Well, tonight is the night. It's actually pretty embarrassing how excited I am to watch football. Before I begin the week one picks, I have some unfinished business regarding my official 2012 Predictions.
Offensive MVP - Tom Brady (runner up, Rodgers)
Defensive MVP - Jason Pierre Paul (runner up, Suh)
Offensive ROY - Andrew Luck (runner up, RG3)
Defensive ROY - Melvin Ingram (runner up, Claiborne)
Coach of the Year - Bill Belichick
Comeback Player of the Year - Peyton Manning
AFC East - Pats (16-0)
AFC North - Steelers (12-4)
AFC South - Texans (10-6)
AFC West - Broncos (11-5)
AFC Wildcards - Chargers (10-6), Titans (9-7)
Rest of the AFC:
Bills (9-7), Ravens (9-7), Chiefs (8-8), Colts (8-8), Bengals (7-9), Dolphins (5-11), Jets (5-11), Jags (4-12), Browns (4-12), Raiders (2-14)
NFC East - Cowboys (11-5)
NFC North - Packers (13-3)
NFC South - Falcons (11-5)
NFC West - 49ers (9-7)
NFC Wildcards - Lions (11-5), Saints (10-6)
Rest of the NFC:
Giants (10-6), Eagles (9-7), Panthers (9-7), Bears (9-7), Rams (7-9), Redskins (6-10), Bucs (6-10), Cardinals (5-11), Vikings (5-11), Seahawks (3-13)
Broncos DEF Titans
Chargers DEF Texans
Lions DEF 49ers
Cowboys DEF Saints
Patriots DEF Chargers
Steelers DEF Broncos
Packers DEF Lions
Cowboys DEF Falcons
Pats DEF Steelers
Packers DEF Cowboys
Patriots over Packers, 34-30
*Yes, I have the Patriots going 19-0. I also think Brady will throw for 5,500 yards.
Top 5 Picks in 2013 Draft -
1. Raiders (2-14) - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2. Seahawks (3-13) - Robert Woods, WR, USC
3. Browns (4-12) - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
4. Jaguars (4-12) - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
5. Jets (5-11) - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
What else ...
Okay, I think DeMarco Murray wins the rushing title, Andre Johnson leads the league in receiving yards, Jimmy Graham leads in receptions, and Carson Palmer leads in interceptions. I think Andrew Luck plays more games than RG3 and Russell Wilson combined, I think Brandon LaFell overtakes Steve Smith as the #1 receiver in Carolina, I think Jake Locker and Christian Ponder are both better than Andy Dalton this year, I think Pat Shurmur (Cleveland) will be the first coach fired, I also think big name coaches Rex Ryan, Lovie Smith, Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan will be canned after missing the playoffs ... and lastly ... I think if anyone can break the Madden Curse, it's Calvin Johnson.
On to the week one picks:
Cowboys @ Giants
Predicted Line: NYG by 3.5
Actual Line: NYG by 4
This game features arguably the two best pass rushers in the NFL, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Pierre-Paul, and also two of the most up-and-down quarterbacks. The Giants' primary weakness is their secondary and coverage linebackers, and the Cowboys' main struggle is the interior of their offensive line. Both of these weaknesses should be on display, as the other team has the exact personnel to take advantage.
It's a major revenge game for Dallas, who lost twice to the G-Men late last season and consequently missed the playoffs. It's also a chance for the disrespected Giants to say "Damn it, we're Super Bowl champs and nobody gives us any credit."
The biggest matchups to watch are Tyron Smith against JPP, rookie CB Morris Claiborne against Victor Cruz, and Dez Bryant's brain against stupidity.
Both teams like to throw the ball like crazy, sometimes to their own detriment. Both teams are known for mental mistakes and drama. Eli Manning is the more polished, accomplished QB, but Romo is more talented and much more athletic. Both teams have loads of talent at the skill positions. I've watched enough highlight videos of DeMarco Murray to confidently say he might be the best offensive player in this game, and could completely dominate if Dallas commits to giving him the ball, which they probably won't.
Jason Witten is out with a spleen, DT Jat Ratliff is also out for Dallas, and Hakeen Nicks is questionable as he recovers from a broken foot.
It should be a high-scoring, back-and-forth battle to kickoff the season, with the winner being decided in the final 2 minutes. If that's the case, I'll take the points. Dallas 37, Giants 35.
It's not very often I get to watch an entire non-Lions game, so this one was especially fantastic. My thoughts:
-I'm off to a good start with the prediction about DeMarco winning the rushing title. He looked phenomenally like an AP clone last night, as I've been saying for a year. If he stays healthy for 16 games, not only will he run for 1,800 yards, but he'll average 5.5 per carry. And the funny thing is, Dallas underutilized him last night, especially in the passing game.
