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2014 NFL Week 1 Predictions



Will Russell Wilson help the Seattle Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl Champions? His journey starts on September 4th against the Green Bay Packers.

Posted By Chris Ransom on September, 1, 2014

Green Bay Packers 0-0-0
Versus
Seattle Seahawks 0-0-0


Why the Green Bay Packers will win

Green Bay has a healthy offensive line for the first time since Super Bowl 45. This offensive line can pass block, run block, and zone block when healthy. Having David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Bryan Bulaga at right tackle is an outstanding offensive tackle tandem. The guard position looks solid as well with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang starting at guard. Green Bay moved backup left guard J.C. Tretter inside to center. If Tretter messes up at center, you have Corey Linsley, a highly touted center that played for Ohio State before the Packers drafted him in the 2014 NFL Draft. Having those offensive linemen has to be a promising sign for Aaron Rodgers. Eddie Lacy is the best running back Aaron Rodgers has ever handed the ball off to. Lacy gives the Packers an extra dimension on offense, and makes you accountable for stopping the pass and the run. Green Bay has five guys that can block for Lacy. Six if you count fullback John Kuhn and seven blockers if you count tight end Andrew Quarless. You have to think this offense will keep it close.


On defense, the Packers have an excellent group of 3-4 linebackers with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers as the 3-4 outside linebackers. Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk are the 3-4 inside linebackers that compliment the Packers 3-4 outside linebackers to make the 3-4 unit that is the Green Bay Packers defense. Seattle has a glaring weakness at right tackle, which is why I think Julius Peppers will consistently pressure Russell Wilson. Cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields discovered themselves near the end of last season. Having Davon House play nickel and Casey Heyward play the dime corner role only helps. Morgan Burnett will start at strong safety with Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may split reps at free safety in this game, even though I expect Hyde to get the start. Hyde is the kick returner and the punt returner for the Packers. To say Hyde can play every play of the game as a return man while starting at safety is simply foolish. You have to think the Packers 2014 first round draft pick Clinton-Dix will see the field in week 1.


I like Mason Crosby. He is one of the better kickers in the NFL. Crosby will get points for the Packers. Last season, Crosby made 33 field goals on 37 field goal attempts posting an 89.2 field goal percentage.


Why the Seattle Seahawks will win

Seattle has offensive talent as well. Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji is out for the season. The Seahawks offensive tackles may struggle to pass protect Wilson at times. The Seahawks, will do an outstanding job run blocking considering the fact that the Packers have a depleted 3-4 defensive line thanks to the injury of Raji. Look for Seattle to wear down the front 7 with Marshawn Lynch before opening up the passing game by having Russell Wilson air it out to his group of wide receivers.


Green Bay has allowed more sacks over the last 3 years than any team in the league due to injuries on the offensive line. The Packers are the only team in the NFL that does not do conditioning drills in the offseason. This probably leads to constant injuries and a lack of preparation. There is no question Seattle will get hurries on Rodgers, even if he goes the entire game without getting sacked by the Seahawks’ defense. Seattle can use their front 7 to stack the line of scrimmage and stop Eddie Lacy. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is one of the best in the league. Having 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin at right outside linebacker along with Super Bowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith at left outside linebacker will make Wagner’s job a whole lot easier in 2014. Everybody knows the Seahawks have the best overall secondary in the NFL. What nobody accounts for is the Seahawks’ deadly linebacker trio.


Seattle will do well on the kick return with Percy Harvin. I expect a lot of fair catches when teams punt because Earl Thomas is the punt returner. Seattle’s kicker, Steven Hauschka converted 33 of his 35 field goal attempts last season in 2013.


Prediction: I like Seattle for a couple of reasons. For starters they will have home field. Teams that have home field tend to win on the Thursday Night opening game.


When you have two teams as even as these two the running game matters. I like Marshawn Lynch over Eddie Lacy at this point considering the fact that Lynch is more experienced, and that the Seahawks run defense is stronger.


The final reason I am taking Seattle, is because, the Packers’ passing game can be exploited if you disable wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb will be the #2 receiver this season, but there have been frequent plays where the Packers have lined Cobb up in the slot. Cobb could have a few catches against Byron Maxwell. Putting Cobb in the slot is a bad choice against Seattle considering the fact that the Seahawks have Earl Thomas at free safety. Thomas is one of the NFL’s best free safeties. Putting DaVante Adams or Jarrett Boykin in the #2 receiver role as a rookie wide receiver in his first career game would also be a bad choice. Both of those guys can play the slot, but neither wideout is qualified to start across from Nelson on the outside.


I think Richard Sherman is capable of disabling Jordy Nelson. People forget that Nelson was a #2 wide receiver before Greg Jennings left, and Nelson has had issues with injuries in the past. While Sherman may be on the new Madden Cover, I doubt he will play sloppy enough to let Nelson get the best of him.


Look for Seattle to win at home. The Seahawks are a favored by 5.5 on the spread with the average gambler betting $225 dollars on Seattle to cover the spread. Seven of the sixteen games in week 1 have betting averages of less than 200 dollars. If the bookies fix the games, they will fix the games where people are betting the most money. Look for the Packers to cover the spread while Seattle gets a crucial home victory.


Final Score Seahawks 27 Packers 23

Washington Redskins 0-0-0
Versus
Houston Texans 0-0-0


Why the Washington Redskins will win

The Washington Redskins are the only team in this game with an NFL quarterback. The Redskins are led by Robert Griffin III. RGIII enters year three after a phenomenal rookie season where he displayed his highly touted accuracy coming out of Baylor while helping the Redskins win 7 straight after a 10-6 start. After suffering an injury in the 2013 Wild Card loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Mike Shanahan rushed Griffin back into the lineup.


Some will question Griffin’s commitment to the Redskins by joking about how he is more committed to Subway, ESPN, or Gatorade. That could not be further from the truth.


