Risky Business: Week 1 NFL predictions

Chris Schultz
9/4/2014 4:20:44 AM
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TSN football analyst Chris Schultz is back with his Week 1 selections in the NFL. The season starts off with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers on Thursday and wraps up with a doubleheader on Monday night.

Green Bay at Seattle (-6)

I don't think the NFL could have picked a better game to kick off the season. Pass protection was a problem two years ago when Green Bay lost in Seattle on the controversial Golden Tate catch in the end zone. While it will still be an issue this year, I do think the Packers will be able to protect Aaron Rodgers better in this game. There has been a lot of attention paid to Marshawn Lynch and rightfully so, but do not underestimate the ability of Eddie Lacy. If, and it is a big if, he gets 100 yards, then I think the Packers win outright. The best wide receiver-defensive back matchup is Jordy Nelson and Richard Sherman. With both players now with excellent new contracts, the pressure is on to perform. The loss of BJ Raji is big for Green Bay and the depth must respond. I look for the Packers to play conservative on defence to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket and I look for Rodgers to use Lacy effectively. Seahawks win but I like the Packers on points. Green Bay

New Orleans (-3) at Atlanta

This is a tough one to pick because the vast majority of the time, one team wins or loses by three points. Did you know Sean Payton has a 13-3 record against the Falcons since becoming the Saints head coach in 2006? And this year, there is no Tony Gonzalez for Matt Ryan to depend on in critical red zone moments. This may be the most talented roster the Saints have had in the last eight years. With the addition of free agent Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro in his second year, the Saints defence is no longer a liability, it is an asset. As good as Payton is against Atlanta, Falcons head coach Mike Smith is 3-9 since 2008. The Falcons will be tougher as a personality priority this year but I will take the Saints' defence over Matt Ryan in Week 1. New Orleans

Minnesota at St. Louis (-3.5)

The Vikings are coming off AN undefeated exhibition season but still it is Doubtful they will be a playoff team. I think Mike Zimmer will take pressure off quarterback Matt Cassel and run Adrian Peterson like never before. Minnesota must stay out of thirrd-and-long as the Rams have an exceptional pass rushing defensive front four. On the opposite side is Shaun Hill, who is not as good as Sam Bradford or he would have been the starter. Field goal game to me. Minnesota

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-6.5)

Neither team has looked good over the exhibition season and history is not on the side of the Browns. The have won only one opening game since 1999 and Brian Hoyer is the seventh different opening day quarterback to start for Cleveland in the last eight years. The demise of the Steelers last year was the 0-4 start but the optimism was the 8-4 finish. Head coach Mike Tomlin will not experience an 0-4 start ever again. Cleveland will have to run the ball effectively and dominate time of possession to win but I can't see that happening. They were 4-12 last year and will probably be 4-12 this year. With Hoyer and Johnny Manziel up against the Steelers veteran defensive coodinator Dick Lebeau, I like Lebeau. This is the game that Cleveland really needed Josh Gordon and he won't be there. Pittsburgh

Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-11.5)

The Eagles should win but on opening week, 10 points is a lot. Jacksonville's future is Blake Bortles at quarterback but Chad Henne should get the start. Henne has over 50 games of NFL experience so this week's start is not too big for him. Gus Bradley is one of the new high energy coaches that can get his players to play better than their collective talent level. There's no doubt the Eagles are more talented, but 10 extra talent points? Jacksonville

Oakland at NY Jets (-5.5)

I picked the Jets to finish last in the AFC East and now I'm having second thoughts. They have a very good defensive front seven and it looks like Geno Smith is progressing at quarterback. You add the experience of Eric Decker and speed of Chris Johnson and the Jets do look formidable on paper. And they play a rookie starter at quarterback in Derek Carr. Exhibition is exhibition but once the regular season begins, inexperience matters. But, and this is significant, even if you add Carr and rookie Khalil Mack, believe it or not, the Raiders have the NFL's oldest roster. This is a risky pick but even though it is West coast to East coast and a rookie quarterback, I like the Raiders. Oakland

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-1.5)

Joe Flacco needs to have a great year. Andy Dalton also needs to have a great year. Both are being paid huge money and the pressure is on here in Week 1. The Ravens will miss Ray Rice but he only carried the ball five times in the exhibition season so they have had critical adjustment time. No offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in Cincinnati and no defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer with the Bengals either. They have moved to head coaching positions in Washington and Minnesota, respectively. Gary Kubiak runs a good offence and I think this year, Flacco will return to his Super Bowl form of two years ago. Baltimore

Buffalo at Chicago (-7)