-Jason Pierre-Paul and DeMarcus Ware were as good as advertised. Holy smokes. Justin Tuck, on the other hand, was invisible.
-Tony Romo does a lot of things well, but snapping the ball on time is not one of them. He rushed to get the ball snapped before the play clock over and over and over ... including 2 delay of games and 1 panic timeout. What a dumb thing to struggle with.
-Dallas's offensive line sucked, with something like 7 penalties, including 3 on Tyron Smith, who is supposed to be their best tackle. But Murray made plays out of nothing, and Romo escaped the pass rush pretty effortlessly. I don't think the O-line will be detrimental for them this year; it'll just make them more interesting. But they do need to stop committing 13 penalties per game or they will be screwed.
-Eli looked uber-relaxed, almost to the point of bored, as if he's been playing quarterback for 300 years and he doesn't really care what happens any more. It was Brett Favre-ish almost. He also clearly thought he could come back from down 14 points in the final 5 minutes without rushing too much ... and ultimately they didn't have enough time.
-What the heck Kevin Ogletree??? Is he worth a fantasy pick up, or was that a crazy fluke? I think the latter; Dallas was taking advantage of matchups, and they weren't using Witten in the passing game. Miles Austin, however, did almost nothing until that late touchdown. He is clearly the #2 receiver behind Dez.
-Remember when Rob Ryan said that Calvin Johnson would be the 3rd best receiver on Dallas? What a jackass. He and Chris Carter can go suck a lemon.
Can't wait til Sunday. Go Lions!
Colts @ Bears
Predicted Line: CHI by 6.5
Actual Line: CHI by 9.5
That's way too many points. I'm taking the Colts. Bears 23-20.
Falcons @ Chiefs
Predicted Line: ATL by 2
Actual Line: ATL by 3
I know KC is typically tough at home, and lots of people love the Chiefs defense with Eric Berry healthy, but I like Atlanta big here. Especially if Brandon Flowers doesn't play. This could finally be the year Matt Ryan begins to win on the road. Falcons 27-13.
Eagles @ Browns
Predicted Line: PHI by 5
Actual Line: PHI by 9
The Browns' best defensive player, CB Joe Haden, has been suspended 4 games for taking PEDs. He's appealing, but best case scenario would be he gets it reduced to 2 games. So assuming Haden doesn't play, the Eagles offense will completely roll. Cleveland has no pass rush, and they can't stop the run. On the flip side, Trent Richardson is questionable in what will be Brandon Weeden's first career start. Against Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha ... yikes. This will be one of the few times this year I take a road team to cover 9 points, but whatever: Eagles 30-0.
Patriots @ Titans
Predicted Line: NE by 5.5
Actual Line: NE by 6
There's no measure to how much I love Tom Brady this year. The addition of Lloyd to an offense with Gronk, Welker and Hernandez ... defenses are going to be completely hapless. All the people who are picking Houston and Baltimore to come out of the AFC are forgetting one simple thing ...we are in the midst of watching the greatest QB in NFL history. (Actually, the 3 best QBs of all time might be playing this year - Brady along with Peyton and Rodgers). I think Tom Brady is the closest thing we've seen to Michael Jordan since Michael Jordan, meaning that he won't settle for anything short of a championship and will step on the faces of everyone in his way. I expect lots of run-up-the-score games, lots of record to be broken, and lots of games that look like 40 for 55 for 520 yards and 4 TDs ... in other words, Brady might take a shot at 6,000 yards this season. Who knows. The funny thing is, I had Brady ranked #1 overall on my top-secret fantasy mental list, and yet wasn't able to draft him in a single league.
As for Tennessee ... I actually like them quite a bit. I think they'll give the Lions a tougher-than-expected battle in week 3. After a brutal start to the schedule puts them at 2-4, I think Locker responds impressively and helps them win 7 of their last 10, for a 9-7 record that sneaks them into the playoffs. But for this game, they'll be slaughtered. Pats 37-17.
Jags @ Vikings
Predicted Line: MIN by 3.5
Actual Line: MIN by 4
You've heard by now that MJD returned to the Jaguars, and will grudgingly play this season without a new contract. Kudos to Jags' management for not giving in. Nowadays, paying big money to a running back is the worst investment an NFL team can make.
Rashad Jennings will get the start, with Jones-Drew coming out of the proverbial bullpen. Minnesota hopes to use a similar tactic with Gerhart and AP. Kind of strange to have two superstar running backs coming off the bench. But that's fitting for this atrocity of a football game. I expect it'll come down to field position, special teams, and one or two big plays. Percy Harvin is the biggest playmaker in the game, and Minnesota is at home, so I'll take my chances with them covering. Vikes 20-13.
