Can an offseason to forget bring a season to remember?
The NFL is back and after an offseason, which included the uncovering of a bounty scandal, an unresolved labor dispute with the referees union and an unending array of lawsuits filed against the league, we need football more than ever. The offseason storylines can now fade into irrelevance at least for one week as finally, America's sport has returned. The season however will have plenty of storylines of its own: Can Peyton Manning return to old form after a season ending neck surgery? Who will win the battle of the rookies between high profile draft picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III? And what will happen in New York now that Tim Tebow has joined forces with Mark Sanchez in an attempt to right one of the league's worst offenses?
Here at SCO we bring to you our four football pundits as they attempt to look into the future and predict the result of every game all season long. Our defending champion and SCO Sports Editor Jacob Buchholz returns, as he will be competing against SCO staff writers Jack Estrin and Michael Gerbasi as well as Silver Chips Print Sports Editor Josh Schmidt in a battle of football knowledge and predicting prowess.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Last year's defending champion Giants finished the regular season at 9-7, becoming the first team ever to make a Super Bowl with a negative point differential in the regular season. It suffices to say that they are not very intimidating for a defending champion.
Even after winning the Super Bowl, the Giants are not getting the respect they deserve. The dynamic receiver combo of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will help the defending champs pull out a close one against division rival Dallas.
I look for Eli Manning to have a big game against the Cowboys' struggling defense. On the other side of the ball, until the Cowboys figure out that third receiver, they're not going to get much going on offense.
On the heels of their second Super Bowl win in four years, the Giants are a team to once again watch out for in the league. This year Eli Manning might just get the respect he proved he deserved and can now be considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. On the other hand we have the Cowboys who always seem to disappoint and fall short of expectations. Giants should take the season opener.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Andrew Luck may be more NFL ready than RG3, but he is not ready to come into Chicago and beat a very well rounded Bears team. That will have to wait for another year.
After drafting potential savior Andrew Luck with the number one overall pick in this past year's draft, the future for Indianapolis seems bright. But coming off a 2-14 season, there is still a lot of work to do. The Bears should pull out this one, as they spoil Luck's debut.
Now that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are back together look for them to be a top QB-WR combo. Expect young Luck to be good for the Colts, but not enough to conquer the Bears.
Jay Cutler now has a top tier wide receiver in Brandon Marshall who should be able to return the elite form he held while in Denver when his quarterback was...Jay Cutler. In 2007 and 2008 when the two were together Marshall caught 13 touchdown passes from Cutler. The reunion should be a good recipe for success for the Bears as they spoil Andrew Luck's regular season debut.
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
The Falcons were a very strong team last year and while the Chiefs may be on the rise, they don't have what it takes to knock off Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Although only finishing 7-9 last season, the Chiefs were hurt by the loss of stud running back Jamaal Charles. Even with Charles back this season, the emergence of falcons QB Matt Ryan and standout receiver Julio Jones should be enough to carry the Falcons.
I think Jamaal Charles will come back and have a nice game after his season ending injury last year. It's the first time he's seriously been hurt and I expect him to recover. The Falcons have also had some injuries on their offensive line, so look for the Chiefs to take advantage.
The Chiefs running game will be their strong suit this year as they add Peyton Hillis and a healthy Jamaal Charles to help out Matt Cassell, but the wide receiving corp won't be able to help them out and neither will the defense. For this be the Falcons year. Matt Ryan needs to step up and become a better leader. This should be the start of that step.
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
The Eagles are not the dream team that everyone thought they would be going in to last season and that was made very clear by their abysmal start. However, they did finish the season on a four game win streak and game within a game of the playoffs. The Browns are too young to even be considered a competitor right now.
The talented Eagles should roll over the far inferior Browns.
The Eagles, with their issues and injuries regarding Vick, I think will struggle this season. This game however, they should have enough firepower to take home the win.
Healthy and without the expectations that doomed them last year, Philadelphia should be better poised for success this year. If Michael Vick can lead the offense and stay healthy, he should have plenty of support from Lesean McCoy and the running game to lead a potent offense. Vick and crew help out Andy Reid who is rumored to be on the seat and win this one.
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
RG3 may be great but he is not Drew Brees.
The Saints were rocked with the bounty scandal this past off-season and will be without standout linebacker Jonathan Vilma and head coach Sean Payton. Although the Redskins have made progress from last season with the addition of RG3, the Saints lethal offense will be the difference in this one.
Even with their coaching issues and without Jonathan Vilma, still expect the Saints to score points. They have one of the best receiving cores in football and maybe the best QB in the league. They will be too much for the Redskins.
