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Week 1 NFL Picks

The NFL Season kicked off Thursday night as the Super Bowl champs proved they’re ready to defend the crown.

[Please Note: These picks were posted Sunday morning (9/7/14) but for whatever reason failed to make the move from the old site to the new one. Thus, they are being reposted now for record keeping and comedy purposes.]

Last Season:  169 – 86 – 1
Season:             1 – 0 – 0

Thursday Recap

Packers 16 at Seahawks 36
I sent an email to my brother prior to the opener picking the Seahawks to win and cover (-6). Though, I didn’t expect Green Bay to be dead in the water midway through the 3rd quarter. I thought Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers were good enough to test Seattle’s vaunted defense. Yes, Rodgers was under heavy pressure in the 2nd half but he had a healthy amount of time early in the game and the offense did little as they appeared content to ride Lacy 2-3 yards at a time. This makes little sense to me. At home? Maybe. But not in Seattle. The longer Seattle’s defense smothers you the better it gets. If you’re not going to challenge early and at least try to put that defense on its heals you’re a sitting duck.

The Packers were burned by miss opportunities as well. The dropped interception early was huge. Failure to punch it in from the five and take the lead late in the 2nd quarter was critical. I thought Green Bay played poorly, but Seattle deserves most of the credit. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which in they don’t represent the NFC in the Super Bowl five months from now.

(For what it’s worth, I also picked Seattle and Green Bay to win their respective divisions and the Seahawks to win the NFC title prior to the game. I have the email to prove it.)

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Saints at Falcons
Matt Ryan was overrated three years ago. Now he’s underrated and even forgotten behind the younger, more athletic QBs around the league. I like Ryan and Julio Jones a lot this year. So much so I even considered the Falcons as a Wildcard team before ultimately backing away because the defense is still poor and Mike Smith looks more confused than ever. Interesting note: John Clayton told Stugotz on ESPN Radio that a Saints win Sunday would give New Orleans home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. I kinda/sorta/maybe think he’s right. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -3

Vikings at Rams
A good amount of people like the Vikings to surprise this season. I like Mike Zimmer and expect a better Minnesota team, but the NFC North boasts some potent offenses and I find it hard to believe that A. Minnesota’s offense can play at that level and B. Zimmer can turn around a Vikings defense that ranked 27th in 2013 in only nine months. As for the Rams, I’ve picked them to be a breakout team for each of the last two seasons. I don’t believe the Sam Bradford injury is a deathblow mostly because the defense is certainly good enough to carry a bad offense. However, I’m not sure St. Louis’ offense qualifies as a “bad” offense. It may be significantly worse than that. In the NFC East the Rams have a shot at a playoff berth. In the NFC West? Not so much. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -3.5

Browns at Steelers
The AFC North is the middle class division. No team is filthy rich. No team is drowning in poverty. This should make for some entertainingly brutal matchups throughout the season as the division title will likely be the only road to the playoffs. Never thought I’d see the day come, but we may live in a world where the Steelers own the worst defense in the division. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7

Jaguars at Eagles
I’m an Eagles fan, but I’m not stupid. Anyone who thinks the Eagles are on the same level as the Seahawks team we saw Thursday night is crazy. Thanks to a truly horrible division, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles missing the playoffs. Chip Kelly’s offense has proven it can overwhelm and annihilate mediocre defenses. The NFC East is bursting with subpar defenses. Sadly, the Eagles own one of those poor defenses. While the Eagle defense will be improved over the 2013 version, it won’t be good enough to compete in January. Also, while this may be sacrilegious in Philadelphia, I’m not 100% sold on Nick Foles as the franchise quarterback for the next decade. First, there’s absolutely zero chance he throws 27 TDs to 2 INTs this season. Second, Kelly’s offense is on film this year. Defenses had an entire offseason to scheme against what the Eagles do. Does this mean the offense will be stopped? No, but it won’t be as easy, especially for Foles. Third, as much as he drove us crazy, DeSean Jackson was a fantastic stretch receiver. If Jeremy Maclin is fully healthy, I believe he’s a better all-around receiver, but he can’t stretch a defense like Jackson. Fourth, I can’t erase Foles’ performance against the Cardinals from my memory. His numbers from that win look great (21/34, 237, 3 TDs). However, anyone who watched that game remembers the Cardinals dropped multiple easy interceptions, including one near the end of the game that may have swung the outcome. Is Foles a bust or overrated? Of course not. He was great last year. I’m just expecting significantly more growing pains than most people. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +10.5

