Before we get to this week’s game picks, let’s finish the preseason predictions with a projected playoff rundown to February’s big game.
Potential division winners are likely to be the Patriots, Broncos, Bengals and Colts in the AFC; while the Eagles, 49ers, Lions and Saints are chosen to finish on top of the NFC. The choice for wildcard teams in each are the Ravens and Texans, and the Packers and Cardinals.
For the Super Bowl showdown, let’s take the Patriots and the Eagles, realizing that next week I might just feel differently about the whole thing — but there you go.
Packers at Seahawks - Now that it’s time for the actual games to get underway, all eyes are focused on Seattle for an opening night Thursday contest against the Packers. Since nothing is really possible to predict based on preseason play, the only thing seriously out of whack in this otherwise spectacular matchup is the location, and in this case that’s enough. Seattle just doesn’t lose at home.
Saints at Falcons - New Orleans should be great fun to watch anytime they play indoors. Atlanta still has team confidence issues, and while they have plenty enough speed and scoring potential to keep up, in a passing game showdown between Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, I’ll take Brees thank you very much.
Bengals at Ravens - We’ll see how mature Andy Dalton is getting since having to live with bitter disappointment for almost eight months. The team has finally progressed to the point that when they lose, it’s his problem.
Baltimore remains tough at home, but they give the appearance of being plodders and at least the Bengals remain in a hurry. Still, Ozzie Newsome always has a personnel surprise or two to throw out there at us and John Harbaugh is nobody’s fool, so this one’s nobody’s lock.
Hard to think that urgency is an issue so soon, but Cincinnati must win their division so they might as well start the season being serious about it and there’s no better place to prove it than in Baltimore.
Bills at Bears - Unfortunately, Buffalo is still probably a defensive team that Jay Cutler can throw around anywhere he wants. With a fat contract freshly stuffed in his pocket, we’re assuming he also wants to make a good impression from the get-go.
Redskins at Texans - Houston’s defense will probably outscore its offense this week, although I don’t think they’ll need that much help. Washington is a tenderfoot, and not just at the quarterback position. They need time. They’ve taken a lot of stray arrows lately.
Titans at Chiefs - Very few teams make a good impression in the preseason. Most aren’t even trying to. Tennessee was. That’s what so sad about it. Kansas City’s run game should give plenty of fantasy owners some wins this week.
Patriots at Dolphins - It’s seldom that New England doesn’t start the year in near mid-season form, not that coach Bill Belichick would ever admit to that. Miami will be good, but then Steve DeBerg was good. Playing at home will help them a great deal, but unless there’s some weird H-back formations or a replay of the single wing variant wildcat offense to throw the Pats off kilter, the talent balance is skewed much too far in New England’s favor.
Raiders at Jets - When the AFC’s Least hosts the AFC’s Worst, who wins? It ain’t the networks, that’s for sure. New York’s defense should be plenty good enough to take care of this bit of business…not that they should start bragging or anything.