Each week throughout the NFL season, Jon Wagner, FRO’s Sr. Writer At-Large, will be picking the full weekly NFL slate of games based on confidence scores, going from highest (most confident) to lowest (least confident) that a certain team will win. Submit your own picks in the comments section here at FRO, and see if you can beat Jon’s total confidence score each week! Here are Jon’s picks for Week 1:
Oakland at Tennessee Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
After the disastrous 0-6 start to the season last year before finishing 8-2, a home game against the improved yet still mediocre at best Raiders should get the Titans off on a winning note, especially with Vince Young –- and Kerry Collins, who’s not what he used to be –- starting things off for Tennessee this season.
Pick: Tennessee Confidence Score: 16
Detroit at Chicago Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Joe Paquette, Jr., a 63-year-old Lions’ fan with two arthritic knees easily became the NFL’s most devoted fan when he walked 450 miles over 17 days, from his home in Michigan to the Lions’ practice facility, just to tell the Lions in person that they needed “sisu,” a Finnish term meaning “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.” Unfortunately for the Lions, sisu alone, sans enough talent, won’t be enough to break a 20-game road losing streak in Chicago, against a Bears team which is at home, and simply a better team than Detroit.
Pick: Chicago Confidence Score: 15
Carolina at NY Giants Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Hosting the Panthers has been a nightmare matchup for the Giants, who became the first NFL team in 26 years to be shut out while hosting a playoff game when they lost to Carolina, 23-0 in 2006. Last year, with a playoff berth on the line, playing for the final time in the old stadium which bared their name, the Giants were again embarrassed by the Panthers, 41-9. This time should be vastly different. The Giants still have a myriad of issues to address as the season progresses, but the early season schedule appears favorable, including their opener against a Carolina team that should be far less dangerous than in years past, after an offseason veteran purge, leaving the Panthers with the NFL’s youngest roster.
Pick: NY Giants Confidence Score: 14
Cincinnati at New England Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Tom Brady emerged unharmed from an early Thursday morning auto accident and he should be fine by Sunday. And, he gets back his favorite underneath target in Wes Welker, who makes the Patriots’ offense significantly more dangerous. That, along with opening at home should be enough to overcome the Bengals, even with Cincinnati’s own wide receiver addition of Terrell Owens to compliment Chad Ochocinco the way Welker will compliment Moss.
Pick: New England Confidence Score: 13
Minnesota at New Orleans Thu 9/9 8:30pm EST
The 2010 NFL season kicks off with a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game, which the Vikings should have won, if not for some costly turnovers. They outplayed the Saints last January, but with New Orleans brimming with pride and confidence after taking home its first Super Bowl title, and with Brett Favre hurting for wide receiver weapons, the Saints should be able to win easier this time.
Pick: New Orleans Confidence Score: 12
Green Bay at Philadelphia Sun 9/12 4:15pm EST
A game featuring two teams moving in opposite directions. The Eagles have moved on from the Super Bowl contending Donovan McNabb era to that of Kevin Kolb’s with questions if Philadelphia is even a playoff contender. Meanwhile, the Packers are a serious Super Bowl contender and Aaron Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate. This would figure to be an easy win at Lambeau, but anything can happen on the road in the NFL. Still, the Packers should open with a win at The Link.
Pick: Green Bay Confidence Score: 11
San Diego at Kansas City Mon 9/13 10:15pm EST
The Chargers usually start out of the gate slowly, but probably not here, not even on the road. Their talent advantage over the Chiefs should help them spoil the first Chiefs’ home game on Monday Night Football since 2006 and the unveiling of what Kansas City is billing as the “New Arrowhead” after a $375-million makeover.
Pick: San Diego Confidence Score: 10
San Francisco at Seattle Sun 9/12 4:15pm EST
Head coach Pete Carroll makes his Seahawk debut as former Eagle Brian Westbrook tries to show if he’s got something left in the tank to compliment RB Frank Gore. The Niners appear to be the clear cut favorite in the NFC West, and even on the road, where they only went 2-6 last year, they should send an early message to a fellow NFC West foe that they are the new team to beat in the division.
Pick: San Francisco Confidence Score: 9
Arizona at St. Louis Sun 9/12 4:15pm EST
Two new quarterback eras begin in this contest, one starts with a veteran, the other with a top-picked rookie. Derek Anderson takes over the Cardinals for Kurt Warner and Sam Bradford makes his first NFL start. Bradford looked good in the preseason, but he will have a tough job making a team that didn’t win a home game last season be more competitive, especially for a roster that includes nine 2010 draft picks and five undrafted free agents. Even without Warner, the Cardinals are the better team and should get the road win.
