After months of waiting, the opening kickoff for the 2012 NFL season is almost here. It's time to celebrate.
*Queue dancing music*
With the Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants acting as our christmas eve present on wednesday, the NFL season will officially begin. Having the opening game four days ahead of the greatest day of the week is tough, but who cares. We are getting a game to hold us over. So we wanted to take a look at all the Week 1 games and give you our takes on what is going to happen and who we think is going to start the season 1-0. Check it out!
Josh Stanley's Predictions
-The first game of the season features America's Cowboys and the champion Giants. Playing at home will be a big help for the Giants. With the whole team pretty much healthy, the Giants will have no problem scoring points and stopping the Cowboys. Dallas has too many injuries bugs going around the team and I think that will factor into how the offense does all game. With Jason Witten very questionable and Miles Austin and Dez Bryant missing all of preseason, I think the Cowboys are going to come out a little rusty. The defense has improved big time from last year, but I don't think they will have enough points by the end of the game. I'm giving the first game of the year to the Giants.
Prediction: New York 27, Dallas 17
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons
-Moving on to Sunday, the Chiefs will look to rebound from a shaky 2011 season and go head-to-head with the Falcons. For the Chiefs, injuries were the problem last year, but they will have all there guys back, especially Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. The Chiefs picked up Peyton Hillis to help Charles stay healthy and fresh, so he will look to take over the role that Thomas Jones once played. For the Falcons, they will enter 2012 with one of the deepest and scariest offenses in the game. Matt Ryan has targets all over the place and the run game always produces behind him. The Chiefs may have made moves in the offseason to re-build the defense, but I don't see them holding the Falcons down and that will be their downfall. Falcons over Chiefs in an easy game.
Prediction: Falcons 28, Chiefs 14
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
-Heading out to Cleveland, the Eagles are about to run all over the Browns. Pegged as my Super Bowl team, losing to the Patriots, the Eagles are flying high entering 2012. With the same stacked offense returning and huge additions on defense like Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans, the Browns are going to have a very hard time doing anything Sunday. Trent Richardson will hopefully suit up and log big numbers, but he won't be able to beat the Eagles on his own. This is gonna be a blow out in Cleveland.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Browns 10
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
-The debut of Robert Griffin III will begin in Louisiana Sunday. Faced with a tough first match, Griffin will look to lead the completely revamped offense against the controversial Saints. With many new wides at Griffin's disposal, I think he is going to have a good time playing against a team with a lot of questions. The Saints, as everyone knows, had an offseason to forget with all the problems, but they still have this guy named Drew Brees. As long as the Saints have Brees, there really is no problem on offense. The big question is what that defense will do, but I think it will be good enough to take on the rookie quarterback. This is going to be a tight game, but I see no victorious start for Griffin. Point, Saints.
Prediction: Saints 24, Redskins 17
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
-Heading out to good ol' Detroit, the Rams are about to have a Sunday to forget. The Lions are good. The offense, dominant. The defense, getting better. The way I see it, the Rams have no shot. With their best wide being ex-Eagle Steve Smith or Danny Amendola, the Lions will have nothing to worry about against the air. What sucks for the Rams is that every team knows this and now Steven Jackson becomes the target in the video room. Defensively though, the Rams have a pretty good squad now. Drafting underrated Janoris Jenkins and adding Cortland Finnegan gives them a pretty good cornerback duo to go with guys like James Laurinaitis and Chris Long. Though they are getting better, it still wont be enough to stop the Lions. I don't see this really being a game as the Lions are going to control from start to finish.
Prediction: Lions 30, Rams 7
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
-As I said before, the Patriots are about to destroy the league this year and it starts in Tennessee. The Patriots come in with a filthy offense, filthy defense and basically the best team. The Titans will be no match for the Patriots and Tom Brady. Losing their best corner in Finnegan is going to be the death of them when faced up against Sir Brady. I see Brady shredding the defense for multiple scores and leading the Patriots to the offensive onslaught and victory.
