(Note: As long as this column is ongoing, I will be putting out the preview and predictions for each week’s NFL games in two parts. Part one will feature the Thursday Night game and the first slate of Sunday Games (1pm EST.), part two will feature the remaining Sunday games and the Monday Night Football game.)
The 2012-2013 NFL Season is rapidly approaching and there are a total of sixteen games to take a look at first the opening week. The week will begin with the defending Super Bowl Champions in the New York Giants facing the Dallas Cowboys, while it will end with a battle of California teams as the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders duke it out. So without any further ado, let’s get some preview and predictions going for the first week of NFL action.
Dallas Cowboys (0-0-0) vs. New York Giants (0-0-0) – Wednesday September 5th at 8pm EST. on NBC
The Dallas Cowboys always seem like they are on the verge of becoming a Super Bowl contender, but then collapse before that transition can happen. This team does not start off the season well with the injured Jason Witten and the often troubled Dez Bryant creating some havoc. Tony Romo should be as good as he has been in past seasons, but his leash is getting shorter if he doesn’t lead his team deeper into the post-season. This game will set the pace for the Cowboys this season as there last few games against the Giants have ended in heartbreak.
Excitement reached an all-time high last season for the New York Giants, as they won their second Super Bowl under coach Tom Caughlin. The question this season will be whether or not the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season can improve, now that they have lost the bruiser in Brandon Jacobs. Speaking of the offense, Mario Manningham has defected to the San Francisco 49ers (along with Brandon Jacobs), so the wide receiver core is slightly depleted. In the end, those potential offensive worries may not be an issue because the often excellent Giants defense will be back in top form, especially with Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora in top form.
Prediction: The Dallas Cowboys have a few key offensive issues with their receiving core to overcome the much better New York Giants defense. The Giants in the end will also be too good with Eli Manning back at the helm, the Giants win this one 24-10.
Indianapolis Colts (0-0-0) vs. Chicago Bears (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on CBS
After months of training camp reports and pre-season games, number one draft pick Andrew Luck will be in his first official game this Sunday. The Stanford Cardinal looked excellent in the pre-season, but that means very little, if anything when the regular season begins. The Colts as a whole are also in the midst of a rebuilding process with all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning now in Denver, plus a host of other former Colts scattered throughout the rest of the NFL. The positive for Andrew Luck is that he has a decent receiving core with Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie starting.
The Chicago Bears are essentially the Baltimore Ravens of the NFC, with a bone crushing defense and a pretty boring offense. There was an exception last season as the Bears “D” was terrible in the pass game (28th overall), while one of the best in stopping the run (5th overall). Coach Lovie Smith knows what to do on defense and I expect the passing defense to be vastly improved this season. Quarterback Jay Cutler will be reunited with former teammate Brandon Marshall (WR), who will start opposite of special teams great Devin Hester at wide receiver. Also, running back Matt Forte is back in the fold and with that situation behind them, means the Bears are ready to go in 2012-2013.
Prediction: While Andrew Luck has a bright future ahead of him, it will be a rough start as the Chicago Bears defense has their way with him. The improved Bears offense will also overpower the still rebuilding Indianapolis Colts defense, the Bears win this one 10-3.
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0-0) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on Fox
The potentially final season for Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid begins this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The season will already begin a little shaky as starting quarterback Michael Vick got injured during a pre-season game, but will still be starting. The Eagles offense will be strong with the tandem of Michael Vick (QB), DeSean Jackson (WR), Jeremy Maclin (WR) and LeSean McCoy (RB) on the field. The defensive capabilities of the team will be in question after a few key losses, but considering how well they finished last season as a defense, they should not fall much.
The only bright spot for the Cleveland Browns last season was their passing defense, which ranked second in the league. The Browns offense will hopefully get a big kick start this year with rookie quarterback Brandon Weedon and rookie running back Trent Richardson starting. While the backfield for the Browns is starting to look strong, their receiving core and offensive line may prove to be their undoing. If the Browns rushing defense can match what their passing defense did last season, they should pick up a few more victories this season.
