Regular Season Sunday NFL Week 1 Free Picks & Predictions (for 9/8/13)
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00 on CBS
NFL Game Line: New England Patriots -7.5 (at 5Dimes)
Week 1 Game Preview:
Everyone will be watching to see how the New England Patriots look in the early going of this season. Many say the move from Wes Welker to Danny Amendola isn’t going to set Tom Brady back, but the loss of Hernandez and uncertainty of Rob Gronkowski won’t help Brady’s options. If the Patriots are going to be successful they’re going to have to go back to the strategy that won them Super Bowls, a bend but don’t break defense, positive turnover ratio, and a more balanced offensive attack. For the first time in a long time, the Patriots defense is outplaying their offense in practice. They have made improvements all over the field and have a few key players returning in 2013 in Arrington and Talib. The continuity on defense and starting with a healthy squad will help the Patriots defense early in the season. Fortunately for them, they get to start the season in Buffalo, where they are 10-2 in the last 12 seasons.
The Buffalo Bills are in much rougher shape entering the season. Mike Pettine will be the Bills third defensive coordinator in the last four seasons. They will be relying on rookie QB EJ Manuel to challenge 6 year journeyman Kevin Kolb for the starting position. Their 2 time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd has yet to accept a contract and the Bills will have one of the youngest WR cores in the NFL. Combine all of this with a few very injury prone key players like Stevie Johnson, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson and Buffalo might be in for a long 2013.
Patriots vs Bills Free NFL Pick: Patriots -7.5 and under 51.5
Patriots vs Bills Game Prediction: 28-17 Patriots
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: Vegas, the public, the experts… nobody knows what to expect from New England offensively going into this season. We think they should find some success starting the season in conference against a team they already like to beat up on. The improvements they made on defense will overcome the missing offensive weapons. The Patriots have too much on the line early this season for a Bills team with a new defensive coordinator, uncertainty at QB and another rebuilding season ahead of them.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on CBS
Week 1 Game Line: Pittsburgh Steelers -7.5 (from 5Dimes)
The Titans had as many offseason moves as any team in the NFL this season. While they didn’t make many big splash, high profile signings they made their team much better in some key areas. They lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson to retirement but acquired Bills guard Andy Levitre, a big, versatile strong blocker to fill the void. Tennessee also drafted Alabama guard Chance Warmack to add to their depth up front, where they really struggled last season. The Titans also added former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to challenge Jake Locker and Jets RB Shonne Greene to share some of Chris Johnson’s workload. While they went against the grain and stayed under the radar, the Titans got better this offseason. The extra time for Locker and extra blocking for Johnson will greatly improve the Titans offensive production.
The Steelers lost as much high profile talent as any team in the NFL this off season. LB James Harrison went to the Bengals, Rashard Mendenhall to the Cardinals and Mike Wallace to the Dolphins to name a few. Pittsburgh has made a living letting their expensive veteran talent walk and filling it with young developed system players. That strategy is going to be tested to the extreme this year because, like usual, the Steelers did not make any major free agency moves. With the recent injury to Burress and the already depleted playmaking core in Pittsburgh they’re going to be relying on their defense to be successful. However, this isn’t the Steelers defense of years past and they’re going to have a hard time being the usual dominant team they’re used to.
Titans vs Steelers Free NFL Pick: Titans +7.5 and under 43.5
Titans vs Steelers Game Prediction: 21-16 Titans
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: Tennessee gets a few big plays from Chris Johnson and show how much their offensive line has improved against a Steelers defense that will make a downturn in the 2013 season. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers won’t have the explosive big play ability, struggle on third down and be held to field goals.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on CBS
Game Line: New Orleans Saints-2.5 (from 5Dimes)
Next to Seattle vs San Francisco, the New Orleans versus Atlanta inter-division rivalry might be the most exciting in all of football this year. The Falcons had to replace strong leaders on both sides of the ball in Michael Turner and John Abraham. They signed RB Stephen Jackson from the Rams, which is a significant upgrade. Turner was running on fumes last year and a hungry Stephen Jackson should help the ground attack that Atlanta was lacking in 2012. Osi Umenyiora from the Giants was signed to help fill Abraham’s void, which seems like a lateral move. The Falcons have had a great QB, WR’s, and coaching for years but they can’t reach the mountain top because of their lacking defense and offensive line. They did little to change that this year, so we are expecting more of the same in Atlanta this year, a promising season and an early playoff exit.
