Take the shot, Ice ... take the shot ...
Yeah, I've felt like Mav for about a week now. No one wants to take a shot at Viper -- er, I mean, the games on tap for Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season. Well, I'm not scared.
There are a myriad of tough contests to predict. Can Ken Whisenhunt's revamped Titans offense pull off an upset in Kansas City? Are the Lovie Smith Bucs for real? What the heck do you make of Robert Griffin III's game? How he will perform against what was one of the worst teams in pro football last year? All of these questions are answered below -- but not without some serious deliberation -- and consumption of Mountain Dew (not Baja Blast).
Regardless of your leanings, this is the time to get excited. We've waited since the first weekend of February for real football to resume -- and it's here. Then again, your leanings do matter. Hit us up with your thoughts or predictions on the opening set below ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
The key will be how much the Atlanta pass rush can disrupt Drew Brees' pass protection, because if the answer is "not at all," he'll pick apart the host team. Speaking of protection, we'll all find out together if Matt Ryan will get more help this year from the Falcons' linemen, starting with newly minted left tackle Jake Matthews. And knowing is half the battle. #NOvsATL
Buffalo's offense will have trouble getting within range of the uprights, and I'm not sure Chicago's special teams unit can do anything correctly. Thus, it comes down to the Bears' offense vs. that underrated Bills defense. Jay Cutler will throw a pick-six early on, but ultimately, the trio of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be too much for Buffalo. This will be especially true if EJ Manuel can't get things going, in which case the field-position advantage will reside squarely with the home team.
The 34 points for the Pats stems from the expectation that Tom Brady comes out fast and Rob Gronkowski is on the field in Miami. But we will see. It'll also be interesting to learn how much Bill Belichick trusts Stevan Ridley, or if Shane Vereen ends up being the man. Alternately, Belichick could turn some previously unknown half-assed mountain boys into fantasy heroes. #NEvsMIA
What we need to see is what Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley's pass rush can provide. That has been a major weakness for some time now, but if you were paying attention to Jags football outside of Blake Bortles and Toby Gerhart in the preseason (or at all, for that matter), you might've noticed the pass rush showed some life. By the way, it's imperative for Nick Foles to get off to a fast start, so the whole city of Philadelphia doesn't full-on soil their Ricky Jordan underoos. #JAXvsPHI
What can the real-life Hoyer do against this Steelers defense? Not much, especially if he doesn't get help from Cleveland's receivers. Andrew Hawkins has to catch 60 balls in the slot this year, while someone must replace suspended stud Josh Gordon's big-play ability. Miles Austin might be able to do it, at least until he has a hamstring injury in Week 3. As for Pittsburgh, I can't wait to see rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier join forces with veteran Lawrence Timmons to disrupt this struggling Browns offense. Watching tight end Jordan Cameron square off with Shazier and the Steelers' safeties should be fun. #CLEvsPIT
Tony Romo might throw a boneheaded, late-game pick, but he'll have enough time to work behind a suddenly strong offensive line. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, is a mismatch against any player in the Niners' secondary. And to all those people burying veteran San Francisco running back Frank Gore, I'll say that I think he'll pick up 90 yards on one of the worst defenses in football (including the college ranks, too). #SFvsDAL </content:weekly-predictions>
For Arizona, it is so important to get young running back Andre Ellington involved early, so that Carson Palmer can make things happen off play-action. Budding receiver Michael Floyd should be a huge factor for the Cards this season. But for this game, I'm thinking San Diego is a slightly better team. This should be one of Week 1's best. #SDvsAZ