At long last, the 2013 season is set to begin this coming Thursday night, when the World Champion Baltimore Ravens invade Denver, to face the dreaded Horseface. For the Patriots, this should be a challenging year, as the media will surely try to drag BB and our great football franchise into the AH abyss, throughout the season. I'll discuss the prospects of the 2013 Patriots in much greater detail, in my upcoming roster analysis thread. But for now, let's rejoice at the return of Pro Football, and focus on Week One...with the "Game of the week" being:
1.) Baltimore Ravens (+8.5) @ Denver Broncos: To my knowledge, this is the first time that a SB champion has had to play their Thursday night opener on the road. The City of Baltimore and the Ravens have the Baltimore Orioles to thank for this, as the O's selfishly and inexplicably refused to switch around their schedule to accommodate their football playing "cousins". Much has been made of the personnel losses suffered by the Buzzards during the offseason. But remember, former Bronco Elvis Dumervil makes his return, and certainly will have vengence on his mind. Look for the Buzzards to be further motivated by the ridiculous 8.5 point spread against them. Denver has OL some issues, particularly at center. Their defense, without former MLB Joe Mayes, former DE Dumervil, new 'roids poster boy Von Miller, and with an ancient Champ Bailey, isn't what it once was: PICK: Ravens;
2.) New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (+10): Thanks primarily to the Wes Welker departure, the no love for Kyle Love issue, and, especially, the Aaron Hernandez shocker, the Patriots have had a mess of an offseason. Unfortunately, nothing was done to successfully fill their gaping hole at SS. With Kyle Love gone due to health issues, the Patriots are so thin at DT that they've have had to sift through other teams' cuts and the free agency scrap heap to add depth. Despite the cring needing to land a field stretching WR, unless 4th rounder Josh Boyce surprises, that hole still remains. But, BB is still sitting in the Admiral's seat strategizing, and Tom Brady is still at the helm, guiding the Battleship Patriots. This alone should be enough to once again stomp upon their weak AFC East foes. Yes, the Patriots still are Gronkless, but the Bills QB of the future, E.J. Manuel, is coming off a "minor" knee injury. More importantly, top flight CB Stephon Gilmore will likely miss the Bills first 6 games due to a wrist injury http://nfl.si.com/2013/08/26/stephon-gilmore-injury-buffalo-bills/, and star FS Jarius Byrd is reportedly battling the dreaded plantar fasciitis foot injury, and likely won't play: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/02/jairus-byrd-dealing-with-plantar-fasciitis/
Look for Tom Terrific to have a field day against the injury depleted Bills' secondary, and for the Pats to have success running the ball against a less than stout Buffalo front seven. On "D", the Pats must contain RB C.J. Spiller, who will be highly motivated, though playing with a broken heart, this week: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/02/c-j-spiller-returns-to-bills/. PICK: Patriots;
3.) Tennessee Titans (+7) @ Pittsburgh Steelers: The Titans aren't a bad team. But, they'll never be a good team until they find a franchise QB...and Jake Locker ain't it. Look for Big Ben and his fleet of speedy smurfs to light up the scoreboard against the Titans' "D". Keep an eye on rookie WR Markus Wheaton. If he stays healthy, he will eventually make Steeler fans forget about the departed Mike Wallace: PICK: Steelers;
4.) Atlanta Falcons (+3) @ New Orleans Saints: I almost chose this as my "Game of the Week". Head coach Sean Payton returns to the gridiron in the Big Easy, so emotions will be high. Rob Ryan is Payton's new DC. But a monkey wrench was thrown into Ryan's plans to convert the Saints' "D" to an attacking 3-4, when DE/OLB Will Smith went down for the season with a knee injury. Nonetheless, QB Drew Brees makes the Saints formidable. Though the Falcons are defensively challenged, and look vunerable against the pass, their offense may be second to none. If he can stay healthy, RB Steve Jackson should make teams respect the Falcons' running game. Though it's only Game One for both teams, this is a huge, huge game for the Saints: PICK: Falcons;
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ N.Y. Jets (+3): The Geno Smith error officially begins. Expect at least three (3) Geno related turnovers in this one...as Darrelle Revis returns to action against his former team. Let the booing begin: PICK: Buccaneers;
6.) Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5): Since waterboarding has been outlawed as a form of "torture", expect the creative guys in the CIA to find other ways of making terrorist prisoners talk...such as forcing them to watch this game in it's entirety: PICK: Jaguars;
