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NFL Game-By-Game Rundown
Mike Lucente - LionsFans.com
Saints vs. Bills-
The New Orleans Saints are coming off a huge season. Arguably the best season in their existence. Their defense is considered one of the best in the league. Anchored by their massive defensive line. On offense they got nice weapons to look to. Early in camp though there was worries of Running Back and Quarterback controversies. But Ricky Williams and especially Aaron Brooks put the talk of controversy to rest with great off-season performances. Buffalo dealt with a similar controversy last season. And they handled the situation by letting Flutie sign with the Chargers. The Bills may regret that decision. They don't have a running back to carry them and could really use the swift feet of Flutie. The Bills offense won't be the same after letting Flutie go. They must hope that Eric Moulds, one of the most under rated receivers in football, can break off some big plays. Or they might have to count on their defense and special teams to carry them through. Either way with an explosive offense and always dominate defense by the Saints. I don't see anyway the Bills come out with a victory.
Prediction: Saints- 30 Bills- 13
Patriots vs. Bengals-
Where do we begin with this matchup? Well, the fact that both teams placed at the bottom of their divisions last season says enough. But here is the early answer for both teams. If they want to have any success they will need to win this game. Bengals have a very talented running back, Corey Dillon. They also have a well rounded defense. Of course they don't have a true Quarter Back and will have to rely on newly required John Kitna early on. The Patriots got Drew Bledsoe, a very talented Quarterback. And they have added some nice players on defense. But their offense is not good enough at this point and not having Terry Glenn doesn't make it any easier.
Prediction: Bengals- 17 Patriots- 9
Seahawks vs. Browns-
First let me start with Seattle. They have made a lot of additions. Including some good players like John Randle and Levon Kirkland. Not to mention Koren Robinson and Steve Hutchinson, both of which are first round rookies. Seattle's knock is that they are relying on Matt Hasselbeck to carry their offense. Matt has had very limited playing time up in Green Bay. But he has done well in the off-season which could equal a nice performance this Sunday. Of course he is facing a young Cleveland Browns defense. A defense that isn't going anywhere but up from here. Led by two first round picks on the line, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren, the Browns will hope their defense can stop Hasselbeck and contain the duo package of Ricky Watters and Shawn Alexander. On offense, the Browns have a leader in Tim Couch. Couch is a player looking to turn his career around and show people what he's got. He has some nice weapons to work with and finally a good line to protect him. It should be an interesting matchup that goes down to the wire.
Prediction: Browns- 23 Seahawks- 21
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys-
I was considering making this my upset pick. I had many reasons as why Tampa Bay would lose. The fact that they are over confident. The almighty factor of surprise, not knowing how to stop Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter's many talents. But let's face it. Quincy Carter is not going to do the things he did in the pre-season. Tampa Bay has a great defense. In my eyes, however, a defense on the decline. But with Warren Sapp, Jamie Duncan, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and much, much more, I don't see many places the Cowboys can attack. Of course, there is a weakness they could possibly expose, and that is Tampa's secondary. With speedy receivers like Galloway and Ismail they could go deep early and often. That is their only hope to stay in the game. Tampa added Brad Johnson on offense and named Dunn their feature back. Two very smart decisions. That will prove to make an improvement on their offense. How much of an improvement will have to be seen during the season. They won't be tested much by the Cowboys. But they better take this team seriously and not take it as a bye week. If they do I wouldn't doubt the upset of the year taking place this week.
Prediction: Bucs- 23 Cowboys- 13
Raiders vs. Chiefs-
The Raiders and Chiefs have a nasty rivalry that goes way back. And it will only get nastier in the first week. Raiders have added Charlie Garner to fill the void by Kaufman. Well, he'll do more than fill the void. He'll add a whole new dimension to that team. They have also added Rice to take Rison's spot. The Raiders are an improved ball club. And after the season they had last year that is a scary thought. Of course, they are going up against the Chiefs. The same Chiefs who have also made a lot of moves this off-season. They added quarterback Trent Green and running back Priest Holmes to their off-season roster, and believe they have found a stud in Florida State's own Snoop Minnis. On defense they should be solid. Unfortunately being solid won't be good enough to hold Gannon and the Raiders offense down.