Prediction: While the Cleveland Browns need a few more pieces to finish the puzzle, they will still be struggling this season. The Philadelphia Eagles will be playing with a fire under their butts with Andy Reid’s job on the line, the Eagles dominate to win 35-7.
New England Patriots (0-0-0) vs. Tennessee Titans (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on CBS
If the New York Giants walked home with Super Bowl rings on their fingers last season, that means the New England Patriots left with nothing other than sad faces. The real question for the Patriots this season will be their passing defense, which was second to last in 2011-2012. The offense remains pretty much intact, but with the addition of Brandon Lloyd to the receiving core will make an already dangerous offense even more dangerous. If the passing defense can improve, there is no reason that the Patriots cannot make another push to the playoffs.
The biggest disappointment for the Tennessee Titans last season was the terrible play of running back Chris Johnson, which made the stars holdout even more ridiculous in the end. The late pre-season suspension of Kenny Britt will make a major impact on quarterback Jake Locker, who will be starting for the team in week one. Despite Kenny Britt getting suspended, wide receiver Nate Washington will step up into the top receiver position and come through for Locker. The problem is that when a team begins their season against the losers of the previous Super Bowl, it usually doesn’t end well.
Prediction: Running back Chris Johnson will make a big comeback this season, but that is not going to be enough this season. The New England Patriots still have one of the most devastating offenses in the NFL and they will easily handle Tennessee 48-21.
Atlanta Falcons (0-0-0) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on Fox
If the Atlanta Falcons wanted to make a push towards the top of the NFC South this season, they have their opportunity with the New Orleans saints being in disarray. What makes the Falcons so dangerous this season is much like the New England Patriots, they got the majority of their offense from last season together this season as well. Quarterback Matt Ryan is nearing his prime, while the always talented Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzales remain on the receiving core. While running back Michael Turner is an offensive threat, he must improve from a middle of the road 2011-2012 season.
After finishing last season at the bottom of the division, things are looking up for the Kansas City Chiefs this year. Matt Cassel will return as the starting quarterback, while a now healthy Jamaal Charles and the newly signed Peyton Hillis will take their position in the backfield. The issue resides with the Kansas City wide receivers because outside of Dwayne Bowe, there is nothing to be proud of. The best part of the Chiefs last season was the passing defense, but that was voided out by the lousy rush defense, which was near the bottom of the NFL.
Prediction: The Atlanta Falcons are prepped for a big run this season, but Michael Turner must do his part this season to ensure that. The Kansas City Chiefs are also prepped for a much improved 2012-2013 season, but they fall to the Falcons 24-18.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0-0) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on CBS
Luckily for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team resolved its issues with running back Maurice Jones-Drew before the regular season began. Even with that issue resolved, the Jaguars need to have a much better offense than they did last season, especially in the passing game. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert will begin the season as the starter, but expect Chad Henne to get an opportunity if the passing game does not improve. The Jaguars had one of the more underrated defenses last season, with the 8th ranked passing defense and the 9th ranked rushing defense.
The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2012-2013 season with running back issues of their own, despite Adrian Peterson saying he will be ready to go. Christian Ponder will be getting the well-deserved start this season after the terrible season from Donovan McNabb last season. Ponder will have some great targets to throw the ball to in Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins. Jared Allen will be back this season as well to lead the 11th ranked rushing defense onto the field, but the passing defense will be the real question.
Prediction: Even with their running back issues resolved, the Jacksonville Jaguars will not be coming near the post-season this year. The Minnesota Vikings will not be fairing much better at seasons end, but will do enough to win this game 21-7.
Washington Redskins (0-0-0) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on Fox
While quarterback Andrew Luck got the majority of the media attention heading into the season, the second pick of the NFL Draft in Robert Griffin III will be starting opposite the mighty Saints. The Redskins have built a great core of receivers for RGIII to throw the ball to in Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon. The Redskins defense was middle of the road last season, but a vastly improved backfield should help out a lot. The saving grace for the Redskins in the season’s first game is that they are playing a team going through a lot of problems right now.