The return of head coach Sean Peyton should make a huge difference in New Orleans this year, they’re poised to be one of the bigger bounce back candidates in the league this season. Drew Brees should return even sharper than he was in 2012 when he had over 5,000 yards with Peyton’s help and the addition of Darren Sproles is exactly what the New Orleans offense needed. With a very easy home schedule and one of the biggest home field advantages in the league the Saints should take back their spot atop the NFC South and make a deep playoff run again this year.
Falcons at Saints Free NFL Pick:: Saints -2.5 and over 53.5
Falcons at Saints Game Prediction: 31-27 Saints
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: The key to this game will be the Falcons defense vs the rejuvenated Saints offense. The Falcons defense did not make any real notable improvements during the offseason while the Saints offense should come out hungry and looking to prove they have returned to dominance. The Saints will march up and down the field and score early and often, while their defense is not the greatest they will have more stops than the Falcons and take an early edge in this division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on Fox
Game Line: New York Jets pk (from 5Dimes)
The only real thing to look forward to in this matchup is CB Darelle Revis’ return to New York. The Bucs look like one of the most improved teams in the league this year, on paper. After a disappointing 7-9 finish last year Tampa spent their offseason getting better, especially in the backfield. They look to remedy the league’s worst pass defense by adding Darelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, two of the premiere defensive back signings this offseason. With QB Josh Freeman and WR Mike Williams both entering a contract seasons and WR Vincent Jackson has had an entire offseason to work with Freeman which should help the passing game. The biggest deficiency in Tampa this year will be the defensive front. Gerald McCoy had the most sacks of any returning player with only 5 but without line mates Bennett and Miller the Bucs run defense will take a hit. The linebacker group is below mediocre as well, which will put a lot of pressure on that revamped secondary.
The Jets will be missing 17 players from last year’s roster, which was nothing good to start with. The offensive line is their only strong point, but without a RB, and WR’s or a TE to speak of it doesn’t really matter how strong your offensive line is. Their defense will keep them in games, as it has in years past. After losing Revis to Tampa they drafted CB Dee Milliner from Alabama, the best corner prospect from the 2013 draft. The defensive line is probably their strongest group, with rookie Sheldon Richardson from Missouri added to an already strong LB/DL core, hopefully they can have success getting to the quarterback because this is one of the only units in New York that have a chance to be successful this season.
Buccaneers at Jets Free NFL Pick: Buccaneers pk and under 40.5
Buccaneers at Jets Game Prediction: 20-13 Buccaneers
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: We’ll be saying this a lot this season… The Jets can’t score any points. A heavy dose of RB by committee from New York isn’t going to have much success against a Tampa run defense that is looking to be one of the best in the league again this season. Their lack of big play ability will hurt them. Tampa gets enough from the passing game and Doug Martin to be successful and get out of MetLife stadium with a win.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on CBS
Game Line: Kansas City Chiefs -3 (from 5Dimes)
The same thing can be written about the Kansas City Chiefs for the last few seasons, they would be a Super Bowl contender if they had a very good quarterback. Alex Smith probably doesn’t qualify as one, unfortunately. However Smith and new head coach Andy Reid are both superior to the Matt Cassel-Romeo Crennel combination that they had in 2012, so they’ll be better than they were last season. Alex Smith should remedy Kansas City’s biggest problem, turnovers. Cassel had 19 of them in 2012, thankfully Alex Smith is known for game managing and not being the reason his team loses which is exactly what the Chiefs were looking for. He might struggle because of Kansas City’s lack of a receiving core but star RB Jamaal Charles should help keep him upright.
