The powers that be have told me that this might be my last column before my time at SI KIDS draws to a close and the new Kid Reporters are brought in. I’ll always remember and cherish my time at SI KIDS, and I’d like to thank my readers for sticking with me throughout this process. And if you aren’t one of my readers and you’re reading this right now, just nod your head. Anyway, I’ve decided that my exit column for the website should be the same as the column I used in the application to get in to SI KIDS. That’s right, it’s time for the Week 1 NFL Picks column. Ready? Let’s go.
BILLS VS JETS: I’m really not completely sure how to feel about this game. On the one hand, I don’t totally believe in Buffalo, especially their offense. Fred Jackson is going on 31 and just coming off of a season-ending injury. Unless Stevie Johnson really does have Darelle Revis’s MO all figured out, the Bills are going to struggle to put up points. On the other hand, the Jets’ offense is awful. Calling it trash would be an insult to trash, and neither Tebow nor their Wildcat gimmicks are going to change that. On a recent episode of NFL Total Access, Rich Eisen outlined these two scenarios.
Scenario A: Bills receive the ball first and score a field goal. Sanchez goes three and out and the Bills score a touchdown. Jets are down 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Jets go on to lose to Buffalo.
Scenario B: Sanchez is much improved and the Jets beat Buffalo.
He then asked the five panelists which scenario the game would be closer to. Every single one of them went with A. I think I should be worried about this game, but I feel equally unconfident about both teams. When picking against the spread, take the points when in doubt. But when picking straight up (like I’m doing right now) take the home team when in doubt. And that’s what I’m gonna do: Jets, 13-7.
JAGUARS VS VIKINGS: I’m picking the Vikings in this game because I believe in QB Christian Ponder, and Maurice Jones-Drew missed training camp. If there is a more useless way to spend three hours on a Sunday than watching this game, I’d sincerely love to hear about it.
COLTS VS BEARS: Something tells me that Andrew Luck is about to get a very rude welcome to the NFL. I don’t care how good the rookie QB is, every single team in the league would kill for a chance to play one in the first two or three weeks of the NFL season. The rookie hasn’t seen anything resembling a regular season defensive scheme, and it’s almost a given that he’ll make a mistake or two. By the way, I’m watching out for Bears WR Alshon Jeffrey in this game. I think he’s gonna be the most popular waiver wire acquisition in fantasy football after he feasts on the Colts’ sorry excuse for a secondary this week. Bears win, 34-17.
EAGLES VS BROWNS: I would have chosen this game as my ESPN Eliminator Challenge pick, but I’m absolutely terrified of picking the Eagles in anything. I’m still picking the Eagles to win, but I’m not confident about it. Couldn’t you see Michael Vick throwing a few interceptions and/or getting hurt at some point? He’s certainly been out of the offense long enough for there to be some amount of rust on his game. There’s always an upset of some magnitude in Week 1, and this one just screams of a couple dumb things happening. Still, I can’t go against common sense. Eagles win, but not by much.
PATRIOTS VS TITANS: A team without an identity, such as the Titans, simply doesn’t have a chance against the Pats. When they fall behind by two scores (which they absolutely will at some point, since they don’t have the corners or safeties required to cover Welker, Lloyd, and the Hernandez/Gronk duo), what are they going to rely on to come back? Jake Locker certainly isn’t going to match New England point for point, and 2011 fantasy football Team Wrecker of the Year award winner Chris Johnson won’t be of much use when the Titans are down 28-10 in the third quarter. Pats win easy.
RAMS VS LIONS: Assuming that a large majority of them aren’t arrested on their way to the stadium, which isn’t out of the question considering the events of this offseason, the Lions should run the Rams out of the building. The Rams are extremely weak in the secondary, which seems somewhat significant since they have to stop Matt Stafford. Lions win, 38-10.
