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NFL Picks. Week 1, 2014
Week One Problems.
Picking in week one is stupid.
I hate it.
But, I've gotta do all 17 weeks, don't I?
The problem with making picks in week one is that you've got nothing tangible to go on.
You've got last year's performance, speculation about off-season additions, and flashes of vanilla play in the pre-season.
Will the Seahawks repeat?
Are the distractions enough to ruin the 49ers?
Can the St. Louis defensive line carry a team without a QB?
Which Carson Palmer will the Cards get this year?
How much longer does Peyton have?
Can the Chargers finally clean up their defense?
Can the Chiefs build on their success from last year?
Is Derek Carr the answer in Oakland?
How will the Falcons play now that they've got their star receivers back?
How will the Saints replace Darren Sproles?
What are the Panthers going to do on offense?
Will Lovie's Yuks play better than their jerseys look?
Is this the year that Andrew Luck finally arrives and establishes himself as the best QB in the NFL?
Who will the Texans start at QB?
Can Locker prove he deserves to start for the Titans?
When will Blake Bortles finally start?
Will Tony Romo bounce back from injury?
Can Eli lose the turnover bug?
Will RG3 become a pocket passer?
Was Foles a fluke last year?
Will Brady's receivers improve?
Can Geno hold off Michael Vick?
Will Tannehill have a pocket this year?
Will EJ be able to get Watkins the ball?
Can Rodgers stay healthy?
Can Cutler stay healthy?
How much gas does Peterson have left?
What kind of defense will the Lions play?
Will the Ravens be able to run the ball?
Will Dalton get over the hump and become an elite passer?
How long will Hoyer be the starter?
And who are these Steelers?
So many questions, I'd only be a little surprised if I went 0-16.
Green Bay @ Seattle- Seattle.
Fail Mary Part Two!
FOOTBALL IS BACK!
And no joke, I can almost see Century Link from where I'm sitting.
There is an obnoxious apartment building blocking my view from the Seattle stadiums.
Why am I picking the defending champs to start off 1-0?
A few reasons.
Ever since the defending champion started opening the season in 2004, the defending champion is 8-2. The only 2 teams to lose are the New York Giants in 2012 and the Baltimore Ravens last year. And you also have to remember that the Ravens couldn't play at home because of a scheduling incident with the Orioles. You can say that history doesn't mean much, but then you'd be spitting in the faces of the Football Gods... Don't wanna do that...
2. The 12th Man
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the Seahawks home-field advantage. One is that the 12th man, or the Seattle fanbase is so passionate about their Hawks that they scream longer, louder, and harder than any other fanbase in the NFL. The other is that the stadium is built to reflect sound from the crowd back towards the field and that's what makes it so hard to hear anything. I think it's a little bit of both. I've been to games in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, New England, and Century Link, and the culture of the "12th man" is definitely unlike anything else I've seen. The crowd is screaming from the moment the other team takes the field until the change of possession. Why can't it be both? Why can't the loudest, craziest fans have a stadium that amplifies their sound?
3. Ya know... the football part
I think that while the Packers have a stacked offense, they're still soft on defense.
What do I mean?
Green Bay was 25th against the run last year, giving up 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. That's about 125 yards and 1 TD a game, a great game for any runningback.
Meanwhile, Seattle was 4th in the NFL running the ball, compiling 2,188 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns.
That's a good match-up for the Hawks, especially since their offensive line will finally be healthy and the Packers' only attempt at an addition of defense was the 34 year old Julius Peppers.
That's not all, I mean, we have to address Green Bay's sixth ranked passing attack in 2013.
Of course... Seattle's pass defense was number one last year.
Week one picks are hard. You don't know how well teams are going to play or which additions or losses help or hurt teams.
I'm expecting the extremely talented Packers offense to give the Legion of Boom all that they can handle, but ultimately, Russell Wilson and his talented rushers will beat up the Cheeseheads and deliver the 12th man their 16th home win over the last 17 regular season games.
New Orleans @ Atlanta- Atlanta.
