The first week of the NFL season is always an exciting event. The NFL makes sure that they highlight a number of good match ups in their opening weekend to highlight the quality of their product. The games can be very hard to pick, especially when we have not seen teams play real games since last February. The preseason offers very little insight into a team’s fortune for the upcoming season.
The important thing to remember when it comes to picking fantasy teams or picking the results of games is that you will not always race off to a fast start. It takes some time to see trends for the new season and things that were true last season are not necessarily true this season. Just because the first two weeks do not go your way does not mean the season is lost. You have to be patient and make adjustments as the season progresses.
We are making a new change to the Weekly Pick’em. Many people play in suicide leagues or in leagues where they have to pick games by assigning a confidence number to each game. For example, 16 points goes toward the game I am the most confident about and one point goes to the one I am least confident about. The team with the highest point total wins that week.
Therefore, in addition to picking each game, I am going to assign a point total to each game and will tally my overall record, my point total from the week before and my record in the lock pick game (the game I assign 16 points toward). I will give an explanation of why I am using the team I am using in the suicide pick spot. I will also list which team I have already picked and will not assign 16 points to the same team twice during the season. This will help people that are not only looking to pick games, but also play in these various confidence pools. My record in last year’s game was (170-86) or .664.
1) Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0) – The Giants defense has looked very impressive in preseason and I think they will play like the unit we saw in the playoffs, not the team that allowed 400 points in the regular season. The Cowboys are looking to rebound from a .500 season, but history is not on their side. Since the 2004 season, the NFL has opened the season at the defending Super Bowl champion’s stadium with the defending champion going undefeated in the season opener. What the 2005 New England Patriots did in their opener really has no bearing on this game. Still, I like the Giants defense, the Cowboys offense is a little banged up and I think the Giants have the offensive firepower behind QB Eli Manning to score enough points to win a close game. I am confident the trend of Super Bowl winners winning the season opener continues. Winner: New York Giants (9)
2) New England Patriots (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0) – The Patriots have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, led by QB Tom Brady. That allowed them to add a number of nice pieces on the defense that they are looking to rebuild. The Titans are the only team from last year with a winning record that did not make the playoffs, but they go with the young first year starting QB Jake Locker this year. The Titans could be a sleeper wild card team in the AFC, but I do not think they have enough firepower to keep up with the Patriots in this game. Look for New England to win, although I do not think it will be a blowout. Winner: New England (13)
3) San Francisco 49ers (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0) – This is one of the toughest games to pick to open the season, as the 49ers won 13 regular season games last year and the Packers won 15 regular season games last year. The Packers are an explosive offense that struggled to stop the pass last year; the 49ers are an explosive defense that struggled to pass the ball at times last year. This will be a good early season test for both teams. I like reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to a victory, although I lack a lot of confidence to pick them in this game. I am mainly taking the Packers because they are at home, this game should go down to the wire. Winner: Green Bay (3)
4) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0) – There are a lot of unknowns in this game. How will Broncos QB Peyton Manning respond with a new team against the top ranked fantasy quarterback defense in the NFL from last season? Will his four-time surgically repaired neck be able to withstand big his from a physical Steelers defense? How will the Steelers look with WR Mike Wallace having only a week to prepare for this game? How will the Steelers function in a new offense with no clear number one running back and a rebuilt offensive line that will be missing first round G David DeCastro (knee injury)? In situations like this where there a lot of questions and not really a lot of answers, I go with the home team in a close game and I put very little points on the result. Winner: Denver (2)
5) Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0) – This battle is between two playoff teams that are looking to contend for the Super Bowl this year. The Bengals are a young team looking to build on a playoff season behind rookie QB Andy Dalton. The Baltimore Ravens are trying to recover from the sting of losing the AFC Championship Game by three points, a game they should have won or tied at the end of regulation. This is probably their last year to win a second Super Bowl for future Hall of Fame MLB Ray Lewis. I like the Ravens in this game. They were a perfect (9-0) at home last year; I look for them to defend their home turf in the season opener. Winner: Baltimore (10)
6) Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0) – The big mismatch in this game is that the Chicago Bears want to run the ball with RB Matt Forte and RB Michael Bush and the Colts were 30th against the run last year. I think the Bears are vulnerable with MLB Brian Urlacher likely to miss this game. However, being at home and having a good match up to run the ball against will carry the Bears to a win over the Colts. Winner: Chicago (14)
7) Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0) – The Browns have one of the most fragile offenses in the NFL, which is a good opponent for the Eagles to open up against in Week 1. The Eagles have a high-powered offense led by QB Michael Vick. However, they are looking to rebound from a disappointing defensive season and could use a confidence building game to start the season. Furthermore, the Browns will be without their best cornerback, Joe Haden, who is suspended the first four games of the regular season. I am usually not a big fan of giving big points to road teams, but I think the Browns will struggle to score enough points to win this game. Winner: Philadelphia (12)
8) Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) – I think the Falcons are going to have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL and could be capable of putting up some huge offensive numbers this year. Furthermore, the Chiefs will be without their best pass rusher, Tamba Hali, who is suspended for one game. The only thing that is stopping me from going bigger on this game is that the Falcons have struggled on the road in past years and Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest road destinations for any NFL team. I like the Falcons, but I am only putting six points on this win. Winner: Atlanta (6)
9) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0) – These are always interesting games as the Vikings only won three games last year and the Jaguars won only five. One of these teams will open the season with a win and give their fan base hope that this season will be better than the last. I like the Jaguars in this game. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is not going to be at full speed to start the season, which means that the Vikings will have to pass the ball against a defense that was ninth against fantasy quarterbacks last year. I think the Jaguars have the defense and the better backup running back (Rashad Jennings) to carry them through this game. I expect it to be close and full of mistakes by both teams, but I think the Jaguars pull out the road victory. Winner: Jacksonville (4)
10) Washington Redskins (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-0) – A lot is going to be made out of “Bounty Gate” and the suspensions to the Saints coaching staff and players. The Super Dome is one of the loudest stadiums in the league and will be a difficult stadium for Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III to open up against in his first NFL start. I am not overly confident in the Saints winning, but I think that with QB Drew Brees, they will put up enough points to win this game. Winner: New Orleans (11)
11) Buffalo Bills (0-0) at New York Jets (0-0) – I am not usually a big fan of picking road teams in divisional games, but the Jets are a mess right now. They are coming off a season where they imploded and their offense has not scored a touchdown all pre-season. The Bills had the fifth highest fantasy scoring defense last year and have added a lot of nice pieces, namely LB/DE Mario Williams and rookie CB Stephon Gilmore. The Jets did sweep the Bills last year, but I think the Bills have the better team this year and will show that in Week 1. Winner: Buffalo (8)
12) St. Louis Rams (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0) – This is a good candidate for a high number on the Lions. The Rams are coming off a season where they won only two games and the Lions are coming off a playoff appearance and a 10-win season. The Rams should be able to move the ball through the air against a suspect Lions secondary, but they will also have problems blocking a fierce Lions pass rush. Also, the Rams defense has little to no shot of slowing down the Lions offense, which is led by QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson. I like the Lions to open the season with a win. Winner: Detroit (15)
13) Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0) – The Houston Texans are coming off their best season in franchise history, winning 10 games, the AFC South and their first playoff game. The Dolphins are coming off a (6-10) season and are starting a rookie quarterback. Four-time Pro Bowl T Jake Long could miss this game with a MCL sprain, which could be crippling for the Dolphins offense. I look for the Texans to win this game at home easily. The only concern is that the Dolphins allowed the third fewest points to fantasy running backs last year, so the Texans will probably need production from their passing game to run away with this one.
Still, this game would be my suicide pool pick for Week 1. I do not wish to use them against any other teams in the AFC East. The Jets are a mess, but they play them in Week 5 on the road. Their other non-division AFC games are against Baltimore and Denver. They play the tough NFC North, with the only potential easy game being a Week 16 game against Minnesota, when RB Adrian Peterson could be back in top form. In the division, which is always tough to pick, Tennessee won nine games last year and the Texans do not play the Colts until Week 15. QB Andrew Luck could be playing very well then, as he will have almost a full season of NFL games under his belt. I hate using a suicide pick on a road team, so Week 2 against Jacksonville is no good. They also play Jacksonville in Week 11, when RB Maurice Jones-Drew could be back in top form. I think an opening week game against a rookie quarterback who will probably be without his Pro Bowl left tackle is the best place to pick Houston. The Texans will win a lot of games last year, but I think the schedule sets up to use them early as a suicide pick selection. Winner: Houston (16)
14) Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0) – The Cardinals are an absolute mess on offense, thanks to one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL. The Seahawks have one of the best young defenses in the NFL and a strong running game with RB Marshawn Lynch, but they also have questions at quarterback – going with rookie third round pick, Russell Wilson. I like what the ‘Hawks are building, and think they could be a sneaky team that will contend for a wild card spot and possibly challenge for the NFC West if the 49ers struggle in their bid to repeat. I like the Seahawks to open the season with a big win on the road. Winner: Seattle (7)
15) Carolina Panthers (0-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) – This is my toss up game of the week. The Panthers are a trendy pick to make the playoffs this year, behind 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, QB Cam Newton. However, they were only (6-10) last year and need to rebuild their defense in addition to continuing the development of Newton. The Buccaneers were (4-12) last year, but have added a number of new pieces and a new coaching staff. QB Josh Freeman is looking to bounce back this year and RB Doug Martin is looking to be the new focal point of this offense. I think the Buccaneers have made a lot of progress from last year and I think they can open the season with a win at home. However, this is the game I have the least confidence in this week. Winner: Tampa Bay (1)
16) San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0) – This is a tough game to pick for a couple reasons. First, the Chargers always manage to start the season slow before picking up steam in October. Second, I am writing this article before I know whether RB Ryan Matthews will play or at what strength. Third, the Chargers are trying to integrate some new wide receivers into their offense; it will be interesting to see how much chemistry they have in Week 1 with QB Philip Rivers. The Raiders have beaten the Chargers three out of their last four games, this is not the one sided rivalry it was a few seasons ago. I am going to pick the Raiders to win this game; but I think it will be close. The Raiders are at home and RB Darren McFadden will at last be healthy in this game. Winner: Oakland (5)