Can this version of the Jacksonville Jaguars possibly be worse than last years? We think there’s a very good chance. New GM David Caldwell said that he plans to build around Blaine Gabbert and he stuck to his word by not improving the position in the off season. Justin Blackmon, their #1 WR will be missing for the first four games with a substance-abuse violation. Cecil Short, a second year WR will be asked to step up and he might, he has great route running ability and made consistent improvement in his rookie season. Their defense is laughable, undoubtedly one of the worst in the league. Gene Smith locked up a spot as the worst GM in sports when he drafted kicker Bryan Anger in the third round, so at least the Jags will be decent on special teams.
Chiefs at Jaguars Free NFL Pick: Chiefs -3 and over 41
Chiefs at Jaguars Game Prediction: 31-17 Chiefs
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: The Chiefs will definitely be a team to watch at the start of the season in the AFC West with a new QB and coach, two upgrades they really needed to make. If Andy Reid can keep the teams mental mistakes to a minimum and Alex Smith can eliminate the turnovers they will have no problem with the hapless Jaguars. Expect a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, who will surely breakout a long one against Jacksonville’s defense.
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on FOX
Game Line: Chicago Bears -3 (from 5Dimes)
The Bengals did not make very many major moves this offseason. Instead they committed to Andy Dalton, who has made the playoffs in both his first two seasons. In the first round they drafted a great pass catching TE Tyler Eifert, they followed that by drafting RB Giovani Bernard from UNC who will help on third down, where the Bengals really struggled last season. Combine this with another offseason for AJ Green to mesh with Dalton and we’re expecting much bigger things from the Bengals offense this season. Their defensive and offensive lines were both above average last season and both remain pretty much intact going into 2013. The addition of James Harrison from the Steelers will help a safety position that was one of the worst in the league last year. He should also provide some veteran leadership coming from a Pittsburgh defense that was dominant for almost a decade.
Another team who remained pretty static this offseason was the Bears. The biggest improvement they made was one they desperately needed, at the offensive line. They signed LT Jermon Bushrod from New Orleans and drafted Kyle Long from Oregon to play guard. The Bears are hoping these changes will let Cutler get the ball to Brandon Marshall down the field and Matt Forte out of the backfield. The Bears decided solving their offensive line problems was more important than drafting someone to play alongside Marshall at WR, so expect to see Forte more involved in the passing game this year. The Bears couldn’t draft at the WR position because they also had to replace Hall of Fame LB Brian Urlacher, who retired this offseason. They drafted Florida LB Jon Bostic to be the long term solution and hopefully the Brian Urlacher of the future.
Bengals at Bears Free NFL Pick: Bengals +3 and over 44
Bengals at Bears Game Prediction: 24-23 Bears
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: The new weapons in the Cincinnati offense will be put to the test right away against the Bears premiere defense. This one should come down to the wire, but we think the Bears revamped offensive line keeps Cutler upright, allowing Forte to be more involved and Marshall to expose the Bengals secondary for a big play to put them over the top.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 1:00pm on FOX
Game Line: Seattle Seahawks -2.5 (from 5Dimes)
Seattle is the most improved team in the NFL from the 2012 NFL draft to today. QB Russell Wilson looks like a young and up and coming star in the league and RB Marshawn Lynch just gets better and better year after year. The WR core would’ve been much improved in 2013 but free agent signee Percy Harvin suffered a hip injury in the preseason, the team is hopeful he will be back by Thanksgiving. If there is a weakness to the Seattle offense it is in the offensive line where they are injury laden and penalty prone but their playmaking in the backfield overcame this last year. One major intamgible for Seattle that might keep them from having home field advantage come playoff time is their schedule. They have to travel to the East coast four times this season where they are 1-8 since 2008. They also have to play 6 games against 2012 playoff teams and a few games versus teams we really expect to improve this season which might keep them from a deep playoff run.