The New Orleans Saints “bounty scandal” can now be put behind them for the most part as the season officially begins this Sunday. However, they will step onto the field without their head coach (Sean Payton) and their biggest defensive threat (Jonathan Vilma). The lone bright spot in the off season was the resigning of quarterback Drew Brees, which took pretty long in its own right. The offense may not be an issue for the Saints, but one of the league’s worst passing defenses will only be getting worse with a suspended Jonathan Vilma nowhere to be found.
Prediction: The Washington Redskins have the perfect opportunity to start the season off with a win, considering what their opponents will be missing this season. The New Orleans Saints still have a great offense, but their defense will cost them the game as the Redskins pull the upset 38-32.
Buffalo Bills (0-0-0) vs. New York Jets (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on CBS
The Buffalo Bills started off their campaign last season very strong, but then finished as weak as one team can finish. The offense remains largely unchanged with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson in the backfield. The biggest improvement for the team has come on the defensive side, with the Bills luring Mario Williams away from the Houston Texans. With a very good offense and vastly improved defense, there should be no reason that the Buffalo Bills do not make the playoffs this season.
The New York Jets made plenty of waves in the off-season when they traded for former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Much like what has been said about Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, this could be the final season for coach Rex Ryan if there is another disappointment in New York. The Jets looked awful in the preseason due to the lack of scoring, because it seemed that the only points were being scored came from the kicker. If the offense remains in shambles, the defense will have to pick up the slack and that will be the undoing of the Jets.
Prediction: The Buffalo Bills will be vastly improved this season, especially when it comes to the defensive end of the field. The New York Jets may have gotten all the headlines when they acquired Tim Tebow, but they will get some negative ones when the Bills win 17-10.
St. Louis Rams (0-0-0) vs. Detroit Lions (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on Fox
There was no doubt that after a fantastic rookie season, quarterback Sam Bradford took a big step back last season, with the Rams being one of the NFL’s worst offenses last season. The Rams have a new head coach in Jeff Fisher, who was at the helm of the Tennessee Titans for many years. Surprisingly, the Rams had one of the better passing defenses last season, but the lack of offensive productivity is what cost them in the end. The problem is that the Rams need a better season from Sam Bradford, but they did not give him any weapons outside of Stephen Jackson to get the ball to.
The Detroit Lions proved to be one of the better surprises of the last season, being led by quarterback Matthew Stafford. The biggest weapon for the offense, Calvin Johnson also comes back with running back Kevin Smith entering the season hurt. While it was the passing game that looked impressive last season, it was the terrible rush offense that hurt the Lions in the playoffs. The Lions defense was disappointing last season and that could continue into this season with all of the disciplinary issues the team has been having.
Prediction: The St. Louis Rams will still have a good defense, but their lackluster offense will be visible from the first play of the game to the final whistle. The Detroit Lions may not have that much better of a defense, but their offense will dominate on route to a 42-7 victory.
Miami Dolphins (0-0-0) vs. Houston Texans (0-0-0) – Sunday September 9th at 1pm EST. on CBS
The Miami Dolphins will always have the spotlight on them this year due to the reality TV show they are taking part in, but that may be the only bright spot the entire season. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will lead the offense, with Reggie Bush supporting him in the backfield. Outside of veteran tight end Anthony Fasano, there are no real threats in the receiving core of the Dolphins. The Dolphins also return with a defense that was one of the best in stopping the rush last season, but it will be unlikely that they do it again this season.
The Houston Texans surprised everybody last season by having one of the best offensive and defensive cores in the entire NFL. Quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster all return to a very dominant offense. The defense could be in question though after losing Mario Williams to the upstart Buffalo Bills of the AFC East. If the Texans defense can even be as half as good as they were last season, this time without Mario Williams, then another opportunity in the playoffs will not be out of reach.
Prediction: The Miami Dolphins may be the darlings of reality TV this season, but they do not possess any threats when the action spills onto the field. On the other hand, the Houston Texans offense and defense in top notch and they will get the victory 24-0.
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