jimmythegreek Posts:10676 Followers:377
On 09/09/2012 10:35 AM in NFL

NFL WEEK 1 GREEK INSIDER

Detroit -9 over St. Louis:
Can Jeff Fisher land on the right foot and end his unpopular campaign of sub .500 seasons? This afternoon looks relatively unlikely as Detroit. who is building off its first postseason appearance since 1999 hosts Bradford and company in front of an expected sellout crowd at Ford Field. After going 2-14 and 6-10 following their winless 2008, the Lions finished 10-6 in 2011. A 45-28 wild-card loss to New Orleans was a tough way to end the year, but Detroit is finally enjoying some stability as it enters the fourth season with the same coaching staff in place.

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson expect to remain one of the most prolific combinations in the league. Stafford, who hurt his non-throwing hand in Week 3 of the preseason, threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns last season after missing 13 games in 2010 with a right shoulder injury, while Johnson led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards and hauled in 16 TDs. Johnson signed a deal in the offseason worth $132M over 8 years . However balance and efficiency will be key in the Lions receiving core as Stafford also has Nate Burlseon, Titus Young , Brandon Pettigrew and Ryan Broyles that makes this Lions offense all the more dangerous. Don't expect to see many running plays this afternoon as Jahvid Best will miss at least 6 games with concussion symptoms and Mikel Leshoure is sitting out the first two for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Detroit ranked 29th in the NFL last season with just over 95 rushing yards per game, so expect Kevin Smith and Kelland Williams to pick up some of the slack.

The Rams would like to see starting quarterback Sam Bradford under center for all 16 games after he missed six last season with a high left ankle sprain. After giving up a league-high 55 sacks last season, St. Louis made a move to bolster its offensive line by signing Pro Bowl center Scott Wells, who is returning from knee surgery. The Rams probably won't put up the same numbers as the Packers, but they can't get much worse after averaging a league-worst 12.1 points in 2011. Bradford, like Stafford a former No. 1 overall draft pick, could have the offense heading in the right direction after throwing five TDs with no interceptions in the preseason. Of course it never hurts to also have Steven Jackson who is targeting an eighth straight 1,000-yard season. The Lions weren't particularly strong against the run in 2011 - allowing 128.1 yards per game - but their front four led by Ndamukong Suh could be one of the strongest in the NFL.

Detroit also returns a solid group of linebackers, but the secondary remains a concern after the team's last two opponents last season threw for a combined 946 yards and nine TDs. Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley had a solid preseason and could make a major impact. The Detroit Lions should come out on top, by two touchdowns. As long as injuries don’t ruin the day and the second string shines as starters. The Rams shouldn’t slouch away though, because they are a few years back of where the Lions were when they rebuilt their team. This is just the first year of their turnaround. All of those stale jokes can be tossed out since both teams will play tough and continue to play tougher in future years.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10676 Followers:377
09/09/2012 10:44 AM

New Orleans -8 over Washington:
Who dat fans get a reprieve for at least the first Sunday of the season with the bounty investigation continuing to unfold amidst the stunning reversal allowing several Saints players to be eligible to play in week 1. Nevertheless, the New Orleans Saints still believe they're primed for another big season given their success over the years. Though three consecutive losing seasons doesn't leave much room for optimism, the Washington Redskins have plenty to be excited about with the Robert Griffin III era about to get underway.

Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were banned for the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and defensive end Will Smith (four games) received suspensions for their roles in New Orleans' bounty system. However, the suspensions of Vilma and Smith were lifted Friday by a three-member appeals panel and the league reinstated those players. The Saints have made the playoffs four times during Payton's six years at the helm, including each of the last three seasons. The 2009 Super Bowl champions went 13-3 last year before beating Detroit 45-28 in the wild-card round and suffering a last-second 36-32 divisional-round loss at San Francisco.

f last year's effort is any indication, Drew Brees certainly seems capable of leading his team back to the Super Bowl. The six-time Pro Bowler threw a career-high 46 touchdowns and set NFL single-season records with 5,476 passing yards and a 71.2 completion percentage. For the first time in a long while, Redskins faithful are also expecting big things from their quarterback. After losing 10 of its final 12 games to finish 5-11 last season, Washington traded the No. 6 pick in the draft, two future first-round picks and a second-rounder to St. Louis for a chance to move up and take Griffin second overall.

The Redskins signed Pierre Garcon to a five-year, $42.5 million deal and also brought in fellow receiver Josh Morgan. Fred Davis, who finished second on the team with 59 receptions and 796 yards despite missing four games last season, could be in line for an even bigger role following longtime tight end Chris Cooley's release last week. Despite the Redskins' recent woes, Griffin appears up to the task of trying to lead his team back to respectability. Since making its most recent playoff appearance in 2007, Washington has gone 23-41 over the last four seasons. Injuries however could play a critical part at least through the beginning of this rebuilding season for Washington. Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo hopes to play Sunday after aggravating his surgically repaired pectoral muscle during a preseason game Aug. 18. Washington will be without Tanard Jackson (suspended indefinitely) and fellow safety Brandon Meriweather, who's expected to miss at least two weeks with a sprained MCL and PCL..