The Carolina Panthers success will depend heavily on QB Cam Newton this year. He is responsible for almost 70% of their offense either through the air or on the ground. He finished very well last year, 5-1 in his last 6 games while limiting turnovers, so we think he can parlay that into a strong start in 2013. Newton’s playmaking supporting cast is mediocre at best again this season. His two top targets, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen aren’t getting any younger nor is their RB core of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. One of the biggest reasons the Panthers won’t contend again this season is their defense. They have one of the worst defensive backfields in the NFL, which Atlanta and New Orleans will pick apart twice this year. They got better up front by drafting two highly touted defensive linemen, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and will have a young but returning linbacking core that should improve this year. Unfortunately, you have to have a secondary to compete in this league and Carolina does not have a very good one.
Seahawks at Panthers Pick: Panthers +2.5 and under 45.5
Seahawks at Panthers Game Prediction: 21-20 Panthers
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: Not having Percy Harvin will hurt Seattle in this week 1 matchup. Seattle’s offense will struggle to get the ground game going and without a strong WR to expose the Carolina secondary they will have a hard time breaking off big chunks of yardage. Cam Newton is good for one or two big plays and we think that will hold up here. This will be Seattle’s first east coast game of the season and we like the Panthers chances in this one.
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on CBS
Game Line: Cleveland Browns pk (from 5Dimes)
Preview: Many think the Dolphins will be a surprising team this season, while their division definitely took a downturn we are not as high on their offseason acquisitions as most. They signed WR Mike Wallace from Pittsburgh, but his high drop rate and bad attitude might hurt this young team more than help it. They also grabbed TE Dustin Keller from the Jets but he is coming off an injury plagued season and isn’t getting any younger. They also let a potential star left tackle Jake Long walk and will be forced to insert Jonathan Martin, a second year player who will be changing positions. While their offense is a giant question mark they did make marketable improvements to their defensive front. They drafted Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan who many believe to be the top edge rusher in this rookie class. Their secondary is also a question mark, they let #1 CB Sean Smith walk and replaced him with Brent Grimes who is coming off a torn Achilles.
The Cleveland Browns offense will go as Brandon Weeden goes this year and based off of his rookie campaign there isn’t much to hope for. In 2012 Weeden completed just 57% of his passes and had a -4 turnover to touchdown ratio. His receiving core will look different as Mohamed Massaquoi is gone, Devon Bess from Miami will fill his spot. Josh Gordon, second year WR with promise after a solid rookie season will be starting opposite Bess. The Browns do look good up front, however. They have Joe Thomas who many consider the best left tackle in the league, Alex Mack is a stud center and right guard John Greco is another solid blocker. Their defense was one of the better units last year, so naturally they overhauled it during the offseason. New head coach Mike Lombardi is going from a 3-4 from a 4-3. Two of their better defenders Jabaal Sheard and Ahtyba Rubin have looked completely lost in this new system during camp. The Browns showed some promise in 2012, but sabotaged it by changing coaches and systems yet again; assuring Cleveland will be in for another long season in 2013.
Dolphins at Browns Free NFL Pick: Miami pk and under 41
Dolphins at Browns Game Prediction: 20-17 Miami
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: Two teams who made significant changes looking to improve might have only hurt themselves. Cleveland will be move the ball as long as Trent Richardson is healthy but the lack of a passing game will hurt them. There will be plenty of punting in this game but Tannehill has the QB edge over Weeded and will pull this one out.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 1:00pm on FOX
Game Line: Detroit Lions -3.5 (from 5Dimes)
The Vikings scratched their way into the playoffs last year behind one of the best offensive seasons of all time from RB Adrian Peterson. Peterson will need to duplicate that, or Ponder will have to show marked improvement, or their schedule will have to prove easier than it looks for the Vikings to have the same success in 2013. Minnesota sent star WR and return specialist Percy Harvin to Seattle and signed WR Greg Jennings from Green Bay to fill the void. This is a less than lateral move with Greg Jennings injury problems and the fact that he had Farve and Rodgers throwing the ball to him in Green Bay, a giant step from Christian Ponder. Their offensive line is very strong, and made little change this offseason aside from a few late draft picks they’re hoping to develop into future starters. The same can be said for the defensive line, led by Jared Allen who hasn’t missed a game in 5 years and is one of the best in the business. The Vikings defensive weakness comes in their secondary where the weak side LB and middle LB are both huge question marks. Aside from Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, Minnesota is a very average team with good but not great players all over the field.
