After starting the 2007 season 0-4, the Saints were never able to recover and finished the season a very disappointing
seven up and nine down. This year’s Saints squad is poised to avoid such a disastrous start, and will do just that in their home opener versus a division rival (Tampa Bay) who defeated them twice during the 2007 regular season. The Saints should be much improved offensively with the return of RB Deuce McAllister
and the acquisition of TE Jeremy Shockey. Also,
don't overlook the development of 2007 top draft selection Robert Meachem who did not have a single reception as a rookie. On
paper, the Saints should be improved defensively with talented rookie DT Sedrick Ellis, Jonathan Vilma, the oft-injured former Jets linebacker, former Patriot corner Randall Gay and Roman Harper, an impressive rookie who was injured for much of
last season. But, as we find out in Week One each year, games are won on the field and not on paper.
I just don’t have a good feeling about this years’ edition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team is flat-out old on both sides of the football and with Cadillac Williams still on the sidelines recovering from a 2007 knee injury, I don’t like their chances.
Especially not on the road against a team I believe will win the NFC South title. Keep your eye on the Bucs' exciting rookie return man Dexter Jackson, corner Aqib Talib, and the future replacement for perennial
All-Pro LB Derrick Brooks, Geno Hayes. I believe it could be a very long season down on the Bay.
Saints 27 - Buccaneers 17
The Panthers, playing without suspended star receiver Steve Smith, do not appear to have the offensive firepower to match up with a Chargers club that I
believe will be the AFC representative in this year’s Super Bowl. I really like the Panthers personnel along the offensive front, but without a legitimate deep threat on the outside, I don’t like their chances. Look for the Panthers to try
to play "keep away" by pounding the ball inside and a short, controlled passing game.
This type of plan does not bode well if they were to fall behind early in the contest.
We all recognize the names and talents of LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, on the offensive side and Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips,
Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie on the defensive side of the ball, but if this team is to make a move in the post-season and ultimately advance to the Super Bowl, then Philip Rivers must take a major step in his development as a signal caller. I’m betting he does and does so right out of the box.
Chargers 27 – Panthers 13
The home team Browns and their great fans (the proverbial 12th man) have been pointing to this one since it was announced last spring.
Unfortunately, I don't believe the game will go their way. The Browns defensively should be much improved, but I still believe the Cowboys have far too much in the way of offensive firepower. If the Browns, the biggest surprise in the AFC in 2007, are unable to establish a consistent running game, this one could be over quickly. I’m still not 100% convinced that the Cowboys secondary is a first-rate outfit, particularly missing its top cover corner, Terence Newman. Look for the Cowboys to try and change things up defensively and put some real pressure on immobile second year starting QB, Derek Anderson.
Cowboys 31 - Browns 20
This one looks like a complete mismatch on paper. And it is. Some severe game time weather forecast
for Sunday, however, may well be a big equalizer in this one. The Patriots are clearly the superior squad in every aspect of the game, but over the years I have seen many games affected by adverse conditions. The big problem for both clubs is that it is very difficult to simulate poor conditions in practice and since football is a game of timing and execution, a game played in a driving rain and or 35 to 40 MPH winds, can get ugly very quickly! It’s going to be closer than one might think, but I still like the home team advantage and the far more talented squad.
Patriots 21 – Chiefs 12
The Rams have gone from the Greatest Show on Turf to the Rocky Horror Picture Show in less then half a decade, due in part to injuries and poor management decisions. The key to their success offensively is protecting quarterback Marc Bulger, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Defensively, shutting down the running game has been
- and continues to be - a major concern for this football team. Look for the short-handed Eagles to give the Rams a steady diet of Brian Westbrook, Brian Westbrook, and
a little more Brian Westbrook? Sub-par game time weather conditions and injuries to the Eagles top two receivers could further negate their inconsistent passing game, but until the Rams prove they can stop the run, I don’t see many “W”s on their schedule. If Donovan McNabb is on his game the Eagles should soar.
