By Robert Woolf

It has been 215 days since we saw the Baltimore Ravens hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Every day since then, we have watched and waited. Waited on Robert Griffin III. Waited on the Hernandez trial. Waited to see what was happening with Tebow. But now, for football fans everywhere, the wait is over. Now the new season will begin with the one and only question on everyone’s minds, which team will win the Super Bowl and cement their name into history. However, all we can do is wait and see.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2013-14 NFL season starts with a rematch of the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoff game. That game has come to be known as the Mile High Miracle. In Denver, with the Broncos heavily favored, the Ravens scored on a 70-yard bomb with 44 seconds left in regulation, John Fox told his All-Pro QB Peyton Manning to take a knee and send the game into OT, finally Justin Tucker kicked a field goal in 2OT to give Baltimore the win. Three weeks later, the Ravens would defeat the 49ers for their second Super Bowl title in franchise history. This year, their are major differences in the teams. To name a few, Wes Welker signed away from Tom Brady and came to Denver, Ravens lost leaders on defense in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and Denver has no Von Miller (for this game) and no Elvis Dumervil (who will be playing against them). With three good receivers in Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker, Peyton Manning is likely to have another great season. With this passing game, the Broncos will score lots of points against the new-look Ravens D and start the season with a W.

MY PICK: Denver

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

This game was tricky to pick for me. Others would probably look at it and say “Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and a proven Patriots team vs. a rookie QB starting his first game? Patriots, no-brainer”. But for me it’s not that simple. I look at it and say Brady has lost Welker, Gronk’s hurt, Hernandez is going to jail, and has to rely on undrafted rookies to be his main targets. Yes, he also has Danny Amendola, but him, Kenbrell Thompkins,and Zach Sudfeld can be taken out of the picture by Leodis McKelvin, Stephen Gilmore, and Jairus Byrd. With Mario Williams rushing Brady, the Patriots could have a tough time putting up points. However, on the other side of the ball, the Bills are going to have a lot of trouble scoring unless E.J. Manuel steps up and proves why he was a first round pick.

MY PICK: New England (in a close game)

Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears

In my opinion, this is one of the best match-ups of the week. Even with a new coach, Chicago can still be a very good team with offensive weapons in Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall, while still having big names on their d-line (Julius Peppers), linebacking core (Lance Briggs), and secondary (Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings). In Cincinnati, Andy Dalton is entering his 3rd season with the team after getting knocked out twice by the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. In my unbiased opinion, I think Cincinnati is a top-5 team in the NFL. Dalton is a Pro-Bowl QB, Giovani Bernard and Benjarvus Green-Ellis can definitely carry the load at RB, and A.J. Green is a top-3 receiver in the NFL. They have a top defense in the NFL, which features Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, and rookie Margus Hunt. This game is sure to be a good one, with the outcome of the game going down to the wire.

MY PICK: Cincinnati

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns

Miami made a big splash this offseason with some big additions. They signed big names such as Mike Wallace, Phillip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, and Brent Grimes. They now take their new look team into Cleveland to face one of the worst teams from last season. The Browns had another bad year, even after drafting Alabama star Trent Richardson with the 3rd overall pick. Richardson had a good year, he just had many problems staying healthy. They also drafted 28-year old quarterback Brandon Weeden, who did not prove himself as a first round pick. I don’t see much of a game here. Ryan Tannehill is better than Weeden, Miami has better receivers, and they also have a better defense.

MY PICK: Miami

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

This game is sure to be a very good one. Detroit is the team every year that people say will improve a lot, but usually disappoints. This year, they really do have that potential to be a top team. Matt Stafford is a top-10 quarterback, Reggie Bush can more than carry the load, and the still have the best receiver in football, Calvin Johnson. Their defense line is the key in this game. If Ndamukong Suh, Israel Idonije, Nick Fairley, Justin Bannan, and the 5th overall pick “Ziggy” Ansah can contain Adrian Peterson, this game will not even be close. If they can’t contain him, we will have a very good game to watch, with the match-up of Johnson vs. Peterson. The best running back in the NFL against the best receiver. I have to say Detroit takes this one because even if Adrian Peterson has a great game, the rest of their offense is mediocre and won’t be able to do that much against Detroit.

