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Hard to figure who’s up, who’s down at start of NFL season

No rhyme nor reason to opening weeks

September 5, 2012
By STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

I've discovered the reason I make all the big bucks at The Mining Journal is the challenge of picking winners early in the NFL season, especially with a record number of rookie quarterbacks taking the helm, replacement referees set to officiate games and injuries already taking their toll.

Factor in the first four weeks of the season usually being fool's gold in predicting how things will turn out by season's end, and there's not much rhyme nor reason in picking games right now.

Maybe that's good, since I never did care much for rhyming when it comes to poetry and reason kind of goes out the window with me - I think I have some logical explanations for things, but people just look at me funny when I try to explain it.

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So on to the Week 1 picks:

Today, 8:30 p.m.

Dallas at New York Giants - Note this game is today rather than the traditional Thursday start. It was moved so it doesn't conflict with President Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention.

Nothing against the prez, but couldn't he make just as good a speech on Wednesday?

On to the game. Without doing my homework on each team's lineup, I'm going on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' insistence that the window of opportunity is closing for Dallas, that plus the Giants being fat and happy as league champs. I still think New York will win this division, but for now, Cowboys, 27-23.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

St. Louis at Detroit - Ahhh, here's the kind of Week 1 game I like, one of the possibly three or four worst teams in the league coming into the Lions' den.

The Rams might improve - eventually. But right now, Lions, 42-28.

Indianapolis at Chicago - Ditto for this game, except, of course, it's in the den of a different ferocious animal. Bears, 33-20.

Philadelphia at Cleveland - Are eagles also ferocious? In this case they are. Eagles, 28-13.

Miami at Houston - In my preseason predictions, I worried about Houston's tendency toward injuries. Save that for later in the season. Texans, 30-9.

Atlanta at Kansas City - KC is just looking to become respectable again with interim coach Romeo Crennel promoted to permanent head guy. Give the Chiefs a few weeks to get fully adjusted. Falcons, 24-20.

Jacksonville at Minnesota - Shoot, I may have to expand my "three or four worst teams in the league" to six or seven after forgetting about this pair and Tampa Bay.

But I'll trust the team that has the league's rushing leader in Maurice Jones-Drew back in the fold, even if he isn't starting. Jaguars, 17-13.

Washington at New Orleans - A baptism by fire for new Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. He'll probably look good considering all the Saints and their fans are rabid for wins, for opposition blood and for NFL commish Roger Goodell's head - and not necessarily in that order.

Not having head coach Sean Payton shouldn't hurt this early in the campaign. Saints, 41-17.

Buffalo at New York Jets - Buffalo is a sexy dark-horse pick this season, which probably means a repeat of last season's fast 5-2 start before the Bills slip into obscurity.

But I did hear a rumor that the Jets finally scored a TD in their last preseason game. Even if it was true, Bills, 12-9.

New England at Tennessee - Good teams often need to put their backs against the wall before they start performing well; that way they know no one can sneak up on them from behind.

But New England with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can do it as a frontrunner. Patriots, 24-17.

Sunday, 4 p.m.

San Francisco at Green Bay - Wouldn't this game be a whole lot better played in late December, or particularly for you Packer fans, mid-January?

That second date is when I expect these teams to clash a second time and at Lambeau Field again. It all begins here. Packers 30-24.

Seattle at Arizona - These teams are poster children for the saying that having two QBs means you have none. However, I think Seattle finally did find one late in the preseason. Seahawks, 21-14.

Carolina at Tampa Bay - A great matchup for Carolina, because even if its defense isn't in order, the Bucs can't take advantage. Panthers, 27-19.

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Denver - Just like an old Ronco Veg-O-Matic, Denver will finally let Peyton Manning run free to slice and dice and make julienne fries out of the Steelers. If you don't get the reference, just ask your parents about late-night TV commercials of the 1970s and '80s. Broncos, 20-10.

Monday night

Cincinnati at Baltimore - The Monday doubleheader opens with last year's most improved team visiting its division rival that has set the gold standard in defense for a decade. I still have a soft spot for gold, so Ravens, 13-9.

San Diego at Oakland - Apparently all of Dr. Frankenstein's monster rejects prowl the Black Hole in Oakland, while quality football talent goes to San Diego to die, or at least become mediocre.

The Chargers' failings over the past few years look so bad after they show promise early in the season, and this is as early in the season as it gets. Chargers, 27-20.

Last year - Regular season, 173-83, 68 percent. Playoffs, 5-6, 45 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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