Poupart's picks

Here are the fearless predictions for Week 1 of the 2006 NFL season, courtesy of Dolphin Digest Associate Editor Alain Poupart.

Thursday, Sept. 7

Miami at Pittsburgh -- A big game between two teams expected to be in the thick of the playoff hunt. The absence of Ben Roethlisberger will change the dynamics of this game, because now the Steelers absolutely need to have their running game working. The truth is, we liked the Dolphins when Roethlisberger was playing, so we certainly won't change our tune now. Prediction: Miami, 17-13.

Sunday, Sept. 10

Atlanta at Carolina -- The Panthers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and should make life difficult for Michael Vick. Prediction: Carolina, 24-14.

New Orleans at Cleveland -- There is some buzz around the Saints because of Reggie Bush and Drew Brees, but it's the Browns who will be the much-improved team this season. Prediction: Cleveland, 23-20.

Seattle at Detroit -- Make no mistake, Detroit will be a much better team under Rod Marinelli. But they're taking on a mighty good team to start with, and it's impossible to go against Shaun Alexander and Co. But this one will be closer than you think. Seattle, 27-23.

Philadelphia at Houston -- The post-T.O. era starts in Philly, and the Eagles will celebrate with a spanking of the still-rebuilding Texans. A big day for the Eagles D. Philadelphia, 23-10.

Cincinnati at Kansas City -- This could be the best game to watch all weekend. It might come down to which defense actually can make a play because there will be a lot of offense. Home field makes the difference. Kansas City, 37-34.

Buffalo at New England -- The Patriots get a nice, soft opener against a Bills team that might need some time to bounce back. New England has major issues at receiver and linebacker, but not enough for the Bills to spring the upset. New England, 23-16.

Denver at St. Louis -- Scott Linehan makes his head-coaching debut against the same debut Nick Saban beat in his own debut last year with Linehan as his offensive coordinator. We easily can see the same result because the Rams have the offensive weapons to do some damage, But it won't be 34-10. St. Louis, 24-21.

Baltimore at Tampa Bay -- Won't be a lot of scoring in this one. Two of the best defenses in the league go at it, and we'll go with McNair over Simms. Baltimore, 16-14.

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee -- Jeff Fisher has indicated he might not decide until game day who is quarterback will be. That is not a good sign for a Titans team that appears to be in for a long year. N.Y. Jets, 17-13.

San Francisco at Arizona -- The Cardinals might do some good things this season if their offensive line holds up. We're not convinced it will, but it won't matter in this game. Arizona, 31-16.

Chicago at Green Bay -- The Packers will be bad this season. Very bad. The Bears should have a field day on defense. Chicago, 20-6.

Dallas at Jacksonville -- How big of an impact will T.O. have? That's the big question in Big D. The Jags have a tremendous defense, but have major issues on offense. This should be a hard-fought defensive battle. Jacksonville, 13-10.

Indianapolis at N.Y. Giants -- The Mannings go against each other. At this stage of their careers, however, it's a total mismatch. Peyton shows his younger brother how it's done. Indianapolis, 27-17.

Monday, Sept. 11

Minnesota at Washington -- ESPN really could have gotten better matchups for its two Monday night openers. The Vikings have the potential for a tremendous defensive line, but they have issues on offense. The same goes for Washington, which was brutal in the preseason. Home field makes the difference in a close one. Washington, 16-14.

San Diego at Oakland -- The Philip Rivers era begins in San Diego, and he gets a soft opponent to open against. The Raiders look like one of the weakest teams in a very strong AFC, and the Chargers might contend if Rivers gets the job done. He certainly should in this one. San Diego, 27-16.

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