New Orleans 32, Green Bay 21
The Saints already learned the hard way how to prepare for the season following a Super-Bowl victory. They were working daily during the lockout, scheduling team practices, while the champs merely continued the celebration. It's not often you say the words 'Drew Brees needs a bounce-back season,' but that's the case. He'll start right here.
Atlanta 23, Chicago 20
A lot of people, including myself, are picking the Falcons as the preseason NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl. An explosive offense that already included Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez became downright toxic with the drafting of Alabama receiver Julio Jones. This has Game of the Week written all over it, but Atlanta squeaks one out.
Kansas City 27, Buffalo 17
The Chiefs seemed to turn the page last season, making the playoffs for the first time since, I believe, the Montana years. They achieved postseason inclusion by winning the games they were supposed to, and this matchup certainly fits that category. But don't sleep on the Bills and the pass-catch combo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson, which figures to put up monster numbers.
Houston 23, Indianapolis 3
Will Peyton play, or will he sit the bench? The oddsmakers believe it's the latter, because the Colts recently went from 1.5-point favorites, to 8.5-point dogs. Regardless, each season at this time we hear about how the Texans are a sleeper pick. After how many years of disappointment, though, does Houston go from being called on the rise, to just another pretender? On the hunch that No. 18 sits ...
St. Louis 26, Philadelphia 24
It's time for the Eagles, the self-proclaimed 'Dream Team,' to put up or shut up. It's always the teams that do the talking that end up failing (see Heat, Miami) and I don't see Philly being an exception to the rule. I never trust a team who gets it's unbeatable moniker from a backup QB (Vince Young) who hasn't done anything since college.
Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 21
If you want a real sleeper look at the Lions, and not the Texans. Matthew Stafford can make all the throws, has a winning pedigree and enough talent around him to make a lot of QBs drool. But his major obstacle is his health, which always seems to be in question. With a healthy Stafford and a defensive front that figures to eat up opposing ballcarriers, Detroit could surprise.
Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 19
Could there be anything better for Steelers fans than to have the hated Ravens up first on the docket? It's a division game which makes it of the utmost importance, but couple that with both clubs having extremely easy schedules this season and this becomes giant right off the bat. Ben Roethlisberger is going to put up video game-type numbers this season (4,500 yards, 35 TDs) and there's no better place to start than at Baltimore.
Cleveland 17, Cincinnati 10
On the flip side of the previous game which has all the national pundits' attention, it says here they are playing a game this weekend at the Mistake on the Lake. Carson Palmer and Bernie Kosar won't be slinging passes, and Cedric Benson just recently traded in his orange jumpsuit for his orange and black kitty attire, meaning his level of fitness is anyone's guess. And did anyone else notice the Bengals either signed or traded for just about every member of a San Francisco secondary that was terrible last season?
Tennessee 13, Jacksonville 9
These two teams are trying to start over, so it might end up being one of the more closely contested matchups of opening week. It was also supposed to be a meeting of two teams with veteran QBs (the Titans' Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans' David Garrard) who are playing out the ends of their career as top picks Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, respectively, wait in the wings. However, the Jags surprisingly released Garrard on Tuesday and will go with Luke McKown.
Seattle 3, San Francisco 2
Combined, these two teams might win six games this season - they're that bad. Pete Carroll, by all accounts a strange, often aloof guy, still thinks he's coaching at USC and continues to bring in his old players, despite the fact they can rarely play at this level. On the other side is novice NFL boss Jim Harbaugh, who is the third coach that seems to think Alex Smith is the answer at QB. Fool me once, ...
Arizona 37, Carolina 15
With the type of money the Cardinals just invested in receiver Larry Fitzgerald, management had better be right on Kevin Kolb, who himself was handed $63M despite only starting only a handful of pro games. So if I have this correct, a guy who has seven games of NFL experience can get that kind of jack, but a guy who has zero starts is no longer afforded the same right?
San Diego 26, Minnesota 17
Get this: there are many NFL insiders picking the Chargers to be the AFC's Super Bowl entry. And get this: this is the same story we hear each season, and there's never the happily ever after. This season may be Donovan McNabb's last chance at a starring role, and he was handed the keys to a playoff-ready roster. In his two previous stops his leadership ability has been called in question. If it happens a third time, nobody will be able to defend McNabb from this point forward.
N.Y. Giants 28, Washington 7
Will the real Eli Manning please stand up? Please stand up? The guy who threw 25 picks last season had the nerve to tell the world he should be considered in the same category as Tom Brady. Maybe Eli should have had his neck looked at like his brother did, because the younger Manning obviously doesn't have his head screwed on right. All you need to know about the Skins is this: Rex Grossman is the starting QB.
Dallas 16, N.Y. Jets 15
Man, how much talking do you think is going be happening this week when brothers Rex and Rob Ryan prepare to play one another? If you listen to either of them talk, you might just walk away thinking these are the two best teams in the history of the league. The problem is, well, both teams have problems. The Cowboys defense was statistically one of the worst last season, while New York, despite all its bravado, simply couldn't apply pressure with its front seven and didn't do anything to address this in the offseason.
New England 34, Miami 13
You think Brady enjoys opening with a divisional game? Oh, he's licking his chops. Word on the street is he wouldn't mind having Randy Moss to throw to again. It's not going to happen right away, but don't be shocked the first time a Patriots receiver gets injured and they 'pull the 81 jerseys out.' When drafting my various fantasy teams I was intrigued by Brandon Marshall each time. But I kept coming back to this: Chad Henne is the guy trying to get him the football.
Oakland 21, Denver 14
The Raaaaaaiders are another chic playoff pick, but as long as Al Davis is pulling the strings there will be no cry that Oakland is back - at least not from this desk. While he undoubtedly built the Raiders into one of the league's premier franchises, he has also torn them down. How long until Tim Tebow plays for the Broncos? I admit I'm a Tebow fan, but it's not because of that fact I shutter each time someone says he's not the 'prototypical' NFL quarterback. And? The objective is to win games, which Tebow does and Kyle Orton does not.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net