Raiders at Jets
I’m winded from blabbing about the Eagles. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -5.5

Bengals at Ravens
I like the Bengals to repeat as AFC North champs even though the loss of Mike Zimmer makes me extreeeeemely nervous. Cincinnati still boasts the most talent in the division and the defense returns injured all-pros like Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. It’s hard to pick against so much talent with a solid coach at the helm. (Yes Marvin Lewis is a solid and often very underrated head coach. Not great, but very solid.) In Baltimore, I expect the Ravens to bounce back after a dismal season. I’m not buying the Joe Flacco resurgence as much as I believe John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league. He’ll find a way to put his team in contention for the postseason despite an aging backfield and a defense that fell short of expectations in 2013. While I was sad Steve Smith didn’t go to New England, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Smith than Baltimore. He has that natural Raven swagger. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +2

Bills at Bears
Surrendering 1st and 4th round pick to draft a wide receiver makes little sense to me. Too many top pick receivers have flamed out to justify the risk. Even when the pick is an overwhelming success it doesn’t make surrendering the picks worthwhile. Receivers don’t change NFL fortunes. Look at the Lions with Calvin Johnson. Or the Falcons with Julio Jones. St. Louis with Tavon Austin. Jacksonville and Justin Blackmon. The list goes on and on. Speaking of wide receivers, the Bears boast the best 1-2 receiver punch in the NFL. I like Chicago to reach the postseason as a Wildcard team but I don’t feel great about it. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -7

Redskins at Texans
Here’s my semi-bold prediction for the season: The Houston Texans win the AFC South. My logic: Essentially, Houston traded a below average coach, a past-his-prime quarterback, and an inured all-pro running back for an excellent coach, an average QB, and a healthy all-pro running back. Combine that with the addition of the number one overall pick* and I like the Texans. They’re nearly the same team that won double-digit games in back to back seasons before 2013’s nightmare. Sometimes the wheels just come off. People forget Houston was up 20-6 halfway through the 4th against Seattle in Week 4. If it weren’t for the most outrageously horrible pick-six courtesy of Matt Schaub, Houston moves to 3-1 and all is well. Instead, Schaub lost faith in himself and his teammates eventually did the same. You could tell the team was toast right then and there. Back to the coach… I LOVE Bill O’Brien. I wanted the Eagles to hire him two years ago. What he did at Penn State was nothing short of miraculous. There’s a lot of talk about O’Brien not making a difference and being a lousy NFL coach. There’s just no way. I believe in Bill O’Brien. And I believe in the Texans. (*Houston paired the draft’s most terrifying athlete with the NFL’s most terrifying pass-rusher. They may wreak some havoc.) TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -3

Titans at Chiefs
Not sure why people have thrown out the Chiefs for the 2014 season. Andy Reid has done more with less in the past. Granted, the NFC East in those days wasn’t as top heavy as the AFC West is this season, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs snuck into the playoffs. Alex Smith is still underrated. Jamaal Charles is arguably the best all-around back in football. Pair those two with a talented defense and this team reminds me of the days when Reid rode Donovan McNabb and an unstoppable Brian Westbrook to division title after division title. As for the Titans, this is a make-or-break year for Jake Locker. Ken Whisenhunt resurrected Philip Rivers’ career a year ago in San Diego. If Locker doesn’t show significant growth it’s hard to imagine the Titans and Whisenhunt hitching their wagon to him for the long haul. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -3

Patriots at Dolphins
I’m a Ryan Tannehill fan. I like Miami’s team. Not so much a fan of Joe Philbin. Miami wins 7-9 games, replaces Philbin in the offseason and finally makes the playoffs in 2015 for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, New England rolls to the top record in the AFC and returns to the franchise’s 6th Super Bowl of the Brady/Belichick era. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +5

Afternoon Games (4:25PM ET)

