I think the Ravens are the better team in this match-up. They are getting three points in an opener against an overrated offensively limited Jets team. The Ravens are one of, or have been one of the best run-defenses in the league since Ray Lewis didn’t go to Disney Land when he won the MVP of the Super Bowl back in the day. So tell me if I’m wrong here, the Ravens (a team that can run it and throw it and play defense with reckless abandon, especially against the run) are going up against the Jets (a team that can run it, can’t pass it, play awesome defense) in New York.
I like my chances taking the Ravens. I’m an athlete myself, at least I still play stuff and used to be an actual athlete, and I know that if a team comes in flaunting the hype sauce and fresh off an HBO-Special filled camp, I’m going to give it just a little bit extra to try and knock the gold dust off their helmets. I have a feeling Ray Lewis and company feel the same way. Mark Franchise better have his running boots on, because he’s going to get some pressure from the Ravens, even with one of the best offensive lines in football trying to protect him.
If any offense can run well on the Ravens, it’s the Jets. Like I said, that offensive line is the best in the league, and Shonn Greene is a beast if I’ve ever seen one. Plus, this LT guy still has something left in the tank – I promise. And I think they will run, I just don’t think it will be enough. The Jets still need to bring aggressive blitzes to get a great pass rush, and that will hurt them a few times on Monday Night. I think that will be the difference as the Ravens win a close one on the road.
A rivalry renewed, with a little twist. Games between the Cowboys and Redskins have always been fought as hard as any. These two teams have hated each other for a long time, as even their mascots represent opposites. The new twist is a new coach and an ex-rival quarterback joining the Redskins side. Donovan McNabb was throttled by Dallas in his last game as an Eagle, and I wouldn’t be stunned if he ended up on the wrong side of this one as well – in fact, I’m betting on it.
Now the Cowboys haven’t looked crisp or productive as a starting offense this pre-season, but they have all the tools to be great – even against a solid Redskins defense. Though there have been questions about Marion Barber possibly being traded, he will have a star on his helmet thus Sunday, and that’s bad news for the Redskins defense. Washington didn’t grade out as poorly against the run as I thought they did last season, especially when you take into account how much time they spent on the field. But they are far from a stout tackling team. Marion will give them trouble and when he’s not getting carries, the ball will be going to Felix Jones, a young cat that might just be one of the Top 5 most explosive offensive players in the league. His yards per carry numbers prove it. And we all know about Tony Romo’s weapons, so I don’t have to get into that.
What I expect from Dallas is a good pass-rush that will keep the Redskins from giving McNabb enough time to get the ball down the field often enough. If Dallas stays away from mistakes, a win is theirs for the taking.
Again, just like the Packers/Eagles game, the Redskins could gel and be a solid team this season, the talent is obviously there, however – there are more questions in Washington than in Dallas, and the Cowboys look like the safer of the two sides here.
The Arizona Cardinals are a scary team to get excited about. They didn’t ever look comfortable this pre-season, and they ended up cutting their to-be starting quarterback because of his personality issues in a leadership role. Most people wonder what the hell Whisenhunt is doing, letting a guy go do to issues not based around football – but I get it. And I think his players will get it to when they come out and play hard for this team. Guys on a team want to trust the teammates they go to war with, and when they don’t, when they don’t respect them, the level of play isn’t as consistent, not as much heart goes into everything. I don’t think Derek Anderson is good, and I’m not even saying he’s a better player than Matt – but I get it, and it makes sense.
The Rams have new hope coming into the season, Sam Bradford is in and starting for this young Rams team. If the offensive line can keep him upright, he’s bound to have a solid season even as a rookie- he’s that good. Still, this Rams team doesn’t have a strong point to fall back on yet. They have a good running back in Steven Jackson, but the offensive line isn’t dominant. Defensively they have lots of questions, if not holes. They are young, and they will get better behind a strong defensive coach – but to call their defense strong is a Gumby-like stretch.
The Cardinals lost some big time players defensively, but they are still strong on that side of the ball. They have a stout front line of defense, and some playmakers in the secondary. Relying on that, I think they win on the road.
I want to take the Eagles here as +2.5 at home for a team that was all around solid last season seems like a deal. And value-wise, I must say, it’s hard to argue against Andy Reid and his Eagles. But I’m going with the popular choice to win on the road to start the year off right.
There are just fewer questions in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and Ryan Grant is a very underrated running back. He may not be flashy, but his tough running style and a solid offensive line can keep first downs coming if they go to the ground game enough early. The offensive line isn’t great, especially in pass protection, but they’re getting better. Outside, the receiving corps is 4-deep and solid. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver provide sure handed and tough options in the starting line-up while James Jones and Jordy Nelson have big upside coming off the bench. And that corps doesn’t even take into account one of the scariest receiving options in the league, Jermichael Finley. Finley was a beast late last year and into the playoffs where it mattered most. Expect him to be big against an Eagles’ secondary that has plenty of trouble giving up the big play down the middle of the field.
I like the Eagles to figure it out sometime this year, and that may be right out of the gates – but chances are they won’t sync right off the bat, and some growing pains will take place with Kevin Kolb starting at quarterback on a very young team. I’ll take the Packers and skip out on all those questions.