NFL Odds: Week 1 Matchup Power Rankings
by Alan Matthews - 5/22/2014
Now that odds for every single NFL regular-season game have been released by a few books, which is just terrific, I will start previewing each week of the season by ranking the games in order of strongest matchup to weakest. I'd like to say I will pick a winner in each side, but obviously injuries are fairly prevalent in the NFL, so there's no way to project past Week 1.
1. Packers at Seahawks (-6, 45): How can't this be No. 1? The Seahawks back in their home stadium for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in the 2014 season opener. Think it will be loud there? It's Green Bay's first visit since the "Fail Mary" game in Week 3 of the 2012 season, with the replacement refs blowing the call. That embarrassment forced the NFL to work out a new deal quickly with the regular officials, and they were back the next week.
2. Colts at Broncos (-7.5, 55.5): Indianapolis handed the Broncos their first loss of the 2013 season in Peyton Manning's first trip back to the Indy. A key to that win was the pressure put on Manning all night by the Colts, especially Robert Mathis. He's suspended the first four games of 2014, barring a successful appeal (not happening). Mathis led the NFL in sacks last season and had two of Manning in that game, also forcing a fumble. I expect a monster game from Manning after he was embarrassed in the Super Bowl. Take the "over" because the Broncos will score at least 40 barring unusual weather.
3. Saints at Falcons (-1, 52): I fully expect Atlanta to be back to 2012 form now that the Falcons have added protection up front for Matt Ryan and that Julio Jones is back healthy. The Saints have largely owned Atlanta since Ryan joined the team and beat the Falcons 23-17 in the opener last season in New Orleans. That seemed to set the tone for each team's season.
4. Bengals at Ravens (-2.5, 43.5): Baltimore suffered through a major Super Bowl hangover in 2013 as was evident by how the Ravens were eviscerated in the season opener in Denver. Was Joe Flacco's regression a fluke or a sign of things to come? The winner of this game gets an early leg up for the AFC North title, especially if it's defending champion Cincinnati winning on the road.
5. 49ers at Cowboys (+3.5, 48.5): Have the Cowboys fixed their NFL-worst defense? Will Tony Romo be 100 percent off back surgery? Will tremendous 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman be ready for the opener after shredding his knee in the NFC title game? If the Cowboys don't pull the upset they might start 0-3 with two road games up next.
6. Chargers at Cardinals (-3.5, 44.5): I find these teams similar in that I have no idea what to expect from either. San Diego snuck into the playoffs last year, while the Cardinals were the only team with double-digit wins to miss out. Did both overachieve? I think that's possible. Playing in the ultra-tough NFC West, Arizona has to dominate its out-of-division schedule to hope for the postseason this year.
7. Patriots at Dolphins (+3, 47): New England had won seven straight in this series before falling 24-20 in Miami in Week 15 last year. And really the Fins should have won in New England as well, blowing a 17-3 third-quarter lead. The big question for this game: Will Rob Gronkowski be ready off his major knee surgery?
8. Bills at Bears (-6.5, 49): Buffalo is 0-5 all-time in Chicago. This one could be a sneaky shootout. The Bills have some pretty good skill position talent now with the addition of Sammy Watkins, an early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, to go with Robert Woods, Mike Williams and C.J. Spiller. It's just a matter of whether E.J. Manuel is any good. Chicago's defense was terrible last year but added several players on that side of the ball.
9. Redskins at Texans (-1.5, 46): The debut of DeSean Jackson in a Redskins uniform as well as Jay Gruden as Washington's head coach. This could be a dynamic offense. So could Houston's if the Texans had a quarterback. I'm guessing it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick for Week 1.
10. Panthers at Buccaneers (+2, 40): Carolina dominated the Bucs in sweeping them last season, but this Tampa Bay team looks much better and the Panthers worse. It's the debut of Bucs coach Lovie Smith, quarterback Josh McCown and another Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite, receiver Mike Evans. Tampa wins this game.
11. Giants at Lions (-3.5, 45.5): No game typified the Lions' mistake-prone ways under former coach Jim Schwartz than Detroit's 23-20 overtime home loss to New York in Week 16 last season. The Lions might have won the NFC North had they won that game, but of course they blew it against a Giants team playing out the string. The loss eliminated Detroit from playoff contention. Let's see if the Lions have some discipline under new coach Jim Caldwell. This does look like a Detroit blowout to me.
12. Raiders at Jets (-6, 39.5): New York has to win this game because its next six are pretty tough. Who will be under center for the Jets, Geno Smith or Michael Vick? My guess is Vick, even though Smith goes into camp with the job. It's the Oakland debut of new starting QB Matt Schaub.
13. Titans at Chiefs (-6, 44): My expectation is that no team will take a bigger step back in the AFC than Kansas City this season as it lost a ton in free agency and didn't add any weapons for Alex Smith. No team outside of Minnesota is more reliant on one player that's not a quarterback than the Chiefs are with running back Jamaal Charles. If he gets hurt this season, it could be ugly. Very curious to see how K.C. plays here considering the last time it took the field the Chiefs had one of the biggest playoff collapses in NFL history. The Titans, meanwhile, should be much more interesting offensively in 2014 under new coach Ken Whisenhunt.
14. Vikings at Rams (-6, 46): Will it be Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater under center for Minnesota? All signs point to Cassel. I expect it to be the final opener in a Vikings uniform for Adrian Peterson. He's either traded or waived before next season. St. Louis was good against the run last year, so I don't expect Minnesota to score much here.
15. Jaguars at Eagles (-11, 52.5): This looks to be the clear mismatch of Week 1 and the only double-digit line. Jacksonville played better as last season went on. It will be Chad Henne under center for the Jags unless he's injured before the opener. Jacksonville has no plans to start Blake Bortles once this season. Could Philly be caught looking ahead to a Week 2 trip to Indy?
16. Browns at Steelers (-6, 41):
Needless to say, this game would jump up the list if by some miracle it's Johnny Manziel under center for the Browns, but that's apparently not going to
happen unless Brian Hoyer gets injured between now and Sept. 7. It wouldn't shock me to see Pittsburgh pitch a shutout here with the Browns missing the
suspended Josh Gordon. Ben Roethlisberger also never loses to Cleveland.
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