NFL: Week 9 Picks

Another week come and gone.  My picks record stands at 69-50 after an 8-6 week.

Bye weeks: Ravens, Chiefs, Cardinals, Texans, Lions and Seahawks

Thursday Night Football

  • Browns @ Bengals: Josh McCown is out (due to injury), Johnny Manziel is back in.  And while McCown has played well, Manziel led the Browns to one of their best games this season and probably should’ve been given more of a chance to be the starter. But it really doesn’t matter who starts for Cleveland on Thursday, because they face an undefeated Bengals team on the road.  I like the Bengals to find their run game again and get a fairly easy week 9 victory to improve to 8-0. CINCINNATI WINS 

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Bills: It’s a battle to stay out of the cellar in the AFC East, and not a fight for a possible wild card like both teams probably thought it might be coming into the season.  The winner improves to .500 and stays relavant.  The loser doesn’t.  Miami is coming off a dud against the the Pats on a long week, while the Bills are coming off their bye week.  I don’t like either of these teams right now, but I trust the Dolphins offense more than the Bills, so I’ll take the road team in this one. MIAMI WINS
  • Packers @ Panthers: Aaron Rodgers and company had themselves their worst performance of the year last week and were handed their first loss by an undefeated Broncos squad.  And it doesn’t get easier this week against another undefeated team.  The Packers offense has been on a decline the past few weeks, so it’s not a surprise they looked terrible at the best defense in the league.  Now they get a red hot Carolina team that has won 11 straight dating back to last season.  That being said, while I finally trust this Panthers team, I also didn’t like what I saw in the second half against the Colts when they nearly blew a double digit lead.  I can’t imagine another horrible performance from Rodgers, so I think this is the week the Panthers fall, as the Green Bay defense has been very good all year. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Jaguars @ Jets: The Jets have lost two straight, while the Jags are coming off their second win and their bye week.   New York’s defense has been a shell of itself the last couple weeks, and they have issues at QB.  But they’re a better team than the Jags and I think they correct things enough to get their 5th win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Rams @ Vikings: Both teams are playing well right now. St Louis is living by their run game, while the Vikings are living by their defense. The Rams tend to play up to their opponents, so I expect this to be a well-played, even game that comes down to the fourth water. I like the home team to make the plays down the stretch and improve to 6-2. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Redskins @ Patriots: The Redskins have had some ups, some downs, some more downs and a bye week.  The Patriots have been all up and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.  The reigning champs are healthy and have a very comfortable lead in the AFC East.  And as bad as it has been at times for Washington, they are in the most wide open division in the NFC.  Let’s be honest, this will probably be the most lopsided game of the week. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Titans @ Saints: Tennessee is in shambles and has a new head coach.  What they need is week one Marcus Mariota back and a defense.  New Orleans is on fire, and looking more like the team I thought they’d be to start the season. Their defense is a glaring weak point, but the offense showed last week it can do whatever it wants when clicking.  It’ll be another high scoring win for the Saints here in week nine. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Raiders @ Steelers: Oakland looks like it’s rounding into shape after a big road win over the Jets.  Pittsburgh got Ben Roethlisberger back, but lost Le’Veon Bell in a loss to Cincinnati. The offense is clicking for Oakland, and the defense is doing it’s job.  The Steelers were able to stay afloat without Big Ben, and now need to do the same again without Bell, who missed the first two games of the season.  I think this will be a good game, but as hard as it is to go into Pittsburgh and win, I think the Raiders find a way and move to 5-3. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Giants @ Buccaneers: One team is coming off a last minute loss, the other, an OT win.  New York had one of its best offensive performances in team history.  But the defense couldn’t stop anyone, so Eli Manning became the first QB in NFL history to throw six touchdowns and zero interceptions in a loss.  As for Tampa Bay, they nearly blew a big lead for the second week in a row.  For that reason, the Giants should have no excuse but to put up another big number on offense, and with the possible return of Jason Pierre-Paul and a worse offensive team than New Orleans as their opponents, they should have no trouble getting back over .500. NEW YORK WINS
  • Falcons @ 49ers: Atlanta is coming off a bad loss to the Bucs, while the Niners in a time of transition after benching Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert.  San Francisco has a bottom five defense and offense, while the Falcons continue to be one of the NFL’s best despite the week eight hiccup.  This should be an easy win for Atlanta as they look to stay at worst a game back of Carolina in the South.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Broncos @ Colts: Denver is coming off their best win of the season and boast the league’s best defense.  Imagine if Peyton Manning was actually playing well? It can still happen of course, and against a struggling Indianapolis team, it could be a breakout week for the an tied with for the most QB wins in NFL history.  And wouldn’t it be fitting for Manning to get the record win against the team he won a majority of those games with?  Meanwhile, his replacement in Andrew Luck finally looked like himself late against Carolina on Monday.  But it still ended in another loss.  For as explosive as he is, turnovers continue to plague him and are holding this team back right now.  An offensive coordinator move could help, but against this defense, it’s going to be tough. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Cowboys: It’s a battle of two struggling NFC East teams that despite their issues, have a legitimate chance to rebound and win their division.  Both teams have been more down than up this season, but for very different reasons. Healthy Dallas was 2-0, but they’ve lost 5 straight without Tony Romo.  Fairly healthy Philadelphia has just been very inconsistent, particularly on offense.  So who keeps hope alive on Sunday Night?  Give me Dez Bryant to have a big second week back from injury and a much better Matt Cassel.  DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bears @ Chargers: Two teams having disappointing seasons square off in prime-time.  The trade deadline has come and gone and the Bears didn’t tear down the roster like some thought they might.  As for the Chargers, their offense has been pretty good all season, but they will now be without a big weapon in Keenan Allen.  Neither team has a good defense, but based on the offenses, I think San Diego has one of their best games of the season and their easiest wins as well.  SAN DIEGO WINS
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NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line – Where does your team stand through 8 weeks?

Time flies when you’re having fun, which must be why it is so crazy to think we are half way through another NFL season.  And that means it’s time to take a look at my five teams, my bottom teams, and the best of the rest through the first half of the NFL season.