Griffin finally has the playmakers at wide receiver to go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 in the pocket before taking off and running the football. Having DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon as your starters helps. Santana Moss will be an effective slot receiver. Andre Roberts was a solid slot receiver in Arizona. It is hard for me to believe that the Redskins picked him up. Roberts caught a pass from Griffin in the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. This tells me that Roberts could play the slot as well as Moss. Washington can call 3 wide receiver sets or four wide receiver sets knowing they have two effective slot receivers. Aldrick Robinson was ranked ahead of Emmanuel Sanders on the wide receiver depth chart at SMU back in the day and Ryan Griffin is a rookie receiver from Tulane. Having these six guys at wide receiver gives Griffin wideouts to stretch the field.


A tight end tandem featuring Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen gives Griffin a two tight end set. Griffin never had a reliable tight end. Reed and Griffin struggled last year because both guys were injured. That will change in 2014-2015.


Look for the Redskins to use a run blocking scheme to run a balanced offense. Jay Gruden had a run blocking scheme in Cincinnati when he was the Bengals offensive coordinator. This run blocking scheme will open up the lanes for Alfred Morris.


Washington’s offense will only be as good as this running game and how RGIII communicates with his playmakers when he passes the ball. Why do you think Washington hired Jay Gruden to clean up the mess the Shanahan’s made?


Washington will be better on the front 7 despite the loss of London Fletcher. Washington had injuries at 3-4 defensive end last season. The Redskins will have a healthy Jarvis Jenkins who was expected to play 3-4 right end as a rookie along with Jason Hatcher playing 3-4 left end to compliment nose tackle Barry Coefield. Most of the Redskins 3-4 linebackers are returning. Keenan Robinson has to replace London Fletcher. That is only change for the Redskins at linebacker. With Brandon Meriweather suspended at strong safety, it means that the Redskins cannot double team Andre Johnson. Houston has no tight end with Owen Daniels gone, so the Redskins will probably use Ryan Clark and David Amerson to double-team second year wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.


Washington has a decent kicker with Kai Forbath. Andre Roberts is an excellent kick returner. Santana Moss is getting up there in age, I expect Moss to make a lot of fair catches on punt returns.


Why the Houston Texans will win

Andre Johnson will have a big game regardless of who is covering him. The Redskins may have some solid starters on secondary this season, but the Redskins’ defensive backs are suspect if quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick plays turnover free football. Left tackle Duane Brown will win some blocks against Orakpo because Orakpo has an ankle injury. A big game by Brown at left tackle gives Houston a fighting chance.


Houston has Jared Crick, Jerrel Powe, and J.J. Watt on the 3-4 defensive line. You have Jadeveon Clowney and Brooks Reid as pass-rushers with an additional rusher for depth in Whitney Mercilus. Romeo Crennel has to be pleased with having three different rush linebackers to play in his 3-4 defense. The cornerback tandem featuring Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson returns once again. D.J. Swearinger deserves props for getting Peyton Manning angrier than a wife on Jerry Springer during a preseason game after injurying Wes Welker. Swearinger may have blossomed into the strong safety the Texans are looking for.


Houston signed Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler. Having Lechler plus a mediocre return man in Mike Thomas plus no quality kicker limits what the Texans can do on special teams.


Prediction: This game is Robert Griffin III’s to lose. What do I mean by that.


If Griffin decides to be a pocket quarterback by making the progressions, throwing to the slot early, and handing the ball off to Morris while relying on these offensive linemen to run block Washington will win. Houston worked on their coverage constantly in training camp meaning this defense is prepared for passing situations. Griffin needs to throw to Moss or Roberts in the slot at first to pick apart Houston’s suspect play at free safety. Even firing a pass or two to backup tight end Logan Paulson could create some tension fo the Texans’ safeties if you line Paulson up in in a two tight end set next to Jordan Reed. Exploiting Houston’s free safety will open up the rest of the defense. RGIII can hand the ball off to Morris as he wears down a defense with no depth at nose tackle along with a inside linebacker unit that relies on an injury prone Brian Cushing. Throwing to Moss or Roberts early could open things up for a slant to Garcon. You want to throw the deep ball to Jackson since Jonathan Joseph has a toe injury. Wear down Josepth first and then throw the deep ball after making all the progressions in the pocket.


Throwing to DeSean early when the Texans expect you to throw to Jackson is a recipe for disaster. If Griffin looks for Jackson and Garcon, sees nothing open, and takes off and scrambles this will be a long day for the Redskins. Houston is capable of winning if Griffin plays like that in week 1.


Washington has the front 7 to disable Arian Foster. Without a running game and no quarterback play by the Texans it is hard to see the Texans winning. Why did Vegas make the Texans 2.5 point favorites? What is even more disturbing is that the average gambler is betting $120 dollars on Houston. Houston traded for Ryan Mallett. Do not expect the Texans to win until they bench Fitzpatrick for Mallett.


Final Score Redskins 24 Texans 7

Tennessee Titans 0-0-0
Versus
Kansas City Chiefs 0-0-0


Why the Tennessee Ttians will win

Tennessee has quarterback Jake Locker returning. Locker is playing in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense. His offensive line will feature Michael Roos at left tackle, Andy Levitre at left guard, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack at right guard, and Michael Oher at right tackle. Locker did not have Schwenke as his center in week 1 last season, and Oher can replace David Stewart especially with depth and competition from 2014 first-round pick Taylor Lewan. With an offensive line this potent, Locker should have a ton of time in the pocket to make good choices. Locker has three wide receivers in Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, and Justin Hunter that can pick apart the overrated corners on this defense thanks to the departure of Brandon Flowers.