MY PICK: Detroit

Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts

I really don’t know how much I can write about this one. You have a playoff team, that a lot of people think are going to take an even bigger step forward playing against a team with Terrelle Pryor starting at QB and is sure to be one of, if not the worst this season. Indianapolis is coming off a disappointing playoff loss against the future Super Bowl champion Ravens. They have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, a star receiver in Reggie Wayne, and a good defense which got even better with the addition of Bjorn Werner. Indianapolis takes this game in a blowout.

MY PICK: Indianapolis (in a blowout)

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

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Although it is way to early to tell, this opening game could very well decides who wins the NFC South come playoff time. On one side, you have Drew Brees reuniting with Sean Payton, trying to win another ring. On the other side, you have Matt Ryan and a very good receiving core, trying to prove they can be a top team in the NFL. I think they take another step forward in proving themselves on Sunday. With Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez helping Matt Ryan against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Falcons are sure to put up a lot of points. Brees’ squad is also projected to put up a lot of points, but Atlanta’s defense is much better, with players such as Jonathan Babineaux, Sean Weatherspoon, Asante Samuel, and William Moore. They also have new additions that their fans want to see succeed in Osi Umenyiora, Stevan Jackson, and rookie Desmond Trufant.

MY PICK: Atlanta

Tampa Bay Bucs at New York Jets

The Jets had anything but a quiet offseason this year. They waited until Day 2 of the draft to take Geno Smith, who everyone thought would probably lose to Mark Sanchez in a quarterback competition. It turned out he didn’t need to do much because of Rex Ryan’s bold (and stupid) move. In the preseason game vs. the Giants, Ryan made the decision to keep Sanchez in the game during the 4th quarter. Sanchez got hit by Marvin Austin and was declared out Opening Day. Now in steps Smith, who had a less than stellar preseason which included a 3 INT game and stepping out of the end zone for a safety against the Giants. Tampa Bay had only one big move this offseason, trading for Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis then signed a six-year contract worth $96 million, making him the highest paid defensive back in NFL history. If the Bucs can stop Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, forcing Geno Smith to throw the ball, it will be a W for them.

MY PICK: Tampa Bay

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers

For me, this game was very tough to pick. Both of these teams could either do great or suck. Pittsburgh is the obvious choice, but Tennessee has a good shot of beating them. When the teams are this even I like to go position by position. Pittsburgh has a better QB is Roethlisberger, but not a very good running back with Le’Veon Bell injured. Tennessee has an OK QB in Jake Locker, but a far better RB in Chris Johnson. Each receiving core is about equal, but I like Tennessee’s defense more. I just think Chris Johnson will run all over the Steelers D with Jake Locker throwing in the occasional play-action deep balls to Kenny Britt or Nate Washington. Without a good RB, the Steelers are a very one-sided team. If Tennessee’s defense can stop Big Ben, they will earn themselves a win.

MY PICK: Tennessee

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Here comes my upset pick. I know what your thinking, “there’s no way that Seattle loses to Carolina”. But look closer. First off, the game is not in Seattle, which is a big plus for the Panthers considering the Seahawks lost 5 of their 8 road games last season. Another big thing for Carolina is Seattle has some key players in this game that are either not playing or playing injured. Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Brandon Browner, Bruce Irvin, and Sidney Rice are some of those players. Last season, the Seahawks squeaked by the Panthers in Carolina by a score of 16-12. This game probably would have gone a little differently had Cam Newton have played a little bit better. Russell Wilson was not at his best in that game going 19 for 25, 221 yards, and 2 picks to only one touchdown. Star running back Marshawn Lynch was also not at his best, failing to gain 100 yards on the ground. I think Cam Newton  will play better against the depleted Seahawks D and new addition Star Lotulelei combined with veterans such as Jon Beason will stop Seattle’s offense.

MY PICK: Carolina

Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars

The battle of the 2 worst teams from last season. This season, however the Chiefs have drastically improved their roster while Jacksonville has not. Kansas City went out and traded for Alex Smith. They went out and signed big free-agents in Dwayne Bowe, Dunta Robinson, Steve Smith, and Anthony Fasano. They went out and got a new coach in Andy Reid. After all those moves, they have a good chance to take one of the AFC Wild Card spots. Jacksonville, has done nothing to get better. Sure they signed Geno Hayes, but they made a bad move letting Greg Jones walk in free agency. I know Maurice Jones-Drew is a good running back, but he needed Jones at fullback to block for him. I see KC winning this game in a landslide with Blaine Gabbert having another terrible game.