5 Best Teams Through Week 8

  1. New England Patriots (7-0) – There’s just no stopping this team right now.  Not even in their worst game of the season against the New York Jets could they be stopped from putting up 30. The Superbowl Champs are in their opponents heads in every way possible and they’re taking advantage.  Not to mention Tom Brady is having one of his most efficient seasons at 38. They’ve got a massive three game lead in the AFC East, so unless something crazy happens, they’ll easily win their seventh straight division title.
  2. Denver Broncos (7-0) – That defense. It’s the reason they are where they are. Denver’s is number one in total defense, passing defense and fourth in run defense.  I’d say that’s pretty good. The run game showed up BIG time in week 8 to help take down the previously undefeated Packers at home.  Peyton Manning has had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season, but it hasn’t mattered. Most of their wins have been dicey, but they made it look easy in week 8 and showed just what this team can do.  If they can get more consistency out of the passing game, they will go very far this season.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) – For a team that has made the playoffs four years running, they’ve still got a lot to prove thanks to all of their first round exits.  They could finish 16-0 and still not be thought as favorites. Not here though. They’ve played smart, mistake free football all season, have an MVP candidate in Andy Dalton and a top flight defense.  They played their worst game in week 7, but as good teams do, they found a way to pull out another victory.
  4. Carolina Panthers (7-0) – I was skeptical of this team through four weeks because it’s hard to win every week when your offense can barely scrape together 200 yards of offense. But here they are, still undefeated and atop the NFC South. Their defense has been great all season, though it did allow Andrew Luck to force OT with a poor second half.  And with a top five run game, the passing game was able to work itself out and get better every week.  They’re not blowing teams out, but their wins tend to feel easy nonetheless. The second half will test them, as they haven’t faced the Falcons yet, but if they stay healthy, look for them to make it to the playoffs one way or another.
  5. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – It hasn’t been pretty offensively of late, and running into the Broncos defense didn’t help.  Aaron Rodgers had just 77 yards passing in their first loss of the season, and the run game didn’t do much better.  But they are still capable and have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way, with five games still left in their division.  The defense has been there all season, so you hope as a Packers fan their inability to stop the run game in the red zone week 8 was just an anomaly.  And you can’t be too worried about Aaron Rodgers, who has had many more great games than duds in his career.

Worst Teams Through Week 8

  1. San Francisco 49ers (2-6)Fans were calling for Colin Kaepernick to be benched, and it’s a fair call that’s rumored to be set in motion.  When your quarterback, whether they’re a mobile QB or not, rarely ever thinks pass first, that’s a problem.  And if you’re going to run as much as Kaepernick, you better move the chains more than the 49ers do. This run first mentality has also led to 28 sacks, second most in the league this season.  San Fran has struggled on both sides of the ball, sitting dead last in total offense and points per game, as well as bottom five in total defense.  They play in one of the best divisions in football, and they’ll be very lonely in the cellar for the rest of the year.
  2. Tennessee Titans (1-6) – Opening weekend was such a tease for Titans fans.  Marcus Mariota burst on the scene against the Bucaneers, putting up 50 easy.  Then it all went down hill from there.  Six sraight losses and theyve taken their bye already.  Mariota has missed the last two with injury.  The defense has had some pretty good games, but the offense is non-existent with no end in sight.
  3. Detroit Lions (1-7) – They’re just bad. Plain and simple. They were 11-5 last season and didn’t lose much in the off-season, so I thought they’d be back again this year.  But that hasn’t been the case, and they’re just lucky to not be win-less at this point.  Matthew Stafford has a terrible TD-INT ratio of 13-11, adding to seven lost fumbles by the team.  The run game has been non-existent all season.  The defense can’t stop anyone, and didn’t even stop the Bears well in their only win of the year.  Detroit is allowing the most points per game.  It’s all pretty bad for the Motor City right now.

Best of the Rest

  • Arizona Cardinals (6-2) – They did what they needed to do in the first half of the season, but now they face probably the hardest second half schedules in the league.  It helps that they’ve got a two game lead in the NFC West, and that they’ve remained relatively healthy.  But they’re going to need to stay focused for the full 60 minutes in every game, because the two times they haven’t they’ve lost.  Of their eight remaining opponents, you’ve got three teams that are currently playoff contenders, two games with the Seahawks or the Rams, who they’ve lost to already. They’re very well-balanced on both sides of the ball, sitting top five in total offense and total defense.
  • Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – I’m not sure how I feel about this team yet.  I thought they’d have a shot coming into the season at a playoff spot, and I was right .  But they haven’t had a hard schedule to this point, and every team they play the rest of the way is currently above .500 except the Bears in week 15.  They win close games, they win at home and are just a game behind the Packers in the North with both games left against them.  They truly control their destiny, but could also fall out of this very quickly if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t figure things out in the passing game.
  • Atlanta Falcons (6-2) – Early on they were running all over opponents with a breakout start from Devonta Freeman.  They had a cake first half, but managed to lose two games to below .500 teams.  But that’s all slowed down.  Four straight nail-biters against the non-elite and you have question how far this team can actually go.  Two second half match-ups versus Carolina will tell a lot, and decide the division, but only if they continue to beat up on the teams they should.  Matt Ryan needs to find consistency in the passing game again.
  • New York Giants (4-4) – It’s amazing how many late game collapses this team has had through 8 weeks.  If you watched every minute of this team as I have, you know they should be no worse than 6-2, having only been out of 1 game (at Philly).  Their defense played well the first four weeks, but mismanagement led to their first two losses.  Eli Manning is having probably the best start to a season in year two of Ben McAdoo’s offense.  But the defense has been on a rapid decline since week 5 and are on pace to go down as maybe the worst defense of all time.  Injuries haven’t helped, but allowing 7 touchdown passes a week after allowing the Cowboys to run for 233 yards is just unacceptable.  If the defense can at least be average, this team should still capture the NFC East pretty easily, which is why I keep them in the best-of-the-rest category.  I know this defense can get better with some health, and they’ll get another body back in Jason Pierre-Paul.
  • Oakland Raiders (4-3) – No this isn’t a mistake. The Black and Silver have already won more games than they did in 2014, and as many as they did in 2013.  They currently boast the second ranked run defense in the league, and Charles Woodson looks like he’s 29 again, leading the league with five interceptions.  Amari Cooper is proving why he was a top draft pick and Derek Carr continues to improve week-to-week. They’re not turning the ball over, as Carr has a 5-1 TD to INT ratio.  Oakland finds themselves in second place in the AFC West, in a fight for a while card and are a lot more consistent than the teams below them, so they could stay there.  We’ll learn a lot about this young team in the second half, with four games left in the division, and three against other playoff contenders.
  • New York Jets (4-3) Two straight losses for a team that looked like they’d keep pressure on the Pats all season.  The defense has allowed 60 points the last two weeks after allowing 75 total the first six weeks.  Add to that an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick and nagging issues for Chris Ivory and things might seem bleak.  However, the Jets schedule is favorable, with their eight of their nine final ,opponents currently at .500 or below, with a home game against the Patriots in week 16 as their biggest test. So take advantage the next seven and there’s still hope for not only a wild card but if the Pats falter at all, the division.

