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Week 1 NFL Picks: Can Peyton Manning Pick Apart the Steelers?

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This season, I will be posting weekly predictions for each game in the NFL by picking the winner of each game and offering a brief comment about what I think will go down. I am pretty excited to be doing this feature because it is kind of a "blast from the past" for me.

When I operated a general football site, Pro Football Critics, prior to the launch of Dawgs By Nature, I considered my weekly predictions post to be a staple of the site. Please feel free to talk about any of the games this week in the comments section. My official Week 1 predictions are after the jump.

Week 1 Games Explanation Pick
vs. Luck's Good, But Not The Colts: I am really interested in how this year's quarterback class does, and I have the opportunity to see this game locally. Unfortunately, it is on TV at the same time as the Browns game. Unless Cleveland's game is on half time, I will be glued to our game. I thought Andrew Luck looked good in the preseason, but he's going up against a tough Bears defense right off the bat. As much as Colts fans might want a picture-perfect season, the reality is that they gutted their team a year ago. There's no way they are able to right the ship in one offseason, and the revived Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall, while not elite, will be enough for the Bears to outpace the Colts. Bears 23, Colts 17
vs. The Anticipation of Tim Tebow: I am fascinated with this game because of Tim Tebow and the fact that the Jets supposedly have some sort of "top-secret offense" that they have kept under wraps. Their offense looked atrocious during the preseason, and I don't believe in Mark Sanchez or the rest of the Jets' offense. The Bills added Mark Anderson and Mario Williams for a much-needed pass rush. Ryan Fitzpatrick lost twice to the Jets last year, having one good and one bad game. This is my "reach" of the week. Jets 17, Bills 13
vs. Shootout of the Week: This game has "shootout" written all over it. It's a given that the Saints are going to pile on the points against the Redskins, and they even got a small victory in the bountygate situation late on Friday. The Redskins will debut Robert Griffin III, and I think Washington's offense is going to look very good in Week 1 before settling down in the following weeks. Drew Brees and the Saints still have the greater amount of firepower, obviously, and they won't lose their home opener. Saints 34, Redskins 24
vs. Outclassed by the Mastermind: The Patriots are full of talent at tight end, aren't they? The Titans are...well, they are stuck with Jake Locker at quarterback, and I don't think that bodes well for them this season. I will not be a believer of Chris Johnson again until he proves himself on the field. The Titans' offense will be stagnant, while the the Patriots' offense will be efficient. Tennessee's defense will keep things a bit tight early, but not for long enough. Patriots 28, Titans 13
vs. Bottom of the Barrel: I really hate to insult other teams, because I know many others easily slap that label on the Browns. Anyway, these two teams aren't expected to do very well this year. In fact, I think each team has a chance at being the worst in their respective conference. I have zero faith in Blaine Gabbert, but I'm also not too keen on Christian Ponder. Even though Maurice-Jones Drew barely worked out this offseason with the team, I think he'll end up being in a better situation than Adrian Peterson to begin the year. For that reason, I'm taking Jacksonville. Jaguars 10, Vikings 9
vs. Texans Poised for Big Things: When you look at the AFC South, the Texans should just be awarded the asterisk already, noting that they have won the division. Not only is their division weak, but they might have the best team in the AFC when you factor in both offense and defense. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. If you thought Cleveland's wide receiver situation was bad, then you haven't seen Miami's. I drafted Matt Schaub in a few of my fantasy leagues for a reason, and he's going to rip through the Dolphins this week. Texans 31, Dolphins 10
vs. Same Old Lions: By "same old Lions," I mean that in a good way. They've successfully made the transition from "laughingstock" to "automatic contender." Unfortunately, I don't think they've improved enough in the secondary, and Jeff Fisher is going to coach this Rams team up to make things a little interesting...that is, until Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson go off for the "nth" time in the game. Lions 24, Rams 20
