Punt, Pass and Pick Week 1
Jon: Oh my how I’ve missed this. Football season is once again underway, which means 17 more editions of Punt, Pass and Pick, and 16 Sundays of pounding my head against my desk while watching a Cleveland Browns game.
I’ve already abandoned my Washington Nationals (7.5 games out of the Wild Card and completely irrelevant) so here’s to a new football season.
To start things off, I’ll be taking on sports editor Jesse Jones, an avid Baltimore Ravens fan and possible boyfriend of Ray Lewis.
Jesse: It’s the most wonderful time of the year, FOOTBALL SEASON!
My Ravens (I co-own the team with Steve Bisciotti) are coming off their second Super Bowl win and there’s nothing quite like watching the defending champs lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs every year.
I’ll be taking on Munch this week, who just about drops the ball with his picks more than Greg Little, if that’s even possible.
Baltimore Ravens +9 at Denver Broncos
Jon: Baltimore, a.k.a. Hype Town after the Super Bowl win, lost a ton of key players in the offseason.
They traded away Anquan Boldin for what was essentially worth nothing, and lost pass rusher Paul Kruger and veteran safety Ed Reed in free agency.
However, I think the losses on defense may be a little over-stated, considering the Ravens managed to pick up Chris Canty, Michael Huff and Elvis Dumervil.
But in this particular matchup, the Ravens will likely be overwhelmed by Peyton Manning and his new weapons: Montee Ball at running back and wide receiver Wes Welker.
The Broncos are just the better team in this game.
Broncos 30, Ravens 20
Jesse: I have a $5 bet with my good friend Patrick Blackmon – who is a die-hard Denver fan because of Champ Bailey – that Peyton and co. won’t drop 50. I feel very confident in this bet, however I don’t think the new-look secondary will have enough chemistry in the first week of the season to stop a prolific offense that added Wes Welker and Montee Ball.
I do think it will be a close game, but I sadly have to go with the home team looking for revenge after choking worse than Tony Romo in a Week 17 match for the division championship.
Ravens 21, Broncos 30
Atlanta Falcons +9 at New Orleans Saints
Jon: Who came up with this point spread?
Yeah, the Saints have Head Coach Sean Payton back and still have superstar quarterback Drew Brees, but the Falcons could possibly be the best regular season NFC team in the past five years.
Atlanta added former St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, who is primed for a huge year on his new team. Even Michael Turner, who was awful last year and is currently unemployed, managed to gain 800 yards and score 10 touchdowns in Atlanta’s offense last season.
The Saints finished last in the league in defense last season and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 61 percent of their passes, according to NFL stats.
There’s no doubt that a healthy New Orleans offense can score more points than anyone else in the league, so they can definitely pull this one out, but I think the Falcons start of the 2013 season strong.
Falcons 32, Saints 30
Jesse: This point spread is actually ridiculous. I know the Saints will be welcoming back Sean Payton, but the Falcons still have an incredibly good team and added Steven Jackson.
With that being said, I pick the Saints to win this game in a shootout.
I love the addition of Darren Sproles to this offense and I expect Drew Brees to outgun Matty Ice in the final drive.
Saints 35, Falcons 32
Green Bay Packers +4.5 at San Francisco 49ers
Jon: The big knock against San Francisco this year is their receiving corps. Michael Crabtree went down for the whole year in training camp, leaving people to ask who Colin Kaepernick is going to throw the ball to.
I’ll tell you who. Anquan Boldin, who people seem to forget caught 65 passes last season for 921 yards and Vernon Davis, one of the most athletic tight ends in the game.
Boldin isn’t primed for a monster year or anything like that, but I don’t see why everyone is jumping ship on San Fran because of one injury.
Kaepernick is a huge running threat, along with running back Frank Gore, and the Green Bay defense allowed just over 118 yards on the ground per game to opposing teams last year, per NFL stats, including 13 runs of 20 yards or more.
The 49ers also had the fourth-best passing defense in the league last year, so Aaron Rodgers could run into some issues in the opening game.
49ers 28, Packers 24
Jesse: We’re all witnesses to the rebirth of the great rivalry from the 90s, when good ole Brett Favre and Steve Young gunned it out for the NFC title.
Aaron Rodgers finally has a running back in Eddie Lacy, but he did lose Greg Jennings and I’m not a believer in the Packers defense. However, he is still, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the league and will make things happen this season.
Colin Kaepernick on the other side is an absolute freak and will not have a slump despite losing Michael Crabtree. The Niners’ defense is scary good and Vernon Davis is finally emerging as a top tight end.
I expect an epic battle, but I’m taking the reigning NFC Champs.
49ers 31, Packers 24
New York Giants +3 at Dallas Cowboys
Jon: This could potentially have huge playoff implications in the first week of the year, with the Cowboys and Giants being perennial Wild Card contenders, and the expectations that Washington will win the NFC East.
The big stat everyone is throwing is that the Giants are 4-0 at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, but quarterback Eli Manning really struggled against Dallas last year, completing 59 percent of his passes for only a combined 405 yards in two games. Manning was also sacked four times in those two games, according to ESPN.
Comparatively, Tony Romo completed 63.7 percent of his passes against the Giants in two games last year, according to ESPN, along with throwing four touchdowns and 744 yards. That did come with five interceptions, but if Romo can avoid those and rely a little more on running back DeMarco Murray, Dallas should come away with the win here.
Cowboys 24, Giants 20
Jesse: It seems that Victor Cruz will be back in time for this long-time NFC East rivalry, as he returned to practice on Monday.
The Cowboys have a ton of talent on their roster this season, but then again, they do every season and always come up short.
With that being said, I expect the Cowboys to finally get a win against the Giants in Jerryworld, as Dez Bryant is on the cusp of being an elite receiver and the Cowboys finally have a healthy group of running backs and a healthy Jason Witten.
You can never count the Giants out, but I see the Cowboys starting the season on the right foot en route to a Week 17 collapse.
Cowboys 24, Giants 21
Philadelphia Eagles +3.5 at Washington Redskins
Jon: Since I’m from St. Mary’s County, I’ve been surrounded by Redskins fans since I moved there in first grade. My former roommate for two years was a Skins fan, and so is my current roommate.
When I’m home, all I hear about is RGIII or a possible name change. And I’m so tired of it.
All of that aside, I think the Redskins will win the division this year behind RGIII and Alfred Morris. There’s a ton of hype surrounding Chip Kelly coming to the NFL, but it will take Philadelphia a while to fully grasp the offense, so I expect Mike Vick and co. to struggle out of the gate.
Against the Eagles last season, Griffin completed 76.9 percent of his passes, and picked up 88 yards on 14 carries between the two matchups.
Washington wins, and the Eagles pick up some pity points because of how bad the Redskins defense is.
Redskins 33, Eagles 20
Jesse: Sleeper pick: the Eagles will have a really good offense and put up some numbers now that they have a healthy offensive line – it was down to the third string last season – and an offensive mastermind running the team.
However, the defense is in most part a bunch of average players, which won’t cut it in this year’s NFC East.
The Redskins will be full of adrenaline welcoming back Jesus, I mean Robert Griffin III, and have more than enough weapons on offense to expose the Eagles’ defense.
Oh yeah, they’re welcoming back Brian Orakpo too and drafted Bacarri Rambo.
Skins 28, Eagles 20