Mike Ivcic’s Week 1 NFL Preview and Free Picks [2014]

By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

The NFL season is finally here. Here are Mike Ivcic’s previews and predictions…

Buffalo Bills @ Chicago Bears
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Bears by 7
If the Bears plan on making the playoffs this year, they desperately need to take care of business against the lesser opponents on their schedule – and this certainly qualifies. Chicago should be better than Buffalo in all three phases of the game and put this one away early. Any surprise here could mark the start of a long season along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Pick: Chicago 28, Buffalo 16

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 2
Nothing like coming out of the gate firing. This may be the game with the single biggest divisional impact this week, and it could set up the Bengals with a season-long spot in the driver’s seat with a win. Even Vegas seems to think that’s likely, giving Baltimore less than the standard 3 points for playing at home. I think they’re underestimating the Ravens, who seem to have transitioned from a defensively-oriented team to an offensively-oriented team at just the right time for the modern NFL. Joe Flacco has good receivers now, and I think they put up some points – or at least enough to win this one.
Pick: Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 24

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Steelers by 6.5
The “less-than-a-full-touchdown” line is always tricky, and the fact that Pittsburgh’s only getting 6.5 at home against Brian Hoyer isn’t exactly the oddsmakers’ vote of confidence. I wavered quite a bit on this one, but I couldn’t shake the vision of Brian Hoyer with the ball down a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and me rooting for a game-tying drive into the windy end of Heinz Field. No, thank you.
Pick: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 16

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Eagles by 10.5
Nick Foles won’t throw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions this year. He will definitely throw more than 2 interceptions. And, since he gets to play the Jaguars, I think he’ll also wind up throwing more than 27 touchdowns. If Chip Kelly has his way, Foles may be 20% of the way there by the end of week one.
Pick: Philadelphia 42, Jacksonville 13

Minnesota Vikings @ St. Louis Rams
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Rams by 3.5
If you live in Minneapolis or eastern Missouri and want to watch good quarterback play, I hope you have DirecTV. This could be a defensive slugfest with a lot of ground-and-pound offense, which might be just what new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants. He also has the better QB in Matt Cassel, but I think Shaun Hill makes enough plays to support the Rams defense – and not the other way around – to lead St. Louis to a week one victory.
Pick: St. Louis 17, Minnesota 10

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 5
Typically there’s one game a year where the Patriots lose to a division opponent, and it’s typically a road game against either the Jets or the Dolphins. The issue with picking an upset here is that Bill Belichick has had an entire offseason to prepare for this game, which usually translates into a win. I think it’ll be close, but I can’t even take the bait and pick the cover – this one just seems too tough for Miami.
Pick: New England 31, Miami 21

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 3
One of two things will happen here – either my preseason NFC champ will roar out of the gate to a 1-0 start, or my designated “sleeper” team will emerge as a truly legitimate threat to return to the status of the NFC’s elite. Personally, I would much rather see scenario “A” as opposed to scenario “B” since I’d much rather the Saints reach the Super Bowl, so we’re going with that pick. Still, it’s a bit of a no-lose situation – and those are the best kind of situations.
Pick: New Orleans 30, Atlanta 24

Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Jets by 5.5
The Jets next six games after this are as follows: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Denver, New England. If they’re not good enough to beat Oakland in week one at home, then 0-7 is most definitely in play, so it might not “technically” be a must-win… but it pretty much is a must-win.
Pick: New York 20, Oakland 17

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Chiefs by 3.5
If last year was a fluke, then the Chiefs could have their hands full. I’m of the opinion that they’re probably not as good as that 9-0 start made them out to be, but they’re still a very good football team, especially defensively. The Titans, meanwhile, still have too many question marks – specifically at QB with Jake Locker needing to be far more consistent and healthy than he’s been – and could struggle to get to 6 wins, even in the league’s weakest division.
Pick: Kansas City 23, Tennessee 13

Washington Redskins @ Houston Texans
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Texans by 3
This line shocks me, because Ryan Fitzpatrick really isn’t a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, yet he’s leading the Texans into week one as a 3-point favorite against my pick to win the NFC East. Maybe this is more of an anti-Washington pick, which would be slightly surprising since it would be almost impossible for the Redskins to suffer more injuries than they did last year, but either way I don’t like it. I’m going with the outright win from the road underdog.
Pick: Washington 27, Houston 23

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Buccaneers by 2
And if you thought the Redskins-Texans line was shocking, get a load of this one! The defending NFC South champions are actually a week one underdog to a division opponent that was eight games worse last season. What?! This is a Vegas freebie if I’ve ever seen one.

Remember this paragraph when Tampa blows them out…
Pick: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 15

San Francisco 49’ers @ Dallas Cowboys
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 4.5
For the 438th consecutive time, allow us to ask, “Is Tony Romo good enough to lead the Cowboys to a championship?” Unlike most pundits, I actually think the answer is yes – IF he had a defense. That’s an abnormally large “if,” because right now the Cowboys defense couldn’t stop a kindergarten class at a school crossing. San Francisco is too good to get tripped up in week one, but I do think this will be a very entertaining game.
Pick: San Francisco 38, Dallas 31

Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: Broncos by 7.5
If you want the answer to the question, “How will the Broncos respond to the crushing Super Bowl loss?” you’ll get it almost immediately. This is a very good Colts team that absolutely has the weapons and swagger to walk into Mile High and win if Denver plays a sub-par game. I think Manning knows the window closes a little more every year, though, and with the addition of DeMarcus Ware this may be the most talented team ever assembled around him, so I think Denver goes right back to their thoroughly dominating ways.
Pick: Denver 37, Indianapolis 22

New York Giants @ Detroit Lions
Mon, 7:10pm, ESPN
Line: Lions by 5.5
Is that line the point spread or the over/under on interceptions thrown by Eli Manning in this game?

Too soon?

Nah… take the over.
Pick: Detroit 31, New York 17

San Diego Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals
Mon, 10:20pm, ESPN
Line: Cardinals by 3
The most surprising 10-win team last season was Arizona, which wound up being the odd-man out in one of the deepest conferences in recent memory. Now, they must figure out how to repeat that performance without any real drop-off from the teams ahead of them (Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Carolina) and the potential for a rebound year from Detroit, Washington, and Atlanta. As much as I like seeing some of the non-traditional teams make a run and knock out some of the regular favorites, I just can’t see Arizona getting back to .500, let alone claiming a playoff berth with the depth of this year’s NFC. If they’d like to prove me wrong, then this is an absolute must-win game – and as much as I like the resolve that San Diego showed in rallying to claim a playoff spot last year, I’m going to put my faith in Carson Palmer instead of Philip Rivers for at least this week.
Pick: Arizona 24, San Diego 20

Straight-Up: 0-0
Against Spread: 0-0-0