Ravens @ Broncos

While hindsight makes this decision much easier, I would have placed all my money on Peyton Manning regardless.  After Manning led the touchdown drive that should have won the game last year against the Ravens in the playoffs, there was no way he was going to let Baltimore come into Denver for Opening Night of the NFL and suffer the embarrassment of a home loss. I would have preferred Ray Lewis’ broken-down, steroid-riddled corpse lumber around the field trying to keep up with Denver’s torrid pace, but I can’t really complain about Peyton’s terrific performance against an overrated Baltimore defense that will continue to struggle this season. I’d be mildly surprised if the Ravens make the playoffs this year unless a few players on the defense take the next step forward (here’s looking at you, Suggs). And it certainly won’t help that Baltimore has so few weapons on offense and Jim Caldwell still calling plays.

Flacco

Let’s face it, this is how this game should have gone last year. Denver is just head and shoulders above Baltimore, and I think you’ll see that play out this year as Flacco struggles to establish himself as an elite quarterback. Only Ray Rice can carry this offense on his back for a full NFL season.

Joe Flacco is a Kerry Collins clone.

Oh, and Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown.

Win: Denver Broncos

Patriots @ Bills

There was a time that I could never imagine myself rooting for Tom Brady. As the years have gone by, I’ve softened my stance a bit on the one who loves to hug billy goats. If Peyton Manning can respect and pull for Tom Brady, then why can’t I? I’ll still argue to the death that Manning is the better all-time quarterback for what he’s been able to accomplish historically with such a poor supporting cast and never having a good defense.  And recent history has proven Tom Brady struggles to win and get back to the Super Bowl without such a great defense behind him. These players are both two of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I’ll enjoy seeing Brady dismantle the Bills this week with a weakened supporting cast.  If Danny Amendola can manage to stay healthy, then watch Brady prop him up into the next level of superstar WR strata—just like with Wes Welker.  Buffalo has no shot this week, but at least they’ll be interesting this year if E.J. Manuel shows he can be a competent signal-caller.

“If you’re a turd, it’s going to come back to you.” – Tom Brady on Johnny Manziel

Win: New England Patriots

Bengals @ Bears

I’m not all-in on the Chicago Bears this year, but I’m looking forward to see Jay Cutler’s true ability when he’s not picking grass out of his helmet. Marc Trestman will be an improvement over Lovie Smith if he can coax a respectable year out of Chicago’s offensive line, in terms of protecting Cutler. Finally, we won’t have to hear any excuses. Can Cutler establish himself in the top tier of QBs or is he destined to be the poster boy for wasted potential? I think he’s more Tony Romo than Brett Favre, but this year will go a long ways towards sorting that out. If Trestman can get Cutler to throw from a set position instead of launching a duck from his back foot, then I expect the Bears to challenge for the division—especially considering the tough schedule awarded to banged-up Green Bay.

I don’t understand the love being heaped on Cincinnati as an early season sleeper. I love A.J. Green and am intrigued by Tyler Eifert’s playmaking ability, but I don’t trust Andy Dalton to deliver the ball. Never trust a Ginger. The Bengals have a very good and possibly great difference-making defense, but I haven’t seen anything yet to believe Cincinnati’s offense can make them a serious contender for a Super Bowl.

This will be an interesting game that sets the tone for each team. It may take some time for the Bears to adjust and execute Trestman’s philosophy, but I’m betting on them starting the year out right.

Win: Chicago Bears

Dolphins @ Browns

This game could go either way and neither team’s fan base could really care. Cleveland’s year will be all about Brandon Weeden’s development, and Miami’s year will be all about who the fuck they have to carry the football. I expect the Dolphins’ offseason splurge will prove largely irrelevant. Miami is trending downward with a GM desperate to hang onto his job, which makes the franchise’s long-term development hang in the balance. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s arrow is trending up with their new regime focusing on building a solid defense to cover Brandon Weeden’s warts. Watch out for Jordan Cameron’s breakout this year—his talent is going to translate in Norval’s new system.

Win: Cleveland Browns

Raiders @ Colts

Back in 2005, I can still recall my dorm roommate (from Ohio) at Western Kentucky University being so excited about Terrelle Pryor choosing Ohio State over Michigan. That didn’t turn out too well for OSU, and I don’t expect this to play out any better for Oakland. Even if Matt Flynn can’t provide anything better than Chad Pennington could near the end of his career, I still think his limited skill set and noodle arm would be a better contributor as quarterback than Pryor. I don’t imagine Oakland winning more than 3 games this year, and this one versus Indianapolis to be one of them.

Win: Indianapolis Colts

Titans @ Steelers

This is a match-up between two unlikable teams who no one really knows what to expect from this season. I can envision a world where the Titans are one of the 5 worst teams this year, and I can also seem a way for them to sneak into playoff contention if Chance Warmack’s exposed tubby tummy hypnotizes opposing teams to help Chris Johnson re-establish his career. The same goes for Pittsburgh as their lack of a running game could again cripple their playoff aspirations or their defense could be rejuvenated enough to bring them back to the top of their division. I think Tennessee covers this line with Pittsburgh still hanging onto the win as the Titans fail to keep the game out of the hands of Jake Locker. It might be best for Tennessee to tank this year in order to try to nab a difference-maker like Teddy Bridgewater.

