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NFL Week 1 Preview & Picks

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The 53-man rosters are set. You’ve drafted your fantasy team. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy football for the next 21 weeks.

Finally, the NFL is back in our lives, an exciting time no matter what demographic you fall into. Watching the games with family and friends is a blast, obviously, but making predictions adds onto the fun. Come on, what’s better than telling your buddy that the Seahawks were going to go beast mode last year, then rubbing it in his face when they won the Super Bowl?

Last season, I wrote a lot about fantasy football, and while I am certainly playing in 2014, I’ll only be making my against the spread picks each week. Selections are in bold font.

Let’s roll.

Record: (0-0)

The Opener

Green Bay Packers (+6) at Seattle Seahawks (Thursday, 7:30 CT on NBC)

Ahh, yes. The rematch of the infamous “Fail Mary” from two years ago.

Fortunately, there won’t be replacement referees on the field to screw this one up, or so we hope. As always, the Super Bowl champions will host the opening kickoff game, so CenturyLink Field will be rocking as the Seahawks take on the Packers.

This could be a NFC Championship preview on Thursday night, as the Packers will definitely be in the mix with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Seattle isn’t going anywhere in the title picture, but they’ll be tested to open up the season.

I’m high on Green Bay this year, mainly because Rodgers is 100 percent, but also the pieces around him. In this game, the Packers will be able to score points on the “Legion of Boom”, so when it comes to offense, I’ll take the mix Green Bay has over Seattle.

Green Bay at +6, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they win outright.

Game of the Week

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-7.5) (Sunday, 7:30 CT on NBC)

Luck vs. Manning II.

The future vs. the present.

Whatever headline networks use for this game, it’s going to be about Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning.

Big things are on the horizon for the Colts with Luck at the helm, but let’s talk Broncos. Forget about the Matt Prater and Wes Welker suspensions. Denver has revamped their defense, and even without Welker, still have plenty of weapons for Manning to find. Sure, losing Welker for four games is unfortunate, but it really isn’t a big deal.

Manning lost to his former team in 2013, so combine that with the thumping against the Seahawks, and you have a Broncos team hungry for revenge. Denver wins by 10.

Lock of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-11) (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS)

Unless the Eagles just lay an egg on their home turf, this should be a piece of cake.

Here’s a fantasy tip: start LeSean McCoy. Philly will fly ahead early and not look back in this one. Thanks to the Jaguars, this is our lock of the week.

The Toss-up

Cincinnati Bengals (+1.5) at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS)

When these AFC North rivals hook up, it never fails to be an intense contest.

Vegas certainly agrees, with the only reason Baltimore being favored is likely due to them being the home team. However, Cincy is the better team in my eyes, especially at this point in the season.

We’ll get a glimpse of how the Ravens fare without Ray Rice, while on the flip side, the Bengals will be at full strength. In the last four meetings between the two, the home team has won, so I have that stat working against me.

But that breaks on Sunday. Cincinnati wins on the road by a field goal.

“Sneaky Good” Games

New Orleans Saints (-3) at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, Noon CT on FOX)

This match-up never fails to disappoint.

Atlanta now has a healthy lineup with receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside, but what will we see out of Matt Ryan this year? It was a mistake-filled season for him, and a tough, underrated defense awaits him in the opening week.

The last time the Falcons defeated New Orleans, Atlanta held them to just 13 points. That just isn’t happening on Sunday. Give me Drew Brees and the Saints at -3.

San Francisco 49ers (-5) at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 3:25 CT on FOX)

Two organizations with rich tradition would normally fall into the “game of the week” category, but things have changed.

The 49ers are an elite team, without question, but it’s the Dallas side filled with question marks. How will Tony Romo fare after back surgery in the offseason? Can the offensive line protect him against the strong San Francisco defense?

And what about that atrocious Dallas defense?

Romo will fire some touchdowns, but stopping the Niners could be daunting for the Cowboys. I see a high scoring game, with San Francisco leaving JerryLand with the win.

Dud of the Week

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets (-5.5) (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS)

Alright, these teams will be a lot better in 2014 after making some moves in the offseason, but can we really expect an outstanding game?

The Raiders will start a rookie at quarterback — Derek Carr — so it’s difficult to bet on him in his first start. J-E-T-S win.

The Rest

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (-3.5) (Sunday, Noon CT on FOX) – Do you believe in Shaun Hill? Most will pick Minnesota here, but I’ve got a hunch. Rams barely get over the number behind their strong front seven.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS) – Am I tempted to take the underdog? Yes. But I just can’t pull the trigger. Should be a low scoring game, with Pittsburgh winning by eight points. Yeah, I’m cutting it close.

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (-7) (Sunday, Noon CT on FOX) – Breakout season for Jay Cutler? Breakout season for Jay Cutler. Best wide receiver duo is owned by Chicago, so don’t underestimate what this offense can do.

Washington Redskins (+3) at Houston Texans (Sunday, Noon CT on FOX) – Tricky game. Not confident with picking the Redskins, but then I remembered who Houston is starting at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick. I like him more than the average guy, but he’s under a lot of pressure. Washington pulls it out.

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-4) (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS) – This almost made the “lock of the week” section. I just can’t see the Titans going into Arrowhead and losing by four points or less. Chiefs win by double-digits.

New England Patriots (-5.5) at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, Noon CT on CBS) – Last time the Patriots played in Miami? The Dolphins upset Brady and company by four points. You know that has to be on their minds. Dolphins will compete, but Patriots will win by six. Another close call.

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) (Sunday, 3:25 CT on FOX) – Another toss up. I’ll take the home Bucs against the Panthers with question marks concerning Cam Newton’s health. Yeah, he’s a little banged up is all, but Tampa will be a solid team.

Monday Night Football

New York Giants (+6) at Detroit Lions (Monday, 6:10 CT on ESPN) – Why does it always seem like the Giants open the season in primetime? Concerns have come out of New York regarding the Giants, but there’s no way Eli Manning is worse than he was a year ago. Good time to take the road underdog here who have something to prove.

San Diego Chargers (+3) at Arizona Cardinals (Monday, 9:20 CT on ESPN) – Let’s keep the trend going. Another road underdog between two teams that finished with similar records in 2013. Close game, but San Diego edges the Cards out.

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