Best Chance to Rebound

  • New Orleans Saints (4-4) – The offense is rounding into shape nicely, but as mentioned withe the Giants, their defense is very bad.  Drew Brees had faith in this young group after their 0-3 start, and that faith is paying off.  An NFL record tying 7 touchdowns in week 8 shows Brees still has the arm and drive to lead this team.  They’ve got a lot of work with the Falcons and Panthers both ahead of them, but with so many under .500 teams in the NFC, they can absolutely grab a wild card spot if they can continue to improve and get better on defense.
  • Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The defense continues to be a step below what they’ve been the past two seasons, but they’re making the plays when they need to. The offense has been shaky, and nearly lost to the Cowboys in week 8.  But they know how to win and as the NFC champs to years running, you can’t count them out until yet.
  • St Louis Rams (4-3) – This is a strange team. They’re 3-0 in their division, a division that boasts two playoff teams from a year ago. But sometimes young teams are inconsistent, and St. Louis is definitely that. They seem to play up or down to that day’s opponent.  1-3 against the rest of the league, with two of those coming to the Redskins and a Roethlisberger-less Steelers team.  But the run game has been explosive with the addition of rookie Todd Gurley, helping kill clock and lessen the possibility for mistakes in the air.  Add a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest points through 8 weeks, and you can see why this team can make some noise now.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – Much like the Seahawks, this team knows how to get into the playoffs.  They started out slow, and lost their best offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles, but they’ve looked a lot better the last two weeks, and the wild card battle in the AFC is wide open. Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.

NFL: Week 7 Picks

And then there were 5… undefeated team that is. At least 3 of them will remain so until at least week 8, as the Broncos, Packers and Bengals are all on their bye weeks (as are the Bears).

Last week I finished at 8-6 in my picks, so I head into week 7 with a record of 53-43.

Thursday Night Football

  • Seahawks @ 49ers: The Niners have looked a lot better on offense the last two weeks, after entering week 5 as the worst scoring team in the league.  As for the reigning NFC Champs, Seattle’s offense has been very hit or miss, and their vaunted defense has left a lot to be desired through 6 weeks. So what continues? An upswing for Colin Kaepernick and company, or the return of the Legion of Boom? Give me the Seahawks to shut down the passing game of the Niners and get back on track. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Buffalo @ Jacksonville: The Bills are falling apart (mostly self-inflicted) and behind in the AFC East. Jacksonville is stuck in another bad year, as they’re currently the third worst scoring offense, and allowing the third most points on defense. Despite injuries, Buffalo’s defense has the ability to stop anyone when they set their minds to it, and this week’s opponent is a good opportunity to do just that. BUFFALO WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Redskins: I don’t like either one of these team’s offenses, but one team has a defense that is more than capable.  And that would be the home team. WASHINGTON WINS
  • Falcons @ Titans: The Falcons are coming off their first loss of the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back.  Tennessee has been on a downward trend after a huge first game and now Marcus Mariota is banged up.  It’s a trap game for sure, but I like Atlanta on the road to get back in the win column.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Saints @ Colts: Neither team is having the season I thought they would.  But New Orleans found a way to take down the previously undefeated Falcons last week to snap their skid.  As for my preseason AFC favorites, the Colts lost by a score in week 7, and did so by running maybe the worst play in NFL history.  That being said, Indy played probably it’s best game on offense against the Patriots, and with Andrew Luck in his second game back from injury, I like the Colts at home to move back above .500.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Vikings @ Lions: Detroit got monkey off their back in overtime last week against Chicago.  Their offense was unstoppable and they look to build on it.  Minnnesota is coming off their bye looking to stay two back of the Packers in the North.  While I liked what I saw from the Lions offense, they are still incapable of stopping anyone, and I really like what the Vikings can do when their offense is running through Adrian Peterson. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Steelers @ Chiefs: One team is making the best of a bad situation, the other isn’t.  Pittsburgh is two QBs down and they still found a way to take down the Arizona Cardinals.  Kansas City was already on a spiral before losing Jamaal Charles.  Their offense is a mess.  Give me the road team to continue the Chiefs struggles. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Browns @ Rams: I liked the Browns to beat the Broncos a week ago, and they nearly did it. St. Louis is coming off their bye and have a chance to take hold of the second spot in the NFC West.  Cleveland could easily be above .500 if a few things had bounced their way.  But I like what they’ve done so far this season, and the Rams seem to play down or up to their opponents.  CLEVELAND WINS
  • Texans @ Dolphins: Both teams got much-needed victories in week 6. Both QBs had nice games, but Miami got their running game going in a huge way.  Both defenses were up to the task, with The Texans holding when needed, while the Dolphins were dominant from start to finish.  I think this game will go down to the wire, and I see a big JJ Watt play as being the difference. HOUSTON WINS
  • Jets @ Patriots: An early fight for the AFC East between two teams with a long history and one combined loss.  The Jets are clicking on all cylinders thanks to a tightening up of the secondary and a healthy Chris Ivory.  New England is perfect and still playing well on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a close, hard fought game, and I the run game will be the difference.  I have more confidence in the Jets on both sides of getting it going and stopping the run, so give me a big road win for the guys in green.  NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Raiders @ Chargers: Philip Rivers had his best game ever last week, throwing for over 500 yards, but it wasn’t enough. The Raiders  have shown flashes, particularly on defense. San Diego’s offense isn’t the problem, and that’s why they will have another letdown this week.  OAKLAND WINS
  • Cowboys @ Giants: Dallas is coming off their bye but they’re not any healthier.  Dez Bryant is not a guarantee and they need him without Tony Romo.  As for the Giants, they’re coming off their worst game of the season on Monday night. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Panthers: Philly is coming off a big win on Monday Night to take a share of first in the NFC East.  But they shouldn’t feel too good about things, with how bad Sam Bradford played. In my opinion it’s time to go to Mark Sanchez, though I don’t see how it would make much different this week.  Carolina has gotten better every week, and find themselves undefeated despite their offense getting off to an extremely slow start.  Now they have a shot to improve to 7-0 in front of their home crowd.  I like their chances. CAROLINA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Cardinals: So the Ravens are just that bad.  Arizona is one of the better teams in the league, but have allowed themselves to take two games off, both losses.  So which bird flies highest on Monday? I don’t trust any part of the Ravens team right now, so give me the home team to get back on track. ARIZONA WINS

NFL: Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Picks

Most Impressive Teams of Week 5

  1. Arizona Cardinals (4-1): What a bounce back from their first loss.  It’s hard to win by 25 when your QBs only attempt 18 passes.  Carson Palmer was and efficient 11-14 for three scores.  The run game was huge, racking up nearly 200 yards and three scores of their own.  Add a defense that registered six takeaways and you have your reason why they’re up two games in the NFC West.
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (5-0): Down 17 in the fourth to the Legion of Boom is an extremely tall task for any team, home or not.  But Andy Dalton led the team on three scoring drives, running in a TD, throwing another and giving his kicker Mike Nugent time to kick a field-goal to send the game to OT.  The defense started out slowly, especially against the run game, but they pitched a shutout from midway through the 3rd through overtime.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3):It took a month, but DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews remembered how to run, a good step in the right direction.  That being said, Sam Bradford is lucky the Saints aren’t very good, overcoming two red zone interceptions in the first quarter.   A number of field goals helped break the game open, as well as break a three-game home losing skid for the Eagles. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt when your defense forces five turnovers.

