In Mid-July, pro football was in the midst of a lockout, and football fans across the nation cringed at the thought of no pigskin for an entire season. Luckily, no tears were shed and no Sunday bro sessions were canceled, as a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was formed on July 25. So rejoice, people! NFL football is back, and so are SCO's weekly predictions for your reading pleasure.
This season, we welcome three rookies to our team of experts. Langston, Jacob and Molly will try to take down Eli, last year's champion. #HutHutHike!
Thursday, Sep. 8
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay was banged up last year and they still won the Super Bowl. The reigning champs are at nearly 100% health heading into Thursday night, so they're as dangerous as ever. I'm banking on Aaron Rodgers picking up where he left off and leading the Pack to victory in a shoot-out.
With Drew Brees facing off against Aaron Rodgers, we'll get a combined score in the seventies. Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles give a slight edge to the Saints' running game.
Aaron Rodgers has developed into the best QB in the league. The defense is exceptional. So yes, the defending champs are back in business.
I would normally have to favor the defensively strong Saints with Aaron Rodgers holding down the fort in Green Bay, he provides a more well-rounded team. He holds weapons that not even the Saints can battle against in this upcoming thriller. It's going to be a great game against two powerhouses, recent Super Bowl winners. But I have to go with the Green Bay Packers on this one.
Sunday, Sep. 11
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Matt Ryan and Roddy White hook up for a pair of scores in a big Atlanta win.
The Bears usually don't enjoy much of a home field advantage until November and December, and the Falcons will enjoy a warm and sunny Sunday at Soldier Field. Look for Matt Ryan to consistently hook up with Roddy White and lead the Falcons to a Week One victory.
The NFC's best Falcons should have no problem handling Cutler and the mediocre Bears.
Crush mode. The Falcons have one of the most explosive offensives in the league right now, especially after recent draft pick Julio Jones. The only chance of the Bears taking the win would be if Chicago's offensive line didn't look so horrible. John Abraham is guaranteed to be building up his stats with this season opener.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
I consider myself a pretty avid NFL fan, and I had to look up the starting quarterback for each of these teams. That alone should tell you something about each of these teams' playoff chances in an AFC North division dominated by Baltimore and Pittsburgh. That said, I'll give Colt McCoy and the Browns the edge over rookie Andy Dalton (who?) and the Bengals. It's a scary thing to play in your first ever NFL game, and unlike Dalton, McCoy's at least has some game experience under his belt.
I'm always afraid to pick the Browns, but Cincinnati is, let's face it, awful. The Bengals will lose this game more than the Browns will win it.
The Bengals may be the worst team in the NFL while the young Browns, led by Peyton Hillis have a fighting chance at a .500 record.
Colt McCoy is an upcoming star quarterback and since last year and preseason the potential seems to be coming out of his pores. The Bengals young, inexperienced offensive will be able to keep up with Cleveland. Both defenses will have a lot of points scored on them, so it will come down to a battle of the offenses. Browns have got it in the bag.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were the AFC's most improved team last season, going from a 4-12 record in 2009 to a 10-6 division-topping record in 2010. QB Matt Cassel threw for over 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, and wideout Dwayne Bowe appears to be in the prime of his career. Meanwhile, the Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999 and lost eight straight to start the season in 2010. Look for KC to come out with the W at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday.
The Chiefs have more talent on both sides of the ball, and Jamaal Charles should maintain his yardage this year. Not to mention, Arrowhead Stadium on opening day will be as loud as any venue the Bills will play in this year. The Chiefs won't disappoint.
The Chiefs exceeded expectations and had a very good season on both sides of the ball, while the Bills were exactly what you would expect.
Both teams are in the stage of rebuilding, but the Chiefs seem to have the edge, even after an inconsistent preseason. Chiefs will take this game in a rough battle of the underdogs.
Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams
Philly was the talk of the NFL this off-season, signing big names and garnering loads of Super Bowl hype as a result. I don't know if I'm buying in just yet – better to take it one week at a time – but that may just be one biased and sadly misinformed 'Skins fan's opinion. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt this week, though. Expect Mike Vick to exploit a lackluster STL defense and the Eagles to move to 1-0 on the season.
Sam Bradford threw 15 interceptions his rookie year, so look for Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to shut down the Rams' offense. Michael Vick's passing is unpredictable as always, but the Eagles are just too stacked to lose this game.