This is the first tough pick I've stumbled across. The Saints offense looks to pick up where they left off last year and the Falcons are finally getting healthy on offense. The returns of Julio Jones and Roddy White will be immeasurably helpful for Matt Ryan behind that improved offensive line, and I'm always inclined to pick against the Saints on the road. I know, I know, that might just be speculation, and maybe things just happen, but the Saints only scored 17 points against a limping Falcons team last year in Atlanta.
Minnesota @ St. Louis- St. Louis.
I have a lot of faith in this St. Louis defense.
That defensive line is insane.
You've got Chris Long, rookie Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and Robert Quinn on that defensive line.
That's unreal. Long and Quinn are incredible pass-rushers and Brockers played pretty well as a block eater last year. Add Aaron Donald, a short, if not scrappy and disruptive defensive tackle, and you have the best defensive line in the NFL. Put them in front of James Laurinatis and Alec Ogletree and I don't see how this team isn't a top five run defense.
Enter the Minnesota Vikings.
There's no question that Adrian Peterson is easily the best pure runningback in the NFL today. He's got breakaway speed and a physicality unmatched by any back in the NFL.
And whether it's Matt Cassell or Teddy Bridgewater under center, neither guy is ready to turn the Vikings into a great passing offense.
The weapons are there, Greg Jennings is a solid route runner with soft hands, and Cordarrelle Patterson is 6.2 and 220 pounds of explosive speed and potential.
If they could get the run going, and give the QB some time to complete simple passes, they could get a win...
But with that defensive line, I wouldn't bet on it.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh- Cleveland
I have too many unanswered questions about both of these teams.
Will the Browns get behind Hoyer?
Will Manziel be a distraction?
What is the identity of this Steelers team?
How much does Big Ben have left in the tank?
The Browns have the potential to be a very good defense despite getting a little older in Free Agency, and I actually believe in Hoyer as a game manager and somebody who can win games for Cleveland.
I think that the Steelers are having a bit of an identity crisis on defense. There's been a ton of overhaul and they haven't brought new pieces in fast enough, and I look at their offense and just see question marks.
The curse of picking week one is that you're never quite sure what's going on with teams.
Jacksonville @ Philadelphia- Philadelphia.
Why isn't Blake Bortles starting?
I mean, I'm not a fan, I don't like him, but he's definitely the best QB on the roster, and gives them the best chance to grow as a team.
Nothing energizes a team like a young QB.
And yet... Chad Henne.
When has Chad Henne ever done anything good for a NFL team?
And they've signed all of the Seahawk cast-offs, but what does that really mean if you don't have it all together.
I'd rather take Philadelphia, who has a plan and some talented players than a lost franchise like Jacksonville.
Oakland @ New York (Jets)- Oakland.
I want to pick the Raiders.
I think they're the better team, I think they have a better coach, and if this game were taking place in Oakland, it would be a slam dunk for me.
However, it's not. It's in New York.
On the East Coast.
The Raiders haven't won a game on the east coast since December of 2009.
DECEMBER OF 2009?!
I'm not sure if it's the time difference or the lack of talent, but it is 2014... Four Decembers have passed without the Raiders winning a 1 o'clock game.
I'm still picking Oakland.
Mostly because I have no faith in the New York Jets.
Geno Smith didn't impress me in college and he definitely didn't impress me last year, and I think we've all seen enough of Michael Vick.
Eric Decker could be a problem for the Raiders, there are more questions than answers in their secondary.
Charles Woodson is still playing well, but he's entering his 17th year in the league, and it's starting to show.
Tyvon Branch is incredibly talented in coverage and run support, but he can't seem to stay healthy.
And the cornerbacks?...
That position is an ugly mess of "potential" and "veteran savvy" for Oakland.
However, it doesn't matter how talented a receiver is if the QB can't get him the ball. Between Sio Moore, Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley, the Raiders have no shortage of pass rushers, and may get after Smith or Vick.
The Raiders were beat up last year, starting an undrafted rookie at QB and a fullback at runningback, and yet the game was still competitive. The Raiders improved at almost every position while the Jets added a 28 year old runningback and a one dimensional, if speedy receiver.
