The NFL season is finally here. For a lot of people that means that it is time to fight for bragging rights in a weekly office pool. Few things are more satisfying than picking more winners than your colleagues and stuffing their cash in your pockets — no matter how much money it is. To help in the pursuit of that goal we’re going to pick a winner and provide a little analysis for each game all year. These winners will be straight up, not against the spread. Without further ado:
Dallas at New York Giants - The season kicks off on Wednesday featuring the defending champs in a tough divisional tilt. In general, I’m not very high on the Giants this year. They weren’t great for much of the regular season last year, and they have the nearly inevitable Super bowl hangover to deal with. I also really like the changes the Cowboys have made on defense, and I like their general swagger. I normally like to be pretty conservative early in the season, but I’m b going to start with a mild upset. Take the Cowboys.
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Indianapolis at Chicago - I like Andrew Luck a lot. How could you not? I expect big things from him this year, and I regularly expect to be surprised by what he can do — even though I watched him a lot in college. Despite that, though, he doesn’t stand a chance here. Chicago is the much better team, and they are at home. Take the Bears.
Philadelphia at Cleveland - It’s hard to know what to do in games like this when you really don’t like either team. Brandon Weeden is likely in over his head, and he lacks as much talent as he needs around him. Therefore, the Eagles, despite their issues, are the clear choice here. Take the Eagles.
St. Louis at Detroit - There is really no excuse for the Lions not to be a legitimate contender this year. They have the right quarterback, good depth, and few holes. I don’t think they are the class of the NFC, but they are in the discussion. St. Louis isn’t. They should be much better than they were last year, but they still have problems — especially if Sam Bradford can’t get back on track. This is a tough spot for them. Take the Lions.
New England at Tennessee - The Patriots are the class of the AFC this year, and I don’t really think its close. Tennessee has a lot of things going for them, but they are definitely a different class of team and they would need to play at their absolute best — and get lucky — to come out on top here. Take the Patriots.
Atlanta at Kansas City - The Chiefs are very good candidates for a rebound season. Last year was ugly, but they dealt with so many injuries that they had no chance. Now they are healthy and more focused. Atlanta is no joke, though. They have one of the best QB/receiver duos in the league, and they are quietly very strong. This one is the first coin toss of the year. I’ll take the Chiefs because they are at home and Arrowhead is a tough place to play.
Jacksonville at Minnesota - Neither of these teams are particularly good, and they both have real issues at quarterback. I’ll take the Vikings because they are at home, but I’m not that excited about it.
Washington at New Orleans - Welcome to the NFL, Robert Griffin III. Griffin has a lousy team around him, and he’s wandering into a hornet’s nest here. New Orleans is far too good — despite their offseason issues — for Washington to contend with. Take the Saints.
Buffalo at New York Jets - The preseason record doesn’t really matter that much, but what the Jets showed is still cause for concern. They scored just one touchdown in four games, and that was a Greg McElroy pass. They have major issues at quarterback and beyond. Buffalo invested in ways to make those quarterbacks uncomfortable, and it will be effective here. Take the Bills.
Miami at Houston - I’m not going to waste time on this one. The Dolphins are in trouble, and Ryan Tannehill is going to have a long season. The Texans should be a contender. This one won’t be pretty. Take the Texans.
San Francisco at Green Bay - What a dream pairing to start the season. Last year these were the two best teams in the NFC, and there is no reason that shouldn’t be any different this year. The Packers are much the same team as last year, while the Niners have improved. I have picked San Francisco to win the Super Bowl, but I have to take the Packers here because they are at home.
Seattle at Arizona - On paper I would happily take the Seahawks. The issue, though, is that they are starting a rookie at QB. That doesn’t turn me off, though — despite the fact that Russell Wilson wasn’t expected to be the starter a month ago. I like Wilson a lot, and I have little respect for Arizona’s quarterbacks. Take the Seahawks.
Carolina at Tampa Bay - This is one of the most interesting games of the week. Hopes are high for the Panthers, and the public love affair with Cam Newton — a fully justified emotion — is the biggest reason for that. Tampa Bay was really lousy last year, but they are a very good candidate for a rebound this year. This could go either way. I’ll take the Bucs at home.
Pittsburgh at Denver - All eyes will be on this one for Peyton Manning’s debut. I have concerns about both teams. The Steelers aren’t going to be able to protect Big Ben, and the Broncos are short on talent in some key areas. I don’t love either team, but I will give the edge to the Broncos thanks to the adrenaline and emotion of this situation.
Cincinnati at Baltimore - Marvin Lewis is the worst coach in football — at any level — so the Bengals are very hard for me to like. Baltimore is a better team, and they have the home field advantage. Easy pick — take the Ravens.
San Diego at Oakland - Picking the Chargers in September terrifies me. There is no team less capable of preparing for the start of the season than San Diego typically is. Given that, and given the quiet improvements Oakland has made, I’ll take the Raiders.
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