Antigonish - September 8, 2011 - With Week One of the NFL schedule due to start this evening, pitting the last two league champions in Green Bay and New Orleans respectively, NFL fever is rampant once again.
Each week I will do my best to highlight five games, including a “lock of the week”, with two important caveats: #1. Understand that my views as a fan may at times cloud my judgement as a prognosticator, although I will try to be realistic, and #2. All of the matchups selected will be picked straight up - without taking “the spread” into consideration.
With that said, here are my five picks for Week One of the 2011-12 NFL season:
Lock of the Week: Carolina @Arizona - Larry Fitzgerald, long one of the league’s best WRs, finally has a QB who can get him the ball in Kevin Kolb. Kolb, though unproven, has shown some chemistry with Fitz, and if Beanie Wells can carry the rock, Arizona should roll over last season’s doormats, the Panthers, who will try to counter with the 1st overall pick, QB Cam Newton and a RB heavy attack. The league tends not to be kind to rookie QB’s, especially those with limited off-seasons due to lockouts. Arizona wins handily.
Indianapolis @ Houston - It kills me to pick against my Colts, but without Manning, they are no better than a .500 team, and Houston boasts one of the leagues’ premier runners in Arian Foster (questionable) as well as top WR/QB tandems in Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, along with a Wade Phillips led defense that knows how to pressure the QB. All of this, of course, spells trouble for the immobile Kerry Collins and the young Colts O-line, especially considering the lack of success the Colts have had running the ball over the past few years. While the Colts can still pressure the passer, they have long had problems stopping the run, and will again in Week One vs Foster. Houston takes it.
Atlanta @ Chicago - The Falcons boast an impressive attack led by QB Matt Ryan and his plethora of targets, including All Pro receiver Roddy White, impressive rookie Julio Jones, and the ageless Tony Gonzales. Add to this the powerful RB Michael Turner, and you have a potentially highly explosive offense. While the Bears Jay Cutler has a strong arm, his head has not always matched up, and he has a disturbing propensity to throw costly interceptions. Add to that a receiving corps that is devoid of a true difference maker, and RB Matt Forte will be hard pressed to run the Bears to victory. Atlanta wins.
Philadelphia @ St Louis -This matchup features one of the leagues up and coming teams in St Louis vs the preseason Superbowl favourites in the Eagles. While the Rams have a great young QB in Sam Bradford, along with steady RB play from Steven Jackson, and some solid young talent on defense, the Eagles, led by electrifying QB Michael Vick, a stellar WR corps featuring DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and explosive RB LeSean McCoy simply have too much firepower. Considering that the Eagles also added arguably the league’s top CB in Nmandi Ashmugha and some other key pieces on defense to compliment their offense, the Rams look likely to be over their heads. Eagles win.
New Orleans @ Green Bay - 2009 champ New Orleans vs 2010 champ Green Bay - what is not to like in this premier matchup of two of the league’s top teams? However you break it down, GB’s Rodgers and N.O’s Brees are two of the league’s best QB’s, and each directs an offense that can be unstoppable at times. This game will come down to the wire, and may well be a preview of the NFC championship game. In a tough call, I am going with the home team in Green Bay, who also boasts a formidable defence led by LB Clay Matthews and CB Charles Woodson. Must see NFL action! GB by a whisker!