7.) Cincinnati Bengals (+3) @ Chicago Bears: On paper, the Bengals look like world beaters, especially on defense. But, I've never been impressed with head coach Marvin Lewis. I'm even less impressed with his QB, Andy Dalton. Plus, the Cincy OL may be a bit leaky at OT: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/08/26/andrew-hawkins-sheds-walking-boot-andrew-whitworth-without-a-timetable-for-return/
As for the Bears, they're like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get. Chicago fired Lovie Smith to bring in offensive guru Marc Trestman from the CFL. They have also finally taken some positive steps to improve their OL. They have weapons at WR in Brandon Marshall, Allston Jeffery, and Devin Hester...and stud RBs in Matt Forte, and Michael Bush. But, Marshall has had hip problems. It's unknown just how effective he'll be: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/08/29/brandon-marshall-says-hell-play-week-one/. Still, with the changes the Bears have made to upgrade themselves offensively, Jay Cutler is out of excuses this season, and must produce: PICK: Bengals;
8.) Miami Dolphins @ Cleveland Browns (PK): We'll see about whether the Browns' generally good play in the preseason was just a mirage. They appear to have a solid defense, though top pick Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) will likely not play in their opener. Still, their "D" is good enough to keep them in most games. Their offense is their question mark: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/08/27/brandon-weeden-no-reason-to-push-panic-button-on-offense/. Meanwhile, the 'Fins top draft pick, DE Dion Jordan, is having shoulder problems, and likely won't play: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/08/30/dion-jordan-if-dolphins-need-me-i-can-play/. This looks to be a relatively low scoring game, decided by FGs. Since Miami's kicking game is more solid and dependable then the Phil Dawson-less Browns: PICK: Dolphins;
9.) Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers (+3): No team, perhaps save the 49ers, was more dominant and impressive in the preseason than the 'Hawks. But usually, that and a buck will buy you a cup of coffee. Not so, here. The Seahawks will pick up where they left off in the second half of last season: PICK: Seahawks;
10.) Minnesota Vikings (+4.5) @ Detroit Lions: Judging by how the Lions manhandled the Patriots in the preseason, one would expect big things from them. But, the Vikings have a solid defense, and RB Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately, they also have Christian Ponder as their starting QB. Look for Matt Cassell to depose him before mid-season: PICK: Lions;
11.) Oakland Raiders (+9.5) @ Indianapolis Colts: The Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes begins in earnest for the raiders of this lost ark, as they battle the Jets, Jaguars and Eagles in their journey to Never Land: PICK: Colts;
12.) Arizona Cardinals (+5) @ St. Louis Rams: This should be an interesting game, as should all games be in the NFL's toughest division. The Cards suffered a tough break (pardon the pun) when their top draft choice, OG Johnathan Cooper, suffered a broken leg, which will cost him most of this season. It should also be fun to watch the Cardinals' secondary perform, led by Patrick Peterson, and his buddy, "The Honey Badger", Tyrann Mathieu. As for the Rams, QB Sam Bradford must begin to emerge. Though I felt that Rams' head coach Jeff Fisher was foolish to use the 8th overall pick in the 2013 draft on miniscule WR Tavon Austin, it will be interesting to see how Fisher employs him...and how long the blazing fast Austin can remain healthy: PICK: Rams;
13.) Green Bay Packers (+4.5) @ San Francisco 49ers: Aaron Rodgers is a great QB. But, even the great QBs must receive ample time to operate in the pocket, in order to be effective. With his starting LT, Brian Bulaga out for the year, rookie OT David Bakhtiari steps into the breach. Look for the 49ers to attack him at every turn: PICK: 49ers;
14.) N.Y. Giants (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys: Tough game to call. But, as usual, it will be decided by turnovers. The Cowboys have yet to beat the G-men in their Taj Mahal new stadium. The Giants have OL issues, and have a worse problem at safety than do the Patriots. The Cowboys are still run by Jerry Jones. 'Nuff said. If Tony Romo can avoid the turnovers, the Cowboys should win. But, that's always a big if, in Big D: PICK: Giants;
15.) Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) @ Washington Redskins: Just a 3.5 point spread? Christmas comes early for the football wagerer, as RG III returns with a vengence: PICK: Redskins;
16.) Houston Texans @ San Diego Chargers (+3.5): Another appetizing spread for the gambling connoisseur. PICK: Texans.
Best Bets: Texans, Redskins, 49ers, Colts, Patriots, Bucs, Ravens.
Thoughts?? Especially your take on the Pats' game. Remember, my picks are made taking into account the respective point spread.
Enjoy the season!