LOS ANGELES, September 3, 2014 — After seven long months, the National Football League is finally back. Pro football is the only game where anything can and does happen every single week of the season. The greatest game in the history of sports does not need hyperbole. Everything is about what happens on the football field.
With that, here is the NFL 2014 Week 1 Preview, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com (all times EDT).
Thursday, September 4, 2014, 5:30 p.m.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-6) — This is the revenge of “Fail Mary,” where a desperation heave by Russell Wilson somehow became a touchdown instead of an interception. The Seahawks are the defending champions with the Legion of Boom, but the Packers with Aaron Rodgers are every bit as potent on offense as the 2010 team that won it all. Prediction: Seahawks win, but fail to cover.
Sunday, September 7 1:00 p.m.
New Orleans Saints (-3) at Atlanta Falcons — The Saints could be the best team in football, especially on offense. The Falcons had an off-year last year due to injuries. The Falcons are now healthy and could be back to where they were two years ago. An Atlanta win could upset the entire NFC South right out of the gate. Drew Brees operates a pinball machine. We will soon see if Matt Ryan still does. Prediction: Saints cover.
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (-4) — The Rams expected to contend in the NFC West before quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. The Vikings still have all-world running back Adrian Peterson, but Matt Cassel does not inspire long-term success. The Teddy Bridgewater era will begin soon enough. Jeff Fisher and new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer both know defense, but Fisher already has those pieces in place. Prediction: Rams win, but fail to cover.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) — The Steelers last year fell off from where they have been in years past, but they did finish 8-4 down the stretch after going winless in September. The Browns have Bryan Hoyer and a celebrity backup, but they do not have wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon was suspended for the season for another violation of the NFL drug policy. The Browns will get better, but not on this day. Prediction: Steelers cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-10) — Chip Kelly brings a lightning-quick offense run by Nick Foles. The Jaguars began 0-8 last year before splitting their games in the second half of the season. The Jaguars are another team who will get better at some point, but not on the road against a far superior team. Prediction: Eagles cover.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets (-5) — The Jets, as usual, are anybody’s guess as to what will happen. The Raiders may no longer be a laughingstock as rookie quarterback Derek Carr makes his very first NFL start. Carr is for real, but he will need time to lead a team of relatively new faces. Prediction: Jets win but fail to cover.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-1.5) — The Ravens had an off-year in 2013 while the Bengals won the division and flamed out in the first round. If the Bengals want to ever gain respect, they need to win games like this. Not today. Prediction: Ravens cover.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (-6.5) — The Bills looked awful in preseason, which is expected of the team with the longest playoff drought. Buffalo has not been to the playoffs since 1999, and improving in 2014 does not start on the road against Jay Cutler firing at will. Prediction: Bears cover.
Washington Redskins at Houston Texans (-2.5) — The Texas were the worst team in football last year. Despite Jadavean Clowney joining J.J. Watt on defense, they could be 2-14 again. The future of the Redskins depends on whether Robert Griffin III is finally healthy. He is, and the Texans being favored is quite surprising. Prediction: Upset special, Redskins win outright.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-4) — The Chiefs began 9-0 last year before collapsing down the stretch, culminating in Kansas City blowing a 28 point lead in the playoffs. Walrus Lite Andy Reid has put his trust in Alex Smith, which may be a mistake. As for the Titans, Jake Locker has not shown he can stay healthy for a full season. Even a Chiefs team expected to regress should have little difficulty in this game. Prediction: Chiefs cover.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-4.5) — This is the same mismatch it has been for most of the last 14 years. One of the worst teams that somehow made it to 8-8 last year goes against a Super Bowl contender. Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady may forget that the preseason has ended. Prediction: Patriots cover.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) — Carolina overachieved last year to get to 12-4 but were exposed in the playoffs. Lovie Smith will revitalize the Buccaneers, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Both teams have holes, but the home field should be the difference. Go with the Pewter Power in the Big Sombrero redux. Prediction: Buccaneers cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-7.5) — Peyton Manning did not get his revenge last year against his old team, but that was in Indianapolis. In Denver, the Colts will be shown to be what they still are. They are good enough to win the awful AFC South easily and then lose to the best teams. The 2014 Broncos are every bit as good as last year’s AFC champion team. Peyton delivers payback this time. Prediction: Broncos win, but fail to cover.
Monday, September 8 7:00 p.m.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-5.5) — Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin took a bunch of 0-6 losers last year and willed them to win seven of their final ten games. The Lions now are coached by Jim Caldwell, who is as expressionless as Coughlin is animated. Caldwell will revitalize the Lions offense, which should be enough at home against a Giants team that still has not found offensive linemen to protect Eli Manning. Prediction: Lions win, but fail to cover.
San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (-3) — Both of these teams overachieved last year to winning records, but they both are more likely to regress than reach the upper echelon. Neither team has ever won a Super Bowl, which is a trend that will continue this year. The Cardinals are at home in the desert, and can match San Diego in offensive firepower. Bruce Arians wins wherever he goes. Prediction: Cardinals cover.