Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos - The Broncos are the defending champs, and they get to celebrate the achievement at home against the very team that they won the title against a little over seven months ago. However, the Broncos still have some question marks in terms of offense, particular at quarterback, and the Panthers are looking for revenge. This is the rematch that Carolina has waited for all season, and it is difficult to imagine that they are going to be denied the victory later today.
My pick: Panthers
Chicago at Houston - The Bears can show some serious improvement under head coach John Fox this year, but going to Houston is probably just too big of an order for Chicago. The Texans barely won the division last year, and they know that every single game counts in the race this year. They should hold the Bears offense in check and take this one at home.
My pick: Houston
Cleveland at Philadelphia - Frankly, both of these teams seem to stink. The Browns are in complete disarray, and for the most part, so are the rebuilding Eagles. Philly is at home, but look for Cleveland to pull off an upset to at least get off to a good start this year.
My pick: Cleveland
Minnesota at Tennessee - The Vikings were a serious team entering this season, but losing your starting quarterback for the entire year is not a good way to start. Tennessee is not exactly an elite team, but they show bursts of promise, and I suspect that they will do just enough to beat Minnesota in this one.
My pick: Tennessee
Buffalo at Baltimore - The Bills have a tough defense, while the Baltimore Ravens are looking to rebound from a truly horrible season last year. However, they know that they need to get off to a solid start this year, and that begins with this game. I like Baltimore in a tight one.
My pick: Baltimore
Green Bay at Jacksonville - The Jaguars have made some serious improvements, and could surprise some people this season. It just seems unlikely that it will start against Green Bay, a team with a real chance to go very far into the playoffs this season. Look for a balanced Packers team to come up with the goods against Jax.
My pick: Packers
San Diego at Kansas City - The Chargers were one of the worst teams last year, and the Chiefs one of the best. San Diego might have a rebound season, but the Kansas City is aiming for big things, potentially even the Super Bowl. This is a tough start for the Chargers, and it will prove to be way too much for them. Kansas City should take this fairly easily and convincingly.
My pick: Chiefs
Cincinnati at NY Jets - The Bengals have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL in the last five or so years. They are a perennial playoff team, but they do not ever seem to win once there. By contrast, the Jets are unpredictable, going from a playoff team on the verge of reaching the Super Bowl two years in a row, to several years following of mediocrity. Two years ago, they were among the very worst teams in the league, and then last year, they were on the cusp of the playoffs! This game should be close and could go either way, but I will take the Jets at home to win it.
My pick: Jets
Tampa Bay at Atlanta - Neither of these teams were particularly impressive last season, although for the long term, I actually like what Tampa Bay is doing more than Atlanta. Still, for this game, the Falcons have a dangerous offense, and will enjoy home field advantage, and that should spell a win for their home opener.
My pick: Falcons
Oakland at New Orleans - The Saints have Brees back, but they have not seemingly made any major improvements, which is not good news. In the meantime, the Raiders always seem on the verge of breaking out, but never do. However, Oakland has a chance this year, and I believe they should capitalize. It begins with a win at New Orleans. It may seem absurd to suggest that the Raiders face a must win, but they really need to take this one.
My pick: Raiders
Miami at Seattle - The Dolphins enter the Pacific Northwest to face one of the toughest teams in the league in the Seahawks. Seattle has a pounding, bruising running offense, and Miami had one of the worst defenses against the run last season. Couple that with limited options for the Dolphins offense when they go up against the Legion of Boom, and you have a convincing opening day victory for Seattle.
My pick: Seahawks
Detroit at Indianapolis - A lot of people feel that the Lions can and should win this one, but I do not see it. Despite the problems that the Colts obviously had last year, and despite the naysayers, this is still a team with some talent, particularly at quarterback. Plus, they are at home. Notch a victory for Indy to start the season.
My pick: Colts
NY Giants at Dallas - New York is tired of getting beaten by Dallas. The Cowboys only earned four victories last season, but two of those came via their sweep of the G-Men. The Giants are determined not to allow that to happen again, and they are probably the better team. Look for them to take control at some point in the first half, and to force the issue to secure an opening day victory.
My pick: Giants
New England at Arizona - The Patriots return to the site of their Super Bowl XLIX win (as well as their XLII loss), and normally, I would think that this would be a tough contest that is just too close to call. However, the Patriots will be without Brady for this one, which gives the Cardinals a decisive advantage. Look for them to capitalize on it.
My pick: Cardinals
Pittsburgh at Washington - Washington will try to defend last season's division championship, but the Steelers have one of the most dangerous and explosive offenses in the league. I suspect that they will be a bit too much for Washington to handle in this contest.
My pick: Steelers
Los Angeles at San Francisco - The Rams are excited to be back in Los Angeles, although their season starts in another California city. The 49ers were not a very good team last season, but they played lights out in their opener against an eventual playoff team in the Vikings. Now, they host the Rams, and so it could be that they put on a strong performance. However, the Rams could be legitimate contenders to make the playoffs, and so I will figure them to win this contest.
My pick: Rams