As always, home team in CAPS:
Denver 7 1/2 BALTIMORE
The first game to kickoff the season looks to be a great matchup. The Ravens are coming off of a Super Bowl championship and the Broncos are projected to be Super Bowl favorites this season. A revamped Ravens defense may have trouble with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Although the Ravens will win the AFC North, take Denver in a tight one.
PITTSBURGH 7 Tennessee
The Steelers should compete for the AFC North crown with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. The best hope for the Titans will be as a playoff spoiler at the end of the season. The Steelers will start the season by covering the points in their home opener.
New England 7 1/2 BUFFALO
With a rookie-laden team, the Patriots be weaker this season. Fortunately for the Pats they play in an bad division. The Bills will be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season and it starts with a blowout loss in New England.
NEW ORLEANS 3 Atlanta
The Saints welcome back Sean Payton and the Saints should be contenders again. The Falcons will be too, but quarterback Matt Ryan is not the answer for Atlanta to make it to the Super Bowl. Ryan is good enough to get his team them to the playoffs but that's it. He's no Drew Brees and the Saints will win the NFC South and this game.
Tampa Bay 3 NEW YORK JETS
The Buccaneers have a new coach, Greg Schiano, and some talent. The Bucs will show improvement but it won't be good enough in a competitive NFC this season. The Jets are a joke and will be lucky to win five games. Rex Ryan is a lame-duck coach and might not last the rest of the season, if not this game. The Bucs win easily.
Kansas City 4 JACKSONVILLE
Big things are expected from the Chiefs this year and new Head Coach Andy Reid hopes to deliver. They have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, who is good and may help them make the playoffs. They should beat a terrible talentless Jaguars team with ease.
Seattle 3 1/2 CAROLINA
The Seahawks should go far this year with dynamic quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm. They will make the playoffs in a tough competitive NFC. Carolina will show improvement if Cam Newton can rebound from a mediocre sophomore season, but they won't win in the season opener.
Miami 1 CLEVELAND
The Dolphins could surprise this year. Except for the Patriots, they play in a terrible division, and Ryan Tannehill looks like he could be the quarterback of the future. The Browns are going to be bad ... again! They have a new owner in Jimmy Haslam, a new Head Coach in Rob Chudzinski, but nonew talent on the team. The Dolphins will start the season with a win in the Dog Pound.
DETROIT 5 Minnesota
The Lions once again have promise on offense and defense. The problem might be the quarterback. Matthew Stafford is inconsistent and injury prone. If he can stay healthy the Lions have too much talent not to compete in the NFC. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson and nothing else. The Lions win big here.
CHICAGO 3 Cincinnati
The Bears have a new Head Coach in Marc Trestman and the Bears should be good. They play in the toughest division, the NFC North, and could be the best division in football. The Bengals snuck into the playoffs last year and they should be better competing for an AFC North. The Bears, however, will be the tougher team and scratch out a close victory.
ST. LOUIS 4 1/2 Arizona
Here are two teams that will be pretty decent but unfortunately play in a division with two likely powerhouses, San Francisco and Seattle. The Rams have some talent and will give teams fits. The Cardinals have a new Head Coach in Bruce Arians, and a new quarterback in Carson Palmer. He will make virtually no difference. Poor Larry Fitzgerald. I'll take the Rams here by virtue of being at home.
DALLAS 3 New York Giants
The Cowboys will remain the same this year. They have the same oddball meddling owner and same lousy quarterback. They will never win with Tony Romo. The Giants look to be steady and are likely be the best team in a mediocre division. Eli Manning will show Romo how to play quarterback and the Giants will beat the Cowboys.
WASHINGTON 5 1/2 Philadelphia
Robert Griffin III is going to start the game, which bodes well for Washington. If he can stay healthy the Redskins will compete for the playoffs this year in a tough NFC. Michael Vick is not the quarterback to lead the Eagles back to a winning season. The Redskins take this NFC East contest.
Houston 3 1/2 SAN DIEGO
The Texans are flying under the radar this year and that may be good for Houston. They will be Super Bowl contenders again. The Chargers finally fired Norv Turner, although it was five years too late. New Head Coach Mike McCoy inherited a team that, with Philip Rivers at the helm, won't be very good. The Texans will win.
GAME OF THE WEEK
SAN FRANCISCO 4 1/2 Green Bay
There are a lot of great games for the first week of the season, but this could be the NFC Championship preview. The 49ers are loaded but their wide receiving corps is hurting. If they can keep it together for the first few games this team could really take off mid-season. The Packers will once again be very good and their division is very strong. As long as Aaron Rodgers stays healthy they will always be contenders for the Super Bowl, but they won't beat the 49ers at home.
STINKER OF THE WEEK
INDIANAPOLIS 10 Oakland
The Colts stunned just about everybody last year, but they won't sneak up this year. Andrew Luck looks great, but it might take a couple of years for them to be consistent winners. The Raiders stink as usual. They have talent and a lousy front office. At least Oakland has the Raiderettes, but that's all they have.
AFC Division Winners: New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver
AFC Wild Cards: Miami and Kansas City
AFC Championship: Denver over Houston
NFC Division Winners: New York Giants, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta and Seattle
NFC Championship: San Francisco over Seattle
Super Bowl XLVIII: Denver over San Francisco
Jim Poore has been a long time contributor to Patriots Insider with his weekly picks column. Let him know what you think. Email him here:
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