A new season begins on Thursday night, which brings new life to survivor pool hopefuls. Everyone begins with a clean slate with 17 weeks ahead of them. However, with the wrong choice in Week 1, your chances could be over in the blink of an eye.
A few general rules that I like to follow when picking a team are avoiding road teams and avoiding divisional matchups. I generally would never take a road team in a divisional matchup.
On to the Week 1 games …
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers –
The Super Bowl champion has never lost in these Thursday night openers, which would allow you to have some confidence in Green Bay at home. However, this game could still go either way and it’s not worth the risk.
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears –
Atlanta enters Chicago as a slight favorite and those are the games I tend to stay away from. The slight home underdog, especially on opening day, is definitely a candidate for an upset.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns –
Divisional matchup between these two teams sounds ugly, but it should be for only one team. The Bengals endured a chaotic offseason and will start rookie Andy Dalton at quarterback. The question becomes how much faith do you have in Cleveland in Week 1 of your survivor pool. Potential pick.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs –
It seems as Matt Cassel will play in this game, and while you should not put too much stock into the preseason, the Chiefs were not exactly impressive. Buffalo has some playmakers on offense, but in the end, Kansas City should hold down home-field at Arrowhead and take this one. Potential pick.
Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams –
The Eagles had a decent offseason – Ronnie Brown, Nmandi Asomugha, Steve Smith, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young. Maybe it was a little better than decent, but don’t count them as a lock in St. Louis. The Rams are improved and Sam Bradford has his rookie year behind him. I would still pick the Eagles to win this one, but I would prefer not to chance them on the road Week 1.
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers –
Everyone appears to be jumping on the Lions’ bandwagon this preseason. Whether it is because of that pass rush or the hype on Matthew Stafford and company, the Lions are drawing attention. Don’t sleep on the Buccaneers, though, who were a popular choice earlier in the offseason to make the playoffs in the NFC. Avoid this game.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars –
I never like to touch this game when these two teams play. Anything is possible and too many variables in this one. Chris Johnson is coming off his holdout and the Jaguars just released David Garrard. Stay away.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens –
Never a smart move to pick a winner in this game when it seems like every game they have played always comes down to a field goal.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans –
With Peyton Manning, stay away … without Peyton Manning, different story. It appears the latter will be the case here as Kerry Collins looks to be all set as the Colts’ opening day quarterback. That doesn’t sound right at all, but that will likely be the case. Therefore, the Texans are big favorites in this game and they already beat Indianapolis last year on opening day with Peyton Manning under center. The Texans are a solid choice for Week 1.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins –
The Giants have had Washington’s number the last few years, but I can’t trust the road team in a divisional matchup, especially in the NFC East. Rex Grossman will start for the Redskins, but it will be interesting to see how the Giants respond with all of their injuries.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers –
These two teams met on opening day last year, but the game was in Seattle and it ended in a Seahawk romp. I do not trust either quarterback in this game and therefore, I will look elsewhere.
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers –
San Diego is infamous for getting off to slow starts. From 2007 until 2010, they have started off the season 2-5, 2-3, 3-5 and 1-3, respectively. They let a lot of people down in 2008 when Jake Delhomme found Dante Rosario for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of their home opener. They are once again a big favorite to another NFC team. The Chargers are a tempting pick, but based upon their history, it isn’t as much of a lock as you would think.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals –
I look at the Cardinals as a possible pick, but then I look at that team and I am not convinced. I would like to see Kevin Kolb in a regular season game with Arizona before I put trust in them. Arizona did not seem to have much confidence in Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells after they drafted Ryan Williams, but lost him to a season-ending injury this offseason. While Cam Newton will be making his first NFL start and Carolina is traveling to the West Coast, I still do not want to trust the Cardinals.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets –
With the NFC East taking on the AFC East this year, there will be some intriguing matchups. This is one of them on Sunday Night Football. The Jets have struggled in their recent home openers and the talk of the Cowboys has been very quiet this offseason. That is probably the way they would like it after the past decade.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins –
I often find the Patriots to be an exception to the rule of road teams and divisional matchups, but I won’t take them on opening day since I prefer to start off with a home team. New England is a big touchdown favorite on the road.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos –
Divisional rivalry on Monday Night Football. I won’t go near this one.
My top choices for Week 1 would be
Houston followed by
Kansas City and
San Diego. The Texans will be able to handle the Colts with Kerry Collins at quarterback. The Chiefs have a tremendous home-field advantage and once this game is over, people will forget about their preseason. San Diego is still my third option because they are a big home favorite, but they would be higher if not for their history of slow starts.
Taking chances in Week 1
: If you are willing to take a chance, go with
Cleveland. It is a divisional game, but when you look at Cincinnati, they bring nothing to the table. I don’t advise the strategy of saving the top teams for later in the year because you need to get there first, but using Cleveland to get a victory would be a bonus.
: Be very wary of those home underdogs in Week 1, including Chicago, Washington and St. Louis.
Good luck in Week 1! Remember to get your selections in by Thursday for those pools where picks lock on the first game of the week.