Kansas City has a depleted offensive line. Eric Fisher looks like a bust after being the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Donald Stephenson is out for the first four games at right tackle plus the Chiefs have no guards. With wide receiver Dwayne Bowe suspended for the first game of the season, it looks like stud cornerback Jason McCourty will have no wide receiver worth covering. Safeties Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin are zone coverage corners that will take away Alex Smith’s ability to throw the deep ball. Alex Smith will have very little time to react against this 3-4 defense. Pollard will probably be an eighth man in the box because the Titans will probably call a lot of run stopping plays on defense with running back Jamaal Charles as the only playmaker to account for.


The Titans no longer have Rob Bironas. Special teams is this teams weakness. As long as the offense avoids turnovers, the Titans have nothing to worry about.


Why the Kansas City Chiefs will win

Alex Smith has to play turnover free football against a tough as nails secondary. Kansas City were 9-0 last season to begin the season. Six of those nine wins came from outstanding play on the offensive line along with the fact Brandon Flowers was at corner. Don’t give me that next felon up crap to give yourself a hall pass for picking certain team. One player is the difference between winning and losing in such a competitive league.


Kansas City will be depleted in the passing game. Lucky for them, the Titans are switching to a 3-4 defense, so we don’t know how the Titans will fare in the new defense. The Chiefs have always been outstanding at finding run blocking offensive linemen and running backs that can run the football by moving the chains and winning the time of possession battle. Charles will be paramount in this department when the Chiefs host the Titans this Sunday.


The one bright spot about this defense is you got guys that can keep Shonn Greene or Bishop Sankey from running the football on the ground. Another strength the Chiefs’ had last season was the 3-4 defensive ends playing the five technique. Kansas City had 3-4 defensive ends that could rush the quarterback. Now this shaky 3-4 defensive line relies on nose tackle Dontari Poe.


Kansas City lacks cornerbacks. It is vital for Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to play like they did in the first half of the season before Houston got injured late in the season only to return to the playoffs. If the Chiefs do that they can keep it close. Forcing turnovers will be key if the Chiefs expect to win.


I expect the Titans’ receivers to take down these corners. One guy on the Chiefs’ secondary that will show up is Eric Berry. Berry will cover Delanie Walker all day. Walker is a red zone threat and he also led the Titans with 5 receiving touchdowns. If the Titans get in field goal range and they are in the red zone, Locker will likely try to find Walker on third down situations when the Titans are in field goal range. Berry will contain Walker and that will force the Titans to settle for field goals. Tennessee has a glaring weakness on special teams so they will only make 4 out of 5 field goal attempts. You have to like those odds when you have a defense with as many pass rushers as the Chiefs currently have.


The Chiefs plan on replacing Ryan Succop with some scrub kicker out of Tulane. Dexter McCluster is also gone. Punter Dustin Colquitt will help the Chiefs keep the Titans from getting good field position and easy points. The Titans do not have a punter that is as good as Colquitt. Punting may be a difference in this contest.


Prediction: I like the Titans. Tennessee simply has too much working in their favor with this passing game. Kansas City can win if Charles controls the clock by pleasing fantasy football owners with running backs, Smith plays turnover free football at quarterback with a subpar offensive line, their pass rushers rush the quarterback on third down, and Eric Berry stops Delanie Walker on third down situations in the red zone. I am not confident those things will happen. If you think those things will happen and you like Arrowhead Stadium as a home-field then go ahead and pick the Chiefs. I am going out on a limb and taking the Titans. The Chiefs are 4.5 point favorites and the average gambler is wagering $205 dollars on the Chiefs.


Final Score Titans 21 Chiefs 7

New England Patriots 0-0-0
Versus
Miami Dolphins 0-0-0


Why the New England Patriots will win

Two words Tom Brady. I also expect Rob Gronkowski to have a big game against these weak Dolphins safeties. The offensive line is weaker than usual. I still think Brady will find a way to get a game-winning touchdown into the hands of Rob Gronkowski.


Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have remained dominant at defensive end in the preseason. Both defensive ends could get by the Dolphins’ offensive tackles to pressure Ryan Tannehill. Miami has no running game, so all the Patriots need to do is have the linebackers practice zone coverage drills to minimize Ryan Tannehill’s odds of exploiting a pass defense that is loaded at secondary.


Having Gostkowski at kicker guarantees you a minimum of two field goals and a maximum of five field goals every sunday.


Why the Miami Dolphins will win

Ryan Tannehill looks much more assertive this season. You have to love his leadership. Tannehill defeated the New England Patriots at home in Miami last year. He faces a much tougher defense this time around.


Miami has a 4-3 defensive line like New England that may be better than the Patriots. Defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake are both capable of playing right end or left end for the Fins and happen to switch up there roles early and often. Miami has three defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell, and backup Jared Odrick. New England lost offensive line coach Dante Scarneccia and left guard Logan Mankins meaning his offensive line this year will be about as effective as last years receivers unless Nate Solder and Sebastian Vulmer have Pro Bowl seasons at offensive tackle.


New England loves running to the outside. The Dolphins’ have Dannell Ellerbe playing the weak side at right outside linebacker and Phillip Wheeler playing the strong side at left outside linebacker. Both of these outside linebackers registered over 100 tackles last season.


Miami added Cortland Finnegan at field cornerback and wisely opted to move Brent Grimes over to the boundary corner position where he excelled in Atlanta. Bringing in free safety Louis Delmas also helps.


Kicker Caleb Sturgis went 26 for 34 at kicker and the rest of the special teams for Miami is a joke. Sturgis will hit extra points, but he will struggle to get field goals against the best defenses.


Prediction: Both quarterbacks will throw multiple interceptions. Ryan Tannehill will throw 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Brady will throw 1 touchdown and two interceptions and the Patriots will still find a way to win because they have depth in the backfield unlike Miami, who relies on an injury prone Knowshon Moreno who got lucky with Denver last season by staying healthy. Neither team will have a rusher that gets 100 individual rushing yards. The Patriots will run for 100 total rushing yards as a team while Miami fails to rush for 100 rushing yards as a team. Basically, this means New England’s run blocking on the offensive line will be the narrow difference in a close defensive contest. New England is a 4.5 point favorite with the average fan betting $205 dollars for New England to cover the spread. Miami will find a way to cover the spread while the Patriots win.