Most Disappointing Teams of Week 5

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4): Another bad week for Kansas City, who not only lost their fourth straight, they lost their biggest offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL.  Up 17-3 at the half, they couldn’t do anything in the second half, getting shut out by a Bears team that has been pretty darn awful early.  The Chiefs issue wasn’t turnovers, but an inability to stay on the field offensively, a problem they had even before Charles went down.
  2. New Orleans Saints (1-4):This team continues to struggle on both sides of the ball. They’re a bottom half offensive team, while allowing the third most points-per-game in the league.  Turnovers haven’t been a problem, but a lack of a running game has been.
  3. Baltimore Ravens (1-4): They’ve been in every game this season, which means they can’t close.  Not good.  IN the latest collapse, Baltimore held a 12-point lead, at home, against a Browns team they’d defeated 13 of the last 14 times they’d played.  Joe Flacco ran for two scores to go with Justin Forsett’s two on the ground, and somehow it wasn’t enough.  The defense allowed Luke McCown to throw for a franchise record 457 yards, the run game to add a score and four field goals, including the game winner in OT.  The Ravens are fairly healthy and yet they find themselves in the cellar after five weeks.

Most Surprising Performances of Week 5

  1. New York Giants (3-2): I picked them to beat the Niners, and they did, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be.  The best rush defense in the league allowed San Francisco to stay on the field too often.  And to let the worst scoring team in the league hang 27 on them, thanks to a nice passing game by run-first QB Colin Kaepernick.  Eli Manning made a few mistakes, but he was on point most of the night including another 4th quarter comeback for a huge passing night.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2): Mike Vick wasn’t great until the fourth quarter.  The defense wasn’t great but it made the stops when necessary to allow Le’Veon Bell, who was great the whole game, to get it over the goal line with the walk-off touchdown to upset the Chargers.  Pittsburgh is doing what it needs to do without Roethlisberger, and stay afloat in the wild card picture.
  3. Denver Broncos (5-0):They own the Raiders on the road, but they were less than impressive on offense yet again.  Peyton Manning was picked off twice, and their own touchdown came on defense.  It’s that defense that continues to win them games, but they’re going to need help if they want to stay undefeated.

Byes: Cowboys, Raiders, Rams and Buccaneers

I went 8-6 in week 5, bringing my season total up to 45-37.  Now here are my week 6 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints:Atlanta is now 5-0, and completed their sweep of the NFC East this past week, but it was their worst game to date.  Another huge effort from Devonta Freeman saved the Falcons perfect start.  As for their division foes, the Saints were a no-show against the Eagles a week after picking up their first win of the season.  New Orleans can win this game; I just don’t think they will. ATLANTA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Redskins @ Jets:Washington did a pretty good job of containing the Falcons early in week 5, but then Freeman broke free and broke often.  Look for Chris Ivory to take advantage coming off a career high performance in week 4 against the Dolphins. NEW YORK WINS
  • Cardinals @ Steelers: Both teams are feeling good about themselves after week 5, particularly on defense.  The Steelers offense did enough this past week, but Arizona has been far more consistent in both the running and passing game than Pittsburgh.  I like that balance in this game, even if it is a Cardinals road game.ARIZONA WINS
  • Chiefs @ Vikings:Kansas City is a team in decline, while the Vikings are on the rise.  Minnesota is only 2-2, and are pretty even when it comes to points scored vs points allowed, but they’ve shown they can rise to the occasion and that Adrian Peterson can get back to where he was before the suspension.  Without Jamaal Charles, Alex Smith needs to find a way in the passing game to overcome a less than stellar defense. Give me the home team in a close one. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Bengals @ Bills:Cincinnati is doing almost everything right, while Buffalo has been one of the league’s most inconsistent teams.  The Bengals found a way against one of the league’s best defenses, and they face another tough task this week. But they’ve limited mistakes and are excelling on both sides of the ball.  Buffalo’s offense at this point is basically Tyrod Taylor as they’ve been ravaged by injury at the running back position.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills defense wins this one for them, but I am taking the Bengals to stay undefeated another week. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Bears @ Lions:DETROIT WINS
  • Broncos @ Browns: Peyton Manning is having an awful start to the 2015 season, and yet his team is 5-0 for the seventh time in his career.  This is in large part thanks to one of the best defenses he’s ever had CLEVELAND WINS
  • Texans @ Jaguars: The winner will still have a lot of work to do, while the loser will have the AFC South cellar all to themselves.  Jacksonville showed signs, particularly on defense to end last season, but they’ve been pretty bad all-around to start this year.  The Texans QB carousel continues, with Brian Hoyer doing good things to end last week when he came in for Ryan Mallet.  Look for Arian Foster to show up in his second game back from injury, mixed in with some help from JJ Watt, and I think the Texans will get their second win of the season. HOUSTON WINS
  • Dolphins @ Titans:Both teams enter with 1-3 records, though Tennessee sits in second in their division while the Dolphins are two games out in the AFC East.  The Titans point differential is actually positive, though most of that stems from their 52 point shellacking of Tampa in week 1.  As for Miami, they are one of the worst offensive teams in the league through 5 weeks, and their defense isn’t doing them any favors.  This is a good game for Miami to get going on offense since the Titans haven’t been good defensively, but with their own defensive struggles, I expect a shootout.  I liked Miami to challenge for a wildcard spot before the season, and if they want to turn their season around, they have to start now.  So give me the fins on the road in an ugly, high scoring affair. MIAMI WINS

