It’s been a long and busy offseason.  Most teams barely resemble their final rosters from last season.  Salary cap issues played a large role in that, forcing many players to work in different cities this year.

Another big reason is the number of rookies that will actually crack the starting lineups.  I haven’t done the research, but I would guess that this season will be at the top of the heap in the league record books for rookies that start in their first game of the season.

It could be because of the salary cap issues, or it could be because the rookie class of 2013 has more offensive lineman drafted in the first two rounds than ever before.  Who knows?

What definitely hasn’t changed is the fact that the only week of the season that is more difficult than week seventeen to pick winners is week one.

And yet, here I am, jumping right in with my choices for three categories – Game of the Week, Lock of the Week and Upset of the Week.

Now last season I did fairly well in two of those categories, finishing with 15-3 records for both Game of the Week and Lock of the Week.  I only finished 8-10 for Upset of the Week.  But then again, it is the Upset category, so I guess it only makes sense.

(If you’re really paying attention, you’re probably wondering why there were a total of 18 picks when there are only 17 weeks in a season.  First, I know my readers are a couple of notches above the norm, so I’m not surprised you caught that. The answer is because I did a special Thanksgiving pick last year.  But thanks, for asking!)

Okay, on with the picks for 2013.

This week’s Lock of the Week.

As I stated earlier, in week one, it is nearly impossible to come up with a legitimate Lock of a game.  There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is because your last memory of a real game played by any team is last year’s final game.  Now that there have been player moves, draft picks and recent injuries (or recoveries from old injuries), you’re not 100% sure that the team you expect to see will be the team that shows up for game one.

However, I am very confident in this week’s pick because I used a formula that rarely fails to work.  I chose the team that plays the Raiders!

Seriously, have you seen the Raiders at all this pre-season?  They make last year’s 4-12 team look like all-stars.  That’s why I passed on their “juggernaut” running back when he was available in one my recent fantasy league drafts.  It really doesn’t matter how talented of a player he is, he’s going nowhere but backwards on this team.

All of this is good news for the Indianapolis Colts, who apparently won the lottery two years on a row.  Last season they were awarded Andrew Luck and this year they were awarded the Raiders as their opening day opponent.  And it’s a home game!

Look for this game to get ugly quick.  Luck and company will march down the field at will, while the Raiders will struggle to get their offense past mid-field.

Not only is this a lock for a Colts victory, it should be considered a lock for a blowout.

This week’s Upset of the Week.

Although I have picked four winners that are considered to be underdogs by the Vegas experts, and I am confident in all four of them, I am going to go with Cincinnati winning at Chicago.

I know that the Bears home town is a tough place to go when expecting to come away victoriously.  However, I am picking the Bengals to be one of the top three teams in the AFC, while I’m not sure that the Bears will even make the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of talent on the Bear’s roster.  They have a very talented running back, a top five wide receiver and a talented defensive unit that many are picking as one of the top four defenses in the league.

But they also have a talented quarterback that has proven that he cannot be trusted to lead the team to the promised land.  Until he can demonstrate that he can consistently come through in pressure situations, I can’t bring myself to become a believer in da’ Bears.

The Bengals, on the other hand, after suffering through numerous horrible seasons, have been making some very good moves over the past three years and are now a legitimate team to beat in the AFC.

They drafted a talented quarterback three years ago that appears to be a solid NFL QB.  He may never become a household name like Aaron or Peyton, but he has shown that the Bengals can count on him to do what he needs to do to win.

They have now added a legitimate running game, which should help Dalton find Green downfield more often.  Add to that a much improved defensive unit, and you have a team that can compete for a division title and more.

As for this week, I have no reason to believe that, once the game begins, and the jitters have subsided, the Bengals will take control of this game and win by at least ten points.

This week’s Game of the Week.

With this being the opening week of the season, I could have
justified choosing about eight or ten games from this week’s schedule, including the teams with the two worst records last year.  However, there was one game that jumped out at me, so I’m going with that one.

The New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys.

It seems that every year, these two teams meet up late in the season to determine which team will be eliminated from the playoff race.  There’s no reason to think this game is any less important because it is only week one.  It’s very possible that when week sixteen rolls around, the loser of this game could be out of the playoff race for not having won this game.

The fact that these two teams historically hate each other doesn’t hurt either.  The experts are giving the edge to the Cowboys, most likely because they are at home.  The two teams are very similar.  They have a very talented quarterback, some very good receivers and a running back that is projected to have a great season.  Their defensive units are expected to be good, but have some holes that could hurt them occasionally.

I agree with most of the similarities stated above, but have to look at recent history before I make a pick.  While the Giants defense is probably a step down from last year, I still think they are more solid than the Cowboys.

Looking at the two running backs, I’ve got to give the nod the Giants’ Dave Wilson over the Cowboys’ Demarco Murray, whom I believe to be overrated.   Although the Giants have a deeper receiving unit, the Cowboy’s Dez Bryant is a step above anyone on the Giants, including Victor Cruz.  He just doesn’t have a legitimate counterpart.

The biggest difference is at quarterback.  While Tony Romo is very talented, he has a history of choking in the big games.  Meanwhile, Eli Manning, while sometimes inconsistent, has a history of rising up when his team needs him in big games.

And this is a big game!

I’m picking the Giants to pull off the opening day upset and walk away with the W!

How’s that for opening week picks?  Two out of three games are upsets.  Well, upsets in the expert’s minds!

We’ll talk more next week!


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