Final Score Patriots 16 Dolphins 14


Oakland Raiders 0-0-0
Versus
New York Jets 0-0-0


Why the Oakland Raiders will win

To be honest, I cannot think of a reason why Oakland will win. Maybe because they are facing the Jets. We don’t know whether Matt Schaub or Derek Carr is starting since Schaub is listed as questionable with an elbow injury. MJD and McFadden are both healthy. Oakland has to run the ball and win time of possession with a sound run blocking offensive line if they expect to win.


Oakland has a great front four. Not sure if Justin Tuck and Woodley can stop Ferguson at left tackle and Giacomi at right tackle. Khalil Mack can play right outside linebacker and get by second year left guard Brian Winters to get pressure on Geno Smith. With Carlos Rodgers not playing field corner, Woodson aging at free safety, and D.J. Hayden injured it is hard to see the Raiders stopping the Jets offense.


Oakland still has a kicker in Janikowski despite losing Lechler. The rest of the Raiders’ special teams is a complete joke.


Why the New York Jets will win

Geno Smith has this as long as he plays turnover-free football. Chris Johnson should get 100 rushing yards against a Raiders linebacking core with two players listed as questionable. The one guy that is certain to play is Khalil Mack.


The Jets have a strong 3-4 defense with Richardson and Wilkerson as 3-4 defensive ends. Damon Harrison and Kendrick Ellis can play nose tackle. Having Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples as 3-4 outside linebackers helps get pressure on the quarterback. David Harris and DeMario Davis each registered 100 tackles.


The secondary features Dee Milliner, Dawan Landry, Kyle Wilson, and Antonio Allen. Allen has a concussion injury and his backup Calvin Pryor, the Jets 2014 first round draft pick may start in Allen’s place at strong safety. The Jets have a questionable secondary. With a home game against the Raiders, and this secondary uncertain about themselves you have to like the Jets.


New York has Nick Folk at kicker. Folk will get at least a field goal in this contest.


Prediction: I am taking the Jets to win 17 to 13. Geno Smith will have 1 passing touchdown and no picks. Chris Johnson will rush for 100 rushing yards and both teams will show up on defense. Oakland will find a way to score on the Jets. The Jets are 5 point favorites on the spread with the average fan betting $210 dollars on the Jets. Jets win 17 to 13 with Oakland covering the spread.


Final Score Jets 17 Raiders 13

Jacksonville Jaguars 0-0-0
Versus
Philadelphia Eagles 0-0-0


Why the Jacksonville Jaguars will win

The Jaguars are going on the road to face a playoff team. There is no way the Jaguars win.


If middle linebacker Paul Posluszney gets 10 solo tackles while Nick Foles fails to throw for a single passing touchdown, then Jacksonville could win a low scoring game. That will not happen.


Why the Philadelphia Eagles will win

The Eagles will win. This game is my Draft Utopia Spectacular As A Spent Condom Stone Cold Lock Of The Week. Jacksonville has no quarterback and the Eagles face a defense with no identity at cornerback.


Prediction: I am taking the Eagles to win a shutout. The Eagles are 10.5 point favorites and the average gambler is betting $500 dollars on the Eagles. Philadelphia drops a goose egg on head coach Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Final Score Eagles 42 Jaguars 0

Cleveland Browns 0-0-0
Versus
Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0-0


Why the Cleveland Browns will win

Cleveland has to rely on an offensive line featuring Joe Thomas at left tackle, Joel Bitonio at left guard, Alex Mack at center, John Greco at right guard, and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. Pittsburgh is not a team with a good pass-rushing unit. This offensive line gives Cleveland a slim chance.


Cleveland will need the secondary to lead the team. A cornerback tandem featuring Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert must deliver. Strong safety Donte Whitner is another guy who must step up if the Browns pull the upset. Covering Ben Roethlisberger’s wide receivers and scoring defensive touchdowns like UCLA did against Virginia are two things that have to happen if the Browns expect to pull the upset.


On special teams Cleveland has Billy Cundiff at kicker and Travis Benjamin as a return man. That is a huge downgrade from Phil Dawson at kicker and Josh Cribbs as a return man.


Why the Pittsburgh Steelers will win

Cleveland lacks the front 7 to get to Ben Roethlisberger. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak will make sure these guys are ready to protect Ben Roethlisberger. Look for Roethlisberger to find Antonio Brown and Heath Miller early and often. These guys will have trouble scoring on quality defensive backs.


Cleveland only has one threat on offense with Ben Tate. Pittsburgh may struggle to rush the quarterback, but they compensate for this with an excellent run defense. Cleveland does not have any receivers and Polamalu can take care of Jordan Cameron.


On special teams, Pittsburgh has Shaun Suisham at kicker, Dri Archer at kick returner, and Antonio Brown at punt returner. Brown makes an excellent punt returner when healthy.


Prediction: I am taking the Steelers to win a shutout too. The Steelers are 6.5 point favorites and the average gambler is betting $260 dollars on the Steelers to win by a touchdown. Pittsburgh struggles to run the ball and wins this game with special teams despite some big throws from Ben Roethlisberger.


Final Score Steelers 9 Browns 0

Minnesota Vikings 0-0-0
Versus
St. Louis Rams 0-0-0


Why the Minnesota Vikings will win

It depends on whether the Vikings start Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Starting Bridgewater is smart. Adrian Peterson needs a big day for the Vikings to win.


Minnesota has a horrible defensive line. One position of strength is outside linebacker. Do not try running to the outside against this defense. Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway can rush the quarterback, stop the run, execute 100 tackles a year, or play zone coverage. These are sure-fire outside linebackers that you do not want to mess with. A secondary featuring Xavier Rhodes, Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith, and Captain Munnerlyn is trouble for Shaun Hill.