Sunday 4/4:25 PM Games

  • Panthers @ Seahawks:It’s a battle of a defense on the rise, and a defense in flux. The two time defending NFC Champs have struggled to stay consistent on either side of the ball.  Thomas Rawls has done a nice job on the ground for the Seahawks in the absence of Marshawn Lynch, but the offense as a whole has been disappointing.  The defense has been better since Kam Chancellor came back in week 3, but they’ve shown weaknesses, particularly in the secondary, that we’re not used to seeing.  As for Carolina, they’re 4-0 and coming off a bye. They’ve been great on both sides of the ball, though the defense is doing most of the heavy lifting.  The Panthers are a top 10 scoring offense, despite only 729 yards of offense in their first four games. The Hawks tend to respond after bad losses, and for that reason, I think they take advantage of the Panthers one dimensional offense and pick up a win at home. SEATTLE WINS
  • Chargers @ Packers:Green Bay is still undefeated, but they haven’t looked great on offense the last two weeks.  Aaron Rodgers threw his first interception at home since 2012 last week, and then threw another while losing a fumble.  As for the Chargers, they looked like they’d get a much needed road win, then coughed it up.  While Philip Rivers has been pretty good this season, Aaron Rogers has been better, and has a far better defense.  GREEN BAY WINS
  • Ravens @ 49ers:Both teams need a win in the worst way.  The Ravens are coming off a bad overtime loss to the Browns, while the Niners had their best showing offensively since week 1, but lost on a last second touchdown in week 5. I really don’t like anything about either of these two teams this season, and while the 49ers defense has shown flashes, I still like Baltimore simply because they put up points more consistently than San Francisco. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Colts: Indianapolis has gotten lucky of late, without actually having Luck, something you do need in this league. New England hasn’t needed luck yet this season.  They’re easily taking out opponents with a good combo of offense and defense.  With Andrew Luck back at practice, the Pats could have him to combat with, though he wasn’t great before the injury.  I’m tired of picking undefeated teams, especially on the road, but I have to again this week. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Eagles:Who would’ve thought this match-up would be an early battle lead in the NFC East after both teams started out the season a combined 0-5?  New York has played one clean game, and that was against Buffalo, yet they’re alone atop the division heading into this game.  They probably played their worst game defensively this past week, but Eli Manning helped pick up his team.  Philly got its run game going, and could look to exploit an ailing Giants defense.  But I don’t think they will do enough to get to .500.  I’ll take the road team to win their fourth straight. NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 5 Picks

Four more teams have their bye week: the Dolphins, Jets, Vikings and Panthers.

Last week I went 9-6, bringing my season picks total to 37-26.  Check out my week 5 picks below.

Thursday Night Football

  • Colts @ Texans: Matt Hasselbeck did just enough to get his win an OT victory in week 4, but it still wasn’t an impressive showing from the Colts. It’s still early but expect Andrew Luck back and I expect a big game.  Houston has it’s own issues at QB thought they’re sticking with Ryan Mallet.  This is a hard one to pick because neither team’s defense has been impressive, so give me Luck to come back and win it, or Hasselbeck if necessary in a close one.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bears @ Chiefs: Chicago got the goose egg off their ledger while the Chiefs lost a third straight. I haven’t liked much about either of these teams, with the run games for each respective squad the only real bright spots.  But Kansas City has at least been in every one of their games (for the most part) and should really be 2-2.  So give me the home team to take this one.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Seahawks @ Bengals:  This is a hard one for me this week.  On the one hand, the Seahawks defense looks like the Legion of Boom again now that Kam Chancellor is back. But on the other hand the offense hasn’t been anything to write home about. If this game were in Seattle I might go differently, and while the Bengals are probably due for a loss, I’m taking the home team to stay perfect and stay comfortably atop their division another week.  CINCINNATI WINS
  • Redskins @ Falcons: The Redskins are coming off a big win against the Eagles, while the Falcons are undefeated and playing well in every phase of the game.  This is a huge trap game for Atlanta at home, as their biggest flaw right now is stopping the pass.  But Washington is pretty one dimensional so I don’t see a 5-0 start for the Falcons being too hard to achieve. ATLANTA WINS
  • Jaguars @ Buccaneers: It’s probably the worst game of the week simply based on the fact that both teams enter at 1-3.  Not to mention a second year QB versus a rookie, and based on what both have done this year, this could be a lack luster 9-6 game, or a shoot out.  I’m leaning towards the latter, and if that’s the case, I think the Jags defense will make the play late that is the difference.  JACKSONVILLE WINS
  • Saints @ Eagles: The Saints walked off win week 4, while the Eagles were basically walked off against.  Both teams need a win desperately, though New Orleans more so as they’re division is led by a 4-0 Panthers team while the Eagles are only a game down in the East. Most had high expectations for Philly this season, while I thought the Saints would get themselves back to the playoffs.  Simply based on the fact that the run game hasn’t been what Philly thought it would be and that I would take  Drew Brees over Sam Bradford in anything any day of the week, I am going to go road team by a comfortable margin.  NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Browns @ Ravens: Cleveland has lost each of he last two by one score.  Baltimore broke their 0-3 start with a Thursday Night win, but it wasn’t a clean game, and if not for poor kicking by Pittsburgh.  Justin Forsett and Justin Tucker were the reasons why they survived in OT, and they’re why they will pick up a second win this weekend.  BALTIMORE WINS
  • Rams @ Packers: St Louis has had two very good wins, and two very bad losses.  They’ve seem to get up for the big games, and lose focus against lesser opponents.  And now for the second week in a row, they’re on the road against an undefeated team who don’t lose at home.  Aaron Rogers and company probably played their worst game a week ago, but it was once again mistake free.  Rogers will eventually slip up at home again, but I don’t think the Rams offense can do enough against the Packers defense to help out their own defense. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Bills @ Titans: Buffalo has been shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, while the Titans have been up and down on offense and defense through their first three games. The Bills run defense is good, their pass defense isn’t great and with the strength of the Titans being their passing attack, I’m taking the home team.  TENNESSEE WINS

Sunday 4/4:25 PM Games

  • Cardinals @ Lions: Arizona is coming off a disappointing home loss to St. Louis, while the Lions are coming off a disappointing road loss of their own.  Detroit’s defense finally showed up last week against the Seahawks, while the Cardinals turned over the ball too many times in their first loss.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions figure it out and avoid the 0-5 start, but I love the Cardinals and I expect a big bounce back performance. ARIZONA WINS
  • Patriots @ Cowboys: Players are dropping like flies in Dallas while the 3-0 Pats are coming off their bye week.  Despite the loss of so many key players, the Boys still sit atop the division at 2-2 and have been in every game.  But their defense fell apart the last two weeks late against QBs not named Tom Brady, so I don’t like their chances in four quarters against the reigning Superbowl Champions. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Broncos @ Raiders: The Broncos still haven’t played a great game start to finish.  Oakland has been impressive at times this season and are a surprising 2-2.  AFC West games are always tough, but Denver always plays well against the Raiders.  Give me the road team led by Peyton Manning’s best game of the season so far. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football 

