ESPN NFL Expert Picks: Week 1

EspnPicksWeek1Finally! A new NFL season begins today and fans all over the world are very excited to see their team in action. Let’s talk about what that action will look like this week.

Baltimore @ Denver 
I’m taking the Broncos over the 2012 Super Bowl Champion Ravens. I have much respect for the Ravens and I tried to convince my fantasy football partner to take Joe Flacco for several years (We have Andrew Luck this year). The problem for the Ravens is this is not the Ravens defense that just won a Super Bowl. This defense is missing Pro-bowlers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and has acquired several new defensive players who are yet to play together in a regular season game. This is not an ideal situation when you’re up against  QB Peyton Manning’s offense. Denver finished last year with an extremely effective offensive and I have to believe that they will only be more improved this year after refining their system and adding WR Wes Welker to their stable. As I mentioned before, I like Joe Flacco but he will have trouble finding familiar targets. WR Anquan Boldin is now with San Francisco and TE Dennis Pitta is on IR. I think the Ravens offense will be effective but I don’t see them keeping up with the Denver offense.

New England @ Buffalo
The Patriots win. The loss of TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Wes Welker obviously created a vacuum but New England, and particularly Tom Brady, have a way of creating new heroes. There will be some mix ups in the offense but they will be more than capable of staying ahead of the Buffalo offense. Buffalo has two offensive weapons, RB C.J Spiller and WR Stevie Johnson. Both are outstanding football players but Johnson has an untested rookie QB throwing to him. Rookie QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State, was a 2013 first round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills. He was picked 16th overall and was the only QB drafted in the first round. This is quite an honor for Manuel but again, he is untested and you can count on the Patriots defense blitzing and showing blitz much more than usual in order to keep Manuel from getting into a rhythm.

Cincinnati @ Chicago
I have reasons to like and dislike both teams. I’m going with Chicago because this game is happening on opening day in Chicago.

Miami @ Cleveland
I like Miami in this game. I still feel like Miami QB Ryan Tannehill has a lot of potential and now he has WR Mike Wallace to throw to. Cleveland has a new head coach, Norv Turner, and a very questionable, QB in Brandon Weeden. I don’t expect the Cleveland offense to have a good understanding yet of Norv Turner’s system.

Minnesota @ Detroit
I’m going against the experts and taking Minnesota to win. Detroit was just awful last year finishing 4-12 and they lost to Minnesota twice. Last year, Minnesota finished the regular season with a four-game win streak and made the playoffs with a very respectable 10-6 record. Oh yeah, they also have a guy named Adrian Peterson, have you heard about him?

Oakland @ Indianapolis
Oakland looks to be a mess this year, as usual. Indy finished 11-6 last year with a then rookie QB Andrew Luck. I expect the Colts win 11 games again this year. Colts will win.

Atlanta @ New Orleans
I like the Falcons to win. They had a great year last year finishing 13-3. They may not get to 13 wins this year but they will get to 11 wins and continue their winning ways right out of the gate. The Saints will certainly be improved this year with the return of head coach Sean Peyton. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be an improvement but in just one preseason he won’t solve all of the issues that caused their defensive meltdown last year.

Tampa Bay @ New York Jets
The longer head coach Rex Ryan is employed by the Jets the worse they get. Tampa starts the season with a win and they’re going to need it because their division may be one of the toughest this year.

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has two-time Super Bowl champion QB and Tennessee has Jake Locker. Steelers win at home.

Seattle @ Carolina
Seattle wins. Seattle finished 11-5 last year with a rookie QB. They had some real good luck last year but even if they finished at 9-7 it is still an impressive feat for a rookie QB. I expect to see fewer mistakes and more cohesion this season. Carolina came on strong with at the end of the season with a four-game win streak. They were inconsistent the rest of the season. I can’t bet on Carolina until I see more consistency.

Kansas City @ Jacksonville
Kansas City wins because they have RB Jamaal Charles and now have the a very good quarter back, Alex Smith, delivering accurate passes to Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery. Each year, the high school where I played football barely had enough players to put a team on the field. Many years later, I tried to count the years but I gave up, they still have this problem. Last year just three guys wanted to play football. The Jaguars have a similar yet different problem. Each year they have a full roster but they can’t put a team on the field either.

St. Louis @ Arizona
I like the Cardinals to win at home. I don’t have much to say about this except that QB Carson Palmer has some really good receivers to throw to and I think some things are going to come together for him this year. On the other side of the field, without RB Steven Jackson this year the Rams don’t have anyone to help take pressure of QB Sam Bradford. Bradford has never shown an ability to overcome adversity and we’re not going to see it from him this week, or this year.

Green Bay @ San Francisco
This a big game. Real big game. Last season, Green Bay finished 11-5 and SF finished with a loss in the Super Bowl. I like San Francisco to win this game. Their offense was led by young QB Colin Kaepernick who took them all the way to the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter and second season in the NFL. Green Bay had some defensive issues last season and unless they’ve vastly improved their defense there is no way they will be able to keep up with the high-powered SF offense.

New York Giants @ Dallas
Giants win. I didn’t have time to get the stats together but I’ll tell you that over the last five years the Giants rarely lose in Dallas. In addition, the Giants had never lost at AT&T Texas Stadium. The Cowboys pass defense was a big problem for them last year and the Giants passing game is going to be an even bigger problem for them this year. The Cowboys will not be able to corral the Giants receiving corp.

Philadelphia @ Washington
The 2012 NFC East Champion Redskins win at home. I expect to see the Redskins start where they left off last year before QB Robert Griffin III had a season-ending injury. The Eagles have a new head coach and a new system to perfect. I don’t believe that they’re ready to correctly execute their new Up-tempo offense in the NFL yet. They’ll need a few games to adjust but when they do it could change the NFL.

Houston @ San Diego
I have to go with Houston. They finished 12-4 last year and won the AFC South title. For the most part, they are returning with the same team. San Diego’s new head coach, Mike McCoy, is untested and coaching a team that has underachieved for years. McCoy was formerly the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. He will eventually turn his team into a band of winners.

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