Prediction: Raiders- 34 Chiefs- 21
Panthers vs. Vikings-
I'd like to start off by saying that I will greatly miss Korey Stringer. He graduated from the High School that is right down the street from my residence. He was a tremendous player and a great guy. Now let me move on to the Vikings themselves. On offense they have lost Robert Smith and obviously Stringer. On defense they lost John Randle as well. And none of them will be replaced. Sure, adding Michael Bennett to their offense and Johnstone to their defensive line will help stop most the bleeding, but in the long run I think it will hurt them. Lucky for the Vikings, though, they get the Panthers this week. Carolina let Beurline walk away and replaced him with rookie Chris Weinke. Weinke will be a good Quarterback in the league, and he'll look great going against the weak Vikings defense. But the Panthers defense in turn have to try to contain Moss, Carter and Culpepper. Three big time playmakers. Carolina won't be able to do it. And the Vikings should run right through them.
Prediction: Vikings- 38 Panthers- 14
Colts vs. Jets-
During the draft, it was evident that the Colts needed defense, defense, defense! So, with their first round pick, they add receiver Reggie Wayne? At first look it seems they made a bad mistake by not upgrading their defense. But truth is they just added another weapon to the Manning arsenal. They have always had a weapon big enough to call nuclear in Marvin Harrison. So when they had a chance they grabbed a perfect compliment to Harrison. The Atomic Bomb so to speak. They have made their offense more dangerous and have added some solid defensive players in the off-season as well. The Jets, on the other hand, went with Moss. No, not Randy Moss, but Santana Moss. Yes, that same small guy from Miami. But don't let his height -- or lack thereof -- fool you. He definitely makes plays bigger than his size. The Jets also have kept the nucleus of the players in New York, alhough they recently they lost big man Robert Ferguson to injury. This will definitely hurt them inside, especially when running a 3-4 system. Jets should be a good team this year, Colts should be a great team ... which leads to my conclusion.
Prediction: Colts- 27 Jets- 11
Steelers vs. Jaguars-
Jacksonville hasn't added a true impact player this off-season. Though they did flirt with the idea of trading Brunell. They lost their best lineman, Leon Searcy. And can only go south from their 7-9 record. The Steelers, on the other hand, are marked down as one of my Surprise Teams. Why you ask? Well, Kordell is fit and ready to have the best season of his career. Let's not forget they got younger and quicker on the defense by adding players like Hampton and Bell. Bettis, well...he'll still be the Bus we're all afraid to see stop in our city. The Steelers need to pound the Jaguars and wear them out. Whereas, the Jaguars must go to the sky. One thing working against the Steelers is the fact they are going into Jacksonville. That could be a determining factor in the outcome. Still, I don't think it will effect the Steelers turn around season.
Prediction: Steelers- 27 Jaguars- 21
Rams vs. Eagles-
Rams were a surprise team in 99. The Eagles were a surprise team in 2000. That's really where the similarities end. Philly has an athletic, strong armed QB in Donavann McNabb, while the Rams have an accurate, pocket passer in Kurt Warner. On defense, the Eagles bring back one of the standout defenses in the league, while the Rams bring in one of the worst. Of course, they have added a slew of players from Mark Fields to Aaeneas Williams to rookies Adam Archuleta and Damione Lewis. Will adding over a half a dozen defensive players make a difference? Actually, the only question when playing the Rams should be...how many double digit points will they rack up? I see the Rams going for it all early and often. The Eagles have a strong willed defense with lots of talent, but Deuce will be the key. If he plays well and isn't slowed by his leg injury suffered last season. Then the Eagles have a real good shot. If no,t the Rams will make them look like a pee-wee team.
Predictions: Rams- 36 Eagles- 28
Redskins vs. Chargers-
Just like the media, I will try to make a story out of each game. And this one has got to be one of the easiest. Norv Turner facing his former team....OK, his former Owner. And Norv will be looking for some pay back. With Doug Flutie, Landanian Tomlinson and Marcuells Wiley I'd say he'd get some pay back with interesting. Don't be fooled folks, this isn't the same Chargers team that won only a single game last season. They have added return man Tim Dwight as well as the men I listed above. Let's not forget that this is a team that also carries Junior Seau on their roster. And Junior will make George say "Ow!" all game long. Now I can't make this game sound lopsided. In fact, the Redskins have a better chance to win this game then the Chargers do. They've got the million dollar me! Just look at their cornerbacks...Bailey, Smoot and Green! How will Flutie throw against these guys? And have we forgotten about Lavar Arrington? This man was suppose to be the next L.T. a year ago, OK. While Lavar may not be another Lawrence, but he could make a difference. Oh, why waste my time explaining reasons why the Redskins can win. We all know the Chargers are going to pick them apart anyway.