  • 49ers @ Giants: San Francisco is in disarray while the Giants are starting to put it together.  New York’s run defense has been great all season, and that’s the Niners only chance in this game if the defense can’t put another good game together. I like the home team to win their 3rd straight.  NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Chargers: Pittsburgh has a new kicker but they’re going to need more than that to pick up their second win of the season.  Le’Veon Bell will need to carry them against the Chargers who are just as hungry for another win.  Their two so far haven’t been easy, but if they can keep the passing game going, I think they take this one rather easily. SAN DIEGO WINS

NFL: Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Picks

Seven teams remain undefeated while four remain winless.  We’ve come to the first of the bye weeks, with the Patriots and Titans both off this week.

Most Impressive Teams From Week 3

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): I still think the Patriots are the best team in football right now simply because they’re the defending champs, but it’s close.  The offense is flourishing as Larry Fitzgerald continued his resurgence with another two TD night. Carson Palmer continues to not skip a beat after missing the second half/playoffs last season.  But the real story was the defense this week. The secondary took advantage of every 49er mistake and helped put the game out of reach before most people were comfortable in their seats.
  2. New England Patriots (3-0): I mean what is left to say about this team that hasn’t been said this season? Tom Brady looks about as good as he ever has, thanks in part to a number of offensive weapons flourishing in big ways.  But to get the running game going in week 3 takes this team to another level.  New England’s offense under Belichick and Brady has always been pass first, run later.  But if LeGarrett Blount can build off his week 3 performance, it adds another level of doubt against opposing defenses, making this team even more formidable.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (1-2): I know, I know, it was just their 1st win and I could’ve chosen any of the 5 other 3-0 teams.  But coming off a Superbowl appearance, we all expected this team to start off better than 0-2.  So when they bounce back and take care of business in such a dominating fashion for win number 1, I had to take notice and give credit. The return of Kam Chancellor sparked the Legion of Boom to the first shutout of the NFL season.  Even more impressive than forcing the Bears to lay a goose egg, is that Chicago never even got close to field goal range. The offense wasn’t as sharp early as this team would want, but another boost on special teams from Tyler Lockett, as well as a big day on the ground for Thomas Rawls helped give them cushion in the 2nd half.

Most Disappointing Teams From Week 3

  1. New York Jets (2-1): After having a lights out defense in their first two games, the Jets at home allowed a desperate Eagles team to run all over them… literally.  Without DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews went off for 108 rushing yards, while Darren Sproles made the Jets special teams look silly with an 89-yard punt return TD.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had an up-and-down performance, throwing for three scores, but also throwing three interceptions.  And don’t get me started on the attempted lateral that became a turnover by Brandon Marshall.  It was an ugly loss for a team that has the potential to make the playoffs in the AFC this season.
  2. Detroit Lions (0-3): It’s hard enough to win in this league when you do everything well.  But through three weeks, Detroit isn’t really doing anything to make them feel better about themselves going forward.  Their running game managed just 28 yards while Matthew Stafford turned the ball over three times, including two in the fourth quarter to help Denver pull away.  And with the Seahawks up next, things don’t get any easier from here.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (1-2): Colin Kaepernick is a run first type QB and that’s fine, if you use that to your advantage.  But when you forget that, and he throws four interceptions, including two pick sixes, that’s a problem. Kapernick was just 9-19 for 67 yards, though he did make his line a bit better with a rushing TD, San Fran’s only score of the day. Sure, they ran into a far superior Cardinals team, but this was one of the ugliest, most lopsided games you’ll see, especially between division rivals.

Most Surprising Performances from Week 3

  1. Indianapolis Colts (1-2): The Colts got their first win of the season, but it wasn’t pretty.  It took vintage Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter to overcome a 27-14 deficit to win by two.  Both of his TD passes came in the final frame, after two more turnovers helped put them in the hole early.  The running game showed up in the form of two rushing scores from off-season acquisition Frank Gore. Indy’s defense had its moments, but almost bent enough to allow Marcus Mariota to get his second career win.  The Colts got a win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
  2. St Louis Rams (1-2): Their week 1 win over the Seahawks is starting to look more like a fluke than a jumping off point.  34 points scored in their one win, 16 in their two losses. The defense did its job holding a combination of Ben Rothelisberger and Mike Vick to just 12 points, but the offense couldn’t sustain anything.
  3. Miami Dolphins (1-2): For a team that made a conscious effort to improve their defense in the off-season, they looked awful allowing the Bills to rack up 429 yards after a down week 2.  But the most concerning part of the Dolphins so far this season is the offense. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and the running game hasn’t been utilized/effective enough.

Now it’s time for my picks. I rebounded from a bad week 2 to go 13-3 last week, bringing my season total to 28-20.

