By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) I’m not sure there are three words better than: football is back! Here’s my take on how the NFL’s Week 1 will shake out with my predictions and my juggernaut games of the week and my juggernot lames of the week:
Juggernaut Games of the Week
(Home teams in ALL CAPS)
BEARS 23, Falcons 20 – Noon
Seeing that the Bears are an underdog in this match-up, I suppose picking them to win this game could also be considered an upset pick. The Falcons aren’t as good on the road, their secondary is shaky, and I think the Bears defensive line will control the line of scrimmage in what will be one of the most entertaining games of week 1.
Steelers 27, RAVENS 24 – Noon
Buckle your seatbelts for this game, which has become the fiercest rivalry in football. Both teams are known for playing ferocious defense, but they’ve also built offenses capable of lighting up the scoreboard. With Bryant McKinnie defending Joe Flacco’s blindside, look for the Steelers to send a lot of blitzes and pressure his way. A late field goal pulls this one out for Pittsburgh.
JETS 23, Cowboys 20 – 7:20
The Ryan twins square off in a Sunday night battle between two teams with a lot of hype heading into 2011. It will be strength versus strength when the Cowboys have the football, so it will come down to what happens when the Jets have the ball. The Cowboys have a very shaky secondary, so I like the J-E-T-S to win.
Juggernot Lames of the Week:
Titans 16, JAGUARS 9 – Noon
As if this game wasn’t bad enough to begin with, the Jaguars went out and cut starting quarterback David Garrard five games before the season, forcing (willing) viewers to watch Luke McCown guide the anemic Jaguar attack. I’m shuddering at that thought and I’m not even a Jaguars fan. I bet you will be able to count fans in the stand at this snoozer. In the end, Matt Hasselbeck will be less bad than McCown in a battle of field goals.
BRONCOS 24, Raiders 16 – Monday, 9:15
How exactly did this game end up on Monday night of the opening weekend? Anyone? Bueller? I digress. Two new head coaches on display here – Hue Jackson in Oakland and John Fox in Denver – look to get their programs off to a positive start. Darren McFadden is an electric runner, but Jason Campbell has most certainly reached bust status in the NFL. Kyle “Captain Neckbeard” Orton should be able to carve up a Nnamdi Asmougha-less Oakland pass defense.
49ERS 17, Seahawks 13 – 3:15
Former coaches of prominent west coach college football programs square off in what will be three hours of sheer misery. Unless you’ve lost a bet, I’m not sure why you’d possibly choose to tune into this game. Alex Smith leads the gold rush against Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks. Yikes. This could be the first and only tie of the season, but I’ll give a reluctant nod to the home team here.
BROWNS 24, Bengals 10 – Noon
Andy Dalton is a starting quarterback in the NFL. Really. He is. And that’s not a good thing for Bengal fans. I like the core the Browns are building, it’s just unfortunate they play in the AFC North. Even though the Browns won’t be good enough to compete with the Ravens and Steelers, they should dominate the Bengals.
CHIEFS 24, Bills 13 – Noon
Buffalo has the NFL’s worst run defense, which is a bad thing considering how dominant Kansas City is running the rock. With Matt Cassel banged up, look for Jamaal Charles to run wild in the opener at Arrowhead.
Eagles 31, RAMS 17 – Noon
NFL fans get their first view of the “dream team” when Mike Vick and the Eagles visit Sam Bradford’s Rams. This should be a very entertaining game as Bradford was very impressive in his rookie campaign. Despite the positive momentum building in St. Louis, the Eagles just have too much talent to lose this game.
BUCCANEERS 24, Lions 23 – Noon
This could be dubbed the “Hype Bowl” as there are several soothsayers who will (incorrectly) lead you to believe both of these teams are playoff bound. Both teams have very talented young quarterbacks in Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford, so the future is bright, but the key word there is future. I do like what Tampa Bay is building, but both of these teams are still a year away from contending. This could end up being one of the most competitive games of week one, and I’m giving a slight edge to the home team.
TEXANS 27, Colts 17 – Noon
Both teams are dealing with injuries to key players, none bigger than Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning, who is shelved for 2-3 months after a recent cervical fusion surgery. Houston running back Arian Foster is dealing with a sore hammy, but even without Foster, the loss of Manning is just too much for the Colts and new quarterback Kerry Collins to overcome. Could be a statement game for the Texans who hope to seize the moment and take the reins in the NFC South.
Giants 27, REDSKINS 13– 3:15
Rex Grossman is back, leading the charge for Mike Shanahan’s Redskins. Yay? I think Shanahan’s “genius” label will be peeled off after this season, as the Redskins will be amongst the worst teams in the NFL. Eli Manning and company will take care of business at FedEx Field on Sunday.
CHARGERS 27, Vikings 17 – 3:15
Donovan McNabb starts a new chapter of his NFL career in sunny San Diego, but my forecast predicts gray skies for the Vikings. Look for the Chargers to focus all defensive attention on containing superstar running back Adrian Peterson, and force McNabb to beat them, which he won’t. Philip Rivers and company will pick apart a porous Viking secondary and start 2011 in style.
CARDINALS 27, Panthers 10 – 3:15
This game came perilously close to a lame of the week as well, but it could feature some fireworks for the home team, in what should be a high school homecoming atmosphere. The Cardinals unveil shiny new quarterback Kevin Kolb, for whom they gave up entirely too much and then subsequently grossly overpaid. For those of you who enjoy fun with math, if you total Kevin Kolb’s last two contracts you arrive at $75M…..for 12 career TD’s. Not bad. not bad at all. Cam Newton and the Panthers will come up dry in the desert.
Patriots 34, DOLPHINS 13 – Monday, 6:00
Tom Brady may have more difficulty helping pick out his wife’s South Beach attire than he will with the Dolphins. This game won’t even be a contest for the Patriots who are looking to make a statement and get the bad taste out of their mouth from last year’s playoff dud against the Jets. If you didn’t know the Patriots are the best team in the AFC, you’ll know that after Monday night.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.