Saints fans have endured a hard offseason with the Bounty scandal and the uncertainty surrounding Drew Brees. But it's not going to end soon. Without their head coach, or interim head coach, the Saints will be led by their interim interim head coach and not even have their defensive captain in Jonathan Vilma. As the bounty gate era begins, so does the RG3 era. Redskins fans have waited since the moment the Redskins made the trade for the second pick for this moment. The offense should be dynamic and take advantage of the missing leadership on the Saints and get the win.
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
In all honesty I could see the Rams going 0-16 this year or going 8-8 and pulling out a wild card. On the other hand everything is pointing towards the Lions being one of the top teams in the league this year and it's not going to be the Rams who change that.
The Rams, coming off a 2-14 season won't have much of a shot against the Lions. St. Louis may need 12 men on the field to have a chance of stopping the combo of Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson.
No doubt the Lions have the most dominant receiver in the NFL. Look for Calvin Johnson to torch the Rams' secondary and for the Lions to score a lot.
One of the best, and most underrated, quarterbacks in the league is Matt Stafford who has at disposal one of the best wide receivers in the game in Calvin Johnson. The Lions are a team on the rise who made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years last year. Detroit will continue their rise this year as they truly contend in the NFC and that all starts here as they beat St. Louis.
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
Last year the Titans played the spoiler in the NFL beating strong teams again and again and yet they also lost to the Manningless Colts. I'm picking Patriots.
The Titans should be a fun team to watch this year with explosive players such as quarterback Jake Locker, and star running back Chris Johnson, but they will fall to the defending AFC champion Patriots.
Although they are getting old, the Patriots are still one of the elite teams in the league. Keep an eye on Chris Johnson of the Titans, but he will not be enough to trump the Brady led Pats.
Not much needs to be said here. The Pats have consistently been one of the top teams in the NFL for the better part of the decade. Not many people would be surprised if the Patriots got back to the Super Bowl for the sixth time in eleven years. Tom Brady and his entourage will easily dismantle Tennessee who is without suspended star wide out Kenny Britt.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson will be a game time decision and if he doesn't play that will serve as a big blow to the Vikings. On the other hand, Maurice Jones Drew just came back from his holdout and is slated to be the backup and third down back for Jacksonville. If it becomes a battle of the quarterbacks, then Christian Ponder will destroy Jake Locker.
The Vikings should do better this year than the 3-13 mark they posted last season. The development of second year quarterback Christian Ponder and the return of running back Adrian Peterson should be enough to carry the Vikings over the overmatched Jaguars.
Now that the Jags have Maurice Jones-Drew back after his holdout, he will run all over the Vikings defense. Keep an eye on the Jacksonville QB, Blaine Gabbert as well coming off a disappointing rookie campaign.
Easily the worst game on this opening weekend as the teams last year combined to go 8-24 last season and not many expect them to do much better this season. The Vikings take this game only because the Jags are without their only star player in Maurice Jones-Drew who is holding out. And many fans will be holding out from watching this game.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Tim Tebow is a Jet. Tim Tebow doesn't lose. The Jets will win.
When your offense does not score a touchdown through three preseason games, that just might be a sign of things to come. The New York Jets woeful offense will be stifled by a new and improved Bills defense, as the Bills run over the Jets.
I think the Sanchez Tebow situation is a set up for failure. Ryan Fitzpatrick will have a good game and be enough to beat the struggling Jets.
Buffalo's new $100 million man, Mario Williams, will wreck havoc on Mark Sanchez and give the Jets anemic offense fits. The Jets only scored their first touchdown of the preseason in their fourth and final game. The Jets will need more than Tim Tebow's magic and Rex Ryan's predictions to hold back the new and improved Bills.
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
The Texans are the easy favorite to win their division, and that's not just because their division is the Titans, Jaguars and Colts. The Texans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and they shouldn't miss a beat even with the loss of Mario Williams.
With Matt Schaub returning from injury, the Texans should have a solid season. Schaub and star receiver Andre Johnson should carry the Texans to an easy victory over the hapless Dolphins.
Look for the Texans to dominate the Dolphins, especially having Matt Schaub back. I look for the Dolphins to continue their struggles and for Houston to be a contending force if they can stay healthy.
The Dolphins have a wide receiver at as their new quarterback. I'm just not a believer in Ryan Tannehill and his ability as a quarterback capable of leading an NFL team. He didn't even know the divisions of the NFL. How could the Texans lose this one? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCUEWDi5Gps
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
You almost can't go wrong with either of the Cardinals QB options. Oh wait.
