With the start of the NFL regular season comes the start of a new picks competition. This year, MDS will pit his prognostication skills against the proprietor of this portal. At least I can proudly say I’m currently tied for the lead at 0-0.
And given that we disagree on only one game, I’m guaranteed to be no more than one game back after one week.
Cowboys at Giants
Florio’s take: That Dallas playoff win by the Giants in 2007 not only fueled a Super Bowl run but also sparked the first of seven wins by New York in nine games against their NFC East rivals. Underestimated by many (not me) as they try to become the first team to repeat in nearly a decade, the Giants should be able to continue the string of eight straight defending champs who launch the ensuing season with a win.
Florio’s pick: Giants 30, Cowboys 24.
MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset in an attempt to put some distance between myself and Florio right off the bat, but this looks like a tough game for the Cowboys to win. The Giants’ pass rush is going to give Tony Romo fits, and Romo likely won’t have his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten. The Super Bowl champions will begin the 2012 regular season the way they ended the 2011 regular season, by beating the Cowboys.
MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 14.
Colts at Bears
Florio’s take: In 1961, a far less heralded rookie quarterback who would become a Hall of Famer launched his career with the Vikings (and the life of an expansion team) with a win over the Bears. Though the Colts in many ways feel like a first-year franchise, lightning likely won’t be striking again, 51 years later. Andrew Luck looks to be the real thing, but he’ll have to wait for a Week Two visit from the Vikings to get his first NFL win.
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Colts 13.
MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has looked outstanding in the preseason, but I’m not falling into the trap of thinking a new franchise quarterback means the Colts are going to pick up right where they left off when Peyton Manning was healthy. Even if Luck is outstanding when the games count for real, the Colts have all kinds of problems on defense, and I like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte to have big games on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Colts 17.
Eagles at Browns
Florio’s take: A reunion of the Green Bay mafia will be conducted on Sunday, with various branches of the Mike Holmgren tree coming together in Cleveland. But the Factory of Sadness will likely continue to churn out chagrin for the denizens of the Dawg Pound. Though Mike Vick may not be able to stay healthy all season, he’ll be ready go to in Week One. And so will the rest of his teammates.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 35, Browns 20.
MDS’s take: I’m not sold on the Eagles, but I am sold on the Browns — sold on the idea that they’re the worst team in the league this year. It’s going to be a rough season in Cleveland.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Browns 7.
Rams at Lions
Florio’s take: Even when the Rams won the Super Bowl, they couldn’t win in Detroit. Now that the Lions are moving closer to a Super Bowl berth of their own, this one could get ugly. Quickly.
Florio’s pick: Lions 27, Rams 10.
MDS’s take: Jeff Fisher is going to turn the Rams around, and they’re going to be a much better team this season than they were last season. An upset over the team coached by Fisher’s old protege Jim Schwartz wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ll pick Detroit in a nail-biter.
MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Rams 20.
Dolphins at Texans
Florio’s take: The Dolphins won’t truly experience Hard Knocks until they get a look at the Texans’ defense. I rarely predict a shutout. It’s not really all that much of a stretch on this one.
Florio’s pick: Texans 20, Dolphins 0.
MDS’s take: This looks like Week One’s biggest mismatch. Ryan Tannehill will have a steep learning curve adjusting to the NFL, while Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and the Texans’ offense will be in midseason form. This is a beatdown.
MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Dolphins 7.
Falcons at Chiefs
Florio’s take: Last year, I had a feeling that the much-hyped Falcons wouldn’t fare well on a Week One trip to the Midwest, against the Bears. This year, the Falcons are on the road to the Heartland again, against the Chiefs. But they’ve got too much firepower, notwithstanding the firewater-influenced fanatics at Arrowhead.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Chiefs 24.
MDS’s take: Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has expressed disappointment with his team’s performance in the preseason, and with good reason. The Chiefs have looked shaky on both sides of the ball. Kansas City
got off to a very rough start last season and never recovered, and the start of this season could be rough as well.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Chiefs 10.
Jaguars at Vikings
Florio’s take: The battle for Matt Barkley would have been a hell of a lot more compelling in Week 17. When the talent level is equally suspect, the home team gets the edge.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Jaguars 17.
MDS’s take: Who’s more likely to play and play well in this one, Maurice Jones-Drew or Adrian Peterson? Jones-Drew is healthy and says he’s been staying in shape, but one week isn’t enough to completely learn an offense after a lengthy holdout, and I see Jones-Drew struggling early this season in much the same way Chris Johnson did last season. Peterson didn’t play at all in the preseason, but from all accounts he has recovered from last year’s season-ending torn ACL, and I like him to have a big game in Week One.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Jaguars 16.
Redskins at Saints
Florio’s take: In a May appearance on PFT Live, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan joked that he hoped Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be suspended for Week One. That would have been Washington’s only chance to steal a win in a Superdome that will be rocking almost as loud as it was the night they reopened the place in 2006.
Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Redskins 22.
MDS’s take: The Saints feel like they have a point to prove, and they’ll be motivated, and the Superdome will be a hostile environment for Robert Griffin III. I think the Redskins’ offense is going to be better than most people expect, and they’ll put some points on the board against the Saints, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense will score more.
MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Redskins 24.
Bills at Jets
Florio’s take: Lost in the hand-wringing regarding the Jets’ offense is the fact that the defense is still pretty good. Good enough to outscore a Bills team that, while improving, isn’t ready to steal one on the road to start the season.
Florio’s pick: Jets 15, Bills 10.
MDS’s take: This looks to me like one of the most interesting matchups of Week One, because the Jets are desperate to show that their terrible offensive showing in the preseason didn’t mean anything. Unfortunately for the Jets, I think the Bills, bolstered by the addition of Mario Williams, have exactly the kind of defense that can pressure Mark Sanchez and force him into a multiple-turnover game. The
chants for Tim Tebow be deafening by the end of this game.
MDS’s pick: Bills 10, Jets 3.
Patriots at Titans
Florio’s take: The last time these two teams got together, the Patriots scored 59, and the Titans scored nothing. While much has changed in Tennessee since 2009, enough players are still there to remind the teammates and the coaches of that day. And it would matter if the Titans had the horses of defense to keep up with New England’s offense.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Titans 26.
MDS’s take: The consistency of the Patriots in the salary-cap era in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable. The Patriots look, once again, like one of the best teams in the NFL, and Bill Belichick’s defense will give fits to Titans quarterback Jake Locker, making his first NFL start.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 17.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Florio’s take: The Cardinals didn’t have a shot at quarterback Russell Wilson, given that they sent their second-round pick to Philadelphia for a quarterback who is now second string. But coach Ken Whisenhunt may be wishing that the team had traded up six spots to get the Seahawks’ new starter; Wilson looks to be better than anything the Cardinals have at the position, which may be enough to pull off a Week One division road win.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21.
MDS’s take: Russell Wilson emerged as the starter in Seattle after one of the most impressive performances in the NFL preseason, while John Skelton became the starter by default in Arizona because Kevin Kolb was one of the least impressive players in the NFL preseason. Advantage: Seattle.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 20.
49ers at Packers
Florio’s take: When one of the best offenses meets one of the best defenses, the game will turn on how the other offense fares against the other defense. The Packers defense has improved just enough to hold serve at Lambeau Field in the season opener.
Florio’s pick: Packers 30, 49ers 27.
MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers gave us a potential NFC Championship Game preview in Week One, and I see the Packers’ offense picking right up where they left off last year — and the Packers’ defense looking better.
MDS’s pick: Packers 27, 49ers 14.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Florio’s take: The Bucs are laying the foundation for a very good team. The Panthers are on the brink of being a very good team. Cam Newton will be out to prove last year was no fluke, and an improved defense will keep it from turning into a shootout.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.
MDS’s take: Cam Newton won’t have a sophomore slump — he’ll be every bit the player this year that he as a rookie, and the Panthers will have a better team around him. Greg Schiano will turn the Bucs around, but there are going to be growing pains along the way, and they’ll struggle against the Panthers’ offense. This will be the Panthers’ first statement that they’re a team to be reckoned with in the NFC.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 14.
Steelers at Broncos
Florio’s take: Some say this could be the highest-rated regular-season game in NFL history. Though the 1985 Bears-Dolphins game ultimately may keep the crown, the return of Peyton Manning could set the high-water mark for the entire 2012 season. He wouldn’t have come back if he couldn’t get it done, and the Steelers have too many issues to come out of the gates with a road win.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 17.
MDS’s take: This is a rematch of last year’s playoff meeting, but it’s a very different game with Peyton Manning at the helm in Denver and Tim Tebow off running the wildcat with the Jets. The result, however, will be similar: In a close, competitive game, the Broncos’ offense will get a late score to win it.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 17.
Bengals at Ravens
Florio’s take: Cincinnati gets its first chance in 2012 to win a game that it shouldn’t. Though in time those wins will come, the Ravens have too much talent on both sides of the ball.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 31, Bengals 24.
MDS’s take: The Bengals took a big step forward last year with the emergence of a young offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. This is an opportunity for them to make a very big statement about re-ordering the AFC North, but I see the Ravens’ defense making a big statement that they’re not going to let their young rivals get the best of them just yet.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Bengals 13.
Chargers at Raiders
Florio’s take: Oakland is taking a step back in the hopes of eventually taking a giant leap forward. The Chargers are trying to finally put the pieces together. For now, advantage Chargers.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.
MDS’s take: In the game that will have those in the Eastern time zone drinking coffee late into Monday night and showing up to work bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning, the Chargers will get a big game from Philip Rivers and get a leg up on the Raiders in the AFC West.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.