Thursday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Steelers: One team needs this more than the other.  One team is in a better position to win this game than the other.  And I think they’re the same team.  Baltimore enters at 0-3 but they have gotten better every week.  And with Pittsburgh needing to rely heavily on the running game without Ben Rothelisberger, the Ravens know who they have to stop.  Of course that doesn’t mean it will work, as most have had trouble stopping Le’Veon Bell.  Joe Flacco over Mike Vick will be the difference in this one. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Jets @ Dolphins: Both teams are coming off home losses.  A win keeps the Jets very much in playoff contention and with a chance to catch the Patriots.  A loss means another week in the cellar for the Dolphins.  Ryan Tannehill was abused by one AFC East defense last week, and coming off a bad week of their own, look for the Jets to come out firing on D.  Also, I expect to see more from the run game for New York, with Chris Ivory another week removed from injury. NEW YORK WINS
  • Jaguars @ Colts: Both of these teams enter action at 1-2, but with very different ideas on how this season was supposed to start.  Jacksonville is a young team that showed signs late last season, but we all knew they’d be a work in progress all year. As for the Colts, many, myself included, had them going far into the playoffs.  Instead Andrew Luck continues to be a turnover machine, while Jacksonville continues to be very, very inconsistent.  So who moves to .500 on the young season?  Give me the Colts to look more like the 4th quarter of week 3 than the first 11 quarters of football.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Giants @ Bills:New York picked up their first win of the season last week, finally putting everything together, without shooting themselves in the foot.  Buffalo took out their week 2 frustrations out on the Dolphins.  The Giants need to generate some pass rush against the Bills this week, but if they build off a great day in the secondary they will overcome the lack of one again.  Meanwhile the Bills need to figure out how to slow down Odell Beckham Jr.  The Giants might get Victor Cruz back, which would only help the offense.  So can the Giants move to .500, or will Buffalo move to 3-1? While I think Eli Manning’s first interception of the season could come in this game, give me the G-Men to get their first road win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Panthers @ Buccaneers: The Panthers have been great to start the season. Tampa has been very up and down, but their defense wasn’t the problem in week 3.  I still don’t know how I feel about the Panthers long term, but I never thought they’d be in a position to open the season 4-0.  I’m taking a leap here, but I think the offense for the Bucs picks up this week and they find a way to eek one out at home. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Eagles @ Redskins: The Eagles woke up in week 3 while the Redskins looked outmatched.  Division games are always interesting and in the NFC East, they’re usually competitive.  But give me the road team to even up their recordon the stretch of their ground game.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Raiders @ Bears: Oakland has been pretty impressive through three weeks, having nearly equaled their win total from 2014. Derek Carr has shown great improvement, as has the defense.  As for Chicago, tough times continue.  Jay Cutler is out, and they’ve already started trading off pieces at 0-3.  And I don’t see things getting better for the Bears this week. OAKLAND WINS
  • Texans @ Falcons: After a rough 2014, the Falcons have come out of the gate with their offense running on all cylinders.  They’re 3-0, dominating the NFC East with a combination of a healthy Julio Jones, some luck and a revamped running game.  Houston has struggled early, but got the defensive help they needed to get their first win a week ago.  Give me the home team to continue their hot start. ATLANTA WINS
  • Chiefs @ Bengals: Kansas City had its worst game of the season on Monday Night, and should be 2-1, but sit at 1-2.  Cincinnati has been on point in all three of their games to start the season.  If both teams play up to their abilities this will come down to the wire.  Even if that does happen, I still like the Bengals at home to stay undefeated.CINCINNATI WINS 

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Browns @ Chargers: On paper, San Diego is confusing, because they’re in the top 5 of total offense and top 10 in total defense, but sit at 1-2.  But turnovers and a middle of the pack running game have doomed that.  Cleveland has looked ok, but it baffles me the best they’ve looked was with Johnny Manziel at the helm, yet he is not starting.  That being said, I like the Browns to get the road victory. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Packers @ Niners: This is probably the most lopsided game of the week.  Aaron Rodgers can do no wrong.  The Packers defense has looked championship caliber at times.  And with Eddie Lacy despite injury concerns was able to play, the run game did its job in week 3. As for the 49ers, their week 1 win looks like it will be more of an anomaly than anything to build on as they turn the ball over too much and can’t stop any phase of the opponent’s game.GREEN BAY WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I had higher hopes for the Rams defense.  I questioned bringing Nick Foles over as their offensive line isn’t as strong as the Eagles was last season.  And now they face the red hot Cardinals.  It’s another possible trap game for Arizona, and while I don’t think they’ll dominate quite the same way they did San Fran a week ago, I don’t see this being much of a game either. ARIZONA WINS
  • Vikings @ Broncos:Minnesota has  their star running back and just as good as ever. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t having a stellar start to his sophomore season, throwing for under 200 yards a game, with just one TD. But he is at least limiting turnovers and giving Adrian Peterson a chance.  The defense has been great at limiting damage and that’s why they sit at 2-0.  Denver has gotten better in every game, but still don’t look like your normal Peyton Manning led team. So what gives?  I’m going to go with the road team because eventually, that mistake the Broncos have been getting away with will cost them, and this will be the week it does. MINNESOTA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cowboys @ Saints: I almost made Dallas one of my surprising teams from week 3 as Brandon Weedon got off to a crazy good start in his first start for Dallas.  But the team broke down in the second half against the Falcons and dropped their first game of the year.  New Orleans continues to struggle in every phase, but they at least gave themselves a chance against Carolina a week ago. Luke McCown turned the ball over late to seal the 0-3 start, but played well before hand.  Dallas showed an inability to stop the run last week, so if the Saints can get the ground game going, they can pick up their first win.  And I think they do just that. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Lions @ Seahawks: If the Packers-Niners match-up is the most lopsided this week, this is probably the second.  With no running game to speak of, they can’t overcome turnovers and a defense that is having trouble stopping anyone.  Seattle feels good coming off a shutout and they looked good in every phase last week.  Not to mention Stafford’s struggles on the road coupled with the 12th man. SEATTLE WINS

NFL Preview: 2015-16 Playoff Picks and Week 1 Predictions

As the calendar turns to September, NFL fans everywhere rejoice! Hey everyone, and welcome to another year of Santiago’s Scoreboard.

I know, I know.  It feels like forever go that the New England Patriots outlasted the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XLIV. What with all the drama surrounding the World Champions, another big draft and all the craziness that surrounds free agency, we’ve had plenty to keep us occupied.

My 2014-15 season predictions had the Denver Broncos over the Green Bay Packers. Obviously I was very wrong there, but I had a very good season overall picking games so time to improve.

Here’s how I see the 2015-16 season going down:

NFC East                                                          AFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys                                       1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Giants                                      2. New York Jets
  3. Philadelphia Eagles                                  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Washington Redskins                               4. Buffalo Bills

NFC West                                                           AFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks                                     1. Denver Broncos
  2. Arizona Cardinals                                      2. San Diego Chargers
  3. Louis Rams                                               3. Kansas City Chiefs
  4. San Francisco 49ers                                 4. Oakland Raiders

NFC South                                                          AFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints                                    1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. Carolina Panthers                                       2. Houston Texans
  3. Atlanta Falcons                                            3. Tennessee Titans
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers                              4. Jacksonville Jaguars

NFC North                                                           AFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers                                       1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Detroit Lions                                                  2. Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Chicago Bears                                               3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Minnesota Vikings                                         4. Cleveland Browns