If the Raiders can overcome their east coast blues, I see them overpowering Gang Green and enjoying their first winning record (however fleeting) since 2011.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore- Baltimore.
This one was tough for me.
My brain was saying Bengals, but I just couldn't bring myself to pick them.
Here's the logic behind picking the Ravens, I think that last year, the race for the divisional title was close, and it came down to Baltimore not being able to cut it.
This off-season, the Ravens got better, and the Bengals didn't.
They added consistent, if aging weapons, got Dennis Pitta back, and shored up the inside of the offensive line.
Did they improve enough to beat the Bengals?
Buffalo @ Chicago- Chicago.
I really like the additions that the Bears made this off-season.
Over the last few years, I felt like they had let themselves go on defense. Gone were the Brian Urlachers and Tommie Harris' that made the Monsters of the Midway so magnificent.
Then they replaced aging defensive lineman, Julius Peppers with run-stopper Lamarr Houston and pass-rusher Jared Allen.
Washington @ Houston- Washington.
Even if Houston starts Ryan Mallet, there's no chemistry with the receivers yet.
I'm not worried about him picking up the playbook, as Head Coach O'Brien was his coordinator in New England, but chemistry is seriously underrated.
And if he doesn't, then who is your QB?
I'm not saying that Washington's QB situation is any better, because trust me... It's not pretty, but at least they have some kind of plan on offense.
Whenever two bad teams meet, it's always an uncomfortable situation because you have to trust one team to win.
Tennessee @ Kansas City- Kansas City.
This one is easy for me.
The Chiefs are stable.
Stable offense, stable defense, stable fan support.
They have all the tools to be a competitive wild card team, and more than enough to handle a Tennessee team that has questions on both sides of the ball.
Not to mention, it's in Arrowhead.
New England @ Miami- New England.
I don't pick against New England very often, and I certainly won't now.
There are too many questions about Miami's offensive line.
It's that simple, I'd love to see what Ryan Tannehill can do in this league, but he can't seem to get any time in the pocket to evolve.
The chaotic drama between Incognito and Martin certainly didn't help, but unless they can get him some help, the Patriots mediocre pass rushers will be able to disrupt the offense and then... Well...
Carolina @ Tampa Bay- Tampa Bay.
The Panthers defense should be great, let me start with that.
But here's the problem.
The Buccaneers defense will be pretty good too, and they've got weapons on offense.
Doug Martin will be back, Vincent Jackson will be joined by a clone of himself in Mike Evans, and a journeyman QB in McCown.
Cam Newton is hurt, and even if he was healthy, he doesn't have an established receiver and neither of his runningbacks are getting any younger.
San Francisco @ Dallas- San Francisco.
This game is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
There is a ton of pressure on the 49ers to win now, and after a rough off-season including arrests, a massive contract for Kaepernick, and a bad pre-season, they need to have a good start to the season.
The Cowboys have had their own media distractions with Jerry Jones losing his mind, a seemingly non-existent defense, and all of that pressure lies squarely on Tony Romo's arm.
I don't think that the Cowboys will be able to slow the 49ers down, and I have questions about Romo's health, but I think that both teams will score a ton of points.
Indianapolis @ Denver- Denver.
What an incredible game for week one.
Luck vs. Manning?
Peyton's going to be healthy, and this team is hungry for revenge after they got spanked on national television. I'm not sure the Colts have made the moves to be good enough on either side of the ball to slow Peyton down or move the ball effectively.
The Broncos aren't amazing on defense, but the Colts still lack that big play receiver.
T.Y. Hilton is nothing but a speed threat, Reggie is aging, and it remains to be seen if Hakeem Nicks can stay healthy.
New York (Giants) @ Detroit- Detroit.
I have too many doubts about the Giants.
They made some smart off-season moves, and the return to the run game should take a ton of pressure off of Eli Manning, but they're facing off against a team that has too much explosive talent and a must-win-now attitude.
If the Giants return to their old, physical form, avoid turnovers, and shut down Megatron, they'll be just fine. But that's a tall order I don't feel comfortable trusting them to make.
San Diego @ Arizona- San Diego.
The Chargers were a wild card team last year, and I fully expect them to do that again this year, and that will start against the Cardinals. I think that Arizona is still missing some pieces on offense and needs more consistency out of the secondary.
I think a healthy Chargers team that hasn't been worn down by the day-to-day will simply out-talent the Cards.
Okay, so after last year's season came to an end, I was bragging about how good my pick percentage was (65%), and my friend, a broadcaster named Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle on twitter) said he thought he could do it better.
So we decided that this year, I would keep track of his picks and at the end of the season, we'd see who was the "best in the world."
Feel free to play along if you'd like, but please post picks before the game, nothing makes me angrier than hearing who people would have picked after the game.
It's really easy to pick the games correctly when you know the final score.
Here are Fleegle's picks...
Green Bay @ Seattle: I know the Seahawks are coming off the Super Bowl win, but in the end, I still trust Aaron Rodgers more than Russell Wilson. Riding with the Pack Attack.
New Orleans @ Atlanta: Drew Brees vs. a mediocre, in my eyes, defense. Need I say more? Saints on the road.
Minnesota @ St. Louis: The only interesting part of this game will be to see if AP can get 200+ yards or not. How many Michael Sam references? Over/Under 15? Vikings win.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh: No Johnny Football for CBS to love up on? No wonder Jim Nantz and Phil Simms aren't going there anymore! Both these offenses are going to be AWFUL this year. Pittsburgh wins an ugly game.
Jacksonville @ Philadelphia: Philly, and it won't even be close.
Oakland @ NY Jets: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, the #1 broadcast team on CBS, WILL be calling this game.....my mind is so befuddled I can't even make a joke about it. Excited to see the Oakland offense with Carr at the helm. Plus I hate the Jets. I'll take Oakland for the upset. Upset Special!
Cincinatti @ Baltimore: Excited to see the new look Ravens offense in a meaningful game. That being said, we know the story of these AFC North games. Grind em down, wear em out, kick a field goal in the last minute and go home. Ravens win at home.
Buffalo @ Chicago: E.J. Manuel is still the Bills quarterback, right? Now that I've stopped laughing, Da Bears roll, big.
Washington @ Houston: All the immediate hype about RGIII when he got drafted makes me sick every time I hear him mentioned. Houston surprises people and wins at home.
Tennessee @ Kansas City: I actually think this game could be interesting. I also may have lost some brain cells out in the heat today. Chiefs at home.
New England @ Miami: Watch out for Miami this season. A couple years into a new coaching staff and it could finally be time for them to click together. Plus, save for Tom Brady's 500+ he hung on Miami a couple of years ago on Monday night, he's struggled against the Dolphins for the most part. Miami for the UPSET at home.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay: Las Vegas has Tampa Bay as a 1 point favorite as I type this. If I was a gambler I would throw ALL my money on the Panthers! Cam Newton, cracked rib or not, is too much to stop.
San Fransisco @ Dallas: The 49ers offense looked god awful all preseason. Yes, I know preseason means jack right now, but, I think they gave Kaepernick WAY too much green this offseason. Plus, Tony Romo has to have his customary big game to start the year and get Dallas' fans all hyped up, right? Cowboys win at home.
Indianapolis @ Denver: Can't wait for more shots of Peyton Manning from when he used to play for the Colts! I love Andrew Luck. Give it 1 or 2 more years and he's gonna be the face of this league. But, Manning and Denver find a way at home.
NY Giants @ Detroit: Not sold on the Detroit hype. Megatron is the real deal, but even if he gets his 150+ with 2 TD's, that's still only good for 14 points in my book, right? If Detroit wants to show they are finally ready to take the next step and be for real, they go out and convincingly win this game. But, they won't. Look for Eli and his ugly face to silence the critics....at least for one night. Giants win.
San Diego @ Arizona: Well, when I flipped my coin in my pocket, it came up tails, which means I pick the Cardinals to win
There ya have em!
Well! There were definitely more disagreements than I expected! Week one is always a crapshoot, but it looks like we'll definitely have some different answers!