FALCONS VS CHIEFS: It’s the first game of the year in one of the loudest stadiums in football. Nobody’s giving the Chiefs a chance this year, but they’re getting two significant players (Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry) back from torn ACLs. They’ve apparently had a much better training camp under Romeo Crennel, and Dwayne Bowe is back from a holdout. Meanwhile, the Falcons are kind of an overvalued, unpredictable team without much of a defense. You know what all this says to me? UPSET PICK!!!!! Chiefs 23, Falcons 20.
REDSKINS VS SAINTS: The Saints are in complete turmoil right now, and are without their play-caller on defense or most their coaching staff. Plus, it just seems like with all the bounty stuff going on, this is the year where everything goes wrong for the Saints. So you know what this means, right? Come on, you can say it out loud. Ready? UPSET PICK!!!!!! Can’t you see RG3 lighting up a depleted Saints’ defense? I certainly can. And if RG3 sees a red dot hovering near his leg, he should get out of the way. Quickly. Redskins 26, Saints 21.
DOLPHINS VS TEXANS: The Dolphins have come to a decision about their starting QB. You know how Ryan Tannehill hasn’t started 20 significant games at QB in his life? Well, the Dolphins are about to throw him to the wolves with no safety net against the Texans. Learning behind a veteran QB? Hah! That’s for losers like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady! What does a guy who was a wide receiver for most of his college career have to learn from someone who’s been an NFL starter for four years? No, they’d rather just let everybody see right away that he was a terrible pick. Why wait? Texans win big.
NINERS VS PACKERS: Welcome to the marquee game of Week 1. Games like this are why everybody should be glad that football is back. What could be better than watching the two teams who led the NFC in turnover ratio and have completely contrasting styles of play meet in Lambeau Field? Anything? Anything at all? I feel like this one is gonna go the Packers’ way. I’m still really not sold on Niners QB Alex Smith beating elite teams on the road. In fact, any sentence that involves Alex Smith and words like “road” and “elite teams” is probably going to end badly. The Pack will intercept Smith at least twice and hang on for a 20-10 win.
SEAHAWKS VS CARDINALS: Is anyone fired up to potentially see John Skelton’s first game as a full time starting QB? Any takers for John Skelton? No? Yeah, me neither. Seahawks win by at least a touchdown.
PANTHERS VS BUCS: I’m excited for the return of Cam Bam (yes, I’m desperate for a gimmicky new nickname). I feel like Tampa Bay could upset Carolina. However, the defenses are equally bad and Cam Newton > Josh Freeman for now, so I’m taking Carolina by three points.
STEELERS VS BRONCOS: I was personally shocked to find out that the majority of people on ESPN.com’s Pigskin Pick’Em challenge went with Denver for this game. I’m not at all confident in Peyton Manning against the Steelers’ D. This is the first time Peyton will be playing a home game outdoors in his whole career, and he’ll be doing it with a new offense and against the Number 1 defense in terms of yards per game in 2011. Conventional wisdom says to never bet against Manning at night, but there’s nothing conventional about Manning’s situation right now. Steelers win, 24-20.
BENGALS VS RAVENS: This is a pretty interesting game. I still don’t think that the Bengals have progressed enough to challenge Baltimore, though. I feel like a lot of the NFL Previews that put the Bengals second in the division are overestimating how much progress QB Andy Dalton is going to make this year. He’ll make some, but not enough to beat Baltimore or Pittsburgh at any point in 2012. I feel like Year 3 will be his big breakout season, but we’re not there yet. And I think that this game will serve as a little bit of a reality check to the Bengals that the top teams are not so easily overthrown. Cincinnati will keep it close for awhile, but I don’t think that the Ravens’ defense will allow too many points in this one. 20-16 Baltimore is my call.
RAIDERS VS CHARGERS: If you remember nothing else from my columns at SIKIDS, remember this: NEVER trust the Chargers, especially in primetime games. 24-19 Raiders is my pick.
If this is indeed my last column, thanks for reading and happy trails everybody.