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Sept. 5, 2007

NFL - Week One predictions

by Andrew Kung, Online Sports Editor and Copy Editor, Pia Nargundkar, Online Editor-in-Chief and Nitin Sukumar, Online News Editor and Copy Editor
Another NFL season is upon us, and as per tradition, we here at SCO offer our weekly predictions and commentary. Previous analysts Abe, Josh and Phil have moved on to greener pastures after being schooled last year by Pia Nargundkar, who returns this year to defend her crown. In the challenger's corner this season stand resident sports guys Andrew Kung and Nitin Sukumar as well as Anshul Sood, our token junior staffer. Can Pia repeat in NFL pick supremacy? Let's see how the y-chromosome fares in 2007.

Andrew 0-0
Nitin 0-0
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Thursday Sept. 6, 2007

New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Indianapolis New Orleans New Orleans Indianapolis

Andrew says: Defense will be non-existent in the season opener, as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning square off in a good ol'-fashioned offensive shootout. Look for experience as the deciding factor though: the Saints have been an offensive powerhouse for one season, while the Colts have been unstoppable for five.

Nitin says: Manning versus Brees. The NFL opens up with two of the most impressive offenses pitted against each other. With RB Joseph Addai getting used to the spotlight of a two-back system with an inexperienced second back, the Saints have an opportunity to steal a win from the world champs. And I can't wait to see the Deuce-Bush tag team steam rolling again, especially against the Colt's pathetic run defense.

Pia says: What a powerful opener. The NFL really wanted to start the season off with a bang, pitting last year's Super Bowl champion at home against the NFC's number two team. Unfortunately, being the Super Bowl champ isn't the easy path to victory. The Saints' explosive offense with Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston will plow through Indy's weak D.

Anshul says: Two of the best offenses in the league collide here but the Colts defense will stop the New Orleans offense more than New Orleans can stop theirs.


Sunday Sept. 9, 2007
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Minnesota Atlanta Minnesota Atlanta

Andrew says: Minnesota seriously isn't as bad as people think: they're defense is solid, especially against the run, their offensive line is one of the NFC's best and Adrian Peterson is a stud in the backfield with big-play potential every time he touches the ball. On the other hand, Joey Harrington and the Vick-less Falcons are indeed as bad as people think.

Nitin says: No Vick, no problem. For now, at least. The Falcons' experience alone will carry them past the young Vikings. I'm looking forward to seeing how Atlanta makes up for their dog-killing, run-happy quarterback. QB Joey Harrington has a few weapons on offense to work with and Minnesota has a murky pass defense known to give up serious yardage.

Pia says: Both teams underwent some massive reconstruction this summer; both dealt with a new starting quarterback and a new head coach. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the quarterback situation wasn't exactly planned. Who could have seen that their star quarterback would be indicted in relation to an illegal dog-fighting operation? But unfortunately for Atlanta fans, no Vick means no victory.

Anshul says: The Falcons are relying on Joey Harrington now, who didn't look too bad during the preseason. The Vikings are going to need to rely on Tavaris Jackson and hopefully Adrian Peterson to make some big plays, but it'll be a losing effort.

Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
St. Louis Carolina Carolina St. Louis

Andrew says: I'm high on Marc Bulger and his vast array of weapons on offense. I can't say the same about the ever-erratic Jake Delhomme though. The Carolina defense is on the decline, and stud running back Steven Jackson will make this more than conspicuous.

Nitin says: Steve Smith has a sore leg. That won't stop him from burning the St. Louis corners and giving my fantasy team an early lead.

Pia says: St. Louis's rush defense has more holes than Swiss cheese, something that Carolina's running duo DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams will take full advantage of. Of course the Rams have running back Steven Jackson and the ever-reliable kicker Jeff Wilkins, but nothing the Carolina D can't control.

Anshul says: The Rams have Marc Bulger, a great QB, Steven Jackson, an amazing RB, and Torry Holt, an incredible WR. Their offense is going to overpower Carolina, and with home field advantage, they'll come away with the win.

Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Denver Denver Denver Denver

Andrew says: Buffalo is a team on the rise. Unfortunately, they're still quantum bounds behind the Broncos. A healthy Travis Henry will exploit a raw Buffalo middle, and Javon Walker will be licking his chops against a Nate Clements-less secondary.

Nitin says: The J.P. Losman-Lee Evans connection is pretty impressive but not impressive enough to beat the Denver defense. Jay Cutler looked sharp in preseason and should have a stellar performance.

Pia says: The name "J.P. Losman" doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of defensive players everywhere, especially when they are as highly successful as the Denver secondary. Plus with Jay Cutler firmly at the hold, and ex-Titan Travis Henry in the backfield, Denver's offense is looking pretty good too. Better luck next week, Buffalo.

Anshul says: The Bills have Lee Evans, and the Broncos have Champ Bailey. Tough match-up, and the Bills have a good pass offense, but with Dre Bly alongside Bailey, Denver will come up on top.

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Kansas City Kansas City Kansas City Kansas City

Andrew says: Larry Johnson will find holes in the Texan D bigger than his shiny new paycheck. Five years in, and the Texans still haven't fielded a defense. Or an offensive line, for that matter: Tamba Hali will play matchmaker to Matt Schaub and the turf, the start of a long and beautiful relationship.

Nitin says: Matt Schaub is not going to cure Houston and Larry Johnson doesn't need the world's best line to dominate. We'll see both in this game.

Pia says: The Texans finally seem to be getting their foot in the game, five years after their entrance into the league. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Chiefs did manage to make the playoffs last year while the Texans finished last in their division yet again. A slow start for Houston doesn't rule out flourishing later in the season.

Anshul says: With LJ ending his holdout and ready to play, the Texans with unproven QB Matt Schaub won't be able to compete.

Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Miami Miami Washington Washington

Andrew says: I like the Redskins as much as the next guy, but they're honestly not very good. The Dolphins have made some questionable personnel moves this offseason, starting of course with Trent Green. However, Green, though decrepit and injury-prone, is a veteran behind center who won't make any sexy plays, but can still manage a game with the best of them. Ronnie Brown is poised for a game on the ground, not so much due to coach Cam Cameron's motivational techniques as the permeable Washington defense, while Jason Taylor will give young signal-caller Jason Campbell fits all day in pursuit in the pocket.

Nitin says: As usual, the Redskins enter opening week looking star-studded on paper with barely enough chemistry to fill a teacup. Miami still has some kinks to work out on offense, but not nearly as many as Washington has. RB Ronnie Brown will want to prove himself early; new Miami head coach Cam Cameron has dared to suggest his starting job is up for grabs. The last thing the Skins need is for Clinton Portis to get bulldozed by Jason Taylor or Zach Thomas in Week 1. But uh, go Skins!

Pia says: What does a new season mean? Another year where the faithful truly believe that this year is the Redskins' year. So what if I fell in that trap too?

Anshul says: This isn't just home pride speaking here but I truly believe the Redskins can take the Dolphins. Trent Green isn't looking so good in Miami and the Redskins have improved on both sides of the ball.

New England Patriots at NY Jets

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
New England New England New England New England

Andrew says: Honestly, the Jets weren't as good last year as their 10-6 record and wild card berth indicated. Without Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour, the Patriots defense is somewhat exploitable, but Chad Pennington has never been known for the colloquial "big play." With or without Moss, the Patriot offense will be clicking with Laurence Maroney in the backfield and Tom Brady showcasing his new toys. Look for a repeat of last year's playoff result.

Nitin says: If it weren't for Thursday night's matchup, this one would easily be the game of the week. Everyone wants to see the Patriots offense in action, with RB Laurence Maroney entering his second year with the full rein and WRs Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth joining the Tom Brady circus. It's hard not to feel bad for those Jets.

Pia says: The Patriots made a sickening number of acquisitions this offseason and are already the favorite to win this year's Super Bowl. And why not, with Tom Brady heading up the offense and Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas terrorizing on defense. Of course, the rivalry between head coaches Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini isn't going to make this match any prettier.

