Week 1 NFL Matchup Predictions
Ravens @ Broncos: Despite all the losses on defense this offseason (Lewis, Reed, Ellerbe, Williams, Pollard, etc.), I actually think the Ravens will be better off on defense than the Broncos, who will be missing last year's studs Champ Bailey (injury), Von Miller (suspension), and Elvis Dumervil (signed with Ravens). Even so, I don't envision a Peyton Manning offense that just added premier slot machine Wes Welker finding any excuses to lose. Manning is arguably the best regular season quarterback of all time, and Joe Flacco was significantly worse on the road during last year's regular season.
Broncos win 31-27.
Patriots @ Bills: I like what the Bills did to address their skill position needs this offseason. They brought in a great all-around receiver prospect in Robert Woods, a vertical lightning bolt in Marquise Goodwin, and grabbed my personal favorite quarterback in the draft, E.J. Manuel. The Patriots have lost a ton of skill position players between Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, and the injured Rob Gronkowski, but they still have Tom Brady. The Bills very well may be missing their top two defensive backs (Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd). In addition, Manuel will start, but has missed some important preseason action over the past several weeks with a knee injury. I expect a big day out of Brady, and for the Bills' offense to rely too much on C.J. Spiller to keep up.
Patriots win 35-17.
Bengals @ Bears: The new-look Bears have gone from a defensive-minded head coach in Lovie Smith to an offensive innovator in Marc Trestman - their first game under a new coaching regime is sure to be interesting. I do believe their offense will be improved, but the Bengals' defense was absolutely lights out over their final eight games last year, holding opponents to 12.8 points per game over that span. With new exciting pieces on offense in Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, I like the Bengals' chances of really improving this year.
Bengals win 24-17.
Dolphins @ Browns: The Dolphins made all the headlines in free agency this year, but the Browns have quietly been improving as well. Their biggest improvement may have been to the coaching staff, where they added Rob Chudzinski as their head coach and Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator. Those two will know how to utilize the special talents of Trent Richardson, Jordan Cameron, and Greg Little. Their defense is strong as well, and has received underrated additions in Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. The Dolphins have some offensive line issues (particularly at left tackle) that the Browns can take advantage of. I like the Browns to pound the ball with Richardson and play solid defense in this one, keeping the game low-scoring and close and edging out the Dolphins in the end.
Browns win 17-16.
Vikings @ Lions: Coming off a surprisingly disappointing season, one would expect the Lions to be improved in 2013. The Vikings are coming off a surprising season as well, but they surprised people by playing well. Could 2012 have been a little bit fluky for both of these teams? I'm not really sure, which makes this a tough game to pick. I'm looking at how defenses will defend their opponent's strengths in this one. The Vikings' best offensive player is unquestionably Adrian Peterson, and the Lions' strength on defense is their front four. The Lions have an explosive passing attack, and the Vikings have some question marks in their secondary. I see the Lions putting up points while Christian Ponder and the Vikings fail to keep up.
Lions win 27-21.