Win: Pittsburgh Steelers

Falcons @ Saints

What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss? I’d avoid gambling on this game at all costs. Atlanta’s defense is injured and weak, but New Orleans isn’t in a much better position. This should be a shootout in the purest sense, and that should favor Drew Brees and the Saints.  Still, I think New Orleans defenders will be waving their hands in the air more than the women who celebrate their bead exchange at Mardi Gras. And who the fuck knows what the Saints have at RB? Steven Jackson was a smart get that the Packers will be lamenting, and I believe he’ll help Atlanta kill the clock and move the chains to control the late stages of this shootout against the Saints.

Win: Atlanta Falcons

Buccaneers @ Jets

Mark Sanchez is doing his best to not be remembered for the infamous Butt Fumble, but he will be unsuccessful in doing so this year. His ridiculous greasy hair, pedophile mustache, and head band are very subtle touches to reinvent himself. And I’m certain the TV cameras will be showcasing him as he competitively eats hot dogs against an imaginary opponent from the sidelines while having his arm in a sling for these first few games. I would bet constantly and consistently against Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith this year. Unless Tampa Bay just falls apart, I’d mark Geno down for 2-3 interceptions that he’ll hopefully take the time out to watch on tape next week.

Win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vikings @ Lions

Why weren’t more teams interested in Reggie Bush this offseason? He’s a perfect fit for Detroit since he’s at his best when catching balls out of the backfield and he’s proven somewhat capable of carrying the rock. As long as Detroit and their thuggery ways don’t impede them, I would call the Lions a sleeper.  At the very least, they are better than the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson could easily have a freak showing and single-handedly win this game, but he’ll have to do so and I anticipate some regression to the mean this year. If Detroit doesn’t improve on last year’s wasted season, then hold on tight as the Lions could really blow this whole thing up.

May the Schwartz be with you.

Win: Detroit Lions

Seahawks @ Panthers

Apparently, football fans are not aware of regression to the mean. Is Russell Wilson really as good as he performed last year? I don’t think so, but he has a head on his shoulders. As long as Marshawn Lynch’s career carries don’t cripple his productivity, then Seattle should continue to be a serious contender in the NFC. On the other side, Carolina is a dumpster fire of a franchise. The only hope for the Panthers is if Cam Newton can be more Superman than sideshow. Needless to say, I don’t have very high hopes that happening. This is probably another wasted year as Newton welcomes more suggestions into the suggestion box since he can’t be bothered to figure it out.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Chiefs @ Jaguars

Jacksonville may not be as bad as the New York Jets or Oakland Raiders, but they’re not that far off either. Kansas City is trending the opposite direction, and this should be a pretty comfortable road win for the Chiefs as they can play around with a few things offensively. Jamaal Charles should have another elite level year in him behind this offensive line, and I think he could approach 150 yards (running and receiving) in this game against Jacksonville. The Jaguars need to find a new quarterback of the future not named Gabbert and definitely not named Tebow.

Win: Kansas City Chiefs

Cardinals @ Rams

Who cares? I’m in Arizona and I don’t know anyone who gives a shit about this game. Bruce Arians should be a better coach than Ken Whisenhunt, but he’s still not as good as Jeff Fisher. Jared Cook will dominate the Cardinals today and he could catch a couple of TDs when St. Louis is in the red zone.

Win: St. Louis Rams

Packers @ 49ers

Since the BAL-DEN opener stunk up the joint, this game could be the best match-up of Week 1. As with Manning, I expect Rodgers to be hell-bent on showing last year’s effort against San Francisco was a fluke. Unfortunately, I don’t have that same faith in Green Bay’s defense. While Kaepernick could struggle to live up to the hype, I anticipate the 49ers to heavily rely on Vernon Davis in this game.  Without Crabtree, Vernon is Kaepernick’s best weapon as this could finally be the year that Frank Gore falters.  Considering San Francisco has a stable defense, I’m betting on them to win this game outright even though Rodgers could make it close late. Green Bay will really regret their decision not to pony up for Steven Jackson if Eddie Lacy can’t establish himself as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Win: San Francisco 49ers

Giants @ Cowboys

Another coin toss game. I don’t think Dallas will be very good with a makeshift offensive line, but New York’s defense is also in that same position.  This could be a shootout along the lines of ATL-NO, but I trust Eli Manning more than Tony Romo when it comes to putting together a drive to win the game. Don’t get me wrong, Tony Romo could lead the NFL in passing yards this year (and he may have to), but I think Dallas’ deficiencies will prevent them from pounding the Giants at home in their season opener. Never bet against a Manning. Even with Giant genital warts, New York should win behind Eli as long as their offensive line can hold Dallas defenders at bay.

Win: New York Giants

Eagles @ Redskins

Chip Kelley’s offensive philosophy will not be reinventing the wheel. Sure, Philadelphia will probably have a better year than last, but they’re already too injured to make a true difference. Unless LeSean McCoy is the best RB in the NFL, the Eagles will not be making the playoffs.  On the other hand, Washington’s aspirations weigh heavily on how much Robert Griffin can burden the responsibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alfred Morris’ yards-per-carry take a tumble this year without the added benefit of Griffin’s dynamic running ability. But in the end, Griffin’s decision-making and pocket presence could really skyrocket with a more traditional approach.

Win: Washington Redskins

Texans @ Chargers

Matt Schaub isn’t an elite QB and the Texans may have already wasted the peak of Arian Foster. But San Diego sucks. Philip Rivers is not and has never been very good. And he throws like a girl. I’m sure J.J. Watt will deflect a few passes with his gigantic head alone as the Texans surge through San Diego’s offensive line. Don’t be shocked if this is a 2-TD game for Ben Tate as Houston will look to protect Arian Foster for the late season run. The Texans still lack the elite playmakers necessary to support Matt Schaub, which will be a problem this year but not this game.

Win: Houston Texans

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