The Redskins had a nice preseason, going 3-1, and Griffin looked more than capable in his limited exhibition opportunities. He should find success against the Saints occasionally leaky defense (368.4 yards per game allowed last season), but it is difficult to envision a rookie quarterback keeping his team lock step with the Saints offense in his first NFL start.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10676 Followers:377
09/09/2012 10:52 AM

Chicago -9.5 over Indianapolis:
Though the Indianapolis Colts got a lengthy look at what life would be like without Peyton Manning last season, they have to be feeling a whole lot better about their quarterback situation with Andrew Luck under center. The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, are undoubtedly looking forward to Jay Cutler's return from injury - all the more with Brandon Marshall at his disposal. Luck makes his highly anticipated debut Sunday at Soldier Field as the Colts take on a Bears team hoping to have eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher available. Selected No. 1 overall in the draft after an outstanding career at Stanford, Luck - arguably the most NFL-ready rookie quarterback since Manning in 1998 has some gargantuan shoes to fill. For the first time in 15 years, Manning will be wearing a different uniform. The Colts decided to let the four-time MVP go after he missed the entire 2011 season due to a series of neck operations, releasing Manning in March following a storied career in Indianapolis.

With Manning now in Denver, Luck will do his best to get the Colts back on track. Indianapolis went 2-14 last season to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001, but Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Adam Vinatieri and Reggie Wayne are still around to help ease Luck's transition. In addition to handing the keys to a rookie QB, the Colts are also welcoming a new coach. Indianapolis fired Jim Caldwell after three seasons and hired Chuck Pagano, who spent last season at Baltimore's defensive coordinator. While some of the uncertainty surrounding Indianapolis stems from Luck's lack of experience, the veteran-laden Bears are dealing with their fair share of issues.

However Chicago hopes to have solved one of its biggest problems by acquiring Marshall from Miami, giving Cutler a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the first time since he joined the Bears in 2009. Cutler and Marshall proved to be one of the league's more dynamic duos during their time in Denver - then-QB coach Jeremy Bates is now doing the same job in Chicago - and appear primed for another big season. Cutler should also benefit from Alshon Jeffery's presence. The 6-foot-3 receiver was taken in the second round of the draft. Bears fans will be getting their first look at Cutler since he suffered a season-ending broken right thumb while trying to make a tackle following an interception against San Diego in Week 11. Chicago improved to 7-3 after winning that game but finished 8-8 following dismal displays from Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown.

While Chicago appears to be in much better shape with Jason Campbell now backing up Cutler, much of the team's success could hinge on how Urlacher's left knee holds up. He was injured during the final game of 2011 and underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid-August. One are of focus is the offensive line which will need to come up big for Matt Forte, who enters this season fresh off signing a four-year, $31.5 million contract. Forte ranked third in the league with an average of 123.9 scrimmage yards last year but missed the team's last four games with a sprained ligament in his right knee. Though Forte is likely to see the majority of the carries, recently signed Michael Bush should also get plenty of work.

Sure, it is possible that Luck steals headlines with a big rookie debut. However it seems more likely that the Bears' defense combined with the success of Cutler leads to a rout of this rebuilding Colts work in progress. Expect Indy's much maligned defense to give up some big points to the revamped Bears' offense as Chicago cruises in the opener.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10676 Followers:377
09/09/2012 11:01 AM

Carolina/Tampa Bay over 46:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping new coach Greg Schiano can help revive a team that ended 2011 on a 10-game losing streak. The Carolina Panthers are sensing they may be able to reach the playoffs after Cam Newton's record-setting rookie season. These NFC South rivals have finished in the division's bottom two spots each of the last three years, and they hope to change that in 2012 starting with Sunday's matchup at Raymond James Stadium.

Schiano will make his NFL head coaching debut after posting a 68-67 record at Rutgers over 11 seasons, including five straight bowl victories. One of his first assignments will be to help Josh Freeman regain his confidence after the quarterback finished second in the NFL with 22 interceptions in 2011. Freeman posted 25 touchdowns and six interceptions during the 10-win campaign the year before. Newton won offensive rookie of the year honors in 2011, throwing for 21 touchdowns and rushing for 14 more - an NFL record for a quarterback. He earned a spot in the Pro Bowl and finished with 4,051 yards passing to break Peyton Manning's record for a rookie. The Panthers won four of their final six games to finish 6-10 in 2011, and expect to contend for the postseason this year. Steve Smith thrived in his first season with Newton, finishing fifth in the league with 1,394 yards receiving - his highest total in three seasons.

Carolina's strong play down the stretch included two December victories over Tampa Bay by a combined score of 86-35. Newton threw for four touchdowns and ran for four more in those contests, and Schiano is very familiar with such multi-dimensional signal-callers. Offensively, former Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson was signed to a five-year deal and former Colts tight end Dallas Clark was also brought in. A running game that produced 1,458 yards for the league's third-worst total could be better with first-round pick Doug Martin of Boise State complementing third-year back LeGarrette Blount.

Tampa Bay made defensive additions after yielding an NFL-worst and franchise-record 494 points a season ago. Second-round pick Lavonte David will start at linebacker while seventh overall draft pick Mark Barron will start at strong safety, with veteran Ronde Barber shifting to free safety. The Panthers were either ahead or tied in the fourth quarter in 12 of 16 games, but their 143 points yielded in the final period were the league's highest total. On the other side of the football, don’t be surprised if the Panthers come out swinging in an attempt to rattle Freeman with the blitz. Carolina enters the season healthier than usual at linebacker and should look to make a statement on defense in this their second year under Ron Rivera’s guidance.This game should be a division brawl. Both teams come into this match-up improved and are inspired to make 2012 a success. Because of both QB's mobility and the opportunity for both teams to score points if they can create turnovers and short fields, I see a lot of points this afternoon in the sunshine state.

Best of luck to all on Sunday!

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