Redskins @ Saints
Predicted Line: NO by 5
Actual Line: NO by 7.5
I underestimated how excited people would be to bet on RG3, apparently. I actually like Washington in a backdoor cover. Maybe Griffin runs for a 75 yard TD late in the fourth quarter to make it close. Saints 30-25.
Bills @ Jets
Predicted Line: NYJ by 1.5
Actual Line: NYJ by 3
Rex Ryan was recently asked if he thought he might be fired if the Jets miss the playoffs again. He replied by saying he can't even fathom a situation where that could happen, but he understands that he might be fired in 10 or 15 years if the team decides to go in a different direction. Whatever. The Jets suck, their offense sucks, and their defense is super overrated. Take away Revis and that's a 3-13 team. I like the Bills straight up, 21-17. Make it the Upset Special.
Rams @ Lions
Predicted Line: DET by 8.5
Actual Line: DET by 7.5
I don't know what's more surprising ... the Lions being favored by more than a touchdown the first game of the season, or the fact that I think they should be favored by more. I'm taking Detroit big, 31-20. Rams don't have the receivers to keep up.
Dolphins @ Texans
Predicted Line: HOU by 13
Actual Line: HOU by 12
How will Ryan Tannehill respond to his first few sacks and turnovers? How will he respond to a 4-touchdown deficit at halftime? Will the Dolphins try to keep passing the ball unsuccessfully and risk a confidence-shattering, 6 interception game, or will they concede the game and just run and punt? They have no receivers whatsoever, and Houston has a ferocious pass rush. Then, factor in Arian Foster and Ben Tate controlling the clock ... and this will be brutal. Texans 35-13. I'll call it the Lock of the Week.
49ers @ Packers
Predicted Line: GB by 5.5
Actual Line: GB by 5
In a dream scenario, the Niners would pull the upset, the Pack would split with Detroit and Chicago, and they'd lose to the Saints, Giants and Texans, for a 10-6 season that gives the Lions a chance to win the division. I'm not prone to cheering for San Fran, but I doubt we'll have to worry about them in the Wildcard race (since the rest of the NFC West stinks), so it would be great to see Green Bay go down early.
For sure, Patrick Willis and company won't make it easy on Rodgers. But Rodgers is something like 40-20 against the spread, so I'm not picking against him. Packers by 7.
Seahawks @ Cardinals
Predicted Line: ARZ by 3
Actual Line: SEA by 3
Huh??? Russell Wilson is favored on the road? What ???
I know Arizona has an unresolved QB issue, a horrible O-line and not much of a running game ... but they have Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, and a solid front 7 on defense. What does Seattle have? Marshawn Lynch, using his millions to buy drugs and getting suspended as a result? A rookie QB throwing to ... Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin? Yes, they have a solid D, but with no elite players. You could easily argue that Arizona's D is better - with Peterson, Darnell Docket, Calais Campbell ...
I certainly don't like either team, and Russell Wilson has the exciting possibility of running around and being black, while Arizona just has super boring and terrible John Skelton ... but I'm siding with the homedog, mainly because - who does Seattle have that can cover Larry Fitzgerald? Cards 18-14.
Panthers @ Bucs
Predicted Line: CAR by 1.5
Actual Line: CAR by 3
Another 3-point home underdog. This one is the trickiest for me. Tampa has a new coach, and a new regime that cleaned out the garbage and is starting fresh, kind of like what Jim Schwartz did with the pathetic 0-16 Lions. But, in Schwartz's first game, the Lions allowed 6 passing TDs from Drew Brees and got beat down. So I'm not expecting a shift for Tampa to be immediate. Cam Newton is just too athletic for them in this game, and the Bucs offense has too many question marks, not the least of which is the loss of their starting right guard, two-time Pro Bowler David Joseph, who just went onto IR. I like the Panthers, with the Bucs keeping it somewhat close. 27-23.
Steelers @ Broncos
Predicted Line: Pick Em
Actual Line: DEN by 1.5
With two of the best two-minute drill QBs of all time, I fully expect this game will come down to the last team to possess the ball. No way to predict how that will turn out, but Roethlisberger's track record is such games is unmistakable. Plus, Pittsburgh will be out to avenge their postseason loss to the Tebows. On paper, the Steelers probably have 12 of the best 15 players in this game. So I'll go Pittsburgh, 27-23.
Bengals @ Ravens
Predicted Line: BAL by 6.5
Actual Line: BAL by 6
I feel like the talent disparity between these teams is a lot more than 6 points. I like Baltimore by about 14.
Chargers @ Raiders
Predicted Line: SD by 2.5
Actual Line: OAK by 1
All the hype is pointing in Oakland's direction, and the injury to Ryan Matthews doesn't help San Diego. But Oakland's secondary is an abomination, and Rivers should be able to pick them apart. This should be high-scoring, with the better QB coming out on top. Bolts 45-31.
There you have it. GO LIONS.