Panthers at Buccaneers
I rarely pity professional athletes. I pity Cam Newton. Carolina’s cap situation is so bad it’s unlikely they’ll have the ability to improve their team outside of the draft for several years. (Assuming, of course, they sign Newton this upcoming offseason.) Newton is one of my favorite players. I can’t help but wonder what he would look like in an offense that completely unleashed him. Given the lack of weapons around him, maybe this will be the year. One can only hope. While it’s popular to write off the Panthers this season, I’m not totally sold. The front seven that made Carolina’s defense so great is still intact. The secondary is a monstrous question mark, but a potent front seven can mask a subpar defensive backfield. Furthermore, it’s not like the Panthers 2013 receivers were unstoppable. Steve Smith was well past his prime and Brandon LaFell was nothing spectacular. Unless Kelvin Benjamin has a stellar rookie season it’d be hard to argue Carolina upgraded its receivers. However, given the production of Carolina’s receivers in 2013, it’s also hard to argue they downgraded. Newton and that defensive front seven are probably good enough to drag this team to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the NFC South will be much tougher this year and given the questions in the secondary I fear Carolina will miss the playoffs despite a winning record. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +3

49ers at Cowboys
The 49ers have been the popular “unexpected regression” team. I don’t see it. When Michael Crabtree is healthy, he and Colin Kaepernick are a potent duo. Look at Crabtree’s numbers in December and January of the 2012 season, aka, the last time Crabtree was completely healthy; 55 Rec, 823 YDs, 7 TDs in only eight games. You can argue Crabtree also played all of December and January in 2013 but an Achilles injury isn’t a six-month injury. Crabtree was clearly never 100%. The loss of NaVorro Bowman will absolutely hurt, but the San Francisco defense is good enough to remain a top ten unit. Let’s not forget about Kaepernick, either. Though he’s not the most accurate nor seasoned quarterback in the league, he has all the tools. Another offseason under his belt should help. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +4.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Colts at Broncos
The Colts are my second AFC Wildcard team. I couldn’t decide between the Colts, Ravens and Dolphins. Ultimately, I settled on Indy because Andrew Luck will likely get better, Trent Richardson only has to average 3.0 yards per carry to improve on his 2013 campaign, and, of course, the schedule. Miami must battle the deep AFC West and even deeper NFC North. The Ravens get the NFC South. The Colts, well, they get the putrid NFC East. Since the AFC North and AFC South face off this season, the final Wildcard spot could boil down to the head to head matchup between Indy and Baltimore. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -7.5

Monday Night (7:05 & 10:20PM ET)

Giants at Lions
I’ll miss Jim Schwartz. It was easy to pick on and against him. I haven’t the slightest clue where Detroit ends up this year. Jim Caldwell doesn’t strike me as the type to clean up the mess left by Schwartz. Caldwell’s success with Indianapolis came off the inherited Tony Dungy squad. That was hardly a messy situation. The Lions have talent but the mental makeup of that team pushes me away. I don’t trust them. Meanwhile, the Giants look like a complete mess, which, given their history, means they’ll win their 3rd Super Bowl of the Eli Manning era. (I’m joking… I think.) LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -6.5

Chargers at Cardinals
I’ll admit, I jumped on the Chargers bandwagon for two reasons. 1. Too many smart football people raved about them. Who am I to argue? 2. I looked around the AFC and realized outside of the Broncos and Patriots, there are zero really good teams. Two teams will fight for the AFC South. Three teams have a shot in the AFC North. There will likely be five to seven teams vying for two Wildcard berths. The Chargers are the only one of those teams capable of winning 10 games. Conversely, I don’t trust the experts backing the Cardinals. Arizona already lost its best defensive player for the season due to a suspension (linebacker Daryl Washington).* The heart and leader of that defense was also lost to a season-ending injury in training camp (Darnell Dockett). Furthermore, the offense is counting on Carson Palmer in a division that boasts three of the NFL’s top ten defenses. I think the Cardinals will be good. They’ll win 8-9 games, but it won’t be good enough for the playoffs. Again.
(*I wouldn’t argue if you said Patrick Peterson was the defense’s best player.) CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +3

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Season: 128 – 119 – 8
Season:             1 – 0 – 0

AFC Division Champions
Patriots
Broncos
Bengals
Texans

X – Chargers
X – Colts

NFC Division Champions
Seahawks
Saints
Eagles
Packers

X – 49ers
X – Bears

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