The Eagles are the super team everybody is expecting, but St. Louis won't make it easy. The battle of today's versatile quarterback Vick, and the conventional pocket passer Bradford, will result in an offensive showdown.
In this game I am buying into the hype about the Eagles being the dream team for this upcoming season. The Rams definitely have a young and vibrant team, but with Michael Vick's athleticism and Philly's defense, it's hard to imagine the Rams getting anywhere this game.
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Detroit is poised for a breakout year. Before QB Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder in 2010, he showed immense potential. Surrounded by tremendous offensive talents the likes of Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best, the Lions have a terrific young core of guys to build around. D-Town's defense is much improved as well, and boasts one of the scarier defensive lines in the league consisting of Ndambong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril.
The smart money, for once, is on the Lions. A scary defensive line and Matthew Stafford – Calvin Johnson combination will give Detroit all the tools they need to win this game. Somehow, though, the Bucs will build off last season's turnaround and steal the opener.
Stafford vs. Freeman is a preview for the future, and both teams have stellar defenses. Lions win it in a close one.
This is another nail biting game, but I had to go with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since they looked determined in the preseason and last year. The Lions definitely have a lot to prove, but the matchup of the young and the restless will definitely have fans on the edge of their seats.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags cut ex-starter David Garrard this week, making way for career-long backup Luke McCown to snag the job over rookie Blaine Gabbert. In other news, I have Chris Johnson on my fantasy team, and I hope he scores a lot of points.
Chris Johnson doesn't need a preseason. Sorry, Jacksonville, he'll win this game by himself.
Chris Johnson re-signed, eliminating any potential disaster for the Titans. With the addition of Hasselbeck at QB the Titans will blow by the measly Jaguars.
With the return of Chris Johnson, the Titans will have a solid offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
This is a tough one. These games are always hard-hitting, close and fun to watch. I'm feeling Pittsburgh in this one despite Baltimore's home-field advantage. Look for young stud wide receiver Mike Wallace to have a big game for the Steelers.
For me, this is the most interesting game this weekend. Over the past couple years, the Ravens have finally added some offense to their attack, but they've set themselves back by losing Todd Heap and Derrick Mason. The Steelers' look set to win the AFC North, but Joe Flacco will come out more mature this season, and his receivers can only drop important passes for so long. Ravens win in a toss-up.
As always when these two teams meet it will be a hard fought defensive battle. But the Ravens get the edge with Ray Rice, one of the top three running backs in the AFC, and Flacco will have a big year.
Some may think this is my upset of the week, but there's no denying that the underdog in a rivalry always has a better shot at winning. With two tough defenses it's hard to say what kind of game this will turn out to be, but the Ravens have the motivation and the right coaching, while the Steelers may have their heads in the wrong places.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Look for Peyton Manning to throw for 400 yards and 4 touch…Wait what? He's injured?
This entire game depends on what Peyton Manning's "doubtful” status means. I'm guessing he won't play, and if he doesn't, the Colts are severely overmatched.
Peyton Manning is doubtful to play and the reign of the Colts is coming to an end. The Texans' strong passing attack plus Arian Foster in the backfield sound like a blowout in Houston.
Bye bye Peyton Manning. Unfortunately for the Colts, Manning is still recovering from his neck surgery and that will leave the team in the shaking hands of Kerry Collins. The Texans offensive will stomp over the Colts questionable defense, and they continue to improve year in and year out.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
Neither of these teams will make the playoffs, but I'll go with AZ just based on the quarterback match-up. Cam Newton is the Heisman winner and national champion, but he's yet to play a down in the NFL.
Cam Newton lit it up in the preseason. As long as he doesn't throw the ball except when he absolutely has to, the Panthers will have enough offense to take down the Cards.
Until Cam Newton proves that he can be an NFL quarterback, I will not pick the Panthers to win a game. Kolb and Fitzgerald will run over the Panthers secondary.
Carolina doesn't seem to have improved much from last year, and with their disappointing draft picks they don't stand a chance. The Cardinals have showed much more improvement after finally getting a good enough quarterback that can show what the offense can really do.
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers
Another tough decision. I'll go with San Diego because I'm still mad at McNabb for botching things in Washington last year.