Prediction: Chargers- 16 Redskins- 13
49ers vs. Falcons-
The 49ers had some shockers last year. One that I called way before the season started. That, of course, is having quarterback Jeff Garcia demonstrating a huge year. The other shocker...having Terrell Owens claim the Dallas Star for his own. This time they go to Dirty Bird land. Yes, the same Dirty Birds that went 14-2 only to not have a winning season the next two years. And things don't look to change this year. Something to be proud of is the fact that Michael Vick is there. So they have something to look forward to. I say why wait. Let the kid play now. But I'm not running things in Atlanta. I'm not running things in San Francisco either. So who is running for them? Garrison Hearst? Kevan Barlow? Either way the 49ers won't be running nearly as much as Garcia is throwing. 49ers can make a statement early. Then again so can the Falcons. Is either team ready to turn things around? Will these teams take the next step inn the rebuilding process? Or will we have a close battle between struggling teams? This might be an interesting game to watch. Keep an eye on Hearst and Anderson. Two top rushers back in 98.
Prediction: 49ers- 31 Falcons- 22
Dolphins vs. Titans-
Remember the Titans? The Titans of 99? The Titans of 2000? Well forget about them. Because the Titans of 2001 will out do them both. They have added Kevin Carter to their defensive line, making a scary pairing with Jevon Kearse. Dolphins' quarterback Jay Fiedler said he felt no pressure going into this season. Well, he'll feel a whole lot of pressure this Sunday! The Dolphins better hope that Lamar Smith can do the same things he did last season. And hope their defense can stop the Titans offense. Oh yeah...the Titans offense! How could I forget to talk about Steve McNair and Eddie George. Eddie George is a real work horse for the Titans. And he will have to be against the Dolphins defense. The Titans better hope that McNair and Eddie aren't bothered by past injuries. Because they'll need them to squeeze out some tough drives against this Miami team. And Dolphins fans, I would have some aspirin and ban-aids while watching the game. Because the hits that Fiedler take will even hurt you guys!
Prediction: Titans- 17 Dolphins- 16
Giants vs. Broncos-
The defending NFC Champions taking on a top AFC Contender. This game will speak volumes for both teams. We shall see if last year's Superbowl berth and Kerry Collins were flukes, or if they were both for real. Giants haven't made any big signings, but they did add Will Allen to their defensive backfield. Outside of this move, it is virtually the same Giants team as last year. So who are they going up against? The same Broncos team from last year. Well, almost the same team. They have added a bunch of new linebackers as well as another backup QB. So, if the Giants main goal is taking Griese out...think again! He's got the very capable Steve Buerline and Gus Frerotte backing him up. This game doesn't have a big story line with it. But it is a Monday Night encounter. And if you were watching last year you would know that 90 percent of those games deliver big time. With it being opening night and all, I figured that both teams would bring a lot of aggression along with them. It's the Giants trying to prove they were for real and still are. As for the Broncos, well, they are trying to prove the same thing. This should be a close game.
Prediction: Broncos- 24 Giants- 17
Gutsy Call - Bears vs Ravens
Each week I will make a "gutsy call". It could be on a game or a certain player. Today, it's on an upset picked by yours truly. Which brings me to the Bears and the Ravens. Yes, Chicago the same team that barely won 5 games last year. Yes, Baltimore the same team that won the Superbowl last year. But let me tell you a few things about these teams. The Ravens added Grbac and Searcy to their offense, basically their only big additions of the off-season. You say...how could they struggle even a little bit? Well, Searcy is injured and will not play against the Bears. And Jamal Lewis, their biggest threat on offense, is out for the year. There is no way Terry Allen or Brookings can fill that void. Granted, this is just a small thing and will only effect them down the road, but this Sunday it will hurt them. But now let's look at the Bears. Last year, they beat some tough teams like the Bucs, Lions and Colts. And displayed that when Cade wasn't in, that they could win some games. On defense they got the Tasmanian devil known as Brian Urlacher. He will be any and every where. They have also added Washington and Pryce to their defensive line. That will make their pass rush and run stoppage much, much better. And Keyon Riley should be a nice situation pass rusher. On offense they add the best receiver out of college, David Terrell. The Bears also work a backfield of Allen and Michigan's own Anthony Thomas. Chicago finally got the man they want commanding this team, Shane Matthews, who looked like he would be cut early on, but worked his way into the starting position. This will bring confidence to that offense. Now, over confidence is what will hurt the Ravens. Their defense will be great as always. But Chicago has some nice special team guys and can make some big plays with Robinson at receiver. I know Billick has got the Ravens ready. Still I firmly believe things like turnovers and broken plays will go Chicago's way. Add all those little factors up, and the fact that Ravens are probably over looking the Bears, and you got the upset of the week. Or the "Gutsy Call" of the week.