MY PICK: Kansas City

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

Here we have a divisional game featuring the bottom two of probably the best division in the NFL. Last season Arizona started 4-0 before going 1-11 in their final 12 games. This season they have a new QB in Carson Palmer that will get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald often. They also signed Rashard Mendenhall, who some people, myself included, think he has a decent shot of winning comeback player of the year. Another team that improved during the offseason is their opponent, the Rams. Even though they lost star RB Stevan Jackson, 2nd year man Daryl Richardson looks ready to step into the starting role. Sam Bradford is still a good QB and got good receivers this offseason with the 8th overall pick Tavon Austin and TE from Tennessee Jared Cook. This game could very well be decided at the end of the game. But in my mind, I think the Palmer-Fitzgerald duo will be too much for the Rams.

MY PICK: Arizona

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v San Franciso 49ers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the game of the opening week of the season. A rematch of a playoff game last year which has San Francisco (the best team in the league in my opinion) facing off against a tough Green Bay team. When you look at both of these teams, you tend to look at the quarterbacks. These two quarterbacks could not be more different. Colin Kaepernick is a former baseball pitcher with a rocket-arm and the ability to run the read option as well as any QB in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. He has great receivers and the ability to put the ball almost anywhere. The one reason why I think San Fran will win this game is their tenacious defense. Last year, Aaron Rodgers was one of the most sacked quarterbacks. With a great defensive pressure in Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, Rodgers will be on the ground for most of the game.

MY PICK: San Francisco

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

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The first of 2 divisional games in the NFC East this week features the rivalry of the Cowboys and the Giants. Both teams are coming of seasons where they were pretty good, but not good enough to get into the postseason. The Giants looked to be the winner of the division before getting killed in back-to-back weeks by the Falcons and Ravens respectively, at the end of the season. Dallas was just a little closer. All they had to do was beat Washington in the last week of the season to force a 3-way tie atop the NFC East, where they had the tiebreaker and would’ve moved on into the playoffs. This season, both teams should be over .500 and have a very good shot in getting to the postseason. These match-ups are always high-scoring, but I got to give this one to Big Blue on account that they always seem to win in Dallas. The game always goes like this: the Giants get off to a quick lead, Dallas scores a lot of points to come right back until Tony Romo throws a crucial pick, giving the Giants the victory.

MY PICK: New York

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

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There are a few big things happening in this game, but probably none as big as Robert Griffin III’s return. Sure this is Chip Kelly’s first game in the NFL and yes, Michael Vick is starting again for the Eagles, but both of those are overshadowed by RG3. Last year in the playoffs vs. Seattle,  he tore his ACL and LCL. They were both surgically repaired by Dr. James Andrews, and once again Robert Griffin III is healthy and ready to play. Even if he sees his amount of drawn runs limited to give his injury a little more time to heal, Washington is clearly the better team. The one big question mark for this game is LeSean McCoy. A couple years ago, McCoy was considered a top-3 running back. But after his poor performances and injuries last season, people are low on “Shady” McCoy. If he plays like he did a couple of years ago, Philadelphia has a shot in this game, but I just don’t think their defense can stop RG3.

MY PICK: Washington

Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers

We have reached the final game of week 1. Houston is by far the better team in this one. With a good quarterback (Matt Schaub), a top-5 RB (Arian Foster), a top-tier receiver (Andre Johnson), and some great defensive players (J.J. Watt), Houston is a team that should not be messed with. San Diego has issues almost everywhere. Phillip Rivers is still an inconsistent quarterback, Ryan Matthews isn’t a reliable running back, and their defense is missing a few key players. They only way San Diego has a chance in this game is if Eric Weddle can take Andre Johnson out of the picture, Arian Foster still isn’t healthy, and their o-line can contain J.J. Watt and the Texans D. Even if they do that, they still have to put up some points against the secondary of Houston.

MY PICK: Houston (in a blowout)

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