Sunday, September 09, 2012

NFL Week One Picks: Late Games

So now I'm going to move on the late games.

Seahawks @ Cardinals
If this is the only game you can watch then you have my deepest sympathies. Seattle actually doesn't look too bad for this season. They've done some work and slowly built a team that can at least compete in the NFC West, though they might still struggle a little out of the division. Their only real major weak spots are really the linebackers and corners, but it's not too bad. Offensively it looks like they're going with Russell Wilson at quarterback who I was really impressed with going into the draft, and they have Matt Flynn as a backup.

The Cardinals don't look nearly as impressive. They have some good players on the defensive line, two good inside backers and Adrian Wilson at strong safety. They have some playmakers on offense. But the quarterback situation is all over the place. I can't see how they're going to compete in the NFC West, let alone in the NFL as a whole. For that reason I'm taking the Seattle. Seahawks win.

49ers @ Packers
This could be the game of the weekend. These are two teams that are pretty evenly matched, both of whom are loaded with quality players. Making the pick for me was doubly hard, because not only do I want the 49ers to win, but because these two teams are just so evenly matched. I really think the difference between them is small. And that difference I think favours the 49ers, ever so slightly.

I say this because the Packers have re-jigged their offensive line. Bryan Bulaga I assume will take the left tackle spot and I think he's just superb. It's the rest of that line that concerns me. Against a formidable 49ers pass rush, that's going to cause Aaron Rodgers to struggle. I don't think he'll have the time that he enjoyed last season to look deep and find his receivers on some of those long passes that he hit so effectively.

I also think that the 49ers have an edge with passing game match ups. The red and gold secondary matches up better against the green and yellow receivers than do vice versa. The only hitch in all this might be Alex Smith. He's been improving, but then we've been saying that every year for what seems like a decade. Still, I think maybe the 49ers edge this. It'll be a hell of a game either way. 49ers win.

Panthers @ Buccaneers
This one might actually be tighter than I first thought when looking at it. The problem is still the Panthers defense, which looks very weak, especially on the back end. Not that the Buccaneers jump out as a team poised for great success. The problem with the Buccaneers is simply how weak their defensive line looks. Again.

I'm also concerned by the ability of the Buccaneers offense to put points on the board. Josh Freeman still isn't where the Buccaneers need him to be. They certainly have more weapons around him to support him and give him the best possible chance to win, but will it be enough? I just can't get behind the Buccaneers yet. Maybe if Lavonte David turns out as good at linebacker as I think he his, then that might help to stem the Panthers rushing game, along with linebacker Dekoda Watson, but my gut instinct is to go with Carolina. Panthers win.

Steelers @ Broncos
I'm kind of worried about the Steelers. Not too much, because their fans are universally known for being assholes, but a little. I think they look a little thin at receiver, and I don't just mean numerically. I think Heath Miller and Leonard Pope are going to have to work hard this year and earn their salaries. The offensive line looks pretty suspect, even more so than usual. And while the defensive line is still very strong, the linebackers look a little less menacing this year.

Not that the Broncos are doing much better. Last year Von Miller was unquestionably one of their best defensive players. But having shifted stubbornly to a 4-3 defense, that now means that Miller is effectively being relegated to outside backer duty, which will limit his opportunities to rush the passer.

Some progress has been made on the Broncos offense by bringing in Andre Caldwell to help shore up a receiver group that presumably covers its gloves in butter before each game, but that's only a minor addition into a group that otherwise struggles. Demariyus Thomas has been disappointing since he was drafted and I'm not sure how much of an impact Peyton Manning is going to have either. The Broncos pass protection hasn't improved and now they have a less mobile guy at quarterback. I don't see this ending well. Steelers win.

So that's all my Sunday picks done. I'll do my Monday picks either later on or sometime tomorrow. Just looking at the results of the early games coming in, it looks like I kind of did average. One of the reasons I hate picks is because of teams like The Lions, who played terribly up to this point only to make a last ditch comeback. At least the Jaguars had their comeback cut off, and maybe the Saints will score late to even it all out. I can only hope.

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