Week One NFL Picks: Another Opening, Another ShowPosted on September 02, 2013
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- In the parity-ridden NFL world in which we live, where the fine line between winning and losing would make a supermodel look fat, the unexpected must be expected.
Few would have expected a team that ranked in the middle of the league pack on both offense and defense and had a one-win December to reach the Super Bowl, let alone win it. But the Baltimore Ravens accomplished exactly that.
Few would have expected players that had a spectacular preseason to be cut from the team before the final roster was set. But safety Omar Brown and running back Bobby Rainey suffered that fate.
Few would expect a league as unpredictable as the NFL to allow anyone to get nearly two-thirds of the game results correct during the course of a regular season. Yet, with blind luck and just a bit of know-how, we managed to do that.
It's time for the weekly game picks, an enterprise in which our win total has risen from 153 in 2010 to 165 the following year to 169 last season. That's a 66 percent victory rate, which we hope to improve on in 2013.
Remember, we don't use point spreads and we don't lay odds. There are enough young hucksters in the media who do that sort of thing. So, on we go.
BALTIMORE 34, DENVER 20 (Thursday night): A few weeks ago, we picked the Broncos to win the Super Bowl, and we won't change our minds until they are officially eliminated. But for now, Denver is struggling with injury and suspension issues, plus we don't see how the Broncos will be able to run the ball against the rebuilt, younger, faster, deeper Ravens defense.
NEW ENGLAND 30, BUFFALO 17: Even with Tom Brady in tow, the Patriots lost at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2011. Plus, Brady's offensive weaponry has been mostly stripped from him, but the Bills are countering with Jeff Tuel. For the moment, New England is going to have to transition from a high-flying passing team to a grind-it-out bunch.
CAROLINA 27, SEATTLE 24: Here we go, the first west-to-east travel game on the schedule, and West Coast teams rarely win in that situation. Even the Seahawks, a team some are picking to win it all this year, are not immune. Carolina has a point to prove this year: it can be aggressive and create turnovers on defense.
CINCINNATI 31, CHICAGO 20: The Bengals look like the kind of poised, balanced team that can do more than just win during the regular season. They open at Chicago, a squad victimized by a division that is tougher than it may look to some. Cincinnati's deep, fast, young defense will get after Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and force a few mistakes.
MIAMI 23, CLEVELAND 16: The Browns typically play a lot of games in which they hang tough, but make one or two key mistakes to lose. This should be no different against a Dolphins team that some have tabbed as an AFC playoff sleeper.
MINNESOTA 24, DETROIT 20: The Lions must be cursing their fate, opening the regular season at home against a division opponent that swept them last year. Not only that, Detroit has beaten the Vikings only four times since 2001.
INDIANAPOLIS 20, OAKLAND 9: Although we feel the read-option quarterbacking class will take a step back this year as defenses adjust, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck should be able to build on his fine rookie season, one that didn't make the headlines Washington's Robert Griffin III's or Seattle's Russell Wilson's did, but a solid campaign nonetheless.
KANSAS CITY 30, JACKSONVILLE 6: The Chiefs are a team that struggled last year and actually bottomed out the Jaguars to win the first overall draft pick. That led to a better offseason for the team -- getting Andy Reid as a new coach certainly helped -- while Jacksonville didn't seem to show signs of taking a step forward.
NEW ORLEANS 34, ATLANTA 31: This is one of the best games of the week, and it features one of the best regional rivalries in football. The Saints' Bountygate suspensions are finished, and their defense looks improved, which is why we picked them to win the NFC South. Plus, they're playing at home, and the fans at the Superdome should be loud, as usual.
TAMPA BAY 23, NEW YORK JETS 17: Buccaneers cornerback Darelle Revis comes back to his island wearing pewter and should register at least one pickoff against whichever quarterback the beleaguered Jets choose to run out onto the field. This is the start for what could be New York coach Rex Ryan's longest season … and his last with the Jets.
PITTSBURGH 27, TENNESSEE 13: No matter what problems might be plaguing the Steelers -- an aging defense, an inconsistent offensive line, injuries in the running back and tight end corps -- they have ususally managed to win home games against opponents like this. The Titans could fight the Jaguars to avoid the AFC South cellar.
ST. LOUIS 26, ARIZONA 23: This is our hunch game of the week. On the surface, many have tabbed the Cardinals as an NFC sleeper, but we feel St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford's game will go up another level with a player such as Dunbar product Tavon Austin as an option. Plus, the Cardinals don't seem to have anyone to knock the ball free from him the way the Ravens did.
SAN FRANCISCO 30, GREEN BAY 20: The media and show-business world were all over San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the offseason. Whether it was because of his read-option skills or his tattoos, we're not sure. But the 49ers have the better interior line units and one of the league's best defenses. They won at Lambeau Field their last trip there, and should take this one at home.
DALLAS 24, NEW YORK GIANTS 20 (Sunday night): This was a tough pick to make. On one hand, Dallas has one of the league's best opening-week records. On the other, the Giants haven't lost in the new Cowboys Stadium since it opened in 2009. Then again, those four New York wins have come by an average margin of only four points.
PHILADELPHIA 27, WASHINGTON 24 (Monday night): This should be a fun game to watch, one that features Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced, new-look offense against a healthy Griffin and the defending NFC East champion Redskins. We're taking Philadelphia, because it's the team's first regular-season game under Kelly, and the offense might have a few wrinkles that could hoodwink the Redskins.
HOUSTON 30, SAN DIEGO 10 (Monday night): As the night grows darker, so do the Chargers' fortunes. This game could feature a lot of turnovers, defensive mistakes and booing from the home fans. San Diego's window of opportunity has slammed shut, and that should be emphasized against a Houston team that can now consider itself one of the league's best.
Posted Sept. 2, 2013