It’s that time! Time to get primed!
Phillip Rivers is primed! Your turn!
Week One Picks
New Orleans 34 – Atlanta 20
This game has all the ingredients for a battle royale, including a team with Superbowl glimmers in their eyes (New Orleans) and a return to relevance in their minds (Atlanta), within the same division and with a notoriously shaky road team (New Orleans) having to travel. Look for the first half to be tight as the Saints dust off their deep playbook and the Falcons put up a strong fight, and then look for New Orleans to run away with it in the 3rd quarter.
Baltimore 23 – Cincinnati 17
One of a few upsets I feel good about in week one, the Ravens are capable of knocking off last year’s divisional winning Bengals at home, and head coach John Harbaugh will not hesitate to emphasize the importance such an early victory would have now and down the stretch. Cincy’s defense is going to be a tall order for Flacco and co. to score against, but I’m banking on an underrated Ravens D to create some opportunities for their offense and kicker extraordinaire Justin Tucker.
Chicago 36 – Buffalo 24
The Bills have plenty of question marks, but I expect them to make a bigger splash this year than most other pundits do. They won’t, however, hit the water in week one, as they travel to Chicago to stare down an offense that looks like it could actually pace the best in the league so long as QB Jay Cutler stays healthy…and stays consistent.
Washington 20 – Houston 17
I read an article today on the mystery factor of this game, and the points made are all tantalizing to imagine: will RG3 regain his form? Will JJ Watt and hyped rookie Jadeveon Clowney begin terrorizing offenses right off the bat? Can the Redskins’ defense kick it up a gear? Can Houston’s offense, under the command of the underwhelming Ryan Fitzpatrick, make the Redskins’ D have to kick it up a gear? Hopefully we get some clarity with this game. Oh, in case you were wondering: I see both teams struggling, but the offensive firepower in Washington tipping the scales for a close victory.
Kansas City 24 – Tennessee 10
So many are doubting the Chiefs, with their offseason losses and little to balance that particular scale. Yet, the bulk of one of the most intimidating defenses in the league is still there, and Alex Smith, content under a new contract, has the ability to make a so-so Tennessee defense look worse than they are. Of course, his throwing options will be limited, but you know that guy…oh, what’s his name…Jamaal Charles? He’ll take care of things. In a big way.
Miami 29 – New England 27
HOMER ALERT!? No, no. These are, traditionally, the games the Dolphins somehow find a way to win; early-season home contests against teams that are clearly better. The south Florida weather will help a Dolphins defense more accustomed to it keep the rest of the team on track, and Tannehill will likely find enough time to get the field goal machine rolling. Gonna be close…unless New England shows up ready to make an early statement. Then the word ‘close’ won’t apply to anything in this game.
New York 23 – Oakland 13
The Jets are going to have a hard time of it this year and make no doubt about that, but if there was ever a team to get off to a good start against, it’s this year’s Oakland Raiders, who are tying their hopes to a rookie QB and a patchwork of newcomer veterans who have minimal tread on their tires. Watch the workload of Chris Johnson and backup Chris Ivory; it could be an indicator of how the Jets’ offense will run going forward.
Philadelphia 30 – Jacksonville 24
You look at this matchup, in Philly, and you start having thoughts of 40+ points and Lesean McCoy lapping a team who has struggled for so long nobody can remember when Tom Coughlin led them to an AFC Championship game. However, the Jaguars are ascending, and despite their hesitation to start preseason darling Blake Bortles over Chad Henne, should put up more of a fight against Chip Kelly’s Green Machine (TM) than you might expect. Just don’t expect them to win.
Pittsburgh 24 – Cleveland 14
Where’s the firepower in Cleveland? On defense. When/if Johnny Football is on the field, and when/if he plays up to expectations, the Browns are going to struggle to keep up with anyone despite their strong (and growing stronger) defensive play. The Steelers are reportedly preparing for Manziel and Hoyer, so I don’t think it’ll matter much if Browns’ OC Kyle Shanahan decides to use the ol’ switcheroo at QB during this one; Pittsburgh will not go quietly this year, and Cleveland will be their first showcase of that.
Minnesota 20 – St. Louis 10
Both offenses will face tough sledding. The Vikings, simply because of the defense across the field from them. The Rams, simply because Sam Bradford is no longer playing QB and nobody can guess how effective new starter Shaun Hill will be with limited reps and prep time. This pick is also being made with the prognostication that the Vikings are going to be a scary team this year, with the progression of young up-and-comers and the stabilizing presence of key veterans to go with a revamped and much improved coaching staff.
Dallas 32 – San Fransisco 28
Shot in the dark. So much seems to be against the Cowboys this year, particular on defense, but I have confidence enough in picking them for the biggest upset of the week. Why? Tony Romo to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The 49ers pass rush is going to struggle until Aldon Smith is back, and their secondary isn’t exactly a strength at the corners. Plenty of 3-4 receiver sets, with a balancing bulk of DeMarco Murray touches, can give the Cowboys what they’re looking for. At least at home against a team whose offseason looks like a police blotter.
Tampa Bay 21 – Carolina 16
Hey, I’ll bite on occasion. The Bucs, coming off of a stinker of a 2013, are as revamped a team as any in football. What few seem to realize, however, is that the nucleus of a competitive team has been simmering in Tampa for a few years now. Meanwhile, Cam Newtown is iffy to start and regardless of the QB, who the starter ends up targeting is anyone’s guess. The Bucs will field a quality defense this year, and will hold off the questionable Panthers’ offense at home this week.
Denver 44 – Indianapolis 31
Sunday night is, in my estimation, going to be exactly what the NFL wants it to be my setting this game in the primetime slot; a shootout of memorable proportions. Peyton Manning gets another shot at his former team (whom he is 0-1 against as a Bronco so far), but this time it’ll be on his mile-high field, with a defense that certainly looks better on paper and an offense that, regardless of Wes Welker’s short absence, is to be deeply feared. The Luck of the Colts (TM) will not be pulling off any late-game heroics in this one.
Detroit 34 – New York 14
I’m not one to let a preseason dictate my thoughts of a team once the games matter, but the Giants look shaky on the field and off of it. The Lions can look however they look and still fall apart, but a home opener on the national stage Monday Night should be more than enough motivation to take a suspect Giants team to the cleaner’s.
San Diego 27 – Arizona 24
The last game of the week, late Monday night, is going to be worth staying up for. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the most enjoyable game of the week. These two teams match up incredibly well, and there are questions aplenty about both. If San Diego wants to continue to improve upon 2013’s surprise playoff appearance, they’ll have to get past an Arizona team with an offense that is on the cusp of something special. The Cardinals defense, with the losses of Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett, may not be the same, and this should give San Diego the wiggle room to pull off a last-minute type of well earned victory.
Fantasy Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em
Remember this? Here, I give ten fantasy starts and ten sits, and try to avoid the obvious names in favor of my guesses at underdogs/relative unknowns or those solid starters who you may be questionable towards because of unfavorable matchups, injury concerns, etc. Roll the bones.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (Might seem obvious to some, but I’ve heard speak of concern about one of the best fantasy backs in football, and I’m here to set you all straight. He’s still a must-start, every week.)
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens D/ST
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Johnson, RB, New York Jets (give him a week, but start him if you’ve no other decent option on your bench)
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (tough call, but you might get better performance out of someone with less question marks this early in the year)
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (watch this situation in San Diego; I believe Ladarius Green is the TE to own on the Chargers)
Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams