To say that Week 1 of the regular season is meaningless is a slight exaggeration. Every team wants to start the season off with a win, but losing the first game isn’t an end-all, be-all.
Now while it’s true that many of last year’s playoff teams won their opening game, there are some pretty striking exceptions. Specifically, two rookie-led teams from last season: Seattle and Indianapolis. Both Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck struggled to get into a rhythm with their receivers and turned the ball over a few times. Even against great defenses such as Arizona and Chicago, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for rookies in their NFL debuts.
But as the season went on they gained more confidence and their play improved dramatically. Russell Wilson finished with one of the best TD-INT ratios in the league and led Seattle to the second round of the playoffs. Andrew Luck’s stats weren’t as impressive as Wilson’s, but his seven game-winning drives were a league-best last season.
Keep this in mind as we enter the second Sunday. We are a long way away from the postseason and the first game of the season is hardly a large enough sample size to make sound judgments.
No surprises in the Hampton Roads area this week: Washington plays the early game against Green Bay on Fox, while Philadelphia faces San Diego over on CBS. And with CBS showing Oakland and Jacksonville as one of their late games, showing the other game is a no-brainer even if it weren’t the Manning Bowl.
(And as usual, First Row Sports is not a legal method by which to stream games and should not be used by anyone.)
Now let’s pick. Last week was the best opening week I’ve ever had (11-5). Keep in mind what I said earlier about the importance of the first week. Some of this week’s picks may seem surprising, but I’m not putting much stock into the Week 1 scores.
New England over New York Jets
Let me start by saying hats of to the New York Jets for their win over Tampa Bay last week. I’ve been saying over the summer that this Jets team isn’t as bad as you’d be led to believe (especially on defense). And with Mark Sanchez possibly out for the year, it’s officially Geno’s team from here on out.
Meanwhile, many seem to be low on the Pats after their last-second win at Buffalo. Tonight, they are without not only Rob Gronkowski, but also Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen. So how do they still win? Again, it’s on the defense but it’s also dependent on taking care of the ball. Only seven of Buffalo’s 21 points came from them taking a kickoff, driving down the field, and scoring. The other two came off of a fumble return and a fumble recovery in New England territory. If the Patriots can limit the turnovers, they can still overcome the loss of so many offensive weapons.
Atlanta over St. Louis
We saw the Falcons fall to New Orleans on the road last week and St. Louis beat a tough Arizona Cardinals team at home. The key here will be whether the Falcons’ offensive line can give Matt Ryan time to throw. If they can, watch out. It could get out of hand. If they struggle? It could come down to the wire.
Chicago over Minnesota
Pretty straightforward here: Christian Ponder has to limit mistakes and play moderately well in order for Minnesota to win. Even if Adrian Peterson‘s running to the record books, he can’t throw three picks again this week.
Green Bay over Washington
Even if Robert Griffin III had played well last week, I wouldn’t pick Washington here. I do think he’ll improve this week (still getting a feel back for the game), but the Redskins defense won’t do him any favors. Aaron Rodgers should have a field day.
Miami over Indianapolis
Each team seems slightly overhyped coming into the season, but both started off with a victory. Expect an entertaining contest though, with lots of passes throw by both Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck. But I believe in Miami’s defense to stop Andrew Luck from pulling any fourth quarter heroics.
Carolina over Buffalo
Carolina’s front seven can slow any offense in the league. I firmly believe that. But the secondary is a mess that even rookie E.J. Manuel can throw on if given time.
I’m having a last-second change of heart though. The Panthers are the better team and should win this one. A strong defensive performance and a solid run game can win games for any team. Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams should have much better games this week.
Kansas City over Dallas
Yes, I did pick Dallas to win last week. I thought they were the better team and they were that night. But the way the game actually played out was easily the strangest during Week 1. The Cowboys defense forced six turnovers, but the Giants offense also gave six turnovers. Eli Manning looked like he was playing for both teams (and almost led both to victory.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, the Chiefs beat up on the lowly Jaguars 28-2. It’s easy to write off as a terrible Jaguars performance — which it was — but the Chiefs defense played a huge role in it.
They have a better defense than Dallas and if Alex Smith lead a mistake-free, but effective offense they can absolutely take this one.
Philadelphia over San Diego
With Washington behind them, Philadelphia could be looking at another 3-0 start. San Diego certainly showed their might in the first half last week, but can they sustain it for a full game?
Baltimore over Cleveland
The Browns have a defense capable of keeping Baltimore in check, but whether Brandon Weeden can move the ball on a still-good defense is another story.
Houston over Tennessee
Tennessee’s riding high after a suffocating performance last week in Pittsburgh. They can certainly generate pressure on Matt Schaub this week (especially if Duane Brown of all people continues to struggle), but I wouldn’t bank on Jake Locker and company to do much more offensively than they did last week.
Arizona over Detroit
Another game where last week’s performances don’t tell the whole story. Arizona lost to a good St. Louis Rams team, while Detroit beat a below-average Vikings team. If Arizona’s offensive line can keep Carson Palmer standing (and that’s a big if), they should be able to play well enough defensively to hold off Detroit.
Tampa Bay over New Orleans
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams were targeted on 21 of Josh Freeman‘s 31 pass attempts last week. If he can find a reliable third option to throw to this week, they could win this one at home. Doug Martin should bounce back nicely this week against a worse front seven. This may be viewed as an upset in the eyes of many, but I’m not sure if I would label it one.
Oakland over Jacksonville
Someone has to win it. Terrelle Pryor was able to make plays (albeit, while running for his life) at Indianapolis last week. Let’s see if he can do the same at home.
Denver over New York Giants
Peyton Manning won’t throw for another seven touchdowns this week, but he should still do enough to win. It will be closer than most people expect, however, and not just because the Giants are at home. If the Giants had any kind of reliable running back I may have even picked them here, but alas…
Seattle over San Francisco
Never mind how bad Seattle looked last week or how great San Francisco looked (though both still won). This one could go either way. It’s already tough to be against Colin Kaepernick, but beating Russell Wilson and the Seahawks at home is a monumental task even for them.
Cincinnati over Pittsburgh
I’m the last person to overreact about Week 1, but even I am regretting my choice for AFC North champion. If the Bengals are serious about winning the division, this one is set up for the taking.