Week 1 NFL Picks
It’s a fresh season and a new year in the NFL. Sunday offers plenty of NFL action and our writers and handicappers gave their picks and predictions for Week 1.
New York Jets (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0), 1:00pm ET
After a brief retirement, a tense reinstatement and a trade away from the team he's anchored for the last 16 years, Brett Favre is finally about to get what he was hoping for all along.
Favre will have another chance to play football on Sunday when he makes his debut with the New York Jets in their season-opening trip to Miami to face the rebuilding Dolphins.
The Dolphins went 1-15 last year, flirting with a winless season before finally beating Baltimore 22-16 in their 14th game.
Miami will have No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long, a left tackle, to protect Pennington. The Dolphins also hope to rely on what could be a strong running game, with former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams back in the fold to complement mainstay Ronnie Brown.
Williams' career has been checkered with drug suspensions and early retirement, but he was reinstated to the league in midseason last year only to tear his pectoral muscle in his first game. His impressive performance in training camp this year led the Dolphins to give him a contract extension through next season, making clear the team's hopes for the player who rushed for 1,853 yards and 16 touchdowns for Miami in 2002.
Houston Texans (0-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0), 1:00pm ET
The first three months of his time on the sidelines as Pittsburgh Steelers coach couldn't have gone much better for Mike Tomlin, who looked to have his team back among the NFL's elite.
Month four left plenty of room for improvement.
After closing last season with four losses in five games, the Steelers will open their 2008 slate at home against the Houston Texans on Sunday, looking to get off to another hot start - one that leads to a much better finish.
Pittsburgh (10-6) averaged 10 wins during the 15 seasons Bill Cowher was coach, and the team's 62.3 winning percentage under Cowher from 1992-2006 was the highest in the NFL over that span.
Pittsburgh had the NFL's top-ranked defense last season, allowing 266.4 yards per game. But while the Steelers yielded just 12.9 points per game in their first 12 games, that average increased to 29.0 during their final five contests.
The Texans didn't make the playoffs in 2007, but finished with the first non-losing record in the franchise's six-year history. They won three of their final four games - two against playoff teams - and with an offense that averaged 29.0 points in that stretch, expectations are high.
Detroit Lions (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0), 1:00pm ET
Coming off a season in which their quarterback went to prison and their new coach deserted them, the Atlanta Falcons aren't expecting Matt Ryan and Mike Smith to bring them back to the Super Bowl.
They're simply hoping for progress, starting when the rookie quarterback and first-year coach each make their debut in a season-opening game against the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday.
The 2007 season was a trying one for the Falcons, highlighted by Michael Vick's suspension and conviction surrounding dogfighting charges. With three different quarterbacks starting games in hopes of replacing Vick, Atlanta (4-12) stumbled to a last-place finish in the NFC South.
Adding to their problems was the Bobby Petrino saga. The Falcons hired the former Louisville coach before the season with an eye toward implementing his successful offensive philosophies in the NFL, but Petrino jumped ship after just 13 games to return to the college ranks, taking over at Arkansas.
Atlanta responded by hiring new general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Smith, the former Jacksonville defensive coordinator, to oversee the rebuilding project. That began with Ryan, the No. 3 overall draft pick out of Boston College, who appears to have eliminated the uncertainty at quarterback.
The Lions were just 2-6 on the road last year, but they won their most recent visit to Atlanta 17-10 on Oct. 10, 2004. The teams have alternated wins in losses in their last seven meetings overall, with Detroit winning the most recent matchup 30-14 at home during its 3-13 season in 2006.
Chicago Bears (0-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-0), 8:15pm ET
The last time Peyton Manning faced the Chicago Bears, he won MVP honors while leading his team to the Super Bowl XLI championship.
Despite undergoing offseason knee surgery, Manning is expected to be under center when the Indianapolis Colts host the Bears in their first game at the new Lucas Oil Stadium to open 2008 on Sunday night.
Manning underwent surgery on July 14 to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, then missed all of training camp and didn't practice until Aug. 26. Though he didn't throw a single pass in the preseason, Manning will be on the field Sunday making his 161st straight regular-season start - second only to Brett Favre's 253 in a row - while trying to lead the Colts to their sixth straight home-opening victory.
Chicago is 4-1 in the regular season versus the Colts since that franchise moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore prior to the 1984 season.
Indianapolis is opening its new stadium after playing 24 years in the RCA Dome.
St. Louis Rams (0-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
The Philadelphia Eagles were the only NFC East team that failed to make the playoffs last season. Now they expect to win the division.
A healthy Donovan McNabb should play a big role in that quest, and he'll begin his 10th season under center for the Eagles on Sunday when they open against the St. Louis Rams.
The 31-year-old McNabb enters the season at full strength, unlike last year when he was coming off ACL surgery. Late in the 2007 season, though, he started playing like the scrambling star quarterback of his Pro Bowl years before injuries derailed his career.
The Rams certainly appeared to be going in the wrong direction last season, finishing with the NFC's worst record and the franchise's worst since 1991.
However, injuries were a big part of that debacle. Jackson and starting quarterback Marc Bulger each missed four games, and All-Pro tackle Orlando Pace sat out all but one. With all of them healthy, and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders taking over, there is hope the St. Louis offense will return to the glory days of earlier this decade when it was among the most feared in the NFL.
These teams last played in 2005 and the Eagles won 17-16.
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