a bunch of TDS some times and fuck up royally some of the other times. But consistent elite performance, one should not expect from under center for the Denver Broncos this year. The Steelers are also somewhat on a decline of sorts and the current injury to Rashard Mendenhall will certainly make it more difficult to buck that trend and rejoin the elite of the conference. The Broncos D have taken a step back with loss of their DC (and now Raider coach) Dennis Allen who brought this team back from givin up to 40 points on some nights to under 15. Though the Broncos will be at home and Manning is an excellent bright lights QB, I think the advantage is squarely with the Steelers who will play disciplined, aggressive football and win on the road.
Bengals @ Ravens
After the hype of the Harbaughs potentially meeting up in the Super Bowl, both the defensive-driven teams were edged by the offensive counterparts. The Ravens sniffed the Super Bowl and want to return and the word out of B-more is that Flacco is looking more focused and throwing the ball crisper than ever before. They begin their climb back to the top of the AFC with a fierce rivalry game with a Bengals team eager to build upon a solid campaign for having rebooted their offense with rookies at both QB and wideout and both having impressive individual seasons. Now this young Bengals team with their above average defense and capable offense is prime to do big things. Only issue is that their running game has question marks and the Ravens D is a savvy unit that will make Cincy one dimensional and then shut the door. The Ravens are favorites by a full TD. I’m calling a cover on this one; Bengals will pull within a score, maybe a field goal and maybe a little more than that but they will lose.
Chargers @ Raiders
The last time these two met, they met in Oakland and the Chargers ensured that the Raiders would not be finishing 9-7 and advancing to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade due to tiebreakers. The AFC West was, even with Tebow running the show in Denver, shaping up to be one of the more competitive and exciting divisions in football anyway (and usually are, honestly) and that was before the Chiefs got healthy, committed to Romeo Crennel and Manning arrived in Denver as a massive upgrade. These two here, though, are still the best in the division regardless and the Raiders will show that they are not to be overlooked this year just because they are going through a massive overhaul and difficult transition. McFadden is finally healthy (and *cross your fingers* I think will stay that way, honestly, and register his first full 16 game ledger) and will destroy the Chargers run defense setting up Palmer for easier passing opportunities which in turn should limit the number of times he completely fails. On the other side of the ball, Philip Rivers, looking to rebound from his worst season as a pro one where he found himself constantly forcing the ball and trying to do too much will find again that he has to do exactly that as Ryan Mathews is hurt again and there are no viable options behind him (Ronnie Brown hasn’t been relevant in a couple years). Worse yet for Rivers is that he’ll also come to find just why the Raider defensive line is being heralded by a lot of critics as possibly the best in the NFL. A completely revamped secondary and the Chargers might have some problems. It’s a total homer pick, no doubt, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Raiders will come away victorious.