Pick: Arizona Confidence Score: 8
Dallas at Washington Sun 9/12 8:20pm EST
The Cowboys start their 50th anniversary season hoping it ends with them hosting the Super Bowl in their brand new “Dallas Palace.” The Redskins, meanwhile, start the Donovan McNabb regime, looking to turn things around after last year’s 4-12 season. A dangerous opener but one the Cowboys should win if they’re on their game.
Pick: Dallas Confidence Score: 7
Atlanta at Pittsburgh Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Pittsburgh would be the clear favorite with Ben Roethlisberger, or perhaps even with a healthy Byron Leftwich. However, with Dennis Dixon making just his second NFL start (playing in only his third NFL game), and with the once-proud Steelers’ offensive line and rushing game both on the decline, the Falcons might be going into a usually tough place to play at just the right time. With more offensive weapons with which to work, Atlanta should come away with a nice road win to start its season.
Pick: Atlanta Confidence Score: 6
Indianapolis at Houston Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Are you ready for some football? Well, how about a key AFC South divisional game, right from the start of the season. Over the past few years, the Texans have been the trendy pick each season to make their first trip to the playoffs. But, each year, they come up a little short. And, each year, all the Colts do is win during the regular season. This should be a tough test for each side, but until we see different, the wise move is to cautiously err on the side of history, especially with the ultra-competitive Peyton Manning itching to go this year after losing in Super Bowl XLIV.
Pick: Indianapolis Confidence Score: 5
Baltimore at NY Jets Mon 9/13 7:00pm EST
Story lines abound. Monday Night Football. The Jets play their first regular season game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Rex Ryan against his old team, which like his current one, is a Super Bowl contender. Will the Jets in fact get one step further than the AFC title game they reached last year, or will they be more like the team that went 4-7 after a 3-0 start a year ago? And, is Baltimore poised to go further after winning soundly at New England in last year’s playoffs before adding Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmanzadeh to bolster the only part of its game that was really lacking. It’s tough to go against the Jets opening on Monday night with their defense and with Ryan pumping them up, but the Ravens are talented enough to barely win what should be a terrific, physical, old school football game.
Pick: Baltimore Confidence Score: 4
Denver at Jacksonville Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Kyle Orton has slowly been putting to rest earlier criticism during his career that he wasn’t even close to an NFL-caliber quarterback. While he’s being pushed by the quickly popular Tim Tebow for the starting job, Orton is likely to get the nod in Jacksonville and should remain the starter as long as his solid play continues. The defection of Brandon Marshall to Miami will hurt however, and RB Knowshon Moreno could miss the game with a hamstring injury. The Jaguars though, have their own problems offensively, and in a game that could be low scoring and close, the kickers could come into play. The Broncos get the edge there, with Mike Prater, who was 30 of 35 last year, including 10 of 13 from 40 or more yards away. In contrast, Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee was just 10 of 16 from the same distance and only 3 of 7 from 40-49 yards.
Pick: Denver Confidence Score: 3
Miami at Buffalo Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
An AFC East game with each team featuring new defenses. The Bills made the switch from the Tampa-2 to the 3-4 while the Dolphins revamped much of their defense to compliment the addition of big play receiver Brandon Marshall. Miami is the better team on paper, and Buffalo could be a bad team this season, but a hunch says it takes a few games for Chad Henne and Marshall to gel while RB C.J. Spiller, who gets the starting job as a rookie after an impressive preseason, will do enough to start the Bills off with a mild upset of Miami at home.
Pick: Buffalo Confidence Score: 2
Cleveland at Tampa Bay Sun 9/12 1:00pm EST
Not even Joe Paquette might want to see this unappealing game if he were either a Browns or a Bucs fan. If he were the latter, Paquette wouldn’t be able to watch the game on TV as it will mark the first regular season blackout for a Bucs’ home game since 1997, the year before Tampa Bay moved into Raymond James stadium. Cleveland begins its Mike Holmgren and Jake Delhomme era while Tampa looks to stride forward after a rocky start with head coach Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman at the helm. In the battle of attrition been two of the NFL’s weaker teams, go with the home team, barely.
Pick: Tampa Bay Confidence Score: 1