Prediction: Patriots 38, Titans, 20
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
-Finishing the preseason 0-4 was just the beginning of a long season for the Dolphins. They start the season with the Texans, who look to repeat last year's playoff appearance. Armed with one of the best wide receivers in Andre Johnson and one of the best running backs in Arian Foster, the Texans will once again have no problem scoring the ball. Defense is the only problem I think they will have. Losing veteran leaders DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams is going to hurt regardless of any of the moves they made to replace them. The Dolphins don't have a lot of fire power to show that, but I think down the line, defense will hurt the Texans. But in this matchup, pure dominance will take the Texans to the season opening win.
Prediction: Texans 27, Dolphins 13
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
-My Vikings are going to be losing a lot this year, but when I saw they were matched up with the Jaguars in Week 1, I couldn't help but celebrate the 1-0 start already. The Jaguars suck, let's be real. No QB, MJD will be rusty, the wides can't do anything with no QB and the defense is pretty mediocre. Now I know the Vikings are pretty much the same, but at least the Vikings have players on defense that will dominate like Jared Allen and Chad Greenway. Offensively, Christian Ponder is way better than whoever the Jaguars throw out at QB and the threat of Percy Harvin running and receiving will be enough on offense to win this game. And if Adrian Peterson plays like the old AP, this game will be a joke. Score one in the win column for my Vikings.
Prediction: Vikings: 20, Jaguars 10
Antoine Johnson's Predictions
-We all know how irrelevant and misleading the preseason can be, but the Jets starting offense didn’t score a single touchdown or showing any signs of what to expect from them this season. Their running game was egregious, and they have one of the most irrelevant quarterback battles going on that we have ever seen. The defense is also average outside of all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will be facing Stevie Johnson this week who he is all too familiar with. Revis hardly ever has a hard time with any wide receiver, and he has faced the best of them. But over the past two seasons, Johnson has gotten the best of Revis. Outside of their one-on-one matchup, Bills’ running back Fred Jackson makes his return after suffering from a broken leg halfway through last season, when he led the NFL in all-purpose yards prior to the injury. Two early first round rookies are also making their debut, as Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill make their regular season debut. Arguably the Jets’ biggest weakness in the preseason was the offensive tackle position, as they traded Wayne Hunter in hopes of improving their line. They will need all the help they can get, as they face a revamped Bills defensive line, as they get all-pro Kyle Williams back, and we get our first look at newly-acquired defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
Prediction: Jets 17, Bills 13
Indianapolis Colts vs Chicago Bears
-Andrew Luck makes his NFL regular season debut as he is replacing one of the all-time greats in Peyton Manning. It will not be an easy start for Luck and the young Colts team who will have to go against one of the best teams in the league and most physical defenses. Whether we see Brian Urlacher out there or not, Lance Briggs and company are experienced enough to carry the defense in Urlacher’s absence. Jay Cutler is also reunited with his favorite target Brandon Marshall, who the Bears traded for this offseason. They also got a steal in the draft with Alshon Jeffery, who might surprise a lot of people if they keep underestimating him. Shea McClellin will be a great compliment to Julius Peppers on the defensive line, which the Bears have been looking for since signing Peppers. I’m sure Luck is familiar with facing Tampa-2 defenses (which Chicago runs), so he may make a few pre-snap reads and force their defense to make adjustments. However, the experienced Bears squad will constantly make adjustments, and expect Cutler, Forte and company to expose that inexperienced defense of the Colts.
Prediction: Bears 34, Colts 20
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-After one of the most impressive rookie seasons we have ever seen, everyone is hoping Cam Newton doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump and continues to be one of the best players in the league. Josh Freeman struggled significantly last season. He was constantly injured, under immense pressure and his wide receivers were inconsistent throughout the season. Arguably the Bucs best OL, Davin Joseph, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second to last preseason game, so that may also factor in to Freeman’s play this season. But adding Vincent Jackson to such a young wide receiver core and drafting Doug Martin, Freeman has talent surrounding him. Mark Barron had a quiet preseason, but if you watch the tape, he was fairly impressive, especially with his pick-6 against the Patriots. Expect the Bucs to bounce back this season and make a run for the playoffs. The NFC South is arguably wide open. The season opener could be a huge determining factor on who wins it.