NFC Playoff Teams

  • Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Cardinals

AFC Playoff Teams

  • Broncos, Chargers, Colts, Steelers, Jets, Patriots

NFC Championship Game

  • Packers over Saints

AFC Championship Game

  • Colts over Steelers

Superbowl

  • Packers over Colts

So with all that said, here are my week 1 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Patriots: I had Pittsburgh winning this game before Tom Brady’s suspension was lifted.  Ben Roethlisberger shows up in big games, and I think he makes a statement to open up the 2015 season with a little help from the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014, Le’veon Bell. But in the end, the raising of the banner plus the desire to put the off-season in the past will lift the Pats to an opening night victory. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Packers @ Bears: Aaron Rodgers is without his favorite target, Jordy Nelson for the season. But he still has a lot of weapons, including being reunited with James Jones, and of course, one of the best up-and-coming backs in Eddie Lacy.  Chicago is coming off a disappointing season, and I don’t think they did enough in the off-season to fix all the problems they had last season.  It’s never easy to win on the road, but I think the reigning NFC North champs take their opener. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Chiefs @ Texans: Both teams ended last season 9-7 and second in their respective divisions. Alex Smith has Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Macklin to help open up the offense and a defense capable of shutting anyone down. Houston has a new starting QB in Brandon Hoyer, JJ Watt and a big question mark at running back with the questionable health of Arian Foster. I like Kansas City better as a team, but I think the Texans find a way at home in a close game.  HOUSTON WINS
  • Browns @ Jets: Cleveland had a pretty good 2014-15 season as compared to what they’d dealt with years prior. But they are a new team on offense, and they have to contend with a very good Jets defense to open the season.  New York had their own changes in the off-season, adding Ryan Fitzpatrick to the QB depth chart; a good move as they’re without their starter Geno Smith for a while after a locker-room scuffle that left him with a broken jaw. But it could be a blessing in disguise, as Fitzpatrick has been a solid quarterback in this league, and can spread the offense a bit more than Smith can at this point in his career. Add a solid starting running back in Chris Ivory and that defense, New York should at the very least be in the running for a wild card this season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Colts @ Bills: Buffalo’s defense was a highlight last season, and they’re going to need it to be every bit as good as last season if they want to defeat Andrew Luck and the Colts in week 1. I think this could be a close one, but even with the Bills defense and Rex Ryan at the helm, Andrew Luck has Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton to go deep to, and I think he will take that next step as he enters his fourth year in the league, and lead his team to the first of many wins this season.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Dolphins @ Redskins: Washington is a mess. Or should I say still a mess. Remember when RGIII was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012? Yeah, me neither.  And neither do the Redskins apparently.  The struggling franchise has given the reigns over to Kirk Cousins.  DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon always have the possibility of breaking the big play, but Miami is just a better team.  They have a QB in Ryan Tannehill who has gotten better every year in the league, a solid defense that only got better with the addition of Ndamukong Suh. MIAMI WINS
  • Panthers @ Jaguars: Two very good defenses look to get their teams off to a good start. Carolina enters the season with virtually no one for Cam Newton to throw to, while the Jags are going with rookie running back TJ Yeldon to help ease Blake Bortles and the passing game that now includes Julius Thomas who left Denver via free agency.  There’s probably more potential CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Rams: These two teams play in arguably the toughest, most evenly competitive division in football.  Seattle has been to back-to-back Superbowls while the Rams have been getting better every year, particularly on defense. Now that the Seahawks have locked their QB up for the next four years, they look to figure out how to keep Kam Chancellor as a key part of their vaunted defense. This is going to be a real battle, but give me the defending NFC Champs in this early West matchup. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Saints @ Cardinals: Arizona’s great season was derailed by injuries at quarterback a season ago. But with Carson Palmer healthy again, the Cardinals look to get to their winning ways.  New Orleans on the other hand just played down to their normal standards a season ago.  The Saints lost a big offensive weapon in Jimmy Graham, but their running back core is stronger than ever with the addition of CJ Spiller.  Their defense cannot be much worse than it was last season, a season where at 7-9 they almost won their division.  So give me Drew Brees and his winning pedigree to start a bounce back season off right for New Orleans on the road. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Titans @ Buccaneers: It’s a battle between the first and second picks of the 2015 NFL draft in week 1, as Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston both look to prove themselves and earn their first professional wins.  TENNESSEE WINS
  • Bengals @ Raiders: Cincinnati continued its great regular season, disappointing playoff performance run a year ago, while Oakland was just bad. Neither team should be proud of what they did defensively last season.  I think the Raiders will be a bit better this season than the three-win team of a year ago, but the Bengals need to get wins wherever they can with the teams they are competing with in the AFC North. Not to mention having one of the toughest schedules in the league this season.  CINCINNATI WINS
  • Lions @ Chargers: Detroit is the NFC equivalent of San Diego in that they both shows flashes of pure greatness one minute, and flashes of pure mediocrity the next. Matt Stafford has one of the most dangerous weapons at his exposal in Calvin Johnson, but injuries and road woes last year saw a 7-1 start slowdown in the second half. And it’s those road struggles that led me to choose the home team to take this game SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Ravens @ Broncos: Both teams lost in the Wild Card round a year ago, so both have some unfinished business to attend to. Peyton Manning is back and like the Spurs every year, we wonder when the decline will come. The Broncos lost a big piece in Julius Thomas, while the Ravens lost Torrey Smith and continue to move on without Ray Rice. I still like the team that Denver has, and the regular season has never been the problem for Manning, so give me the home team. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Cowboys: This is a tough one. Dallas usually starts the season as the best team on paper in the NFC East.  I’m not sure the loss of DeMarco Murray is as big as most think, but it’s no small thing either as the Cowboys did a good job adding depth at the running back position.  New York’s defense remains a question thanks to Jason Pierre-Paul’s uncertain status and a trouble spot at safety. But I can’t help but be intrigued by the Giants offense.  After a rough start to a new scheme last year, the Giants became very efficient in the second half of the season.  They get back Rashad Jennings and added a versatile Shane Vereen to the back mix.  Their biggest offensive question mark will be Victor Cruz, but if he can get on the field at even 80% of what he was before the injury, you can make the argument they have the deepest receiving core in the league with Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and Ruben Randle. NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Falcons: Philly had another good season last season but missed the playoffs, while Atlanta struggled in nearly every facet of the game a year ago. The Eagles have a new quarterback in Sam Bradford who hasn’t played a game in nearly two years and a new running back in DeMarco Murray after LeSean McCoy left for Buffalo.  The Falcons have their top wideouts healthy and a revamped running game. So which bird flies higher in this week 1 contest? I like home team in this one because experience in this league is important, and if nothing else, this Falcons team knows each other better at this point, not to mention they have something to prove.   ATLANTA WINS
  • Vikings @ 49ers: San Francisco had one of the worst off-seasons in recent memory, losing important guys in seemingly every key position except quarterback. Minnesota got their all-pro running back in Adrian Peterson back, and have Rookie of the Year Teddy Bridgewater back under center. Peterson has something to prove after missing most of last season, and giving Bridgewater a number 1 receiver like Mike Wallace will only make his job easier. MINNESOTA WINS

Well, that’s it.  We’re just hours from kick-off.  Enjoy the action.