The Detroit Lions were a team of much promise and little production in 2012, one of the most disappointing teams in the league. WR Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s receiving yardage record but Detroit’s offense scored just 37 TD’s (Drew Breese had 43 himself). Mental mistakes and turnovers were the biggest reason for sharp decline in Detroit. TE Brandon Pettigrew led all NFL TE’s in drops and star WR Calvin Johnson finished second to Wes Welker in drops as well. The Lions do have something to work with on the ground for a change. Reggie Bush will be looking to catch balls out of the backfield and boost the Lions awful kick return game in 2013. Detroit is hoping the quick passes and dump offs will help their terrible offensive line. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired, right tackle Gosder Cherilus signed with Indianapolis and guard Corey Hilliard didn’t play a snap in 2012. The Lions have plenty of talent on their roster, but that was the case last year when they went 4-12. They’re a team with a ton of potential that can’t get out of their own way and we don’t see that changing much in 2013, especially with their total lack of an offensive line.
Vikings at Lions Free NFL Pick: Vikings +3.5 and over 46
Vikings at Lions Game Prediction: 28-27 Lions
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: These two teams will go about this game in totally opposite ways. Minnesota with a heavy dose of Peterson, slowing the game down and methodically marching down the field while Detroit will have many 3-and-out’s but get yardage in huge chunks when they don’t. Detroit will rally late and pull out a win in a very close game.
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13at 1:00pm on CBS
Game Line: Indianapolis Colts -7.5 (from 5Dimes)
The Oakland Raiders have a legitimate shot to become the second 0-16 team in the history of the NFL this year. Their RB Darren McFadden has shown flashes but has problems staying healthy. They traded away draft picks for the third season to land journey man Matt Flynn. They lost WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brandon Myers during the offseason and will work with Denarius Moore and second year receiver Rod Streater. Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize a single defensive player from the Raiders either, they are only returning two starters from 2012, DE Lamarr Houston who is a talented run stopper and stud safety Tyvon Branch. The Raiders signed CB Charles Woodson to play opposite him. The rest of the defense is a patchwork of players other teams didn’t want and unhealthy draft picks they made over the last two seasons. We are not expecting much of anything from the Raiders this year.
The Colts held pat at the skill positions on offense. Second year QB Andrew Luck will still be throwing the ball to Reggie Wayne a group of second year playmakers in WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. The addition of Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton who coached both Allen and Luck at Stanford will help with the progression of this offense. Another reason to expect marked improvement from the Colts offense is the signing of RB Ahmad Bradshaw from the Giants. He will help take some of the load from Vick Ballard who played very well in 2012. While their offensive line isn’t as solid as most their strong coaching, QB play and development of young receiving core should help improve this squad this year. The Colts defense should be better too, Pro Bowl Safety LaRon Landry was brought over from the Jets and CB Greg Toler from the Cardinals who if healthy are both quality additions. Like the offensive line on offense, the defensive line on defense is their biggest question mark. They overpaid a few mediocre guys in Erik Walden ( 4 years, $16 million) Rickey Jean-Francois (4 years $22 million) who will both be lucky to start regularly in Indianapolis. Many are expecting regression from the Colts this year but Andrew Luck could just as easily take a step forward and lead his team back to the playoffs.