Blair Walsh went 26 for 30 with field goals last year. Minnesota also has excellent punter in Jeff Locke that can kick a ball 65 to 75 yards per punt. Locke may have the best kicking power among punters in the league. He is like Shane Lechler with hair. Cordarrelle Patterson is still the Vikings kick returner on special teams. Patterson will help the Vikings get in scoring position on special teams.

Why the St. Louis Rams will win

Maybe Shaun Hill outplays Matt Cassel. Homefield. Those are the reasons why the offense could win.


St. Louis has the run defense to stop Adrian Peterson and a secondary that can keep Matt Cassel in check. I love the defensive line. St. Louis has first team and second team guys that can blitz the quarterback. This defensive line can get by the Vikings’ offensive line and give Matt Cassel some problems. The Rams have a defense that can keep this a low scoring game.


Kicker Greg Zuerlein went 26 for 28 when kicking field goals last season. That makes a huge difference.

Prediction: This feels like a toss up. With Cassel and Hill expected to face each other, most have the Rams listed 4 point favorites. The average gambler is betting $185 dollars on Hill outplaying Matt Cassel in St. Louis. I am taking the Vikings by a touchdown in a low scoring game. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson is expected to be out for the Rams. Cassel throws for 1 touchdown and 1 interception as he connects with Cordarrelle Patterson on a 63 yard touchdown.


Final Score Vikings 10 Rams 3


Buffalo Bills 0-0-0
Versus
Chicago Bears 0-0-0


Why the Buffalo Bills will win

I feel like the Bears’ defense holds a significant advantage over the Bills’ offense. It is true that E.J. Manuel has practiced all offseason. Chicago will stack 8 in the box and dare Manuel to exploit a secondary with outstanding cornerback play along with suspect safeties. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has a rib injury. Watkins will be a game-time decision. His choice may alter the outcome to an extent. Still, I have a hard time believing that Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears will keep Jared Allen and Lamaar Houston from pressuring Manuel.


On defense Buffalo has a strong defensive line with Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, and Mario Williams. You have four defensive lineman that can stop the run or rush the passer against a strong Bears’ offensive line. Buffalo has a chance if these guys get some pressure on Cutler and force him to make bad decisions.


Buffalo has one player on special teams with Dan Carpenter. He should get a couple of field goals on the Bears.

Why the Chicago Bears will win

Cutler has an offensive line featuring Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, Matt Slauson at left guard, Roberto Garza at center, Kyle Long at right guard, and Jordan Mills at right tackle. He has arguably one of the best pass-catchers and running backs in fantasy football with Matt Forte. Cutler has the best wide receiver tandem with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Tight end Martellus Bennett is also a threat.


Chicago has some solid linebackers that can perform well if they eye in on C.J. Spiller. The key to canceling what the Bills offense does is to take Spiller out of the game by keeping him from having a field day on the ground.


Robbie Gould is one of the best kickers in the NFL. He should match the amount of field goals Dan Carpenter gets.

Prediction: I am taking the Bears to win by three scores in a blowout. Chicago is a 6.5 point favorite. The average gambler is betting $265 dollars to have the Bears cover the spread.


Final Score Bears 34 Bills 13

Cincinnati Bengals 0-0-0
Versus
Baltimore Ravens 0-0-0


Why the Cincinnati Bengals will win

The Bengals offense will be motivated to make a statement in Baltimore. I expect this passing game to be clicking on all cylinders with A.J. Green torching the Ravens top corner, while Cincinnati’s #2 receiver deals with a distracted Jimmy Smith.


Cincinnati will be dealing with a rushing attack that does not feature Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce. Even if Pierce plays he won’t be at 100 percent. This will be Joe Flacco’s first game in Gary Kubiak’s new offense. Even if Dunlap struggles against left tackle Eugene Monroe, I still feel like left end Margus Hunt will record a sack or two against Flacco.


Cincinnati has one of the best special teams units in the league. Mike Nugent went 18 for 22 with field goals. Kevin Huber is a top 10 punter, and Brandon Tate is an excellent return man on both kickoffs and punts.


Why the Baltimore Ravens will win

Gary Kubiak is a beter offensive coordinator than Jim Caldwell. Flacco has two wide receivers to throw with Steve Smith and Torrey Smith. Rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard came in and took the #1 field cornerback job. A hip injury makes Dennard questionable. If he does not start, Terrance Newman will start in Dennard’s place next to Leon Hall who is coming off an injury. I feel like Flacco can have a good day.


On defense Baltimore will use their middle linebackers and safeties to stop the Bengals’ running backs and tight ends. Daryl Smith registered 123 total tackles last season. Rookie C.J. Mosley is capable of matching Smith tackle by tackle.


Jason Tucker is playing kicker for Baltimore once again. I love Baltimore’s special teams.


Prediction: Cincinnati has the interior offensive linemen to win with run blocking. The big question comes down to how Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith play at offensive tackle against the Ravens’ pass rush. I feel like that is the deciding factor since both teams will have questions with their pass rush. Baltimore is a 2.5 point favorite against Cincinnati. The average gambler is betting $130 dollars on the Ravens to cover the spread. I like the Ravens by a field goal in a high scoring shootout. Even if the Ravens cover the spread, Vegas will not lose that much on this one game compared to some of the other games detractors bet on.


Final Score Ravens 37 Bengals 34

New Orleans Saints 0-0-0
Versus
Atlanta Falcons 0-0-0


Why the New Orleans Saints will win

Drew Brees may have his best offense since the Saints won Super Bowl 44. Terron Armstead finally blossomed at left tackle and Zach Streif finally blossomed at right tackle. Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans are two Pro Bowl caliber guards. Adding Jonathan Goodwin at center only maximizes the pass protection that Drew Brees will receive.