Anshul says: I just can't wait to see Tom Brady and Randy Moss hook-up on the field. But even if Moss doesn't play in this game, the Pats can walk away with this rematch of last-year's playoff ending for the Jets.

Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia

Andrew says: Green Bay has no counter to Philly's rejuvenated D-Mac attack.

Nitin says: Brett Favre will start his last season (hopefully) getting it handed to him by a superior defense and offense. Just step aside for Aaron Rodgers, old man.

Pia says: Donovan McNabb is back and healthy. Brett Favre is back and…old. I love the man, but the longer he stays, the more he's dragging his team down.

Anshul says: A healthy McNabb is going to be better than Brett Favre in what should be his last season in the NFL. The Eagles got too explosive of an offense and defense for the Packers to handle. Sorry to break it to any cheeseheads out there.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Tennessee Jacksonville Jacksonville Tennessee

Andrew says: David Garrard? No thanks. True, the Titans overachieved at the end of last year and did little to improve over the offseason, but on the other hand, neither did the Jags. Vince Young's insane athleticism and growth give the visitors the edge.

Nitin says: If Tennessee QB Vince Young gets injured this year I'll become a Madden believer. Cursed or not, his lowly offense has no chance of securing the win.

Pia says: With Byron Leftwich out, David Garrard is the starting quarterback in Jacksonville, but that hardly means this career backup's job is safe. And neither is head coach Jack Del Rio's. But if there's one good thing that job uncertainty brings is motivation to do better. The Titans do have Vince Young, but without his full receiving corps from last year, the inexperienced Young may have trouble adjusting.

Anshul says: The Titans lost Pacman on defense and lost some of their good receivers, but Vince Young is the kind of dynamic player who can make spectacular plays.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pittsburgh

Andrew says: There will be howls for Brady Quinn in the Dawg Pound after a drubbing at the hands of a division rival.

Nitin says: Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel has to put in Brady Quinn if he wants his annual NFL failures to have a chance against Pittsburgh. It's still a slim chance though.

Pia says: As if Cleveland needed any more problems, it spent most of its offseason embroiled in a quarterback controversy. Charlie Frye won out, but it doesn't look like he or the acquired Jamal Lewis will help the Browns much against the Steelers D.

Anshul says: With Ben Roethlisberger healthy and the Browns still relying on Charlie Frye, the Steelers and going to march over the Browns.

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Detroit Detroit Detroit Detroit

Andrew says: Mike Martz's Motor City offense looks to be dynamic this season, with what could easily turn out to be the best receiving corps in the NFC. Plus, in case you haven't already noticed, the Raiders aren't very good.

Nitin says: Each team has ties to a promising rookie, but we'll only get to see Detroit's. WR Calvin Johnson, along with Roy Williams and Mike Furrey, will be plenty for Jon Kitna to work with. Apparently Kitna thinks his Lions can secure an 11-win season, but he probably stopped reading the schedule after Week 1.

Pia says: The key to winning the NFL picks? Rule #1: The Raiders may not have a winning record at any time.

Anshul says: Both of these teams got great players in JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson from the draft. But with Russell likely not playing and Kitna a better QB than an unadjusted Daunte Culpepper, the Lions should be able to fight out a win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks

Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Seattle Seattle Seattle Seattle

Andrew says: Carnell Williams will probably have a bounceback year, but there's no way he can match Shaun Alexander in this matchup between a legitimate playoff contender and a franchise on the mend.

Nitin says: No doubts here, Seattle is back in full force and Tampa Bay only has Jeff Garcia to look forward to.

Pia says: With Seahawks' quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander both healthy, the Buccaneers don't stand much of a chance. Newly minted Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia did well last year in Philly when McNabb was injured, but one man can't carry the team.

Anshul says: The Bucs may have Jeff Garcia, but a healthy Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck are going to overpower the Bucs and gain Seattle the win.

Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers


Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
San Diego San Diego San Diego San Diego

Andrew says: Those Nike ads featuring LT smoking the Bears will prove to be prophetic, as Tomlinson and crew find holes in the vaunted Chicago defense. San Diego coordinator Ron Rivera will have his revenge the Bears for letting him walk, unleashing the full wrath of Shawne Merriman on poor Rex Grossman.

Nitin says: Another great game, but not one to build Chicago QB Rex Grossman's flimsy confidence. Poor guy. At least Shawne Merriman decided put the "Light's Out" dance to rest.

Pia says: Chicago snuck into the Super Bowl last year with a strong defense and a terrible offense. Unfortunately, they did nothing to fix that over the offseason. San Diego's defense is pretty strong itself, and it'll tear Rex Grossman apart. As for the Chicago defense? Please, like anyone can contain LaDainian Tomlinson.

Anshul says: One of the best offenses meets one of the best defenses. But Rex Grossman needs to show up and be explosive to match the output of LT and Philip Rivers, and I just don't think he can do it.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys


Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Dallas Dallas Dallas Dallas

Andrew says: Why is everybody and their mom dogpiling on Eli Manning? Um, because he'll never be anywhere near his brother? Oh, yeah. TO keeps his fuse for at least one more game, as the soft Giants D is easy pickings for Romo and pals.

Nitin says: If Eli plays half as well as his brother plays, New York has a chance. But he can't and won't, so this one is a no brainer.

Pia says: While Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo probably spent the offseason learning how to hold on to balls, Giants' Eli Manning spent it deflecting criticism on his leadership skills and on his head coach's ability to manage the team. So while not a pleasant offseason for either, this is Dallas's game to lose. With the loss of running back Tiki Barber, the Giants have lost any offensive edge they may have had.

Anshul says: The Giants lost Tiki Barber, the Cowboys are starting Tony Romo, what more do I have to say. Eli Manning doesn't have it in him.


Monday Sept. 10, 2007
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals


Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
Baltimore Baltimore Cincinnati Baltimore

Andrew says: Carson Palmer, Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson form a fearsome foursome, but so do Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and Bart Scott, and while the Cincy offense is dynamite, their defense is a cap gun. The Bengals have had trouble staying out of jail, much less fielding a serviceable defensive unit. Willis McGahee and popular breakout candidate Mark Clayton should put up good numbers in a Baltimore W.

Nitin says: Baltimore isn't the one-sided team of 2006 with Willis McGahee in the backfield now. Carson Palmer and the Johnsons will give the Ravens a run for their money, but nothing more.

Pia says: This battle of AFC North rivals isn't going to be pretty. Don't count out the Bengals because of their mediocre performance last year; quarterback Carson Palmer was still recovering from his major knee surgery, causing Cincy to start off slow. Now the only thing that's slow is Baltimore's aging team. The Ravens defense will be a tough start for Johnson & Johnson, Ocho Cinco and the rest, but it is without LB Adalius Thomas, who skipped off to New England in the offseason.

Anshul says: Tough, tough choice here. But the Ravens defense combined with a decently efficient offense utilizing Willis McGahee should sneak out with a win over Ocho Cinco. There's some home pride there, but whatever.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers


Andrew Nitin Pia Anshul
San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco

Andrew says: I really like both of these teams this year, and one of them may very well come away with the division when all is said and done. In a matchup between young quarterbacks leading dynamic offenses, San Francisco's defensive additions will be key. Newly acquired Nate Clements can probably keep up with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, while Frank Gore and Vernon Davis run wild for San Fran.

Nitin says: 'Zona's offense is loaded with talent and Heisman-winner Matt Leinart finally has full control from day one. But this show is rated R for Gore. Viewer discretion is advised.

Pia says: San Francisco's quarterback Alex Smith has more experience than Arizona's Matt Leinart, and SF's running back Frank Gore is more consistent than Arizona's Edgerrin James, who is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2006. Sure Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald, but if Smith can hook up with TE Vernon Davis, it won't even matter.

Anshul says: The Cardinals got a better pass offense in Matt Leinart, but Frank Gore is explosive and should carry the 49ers to victory.



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