That's right. It's the return of that venerable series, Nagler's Never Right.
These are my picks for Week One of the NFL's 2014 regular season. Have at it in the comments, you jackals.
(And yes, I've started 0-1 after picking the Packers to win by 3 on Thursday night. Got to stay true to the Nagler's Never Right brand... ;)
Let's get on with it...
Saints at Falcons
Now that the Falcons are done boring everybody to death on Hard Knocks, they actually get to line up and try to rebound from their bore of a season in 2013. The Saints aren’t an ideal place to start, but at least Matt Ryan can use home field to his advantage with both his adjustments at the line and his cadence.
For the Saints, Drew Brees has declared himself 100% ready to go after missing a fair amount of training camp and preseason with a strained oblique. You can bet Sean Payton will have two or three plays specifically designed for explosive rookie Brandon Cooks, as well as a game plan that calls for all three of the Saints’ capable running backs to get multiple touches.
The Falcons only shot is to create some early turnovers and play keep away from the high-octane Saints. It won’t happen. Saints roll.
Vikings at Rams
Matt Cassel vs Shaun Hill. Can’t you just feel the excitement?
Actually, Hill is a much more capable player than many casual fans probably realize, and he should find success when working off play action and bootlegs. Of course, he’ll be handing the ball to Zach Stacy most of the time. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer needs defensive end Everson Griffin to be his Michael Johnson. The bet here is Griffin eats against Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth
Cassel and Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will obviously feed Adrian Peterson early and often, but it will be down to Cassel to make a play or two when the offense inevitably faces a third and long. That’s a tall order in St. Louis, on that surface, against the defensive line.
The Vikings will be a well-coached, and frankly better, team this year. But that doesn’t translate into victory for the launch of the Zimmer Era. Look for the Rams to win a relatively low scoring affair.
Browns at Steelers
Ryan Shazier. If you don’t know that name, you will soon. The Steelers’ rookie linebacker’s inside-out pursuit gives Dick LeBeau the speed his unit has sorely lacked the last few years. The front seven in Pittsburgh looks vastly different than a few years ago, but it is still a more than capable unit. The secondary, however, remains a concern. Fortunately for LeBeau and Pittsburgh, they are playing a team distinctly unable to take advantage.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not as down on “journeyman quarterback” Brian Hoyer as most. He’s a more than capable starter – he just has precious little to work with at receiver now that Josh Gordon won’t be playing. Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins should be able to make some noise. Hopefully Miles Austin can get out of pre-game warmups without pulling his hammy.
Cleveland’s defense will keep this close (this will be a recurring theme all year) but Big Ben and company win by two scores.
Jaguars at Eagles
I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really want to pick the Jaguars here.
But I can’t. Chip will have his boys ready to roll.
Raiders at Jets
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and his staff have quietly done a decent coaching job the last two years. They’ve just had little more than the dregs of the league to work with personnel-wise. Things have improved a bit after general manager Reggie McKenzie’s offseason veteran shopping spree. And David Carr being named the starter is the first good thing to happen to the Raiders quarterback position since Rich Gannon was winning his league MVP award.
However – Rex Ryan awaits. Yes, the Jets secondary is in shambles. Yes, the Jets didn’t exactly lead the league in sacks last year. Never mind all that. Ryan will mix things up in coverage enough to have Carr second guessing what he sees. Ryan’s own quarterback, Geno Smith, looks to be vastly improved, and finally has a bit of a supporting cast.
I like the Raiders. They’ll be a tough out this year for most teams, including the Jets. But the Jets will walk away with the win.
Bengals at Ravens
Bengals fans are undoubtedly sick of hearing it, but Cincinnati has lost five of their last six openers…two of which were at Baltimore. To ensure their team is not doomed to repeat the past, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and quarterback Andy Dalton have to stay ahead of the sticks and limit the number of times Dalton is asked to push the ball down field.
