Sean's Sunday Scrimmage: Week One Predictions
Football season is finally here. After a long offseason, the NFL kicked off in sensational style on Thursday night as the Chiefs stuck 41 points on the Patriots, most pundits lock for the super bowl. It marked the first time in Brady’s career that he had lost a game at home when leading into the fourth quarter. The Chiefs defence looks legit, but the season ending injury to inspirational leader Eric Berry will be a massive blow.
Here’s a look at the rest of the week one games and how I see them playing out.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
The New York Jets are a horror show at present and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 0-16. Strong weapons Erick Decker and Brandon Marshall are gone, they have just traded their best player in Sheldon Richardson to the Seahawks and 38-year-old Josh McCowan will line up under centre, who has the worst Total QBR (45) over the last three seasons. The bills can put the Rex Ryan era firmly behind them with a confident showing against a division rival. The bills have led the league in rushing for the last two seasons and with no franchise QB on the roster and Sammy Watkins now in LA, we can expect more of the same. Get on Lesean McCoy to score the first touchdown and to lead the league in rushing, this one is set for a blowout.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins
Another division rivalry game here but one that I’m predicting will be a much closer affair. Philadelphia started the season on fire last year, with rookie QB Carson Wentz easing in to the season like an old pro. Critical Injuries on the offensive and defensive line however, saw their season fizzle out to a 7-9 record. The Redskins are coming off back-to-back winning seasons and they will be looking to start the season well after their sorry showing against the Giants last time out, with a playoff berth on the line. Kirk Cousins will have to get used to new weapons as he once again plays under the franchise tag. Washington have won five straight games against Philadelphia but the Eagles will be just too strong for them in this game and Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount, who lead the NFL last season with 18 rushing touchdowns, will complement Wentz’s passing game well.
Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford, fresh off signing the biggest contract in NFL history, will go up against an Arizona Cardinals team, desperate to make up for a lacklustre 2016 campaign. History doesn’t favour the Lions in this fixture, as they have lost their last six meetings with the Cardinals. Stafford will have his work cut out against an Arizona defence that allowed the second fewest yards and led the league in sacks. The backroom staff in Detroit re-structured their offensive line in the hope of better protecting Stafford and opening holes in the running game and they will be hoping it pays dividends against the Cardinals D, but I can’t see it being enough. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are two of the best in the game and they will lead the Arizona to a win on the road.
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears
The manner in the way the Falcons lost the Super Bowl is something they are never going to get over and a Super Bowl hangover season may well be on the cards. If they can at least put it to the back of their minds though, then Atlanta has a roster stacked with talent. MVP Matt Ryan, who threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Julio Jones, who established himself as the best wide receiver in football and Devonta Freeman, who rushed for over 1,000 yards, all have the ability of taking over games on their own. Chicago start life in 1 AC (after Cutler) with a merky future lying ahead of them. Mike Glennon has the starting the job for now and he will be hoping Kevin White can live up to his pre-draft hype. Look for Fox to scheme for a running game and rely heavily on second year running back Jordan Howard. The key battle in this match-up will be at the line of scrimmage as Bears pass rushers Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Akiem Hicks look to get to Matt Ryan. In the end, Atlanta will have to much talent for Chicago to hang with, and will win out comfortably.
Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr both enjoyed stellar years before having their seasons cut short by injury in 2016 and they will both be looking to pick up from where they left off. Carr’s 81 career passing touchdowns are the fourth most for a quarterback in his first three seasons and Mariota is making case with every down that he should have been picked ahead of Jameis Winston in the 2015 NFL draft. Tennessee will look to grind the Oakland defence down with some smash mouth football, as the combination of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, should help them control the game clock.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
With all that’s going on in Houston at the moment, Sunday’s game is sure to be an emotion filled spectacle. JJ Watt has raised a staggering amount for the relief fund and he will take that inspirational leadership onto the field. Tom Savage is a question mark at quarterback, with 12th overall pick Deshaun Watson, lying in wait. An improving Jacksonville defence, which ranked sixth in yards allowed last season, will be hoping to limit Savage and his passing lanes to Braxton Miller and DeAndre Hopkins. Jacksonville’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball, combined with the Texans defensive prowess will result in a comfortable win for Houston.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
This is a no brainer really, as the Steelers look to stake their claim as the best offensive team in the country. Mike Tomlin will feel blessed to have Big Ben, Martavius Bryant, Leveon Bell and Antonio Brown all fit and available for selection. The Browns had a great draft and appear to be moving in the right direction, but this team is still a long way away from contending. Rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer will make his NFL debut and the Dawg pound will hope they have finally found their franchise QB.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens have been hampered by the injury gods for the last two seasons but look to have several of their key men back on the field for their season opener. Flacco has traditionally struggled in Cincinnati, but look for six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley to give Flacco plenty of time in the pocket. The Bengals took a PR hit by taking Joe Mixon in the draft, another questionable character to add to their roster, and they will hope he gets his head down and focuses on football. Andy Dalton should be his reliable self and he can always count on AJ Green to make some big plays in the clutch. However, I see the Ravens taking this one and making a playoff run.
Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Rams
Prediction: Los Angeles
Key players out on both sides could make this a contender for the worst game of the week. Injury cursed Andrew Luck and summer hold-out Aaron Donald will both watch the season opener from the side-lines. Jared Goff starts his second season in the NFL, under intense scrutiny after an underwhelming rookie campaign, and will be hoping off-season acquisition, Sammy Watkins, will be able to stay healthy and offer big time plays, especially considering the Colts defensive backfield is compromised with Vontae Davis out injured. Rams to take it in a close low scoring game.
Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers
Prediction: San Francisco
It’s hard to tell what we will get from either of these teams on Sunday as they both look to move on from past disappointments. Carolina and Cam Newton will be aiming to prove that the 2015 season wasn’t a fluke and that they are still a Super Bowl calibre team. Christian McCaffrey should take some of the load off Newton and provide some much-needed versatility in the passing game. The 49ers have been riding a wave of positivity ever since the draft, after picking up Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. In six of the last nine seasons, Shanahan’s offense has finished in the top 10 in total offense, and has torched Carolina in recent years. I’m predicting Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garcon to have big games against a Carolina defence, still smarting after losing Josh Norman.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers
Prediction: Green Bay
What’s been hailed as a preview to the NFC Championship game, is set to be a mouth-watering clash at Lambeau Field. The high-powered Packers offense lead by Aaron Rodgers, probably the best talent to ever play the quarterback position, has a new weapon in tight end Martellus Bennett and the ‘Legion of Boom’ in Seattle has a new weapon after the Sheldon Richardson trade. Eight of Seattle’s 11 defensive starters have been selected for at least one pro bowl so Aaron Rodgers will certainly be tested. The packers addressed their defence in the draft and I’m backing them to outperform the Seahawks offense, which still has question marks along its offensive line.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
For the third straight year these two NFC East rivals face off in the season opener. Dallas will be boosted by the news that rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott is available for selection as he looks to continue his fruitful partnership with Dak Prescott. The game could hinge on whether Odell Beckham plays, the star wide receiver is listed as doubtful, after injuring his ankle in pre-season. Eli Manning still has plenty of weapons with Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, boosting an offense that averaged 330 yards per game last season, but I’m not sure it will be enough. The Giants still haven’t addressed the running game so look for Dallas to dominate the clock and avenge the two defeats from a season ago.
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson plays in his first NFL game out of a Vikings uniform in Minnesota, as he looks to prove a point to his old employers. In Peterson and Drew Brees, the Saints are led by two future hall of famers, and should once again have a strong year on the offensive side of the ball. Minnesota’s strengths lie within their third ranked defence, which returns nearly every starter including five pro bowlers. It remains to be seen how much Peterson has left in the tank, but I’m banking on the Vikings defence to come up big and earn the win.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos
The chargers start a new era in the Rocky Mountains as they take on a Denver team with new head coach Vance Joseph. Optimism is high with the Chargers after improving on offense and defence and the combination of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry should see them line up quite often in a two tight end set. Denver released veteran safety TJ Ward and will hope Justin Simmons can seamlessly replace hm. This should be another close game, but I’m backing the Broncos to get it done on home turf.