Brees will have an abundance of playmakers in addition to a stout offensive line. Tight end Jimmy Graham will be his top receiving target. When Graham is not open, Brees will look to his wide receivers. Marques Colston is his number 1 wide receiver. Kenny Stills is his #2 target on the outside across from Colston with rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks playing inside on the slot. Having Mark Ingram at running back also helps. Ingram will be the fifth receiving option for Brees if Graham and his wide receivers are covered.


Atlanta has no right tackle once again thanks to a Sam Baker season ending injury. Junior Gallette could get a sack or two on Matt Ryan because Falcons right tackle Lamar Holmes sucks. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton will disable the Falcons’ running game led by the probable Steven Jackson.


The Saints have no special teams so they will rely on the offense to win games. All offense can help in the regular season, but you need defense and special teams to win in the post-season.


Why the Atlanta Falcons will win

Jake Matthews will do well at left tackle. Atlanta will hang in with the Saints. Having Julio Jones and Roddy White gives Atlanta a better wide receiver tandem by default. Justin Blaylock and Jon Asamoah will open up running lanes starting at guard. Even if Jackson gets by these open lanes, I still expect Lofton to stop him.


Not sure what to say about the Falcons’ front 7. Are they running a 4-3 or a 3-4? Atlanta has their 2013 draft picks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford the cornerbacks they drafted in rounds 1 and 2 of the 2013 NFL Draft starting across from each other with William Moore starting at strong safety. If the overrated Dwight Lowery shows up Atlanta can win.


Kicker Matt Bryant went 24 for 27. Bryant is a beast and should continue to perform at a high level.


Prediction: New Orleans is favored by 3. The average gambler is betting $135 dollars on the Saints. This will be an offensive shootout that goes back and fourth. Atlanta leads late in the fourth quarter 24 to 21 before Drew Brees fires a game-winning touchdown to rookie Brandin Cooks. Cooks hauls in two receiving touchdowns and wins offensive rookie of the week.


Final Score Saints 28 Falcons 24

Carolina Panthers 0-0-0
Versus
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-0-0


Why the Carolina Panthers will win

Carolina has Cam Newton on offense. Having Newton on offense always gives you a chance to win. The only player on the Panthers offense, I saw that I liked was wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Besides Benjamin and Newton, this offense lacks an identity. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert all sucked equally in the preseason.


The Panthers may be able to get some pressure on Josh McCown if right end Greg Hardy plays. I feel like Hardy could be a difference maker at this time. Hardy is still active, but my gut tells me he may get suspended or that Tampa Bay does well enough without him. Guys like Star Lotuleilei at defensive tackle, Thomas Davis at right outside linebacker, and Luke Kuechly will keep Doug Martin from running on the Panthers.


Graham Gano was solid, but not spectacular going 24 for 27. He may get a field goal for Carolina in this contest.


Why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win

Josh McCown went from having a bad offensive line to kind of an awesome offensive line. Anthony Collins was an overpaid left tackle. Bringing in an infectious left guard like Logan Mankins compensates for it. You also have Evan-Dietrich Smith, the center from the Green Bay Packers last year next to Mankins along with Demar Dotson who started all 16 games at right tackle as your starting right tackle in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay claimed Browns backup right guard Garrett Gilkey off waivers. Tampa Bay believes Gilkey can start at right guard. Maybe this offensive line isn’t as disfunctional as it once appeared.


Tampa Bay has Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans who will both pick apart the Panthers cornerbacks. I like Antoine Cason, but Cason is not a #1 corner. Tampa Bay is unsure if Brandon Myers, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, or Luke Stocker is the answer at tight end yet. I think all three tight ends will see action with Myers being the starter for the time being. Expect this passing game to do well with Doug Martin being contained by the Panthers’ linebackers.


Tampa Bay has a defensive line led by stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Defensive ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn should get pressure on a measly Panthers offensive tackle tandem. LaVonte David and Mason Foster at linebacker.


Tampa Bay has no special teams. They will rely on touchdowns to win games.


Prediction: I like Tampa Bay by one point with Tampa Bay winning. Both secondaries will be exploited in this game. Kelvin Benjamin will abuse Alterraun Verner. Mike Jenkins, Leonard Johnson, and Jonathan Banks all have no business starting across from Verner. Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson will do well enough to keep Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson in check. This game is the only pickem game of the week with no spread and the average gambler is only betting $110 dollars on this game. Nobody is betting on this contest and it is the only game without a points spread. Shame on you for not betting big on a game with no points spread.


Final Score Buccaneers 28 Panthers 27


San Francisco 49ers 0-0-0
Versus
Dallas Cowboys 0-0-0


Why the San Francisco 49ers will win

Dallas has two injured defensive ends injured with Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence. Middle linebacker Sean Lee is also out. Colin Kaepernick has an outstanding supporting cast with Joe Staley at left tackle, Anthony Davis at right tackle, and Mike Iupati on the offensive line. It is not just the offensive line. You have Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin as your top two receivers with Stevie Jonson playing the slot. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald are your top two tight ends. Having Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde split carries will make this offense lethal.


Despite the absence of Glenn Dorsey, Navarro Bowman, and Aldon Smith, San Francisco still has Patrick Willis. The 29-year-old Willis will be the key player on the 49ers defense with Justin Smith aging. Ray McDonald the 3-4 left end that plays across from Justin Smith will be suspended for 6 games as well. San Francisco will likely use safeties Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid to take away Jason Witten. San Francisco could also use Bethea and a corner to double team Dez Bryant. It will be interesting to see what the 49ers do.


San Francisco has Phil Dawson at kicker. I think the 49ers will get a couple of field goals in this contest.


