Poupart's picks: Week 1

The parity around the NFL has made predicting the outcome of games more and more difficult each year. But that's not going to stop me from giving it my best shot anyway. So here we go with the picks for Week 1.

Thursday, September 8

Oakland (0-0) at New England (0-0): With Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan joining an Oakland offense that already had explosive wideout Jerry Porter and QB Kerry Collins, the Raiders are going to score a lot of points this season. They might even score their share against a Patriots defense without Tedy Bruschi and coordinator Romeo Crennel. But the Raiders still have major questions on defense, and that's going to keep them from achieving big things this season. It's also going to prevent them from upsetting the defending champs. New England, 34-24.

Sunday, September 11

Houston (0-0) at Buffalo (0-0): The Bills were one of the hottest teams in the league at the end of last season but are now breaking in new QB J.P. Losman. Buffalo also is going to miss departed DT Pat Williams. Still, the Bills still look like the better team here because the Texans simply haven't made that many strides since joining the league. Buffalo, 20-16.

New Orleans (0-0) at Carolina (0-0): It's really difficult to predict how the Saints are going to come out in this one in light of the tragedy that hit their city. What we do know is that Carolina has the makings of a Super Bowl contender. So that's the safe way to go. Carolina, 27-13.

Cincinnati (0-0) at Cleveland (0-0): Crennel is going to make the Browns better at some point because he's a good coach. And the personnel already appears better than it was last year. But the offensive line is still shaky, Trent Dilfer isn't the answer at quarterback and the defensive line had to be remade. The Bengals have tons of weapons on offense, but question marks still remain on defense. But in this matchup, it's clear which Ohio city has the better team. Cincinnati, 33-14.

Seattle (0-0) at Jacksonville (0-0): The Seahawks won their division last year but didn't look overly impressive doing it. The Jaguars, meanwhile, look like an up-and-coming team because of their strong defense. Still, the Jaguars offense still has question marks, and it starts at quarterback. This is a really tough one to call, but we like the Seahawks on the road. Seattle, 20-17.

New York Jets (0-0) at Kansas City (0-0): We get to find out if the new-look Chiefs defense is any better than the old one. There should be lots of points in this one and remember that the Chiefs traditionally are awfully tough to beat at home. Kansas City, 27-24.

Denver (0-0) at Miami (0-0): The Nick Saban era begins with Gus Frerotte at quarterback. It's clear the Broncos have the better team here, but don't underestimate the coaching debut factor and the all-important weather factor. Still .... Denver, 20-17.

Tampa Bay (0-0) at Minnesota (0-0): Only a few years after their Super Bowl title, the Bucs have the look of a really bad team. We're not buying the Vikings as Super Bowl material just yet (like a lot of other folks are), but Daunte Culpepper should have his way with the Bucs defense. Minnesota, 30-17.

Tennessee (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0): Based on last year, this should be a mismatch. But the truth is that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, for all the accolades he received, really didn't play well down the stretch last season and he flat-out stunk this preseason. On the flip side, Steve McNair will be looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2004 season. This game is going to be a lot closer than many think, and an upset isn't out of the question. Pittsburgh, 19-17.

Chicago (0-0) at Washington (0-0): We have here two teams that are going to be led by their defense. This could be a very low-scoring game where a defensive score makes the difference. The Bears will start rookie Kyle Orton at quarterback, which is a scary proposition. But we really like the Chicago defense. Chicago, 10-7.

Green Bay (0-0) at Detroit (0-0): All indications are it could be a long year in Green Bay, while the Lions have all the ingredients to make a run at the playoffs. Here's the catch, though: Joey Harrington is still the quarterback in Detroit and until proven otherwise, that's not going to get it done. Green Bay, 24-21.

Arizona (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0): We've heard in some circles people being very high on the Giants this season. Why? What did Eli Manning do last year to merit that kind of confidence? And last we checked, this was still a mediocre offensive line playing in front of him? Out in Arizona, Dennis Green finally has a quarterback who actually can get the ball to his fine collection of receivers. The problem, of course, will be keeping Kurt Warner healthy. This will be a close one. N.Y. Giants, 23-20.

Dallas (0-0) at San Diego (0-0): Is it just me, or was that whole Antonio Gates episode way too bizarre? As a result, he's not playing in this game. It probably won't matter anyway because the Chargers have a big edge in this one. Dallas will get better on defense this season, but the Cowboys will have their problems with LaDainian Tomlinson in the opener. San Diego, 27-17.

St. Louis (0-0) at San Francisco (0-0): The 49ers have enough talent on defense to be pretty good on that side of the ball, but stopping the Rams will be difficult. The bigger problem for the 49ers, though, is on offense where all of their skill position starters would be backups on practically every other team in the league. St. Louis, 31-10.

Indianapolis (0-0) at Baltimore (0-0): They're talking big in Baltimore about their defense and we'll get to find out early how they stack up against the most potent offense in the league. Nobody stopped Peyton Manning and Co. last season, so the safe bet early on is that no one will be able to again this year. Indianapolis, 26-20.

Monday, September 12

Philadelphia (0-0) at Atlanta (0-0): The Falcons will be out for revenge in that one after their loss to the Eagles in last year's NFC Championship Game. But for those who count heavily on the revenge factor, here are two notes of caution -- 1. The Eagles didn't have Terrell Owens when they spanked Atlanta, 27-10, last January; 2. The Eagles are 16-2 in prime time under Andy Reid, and one of those losses came last December when the Eagles played their subs at St. Louis because they already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Philadelphia, 26-17.

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