Prediction: Bears- 20 Ravens- 17
Week Three Predictions-
Each week I will make three predictions on the Lions game. The first two will be on situational things. Such as injuries or the play of certain players. While the final prediction will be my real prediction. Still, sometimes the first or second prediction prove to be right. Just check out what I got for you. Remember if the game plays out like the first or second prediction it could be possible that it was played the way I said it would.
Prediction Number One-
The Detroit Lions are going into Green Bay. They haven't won in Lambeau in a decade, and have always struggled at least once against the Packers team during their two season meetings. Well, this time won't be any different. Sure, it isn't cold like it normally would be when playing Green Bay. But the Packers still have a nice balance on offense and defense. Who knows what rushing situations they'll throw out there. With Ahman Green and Dorsey Levens in the backfield, and when the rushing gets hard to defend then Farve really opens it up. The Lions' reportedly let James Jones go which will prove to be a mistake. Unless Barry Sanders is coming back to take the spot left by Jones, and is in the greatest shape of his life. Then I see no way the Lions win this one.
Prediction: Packers- 31 Lions- 14
Prediction Number Two-
Charlie Batch has already picked up the system. In fact, he is clicking on all cylinders. The trio package of Moore, Crowell and Morton is working very well. As is the presence of Larry Foster. And Desmond 'All The Way' Howard takes one back. Packers struggle in the running game with two beat up backs. Therefore Farve has some trouble a little early. The Packers try to make a comeback late in the game. But this isn't the winter season. It isn't cold and Lions aren't afraid. And the Lions go on to hold off the Packers. Leaving everyone saying 'How's They Do That?"
Prediction: Lions- 28 Packers- 17
The Final Prediction:
To begin with this matchup you have to look at what the teams did last year. And then who they received or lost in the off-season. Lions lost Jeff Hartings and Mike Compton. But they were replaced with newly acquired Brendan Stai and rookies Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola. The Lions also lost Westbrook to injury for the first game and replaced him with former Pro Bowler, Todd Lyght. Lions recently lost Jones but feel that rookie Rogers and off-season pickup Alonzo Spellman can do the job. Packers lost a couple of good players. Adding first round pick, Jamal Reyonlds, who will probably only come in on situational plays. The Packers have also named Ahman Green their featured back. And last season Green had a field day with the Detroit Lions defense. And with Kurt Schulz and possible Ron Rice not playing. It makes it even harder. Let's not forget James Jones was cut and now the Lions will depends on rookie Shaun Rogers and injured Pro Bowler, Luther Ellis. What Packers need to do to win is take it to the Lions on the ground. If they get things going there then they'll be able to open up the passing game. What the Lions need to do it give Batch time to throw. If he gets hurried or sacked early he might have to worry about his line the whole game. Which in turn will equal slow and inaccurate plays. On defense Lions have to contain Green. If they do that it helps them defending the great arm of Brett Farve. Farve loves to play the Lions. It is one of his most hated teams. And Robert Porcher must get to him. Or at least one of the defenders must come up with a bunch of hurries and sacks. A motivated Farve who loves to light the Lions up. Isn't nearly effective as a Brett Farve who is being tested on almost every down. I think it will be a close one. But in the end home field advantage will prove to be too much.
Prediction: Packers- 24 Lions- 20
The Final Words
Wel, that is all I got for you today. Make sure to check back each and every week for the break down of each game. For you, Lions fans, I will be cheering and praying extra hard this Sunday. Because the Packers are definitely going to be ready. We just have to hope that Charlie Batch is ready to lead this offense
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