The determination of Marshawn Lynch should lead Seattle over the Cardinals.
I really like Russell Wilson running the Seattle offense, expect him to have a breakout game. John Skelton, the Arizona QB, I expect to have a hard time. The
Cardinals should be concerned with their quarterback situation.
When Pete Carroll drafted Russell Wilson in the fourth round of the draft, it looked as though they'd have a quarterback controversy with their newly signed $26 million Matt Flynn. But now Wilson firmly has his grasp on the starting job and is the new leader of this squad. While the Seahawks avoided a quarterback issue due to having too many good quarterbacks, the Cardinals have one due to having John Skelton and Kevin Kolb. Yup, those are their quarterbacks.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
The 49ers are a great team and I have no doubt that they will be back in the playoffs this year. But the Packers are better. The 49ers will put up a fight but Aaron Rodgers against Alex Smith is really not a battle and this is a quarterback's league.
In a game that will likely be one of the best of Week 1, the Aaron Rodgers factor should be the difference in the ball game. I'll take the Pack at home for the dub.
This game could go either way but I give the Packers a slight edge. With their new addition of Cedric Benson I think the Packers offense will be more multi-dimensional and provide them with enough offense to score on the tough 49ers defense.
I waffled on this pick so many times and I'm still questioning it. Packers defense < 49ers defense. Packers offense > 49ers offense. The only thing that made me pick the Cheeseheads at this point is that Aaron Rodgers has a Super Bowl ring and Alex Smith doesn't.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers may have been the biggest disappointment of all last year coming off a 10-6 season in 2010, they went 4-12 with a minus 207 point differential. Only the Rams' was worse, and they only won two games last year.
Cam Newton will continue to develop into an elite quarterback. The Panthers have playoff aspirations and will dis mantle the Bucs in week 1.
I don't believe in sophomore slumps for such an explosive quarterback as Cam Newton. The Bucs defense has also been getting dominated in the preseason and I see no reason for that trend to end.
This one is really quite simple. Cam Newton is a beast.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
If Peyton Manning is really back then this is a very dangerous team we are talking about. A healthy Peyton Manning with wide outs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, will absolutely wreck havoc on the AFC West and even come up big against the Steelers' defense.
It will take a couple games for Peyton Manning to adjust to life as a Bronco. Remember, this IS Manning's first game in over a year and he IS going against the Steelers D. I'll take the Steelers in the Sunday night showdown.
Dare I say it, but I do expect Peyton Manning to have a solid game in his regular season debut with Denver. The Steelers however, have too much firepower for the Broncos to handle, particularly with Mike Wallace coming back.
Last time these two teams met Tim Tebow won the game with an 80-yard pass in overtime to win in the playoffs. Now Timmy's in New York and Peyton Manning and his surgically repaired neck will lead the Broncos. But Ben Roethlisberger and the Steel curtain will be just enough to sneak past the Broncos. But it'll be a close one.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
This is the most complete Ravens team since their Super Bowl win more than ten years ago. The only thing that can slow them down will be the age and injuries to their defense, but against the Bengals it shouldn't be a problem.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton should continue to improve in his second year in the league, but the stingy Ravens defense should play a big part as Baltimore will knock off Cincy in a close one.
This will be a good, competitive game. As Baltimore slowly transitions away from defense (Terrell Suggs being out and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed getting older) I think Ray Rice and Joe Flacco will provide enough offense to top Cincinnati.
Even without their Ball So Hard University Alum Terrell Suggs, the Ravens should be just fine. Joe Flacco elevated himself from quarterback on a good team to a great quarterback when he threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Ray Rice will carry the team and the Ravens defense should once again be stout. The Bengals just won't be able to stick with the Ravens.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Phillip Rivers is going to have a bounce back year. Once he comes back from injury Ryan Matthews will run all over opposing defenses. And we are looking at a very good Chargers squad.
After a disappointing season last year, the Chargers should go back to their normal selves this year. Quarterback Phillip Rivers will star in a Monday night win for San Diego.
The Chargers, after losing Vincent Jackson, do not have the same offensive weapons as they have had in the past. I look for the Chargers to fall back and for the Raiders to take this game.
Every year the Chargers go into the season with people expecting them to win their division and possibly get to the Super Bowl. Every year they struggle and end up either barely sneak into the playoffs or simply narrowly miss it. So I just have to go with Oakland here as they have a workhorse in Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer should improve on his 16 interceptions in 9 starts from last season.
Jack Estrin. More »
Michael Gerbasi. More »
Jacob Buchholz. More »
Josh Schmidt. A swell fellow. More »