I like the Bears by 10. The Bills' offence has not looked good at all and if it did, then why did the organization sign Kyle Orton for big money? Chicago has three excellent, big receivers in Alshon Jeffery , Brandon Marshall as well as Martellus Bennett at tight end. And then they add Santonio Holmes, too? The third and fourth conerback or cover safety for the Bills has a challenge this week. And I forgot to mention running back Matt Forte. That's too much talent for the Bills to handle for four quarters. Chicago

Washington (-3) at Houston

In what may be the most bizarre statistic of truth in Week 1, the combined record of the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans last year was 5-27. And the year before, both teams made the playoffs. With his new contract, JJ Watt will make an impact and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has a very good team. But this Redskin team is not about RG3 or DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, it is about Alfred Morris at running back. Also watch out for Lache Seastrunk, a sixth round pick out of Baylor. In the mold of Darren Sproles, he could be a surprise performer. There is a ton of pressure on Robert Griffin but he has been through this before, he can thrive. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start unless Ryan Mallett can assimilate a playbook in one week. Brilliant move by Bill O'Brien to get a 6'5" quarterback with downfield arm power. Too much offence and too much Alfred Morris. Washington

Tennessee at Kansas City (-4)

Logic says KC rolls. Quarterback Alex Smith is monetarily happy and the best overall running back is Jamaal Charles but I like the key pass blocking advantage of Micheal Roos and Michael 0her against the Chiefs' two excellent pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Titans' head coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a plan together for noise control and any other challenges. Big, big year for Jake Locker no doubt about it. He has to stay healthy and has to stay confident and I think he will. KC in a field goal but that is all. Tennessee

New England (-5.5) at Miami

With an extra weekend to prepare, I like the Patriots by 7. Head coach Bill Belichick will always know something we don't in trading Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. The Bucs get one of the tough guys in football and the Patriots get depth at tight end. Odd but I am sure it was a football decision. With Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo all back and up-and-coming linebacker Jamie Collins, this could be a really good Patriots defence, and don't forget Darrelle Revis at cornerback. Who will have a bigger game? Revis or Mike Wallace? I say Patriots cover. New England

Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay

A lot of people are optimistic the Bucs will have a good year and I think it is good and real optimism. First, broken ribs is always an issue for any player and no different for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. And although #1 pick Kelvin Benjamin looks great at 6'5" and 245lbs, the Bus have three of those types in Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Defensively, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith will simply will let his athletes on defence play with speed. Upset of the week. Tampa Bay

San Francisco (-5) at Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys have major problems opn defence. If they didn't, why would they add defensive end Micheal Sam and why are they even interested in reinstating Josh Brent? Last year, they allowed 415 yards per game and are missing three starters from that defence. And here come the 49ers with the league's best power running game in both complexity and commitment. The 49ers may be able to win this one on time of possession alone. On offence, Dallas has an improved line, a good running back in DeMarco Murray and a game-changer in Dez Bryant. But where Tony Romo wants to keep it close going into the fourth quarter, Colin Kaepernick will try to win it early by himself or with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Stevie Johnson, Frank Gore or rookie power runner Carlos Hyde. No Sean Lee, no DeMarcus Ware, no Jason Hatcher, no Orlando Scandrick; I say no way. San Francisco

Indianapolis at Denver (-7.5)

I remember Thursday Night Football last year when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High and Denver beat them 49-27. This year, it will be Sunday Night Football and it is the Colts at the same Sports Authority Field at Mile High and I anticipate the same result. The Colts will not have their best pass rusher in Robert Mathis available and don't think Peyton Manning, in his 17th year, doesn't realize more than ever the time is now. Denver spent money in free agency knowing time is not on the side of the Broncos. It truly is a now or never football year. Denver

NY Giants at Detroit (-5.5)

The Giants, and especially quarterback Eli Manning, looked terrible all preseason long. And as everything has stayed the same under Tom Coughlin, the Lions made a bold move in hiring Jim Caldwell. Players respond to Caldwell and his head coaching presence will make a difference. Where in a moments notice Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson will produce success, I am not sure Manning to Victor Cruz can do the same. The Giants could win by dominating in time of possession and that is possible as running back Rashad Jennings is proven, draftee Andre Williams is going to surprise and the offensive line is totally rebuilt with a new offensive coordinator. But I like the Lions to cover the spread. Detroit

San Diego at Arizona (-3)

The Chargers are one of my darkhorse teams of the year, and even though they are playing a top Cardinals defence, Philip Rivers is coming off a career year. The three running backs, Donald Brown, Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead are all interchangeable and a distinct rushing advantage for San Diego. In Year 2 of Rivers and head coach Mike McCoy, there is no reason not to think success will start early and continue through the season. I see more points for the Chargers over Cardinals by the end of the night. San Diego

Russell Wilson (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)


(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)
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