Why the Dallas Cowboys will win

Dallas has some playmakers for quarterback Tony Romo. There are other guys to compliment Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Those guys are 2013 NFL Draft picks Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar. The offensive line will feature Tyron Smith at left tackle, Mackenzie Parenteau at left guard, Travis Frederick at center, Zack Martin at right guard, and Doug Free at right tackle. Dallas has depth on this offensive line with backup guards too. Dallas needs to make sure DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randle all split an equal amount of carries. When you have a starter and backup at both left guard and right guard along with three running backs that can play in the backfield, it is vital to get those guys involved in this offense.


Dallas will have trouble putting pressure on Colin Kaepernick. One area of strength that is an area of weakness for the 49ers is the cornerback position. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will start next to each other at cornerback once again for the first time, since Dallas foolishly benched Claiborne last season. Barry Church posted 135 total tackles at safety last season. This secondary cannot be as bad as the pass defense that ranked 32nd in the NFL.


Unlike the 49ers, Dallas does not have a special teams player that can make an impact.


Prediction: San Francisco is a 6 point favorite on the spread. The average gambler is betting $260 dollars on the 49ers to win by two field goals or a touchdown. This game will be a shootout and I could see it going either way with the lack of defense the 49ers have thanks to no Aldon Smith or Navarro Bowman.


Final Score Cowboys 35 49ers 34

Indianapolis Colts 0-0-0
Versus
Denver Broncos 0-0-0


Why the Indianapolis Colts will win

Indianapolis has an offense that can keep up with Peyton Manning. Andrew Luck has an offensive line featuring Anthony Costanzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Hugh Thornton at right guard, and Gosder Cherillus at right tackle. The right side of the offensive line has depth at right guard and right tackle with Lance Louis as a backup right guard and Xavier Nixon as a backup right tackle. Luck looks good with this offensive line. Having multiple wide receivers like Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, and Donte Moncrief gives Luck four different receivers to throw to. Luck has two tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener that can be used in a two tight end set. Running back Trent Richardson needs to have a season similar to his rookie year if the Colts expect to win.


On defense the Colts have 3 different 3-4 defensive linemen with Arthur Jones as a 3-4 right end, Josh Chapman at nose tackle, and Cory Redding as a 3-4 left end. The Colts have a couple of 3-4 middle linebackers that can stop the run with Jerrell Freeman who registered 126 total tackles in 2013 and D’Qwell Jackson who registered 143 total tackles in 2013.


Vontae Davis can cover DeMaryius Thomas. You can double team Emmanuel Sanders by sending free safety LaRon Landry and boundary cornerback Greg Toler his way. That leaves strong safety Mike Davis one-on-one with tight end Julius Thomas. You could also double team Thomas with the tight ends, but that leaves Sanders open. Either way the secondary will have a weakness Peyton Manning can exploit. The Colts’ can work hard all week to cover these receivers. It still won’t matter come gameday.


The Colts have an awesome special teams unit. Adam Vinatieri starts at kicker. Pat McAfee starts at punter. Donte Moncrief is the kick returner with T.Y. Hilton being the punt returner. I love this special teams unit for the Colts. This special teams unit along with the stacked offense is one of the reasons why I picked the Colts to win Super Bowl 49 over the 49ers.


Why the Denver Broncos will win

Peyton Manning will have a much stronger offensive line in 2014. Ryan Clady will be back at left tackle. Last year’s left tackle Chris Clark will move to right tackle. Right tackle Orlando Franklin will move inside to left guard with Manny Ramirez playing center while Louis Vasquez remains a Pro Bowl right guard for the Denver Broncos. Robert Mathis is suspended for the first four games. Bjorn Werner the Colts 2013 first round pick will get four starts on the road. His first start will be in Denver against a healthy Ryan Clady.


Denver plans on running a 3 wide receiver set. They want Thomas and Sanders to play on the outside with Welker playing the slot. If Welker is not at full health, Cody Lattimer will play the slot. This means Landry will have to cover the rookie wide receiver Cody Lattimer. Manning will throw the ball to Sanders before Landry double teams Sanders and then he can get the ball to Lattimer and Julius Thomas. Manning can call audibles and use a two tight end set featuring Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. Manning has that many weapons.


When it comes to rushers in the backfield, Manning has a two back set. He has a power back in Montee Ball and an elusive back in Ronnie Hillman. Ball will be the starter that gets a majority of carries. We will see both running backs more than you think. If you think Ball will get 250 carries while Hillman gets only 10 you are foolish. Ball will get 200 to 225 carries and Hillman will get somewhere between 115 and 175 carries. Denver wants to have a two-back set, but they want Ball getting 3/4 of the carries when running the football.


On defense, DeMarcus Ware could get by Anthony Costanzo. Von Miller could also get by Hugh Thornton and right tackle Gosder Cherillus while being double teamed. That is how good Von Miller is. The rest of the front 7 will rely on run stuffing.


The Broncos’ secondary wil feature Aqib Talib as the field cornerback covering Reggie Wayne. Chris Harris will cover Hakeem Nicks. Rookie Bradley Roby will play the nickel covering T.Y. Hilton when he is in the slot. Strong safety T.J. Ward and free safety Rahim Moore will keep Andrew Luck from hooking up with his tight ends. Denver has the necessary pieces on the secondary to keep Luck from unleashing a downfield attack on Denver.


The good news for the Colts is that they can win if they keep Manning from converting on third down. Kicker Matt Prater has been suspended for the first four games. Converting on third down will be so crucial without the Broncos’ star kicker.


Prediction: This game will go back and fourth. Denver is a 7 point favorite. The average NFL gambler is betting $300 dollars for Denver to cover the spread. I think Denver will win, but this game will be very close. Denver will score early and lead 21 to 12 heading into the fourth quarter. Denver will score a touchdown and make it 28 to 12. The Colts will get two touchdowns and two two point conversions to tie it up at 28. Mr. "Lucky" Luck sends this game into overtime with a late heroic fourth quarter comeback. In the end, Manning takes care of business in overtime as the Broncos win 34 to 28. The Colts still win the spread, but suffer a humiliating loss in overtime.