Raiders at Colts Free NFL Pick: Colts -7.5 and over 47.5
Raiders at Colts Game Prediction: 31-20 Colts
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: This will be everyone’s first chance to see how truly inept this version of the Raiders is. Andrew Luck and company will march up and down the field while Oakland can’t get out of their own way with penalties, turnovers and bad decisions. They will manage to score a few points as long as RB Darren McFadden is healthy but he hasn’t played an entire season yet in his career and we don’t see him finishing in 2013.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 4:25pm on FOX
Game Line: San Francisco 49ers -4 (from 5Dimes)
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers who many believe to be the best in the league will have a very dynamic supporting cast again this year, despite losing WR Greg Jennings. Slot receiver Randall Cobb emerged last season as a playmaker running the ball, returning kicks and catching short passes. James Jones and Jordy Nelson will return on the outside. Nelson missed a lot of time hurt last year but should be healthy to start 2013 and Jones finally stopped dropping passes in 2012. Aaron Rodgers could be even more effective this season because the Packers spent a second round pick on Eddie Lacy, a gritty runner with high expectations. They followed that two rounds later by choosing Jonathan Franklin from UCLA who many believe was the top back in the 2013 draft class. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent this offseason learning how to stop the read-option. They drafted DL Datone Jones, a solid pass rusher who will start along Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji and really solidify their defensive front. Their LB core was good, lead by Clay Mathews and A.J. Hawk but their secondary took a hit. Losing Charles Woodson, their heart and soul, will not help and they did nothing to remedy losing him.
Many will expect a sophomore slump from 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, given that opposing coaches spent their off season trying to figure out how to stop him. However, head coach Jim Harbaugh is one of the best offensive minds in the business and he won’t let Kaepernick decline. There will be no Kaepernick to Crabtree connection in 2013 as the young receiver tore his Achilles in the offseason. San Francisco brought in Anquan Boldin from Baltimore is expected to fill this void. The 49ers will rely heavily on RB Frank Gore again this year. Gore used to be very injury prone but hasn’t missed a game since Harbaugh took over as coach. Their running game is so effective because their offensive line is one of the best in the game and underwent little change. Their defensive front is every bit as good as their offensive front. The two Smith’s, Aldon and Justin can get to the quarterback at any time. Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks are great run stoppers, LB’s Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman don’t have a weakness either. All of this pressure on the QB will help mask the weakness of the 49ers defense, the secondary. Dashon Goldson left for Tampa Bay and will be replaced by Eric Reid. They also signed Nnamdi Asomugha, who needs Harbaugh to rejuvenate him, he was dreadful in Philadelphia.
Packers at 49ers Free NFL Pick: Packers +4 and over 48.5
Packers at 49ers Game Prediction: 31-28 49ers
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: It has been well documented that Green Bay defense spent this entire offseason working to stop the read-option, which the 49ers run very well, but we don’t think it will happen. Harbaugh is too good of a coach and Kaepernick just seems to have that “it” factor. Green Bay will use quick passes and their new found running game to keep Aaron Rodgers upright but San Francisco seems to be the Packers kryptonite.
Arizona Cardinals at St Louis Rams
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 4:25pm on FOX
Game Line: St Louis Rams -6 (from 5Dimes)
The Cardinals had to find a competent QB to help Larry Fitzgerald this offseason, and they did, acquiring Carson Palmer from Oakland for just a seventh round pick. Palmer is not the QB he once was, but he is much better than Arizona’s other options. Palmer will have a few solid options to throw to, Michael Floyd had some bright moments in his rookie season last year and young TE Rob Housler has the physical talent but has never had anyone who could utilize him. Palmer will not have the luxury of a running game however. Rashard Mendenhall was signed to replace Chris Wells, but he isn’t any good. He might be overtaken quickly by either Ryan Williams or Stepfan Taylor, two young players with upside. There’s reason for hope with the Cardinals offensive line that was abysmal in 2012. Levi Brown missed all of 2012 with a torn triceps, RT Bobbie Massie made huge improvements as a rookie and they drafted Jonathan Cooper who can play multiple positions. Arizona’s defensive front started great in 2012 but injuries ruined their chances. They didn’t make many changes and are hoping Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell will stay healthy this season. Patrick Peterson is a stud, but the rest of the defensive backfield is a huge question mark. The Cardinals will be better in 2013 with a competent QB, but with teams like San Fran and Seattle in their division they’re still a long way from relevance.