Eagles 30 – Rams 20
A win is a win, but, Jets fans, I wouldn’t get overly excited about a victory over a rebuilding Dolphins squad. I just don’t think the Dolphins have
anywhere close to enough defensive personnel to contain what should be an improved Jets offensive unit. Pennington would like nothing more than to torch his former teammates, but I just don’t see it happening.
Jets 31 – Dolphins 24
Rookie Joe Flacco is going to see a much different defensive look on Sunday versus the division rival Bengals than he did in any of his preseason outings.
He's embarking on a journey that will have its pitfalls, but I really like
Flacco’s ability to throw the football. I believe he has the potential to become one of the best in the game in time. Both Cincinnati receivers,
T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco are not 100% and Kenny Watson has been nursing a slight hamstring injury.
As long as Carson Palmer is under the center,
however, this club has a chance to put points on the board. Bengals 24 – Ravens 17|
This one might well be the best match up in week one. The Seahawks are a veteran group and my choice to repeat as the NFC west champions, but the Bills
roster contains a lot of talent. If the Bills can avoid injuries, have a chance to advance to the playoffs. I really like Trent Edwards'
game and believe he will be the difference in this one. Bills 27 - Seahawks
The Lions offense, minus offensive coordinator Mike Martz, hope to put points on the board versus the new-look Falcons.
They may have found the perfect opponent to help them establish their new
offense. Look for the wide receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson to exploit what I believe to be a shaky secondary.
Lions 34 – Falcons 10
Another key early season match up that may well come down to the final possession in the game. I like the Jaguars running attack a great deal and believe that will be the ultimate difference in this classic battle.
Jaguars 23 – Titans 20
Texan rookie back Steve Slaton was impressive in the preseason, but I just don’t see them moving the football on the ground
against the Steelers in their yard. Ben Roethlisberger and
the Pittsburgh's classic power running game is the key for any Steelers offensive success.
Although I don’t think this one is going to be easy, in the end I look for the Steelers to emerge with a victory.
Steelers 17 - Houston 10
I’m getting a little tired of predicting that this will be the Arizona Cardinals year to finally turn the corner as a franchise. I didn’t think that Kurt Warner had much left in the tank in his final season with the Rams and, five years later, he was still able to supplant Matt Leinart, the latest in a long line of
Cardinals quarterback failures. Journeyman performer J.T. O’Sullivan is familiar with Mike Martz’ offensive system after serving as a back-up with the Lions in 2007.
That, and a home field advantage, should be the difference in this contest. 49ers 27
- Cardinals 24
A lot of things have changed since the mentor Tony Dungy bested protégée Lovie Smith in Super Bowl XLII.
The Colts have had their share of injuries and defections. They are starting to show their age, while the Bears have done little via the draft and free agency to improve their on-field product, particularly at the quarterback position. When healthy, the Bears defense is still a formidable unit, but unless rookie Matt Forte can significantly upgrade the running game, this team will have a very difficult time scoring points.
Colts 24 - Bears 9
Wow, right out of the box the two top teams in the NFC North do battle in a very interesting
Monday night match up. The Packers had problems stopping the run in the preseason,
and are going to get a full dose of Adrian Peterson on Monday night.
The one surprise they will see is a much improved and confident Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson has a great deal of physical talent and is going to surprise a lot of people with both his throwing and running skills. I expect both "will" backer A.J. Hawk and run stopper extraordinaire Ryan Pickett (what were the Rams thinking?) to be on-hand although both will be less then 100%. The Vikings defense got a major boost with the draft week trade for Jared Allen and the selection of Tyrell Johnson in this year’s player draft. I really like the look of this year’s Viking squad,
who are my pick to dethrone the defending champions in the NFC North in 2008. I
just don’t see it happening in week number one. Packers 26 - Vikings 24
Short of winning a Super Bowl, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan likes nothing better than to beat his former boss, Al Davis. Short-handed offensively and untested defensively, I don’t like his chances of raining on Al’s parade. The Raiders are much improved, particularly on defense, but until JaMarcus Russell can establish himself at the quarterback position, I don’t see a significant change in the number of wins and losses.
Raiders 16 - Broncos 13