Antigonish - September 7, 2012 - Welcome to Season Two of Pigskin Picks! Although Week One of the NFL schedule is already underway with the Cowboys upsetting the Giants, Pigskin Picks begins this Sunday, and I am truly pumped that NFL fever is back and rampant once again.
Each week I will do my best to highlight five games, including a "lock of the week" as well as an "upset special", with two important caveats: First - Understand that my views as a Colts fan may at times cloud my judgement as a prognosticator (although I will try to be realistic) and Second - 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 2012-13 NFL season:
Lock of the Week: Miami at Houston - Miami’s decision to draft highly regarded QB Ryan Tannehill with their first round pick in the 2012 NFL draft may well prove to be a great move in the long-term, but team management look to be throwing him to the wolves early on, as the Dolphins have one of the league’s least talented WR corps, and are taking on one of the league’s best balanced teams in the Texans. Facing the relentless JJ Watt and company, it is safe to assume that Tannehill will be running for his life, while the Miami D, having dealt away its top CB in Vontae Davis for a draft pick, will surely miss him greatly against WR Andre Johnson, QB Matt Schaub and the high flying Texan arial attack. Oh yeah, did I mention the league’s best RB, Arian Foster? Houston wins easily.
Upset of the Week - Buffalo at New York Jets - The Jets appear to be quickly headed towards “circus” status, with embattled QB Mark Sanchez trying to fend off the popular “Tebow sideshow”, the coach saying he would not have drafted the teams’ starting rookie WR, and the running game having proved nothing in the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, have quietly added greatly to their talent base, plugging in stud DE Mario Williams to an already talented DL, drafting CB Stephon Gilmore to beef up the secondary, and adding OL Cordy Glenn to a leaky O-line. Look for the Buffalo D to frustrate the Jets, and for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the steady Bills offense to outscore the Jets. Bills win!
Colts at Bears - This mid-West matchup is, on paper at least, a sizeable mismatch. The Colts, having drafted QB Andrew Luck and jettisoned long-time fixture Peyton Manning and virtually his entire offensive cast are beginning anew with a new GM and a new coach, both of whom offer considerable hope and promise for the future. The future is now, however, in Chicago, where Bears QB Jay Cutler is re-united with WR Brandon Marshall, and with rookie WR Alshon Jeffery added to the devastating RB combo of Matt Forte and Micheal Bush, the Bears should have their best offense in years. With a fearsome pass rush lead by Julius Peppers, the defense should have no trouble pressuring rookie QB Andrew Luck, whose offensive line has been re-modeled, but not fixed. While Luck will likely impress with his skills, and manage to move the ball against the Bears, the Colts are still a few pieces away from having a truly dangerous team. GM Ryan Grigson has done a great job thus far re-building the team that finished last in the league in 2011-2, but Rome was not built in a day, and Grigson has considerably more work to do to get this team back to the playoffs. Bears win.
Atlanta at Kansas City - The Falcons have long been a ground and pound team behind RB Michael Turner, but with a new offensive coordinator in town, and am impressive offensive arsenal surrounding QB Matt Ryan, look for the shackles to be removed from the star QB, and for the new-look Falcon offense to run through star WR’s Julio Jones and Roddy White, along with stalwart TE Tony Gonzales. KC was devastated by injuries a year ago, and while the team is bolstered by the return of critical pieces on offense in the form of explosive RB Jamal Charles and the addition of RB Peyton Hillis, the return of young star S Eric Berry will be just as important. QB Matt Cassel has his own big WR weapon in the form of Dwayne Bowe, but while this promises to be one of the best games in Week One, the talent difference at QB gives the Falcons the edge. Atlanta wins!
Carolina at Tampa Bay - Star QB Cam Newton and the explosive Carolina attack look to avoid a “sophomore slump” and are widely believed to have a big edge in this matchup. WR Steve Smith and RB DeAngelo Williams (RB Jonathon Stewart is questionable) will be ready to play, and Tampa will likely struggle to contain that trio. Tampa Bay has worked hard this offseason, however, to address the teams weak areas, and have done as good a job in this area as any team in the league, adding a coach whose attention to detail promises to change the culture of the team in Greg Schiano, finally giving QB Josh Freeman a #1 WR in Vincent Jackson, adding a #1 RB by trading up in the draft to select Doug Martin, and revitalizing the offensive line by adding the best guard in free agency in Carl Nicks. The Bucs did not stop there, however, adding a long needed difference maker at safety in the draft with the #8 overall pick Mark Barron. Look for the changes to make a difference, and for an upset here. Bucs win!