Ah, feels good to be back, doesn't it? Felt like now was a long ways off in the future if it was ever going to happen in the first place. Anyway, as they keep saying on TV these past several weeks, it's back to football. So, no more hemming and hawing about lockouts, labor deals, and the intricacies of contracts and legalese. Nope, the NFL is open for business and we're all the better for it.
Obviously, this would be the portion of the thread where I'd mention the past weeks scores, but obviously since we don't have any, we'll skip that. Also, let's skip the Weekly Soapbox portion since the only issue of note this past off season was the lockout and that's been discussed to death. This week features a full slate of games starting with the Thursday night opener and concluding with a double-header on Monday night. As for the Sunday day games, once again head on over to The506.com for what's airing in your local market.
This is the portion of the program where I point out key match-ups to watch, but this year I'm going to make it a little interesting. You guys are going to pick the winners. Yes, you. I'll give you four games, you give me four winners plus a wildcard game of your choice to prevent ties (hopefully). Scores and winners to be announced in the next thread with an overall winner to be declared at the end of hte regular season. Since one of the games below airs on Thursday night, I'll need picks in for that first one by at least kickoff on Thursday; the rest you have until kickoff of the early games on Sunday to get in. Please mark your picks in bold so I can spot them in the thread on the fly. Anyway, let's get started:
Saints at Packers: The season opener continues the tradition of the current Super Bowl champs playing host to the previous winners, this time with New Orleans hoping to shake off last season's surprise loss to Seattle in the wild card round by paying a visit to Lambeau Field. Can the Saints go marching out of Green Bay with a victory? Can the Packers at least avoid the current NFL trend of having an off year following hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? The current Green Bay team is not only the same team that won it all last year but have a lot of talented players coming back from injury. That and the positive buzz abounding the stadium makes me lean their way. Packers.
Falcons at Bears: A battle of NFC playoff teams from last year, both of whom fell to the eventual Super Bowl winner and looked bad doing it. At least Atlanta's Matt Ryan wasn't dogged by criticism (or the paparazzi) to the extent that Jay Cutler of Chicago was. He also has new weapons at his disposal while his counterpart has a tough hill to climb if he's ever going to get back on the good graces of Da Bears' vocal group of super fans. I'm predicting a shootout for this one. Falcons.
Steelers at Ravens: Here we go again. Hot off the heels of losing the Super Bowl and cameoing in the next Batman movie, Pittsburgh heads into Baltimore in a rematch of the AFC divisional round. Recall that that game was a tale of two halves: the Ravens controlled quarters one and two and proceeded to let the Steelers back in it in three and four. Wasn't pretty and considering how both teams loathe each other openly and, to borrow a line, hit people in the mouth, this'll probably be more of the same. Ravens.
Cowboys at Jets: Can the New Meadowlands hope to contain the auras of hype that constantly surround these two teams? We'll see, though considering New York's playing at home on the night of the tenth anniversary of September 11th, the exuberance and cockiness should be held in check until at least after the national anthem is sung (and they better bring in someone who can blow Whitney Houston's widely-loved rendition out of the water). Dallas...had an off year, at least by America's Team standards while the Jets were once again on the cusp but couldn't quite get over the hump. These are two teams with a lot to prove and for week one a national stage to prove it on. I'm predicting we could be looking at Super Bowl sized ratings share for NBC. Oh wait, you wanted a winner? Fine. Jets.
Enjoy the week, folks.