There’s plenty of fantastic games to kick off the NFL season, starting first and foremost on Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks vs. the Green Bay Packers.
Let’s not waste time and get right to the picks.
Packers at Seahawks (-6) — The last time these two teams met each other, we were all subjected to the worst mistake of the replacement ref era. Fortunately for the Packers, Golden Tate is no longer around to catch miraculous — and, yes, unbelievable — catches in the end zone. Unfortunately for the Packers, who surrendered eight sacks in that very same game, the Seahawks still sport the best defense in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers be damned.
My pick: Seahawks
Saints (-3) at Falcons — Sean Payton owns the Atlanta Falcons. He’s 12-2 against his NFC South division foe. And let’s all agree just agree that Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are a better combo than Matt Ryan and Julio Jones/Roddy White.
My pick: Saints
Bengals at Ravens (-1.5) — I like the idea of Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict stuffing the Ravens’ running game. This one will be won in the trenches by Cincy.
My pick: Bengals
Bills at Bears (-7) — Can you really trust a team that names Brandon Spikes a captain? I don’t think so. Notwithstanding, the Bears have a fantastic trio of offensive weapons (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte) for Jay Cutler and have upgraded immensely on the defensive line with Jared Allen.
My pick: Bears
Washington at Texans (-3) — Last week’s 11th hour trade for a quarterback by the Texans is representative of how dire things are in Houston with Ryan Fitzpatrick set to lead the offense. Meanwhile, RGIII is completely healthy and he has a new toy in DeSean Jackson.
My pick: Washington
Titans at Chiefs (-4) — Despite all the money overflowing in Alex Smith’s bank account, the real value for the Chiefs is in their defense. With studs like Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Eric Berry, the Chiefs have the talent to overwhelm the Titans before their game manager takes over.
My pick: Chiefs
Patriots (-5.5) at Dolphins — Let’s just put it this way. The Patriots have won seven of their past nine meetings with the Dolphins and Joe Philbin, the Dolphins coach, is 1-3 against the Patriots. That late season win for the Dolphins last year (24-20 on Dec. 15, 2013) is probably still irritating Bill Belichick. Oh, and Rob Gronkowski has declared he’s back, the Patriots now have Darrelle Revis and two healthy returnees on defense (Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork).
My pick: Patriots
Raiders at Jets (-5.5) — The Jets have won five of their past seven games against the Raiders and threw up 37 points on them in December of last year. We can only expect this Jets team to be better with Geno Smith under center and the defense to continue to compete. Oakland is starting a new era with rookie quarterback Derek Carr.
My pick: Jets
Jaguars at Eagles (-10) — There’s no reason to believe, beyond rookies Blake Bortles and Marqise Lee making an eventual impact, the Jaguars are going to be competitive right away after a 4-12 season. Bortles isn’t even starting. Chad Henne (career record as a starter 18-32) is under center for Jacksonville in Week 1.
My pick: Eagles
Browns at Steelers (-6.5) — The most exciting player on the Browns’ roster, Johnny Manziel, will only be dispatched in limited quantities as former Tom Brady bridesmaid Brian Hoyer starts for Cleveland at quarterback. And despite both running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount being arrested for possession of marijuana (Bell was also charged with driving under the influence), the Steelers intend to use both Sunday against the Browns. The Steelers have won eight of the past 10.
My pick: Steelers
Vikings at Rams (-3.5) — The St. Louis Rams were the most talented team to not have a winning record last season, playing in the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC West. But there’s something about St. Louis that both Matt Cassell, the Vikings starting QB and another Brady bridesmaid, and Adrian Peterson love. Cassell has won both of his career starts against St. Louis and and Peterson ran for 212 yards last time he faced the Rams in 2012.
My pick: Vikings
Panthers at Buccaneers (-2.5) — Despite a diminished receiving corps, which will take some shine off of Cam Newton’s game, the Panthers still have a dominant defense that the Buccaneers are going to have to contend with. The Panthers have won four of the past six.
My pick: Panthers
49ers (-5) at Cowboys — The 49ers are going into this season with Super Bowl aspirations. But they’re going to take blows with the suspension of Aldon Smith, the possible suspension of Ray McDonald, and as NaVorro Bowman continues to recover from a broken leg. That’s too many star quality pieces on defense to not have an affect, especially going up against a high-powered Dallas offense in the season opener.
My pick: Cowboys
Colts at Broncos (-7.5) — Chuck Pagano’s Colts are 1-0 against the mighty Denver Broncos with Andrew Luck outgunning Peyton Manning in a 39-33 win last October. The Colts were bolstered by four forced turnovers. This one’s probably going to be closer than the spread would like you to believe.
My pick: Colts
Giants at Lions (-6) —So are we going to pretend like 7-9 didn’t happen? Because it did. The Giants and Lions stunk up the joint in 2013 with talented rosters to boot. Unlike the Lions though, the Giants always seem ready to bounce back with Tom Coughlin. He’s taken the last three games against Detroit, including a 23-20 win in overtime last December.
My pick: Giants
Chargers at Cardinals (-3) —The Cardinals won 7 of their final games in 2013 and sport one of the best secondaries in the league on top of returning the NFL’s best defense against the run.
My pick: Cardinals
Last postseason: 4-3
Last season: 123-133