The Ravens will be without Ray Rice but Bernard Pierce, cleared to play after sustaining a concussion, is good to go. Expect to hear his name early and often. Tight end Dennis Pitta and newly acquired wide receiver Steve Smith will both find some success against the Bengals’ defense.
Ultimately, John Harbaugh’s guys will rough up Marvin Lewis’ guys in a good, tough, old-school football game. Ravens get the opening weekend victory.
Bills at Bears
The Bills have a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball, except at the game’s most important position. The Bears’ offseason spending spree on their defensive front pays off right away as they make things miserable up-front for Buffalo’s offense.
Marc Trestman’s offense will pick up where it left off. The Bills and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will know what to expect – they just won’t be able to stop it.
The Bears start 1-0.
Redskins at Texans
Newly minted J.J. Watt is going to live in Washington’s backfield. RGIII and new head coach/play caller Jay Gruden will try to keep the third year quarterback in the pocket, but eventually the Texans’ rush will get him on the move, where it will be boom or bust.
The Texans could be hard to watch on offense early on this year. Expect Jim Haslett to send a ton of different blitz concepts at Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often to test the communication Fitz has built up with his new receiving corps. The hunch is here – not much.
The Texans keep it close, but the Redskins get the victory.
Titans at Chiefs
It’s been a rough offseason for the Chiefs, especially up front on offense. The Chiefs lost a good chunk of their offensive line and then preceded to watch as last year’s first overall pick Eric Fisher looked little better than a third day selection throughout the preseason. He’s only protecting the blind side of the team’s newly minted franchise quarterback.
The Titans are rolling with Jake Locker at quarterback, who looked legit last year prior to injury. Their defense isn’t touted nationally, but the front seven is stout. It will be interesting to see what new head coach Ken Wisenhunt comes out of the gate with on offense.
But offensive continuity, even with the troubles up front, gives the Chiefs the victory here.
Patriots at Dolphins
Tom Brady is 11-1 in season openers as a starter. Of course, that doesn’t mean much, but you can count on Brady playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder this year as observers have begun to doubt his ability. The Dolphins defense is dealing with some injuries to their interior linebacking corps, but overall they will be a very good unit.
Ryan Tannehill enters a put-up or shut-up year. Bill Lazor’s offense should enable him to use his athletic ability much more by getting him out on the edge. But ultimately he has to make throws from the pocket. His decision making has never looked quick enough to me, but perhaps new coaching will help in that regard.
The Patriots are my pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl – but they start that journey on the road with a loss to the Dolphins.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Let me make this real easy. If Cam plays (and right now it sounds like there’s a real chance he might not) the Panthers win. If he doesn’t, the Panthers lose.
49ers at Cowboys
All the issues with the 49ers defensive personnel makes me think this could turn into a shootout. I know it sounds crazy, but I think that totally favors the Cowboys.
I can’t believe I’m going to take a Jason Garrett-coached team over a Jim Harbaugh-coached one…but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Cowboys in a barn burner.
Colts at Broncos
No one is giving the Colts much of a chance in this one, and for good reason. Their victory over the Broncos last year was partly a result of the home crowd noise and fast track enabling the Colts (chiefly Robert Mathis, who won’t play in this game) to get after Peyton Manning.
Not so much this time around. No Wes Welker? No problem.
Giants at Lions
The Giants look downright flummoxed by new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense. This isn’t really a surprise. It’s a vastly different system than what they had run under Kevin Gilbride for the last several years. Detroit’s defensive line is going to make things miserable for the Giants up front.
One of the things I am most looking forward to in Week One is how Joe Lombardi brings the Saints offense to Detroit. With a bevy of play makers at his disposal and a good, if not great, quarterback pulling the trigger, it’s going to be fun to watch.
Unless you’re a Giants fan on Monday night. Lions get the W.
Chargers at Cardinals
One of the best matchups of Week One, and much of America will probably sleep right through it. This is going to be a great football game…that the Cardinals win.
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