Donovan McNabb just left Washington. Not coincidentally, his talent just went through the roof. Add that to the fact that the Chargers don't understand that teams are allowed to win before November, and the purple and gold win this game.
Rivers could throw for 5,000 yards this season and if Ryan Matthews stays healthy the Chargers will be unstoppable on offense. In Minnesota Mcnabb is no longer the quarterback he once was and not even Adrian Peterson will be enough to keep the Vikings afloat.
The Chargers always start their season with a rocky first game, and this year looks to be no different. I'm sure they will build momentum during the season, but not now. This one's going to the Vikings with Donovan McNabb and Adrian Peterson.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
I'll go with San Fran in this riveting match-up. Sarcasm aside, expect Frank Gore to put up solid numbers against a putrid Seattle D and the Niners to win in a low-scoring affair.
San Francisco has a better offense. San Francisco has a better defense. Frank Gore will be a beast, and the 49ers will win at home.
Neither team has much going for them, especially at QB with Tavaris Jackson for the Seahawks and Troy Smith for the 49ers. The offensive struggles for the 49ers were highlighted in the preseason when they only scored 47 points, third fewest in the NFL. Not a game to watch but the Seahawks will take it in the end.
Home team definitely has the advantage in this match-up, as shown in previous seasons. With the dominant stadium and new receivers for the 49ers, they most likely will pull out a hard-earned win. Plus, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis will most likely help the team light up the scoreboard.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
I can't not take the Skins in week one against the Giants, right? As a diehard 'Skins fan and Giants-hater, I'd feel ashamed if I picked against them and they won. There's not much skill on this team, but drama-free football in DC (no Haynesworth, no McNabb) is such a breath of fresh air that I can't help but buy in. Let's just hope this QB thing works out. #RexonRexonRex
This will be an exciting rematch from Week 17 of last season, which the Giants took, 17-14. Unfortunately, Rex Grossman still doesn't have the accuracy necessary to lead Washington to a win.
Sorry Redskins fans, but regardless of the preseason, the Redskins are going to be last place in the East and possibly last place in NFC. The Giants have a well-rounded team and Manning has a strong receiving corps along with the Giants always fiery running game.
This is my upset pick of the week. Not saying I'm a Redskins fan, but with a exciting home game and a blazing good preseason with improvements to offense and defense, hopefully the Redskins can make some restless fans very happy for this season opener, otherwise they're in for another long haul. But definitely look for at least two picks from Eli Manning in this game.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
The Jets have gotten to the AFC championship the past two years and there weren't many changes made to the stifling defense that got them there. I'll take New York in a close one. Plus I love Rex Ryan's antics and I'm not what you'd call the biggest Cowboy fan.
The Cowboys weren't bad last year under new coach Jason Garrett, but Tony Romo just hasn't become the elite quarterback we thought he'd be. The Jets are as strong as ever, and have a chance to win the division this year. New York gets the W.
Rex Ryan's Super Bowl prediction might finally come true while Tony Romo only played in six games last year. In those six games the Cowboys went 1-5.
Is this even a question? Jets. I mean really? Duh.
Monday, Sep. 12
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
The Patriots are good every year, and the Dolphins aren't every year. Chad Ochocinco is just another new weapon for Tom Brady's arsenal – and as a defense, I'd be scared at the possibility of the Pats' QB getting any more dominant than he already is.
The Pats should win the AFC East this season, thanks to newcomers Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. Oh yeah, and that Tom guy is pretty good, too.
The Patriots somehow got better than last year with the additions of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. Reggie Bush will have a big game against the Patriots D but not enough to stop Brady.
It's the battle of the former Michigan quarterbacks, but reigning NFL MVP doesn't really give anyone a chance. Tom Brady and his steel offensive line will win…once again.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
I like Darren McFadden at RB for Oakland, but the rest of the Raider offense is lacking some serious firepower. Kyle Orton is a proven quarterback – expect him to pick apart Oakland's D on Monday night.
I think months of being called "soft” will toughen up Denver QB Kyle Orton, and he and the rest of the Broncos will come out strong on Monday night.
The Broncos QB quandary has not played out well but against the Raiders defense any QB will look great. With Jason Cambpell starting for the Raiders, they have no chance.
This heated rivalry game is a tough decision, since the Raiders swept the division last season, and the Broncos new head coach loves the running game, but the team doesn't have much of a running attack. Raiders are taking it.
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