Picking winners in the first week of the season is tough. We have little meaningful current information about what teams are capable of, so we are forced to guess far more than is ideal. Because of that, I consider the opening week a success if I reach double-digit wins. There’s a checkmark beside that goal this year, so I’m a happy guy — and we’ll only get better going forward. Here’s how this week shakes out. Remember, these picks are all straight up, not against the spread:
Chicago at Green Bay - Green Bay did not start the way they would have liked to. In fact, they got schooled by the Niners. There were problems, but the fact is that San Francisco proved that they are a very good team. Chicago won handily, but were hardly tested by the Colts so it’s hard to know what they are capable of. Andrew Luck amassed a lot of passing yards despite having no talent around him, so Aaron Rodgers should feast on the Bears. Take the Packers.
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Tampa Bay at N.Y. Giants - I like the Bucs, and I love how they shut down the run for the Panthers last week. I’m tempted to pick them here — in part because I’m not a big believer in the Giants — but it’s slightly too much of a gamble here. Sometimes you have to be boring to win these things. Take the Giants.
New Orleans at Carolina - I can’t even begin to figure out what happened to the Saints in their opener against Washington, so I’m not even going to try. I’ll give them a mulligan, and assume that their superior depth and experience should give them the edge here. Take the Saints.
Arizona at New England - Let’s not waste the time of any of us here. Just take the Patriots.
Minnesota at Indianapolis - This game will not be pretty. Both teams have a lot of issues, and neither is particularly good. The crowd is going to be crazy, and Andrew Luck and company should benefit from the support. That should be enough to make the difference in this sloppy game. Take the Colts.
Baltimore at Philadelphia - Baltimore was very strong on both sides of the ball in their opener. Thoroughly dominating. Against a team that struggled in their opener — and particularly against a quarterback that second-guessed every decision he made — they should again be able to shine. Take the Ravens.
Kansas City at Buffalo - A week ago I would have picked the Bills without hesitation. Their opener against the Jets was a total mess, though, and now I’m not sure what to expect here. Kansas City wasn’t exactly flawless, though, and Buffalo is at home. Take the Bills.
Cleveland at Cincinnati - The Bengals were terrible in their opening game. Lucky for them, the Browns were significantly worse. I’m not sure Brandon Weeden will ever be an NFL QB, but if he is it will take a while. Take the Bengals.
Houston at Jacksonville - Houston is a very good team and they showed it in their opener. Jacksonville is a very underwhelming team, and they showed that, too. No reason not to take the Texans here.
Oakland at Miami - I’ll take the Raiders on one condition — that you promise me that I don’t have to watch this total mess of a game. Take the Raiders.
Dallas at Seattle - I like Russell Wilson a lot. Though he had a few issues in his opener, I saw nothing to change that. Dallas significantly upgraded their secondary, though, and Rob Ryan is a master at disrupting quarterbacks. This will be tougher by far than the opener against Arizona, and Wilson had enough issues with that. Take the Cowboys.
Washington at St. Louis - As I said earlier, I have absolutely no way of explaining what happened in Washington’s win at New Orleans. I just don’t get it. That makes this game very tough to pick since I liked a lot of what I saw from St. Louis in the opener — and I think that it’s sustainable. Flip a coin. Mine came up heads, so I’ll take the Rams.
N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh - I don’t believe that the Jets can sustain the explosive offensive performance they put forth in their opener. They benefited from a terrible opposing quarterback performance, and a surprisingly non-existent pass rush. Pittsburgh has issues — like a pathetic offensive line — but they should have enough here at home. Take the Steelers.
Tennessee at San Diego - It’s September, so trusting the Chargers is risky. They are the better team here, though, and they are at home. Hard to look beyond them here — especially since Chris Johnson seems to have forgotten how to run. Take the Chargers.
Detroit at San Francisco - It’s a brutal start to the season for the Niners — a trip to Green Bay followed by a home game against the Lions. They handled themselves so well in their opener, though, that it’s easy to believe they can handle this as well. Matthew Stafford struggled in his first game, and now he faces the best defense in the league. Take the Niners.
Denver at Atlanta - The Manning bandwagon will take a hit this week. After his solid opening week people were planning the Super Bowl parade in Denver. Now he’s on the road against a better all-round team — one that doesn’t have the offensive line issues that Pittsburgh has, and that Denver was able to exploit. Take the Falcons.
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