Prediction: Panthers 21, Bucs 27
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
-The Cardinals offense needs a captain at quarterback. They overpaid an unimproved quarterback in Kevin Kolb and John Skelton is a good game manager, but probably not the long-term solution. Brian Hoyer was recently released by the Patriots, and he can be used in Arizona. But in terms of the Seahawks, even without Marshawn Lynch, expect them to be the NFL’s 2012 surprise team. Their defense is young and hungry, so don’t be surprised if they end up in the top five this year, as they were in the top ten a year ago. Expect vast improvements. Offensive-wise, Russell Wilson has been a silent assassin since being drafted. And Pete Carroll, being the same fair coach he was at USC, sticking to his philosophy of “the best players will play,” Wilson outperformed the second hottest free agent Matt Flynn and will be the day one starter. Marshawn Lynch is suffering from back spasms and might miss a significant portion of the season for off-the-field problems. So to all the fantasy football players should heavily consider picking up Robert Turbin who will fill in for Lynch whenever he doesn’t suit up.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
-Probably the biggest game of the week, two teams who might represent the NFC in the Super Bowl face off week one. The 49ers, who have the fifth oldest team in the NFL travels to Lambeau Field to face the fourth youngest team in the league, the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers passed on California native and former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers for Alex Smith in 2005 with the first overall pick in the draft. Smith started from day one, but Rodgers sat until 2008 when the Packers finally decided to split ties with Brett Favre. Smith has not lived up to the potential of a first overall pick, but had the best year of his career in 2011 as a game manager under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Rodgers had the best passing season for any quarterback ever in terms of efficiency, as he threw 45 touchdowns for over 4,600 yards, and a passer rating of 122.5. Both teams are experienced across the board, so expect a hard-hitting competitive matchup that we will all be sure to appreciate. This one might go down to the last second.
Prediction: Packers 35, 49ers 27
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos
-The Steelers had the number one ranked defense last year with a record of 12-4 heading in to the playoffs. Somehow, they allowed one of the worse passers I can imagine, Tim Tebow and the 8-8 Broncos to rack up almost 400 yards of total offense and give them a first round exit in the playoffs. Tebow is no longer with the Broncos, as they upgraded to one of the greatest in Peyton Manning. The Broncos had an impressive offseason, as did the Steelers. Denver brought in a significant amount of free agents to compliment Manning, and the Steelers, like always, maintained to keep almost all their starters from last season to compliment their draft class. I’m sure the Steelers have been waiting to play Denver since the game ended last season as many people had Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. They should be out with a vengeance, but it will not be an easy game. Peyton will apply more pressure in the pocket than Tebow did. So Pittsburgh better bring their A-game. Again.
Prediction: Steelers 17, Broncos 13
San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders
-Last season, the Oakland Raiders had the chance to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The Denver Broncos had just lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, and all the Raiders had to do was win and they were in. Unfortunately for them, they suffered defeat to the Chargers in a game that went down to the wire. Despite being doomed by injuries, Oakland still had a chance to impress a lot of people if they reached the postseason with that explosive offense. As they are in a rebuilding process and the Chargers still have Rivers at the helm with a couple new additions, it should be an interesting matchup. All AFC West games tend to go down to the wire. This one might not be an exception. The Raiders are very suspect at the cornerback position, as none of the five cornerbacks (Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa and Lito Sheppard) are on this years’ active roster. However, the strength of Oakland’s defense has been up front with their defensive line. And the Chargers will be starting their third string left tackle in Mike Harris and inexperienced Tyronne Green at left guard. The keys of this game will be how will Oakland’s defense hang in there with the Chargers offense? Will be a great way to conclude the season’s Monday night double-header.
Prediction: Raiders 31, Chargers 16