St. Louis was very aggressive this offseason and looks to be one of the league’s most improved teams. We will find out if QB Sam Bradford can get it done because the lack of options he had in the past is no excuse this season. They signed OL Jake Long from Miami and TE Jarrod Cook from Tennessee and moved up in the draft to sign lightning quick WR Tavon Austin. The two areas St. Louis didn’t address on offense this offseason was the interior of the offensive line, which was already serviceable and the RB corps. They lost RB Stephen Jackson to Atlanta and are left with two second year hopefuls Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, neither impressed in 2012. Their defense is extremely under rated, they did a great job of keeping their team in games last year. Chris Long and Robert Quinn might be the best DE duo in the league and Michael Brockers is a second year DT with upside. This defensive front will really benefit their already above average secondary. CB’s Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins didn’t allow a TD between them until week 8 last year. They will need to be shut-down again this year because their safety situation is not a good one.
Cardinals at Rams Free NFL Pick: Cardinals +6 and under 41.5
Cardinals at Rams Game Prediction: 24-21 Rams
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: The Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald connection will help the Cardinals, while neither team will have any success running the ball. Sam Bradford will have more opportunities to make plays and the Rams will pull it off late.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Date and Time: Sunday 9/8/13 at 8:30pm on NBC
Game Line: Dallas Cowboys -2.5 (from 5Dimes)
The Giants go as Eli Manning goes. He was great for the first half of the 2012 season, but fell apart throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in the second half. The front office attributed this to the loss of Hakim Nicks, who was hurt for the fourth year in a row. They resigned Victor Cruz, who was a bright spot last season and kept their running backs. Ahmad Bradshaw left for Indianapolis but rookie David Wilson showed flashes of being great in his place. The Giants used their first round pick to bolster their offensive line, grabbing Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh who can play any position on the line. He’ll start at right tackle and fill a huge void. The decline of several members of the New York defense was also noticeable. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora had terrible 2012 seasons. The Giants sent Umenyioria to the Falcons and are hoping Tuck gets back to his 2011 form. Jason Pierre-Paul was still a bright spot, putting tons of pressure on opposing QBs. They need this front to get as much pressure as possible because their secondary is an unknown. CB Corey Webster was abused last year and Prince Amukamara is talented but can’t stay healthy. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are above average and will be needed in coverage often.
The Cowboys were the team that made the fewest personnel changes this offseason. Dallas QB Tony Romo gets a lot of unwarranted blame for the Cowboys late season collapses. While he isn’t the most clutch quarterback in big games he always gives his team a chance to win. With the WR core of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten we expect them to have success through the air again this year. The running back situation also remains unchanged, starter DeMarco Murray hopes to stay healthy but will surely miss some time and rookie Joseph Randle will see some snaps. Romo took a beating last year because their offensive line was so bad, which led Jerry Jones to reach for C Travis Frederick in the first round who will start among a group of blockers who had little success in 2012. The Cowboys will go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The four defensive line starters were on the team last year, though they are having problems adjusting to the new scheme. There is a new linebacker, Justin Durant was signed from the Lions though he should only play on first and second down. The returners, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will be featured. They are both injury prone but both have potential when healthy.
Sunday Night Football Free Pick: Cowboys -2.5 and over 47.5
Giants at Cowboys Game Prediction: 28-24 Cowboys
What to watch for in this week 1 NFL matchup: The Cowboys passing game will have a lot of success here if they can keep Romo on his feet. The Giants won’t know what to expect facing Kiffin’s new defensive scheme for the first time, leading to turnovers and sacks but the big play will keep them in the game. Romo is out to prove he is worth his big contract and won’t blow this one.