vs. Upset at Arrowhead (and 'Go Hillis'): The Chiefs played some inspired football under interim head coach Romeo Crennel last year. Now that he officially has his second stint as a head coach, will his team play with the same type of tenacity? Matt Cassel is the guy who really seems to be holding Kansas City's offense back, but the return of Jamaal Charles and the addition of Peyton Hillis might do wonders for him. Atlanta comes in with a strong team again, especially on offense, but I think they are still going to be licking their wounds from the egg they laid against the Giants in last year's playoffs for a few weeks. Chiefs 19, Falcons 17
vs. NFC Championship That Wasn't: This is one of the epic match-ups I thought we would see in last year's postseason, but the Packers were a stunning first-round exit after going 15-1 in the regular season. The 49ers were perfectly crafted last year, and the depth that added this offseason on top of what they already had is incredible. This game can go either way, and because of that, I'm taking the team at home that only lost one regular season game in 2011. Packers 21, 49ers 20
vs. Lock of the Week: What were these big changes the Buccaneers made in the offseason? Overpaying Vincent Jackson? The Panthers have taken a few steps to improve their defense, and Cameron Newton is going to go wild to start off the season against the Buccaneers. In two games against the Buccaneers last year, Newton had 8 touchdowns -- 4 on the ground, and 4 through the air, with no turnovers. The Panthers won 38-19, and then 48-16. Lock of the week? Yep. Panthers 35, Buccaneers 17
vs. What the Quarterback? I'd be miserable as a Cardinals fan right now with my team's quarterback situation. I know the team has won under John Skelton in the past, but that's because they have some talent elsewhere. If only they had landed Peyton Manning in the offseason. The Seahawks' quarterback situation took a stunning turn too when rookie Russell Wilson was named the starter over Matt Flynn. Wilson will either crash or burn early in the year, but I get a kick out of Pete Carroll's mentality of just "going for it." It'll pay off for Seattle in Week 1. Seahawks 17, Cardinals 3
vs. Game of the Week: I cannot wait until Sunday Night Football. I made it no secret in the past that Peyton Manning was my favorite non-Browns player, and because of that, I had considered the Colts my favorite (but still very distant from the Browns) team after Cleveland. I can't quite get behind Denver for obvious reasons, but I am giddy for the return of Manning. The fact that he has a chance to do the Browns a favor and pick apart the Steelers to begin the year is the icing on the cake. I hope that Pittsburgh's troubles on the offensive line, losing DeCastro and not having Adams start, coupled with their injury problems at running back, are there downfall here. Broncos 27, Steelers 17
vs. Monday Night AFC North Action: We'll find out right away if Andy Dalton falls into the sophomore slump that I expect him to. Baltimore's defense should really suffer without Terrell Suggs, but they still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball and I like a few of the minor additions they have made on offense. I still think Joe Flacco is an overrated quarterback and is holding Baltimore back from winning a Super Bowl, but he can "out-duel" Dalton, if there is such a thing, to kick off the season. I guess you can say that Baltimore will be inspired too due to the death of Art Modell. Ravens 20, Bengals 10
vs. No. Frickin. Idea. Just when I think I have these two teams figured out, I realize that I don't. It must be something with the AFC West. I like the fact that Darren McFadden is the lead back for Oakland now, and San Diego will go into the first week without Ryan Mathews. I think the issue stems from the quarterbacks. What should I expect from over-the-hill Carson Palmer? Philip Rivers is supposed to be an awesome quarterback, but what the hell happened in 2011? I'm going with the Chargers because Rivers should be better than Palmer. We'll see. Chargers 23, Raiders 17
vs. Getting Past the Pass Rush: I plan on posting my Browns vs. Eagles prediction in my official game preview post each Friday or Saturday, and I don't want to spoil my prediction in the picks column. I'll re-edit my pick in later, but provide some commentary still. The Eagles missed Michael Vick for most of the preseason, and their issues on the offensive line and at linebacker will make this a much closer game than people expect. The news has been positive for Cleveland this week, as it seems like Trent Richardson, Joe Haden, and Scott Fujita will all play. The big question is this: can the Browns' offensive line and Brandon Weeden handle Philadelphia's speed up front? If so, things will get very interesting on Sunday. UPDATE: Official Game Prediction is here. Eagles 20, Browns 17

Survivor Pick:
Carolina over Tampa Bay. I won't have many guarantees for Carolina, but when they face the Bucs, they are golden. I think it makes sense to go with them for Week 1.