Final Score Broncos 34 Colts 28 OT

New York Giants 0-0-0
Versus
Detroit Lions 0-0-0


Why the New York Giants will win

New York did not do enough to upgrade the offensive line. Eli Manning may struggle once again despite what reports out of Giants camp say.


Adding Robert Ayers for depth at defensive end was a good move. I feel like the Giants defensive line will improve. Bringing in Dominque-Rodgers Cromartie to compliment Prince Amukamara addresses concerns about the pass defense. The Giants linebackers are suspect, and the GIants do not have a strong safety to compliment Antrel Rolle who played free safety with the Arizona Cardinals before signing with the Giants. This Giants’ secondary can intercept Matthew Stafford. I doubt these defensive backs can covr Stafford’s dogs for 60 minutes.


Punter Sean Weatherford is the best player on special teams for the Giants. Weatherford will make it tough for the Lions to score. If Stafford picks apart the Giants, the Giants’ defense has to be held accountable.


Why the Detroit Lions will win

Detroit is just as slightly worse at pass blocking then the New York Giants, but much better at run blocking. The Lions have three wide receivers and three tight ends that can catch the ball. Calvin Johnson is Stafford’s favorite target. Golden Tate is a nice complimentary receiver with Ryan Broyles being an effective slot receiver when healthy. At tight end the Lions have Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, and Joseph Fauria. Having all these guys along with a running back in Reggie Bush who should torch the Giants’ linebackers gives Lions’ fans a lot to be optimistic about.


The Lions 4-3 defensive line features Ziggy Ansah at right end, Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle, Nick Fairley at defensive tackle, and Jason Jones at left end. Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy anchor an excellent linebacker unit that will enable the Lions to stack 8 in the box to stop the run. Detroit finally has Rashean Mathis at field cornerback for the first time since his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars along with Darius Slay at the boundary. This is a defense that opposing teams will respect. If you do not have two bookend offensive tackles like the Minnesota Vikings or the Green Bay Packers it is game over. Even if you have those offensive tackles you need a team with a quarterback that can make good choices to pick apart this defense. If Mathis and Slay remain the starting corners for the entire season, then Detroit will get a wild card and may even challenge the Packers for the NFC North.


Jason Hanson may be gone, but Nate Freese will be an excellent replacement. Freese played kicker and punter at Boston College. Freese had the kicking power and kicking accuracy that you look for in a kicker. I think having that edge on special teams is something the Lions should be excited about.


Prediction: Detroit is a 4.5 point favorite and the average fan is betting $200 dollars on the Lions. Both quarterbacks played like crap last year. I think this game will be a two score game. Someone will run away with this contest.


Final Score Lions 27 Giants 14

San Diego Chargers 0-0-0
Versus
Arizona Cardinals 0-0-0


Why the San Diego Chargers will win

San Diego has the quarterback that led the NFL with a 69.5 completion percentage in Philip Rivers. Having Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead, and Donald Brown in the backfield gives you ammunition especially when you have an offensive line that is focused on run blocking. Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd are your top two receiving targets. Eddie Royal can be a slot receiver. The Chargers have a two tight end set featuring Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. Nick Hardwick is the Chargers best pass blocker at center.


San Diego is starting Melvin Ingram over Dwight Freeney I don’t get that. Manti Te’o also has a foot injury and the Chargers have nobody at nose tackle. Despite these obstacles San Diego can still stop the run with potent five technique 3-4 defensive ends like Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes.


The Chargers’ secondary features four corners with Shareece Wright being the biggest corner, Brandon Flowers being the best coverage corner, Richard Marshall playing nickel, and rookie Jason Verrett playing dime. Having Marcus Gilchrist at strong safety and Eric Weddle at free safety gives the Chargers’ a secondary that will pick off Carson Palmer multiple times.


Kicker Nick Novak went 34 for 37 in 2013. Novak will nail a couple of field goals.


Why the Arizona Cardinals will win

Both the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers have shaky offensive lines. Brandon Flowers is only 5-9 173. His teammate Wright complimenting him at cornerback is 5-11 175. Arizona’s slot receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is 5-11 185. Larry Ftizgerald and Michael Floyd are both 6-foot-2. San Diego does not even have a corner that is six foot. Arizona’s receivers are bigger and more physical than San Diego’s corners. That will influence the game. Not to mention the fact that Arizona has a two tight end set of their own with Rob Housler and Troy Niklas. Palmer has five targets he can throw to just like Rivers. You expect both Palmer and Rivers to go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the pocket. Palmer has the right throwing motion in the pocket and Rivers does not. Rivers has better accuracy. Playing turnover-free football will matter with offenses this evenly matched.


Jonathan Abraham can be the 3-4 right outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals. I was worried that Arizona had no one at 3-4 right outside linebacker. Daryl Williams will be back later in the season after he serves a suspension while Kevin Minter is expected to step up after being a 2013 NFL draft pick. Darnell Dockett suffering a season ending injury at 3-4 right end hurts. Nose tackles Daniel Williams and Alameda Ta’amu are both listed as questionable.


Arizona has a much better secondary than San Diego. The cornerback tandem featuring Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie will make a difference. Arizona also has Tony Jefferson starting at strong safety with Tyrann Mathieu starting at free safety. Deonne Bucannon a 2014 first round pick will start out as a backup strong safety for depth.


The aging Dave Zastudil can punt a football 60 yards and make it look effortless. Ted Ginn Jr. is an awesome return man. He will put Arizona in a position to score on returns.


Prediction: Arizona is a 3 point favorite and the average gambler is betting $165 dollars on the Arizona Cardinals to win by a field goal. Arizona is a lot better than San Diego. Not better to the point where they will win by double digits, but good enough to beat San Diego while covering the points spread.


Final Score Cardinals 28 Chargers 20




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